Monday, October 16, 2017

RKSF Developer Diary #3 - The New Challengers

You're not fooling anyone, Luste.
Also, your English needs work...
Hello, everyone!

My apologies for the long silence.  As predicted in my last post, things have been pretty overwhelming in the other areas of my life these past few months.  Thankfully, things have returned to some semblance of normalcy (for the time being, anyway).  So, you know what that means: it's time for another entry in the RKSF Developer Diary!

This time around, we'll be having a look at the newcomers to Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel.  Without further ado:

The Metal Hero (?)

...I said "the newcomers to Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel"...

Well, since our favorite airhead is donning such a flimsy disguise (does she really think a visor can conceal her identity?), I may as well take the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the many aliases she uses.

Throughout the game, Luste adopts a handful of names for her superhero persona.  "The Metal Hero" (「メタルヒーロー」), "Bluste" (「ブルーステ」), "The Hero of Justice (?)" (「正義のヒーロー(?)」)...  She even gives her signature Lustatem a heroic upgrade: "The Breath of Justice, Blustatem" (「正義の息吹ブルーステアーテム」).  Amusingly, each of these names is a nod to the original Megaman in some capacity.

Typically localized as "the Blue Bomber", the "Blue Metal Hero" (「青きメタルヒーロー」) is Megaman's ring name in the Japanese and American versions of Super Smash Bros. For 3DS / Wii U (quick tangent:  I realize that Nintendo thought this was a clever play on words, but Super Smash Bros. For is not grammatically identical to Super Smash Bros. 4).  "Metal Heroes" is also the subtitle of the Japanese version of Megaman 8 (「ロックマン8 メタル ヒーローズ」).  "Bluste", in Japanese, is an obvious play on "Blues" (「ブルース」), the whistling older brother of Megaman whom we know as "Protoman".  To preserve the reference in English, we rendered the name as "Protogirl Bluste".  "The Hero of Justice (?)" (misspelled "Heroe?" in the original Japanese) is a rather generic superhero moniker.  If memory serves, Duo refers to Megaman by this name in the Japanese version of Megaman 8 (don't quote me on that one, though).  To eliminate the redundancy of the near-identical names, we decided to combine the monikers; Luste introduces herself as "the Metal Hero of Justice, Protogirl Bluste", and she's referred to as "The Metal Hero" wherever her real name wasn't used in the original Japanese.  If the original used a question mark, the punctuation was preserved in our localization.

Okay, that's enough about Luste.  Onto the real newcomers:

Strudel

This caring, easygoing little fairy doesn't have a malicious bone in her body.  Perpetually optimistic, she chases after her goals with unstoppable zeal (when she has a goal to chase; when she doesn't, she doesn't really try to do anything...).  She has a curious attraction to all things round and smooth.  She often speaks in the third person and prefers to go by her nickname, "Ru".

Strudel was designed by Shizuku (also known as Tanuki Mask), a talented artist with an adorable art style.  When Strudel's design was submitted to WOMI, Shizuku gave her the name "Strudel Totenkopf".  "Strudel" means "swirl" or "vortex" in German; you're likely more familiar with the flaky pastry bearing the same name.  "Totenkopf" is the German name for the skull and crossbones design that we more commonly know as the Jolly Roger; it's plain to see why WOMI dropped the surname for the official release.

Doris Warmind

The hard-working new leader of the Special Forces division of Rosenkreuzstilette, Doris Warmind (pronounced "varmint") is quite skilled at keeping her cool and coming up with effective attack strategies during battle.  Unfortunately, her occasional carelessness and lack of real-world experience often cause her to slip up at the most inopportune times in spite of her considerable intelligence.  Although she is well-read and scholarly, her language is quite crude.  Doris hates to lose as much as she hates being teased for her size.  She idolizes Schirach (who created her boomerang, Fesselspirale) and has a one-sided rivalry with Luste.

Doris was designed by Hissatsukun (Tsubasa Mizuno), a professional manga artist that, like WOMI, specializes in adult comics.  A handful of Hissatsukun's comics have been released in English by FAKKU (naturally, this link is decidedly not work-safe).

Doris is a nod to Gyroman from Megaman 5 as well as to Web Spider (Megaman X4).  We changed her name from "Dolis" for obvious reasons: "Doris" is an actual German name, whereas "Dolis" is not.

