Thursday, July 14, 2016

Passing the Torch...

My old Compaq Presario CQ50 and
my new Asus Rogue GL752VW.
Hello, everyone!

It's been pretty eventful on our end since the last RKS Developer Diary.  Our release candidate for Rosenkreuzstilette has been submitted, and the DRM-free version of the game is ready to go.  Our publisher, Active Gaming Media, wishes to release the game simultaneously on Steam and on their Playism portal.  I can appreciate why they'd want to launch both versions of the game at the same time and fully support their decision; I ask that you be patient while they get everything sorted out with WOMI and Valve on their end.

Shortly after the release candidate was finalized, the time had finally come for the Compaq Presario I've been using for the past seven years to retire.  As you may recall, I've been having problems with this machine since last November, when its hard drive failed and delayed the project.  I've since replaced the hard drive, but a new problem arose that I hadn't anticipated.  Whether due to the new hard drive's specs or the laptop's age, its cooling system couldn't keep up with my typical workload.  It's a good thing I've developed a habit over the years of hitting Ctrl+S every time I make a significant change to my work; the emergency shutdown would kick in every time the machine's internal temperature hit 145° Fahrenheit, forcibly terminating everything until the machine had sufficiently cooled down.  I could pop the laptop in the freezer for ten minutes to quickly cool it down and resume my work after a short break (and did so on many an occasion), but the condensation and the effect the rapid temperature change had on the laptop's power supply port placed a hard cap on just how many times I could do that without causing permanent damage to the motherboard.  So, sensing that the end was nigh, I gathered up all of the change in my Tip Drawer and used that as the budget for my new laptop.  Good thing I'd been saving my spare change for the past 2 years!

With some help from my ex-girlfriend's father (I'm on very good terms with my ex and her family) and a lot of extra legwork, I tracked down a worthy investment.  The time between my order being finalized at NCIX and Purolator showing up at my door was less than 48 hours (yowza!).  Too bad I was at work at the time and had to trek to the middle of nowhere to pick up my parcel on my next day off.  To that end, I am immensely grateful that my weekends are Monday and Tuesday -- I wouldn't have been able to pass by during their opening hours if I had the standard Saturday / Sunday weekend.

Having finally had a chance to play around with my new toy (or, as my ex's dad put it, "feel her up"), I'm very pleased with my new Asus ROG ("Rogue") GL752VW.  It came preloaded with Windows 10 Home, and I'm quite happy to see that our release candidate of RKS worked straight out of the box without the need for any additional tweaks.

Speaking of RKS:  today marks the seventh anniversary of Rosenkreuzstilette's English language debut.  Yes, our English fan translation was released today seven years ago.  It would have been nice to have the official English release coincide with this milestone; it's a bit of a shame that things didn't quite work out that way.  Oh well...

It'll take a little while for me to migrate my stuff over from the Presario to the new Rogue.  In the meantime, feel free to ask any questions you wish about the upcoming English release.  There's still a bit more material for new Developer Diary entries, so let me know what you'd like us to shine a spotlight on next.  For the sake of keeping a few things a surprise, I won't be showcasing all of the Game Over references (though I wouldn't mind doing a text-only version with just a handful of screenshots to illustrate the differences between our fan-translated versions and our official ones) and I won't be going over references in the English script itself.  However, I can go over the German in the spoken dialogue, the subtle changes we've made to some of the stage backgrounds, look at the names of the midbosses and minor enemies, as well as a few other things that aren't coming to mind at the moment.  If there's anything you're curious about, leave a comment and let me know what you're interested in hearing about.

Until next time!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Meet Luste's Namesake

Hello, everyone!

Sorry for not chiming in on your questions in the comments as quickly as I should.  It's crunch time at Darksquid Media, and that unfortunately means our free time is practically nonexistent.  That, coupled with my browser's inability to stay logged in whenever I try to reply to a comment, forced me to let lingering questions fall by the wayside.

