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Interview: Localizing Rune Factory 5’s Characters

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Interview: Localizing Rune Factory 5’s Characters

Preparing Rune Factory games for a worldwide audience is quite an undertaking. After all, these are large games with all sorts of events. The mix of life sim and RPG elements means tons of text. To help understand what that meant for Rune Factory 5 and its characters, Siliconera spoke with the Localization Manager John Wheeler and Assistant Localization Manager Lori Snyder. After all, XSEED did note in first localization blog that there were 1.5 million Japanese characters in the game between the script and system text.

Jenni Lada: How familiar with the Rune Factory series were you before you started working on the localization for Rune Factory 5?

Lori Snyder: I’m a big fan of the series—I’ve been enjoying the Rune Factory games ever since the first was released a little more than 15 years ago! I’ve played each title to some extent and am pretty familiar with the series lore/stories of each Rune Factory, which was a big help for when we were working on Rune Factory 5!

John Wheeler: I played countless hours of Rune Factory and Rune Factory 2, and I worked as the project manager for the new content in Rune Factory 4 Special after joining XSEED Games. I’m familiar with the series, but I can’t compete with Lori. She handled the localization of the retrospective art book included in the
Rune Factory 4 Special limited edition.

About how long did the localization process for Rune Factory 5 take?

Snyder: We began receiving localization materials, like character information and early text files, around February 2020. Since the game was a massive undertaking to localize with over 1.5 million Japanese characters and over a month’s worth of voice recording to accommodate, it took about two years to complete the localization for this title from those early notes to our final release.

Interview: Localizing Rune Factory 5’s Characters

How closely did you work with the development team in Japan?

Snyder: In order to deliver the best Rune Factory localization possible, we worked very closely with the developers, with the localization department at Marvelous in Japan as our liaison. We were often asked for feedback on certain aspects of the game, such as how to implement same-sex marriage and how the game’s main story beats would be received by western audiences. In fact, while creating design documents is generally done on the developer side, for same-sex marriage implementation and localization, the XSEED side was asked to help with a prospective design document so that these new features could be included, and the developers were able to use that as a reference for same-sex marriage in the final game.

Among the Rune Factory 5 marriage candidates, Fuuka is a bit unusual since English isn’t her first language. What sorts of challenges did this present for the localization?

Snyder: One challenge for Fuuka was that we wanted to make sure her language didn’t alienate her from the player or the rest of the cast. In Japanese, she spoke with very simple “gau gau” sounds, which we felt wouldn’t work in the English version. Simple growling noises would be redundant and wouldn’t help the player connect with her as well as the other marriage candidates.

Adrienne Beck, one of our translators for this title, suggested creating a functional language for Fuuka, and our team helped flesh the language out to a point where it had a massive list of vocabulary and grammar. However, another huge challenge after establishing this language was keeping it consistent, so when localization quality assurance time came around, members of the team had to keep an eye on Fuuka’s language as well as the English text so that it remained consistent for all of her dialogue. She has a whole lot to say in her language, so we had an entirely separate text-fix checklist just for her!

were-animal Fuuka

Was it more difficult to find a “voice” for certain Rune Factory 5 characters over others?

Wheeler: As Lori described, were-animal character Fuuka’s “language” presented the most time-intensive challenge, but I’ve been so happy to see how fans have reacted to it thus far.

Besides Fuuka, the character we agonized over the most early in the localization process was Captain Livia. She has a unique way of speaking in Japanese that ties into her character’s backstory, and we spent a long time discussing how to properly capture her voice in English in a way that would keep the spirit of the original but sound natural.

Which Rune Factory 5 character’s dialogue was the most difficult to localize and why?

Wheeler: I worked on translating the main story, and the character I had the most trouble with was the bandit Oswald. He has an idiosyncratic speech style that somewhat mirrors the performance of Chafurin, the actor who voices him in Japanese, that was very difficult to render in English. (Chafurin’s delivery is so iconic that the voice actor SungWon Cho immediately recognized him when listening to reference files for recording Oswald.) Oswald’s final dialogue is very entertaining in English, thanks to the efforts of our editors.

same sex marriage

Rune Factory 5 allows same-sex relationships with marriage candidates. How did this affect the localization process and events for each gender?

Wheeler: The development team implemented unique text for anything that needed to be updated in the Japanese, and in general we were able to use gender tags—special localization programming tags that insert a different word such as “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” depending on the player character’s gender—to tailor the English even further.

One event we discussed a lot while we were planning the same-sex marriage text was a Priscilla romance event where she (spoiler alert!) asks the player to take on the role of a prince in a skit she writes. We were concerned that this reinforcement of traditional roles would feel unnatural, but the scene itself pokes fun at those roles—with Hina telling Julian he should play a princess—and in the end it felt perfectly sweet regardless of if the player had chosen Ares or Alice. It’s one of my favorite events in the game.

Compared to past localizations you’ve worked on, how difficult would you consider Rune Factory 5 in comparison?

Snyder: While my part in Rune Factory 5 was a bit smaller than other key members of the team, I will say this is the biggest project I’ve worked on to date, and it presented some of the biggest challenges I’ve worked on at XSEED Games so far.

My role in Rune Factory 5’s localization mainly involved the in-game script and voice recording, but the script itself took the summer of 2020 to complete, and voice recording alone took a month and a half!

After that, my main goal during LQA (localization quality assurance) was checking through all of the voice clips to make sure they matched the context of the scenes they were used in, and that took quite some time to check and implement as well! There was a lot going on these past two years for Rune Factory 5 alone, but I can at least say I learned a ton from the experience!

Rune Factory 5 is available for the Nintendo Switch.

Jenni Lada
Jenni is Editor-in-Chief at Siliconera and has been playing games since getting access to her parents' Intellivision as a toddler. She continues to play on every possible platform and loves all of the systems she owns. (These include a PS4, Switch, Xbox One, WonderSwan Color and even a Vectrex!) You may have also seen her work at GamerTell, Cheat Code Central, Michibiku and PlayStation LifeStyle.