Pamela Arwig

A child of nobility trained in secret as a magic knight, Pamela Arwig (pronounced "arvick") is the commander of Schwarzkreuz and reports directly to the Pope.  Having been raised away from the public eye, not much is known about her abilities.  Pamela is straightforward and sensible, though she tends to come across as haughty and sanctimonious as a side-effect of her high-class upbringing.  She has no doubts whatsoever regarding her concept of justice and will stop at nothing to punish sinners and heretics alike.  Pamela insists that she is not a Magus; she is convinced that her magical talents are the blessings of God Himself.

Pamela was designed by Alphes, the resident artist and illustrator of Twilight Frontier.  Alphes' artwork graces the covers of many titles, including Immaterial and Missing Power, Scarlet Weather Rhapsody, Hopeless Masquerade, Super Marisa Land, MegaMari, and Grief Syndrome (to name just a few).

The Ys fanboy in me is overjoyed to see that Pamela is a walking nod to series' protagonist Adol Christin (with a bit of Megaman X4's Colonel thrown in for good measure),  Her home, Burkhardt Castle, is a full-blown homage to Valestein Castle from Ys III: Wanderers From Ys.

Eifer Skute

Always bundled in thick clothes to counteract an extreme case of hypothermia, Eifer (pronounced "EYE-fer SKOO-teh)" gives the impression of being cool and in control despite her youth.  However, she is prone to violent mood swings; under the wrong circumstances, she can become a rage-obsessed monster.  She has a sharp tongue and seems to harbor a deep-seated resentment towards Freudia.

Eifer was designed by Zaku6 (Zakuro Aburidashi), a professional manga artist specializing in adult comics.  Zaku6 is the artist behind The Sunflower Like An Owl, an adults-only Rosenkreuzstilette artbook (with commentary by Zaku6 and Hissatsukun).

Schirach Fühler

A former member of Rosenkreuzstilette, Schirach (pronounced "Shirock Fueller") has the personality of an annoying older sister.  Her dignified manner forms a stark contrast with her crude and candid speech.  She enjoys the thrill of battle even more so than Trauare.  It doesn't matter to her if she's on the winning side or not; Schirach absolutely loves a good fight and will do whatever she deems necessary to get what she wants.  She has been absent without leave for years...

Schirach was designed by Daddy, a Rosenkreuzstilette fan taking part in WOMI's boss design contest.

Since I have a feeling someone will try to invoke Godwin's Law: "Fühler" is an actual German surname, so there's no need to change her name to "Führer".  "Führer"is German for "leader", whereas "Fühler" is German for "sensor" or "feeler".  Given Schirach's role in the story, the latter is more appropriate in-context.

Recht & Link Refraktia

Recht and Link have been inseparable since the day they were born.  Recht is polite and mild-mannered, but extremely shy when it comes to interacting with others.  She is blind in one eye and always wears an eyepatch to keep her bad eye hidden.  Recht loves reading and prefers spending her time in the library.  Link, on the other hand, is bright and cheerful.  She openly speaks her mind and will not hesitate to antagonize those who get on her nerves.  She is fiercely protective of Recht and shows no mercy to those who would harm her.

Both Recht and Link were designed by Redmoon, a diehard Rosenkreuzstilette fan who submitted nine different character designs to WOMI's boss design contest.  After much thought on the matter, we decided to swap the L's and R's in their names.  First off, the Refraktia twins' given names are plays on the German words for "left" and "right".  "Lecht" and "Rink" have different meanings than "Recht" and "Link" (try it in English: "reft" and "light" don't mean the same thing as "left" and "right").  Second, 「リンク」 is quite well-known in Japan as the hero of The Legend of Zelda; it just wouldn't feel right to break this referential link.

The Refraktia twins are a clear nod to Geminiman from Megaman 3, with a touch of Split Mushroom (Megaman X4) and Armored Armadillo (Megaman X).

There's one more new face in Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel, but that's a surprise I'd rather not spoil before the game is even released.

Oh, while we're on the subject of RKSF's release:

That's much sooner than you were expecting, huh?  Well, have fun!  We'll continue with the Development Diary after you've had a chance to play around with the game.

See you next time!

Friday, August 18, 2017

RKSF Developer Diary #2 - Hey, That's New!

Just one pipe, huh?
Well, at least we have infinite time.
...And we're back!

In our last Developer Diary entry, we had a look at some of the changes made during the localization of the original Rosenkreuzstilette that we carried over to the English version of Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel.  This time around, we'll be looking at some of the little tweaks in the English version of Freudenstachel that you'd be forgiven for not noticing.

