Earlier this week, Mike Engler from Aksys shared strategies to get players started with Ragnarok Tactics. He’s back to talk about the game’s characters and the localization process.
How does the A.I.Z. system work in Ragnarok Tactics? What route is your favorite?
Mike Engler, Localization Editor: Ah, a sneaky two-for-one question. Well, let’s start where all things start, at the beginning. The A.I.Z. system (the meaning of said acronym has unfortunately been lost in the flotsam and jetsam of history, but is rumored to stand for Another Instance Zapping…) lets players (all of you reading this…hopefully) go back to major branching points in the overall story in order to follow a different path. A great thing about the A.I.Z. system is that you can go back and choose different conversation/faction choices WITHOUT losing any of your progress in the storyline you were originally following. BUT! HOWEVER, even! This wonderful system of rewarding indecision and curiosity is only available up until you get to the final sections of each storyline, so if you want to go back and experience one of the other different story arcs you’ll need to do so before the point of no return. You. Have. Been. Warned.
As for my favorite route… Hmm… I’d have to say that I like the Toren Militia route, just because it has a few of truly unexpected events. As for the five endings on tap (yep, five endings), I really like the Bad Ending a lot, mainly because how it unfolds in gleefully malevolent defiance of RPG tropes and player expectations.
On a side note, there are a number of side missions not tied to any of the main NPCs that are definitely worth taking the time to hunt down and do. The cook and the adventurer ones are especially…amusing. I made it a point to avoid inserting any anachronistic references into the main story so it was kind of fun to turn off my internal filters and go completely insane with the dialog in some of the optional events…only when appropriate, of course. Some of the side stories are actually pretty melancholy and I worked hard to maintain that vibe. But Kaka and Paul… <Insert evil chuckle of malicious glee>.
Let’s talk about the main characters. What are they like and who would you hang out with on Columbus Day?
This is going to be a tough one to answer, as there are a lot of characters with significant roles within the story and the potential for spoilers abound. So in the interest of covering my own behind while at the same time giving a somewhat coherent answer, I will cop out and just cover the characters central to each of the three main story arcs. Remember kids, sometimes cowardice is the better part of valor!
Let’s start off with you, the player. The player’s character, whose default name is Rito, can be either male or female and despite playing the role of the silent type in the story, does have opportunities to speak via the frequent conversation choices that pop up throughout the different routes. In addition to getting different responses related to how you choose to answer another character’s question, different story possibilities pop up depending on whether you decide to be a paragon of virtue or an unrepentant jerk.
Next up on our tour of the rogues’ gallery is Toren, the star of the Toren Militia route. He’s a former mercenary turned white-knight who has made it his responsibility to defend the downtrodden after meeting the lovely Livia, the head of the orphanage located in the town he calls home. He’s generally a laid-back "bro" type who has a well-deserved reputation for being a badass; despite his many faults the man knows how to fight. Oh, and he has a soft spot for children.
Continuing on, allow me to introduce the lovely (and occasionally brutally cold-hearted) Cynthia. She is the main character in the Branshaldo route and is Ragnarok Tactics’ resident mage. The truly mysterious one out of all of the main "hero" characters, she is incredibly closed-mouthed about anything having to do with her past (or her present, for that matter) and will respond to personal questions with vitriol, barely-concealed scorn, or an infuriatingly dismissive wave of her hand. Oh, and her temper is truly something to behold. In other words, she doesn’t have one. She blows up at the drop of a fedora and someone keeps knocking over the hat stand…
And finally, the ever-earnest Yuri, the driving force behind the Aurian storyline. An officer in the Aura Republican army, Yuri is an orphan who had the good fortune to be adopted by one of the leaders of the Republic and, as a result, is fiercely devoted to his country and its leaders. He is always serious and focused on the task at hand, even when he shouldn’t be. He is also incapable of comprehending humor in any form and, due to having spent most of his life in the military, is completely hopeless when it comes to understanding or dealing with women.
I don’t recognize Columbus Day; I prefer to celebrate the more obscure Amerigo Vespucci Day, which is actually the day before Columbus Day and celebrates Amerigo’s blatant stealing of Christopher’s thunder. But if I were to celebrate this holiday by going to bars and stealing people’s drinks when they set them down (which I definitely don’t do…anymore…), it’d probably be with Toren. He’s a people person and would make a heck of a wingman. He could also protect me from the people whose drinks I pilfered…
Can you tell us about the hero customization system and the kind of hero you created?
