Sunday, April 1, 2018

Provisional RKSF Developer Diary - Breaking Silence

"Every thought is a battle... Every breath is a war...
...and I don’t think I’m winning anymore."
Hi, everyone!  It's been a while!

I'm sorry for the lengthy silence these past few months.  There's a long story behind it - one that would fit better as the plot to a bad soap opera than the story of my life.  Lately, it feels like every minor internet celebrity has been opening up about their own battles with depression.  Seeing people I respect speak so candidly about their experiences has reassured me that the time is right for me to do the same.

Before we begin:  I'm well aware of the tradition behind today's date.  Unfortunately for all of us, this post is not an April Fool's joke.

Now, you might not know it from how I usually present myself, but I've been struggling with the notion of what it means to "be a man" for decades.  I grew up in a hyper-masculine household alongside my three physically-gifted younger brothers, raised by an abusive father and a well-meaning but deeply-superstitious mother.  My childhood memories were not happy ones, often involving me being beaten and ridiculed by my father, my brothers, and the people I naively thought were my friends (really, they were more like bullies who enjoyed having a naive airhead around).  I was trusting and sensitive - two significant liabilities in a culture that glorifies "manly men" who take what they want and get shit done.  I've lost track of how many times I've been called a "wuss", a "pansy", a "faggot", a "fucking crybaby", and countless variations of the idea that I'm "not man enough".  To top it off, I was often punished for things that I had nothing to do with because no one wanted to hear me out and no one tried to back me up.  Have you ever been crank-called by a "friend" pretending to be a collections agent for a video store, accusing you of racking up an inordinate amount in late fees for failing to return overdue porn... and have your father immediately start screaming at you, refusing to even consider that the caller might be making shit up?

As you can imagine, I hold a deep-seated hatred for scapegoating to this day.

Written by a sociopath who thought I was deluded
for wanting to start my own translation company.
I'm not looking to write a memoir at the moment, so I'll skip ahead to the recent past instead of walking you through my childhood.  Despite the many traumatic events I've been through (or, perhaps, because of them), I've made a point of living my life honestly, being kind and thoughtful to everyone I meet.  That philosophy has backfired on me in spectacular fashion on many occasions.  Once, I unwittingly became the only friend to a lazy, entitled, misanthropic shut-in with a persecution complex and a massive chip on his shoulder - a spoiled brat who was convinced that the only way this "rotten" world could get any better was with him ruling it as its "benevolent dictator".  Suffice to say, I stopped associating with him the moment I realized he was a bonafide monster.  His response?  He spent the next six months stalking me and harassing my coworkers like a psychotic ex-girlfriend.  He only stopped when I threatened to press charges against him and have him arrested.  The last I'd heard of him, he'd been committed...

In the past year or so, I've been taking stock of the relationships that have had the most influence in my life.  I've come to realize that my father may have ended the physical abuse ages ago, but he never stopped the emotional manipulation and mental abuse.  He would often ring me up, complain about my (very well-off) brother's promises to take care of him in his old age (which he never made good on), and bemoan having to live on a "fixed income" from his pension (make that pensions - he receives money every month from three different governments), guilt-tripping me into offering him money to fund his daily trips to the restaurant and casino.  This past August, it dawned on me that I was taking care of a deadbeat who actively antagonized me whenever I needed help, yet kept trying to wring money out of me like a stereotypical mobster (his latest voicemail actually included the "where's my money?!" cliché).  The next time he came to collect, I gave him a piece of my mind, called him on his bullshit, and, going forward, refused to give him another penny.

I haven't spoken to him since.

It kind of goes without saying that I haven't had much success with women over the years.  I spent my teens and all but the final month of my twenties single.  My female friends (many of whom I was attracted to) were shocked to find out that, in their own words, a sweet, selfless guy like me couldn't get a date, far less a girlfriend.  That sentiment frustrated me to no end.  After all, I'd asked some of them out before, and the "best" response I'd often received was some variation of "I don't know", "I've never thought about it", or "I've never looked at you that way before".  They knew the answer to their own question far better than I ever could; it was far more likely that they just didn't have the heart to come out and tell me why they didn't find me attractive.