To start things off, let's pay a visit to everyone's favorite pajama-clad shut-in, Schwer-Muta Casasola Merkle.  While her Metalman-inspired "The Black Playground" stage featured a brief homage to Super Mario Bros., Freudenstachel's "The Zeppy Ruins" goes even further with its tribute to the Mushroom Kingdom, featuring blue skies, sentient clouds oddly resembling a certain cephalopod, marching mushrooms, blocks, pipes, and even a flagpole and fort at the "end" of the stage.  With the presentation practically screaming Super Mario All-Stars, it goes without saying that we just had to match the presentation of the 16-bit version of the retro classic, reusing the Super Mario 64 font from the original RKS as appropriate.

It looks like someone forgot the ball
finial on the top of the flagpole...
Amusingly enough, there are a few minor oversights in this segment that made their way into the final version of the game.  First off, the flag and flagpole are white and green, respectively, in the original version of Super Mario Bros., whereas their colors are reversed in the Super Mario All-Stars remake.  Curiously, the Freudenstachel rendition uses the NES color scheme.  Since the background is modeled after the All-Stars version, the flag unintentionally appears to fade into the clouds.

For the English version of Freudenstachel, we added a subtle gray edge to the flag itself to help it stand out against the background.  If you have a decent monitor, you don't even need to expand the image to the left to notice the difference.  Should we have reversed the colors instead and made the stage consistently follow suit with All-Stars, or do you think this understated tweak a better solution?  Let us know in the comments below.

For obvious reasons, we also updated the "World 1-8" to reflect that this is effectively Rosenkreuzstilette 2.  Was it necessary?  Not it all.  Was it worth it?  For anyone who notices the little touches in their games: absolutely.

Message From Mr. Zeppy.
Once we begin exploring the depths of the Zeppy Ruins, a familiar face can be found carved in the walls alongside a message written in archaic script.

Wait, did I just say "archaic"?  I take that back.  It's retro, not archaic...

Anyway, well-seasoned gamers may recognize the images of a top, a shuriken, and a needle at the bottom of the mural as the icons of particular armaments in the Blue Bomber's arsenal: namely, the Top Spin, the Shadow Blade, and the Needle Cannon from Megaman 3.  The inscription itself is modeled after the transmissions sent by Dr. Light whenever the good doctor completes one of his new inventions in Megaman 2.

It was a bit of a challenge to get the wording of the English rendition just right, accurately conveying the meaning of the riddle on the wall while preserving the nods to both games.  The screenshot to the right depicts the "question" that the player needs to solve in order to proceed.  An "answer" engraving can be found two screens away from this one (of course, if you find it, that likely means that you chose poorly and cost Freudia her life...).

For a second, these two screenshots looked
like they had naturally merged together...
Let's skip ahead a considerable bit and check out Schirach's Sandstorm Stage.  Naturally, the Count Bombs in this stage are modeled after their explosive counterparts from Megaman 6.  Curiously, WOMI decided to take the seven incarnations of the upright bomb, rotate all seven sprites, one at a time, to create the other three detonator variants, and apply shading and highlights to all thirty-five sprites individually.

For the English version of RKSF, we decided to remake the Count Bomb graphics, keeping the timer facing the same direction no matter where its detonator was located.  The reason for this change was two-fold.  First, the source material always had the timers facing the same direction; it's only appropriate that the RKSF renditions follow suit.  Second, graphic designers in video games have a responsibility to ensure that all graphical elements are user-friendly and easily-legible.  For example, when you look at an HP gauge, you should be able to figure out how much HP you have in an instant.  In this case, the fraction of a second needed to tilt your head and read the timers properly could mean the difference between the bombs exploding in your face or not.

Whoa, it's past midnight already?  It looks like I spent too much time gathering screenshots for this post.  Well, I'll just have to wrap things up here for now.

In the next Developer Diary, we'll be meeting the new members of the Rosenkreuzstilette universe.  See you then!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Provisional RKSF Developer Diary - O Captain, My Captain!

It's been an honor serving under you...
Hello, everyone.  It's time for the next installment of the RKSF Developer Diary.

Before we get started on today's entry, there's a proverbial elephant in the room that I need to address.  Many among you may be aware of the fact that I work as the de facto assistant manager of a Thai restaurant to pay the bills, keep a roof over my head, and replace any equipment I need for my localization work (whether it be my glasses, my hard drive, or my entire computer system).  To borrow a phrase from Spiritia: "But people... people aren't the same.  People can't be replaced."...

