Friday, December 25, 2015

Season's Greetings

Hello, everyone!

Given the chaos we've been through in the past while, we're taking a short break from work to spend some time with family that we don't get to see all that often (and, in my case, celebrate my mother's birthday). We'll be back in business early next week.

From everyone at Darksquid Media, Darkside Translations, and Schwer and Schwer Alike: we wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and a joyful non-denominational winter solstice.

Monday, December 14, 2015

RKS Developer Diary #7 - Cover That Cover!

Rosenkreuzstilette Schwesternschaft
Official Cover Art (Draft)
Hello, everyone!

Two months have passed since [erka:es]'s resident illustrator WOMI uploaded to his blog a sneak peek at the collaboration he's been working on with us for the past while.  Well, after many revisions and plenty of back-and-forth between WOMI and our crew, our collaboration has finally borne fruit.  I'm extremely pleased to unveil the official cover art for Rosenkreuzstilette Schwesternschaft!

As you can see, Schwesternschaft's cover pays homage to the original covers of both the original Rosenkreuzstilette and its sequel, Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel.  The art was completely redrawn from scratch in a slightly different style than the originals, reflecting the evolution in WOMI's skill as an artist.  WOMI experimented quite a bit with different compositions and logo designs.  Ultimately, we decided on a composition and logo that embraced Rosenkreuzstilette's own history in the same way that the series has embraced gaming's storied past.  Every iteration added something to the composition that wasn't present in the previous one, and the results... well, they speak for themselves.

Scrapped Schwesternschaft
Logo Design
I have to admit, providing feedback to someone who is all at once your client, your benefactor, and your idol is all kinds of nerve-wracking.  You want to make sure that what they create is the best that it can be, but at the same time you don't want to offend them when you genuinely feel that they're capable of doing better.  Thankfully, WOMI has proven himself to be quite receptive to criticism, and responded to our suggestions and mockups in stride.  Suffice to say, I'm quite proud of what we've managed to come up with together.  お疲れ様です、ヲミWOMI先生!そして、有難うございます!

Rosenkreuzstilette &
RKS Freudenstachel's
Original Cover Art
I should note that the above cover art is not 100% final.  It's still rough around the edges (quite literally, in this case, if you take a really close look at it), but it's polished to the degree that I have no qualms sharing it with you all in its current state.  What do you think?

The way things are currently going, I think it's safe to say that the original Rosenkreuzstilette will have a Summer 2016 release date.  There's always the possibility of unexpected snags, but I think this is a reasonable timeframe in which we'll have everything ready.  If anything comes up that might delay the release, you can be sure that I'll let you know about it on this blog as soon as possible.  And, of course, we'll fill you in on the plans for Freudenstachel and Schwesternschaft once we've gotten all the details ironed out.  So, stay tuned!

Next time, we'll take a closer look at that new feature I implemented.  So many nods that we couldn't retain in our fan translation...!

See you later!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

RKS Developer Diary #6 - You Got...!

And we're back.  Let's get right to it, shall we?

RKS's Status Subscreen (also known as the Start Menu or the Weapon Subscreen) has gone through many subtle revisions over the years.  Some of these changes were made because of technical limitations or not having the source material available at the time, while others were conscious changes made with the spirit and setting of the game in mind.

If you were to play "spot the differences" with the four screenshots to the right, you might be surprised to find that every single element in the official localization of the game has been altered in some way from the original Japanese.  The majority of these changes are barely noticeable; very few people would notice that the silver background was repositioned or that the blue window and decorations were nudged to the side.  Remember the concepts of alignment and compositional balance we went over in the second Developer Diary entry?  We took those same principles to heart when "redesigning" this subscreen, relocating elements to balance the layout while minimizing the amount of wasted space, using a single font consistently throughout the design in accordance with proper design philosophy.  The result is a subscreen that just "feels" right, whether or not the player actually notices that the Extra Life and Cross Tank counters are now vertically centered.