In any event, our first release candidate for Rosenkreuzstilette should be ready before the week is out.  Whether there are any issues left that necessitate a second revision will depend on how big a list of requested fixes we receive from the playtesting crew.  Big publishers believe in waiving "known shippable" bugs, but I don't.  At least, not as far as localization programming bugs are concerned -- if that part of the list isn't zero, that means I haven't been doing my job well enough.  Issues present in the original Japanese version will be considered on a case-by-case basis (i.e.: if we can fix 'em in a timely manner, we will, but if it'd delay the release by a month or two, we'd rather try and address 'em after the fact).

In the meantime, here's a video that Luste fans should be able to appreciate.  Enjoy!


Monday, May 23, 2016

RKS Developer Diary #11 - Who's the Boss?

...And we're back!

Today, we'll be having a look at the names of the RKS stage bosses.  Not the lovely ladies of RKS, mind you.  I'm referring to the bosses that never get a character overlay on the Stage Select screen.  Wouldn't you know it:  Isemiya provided official names for each of the bosses in the game's source code!  Where appropriate, we'll be canonizing these names as the official English names of the game's bosses.  In a few rare instances, we'll be promoting some fan-made nicknames to the level of canon, with our rationale for choosing these names over the original Japanese ones available for all to see.

Are you ready?  Let's get started!

Demon's Wall
Zeppelin Stage I

Japanese:  「デモンズウォール」
English:  "Demon's Wall"

While the circumstances in which this boss is fought are a clear homage to Mecha Dragon from Megaman 2, the boss itself is a Japanese role-playing game staple.  You can find Demon's Wall several times throughout the Final Fantasy series (though not always with the same name), as well as in Secret of Mana, Breath of Fire II, and many, many other titles.  The little crosses it releases that move like Telly from Megaman 2 are officially known as "Demon's Cross" (「デモンズ十字架」).

Poltergeist
Zeppelin Stage II

Japanese:  「ピコピコグラス」
English:  "Poltergeist"

"Picopico Glass" is intended as a reference to "Picopico-kun" (literally, "Bleep Bleep Boy"), the boss of Wily Stage II in Megaman 2.  "Picopico" (or "pikopiko") is a Japanese onomatopoeia for the bleeps and bloops made by a computer or robot, though its meaning has been expanded to include other cutesy sounds.  You might recognize the "Pikopiko Hammer" as a recurring gag weapon in Japanese games:  a rubber mallet that makes an amusing squeak upon impact.

While the RKS boss attacks in the same way as its Megaman 2 counterpart, the sound it makes is decidedly more harsh.  We briefly considered localizing the name as "Smashy Smashy Glass", but ultimately couldn't get over the fact that the name sounded ridiculous.  Moreover, RKS is as much an homage to Castlevania as it is to Megaman, and poltergeist phenomena are a frequent occurrence in the former.  Since "Poltergeist" has already been accepted as the English name of the boss, we figured we may as well make the name official.

Thanatos
Zeppelin Stage III

Japanese:  「タナトス」
English:  "Thanatos"

Ah, death incarnate: Sir Raimund Seyfarth.  Thanatos is the god of death in Greek mythology, commonly depicted as a cloaked skeleton wielding a large scythe.  Seyfarth earned this nickname with his merciless demeanor on the battlefield.  It's only fitting that, after he is brought back from the grave by Zeppelin's necromancy, he appears in the form of the Grim Reaper himself.  As I've mentioned before, "Thanatos" is also the name of the stage he appears in (for Tia, at least), and the German subtitle for the stage, "Der Sensenmann", is one of the many German names for the Reaper.

Count Michael Zeppelin
Zeppelin Stage IV

Japanese:  「ミヒャエル・ゼッペリン伯爵」
English:  "Count Michael Zeppelin"

There's no real need to include this boss in the list, but I figured I may as well throw him in for the sake of completeness.  Since the Japanese script uses the honorific 「伯爵」 ("hakushaku") instead of 「グラフ」 ("graf"), we decided to translate the count's title into English instead of rendering it in German.  Count Zeppelin is an obvious nod to Count Vlad Tepes Dracula, so we figured it was only appropriate that their titles match as well.

Amusingly enough, Zeppelin's primary attack (which fans have dubbed "Höllenfeuer", German for "Hellfire"), is identified as 「ウェーブ炎」 ("Fire Wave") in the source code.  Come to think of it, the attack does look like a charged Fire Wave from Megaman X...