Ah yes, the create-a-hero(?) system. It’s remarkably straightforward and a truly life-altering, fulfilling experience… Well, it’s straightforward, anyway. In RT, you start by choosing your character’s job class, gender, name, basic appearance, and voice type. As you progress through the game you can change jobs or master your first pick, allowing you to access more powerful versions of it. I particularly enjoy the voice selections, which range from the grimly stoic to the bat-guano insane.
As for me, since I’m a baby about pain in real life (ironic considering my love of all-mountain/freeride mountain biking) I went with a female archer in the beginning, because it’s always better to kill your enemies from afar. And in honor of a certain subterranean-dwelling feline-esque clone with a mammary-centric view of the universe, I chose the most over-the-top voice type available.
How did you handle the localization since the Ragnarok universe has been translated and adapted by a couple of different companies?
Oddly enough, for some strange unmentionable reason, that wasn’t much of a problem. Mainly, I tried to stick with the official terminology for weapons, job classes, monsters, and spell names whenever possible. However, due to the radically different character limits between PC and the PSP (oh, Ragnarok Tactics is ALSO PLAYABLE ON THE VITA! ARE YOU NOT ESTATIC?!) I had to take liberties with some names and descriptions. Hopefully my changes are unobtrusive and won’t result in me being burned in effigy or shunned as unclean.
As RT is a completely original, self-contained story, I didn’t have to worry about continuity issues or characterizations in relation to the online game. That made the localization of the scenario text much less stressful from that standpoint. The stress came from other sources…
Can you share a story about grinding through the game’s localization?
The funny thing about amusing localization stories is that they tend to fall under the definition of "true comedy": misery that happens to others. Whether it’s editing an entire game in 1 week (I’ve done this twice) or being mocked for your "superior" voice acting skills (also happened to me), the humor in any given situation usually only becomes visible only after a sufficient amount of time has passed and the mental wounds have been allowed to heal, or at least have turned into an unsightly scar.
Luckily(?) for all of you wonderful readers and potential consumers of this fine game, that is the case with Ragnarok Tactics. While the game was in reality one of the easiest/least stressful games I’ve worked on in a while (until the end, anyway), I did have one thing happen that was pretty amusing and, in grand Mike02(?) fashion, had happened to me before.
Normally I always try to do research on the game I’m working on and, if Cthulhu is benevolently waving its tentacles in my direction, play through the game. However, for various reasons, I started on the story text before doing any of these things. One of the characters, Yuri, came across in appearance and speech as somewhat overly polite, so I thought, "Hey, a female warrior! Let’s make her a badass stoic!" So I went through about a few chapters of the story, fitting Yuri’s dialog to this image I had in my mind.
At this point I need to interject a quick Japanese lesson. In Japanese, you can (and frequently will) drop subjects/proper nouns/pronouns from sentences. In RT, this was the norm for most of the dialog and became the foundation of my eventually faulty assumption.
Eventually, I got to play through some of the game and heard Yuri’s voice for the first time. I thought to myself, "Hold up a sec… something isn’t quite…right…" I then went to the official Japanese site (which for some reason, I failed to do up until that point) where, to my mortification and realization of my upcoming increased workload, I saw that I was a wee bit off…
Yuri, of course, was, and continues to be, male.
I spent several days feverishly undoing the damage my lack of gender awareness had caused. Although having Yuri as a woman made a number of exchanges up until that point far more…interesting…than originally intended.
Niche PSP games continue to get picked up by Aksys and other companies. What do you think the state of the PSP market is in North America?
To my knowledge, PSP games have yet to be granted statehood as Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico are ahead in the queue. Blatant question-dodging aside, I am but a humble text magician here in the Aksys Citadel and know naught of the business si–
Before I let people run away in stark terror from this outpouring of barely coherent insanity I do want to take the time to mention the hard work of my fellow partners in crime; despite popular perception games don’t emerge fully localized from the forehead of Zeus and take a great deal of blood, sweat, carpal tunnel syndrome, caffeine, and endless correspondence with Japan to make possible. So raise a frosty beverage and toast the translators, the always lovely Asuka and the rarely lovely Mike02, and hoist a tuna sandwich for our fearless leader Bo. And be sure to give a moment of silence for Karen the copy editor, who is forced to endure my love of compound sentences, archaic English, and my love/hate relationship with title caps [This is all true. I have to pull him back into coherency sometimes. – Karen]. As for me…please, no voodoo dolls; it’s hard to concentrate with the endless stabbing pains…