Friday, October 30, 2015

PSA: A friend in need...

Hi, everyone.  Things have been busier than usual as of late thanks to our civic duty, a member of our staff switching day jobs, and changes in my own work schedule and responsibilities (I'm working more hours than before and I'm in charge of training the new guy in addition to my other duties...).  As a result, the amount of time we've had to devote to RKS has unfortunately taken a hit.  That's not as big a deal as it might sound, though; everything is looking good, and the nature of our day jobs gives us time to think of solutions to whatever issues we come across without actually ruining our forward momentum (we often already have solutions to the problems at hand before the next chance we have to sit down and tweak code or edit graphics).  Having a mindless day job works wonders when you're moonlighting as a localization specialist, and an involved fanbase really helps whenever you're showing symptoms of writer's block (seriously: thank you, everyone).

Suffice to say, it'll take a few more days before we're ready to roll out the next Developer Diary entry.  Having a bit of extra time to hear your thoughts on the matter really helps this time around since it involves something we touched upon in the comments section of our last post; I'd like that discussion to be properly concluded before posting the next entry.

Unfortunately, things haven't been looking as great for our friend Tristan MacAvery, voice of Rosenkreuzstilette's Count Michael Zeppelin and Neon Genesis Evangelion's Gendo Ikari (and many others).  Out of respect for his privacy, I won't go into detail as to the nature of his predicament, but I will say that his situation has left him feeling pretty depressed.

As you may remember, Tristan drove all the way from Syracuse to our place in Montreal to record his lines for Zeppelin, and he was willing to do it entirely pro bono (of course, we made sure he didn't walk away empty-handed).  You might not be aware that Tristan is also a talented author; you can find a half-dozen titles under his real name on Amazon, and a few more under his Cheyenne tribal name, Tristan Black Wolf.  He made a point of giving me an autographed copy of his latest book, The Laputan Factor, as a thank-you for having him over (much to my surprise), and I can honestly say that I can't quite figure out who was giving who the bigger reward...

Tristan has recently started a Patreon to help support his writing career.  Having read through The Laputan Factor much quicker than I'd expected (I started reading it on the bus on the way to my hometown one evening after work -- and stayed up until sunrise finishing it instead of turning in for the night), I can safely safely say that he deserves every penny he's asking for and then some.  The story felt like something you'd expect from Kotaro Uchikoshi, the author of the Infinity series (Never 7, Remember 11, Ever 17, and 12 Riven), the Zero Escape series (Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Virtue's Last Reward), Steins;Gate, and Punch Line -- those of you who are familiar with his work know that this is no small compliment.  If you're interested in throwing some change Tristan's way, you can pledge as little as a dollar.  Personally, I'd recommend a $5 pledge since you receive a digital copy of The Laputan Factor as a thank-you gift (as well as a free digital copy of one of his future digital releases).

It'll still be a while before we start accepting pledges or preorders for Rosenkreuzstilette Schwesternschaft.  Instead of sending anything our way, we'd much rather everyone show their support for the voice of Count Zeppelin himself.  Oh, and the project's German translator, Martin "Dream&Nightmare" Tessnow -- he drew the cover art and illustrations for The Laputan Factor.  And, yes: Tristan was the one that introduced us.  The luck does indeed snowball.
Still on the fence?  I think this video review of the book speaks for itself:

You can read the first three chapters of the book for free here and judge for yourself.  Even if it's not your thing, please consider showing some support for the man that has already done so much for this project.

Monday, October 12, 2015

RKS Developer Diary #5 - Giving Thanks and Naming Names

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  Oh, it's a month early for Thanksgiving?  Not if you were born and raised in Canada like me!  I'd like to extend my thanks to those among you who have supported us over the years.  On behalf of everyone who has ever flown the banner of Darkside Translations, as well as those who joined us after our transition to Darksquid Media: thank you all so much for being our fans.

It's kind of fitting that, in the lead-up to Thanksgiving, we were tinkering with the code for the game's ending credit sequences (crediting our staff and thanking everyone who contributed to the project of their own volition).  We expected expanding the credits to be a relatively simple task, but it proved to be a much taller order than anticipated.  Over thirty names needed to be added to the staff roll, and the way the game loaded files prevented us from adding new ones to the mix.  So, what to do?  Simple: reorganize how the image files were structured so that we could fit everything we needed within the limitations we had to work with.  Think of it as packing a suitcase with a fixed number of compartments.  It wasn't easy, but the end results speak for themselves.