The Nightwalker
Japanese:  「夜を往くもの」
English:  "The Nightwalker"

A nod to "True Dracula" (a mistranslation of "True Ancestor Dracula", or "Pureblood Dracula") from Rondo of Blood, Symphony of the Night, Dawn of Sorrow, The Dracula X Chronicles, and Harmony of Despair -- though the similarities are purely on the superficial level.  The name may well be a reference to the nighttime form of the God of the Forest from the Studio Ghibli animated film Princess Mononoke.  The RKS demon's posture is similar to that of the forest deity's, at the very least.  Coincidence?  Who knows.  It's a pretty fitting name either way.

Webmaster Spider
Iris Stage I

Japanese:  「アミダクモ」
English:  "Webmaster Spider"

A pun and a two-for-one reference!  Naturally, this battle is intended as a nod to Bosspider, the boss of Sigma Palace I in the original Megaman X.  The 「アミ」 in the RKS boss's name means both a spider web and a computer network (i.e.: the World Wide Web).  When a pun in the original Japanese just works in English, I'm honor-bound to preserve it.  As a nice touch, both spiders are susceptible to ice-based weapons, and those who know the children's song may notice that rain can wash the spider out...

Deviled Egg
Iris Stage II

Japanese:  「イエローデビル」
English:  "Deviled Egg"

Naturally, this guy is an obvious reference to Yellow Devil from the original Megaman.  As tempting as it is to use that name in English, the name "Yellow Devil" is pretty much the property of Capcom.  Rather than step on their toes and name one of our bosses after theirs, we decided to go with the visual pun lampshaded by the stage's Game Over reference: the Wind Fish's Egg.  When a pun that delicious presents itself, we just can't resist.

Speaking of deliciousness: deviled eggs are quite tasty.  If you haven't tried them before, give them a shot.  They make for a great snack.

Iris Machine
Iris Stage III

Japanese:  「イーリスマシン」
English:  "Iris Machine"

This one's a no-brainer; it's a reference to Wily Machine 2 from Megaman 2.  At first, Iris Machine is reinforced with raw mana crystals, both as shielding and as a power supply.  Once the shielding is destroyed, the real battle with Iris Zeppelin begins.  The two forms are identified as such in the source code: 「イーリスマシン 岩足場」 ("Iris Machine - Mana Crystal Reinforced") and 「イーリスマシン イーリス」 ("Iris Machine - Iris"), respectively.

Iris Capsule
Final Stage

Japanese:  「イーリスカプセル」
English:  "Iris Capsule"

Ever since Megaman 4, you could always expect the battle with a Wily Machine to be followed by a nerve-wracking showdown with a Wily Capsule.  The series of battles with Iris Zeppelin is no different.  Iris's disappearing capsule is modeled after the Wily Capsule as it appears in Megaman 4 and Megaman 5.  Curiously, despite her narcissism, Iris doesn't have a personal crest prominently displayed on the Iris Capsule like good ol' Albert...


The Wings of Madness - Iris Zeppelin
Japanese:  「ラストイーリス イーリス発狂羽」
English:  "The Wings of Madness: Iris Zeppelin"

Here it is: the final battle. With an Ocarina of Time-styled subtitle, no less. I'm quite happy to see that, for the final battle, [erka:es] decided to do its own thing instead of channeling the final boss battle of another game for RKS's grand finale.  They could have easily had Final Iris channel the Alien from Megaman 2 or something along those lines.

The only real difference between the English and Japanese renditions of this boss's name is the styling.  The Japanese reads, "Last Iris - Demented Wings Iris".  As you can see, the final name we decided on isn't much of a stretch from the original.  Had we retained the "last" bit, we would have definitely reworded it to use "final" instead.  Y'know, for the sake of consistency...

...Whoa, it's this late already?  Looks like I need to get some shut-eye; even if we're in the final stretch, we're not done yet!

See you next time!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

You have got to be kidding me... Part Deux

Artist's Rendition
Hello, everyone!  Good God, it's been too long since my last entry.

