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?


  1. I smell a Grollschwert article next!
    Another great read, TDOMMX. Loving how all this is coming along.

    1. Sorry, Justin, but you're barking up the wrong tree. What do you see in the last screenshot that wasn't in any previous version of the game?

    2. Well translation of the red logo aside, the "Grollschwert!" text is brand new. That's why I assumed a Grollschwert blog entry would be next.

      I also noticed from the comments below thanks to Cure Lovely that the new max for Lives/Tanks is 10. At least that second digit in the counters will finally get some use after all.

    3. It's not the "what" that matters in this case, but the "how". Viper figured it out: I've implemented in-engine subtitles to translate the Japanese voice clips in real time. I just used Grolla's shouting "Grollschwert!" from unlocking her bonus game as a proof-of-concept.

    4. Yeah, I didn't realize until just now that that's what the pic meant and that the "Grollschwert!" wouldn't normally be on the screen to begin with.
      I stand corrected.

  2. So we are really allowed to have more than 9 lives and cross tanks now?
    Awesome. Though I hope that will be somehow reflected in whatever overhaul you do to the password/save thing. So my farming isn't lost.

    1. Yep. I've raised the maximum number of Extra Lives and Cross Tanks to 10. I might be convinced to raise the amount to 15 (the largest 4-bit base-0 integer) or 16 (the largest 4-bit base-1 integer), but I won't go any higher than that because I don't want to further break the game's balance. The other codes I've implemented have already done a real number in that department. The codes themselves will be hidden throughout the game and its documentation as a reward for those who choose to explore absolutely everything (and to ensure that those who complete the insanity that is Grollschwert get a little something for their trouble beyond bragging rights).

      Unfortunately, there aren't enough variables in the password system to allow for saving the number of lives or tanks. I'll cover the specifics in a future Dev Diary. I'll say this now, though: Freudenstachel's original password system has been completely replaced since it was lifted straight from the original wholesale without accounting for the change in game structure.

    2. Does that mean it will save our progress in the Schwarzkreuz phase? ♥

    3. You bet your ass it will; that's the whole reason I reverse-engineered the password system in the first place. Freudenstachel's new password scheme surpasses even the official stage select cheat in that regard -- and it allows just a bit of wiggle room for secrets since Freudenstachel has a slightly different structure than the game its new scheme is referencing.

  3. The in-game subtitles are working beautifully. Not only did I noticed the 1-up icons for Spiritia and Grolla look more vibrant and colorful (with another adjustment on Spiritia's that I can't exactly put my finger on), but the counter next to them also have a higher res font to go with the interface. Nice. I'm not too sure what else to come up for the Grollschwert since Van's idea of "The Sword of Spite" does have a good ring to it. Speaking of Van, have you read my reply on the subject of XInput controllers not working so well on RKS (as well as a bunch of other older PC games or in rare cases when a developer doesn't bother to put proper controller support in newer ones)?

    1. Yep, we ever-so-slightly retouched the Extra Life graphics to match the actual in-game pickups (the subscreen used an older version of these sprites that wasn't nearly as polished).

      Although I didn't mind the counter in the original version, something about the different style of font struck me as out-of-place. I experimented with a handful of fonts to determine what would be a better fit, including the fonts from Chrono Trigger, Megaman 8, Megaman X4, Megaman X8, and Megaman: Powered Up. Ultimately, I decided to stick with proper design philosophy and kept the number of distinct fonts to a minimum, making all of the text on the subscreen use Bookman Old Style.

      "The Sword of Spite" phrasing has always been my idea; Van suggested retaining the fan-translated version in the final. While I'm tempted to go with that, Tyler feels it's a bit too much of a stretch in meaning, and I think he has a point (hence why I suggested the two Grudge options). I'm personally leaning toward "The Grudge Blade" as a replacement since I keep picturing Sol Badguy trading hits with Grolla with his "Gun Flame" attack...

      Yeah, I read your reply. The programming library RKS is built on uses three different functions to retrieve the current status of the controller: a general function that retrieves the four directional buttons and up to ten command buttons, a Direct-Input-specific revision that retrieves the directional buttons, six analog axes, and up to 32 buttons, and an XInput version that retrieves the directions, two analog sticks, two analog triggers, and 10 face buttons. Unfortunately, the latter two functions require that interface-specific storage structures be passed as arguments, and these structures aren't defined anywhere in the game's code. Think of it as expecting to receive a parcel from someone you have no means of giving your address to. While it might be possible to manually integrate these new data structures in the code (emphasis: might), that will take some doing, and we still have graphics and text engine issues work that must take priority.

    2. Yeah, don't give me credit for The Sword of Spite because I didn't come up with it.

      I may have said this earlier, but if you can't get proper XInput support, then the next best thing would be to add a menu option to disable controller support altogether so that it's easier to use stuff like JoyToKey. I recently got a new arcade stick and RKS doesn't recognize it at all, which makes things much more convenient than my old 360 controller was.

      With that said, I really think it's a good idea to do whatever it takes to get proper XInput support. Many if not most of the western gamers you'll be selling this to are gonna be using XInput controllers and everything will be much smoother if it just works out of the box.

      It would also be great if you could include an option to disable double tapping to activate Grolla's double-tap-to-dash function. There's nothing worse than accidentally activating the dash while making fine movements against the Cross Wall.

      Regarding the actual post: Subtitles are a great idea.

      I'm glad you changed seelegewehr from the fan translated version. That thing is in no way a shotgun.

      Is "The Lover's Tempest" really an accurate translation of liebessturm? "The Tempest of Love" might be cheesy but so is like 90% of the game so I don't think that should be a serious concern.

    3. What about changing Mana Power to Mana Energy and The Spirit Gun to The Spirit Buster/Soul Buster to make them more Mega Man-like?

      The Spirit Buster is a little iffy because The Spirit Gun is a more faithful translation and a perfectly good name on its own, but Mana Energy seems like a no brainer.

    4. We're using a slightly different meaning of the word "lover" for "Lover's Tempest" -- specifically, someone who loves another going out of control (a very minor stretch from love itself going out of control). Rememeber that the word "love" is not strictly romantic in nature, be it in English or Japanese (there are specific words for different kinds of love, like 「恋愛」 ("renai") for romantic love).

      Amusingly enough, Kahl is single because the girls that are interested in him are afraid of getting on Liebea's bad side since she's so ridiculously powerful (she shows bro-com tendencies and they really don't want to find out if she's the jealous type). Kahl, on the other hand, mopes that, since nobody ever shows that kind of interest in him besides his sister, he must not be that handsome or built, and works out incessantly to try and combat this mistaken belief.

      No, "Mana Power" was a deliberate choice on my part; this exact phrasing is how the term appears in the Status Menu for Secret of Mana. Remember that "Magische Energie" is the German translation of "Magic Power", not the other way around. The other possible word choices didn't carry the "power supply" connotation we wanted, so "energie" was the most appropriate translation.

      Mint and I discussed the notion of making the names more Megaman-ish ("Joyous Sting", "Raging Bomb", etc), but ultimately decided against the idea since the names also had to potentially double as future game subtitles. "Spirit Buster" is definitely out, though. We're not going to throw out a faithful translation that happens to have a perfect built-in reference for the sake of a referential non-translation. That's what separates translations from rewrites...