An Open Response to a Piece of Fan Mail and Some Related Ramblings

January 3rd, 2019

 

Time to climb up on a soapbox.

I had originally penciled in the latest Ikkitousen OVA for today, but it begins with a closeup of a crotch, urine streaming down the legs, then proceeds to show a few more angles of it. After that, we cut to a bath and info dump, an overlong train ride, then some more baths, then the villain du jour attacks, so they run off and/or are kidnapped… into another bath, which is where it ends. I expect so little, and boy, do I get it.

So, hey, let's do this. And feel free to imagine that there were about 2-3 more paragraphs about divergent translations of the Odyssey, Final Fantasy 4, and mechanical licenses somewhere in the middle that have been edited out because this stream of consciousness was getting a little too rambling.

A couple months back, I got a piece of I guess what you could call fan mail (in text form). I suggest taking a moment to read through it and then soak in it. Some other background that may help. While the Kickstarter mentioned there was running, it came out that a group of 'super' fans, with knowledge, approval, and organization of localization employees (who have since deleted their social media accounts), organized to an attempt to secretly astroturf support for the Kickstarter. I assume that piece of e-mail came from that effort. It's both full of itself and mistakes a worship of these localization companies as meritous. It's hard to blame the fans though. This is the environment that the companies have fostered and want. The ultimate goal of all fan translators isn't to do something you enjoy doing, or share something you like with other people, but to be noticed by Jast, or Sekai Project, or Mangagamer. If you're with one of the companies, that's success. That's validation.

It's bullshit.

More than that, it's depressing. It says to me that the work already done, the game already shared with people, doesn't really have worth yet because the great and mighty Mangagamer/Jast/Whoever hasn't come down from on high to bless it.

Let me share three short anecdotes about attempts to secure a license with Softhouse Chara all with the same company. The first time I broached it to an industry contract, the response after multiple e-mails was "After giving some thought, I've decided to wait around to see since it's a big business venture to negotiate with a named company who we don't have previous relationship with, for a title that hasn't been started yet at this time." We're not going to try to get a license and the means/support for you to translate a game just because you want to, but come back once you've already done all that and we'll talk. So for the second time, that's what I did. I came back with the tools and work done, at which point I was asked to write up a sales pitch. So I did that too. A week or two later, I got back the response that they sent an e-mail, but SHChara wasn't interested. End of story.

Fast forward to Bunny Black 2. For that, I was approached by someone asking if I was interested in them trying to secure the license. My response was "Not really, but you're welcome to try." A few weeks later, and I'll remind you that BB2 is a tiny game and start of work to release was like 6 weeks total, I get word that they had a call, and still weren't interested. The person who approached me then asked if I wanted to talk to XXXX to… I guess try to convince them to try harder or something? And if I was willing to sit on the project and not release it. This conversation happened January 18th, after all translation had finished, while minor interface things were being cleaned up. When the answer to both of those was no, he attempted to drag me for my lack of enthusiasm. Because it was directed towards releasing the game instead of the license.

I didn't immediately quit due to the Baldr Sky fiasco. I did take a lot of time off while it (didn't) come to a resolution, but I've done that before when my own life needed priority. I was not going to put myself through the same ordeal though, and I'm speaking more of how I could not cajole, plead, beg, or bribe the people I was working with to even show up, let alone not create additional headaches and work for me. I informed them of this, and work recommenced on Prism Ark, but the further warnings and admonishments didn't help. Days turned to weeks turned to months. No updates. No work done. No communication. Nothing.

That was when I quit translating; when it became abundantly clear that the only way I could get a response at all was by, well… putting a metaphorical gun to the project's head. That was not healthy or sustainable. I was spending significant time and effort on trying to wrangle people who were passive aggressively (and occasionally actively and publicly) sabotaging the projects. One of the big reasons I originally started working on Baldr Sky despite my misgivings was because I thought people would be excited and supportive. I got the opposite. Going from there to Prism Ark really had no hope in retrospect.

My early projects were blessed in that respect. I only needed to post that I wanted to work on BMW/Galaxy Angel/BBA and people showed up from the ether to help. Even my weird call for Hebrew speakers when I figured out waaaay later than I should have that Duel Savior had a bunch of it. The French in Kamidori wasn't so lucky, but to be fair, nobody seemed to notice that either until a couple months after the patch. Now though? The environment feels more hostile to fan translation than I can recall it ever being. If someone wanted to start a project today, I would have to advise them to keep to communities where they can stay anonymous. That deprives them of badly needed support and encouragement, but the alternative is being exploited and abused by companies and a community that revels in their idolatry.

I didn't have a good answer for this then, nor do I have one now. I recognize that isolation from people and abandonment of something I enjoyed are not going to result in a positive change in the situation, but there are other things to fill the time and headspace, like obsessively playing Civ4 again. A couple people have approached me about official projects, and I'm not ruling out ever returning and/or doing official work again, but I will openly admit to being pretty disillusioned with the entire scene and situation, so I'm not sure what possible project environment or game, would be a carrot sufficient to make me want to be a part of it again. A Kamidori2, or SHChara somehow getting all their ducks in a row feel far more likely, but that would absolutely be more just translating in general, and I'd consider being tethered to any company to be a detriment at this point.