We've had another series of unfortunate events since my last post, one not unlike what happened in November.  Another inaccessible hard drive, another series of departures at work resulting in me being drafted for overtime (this time, my boss refused to hire a replacement -_-;), another multi-week bout of insomnia, and another period of health problems and burn-out (...comes with the territory when you have to juggle too many responsibilities at once).  Thankfully, the local college (my alma mater) has wrapped up for the summer, meaning my workload during the day is now back to some semblance of normalcy.

Before anyone asks:  no, we didn't have another hard drive failure.  It's something far, far dumber.  The USB connection on my external Western Digital My Book Essential came loose, meaning I had to way of hooking up the drive to my computer.  This drive is my personal storage drive, not my project drive, so don't worry, all of the RKS project files are safe.  Anyway, I decided to remove the enclosure and hook up the drive to my roommate's tower directly so I could migrate my stuff over to my other hard drive.  What should have been a simple procedure that I've done thousands of times before instead resulted in me discovering a ridiculous design flaw and experiencing an unhealthy amount of buyer's remorse.

As you may or may not be aware, Western Digital's external drives are self-encrypting.  More specifically, the SATA-to-USB bridge automatically encrypts the contents of the drive as it's being written to the drive, and automatically decrypts data as it's being read from the drive.  The encryption key is stored on a chip on the bridge's circuit board.  If you remove the hard drive enclosure and try to hook up the hard drive to a PC motherboard via SATA, said PC thinks the drive hasn't been initialized yet because its Master Boot Record is unreadable without the encryption key.  Already, this is a pretty stupid design flaw; you effectively have a safe that can no longer be used because you have no way of inserting the key into its keyhole (remember, the SATA-to-USB bridge is broken).

The story gets worse.  As it turns out, the USB connection on Western Digital drives are quite flimsy; I came across tons of people who had their USB jacks simply fall off the way mine had during normal everyday use.  When this issue was brought to Western Digital's attention, rather than take responsibility for releasing a faulty product, their support staff instead chose to insult its customers, insisting that any damage that might have occurred was their own fault and their responsibility.

...Please excuse me while I facepalm.
Artist's Rendition

I'll level with you here.  A design oversight can be forgiven.  If someone accepts responsibility for their mistake, honestly apologizes, and makes some semblance of trying to make amends, I don't think I'd have any problem putting the issue behind me.

This is the exact opposite.  This is scapegoating.  An adamant refusal to accept responsibility.  To the people who invested hundreds of dollars apiece, no less.

I'm tempted to go on a rant here seeing as scapegoating is my #1 berserk button.  But I'm sure nobody would enjoy that, least of all me.

(To anyone who honestly wants to see me pissed off:  dude, you need a better hobby.)

On the positive side, I've been in touch with a data recovery specialist who has successfully defeated Western Digital's self-encryption and salvaged the contents of many WD drives (he's filmed the process, and I'm quite impressed).  His estimate for a successful recovery is $400 USD plus shipping (which, in all fairness, is dirt-cheap as far as data recovery rates go -- most charge by the megabyte).  So, in the end, my $200 investment in Western Digital will ultimately cost me over $600.

I don't think anyone will hold it against me if I choose to never give Western Digital any of my business again. 

Anyway!

Please excuse the lack of professionalism in this post.  I really needed to get that off of my chest.

Back to business:  I'm pleased to report that Rosenkreuzstilette has officially entered its testing phase.  Version 2.0 of the English script has been fully inserted, and the crew at Active Gaming Media is hard at work bug-testing the game while we're working on the rest of the release.  There's still a bit of fine-tuning to be done, but thankfully not a whole lot of work overall.  I've also implemented more than a handful of secrets into the game that I'm sure everyone will appreciate.  Instructions on how to access these secrets are scattered throughout the release; I'll say no more on that subject since I don't want to spoil the surprise.

...Okay, I'll give you one factoid to tide you over.  The original game had just one secret code.  The English release has at least quadruple that amount.  What do they do?  You'll have to play the game when it's ready to find out.

Now that that's out of the way, onto the next RKS Developer Diary!  I've got a few screenshots I need to grab for this entry,  but I'll be back in a few hours!  This time, we'll be going over some details that'll have a few of you rushing over to the wikis...

See you soon!