Never underestimate the
healing power of a warm hug.
My luck began to turn around a little before my 30th birthday, when an attendee to a panel I had hosted the previous year emailed me out of the blue, asking to pick my brain for an essay she was writing.  We got to know each other and eventually met up in person, and hit it off far better than either of us expected.  Thus began the best year of my life, with me finally getting a girlfriend, moving out of my parents' basement,  getting my own place with a couple of good friends as my roommates, and RKS finally being licensed for English release (with our motley crew handling the translation).  My new girlfriend's mother often invited me out to lunch - even asking me to join them for family outings - always making sure that our relationship was free of problems.  I was a bit jealous; my father never showed this degree of interest or involvement in my life...  His motto, which he repeated quite often, was, "me, myself, and fuck you" (though, being the asshole he is, he always accused others of never considering his needs - classic projection there, folks).

The problem with romantic relationships is that, early on, you tend to turn a blind eye to your partner's faults, and those faults can often lead to a lot of heartache.  I don't think it's entirely appropriate to criticize my now-ex-girlfriend's flaws in public.  But, to give you an idea of her personality: when a friend of mine insisted I play through HuniePop, I could swear that the character of Nikki was based on my ex (right down to the specifics of her texting me in the middle of the night about being unable to sleep because of a creepypasta she'd chanced upon - the similarities were uncanny).  I reluctantly broke things off when I realized our values were completely incompatible.  Still, we remained very close for a solid year before trying to see other people.  Even then, we remained good friends, with her frequently asking me for advice regarding her new relationships and me lending a hand whenever she needed it.

Now, when a couple is no longer a couple, there are many things you used to do before that are no longer acceptable after you've stopped being intimate.  In the past two years or so, my ex has crossed the boundaries of acceptable behavior quite often.  One such transgression (which I won't describe in detail - sorry) led to me breaking off contact with her for nearly a year.  This past summer (before I gave my father a piece of my mind), she reached out to me, in similar fashion to how we first met, to pick my brain for a panel she was hosting at Otakuthon.  I decided to help her out after I'd made sure that she understood why I'd stopped talking to her.  And, seeing that she'd genuinely learned from her mistake, I formally forgave her on her birthday the following month, giving her the present I had planned on giving her the year prior (with a few other things I knew she would enjoy).

Let's skip ahead a few months.

In December, my ex-girlfriend texted me at three in the morning, getting worked into a frenzy about someone badmouthing a game she was looking forward to, and spiraled into a tirade about her needing to distance herself from every fanbase she was a part of that wasn't "manly".  Long story short, she has always been insecure about liking things that others frequently lambasted (even when their comments were without merit), and often ranted about praiseworthy characters needing to be badasses and not whiny emos with daddy issues.  She was a tomboy to the extreme and actively despised anything feminine (her obsession with "manliness" was just one of the reasons that I knew we weren't a good match for each other).  Despite my protests, she persisted in trash-talking her favorites, even those as acclaimed as Cowboy Bebop.  Even when I underscored how late at night it was and that I had work the next morning, she kept going.  When she refused to stop, I was justifiably angry.  So, I ended the conversation in no uncertain terms and stopped talking to her for several weeks.

In mid-January, a good friend of mine - one I hadn't seen in a long time - suddenly passed away.  His young death took me (and everyone else) by surprise.  He was the fourth person close to me to pass away in the last twelve months, but the first who was significantly younger than me.  I realized that there was no sense in continuing to give my ex the cold shoulder.  After all, she was still one of my best friends, and neither of us could know how much time we had left in this world.  So, I broke the news to her, and forgave her for her earlier tirade.

This was on a Monday.  Skip ahead to the Thursday of that same week...