Changing gears: A good number of you have already seen what WOMI has been up to thanks to his latest blog post.  Yep: he's drawing new cover art for the English version of Rosenkreuzstilette!  As you can see, he's modernized Tia's look from the original RKS cover art to use in the foreground, but that's only a part of the picture; the final Rosenkreuzstilette Schwesternschaft art might be a callback to the original cover, or it might be something completely different.  WOMI has full creative control over Schwesternschaft's cover (the art in the Prefundia video is just a placeholder until the new art and logo are ready), so we unfortunately can't offer any hints as to what the final design might look like.  Sorry!

That said, onto today's Developer Diary!  As promised, we'll be covering the titles of the many stages in the game.  This is going to be a long one, so you might want to grab some popcorn and get comfortable.

As many of you are already aware, each of the stages in Rosenkreuzstilette has four titles, one in Japanese and one in German for each and every playable character.  Originally, RKS was going to have three playable characters (the button sequence to activate Freudia Mode was already programmed into the game); in the end, Freudenstachel ended up becoming its own title rather than a simple bonus campaign, so the sequence has been disabled in the game's code.

Before anyone asks:  sorry, but the code for Freudia in the original RKS is only around 25% complete, and a good number of assets were never implemented.  Even if we backported the code and assets from Freudenstachel, there would still be holes we'd have no way of filling.  So, sorry!  No new playable characters this time around.  Even so, the already-programmed Freudenstachel button sequence has been put to good use.  What for?  That's a surprise!

Back on topic: each stage has a Japanese and a German title for each playable character -- a subtle nod in itself to Castlevania: Rondo of Blood.  More often than not, the German title is a translation of the Japanese.  For our fan translation, we replaced the Japanese renditions of the titles with their English equivalents and corrected the grammar in the German version where we noticed something was off.  As I mentioned two entries ago, we've taken a different approach for the official English localization: retranslating both the Japanese and the German into English, comparing the two, then translating the final English rendition back into German to ensure maximum consistency (except where such differences are quite clearly deliberate).

Naturally, since we had WOMI's original Photoshop files to work with, the presentation in the official version is a far better match to the original version than our fan translation could ever hope to be.  Ah, the convenience of having access to the original source files...  Thank you so much, WOMI!

Let's have a look at the new titles, shall we?

Starting with the "Blades of the Rose Cross" scenario:

Prologue: The Beginning of the End (Der Anfang vom Ende)
- Pretty straightforward, this one hasn't changed since our fan translation.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  Note that we're using "Prologue" and not "Opening Stage", following suit with the naming scheme from Castlevania: Rondo of Blood and WOMI's own precedent in Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel.

Freudia Stage: Duel of the Fates (Das Duell der Schicksale)
- The original Japanese is actually a shout-out to the Japanese subtitle of Megaman 7, 「宿命の対決」 ("The Fated Showdown").  For the English rendition, we tweaked the translation just slightly to double as a reference a recurring musical theme in the Star Wars films.

Zorne Stage: The Crystal Mines of Nosdu (Die Mana Kristall Minen im Nosdu Gebirge)
 - The German for this stage ("Abbaue der Magischsteine ins Nosdu Gebirge") appears to be a mistranslation of the Japanese 「ノスドゥー山脈魔晶石採掘所」, whose full title can be translated as "The Magic Crystal Mines of the Nosdu Mountain Range".  The German translates "mine" as a verb ("abbaue") and not a noun ("minen"), changing the title to "Mining for Magic Stones in the Nosdu Mountain Range". Neither of these roll off the tongue well, so we needed to make the English more fluid and concise.  We experimented a bit with "The Mines of the Nosdu Mountains" and the "The Magic Mines of Nosdu" before settling on a translation that didn't sacrifice the nature of the mine itself -- observant players might notice that the boss of Stage 16 (whose shell is made of the same mineral seen throughout the mines) shares the weakness of the boss of the mines.

Trauare Stage: From the Depths of Despair (Aus den Tiefen der Verzweiflung)
- Not much of a change from the fan translation, which was itself tweaked to mirror the text in Trauare's stage-specific Game Over screen (itself a nod to Gargoyle's Quest).