Two days after my last blog post, Betty Toye, the owner of our restaurant, suddenly passed away.  The story of her passing is a tragic one, and one that should give fans of Angel Beats a serious case of déjà vu.  In all honesty, this story isn't mine to tell.  If I mention that Betty's death felt too close to Masami Iwasawa's for comfort, I'm sure the vast majority of you will be able to piece together what happened and how.
 
Let me be completely serious for a moment:

If you ever take a blow to the head, for any reason, go see a doctor immediately.  It doesn't matter if you feel alright or not, if you're part of a sports team and that head injuries "just come with the territory".  It only takes a moment of misplaced bravado to give yourself a death sentence.  Even if you do try to get help, the doctors might not be able to get to you in time...

It goes without saying that things have been rough at my day job without Betty around.  Unlike most bosses, she was pretty hands-on with everything.  Friendly, outgoing, and in terrific shape for someone her age (she was 67, but had the energy of someone in their thirties).  As you can imagine, as the de facto assistant manager, it's been my duty to step up and take charge of things at the restaurant while my manager (Betty's son-in-law) tends to his family.  It's been a rough couple of weeks, and there's nothing we can do but move forward on our own.

I'm sorry for starting things off on a depressing note, but this is something I really needed to get off of my chest.  Betty wasn't the first person close to me to have died this year (my friend Richard passed away in March), but this is the first time someone so integral to my day-to-day life has died.  It's no exaggeration to say that there's a dark void at the restaurant that we're doing our best to fill.  It's only a matter of time before we're back to business as usual (pun not intended).  If you don't hear from me for a while, you'll know exactly where I am and what I'm doing.

I suppose it's perfect timing that I was able to hand off the revised source code to our publisher before this recent slew of developments.

Now that I've said what I needed to say, let's get back into the swing of things.  Join me in a few hours for our regularly-scheduled programming...

(Oh, who am I kidding?  We've never had a "regular" schedule...)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

RKSF Developer Diary #1 - Recycle Cycle

There's no point in denying it:
the RKSF Title Screen is much cooler.
Hello, everyone!

It's been a long haul, and I know that many among you have been waiting for years to catch a glimpse of the English version of Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel.  Well, wait no more: it's time for the first installment of the RKSF Developer Diary!

Before we dive into what's changed between the original Rosenkreuzstilette and its sequel, I figured it'd be appropriate to have a look at what's stayed the same between the two games.  By that, I mean what changes we made for the English version of Rosenkreuzstilette that we were able to carry over to Freudenstachel.

As many of you are no doubt aware, eight of the ten first-generation Megaman titles use the same assets and sprites with nearly imperceptible differences in the game's mechanics and physics.  It should come as no surprise that Rosenkreuzstilette follows suit, preserving what worked in the original while subtly changing what didn't.  As we'll see in future entries, some elements that Freudenstachel borrows from the classic Blue Bomber have been used to create something completely different.

I'm getting ahead of myself, though.  Let's start at the beginning.

I couldn't tell you if this was a screenshot
from Rosenkreuzstilette or Freudenstachel...
Surprising absolutely no one, the [erka:es] logo and bonus scenario overlay haven't changed a bit from the original game.  Exciting stuff, I'm sure.  RKSF's file structure contains an entire directory of files lifted straight from the original RKS.  Rather than straight-up copy the files from the original English release of RKS, I decided to take the opportunity to make some stealthy touch-ups to these graphics and export them to both the launch build of Freudenstachel and Version 2.10a of Rosenkreuzstilette.  When the update goes live for RKS, don't be surprised if some things feel just a little bit different that you remember them.  For the most part, it's nothing worth spotlighting here.  I doubt anyone would really notice that a handful of elements on the Status Subscreen were nudged over by a few pixels, for example.

The more things change,
the more they stay the same.
Once the opening text crawl fades in, I'm sure many among you may be experiencing a bit of déjà-vu.  Don't worry: it's not just your imagination.  The text may be a different color and set over a moonlit castle instead of a twilit cathedral, but first couple of lines of text in Freudenstachel are word-for-word identical to their counterparts in the prequel.  This repetition was done specifically to allow people who hadn't played the original Rosenkreuzstilette to bring themselves up to speed without wasting any time on lengthy exposition dumps.  The rest of the text crawl recaps what has happened since the events of the first game in the same vein as Megaman X2.  One of the most common complaints about the opening cutscene in the first RKS was that the expository banter between Spiritia and Lilli was sooo looong.  While Freudenstachel begins on a similar note, there's a sense of urgency to its plot that forces the characters to get a move on and not waste time mincing words.

