As everyone should know by now, we love XSEED Games. When we were given the opportunity to interview them, (read: we sent an e-mail hoping they would respond) we took it! Fortunately for us, Ser Baconus (Jessica Chavez) responded to our questions regarding localization hardships.
Operation Rainfall: What would you say is your company’s greatest problem when it comes to localizing games from Japanese developers?
Jessica Chavez: Well… that question has many answers.
My initial thought is Tom (because Tom LOVES the ever-present and often untranslatable puns in Japanese games and just reading them makes me die a little inside each time), but deadlines might be the real terror of localization.
Localizing a game takes many, many resources and many, many pounds of flesh, but one thing we cannot do without at XSEED is our development counterpart: the hardworking Japanese team that will cram our text into the US version. Since we’re just a publisher, we rely on these teams to do the programming work, and their availability informs our own schedule. As you can imagine, trying to squeeze in translation, editing, voice recording, QA, applying for ratings, submissions for the console guys and all the metadata approvals/submissions, etc., all within that sometimes hectic timeframe can result in a lot of white hairs. Since we have such a small team here and juggle multiple games at a time, I’m sure you can also imagine the frantic contorting we have to do on occasion to make deadlines.
We’d certainly love to take our time or lavish all attention on a single game, but the boat’s got to stay afloat and stay the course with a minimum of sacrificed tragically lost interns.
OR: Does finance weigh heavily on translating and localizing Japanese games, versus independent development and publishing?
JC: I can’t really speak for what it would cost for independent development (as we’re but a humble publisher), but we have a vast array of costs on our side to consider first if we take on a project.
Helpful(?), and terribly blunt breakdown:
Licensing a game: $$$
Translation & Editing: $$$ + BLOOD & TEARS
Voice Recording: $$$
Mark Downs: $$$$$
ESRB (US Rating): $$$
PEGI (EU Rating): $$$
UK Rating: $$$
USK (German Rating): $$$
Aus/NZ Rating: $$$
Office Snacks: $
OR: Does XSEED handle multiple localizations at once, or does your company go through projects one at a time?
Our record is 11 games released in one year, but if I recall rightly, during that period we were juggling 13 or so. And this was all done with a 5 person localization team (2 translators, 2 editors, 1 manager). Heck, the whole office was only 10 people back then. Poor marketing/PR got crushed into jelly as well. Good times. Alcoholic times.
OR: Can you tell me what kind of scheduling and logistics are involved in localizing titles?
JC: As the localization manager, this is a big part of what I do now, but the scheduling/logistics of titles is more eloquently expressed by the ‘BOARD’. This is the whiteboard behind my desk where I plot out the various stages and tangential duties associated with our various titles. Currently the BOARD is only showing 6 projects, but I assure you, there are more. ;_;
As you can see, there are many stages to get through before we can release a game and many, many switches that have to get flipped during the main duties of translation and editing (think of all the things that could go wrong!)(we’ve experienced every one!). And, mind you, this is only localization. Manufacturing and marketing and PR are a whole ‘nother can of worms.
OR: Any anecdotes or “horror stories” that you have witnessed would be appreciated for examples?
JC: Horror stories, huh? Well, I think everyone at XSEED has had some sort of emotionally scarring experience. I polled the office for any random thoughts on the matter.
# of people who have shed blood in the office: 5
# of hours the PA was forced to play Unchained Blades during QA: 600
# of tears she shed during this period: uncountable
# of staff who have pulled all-nighters: 6
# of Onii dolls missing heads in the office: 3
# of concussions experienced at work: 2
# of “oh, crap” moments when we realized there was something…unexpected in a game: 7
# of UHaul trucks destroyed by XSEED: 1
# of servers that have caught fire: 1
Odds and Ends
Favorite sleeping nook during crunch time: Under the meeting room table
Most weight lost by one person during a project: 8lbs
Worst item found in fridge: ??? item with fur
Most unusual item found in fridge: endlessly ringing iphone
Chair versus staff ratio at old office: 42 chairs / 8 people
People willing to eat noodles EVERY day for lunch: 1
Thanks again to XSEED Games for the interview, we can’t wait to play Pandora’s Tower in April!