Luste Stage: Sleipnir, the Flying Fortress (Die fliegende Festung Sleipnir)
- In Norse mythology, Sleipnir was Odin's eight-legged flying horse, the child of Odin's foster son Loki and Svadilfari, the best and brightest of the Frost Giants' steeds (...try not to think about it too much).  In the original German translation, "luftfeste" was a archaic form of "luftfestung", meaning "aerial fortress".  Our official version modernizes the language a bit and makes it flow more naturally.

Grolla Stage: A Ghost Town in the Moonlight (Eine Geisterstadt im Mondlicht)
- In our original fan translation, we modeled the English title for this stage after the subtitle for the Japanese version of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night ("Nocturne in the Moonlight").  "Ghost Town in the Moonlight" sounds just a tiny bit awkward in English, so we threw in the missing article to make it a bit more fluid.  Of course, we revised the German translation as well, updating it from "Die Todes Stadt unter dem Mond" ("The Dead City under the Moon").

Sichte Stage: The Fortress City of Zwerberg (Die Festungstadt von Zwerberg)
- Zwerberg is the name of a real-life peak in the municipality of Oberweser in the Kassel district of Germany.  It is 317 meters (1,040 feet) above sea level and serves as a great place to build a city that can easily be defended during wartime.  We considered using "Zwerberg Citadel", but my own love of Neon Genesis Evangelion eventually won out in favor of the phrase "fortress city".

Liebea Stage: Rapunzel's Anguish (Rapunzels Leid)
- Rapunzel was a girl with long, beautiful hair who was kidnapped as a child and imprisoned in a large stone tower with no stairs or ladders; the only way in or out was to use her hair as a rope.  Disney's animated film Tangled is a relatively accurate depiction of the events in the original fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm.   The original German for this stage was rather clunky ("Rapunzel ist in tiefe Trauer" / "Rapunzel is in Deep Sorrow"), so we had to revise it.  It was tempting to make a Scott Pilgrim reference here about "the infinite sadness", but we ultimately decided against it.

Schwer-Muta Stage: A Heart Sealed Away (Ein versiegeltes Herz)
- We considered the more literal "A Sealed Heart", but it just didn't seem to have the right amount of depth as a title...

Zeppelin Stage I - Demon's Lair (Die Höhle des Dämons)
- We rendered this title as "Pandemonium" in the fan translation, which is just one way that the Japanese 「悪魔の巣窟」 could be interpreted (literally, "Den of the Devil").  Pandemonium was the capital city of Hell in John Milton's Paradise Lost.  The stage title is actually a reference to Demon's Lair, a tabletop RPG by Lasalion Games.  When we realized the connection, we updated the reference accordingly.

Zeppelin Stage II: Bloody Tears (Die blutigen Tränen der heiligen Jungfrau)
- "Bloody Tears" is naturally a reference to a recurring musical theme in the Castlevania series.  The original German reads, "Die Göttin weinen blutige Tranen" ("The Goddess Cries Bloody Tears").  In the stage itself, it's the statues of the Virgin Mary that are shedding tears of blood and not our favorite wannabe deity, so we updated the German for the sake of consistency ("The Bloody Tears of the Blessed Maiden").

Zeppelin Stage III: Thanatos (Der Sensenmann)
- Thanatos is the Greek god of death who really needs no introduction.  He goes by many names, the most well-known being that of the "Grim Reaper".  He has been a mainstay in the Castlevania series since its inception over 20 years ago.  In the original Japanese version, "Thanatos" was spelled out in the Japanese and Roman alphabets, and converting the Japanese to English would have made the titles redundant.  We addressed this issue by using a less-popular spelling, "Xanatos" (the namesake of Machiavellian millionaire David Xanatos in Gargoyles), in the fan translation.  For the official release, we decided to use the German name for the cloaked scythe-wielder.  And, yes, Thanatos is Sir Raimund Seyfarth's nickname; a bonafide god of death on the battlefield.

Zeppelin Stage IV: Eternal Darkness (Die ewigen Dunkelheit)
- A dual nod to Silicon Knights' psychological horror game as well as the Fiendlord Magus's ultimate triple-tech in Chrono Trigger (rendered as "DarkEternal" in the original Super Nintendo version because of space limitations).  "Eternal Darkness" is also the name of Count Zeppelin's magical ability.