In our original fan translation, we wanted to accompany every single instance of German text in the game with its English equivalent.  Our 2009 release left only two instance of German untranslated:  the "Die Zeit vergeht schnell" text ("My, how time flies..." or "Time marches on...") that appears when using the Blind Fast-Forward feature while viewing a Replay file, and the subscreen's "Waffenenergie" (a slightly awkward German rendering of "Weapon[s] Energy").  Since there wasn't much space below the original German subscreen text to fit an English translation without making it look cramped or unnatural, we ultimately decided against including the line in our release (though we left our rejected attempt, pictured above, intact in our internal builds of the game).  Skipping ahead to 2015 (after WOMI had provided us with the game's source graphics), we made a point of reworking the subscreen so that the English translation would not only fit, but look like a natural part of the design.

The only glaring difference in four screenshots can be found in the backgrounds for the ability graphics.  There was no need to alter Lilli's graphic since it didn't contain any language-specific text,  but we had to rebuild the other 11 ability graphics so that the Japanese descriptions could be replaced with their English equivalents (to not do so would make the graphics far too cluttered to be aesthetically pleasing).  For the eight boss weapons, this was a piece of cake seeing as the background of each graphic was taken from the eight main stages.  However, for Seelegewehr, Eins, and Zwei, the original rays-of-light-shining-through-the-clouds image was never used anywhere in the entire game.  We tried to recreate the effect using the light-through-the-clouds graphics from the final stage, but the results just didn't meet our expectations.  So, we decided to try something completely different that matched with the precedent set by the other ability graphics.  Our first choice was to use the crosses that appear throughout the Imperial Training Grounds, and the effect just worked.  We had no reservations using this new set of graphics in the main game despite knowing that purists would inevitably complain about what was for all intents and purposes an unavoidable change.

As you can imagine, we made a point of revisiting the issue once we had gotten our hands on the original source files.  While reworking the Seelegewehr graphic proved to be a simple task, we just weren't satisfied with the Eins and Zwei graphics no matter where we tried to reposition the ability names.  We experimented a bit more with our original cross-background alternative, and, again, it just worked.  We've included our "purist" version in the system.dat archive should anyone decide they want to play around with graphics mods, but we're more than satisfied with our current subscreen incarnation.

As for our actual localization decisions, let's look at the terminology before moving onto the weapons names themselves.

Magische Energie (Mana Power):
- In the first Rosenkreuzstilette, only a handful of characters wield actual weapons:  Trauare carries the Chaos Spear Leviathan, Grolla inherits the Seyfarth clan's cursed Demon Sword, Grollschwert, and Sir Seyfarth himself wields the Devil Scythe Glassense.  You could argue that the claws on Zorne's prosthetic arm count since she attacks you with them in Freudenstachel as well.  Regardless, none of these weapons have much to do with the contents of the Start Menu; the term "Weapons Energy" is a throwback to the subscreens of Megaman 4, Megaman 5, and Megaman X, where the title characters actually had Variable Weapons Systems equipped on their arms.  Story-wise, Spiritia underscores that the abilities of the Magi are not inherently destructive in nature (Eins and Zwei couldn't hurt a fly if they tried).  We decided to rename the subscreen to maintain consistency with this ideal and with RKS's own terminology.

Leben (Vitality)
- "Leben" can literally be translated as "Life" or "Vitality".  We chose to go with "Vitality" to distinguish it from "Extra Life" (otherwise known as a 1-Up).  On that note: did you notice the new Extra Life icons for Spiritia and Grolla?

Cross Tanks
- Self-explanatory.  The game refers to them as "Cross" (...well, "Closs", but we fixed that...), and they're obvious references to the Energy Tanks (E-Tanks / Energy Canisters) in the original Megaman series.  It always bugged me that Megaman games would show "09" lives or tanks even when you were at maximum capacity.  To address this, we've added a cheat code to the game that actually makes use of the tens digit of the Extra Lives counter (among a few other things).  What is that cheat code, you may ask?  The retro gamers among you already know the answer...

The Spirit Gun, Seelegewehr
- "The Shotgun of Souls" in the fan-translated release.  While the German "gewehr" can mean "gun", "shotgun", or "rifle", the Japanese 「銃」 specifically means "gun" (as in "handgun").  We chose the translation "spirit gun" over "soul gun" as a nod to Yusuke Urameshi's signature attack in Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files.