I had the day off and was relaxing at home, idly chatting with my ex-girlfriend about her love life since she started talking about her latest ex.  After one of her typical tangents comparing the people she knows to anime and game characters, I asked if I could be totally honest with her for a moment.  Seemingly sensing what I was going to say, my ex asked me if I thought she had Asperger's Syndrome.  I already knew the truth of the matter: her mother had previously confessed to me that she was "special" during our regular lunch meetups, and that her invitations were her way of checking in with me to see if her daughter's condition was under control.  I figured, since we had been so close for five years now, it was about time for me to be fully honest with the most important girl in my life regarding herself.  So, I told her the truth...

Big mistake.

My ex-girlfriend freaked out, thinking I had just called her a monster.  I tried to calm her down, reassuring her that I'd always be there for her.  I tried to show her that many notable autistics, including Dan Aykroyd, Tim Burton, and Dan Harmon, were not looked down upon for their condition - in fact, it actually worked in their favor (Aykroyd has confessed, on the record, that his autism helped lead to the creation of Ghostbusters, and Harmon's condition inspired both the characters of Abed in Community and Rick in Rick & Morty).  But she wouldn't hear it.  She was a devoted member of the Fighting Game Community, where the term "aspie" was thrown around as a casual insult.  Then, she made bewildering a statement about needing to quit the FGC and kill herself.

I should note that my ex often made suicidal comments before, seemingly for dramatic effect.  My former roommate hated this about her, and called her on how ignorant, irresponsible, and disrespectful speaking so lightly about suicide is to the genuinely suicidal.  Still, this time seemed a bit different.  When she ended the conversation so she could head to class, I quickly Googled nearby suicide-prevention centers... and realized that I didn't know where she was at the time.  Hoping this was just my imagination running wild, I pushed the matter to the back of my mind and joined my roommates in the living room...

Again, big mistake.

The next time my ex-girlfriend texted me a couple of hours later was from the hospital.  On her way home from class, she had tried to jump into the subway tracks.  Thankfully, an onlooker saw her, stopped her, and called for help.  I didn't ask if she was alright since the answer was pretty damned obvious (of course she wasn't okay - she'd just tried to kill herself!).  My priority was on making sure that she was in good hands.  I couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that that she had tried to do something so transparently stupid.  Once I was sure that she was getting the care she needed (which, as luck would have it, was about the time a nurse came by to confiscate her phone for the night), I said goodnight and immediately called her home to inform her family of the situation.  When I got the answering machine, I left a message, then reached out to her father on Facebook, hoping I could reach the family that way.

Three big mistakes in one day.  Not a record I'm proud of setting.

The moment I hit "Send", her mother returned my call.  To say she was furious would be the understatement of a lifetime.  She demanded that I listen to her every word, and asserted that my ex and I had broken up ages ago.  She then proceeded to throw all of her hate at me, begging to know why I wouldn't let her baby go - why I was trying to reel her in again (?) - and why I hated her so much (?!?).  Her voice went from seething rage to uncontrollable sobbing.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get a word in.  After who-knows-how-long, her husband took the phone.  Once he had confirmed that it wasn't his daughter on the line, he hung up on me.

I'd like to know that myself.
I was dumbstruck.  The last time I'd seen the woman, I was proud of the fact that my breakup with her daughter had transitioned our relationship from a romantic one to a deeply-meaningful friendship.  My exact words at the time were, "if all breakups went this way, the world would be a much better place" (for comparison, my youngest brother and the mother of his now-teenage daughter are legally prohibited from being anywhere near each other).  She was happy for us that day; now, she utterly despised me.

For a long while, I didn't know who or what I was, or if anything I did ultimately had any redeeming value.

Something to keep in mind:  I'd recently come to terms with the fact that my father saw me as little more than a walking ATM.  My career in game localization didn't seem like it was going anywhere (more on that later) - it felt like my sociopath of a stalker might have been right about me deluding myself into thinking I could succeed.  My ex-girlfriend had been through two relationships since our breakup (one with an entitled Nice Guy™ who turned into a needy stalker himself), whereas I couldn't get a single date in the four years since our breakup.  A good friend of mine had just died a few days ago.  My father often insisted that I never appreciated anything - was that the truth?  Was I really a wimpy, unwanted, immature failure, wasting nine years of my life chasing an unreachable dream, stubbornly refusing to let go of the only intimate relationship I'd ever had?  And, by not letting it go, I'd pushed my ex-girlfriend to suicide?