Iris Stage I: The Golden Palace (Das goldene Schloss)
- We were tempted to render this as "The Palace of Gold", but that came across as somewhat pretentious.  If it ain't broke...

Iris Stage II: The Garden of Time and Space (Der Garten von Zeit und Raum)
- Pretty straightforward; we just tidied up the grammar a bit.

Iris Stage III: The Heart of a Goddess (Das Herz einer Göttin)
- Another case of Japanese-to-German translation in need of improvement; the original "Göttin Herz" ("Goddess Heart") makes no grammatical sense in either language.  Thankfully, the intent was clear in the original Japanese 「女神の心臓」, so correcting the issue was a piece of cake.

Final Stage: Blades of the Rose Cross (Rosenkreuzstilette)
- Ah, the game's namesake.  Literally, 「薔薇十字の小剣」 translates to "Stilettos of the Rose Cross".  A stiletto is a long dagger designed for stabbing, not cutting or slashing.  The word has since become more widely recognized as a type of high-heeled ladies' shoe than a pointed knife.  For that reason (and because the literal translation is a bit of a mouthful), we rendered the title as the more fluid "Blades of the Rose Cross" instead.  Also, Japanese works tend to use the word "Last" when "Final" would be far more appropriate (I wonder how long that trend will last...?); we made a point of addressing the issue.  While developing Freudenstachel, WOMI noticed the difference and has since updated the naming scheme for subsequent titles.

Onto the sanity-testing bonus scenario:

Prologue: One Woman's War (Der einsame Krieg)
- Literally, 「孤独な戦い」 is "A Solitary Struggle".  We couldn't resist a nod to One Man's War, a 1991 historical drama starring Anthony Hopkins. As an extra incentive, the alliteration just worked.

Freudia Stage: Snowfield Showdown (Der eisige Kampf auf Leben und Tod)
- "Der Kampf auf Leben und Tod im Schneefeld" ("The Fight to the Death on the Snowfield") in the original German, the "on the Snowfield" portion prevents this title from flowing smoothly in English. So, we made the title much more succinct.  When you only have a second or two to convey an idea, why use eight words when two work far more effectively?  Rendered as "Arctic Deathmatch" in our fan translation, we went with the alliterate title in the end since our original interpretation was a bit of a misnomer (Spiritia has absolutely no intention of killing her best friend...).

Zorne Stage: A Family Portrait (Ein Familienporträt)
- A minor word choice & grammar tweak; nothing special.

Trauare Stage: The Siren's Sanctuary (Das Heiligtum der Sirene)
- While "Sanctum of the Siren" from our fan translation rolls off the tongue quite nicely, we wanted to emphasize that Trauare spends so much time underwater because it allows her to drown out the chaos of the world on land, if only for a while.  "Sanctuary" and "sanctum" are synonymous; the revised version underscores that this is her domain -- her safe haven -- and that those who would disturb her moment of peace do so at the risk of invoking her wrath.

Luste Stage: The Forbidden Game (Das verbotene Spiel)
- This is a fairly popular title in fiction, with short stories, novel series, films, single episodes, and full television shows bearing its name.  The German was updated to reflect the German title of a few of these works.

Grolla Stage: All Kinds of Justice (Jede Art von Gerechtigkeit)
- Ah, a tricky one.  Literally, the Japanese 「それぞれの正義」 here refers the idea of each person having their own idea of what justice is and what the "right" course of action might be.  Justice can take on many forms; there are all kinds of justice in the world.  Sichte practically lampshades the title in her philosophical musings, so it was a natural fit in the end.

Sichte Stage: What We Cannot Discuss (Wovon man nicht sprechen kann)
- Interestingly enough, the title of Sichte's stage is part of a quote from German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein: "Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen" ("What we cannot discuss, we must pass over in silence").  It means that, if you have something to say, be clear and to the point; if you can't, don't even bring up the subject since trying to tell only part of the story would, at best, confuse the listener, and at worse, lead them to think you've gone insane.  This quote quite appropriately sums up Grolla's plight; Sichte really does not understand what Grolla is thinking because she won't actually come out and tell her -- she only insists that Iris must be stopped.  Poor communication kills...

