Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Traduttore = traditore

That is, "translator = traitor". Hi everybody. It's Silentcook at the keyboard again, blogposting instead of editing. Forgive me for using this as an occasion to take a breather and avoid burnout: I'll get back to the grind right after, I swear.

We see an awful lot of translation lately in the VN scene. I was going to say "VN community" instead, but I changed my mind after remembering that the community, such as it is, has no requirements whatsoever for joining beyond "do related stuff". I mean, they let ME in.

Here are some of my thoughts on this somewhat prickly subject, then.

"Translation" means "you're going to fail".

No, I'm not kidding, get yourself in this frame of mind.

There are as many ways to translate a line of writing as there are people. You've decided on going literal, idiomatic, or free-form on a sentence? Regardless of which way you picked, there are two people out there who chose the other two ways and will in no uncertain terms inform you that you're wrong.

Then there are the readers who likewise prefer one style over another. Then the people who think as you do, but still not in quite the exact same way... then, you're gonna hit a line spoken by Rin, and you're going to start weeping.

This before we take into account actual translator skill. For sanity's sake, I'm going to assume the translator speaks one of the two languages - either source or target, preferably the latter - natively. If this is not the case, I don't wanna talk about it.

Even so, consider the possibility that while the translator is quite good, the source text is a translation itself, thus adding an extra filter to the whole mess.

While you're at it, add two - I've read some interesting things about writing being the attempt of the writer at "translating" the picture in his mind. Considering the amount of pain I've witnessed over this during the last few years of the project, I'd call it an imperfect process.

By the way, I'm blessed by being able to work with and ask questions of the original writers, as long as we're talking about translating KS, but getting access to, say, a Nasu or a Tanaka might prove a tiny bit problematic.

(Oi, you. You in the sidelines, saying I'm "cursed" - shush. I'll get to that... eventually.)

Long story short, you're setting out to grope around in pitch-black darkness, and disappoint a majority with the quality of your efforts in the bargain. Why even bother with translating VNs, then?

I only have two answers to this, and forgive me if they seem obvious: first, because you want to. Second, because you're going to expand an audience.

Wanting to is the more egoistic reason, but the most important for the VN translator. If I take the time and bother to translate something, I had better LIKE it. I'm not translating for a job, so if I end up feeling like unpaid slave work, the odds of me doing it well, or even finishing, drop sharply.

Expanding the audience happens whenever you translate anything, no matter how obscure. The default is for people to not know more than their native language, even in today's age of "connectivity" and information everywhere.

Every time something gets released, someone somewhere has a wider choice available - which could well be taken as the point of translating, all by itself. The other meaning "translator" originates from - "guide" - comes to the fore.

Notice how all this ALSO results in more people getting to try out your favorite stuff. My, my, what a fortunate coincidence.

And you know what, I think it all works out into a pretty okay deal for all involved in the end! I plan on perpetrating many of the sins I mentioned above in the future, one way or another.

Doing work knowing you'll fail, striving every time for an impossible perfection.

Guess that's all for the moment. Now then, that one path is done; back to work for me.

- Silentcook
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Crucible

Over the weekend a DeviantArt-originated meme swept over Four Leaf Studios: influence map. The concept is simple: fill a 5x6 chart with things you are influenced by, so that bigger influences also take up bigger space. We had 12 4LS members fill out the map and then compiled it into one huge megamap. It's not specific to KS project at all, but we discussed and thought about what things KS is separately influenced by too. It could fill another map of this size, easily.

At any rate, this was an extremely interesting exercise. It really made us think and learn about ourselves and each other. Especially a couple of the non-artists had a hilariously hard time getting this done. In a way, putting all our influences together like this is quite fitting, after all KS is a melting pot where we all chip in with our share of work, influencing each other in the progress too (as proof of that, you can find our studio logo somewhere in the map as well). There were definitely some surprises, as well as things we've talked about before. For fun and entertainment you can try to figure out which of the influences belong to whom.

A few friends over at IRC filled their own maps too, and I was genuinely surprised and awestruck to find "Katawa Shoujo" happily nudged between other things our friends draw inspiration from. Amazing. I think it was moekki or kamifish who wondered to me about the recursion of influences, how the things we're influenced by (and the things they have been influenced by in their time) are a second-hand influence to other people who in turn might make something that touches yet other people somewhere, sometime. This connectedness gave me a short pause, but then somehow, the strange feeling was as suddenly gone as it had come. I went back to considering the proposal to introduce motivational shock collars to 4LS as a means of improving productivity, faintly smiling just to myself.

What are you influenced by?

- Aura

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Friday, October 1, 2010

In the Case of Emi Ibarazaki

We've neglected the blog for quite a while, thanks to most of us grinding the tasks we have to do, so this makes the first blog post in a while. This time, it's about Emi and her associated art.

To illustrate the progression in Emi's design, here is a timeline of her changes from Raita's original sketch (Originally black and white, coloured by Syureria) to Ke^4's design, then Ambi's design, and finally, Emi's current in-game sprite:

As you can see, Emi's design has stayed relatively close to the original, with the exception of her prosthetics. Those shown in Raita's original page are rough adaptations of running blades, which are used mainly by disabled athletes for running. This being the case, running blades referenced from those used in the real world are used for her gym sprites, with Emi opting to use something a little less overt in her day to day life. Her gym outfit design and colour scheme were also decided on early in the development cycle, being designed by Ke^4 and modified only much later on.

Ambi, Emi's original artist, did the initial redesign and basic sprites somewhere around February 2008, which is why the style she was drawn in is somewhat different to the other girls and also the reason for her uniform having some minor discrepancies. Ambi decided to change her "pageboy" bangs into something more modern, as well as generally sprucing her up.

With Ambi leaving the project in mid 2009, there were major difficulties in keeping consistency with his established artstyle when drawing the CGs and other art assets, so another redesign took place in December of 2009. While differences from her previous design remained at a minimum, her hairstyle was slightly edited towards something a little easier for Pimmy and I to draw. The end result of this redesign can be seen in Act 1 V4.

Finally, as an extra, here is Emi's character sheet for her current design:

We're also looking to do these kinds of posts for the other characters in due time, so stay tuned.

- Moekki

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