One thing I do plan to start doing going forward in regards to translation is (a hopefully fairly regular) knowledge dump of past projects. By that, I mean posting the tools and workspaces that I used to create them. Maybe they can help someone else create their own project, in English or another language. Maybe they're just a historic thing to prod at. A lot of the scripts are readily adaptable to other purposes, especially many of the image manipulation things I've accumulated. In any case, I've long kept backups of stuff, and I think it's better out in the open than squirreled away on an external drive. Certain things will be exempt due to contract obligations (eg Seinarukana's tools), but there are some personal tools and scripts used for those projects not covered by them which I do plan on sharing.

 

In mostly unrelated news, but not substantive enough to be its own post, Gracesta's been out for a little over a month. I've played through most of it… I think. Kind of stalled out and lost interest. My thoughts on it haven't really changed too much. I was right about the economy (there's about a half dozen ways to get virtually unlimited money for next to no effort), and the little niggles continue to annoy. A couple new ones have presented themselves as well, mostly in the form of the way things are structured. There's the main plot, and then there's everything else, and nary shall they intersect. Seems fine, except that the 'main plot' side consists of one main heroine, a particularly dull and tiresome one, and the 'everything else' is the entire rest of the cast, virtually all of whom are far more interesting. Literally everybody straight up vanishes into thin air whenever anything 'important' happens.

Not to keep harping on Kamidori, but all of its main heroines were at least present in the other routes, and depending on the route, made character sidequests mandatory so they could be 'safely' included in the main plot (eg Kohakuren in Yuela's events, Sharty in Emi's, etc). In Gracesta, the divide is… stark. Then they make things worse by locking things under really convoluted requirements that can very easily time out, straight up hidden flags, or, an eternal favorite, pixel hunts. It's a game with a decent setting and some good characters that needs a bottom up redesign to weed out all the stupidity and unify the story/characters into a single package.

For now, I leave you with this. Enjoy.

Posted in Unimportant Crap | 5 Comments »

5 Shouts From the Peanut Gallery

  • Yasunaga says:

    Hey, it’s the guy who wrote that email. Here’s an open response to yours:

    I wasn’t part of that Astroturfing campaign. I’m legitimately a fan of your work.
    I wrote to you thinking of encouraging you to do what you love, officially this time. But I guess I was just full of myself.

    I forgot the most important thing about fan translations.
    Because you’re (or where) a fan of Eushully and loved Kamidori, you delivered a FAN translation that was full of passion for the game, without money as an incentive.
    I acknowledge that passion, that effort, all that hard work that delivered such a great localization. I didn’t mean to invalidate any of it, and apologize if it came off like I was doing so.

    …You know, there’s another translator I admire: Triplicate.

    He translated Hatsukoi 1/1, Tsujidou-san no Jun’ai road, and is translating Hoshi Ori Yume Mirai. All on record time, and his TLs are of very high quality too. And he’s doing it because he genuinely loves both translation process and the games he’s translating (minus Tsujidou. But while he hated it, he still finished it).
    He was approached by a localization company and rejected their offer.
    He sees translation as a hobby, and TLing things brings him relaxation, and he would hate to go official and experience the complications from licensing, deadlines, etc. that would kill his passion for translating.

    It wasn’t until meeting him (and also a few other fan TLers) that I realized how blind I’ve been to all of that.
    I never stopped to think about the hurdles of localization, or the satisfaction
    that comes from translating for fun rather than money.

    Of course. I’m not saying official translators do it just for the money. They too care about delivering an excellent localization, and sometimes, they too are passionate about their work.

    But let it be know. Your work DOES HAVE WORTH. And I’m a FAN of it.

    [Reply]

  • J says:

    That was a nice writeup.

    I do see the official companies as a double edged sword. We get more translations but the culture of “if you don’t fall in line with them, you’re the problem” is pretty awful. Like, it a very long time for the wider community to realize Sekai Project wasn’t this perfect god company who could do know wrong. Even though the warning signs were around from far far earlier, people would just plug their ears and be fine with it.

    It’s just become harder to find that sense of bringing something from fans to fans anymore.

    Ultimately, I hope that you know there are people in the community who still miss you and hope you’re doing alright.

    [Reply]

  • seragnel says:

    I still appreciate your work on BBA. I will be forever grateful for that so thank you.

    [Reply]

  • Hinano says:

    Coming from the otome game side of localization, a certain company (A***s games) basically constantly releases shitty localizations but there’s a huge band of “defenders” who defend this bullshit because “it’s better than nothing.” They will literally start a war with you in the super tiny otome game community if you dare criticize the localization quality. On the fan side of things, they become demanding twats and just want to pirate and never actually buy the games sooo….

    the fact that A***s constantly releases poor quality releases (shit like tons of typos, dialogue showing up in the name box, straight up wrong translations) due to using some shitty 3rd party chinese company and people continue to buy this because “it’s better than nothing” that’s why these companies get more support than a solo translator who works for free even though their translation quality is better.

    i think it was good on you to quit, sounds like a bunch of assholes to deal with for something that should be a fun side hobby.

    But oh well moot point I guess since otome games are dying in Japan now lol.

    [Reply]

  • HakumeiJin says:

    As someone who actually works, I’d never particularly found it strange that you wouldn’t want to stay in the kind of toxic environment you’d described. And yet I do regularly find myself thankful when these companies actually translate something so hearing your viewpoint is definitely interesting.

    I hope you can include anecdotes about why you needed them when you release the tools. The posts about your fight against bizarre japanese coding or your efforts to improve parts that seemed to have been ignored were always some of the most hilarious I’ve seen here.

    [Reply]

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