Liebea Stage: The Magic Research Lab, Grimm's Miniature Garden" (Das Magische Forschungslabor, "Grimm's Miniaturgarten")
- Another reference to the Brothers Grimm for Liebea.  This is by far the longest stage title in the game, so the literal "The Tower of Magical Research Experiments" needed to be trimmed down in order to fit the Grimm's Miniature Garden portion into the translation.  We needed to either leave out that the laboratory specialized in magical research or that the lab was a tower.  Since we can deduce the latter from the stage's level design, the choice was obvious.

Schwer-Muta Stage: The Black Playground (Die schwarze Spielwiese)
- Another straightforward grammar correction.

Zeppelin Stage I: The Uninvited (Die ungebetene Gast)
- Literally, "The Uninvited Guests", the name is a reference to the prequel to Shadowgate, which is directly referenced in Stage 12's Game Over screen.  The Uninvited itself gets a Game Over reference in Freudenstachel, so we're pretty confident that this reference is intentional.

Zeppelin Stage II: The Crimson Lake (Der blutrote See)
- We considered the possibility that this title might be a reference to the town of Bloodpool in ActRaiser (the game referenced in the previous stage's Game Over screen).  In the end, we decided on a more subtle take, retaining the blood reference in the German rendition ("The Blood-Red Lake").

Zeppelin Stage III - The Cross She Carries (Ihr Kreuz zu tragen)
- The Japanese 「十字架を背に」 is an undeniable reference to the Castlevania song 「十字架を胸に」 (officially rendered as "Crucifix Held Close" in English).  The song title means to hold a cross close to one's heart (in other words, to cherish one's faith in something), whereas the stage title refers to carrying a cross on one's back (carrying a burden or responsibility).  In this case, the thematic meaning is much more important than the song reference (this is the stage where Grolla comes to terms with her responsibility as the successor to her late mentor), so the fan-translated title had to go.

Zeppelin Stage IV - The Nightwalker (Der Nachtwanderer)
- Another popular title in fiction, The Nightwalker is the name of a 1964 psychological thriller, Gino Vannelli's 1981 album, a 1993 Japanese visual novel (and its 2001 remake), and a 1998 anime series.  "Der Nachtwanderer" is its official German equivalent.  "The Nightwalker" is also the name of Count Zeppelin's demonic transformation

Iris Stage I: The Labyrinth of Chains (Das Labyrinth der Ketten)
- The Labyrinth was an elaborate maze in Greek mythology that served as a prison for the Minotaur and doubled as a death sentence for criminals.  Nowadays, we use the word as a synonym for "maze".  No tweaks were necessary for this straightforward stage title.

Iris Stage II: The Garden of Chaos (Der Garten des Chaos)
- "Chaotischer Garten" ("Chaotic Garden") in the original German, we tweaked the grammar to more closely follow the Japanese 「混沌の庭」.

Iris Stage III: Divine Might (Göttliche Macht)
- We based our fan-translated title of this stage, "Holy Lightning", on the original German, "Heilige Donnerkraft" ("Holy Thunder"), tweaking it to match a similarly-named spell in Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (Richter Belmont's "Divine Storm" was also considered).  The Japanese 「神の雷」 ("The Thunder of God") makes it clear that the title is meant to refer to some good, old-fashioned godly vengeance.  Iris's dialogue theme is 「神の力、人の心」 (localized, "Human Heart, Divine Might"); the parallel was too perfect to leave unused.

Final Stage: The Sword of Spite (Grollschwert)
- Originally, we considered updating this title to "The Blade of Bitterness"; the word "spite" has a different connotation than 「怨暛の魔剣」 ("The Cursed Sword of Grudges"), whereas "bitterness" better captures the original meaning.  We couldn't resist having an alliterative title, so "sword" became "blade" to match.  However, the change presented a problem when updating the Status Screen ability graphics; there wasn't enough horizontal space for the longer title.  So, we reluctantly reverted the name back to its fan-translated incarnation.

Well, what do you think?  If you have any suggestions or comments regarding the above, feel free to weigh in.  We're pleased with these titles, but we're always willing to implement improvements when someone has a genuinely better idea.

Thanks again to our German expert, Martin Tessnow, for his help with the stage titles -- we couldn't have done any of this without him.  And, again, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!