The Sting of Joy, Freudenstachel
- Literally "the thorns of joy" (as in, a rose's thorns), we liked the many layers of meaning in the word "sting".  Amusingly, commentators at NeoGAF and Destructoid were quick to point out that Freudenstachel could be translated as "the prick of joy" (and not-so-amusingly dismissed the game's developers and fanbase as a bunch of perverts...).

The Burst of Anger, Zornesbombe
- "The Explosion of Anger" in our fan translation.  We made a point of making the description of Zornesbombe a pun on Zorne's temperament; you could legitimately translate the descriptor as "Zorne's outburst".  We originally went with "explosion" because of the violent image it conjures alongside Zorne's bombs, but our translator Tyler reminded us of exactly how ineffective Zorne's temper and explosives prove themselves to be...

The Harness of Sorrow, Klageharnisch
- Likely the easiest-to-mistranslate term in the entire game, both the German "Klageharnisch" and the Japanese 「なげきのよろい」 are frequently rendered as "the armor of lament".  Trauare is perpetually depressed and often does not care enough to put actual effort into anything she does (barring activities that improve her mood like swimming, playing pranks, and flirting with her girlfriend Zorne).  The name of her ability stems from the power she displays whenever she chooses to harness the depths of her dolor to change her circumstances instead of resigning herself to not being able to do anything.  Although she comes across as one of the most mature members of the bunch, Trau is decidedly one of the most childish.

The Breath of Delight, Lustatem
- "The Breath of Desire" in the fan translation.  We admit that we made the same mistake as many people, interpreting "lust" in a sensual context.  The Japanese 「快楽の息吹」 literally translates as "the breath of joy" or "the breath of delight" in addition to the usual "desire" and "pleasure" connotations; we went with "delight" since Freudia already has dibs on associations with the word "joy" (the "Freude" in her name is German for "joy"). We were tempted to go with "the wind of delight" since "atem" can also mean "wind", but ultimately went with "breath" since this interpretation was better-corroborated by the Japanese.

The Sword of Spite, Grollschwert
- After much discussion in the comments section of our last numbered Developer Diary entry, we decided against changing our translation to "The Blade of Bitterness" for a handful of reasons, including not being able to fit the bitter rendition into the subscreen graphics in a way that we were satisfied with.  One commentator suggested giving the weapon and the stage different translations; we considered this option, but ultimately decided against it since Grollschwert already has two official titles (the other being, "the Cursed Demon Sword"), and we didn't want to make the list of titles any longer than necessary.  We also considered "Grudge Sword" or "Grudge Blade" --  more literal renderings that could be taken as nods to the Final Fantasy XI weapons with the same names.

The Foreseen Future, Die Geplante Zukunft
- "The Projected Future" in our 2009 release, we changed "projected" to "foreseen" for both the sake of alliteration and to work Sichte's own name into the name of her ability ("sicht" is German for "sight").

The Lover's Tempest, Liebessturm
- Previously "the Tempest of Love", it was a challenge to keep this descriptor accurate without also coming across as painfully cheesy.  We were tempted to use "Lovely Tempest" as a subtle nod to Death's "Deadly Tempest" from Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, but we felt that the meaning strayed too far from what was intended.  Our final version is a kinda-sorta nod to the subtitle of the Sonic Soldier Borgman Original Anime Video, "Lover's Rain".

The Mind Barrier, Geisterwand
- This is a descriptor I really wish we could have expanded upon in the subscreen; 「心の壁」 is a direct reference to Neon Genesis Evangelion -- specifically, Kaworu Nagisa's description of what the pseudoscientific "A. T. Field" really is (the "wall of one's mind", "a sacred barrier upon which no one may intrude").  Given Schwer's many similarities to series protagonist Shinji Ikari, I'd always had a hunch that she might be a reference to Evangelion.  Unfortunately, "The Wall of One's Mind" is too long to fit in the graphic and still look presentable.  Can't win 'em all, I guess...

Silverwing One & Two / Silberflügel "Eins" & "Zwei"
- Unchanged from the fan translation.  Everything I've said thus far about the Seelegewehr graphics also applies to the Silberflügel graphics.

