Monday, August 1, 2016

RKS Developer Diary #12 - Your new name is "Mid-Boss".

Hi, everybody!

Things have been pretty hectic on our side of the pond lately.  Our work on the original Rosenkreuzstilette is more or less done.  Now that we finally have our hands on the sequel's source code, we've finally begun working on Freudenstachel in earnest.

As you may have noticed, a good chunk of the responsibilities for RKS fell squarely on my shoulders.  I penned the final version of the English script, localized the graphics, reprogrammed the game engine to properly support English text and optional subtitles, you get the idea.  It wasn't a one-man show by any means, but I did assume a disproportionate amount of the work.  And the result of that thoughtless decision?  Whenever anything happened that prevented me from working on the game for any reason (illness, hardware failure, problems at my day job, family emergency, and so on), our forward progress was halted until the matter was taken care of and I was able to work on the game again.  I became what we refer to within the industry as a "bottleneck".  As you can imagine, a few members of the project staff were less than satisfied with this state of affairs, and with damned good reason, too.

Moving forward with Freudenstachel, I'll be reprising my role as the resident graphics editor and programmer, but I'll be leaving the polishing of the script in the hands of my good friend Xander (who also handled the casting and directing for the English voiceovers until we were asked to put the English voice project on hold).  TrickMasterMint and DekuKirby are reprising their roles as well; we've simply reorganized ourselves to remove any bottlenecks and optimize our manpower.  You can rest assured that it's still the same team working on the English version of Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel, so please continue looking forward to our finished release.

Onto today's developer diary!

This time around, we'll be having a look at the major enemies in the game that block your forward progress, but aren't quite on the same level as the bosses we shone a spotlight on last time.  Like pretty much every other enemy in the game, Isemiya named each mid-boss in his commented code.  Some of the names he chose are appropriate, while others have understandably been retconned by the sequel:

The Great Hydra
Trauare Stage

Japanese:  「大王イカ」
English:  "Great Hydra"

The "Great Squid" in Japanese, we have two objections to preserving this name as the official English moniker.  You probably didn't expect a company named "Darksquid Media" to veto a squid reference, huh?  Well, for starters, this boss doesn't look like a squid at all; it's more of a many-headed sea serpent.  Second, I'm sure you can agree that there's only one character worthy of the title of "Great Squid" in the RKS series - and his name is Zeppy.

On that note, if you'll excuse a quick tangent: a few fans have speculated that Zeppy may be a reference to "sepia", the German word for cuttlefish (an aquatic mollusk loosely resembling the squid, one bearing distinctly-shaped eyes).  The English language adopted the word to refer to the characteristic reddish-brown color of its ink.  We looked into the etymology of the word to see if it justified changing 「ゼッピー」's name to "Seppy", and the verdict was a unanimous "no".  Word of God aside, the voicing mark on the 「ゼ」 makes it abundantly clear that the name is pronounced with a 'z' sound and not the 's' sound of "sepia".  Second, our favorite squid's ink is black, not sepia-toned.  Third, Zeppy does not possess the cuttlefish's signature W-shaped eyes, so he's definitely not a cuttlefish himself.  In the end, the evidence presented wasn't compelling enough to warrant changing a name we've grown to love.

On the flip side, reclassifying this mid-boss as a hydra reinforces RKS's link to the Castlevania series (namely, through Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles' remake of Rondo of Blood).

Back on topic: the hydra is a well-known sea serpent from Greek and Roman mythology.  In some versions of the story of Hercules, the Hydra of Lerna grew two new heads whenever one was cut off, leading many to believe that the creature was immortal.  It is for this reason that a certain clandestine organization in the Marvel universe named itself after the mythical beast.  Curiously, only more recent versions of the hydra myth claimed that the monster was capable of regenerating its heads...

Leviathan, the namesake of Trauare's spear as well as the Megaman Zero character she pays homage to is a great sea serpent in Norse mythology.  However, the Leviathan has a single head.  As fitting as it would be for Trau's signature polearm to be named after the beasts in her domain, the reference just doesn't quite match up.  Oh well...

Grolla Stage

Japanese:  「ビシュヌ」
English:  "Vishnu"

Though it looks nothing like Him, this skeletal totem is named after the All-Pervading One from Hindu mythology.  Vishnu has many incarnations, including Rama and Krishna.  He is part of Hinduism's Holy Trinity alongside Brahma and Shiva.

You may be surprised to learn that 1) my mother is Hindu, and 2) my younger brother's middle name is Vishnu.  Since the first time we watched another of my brothers play through Final Fantasy IV and VI, we've always been amused that Squaresoft decided to put a spin on Shiva's gender despite their titles featuring a long line of handsome, effeminate men (amusingly enough, said brother's middle name is Shiva).  Yes, Shiva has blue skin, but He is the father (not mother) of Ganesh, another Hindu deity you may recognize (Ganesh is featured prominently in Dhalsim's stage in Street Fighter II).

In any event, I like many of the incarnations of Shiva within Final Fantasy as well as the look of RKS's Vishnu, even if they aren't mythologically accurate.

Snail Tortoise
Sichte Stage

Japanese:  「エスカルゴ カメ」
English:  "Snail Tortoise"

A clear nod to Escaroo from Megaman 4.  Going solely by its environment, Snail Tortoise ("Escargot Kame" in Japanese) could very well be mistaken for a terrapin.  For those of you who aren't aware of the difference: turtles are aquatic animals and tortoises are land-lovers, while terrapins prefer to live in swampy areas like sewers and marshes.  All three species have evolved different physical features appropriate for their preferred habitat.  However, the mid-boss's domed shell and lack of webbed feet show that the creature is a tortoise that decided seek shelter from the rain.

As for why its eyes are able to detach from its face...  Well, that's most likely a nod to the source material, with a bit of artistic license thrown in for good measure.

A Lone Homonculus
Iris Stage III

Japanese:  「ホムンクルス」
English:  "Homonculi"

The Fullmetal Alchemist fans among you should instantly recognize the term "homonculus" (plural: homonculi) as the name for synthetic human beings created by alchemy (a hybrid of science and magic).  Fittingly enough, homonculi are described in the third manifesto of the real-life Order of the Rose Cross, Chymische Hochzeit Christiani Rosencreutz ("The Chemical Marriage of Christian Rosenkreuz").  The Swiss-German philosopher and occultist Paracelsus described at length the steps necessary to create a homonculus, which include (among other things) nourishing a man's sperm with human blood for 40 days and nights before implanting it into a horse's womb.  Ugh...

Referred to as 「ボスラッシュ ドクロボット」 ("Boss Rush Skullbot") in the game's code, RKS's homonculi are undeniable references to Skullbot K-176 (frequently mistranslated as "Doc Robot") from Megaman 3.  Like their skull-faced counterparts, the homonculi adopt the abilities of prior bosses.  Unlike K-176, however, these synthetic humanoids also take on the likenesses of the characters whose abilities they possess.  This detail is an important point in the plot of Freudenstachel, which may explain why WOMI decided to retcon the creatures' name.

Well, that's all for now.  Xander and I will be attending Otakuthon in Montreal this weekend (August 5-7).  If any of you are in the area and wish to say hi, leave a comment and we'll see if we can work something out.

See you later!

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」).

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.

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!