Of course, there have always been a few characters in the RKS universe that don't particularly pay attention to the grand scheme of things.  Their interactions with the rest of the cast remain as amusing as ever.

As you can see in the screenshots at the top of this post, the changes I made to Rosenkreuzstilette's Title Screen have been carried over to Freudenstachel's.  In other words, choosing the default "Game Start" options begin a new game at the very beginning of Story Mode instead of at the Stage Select Screen in Arcade Mode.  This time around, if you're playing through Story Mode and wish to skip text that you've already read through, you can press the Status button to skip the remainder of that scene instead of hammering the Confirm button or holding the Cancel button.

No silhouettes or frames this time around;
other than that, they're pretty much the same.
The Options and Controls Menus are pretty much what you'd expect them to be; I covered our tweaks to them in detail in RKS Developer Diary #2Freudenstachel's Options Menus follow its predecessor's in every respect save for one:

When I was working on Freudenstachel's Options Menus, I did so without really consulting their counterparts in the original Rosenkreuzstilette.  It didn't occur to me at the time to carry the frames and silhouettes that I'd added to the Grollschwert incarnation of these graphics over to the sequel.  The Options Menus for both the Freudenstachel and Weißsilber scenarios are almost identical to their respective Title Screens, so I never noticed that something might be missing until I started compiling screenshots for this blog post.

That's a lot of blue...
Still, even without these touches, the menus look great.  If Freudenstachel ends up requiring an update later down the line, I might take the opportunity to add the shadows and borders back in.  As it stands, though, I'm perfectly fine with the game shipping with the menus in their current state.

There isn't really much to say about the presentation of the Status Subscreen that I haven't already said in RKS Developer Diary #6.  In the Japanese version of Rosenkreuzstilette, the rollover graphic for each ability featured the name of each ability in German as well as its meaning in Japanese.  For the English versions of the game, we replaced the Japanese translations with their English equivalents.  In Freudenstachel, the rollover graphics don't feature Japanese translations of each ability's name; instead, they spell out the name of each ability in katakana to help Japanese natives pronounce them all properly.  This information isn't all that useful to English-speaking players; after all, the majority of us can't read katakana, and we have Freudia's sound clips to clarify how each name is supposed to be pronounced.  So, for the sake of consistency with the original Rosenkreuzstilette, we decided to replace the katakana renderings with the English renditions of each name.  Before you ask: yes, we will be exploring these in detail in a future developer diary entry.

Decisions, decisions...
If only there were a book that
claimed to hold all the answers...
You may recall from RKS Developer Diary #4 that RKS's Stage Select screen features a handful of verses from Christianity's Holy Bible.  These verses return in the sequel, both on the original Rosenkreuzstilette version of the Stage Select Screen as well as the Schwarzkreuz incarnation that is unlocked after all eight main stages have been completed.  The very same Bible verses appear yet again during the battle with the Homunculi, adorning the background of every single room during the boss rush.  It's like the Bible is following you around every time you need to make a decision...

Naturally, we made a point of touching-up the German and integrating our English localization as seamlessly as possible.

Yep, empty passwords work
the way they're supposed to.
To wrap things up for this inaugural entry, let's have a quick look at the game's system strings.  You may recall that, whenever you get a Game Over, complete a stage, or hit the Pause button to save a replay, some rather tidy English text appears in both the English and Japanese versions of the game prompting you to make a decision.  In the original Rosenkreuzstilette, this text was written in Bookman Old Style in black text with a white outline; in Freudenstachel, the same text appears in Times New Roman in white with a pale blue outline.  In the spirit of Megaman, we felt it would be more appropriate to maintain the same style of presentation between entries while giving each entry just a bit of its own identity.  So, we decided to use Bookman Old Style throughout (it's the same font as the Stage Select Screen, after all) while retaining the original colors from the Japanese versions.  We applied this same philosophy to the boss introductions and the ending credits.

Well, that's all for now.  I have a vague idea of what I'll shine a spotlight on next time, but, if there's anything in particular that you'd like to see, be sure to ask for it in the comments below!

See you next time!