Forest Fairy Lilli
- Just "Lilli" in the fan translation.  With the original graphics available to us, we could reposition and edit text at will.  We felt it was only appropriate to update Lilli's graphic to match the style of the other eleven by giving her a descriptor.  Before anyone asks:  yes, Frost Fairy Strudel will be receiving the same treatment in the sequel.

I hinted at a new feature I'd implemented back in November that I wanted to brag about, but it seems I've run out of time for today (I open the restaurant bright and early tomorrow morning).  Well, a picture's worth a thousand words, so that'll have to do for now.  What do you think?

Provisional RKS Developer Diary - It's about time...!

Hello, everyone! Kept you waiting, huh? Sorry about that. I've been wanting to make this post for a while, but Murphy's Law decided to kick into overdrive over the past few weeks. I wouldn't have believed the timing of these events if I hadn't lived through 'em myself...

I'm pleased to report that my original diagnosis of the hard drive crash was spot-on; my Windows partition's file table was corrupted due to some physical damage to the hard disk, while the remaining three partitions were 100% unharmed. Naturally, I took the prudent course of action and retrieved the contents of the three partitions immediately.  Once I'd confirmed that everything was properly backed up did I attempt to recover the data from the corrupted volume. Thankfully, everything went off without a hitch and not a single byte of valuable data was lost (some operating system files were kaput, but nothing important). I replaced the damaged hard drive (a 150 gig one at 5400 rpm) with a larger and faster one (320 gigs at 7200 rpm), reinstalling the essentials like my operating system, my programming environment, my graphics software, you get the idea.  With that, we should have been back in business...

Shortly after the bare necessities were set up, the system would spontaneously decide to shut itself down every now and again. A quick tap on the underside of the machine easily revealed why; my laptop was seriously beginning to overheat, whether due to age, poor air flow, or the recent change in components. I ordered a laptop cooling pad to help regulate the temperature and installed an app to keep track of the CPU's temperature in Window's System Tray, and things have more or less stabilized since then.  I need to keep a constant eye on the temperature and have to take a break whenever the temperature climbs above 130º F (the auto-shutdown kicks in at 145º F -- for reference, the temperature is 87º F at cold bootup, and typical use keeps the temperature around 100-105º F).  Thankfully, it's wintertime in Canada, and I can just place the laptop on the windowsill to cool it like a freshly-baked pie whenever the cooling pad isn't able to do the job quickly enough.

At around the time I'd figured all of this out, real life unfortunately kicked in. As many of you already know, I work at a Thai restaurant during the day and moonlight in video game localization; it's my work at the restaurant that keeps the bills paid and allows me to work on Rosenkreuzstilette during my off-hours.  Well, in the past month, three of my coworkers resigned from their posts for a variety of reasons that it isn't my prerogative to repeat.  As you can imagine, this left us short on manpower, and my qualifications as a jack-of-all-trades ended up backfiring on me; the owner and the manager both begged me to cover the vacated shifts while they searched for replacements.  That effectively robbed me of my days off, leaving me with no time to check my messages or type up a blog post, far less make any meaningful progress on RKS.  To make matters worse, the two applicants we hired chose to simply not show up for their first day of training (earning them both immediate terminations -- punctuality and reliability are critical in the food service industry).  So, I had to grit my teeth and endure the exhaustion while we searched for other candidates (all while addressing other issues like disciplining problematic coworkers, staying after-hours to deal with emergencies like leaks and floods within the restaurant, and so on...).

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending (you wouldn't be reading this entry otherwise): we finally found a candidate with both the skills and the professionalism to show up, ready to work, meaning I finally get some time to relax.  I personally trained him in some of his duties earlier this week.  So, after much ass-busting, I finally have some time to catch my breath and finish setting up my machine.  Thankfully, the bare essentials are already installed, so we can pick up where we left off almost a month ago.  Our momentum might have been killed, but our drive certainly hasn't.  Time to bring ourselves back up to speed!

I'll be back in just a bit, once I've gathered the necessary screenshots for the blog post I had intended to make on November 8th.  This time, we'll be having a look at the subtle changes to RKS's Status Subscreen.

See you soon!