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The Art and Science of Localization in Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk

NIS America is one of a handful of companies who are bringing us games from Japan. It’s not always a straightforward process, and good localization is the difference between a good game and a terrible mess. So, how does this all work?

A new video from the localization editor for Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk gives you a little insight with some surprises. The first job for the editor is to watch the gameplay from Japan. This gives the team an idea of the visual language and text drawn by an artist, even if the actual language will be translated into something else. It’s important to preserve the feel of the original, no matter who your final audience will be.

The Japanese is translated, and sent to the localization team in an Excel spreadsheet. There are somewhere between 250,000 – 300,000 words in Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk. There are references to scenes and instances, but it takes a person to make decisions on how to use the text.

There are style choices and technical considerations. For style, you want to preserve the original content and ideas from the source. Technical decisions become more difficult. Japanese characters are uniformly sized, but western characters are different widths. How do you best convey an original meaning in a text box with limited characters?

Choosing to create a voice over creates additional complications. For NIS America, “The text is the skeleton”, and “the voice is the soul”. Even though the voices aren’t perfectly synchronized to the characters, it still has to visually make sense with what you hear. The script is edited as necessary to ensure it matches, and the voice actors make changes until the finished result makes sense.

The video gives you additional information on the localization process, as well as how there may be some Easter eggs from The Witch and the Hundred Knight in Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk. For anyone interested in the challenges and choices companies face in these projects, I would recommend you give it a watch.

You can see the finished translation in action when Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk releases on September 18th.

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Jason became terminally addicted to videogames after receiving the NES at an early age. This addiction grew to include PC gaming and was cemented with the launch of the PS2. From then on, he was afflicted with epic RPGs, tense shooters, and deep strategy games, never becoming skillful, but never able to quit. He continues to play games (poorly) and share his passion for them to anyone willing to listen.

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