It took a long while to realize that I'd been scapegoated yet again.  Mental gymnastics can really pull one over on you, especially when you're already emotionally vulnerable.  Cultists and televangelists exploit this all the time.  It took a long time, and the support and reassurance of the people who know me better than I know myself, to get my head on straight again.

I haven't heard a word from my ex-girlfriend or her family.  If any of them try to reach out to me, we'll see how things go.

I'm slowly rebuilding my confidence, and my real friends are doing what they can to help me out.  I'd like you to lend me a hand with the part of my life that you play the biggest part in:

It's been over a year since Rosenkreuzstilette was released on Steam, and half a year since Freudenstachel saw its English debut.  Despite reaching out to numerous gaming news sites and offering them review copies free-of-charge, the better-known outlets have given the games next to no coverage.  Neither game has a Metacritic score (a title needs four reviews from noteworthy sites to obtain one; RKS only has one, while RKSF has none), and articles specifically about Megaman fans creating their own spiritual successors written after Mighty No. 9 failed to live up to expectations didn't seem interested in acknowledging that the series even exists.  To think, we delayed our first release specifically to avoid undermining Mighty No. 9 success...

In any event, I've already collected the material for my next RKSF Developer Diary.  I'll roll that out once I have a bit more time to spare.  In the meantime, I'd like to ask you to contact your favorite gaming websites, your favorite YouTube personalities, and your favorite streamers, especially outspoken Megaman fans.  Jim Sterling recently noted in his "Steam Isn't Fine" video that indie developers have a truly hard time being noticed on Steam, and I can confirm firsthand that this is true.  Do what you can to spread the word about the game.  Share Hadriex's smarmy trailer.  Suggest a topic like "Top Ten Megaman Clones" to ScrewAttack, MojoPlays and other YouTube gaming channels.  Let the world know that Megaman has had a pair of worthy spiritual successors for years, but very few people are interested in giving them a fair shake.

Let them know what those who played it think:
"This game is what Mighty No. 9 wishes it had been."
"Keiji Inafune - Take Notes!"
- "This is where all the anime fans on prom night went after being rejected by M#9."

A number of people decided to check out RKS after Alpharad's "Not Mega Man: The Anime Adventure" video hit YouTube.  That means that our target audience is there.  But, I'm afraid that, once Megaman 11 is released, Rosenkreuzstilette will fade into obscurity.

I've done what I can to try and promote RKS.  I need you, the true fans, to do your part and help the games reach their audience.  Emails, videos, artwork, cosplay...  Do what you can to spread the word on these underrated gems.  Show me that the last nine years of my life were well-spent, investing in a community that is far more than it appears to be.

Thank you for lending this April Fool your ear.  My thirty-fifth birthday is only four days away, and I'm ready to finally put an end to this third-life crisis...

Monday, December 25, 2017

Happy Holidays!

Hello, everyone!

It's been one hell of a year on our side of the pond, with two game releases, two lost loved ones, and a whole lot of pushing ourselves, heartbreak, and faits accomplis all around.  A year ago today, I promised that 2017 would be a big year for Rosenkreuzstilette.  I'd like to think that we've made good on that promise, but I'll leave the final verdict on that one up to you.

With things wrapping up on RKS, it's reassuring to know that there's plenty to look forward to in the year to come.  In addition to the RKSF Developer Diary (you'd have to kill me to stop me from finishing these -- I must admit that my day job is doing an admirable job trying), I have a few pet projects that I hope to see through to completion before a certain someone's 30th anniversary celebration has concluded.  It's a bit too early to announce exactly what just in case it doesn't end up being feasible, but it's something I've wanted to do for a long time now.

That said:

On behalf of Darksquid Media, Darkside Translations, Schwer and Schwer Alike, and Active Gaming Media, I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Fantastic New Year.  See you in 2018!

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...)