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This Insight Into The Localisation Of Story Of Seasons: Pioneers Of Olive Town Is Fascinating

The newest Story of Seasons game is already out in Japan, so we’re starting to get more information trickling down to us as we wait another month for the western release. A new trailer premiered today, with an English voiceover talking about a year in the life of a farmer, and players have even discovered that the loading screens – which feature images taken by other players in Photo Mode – are already packed with terrible photos, like the one below.

But enough about butts! The XSEED blog has just posted an interesting look into what it’s like to localise a title like Story of Seasons, and all the efforts the team put into making it the best-ever translation of the original Japanese. Localising is not quite as simple as just translating text into English – it involves understanding cultural references, jokes, puns, accents, and so much more.

Written by Lori Snyder, the Assistant Localisation Lead, the piece details how the localisation team were given a strict, tight deadline to finish their work, with a lot of unique challenges that came with turning the Japanese text into English, while not losing the character or personality within.

“After translating the basic system text (item descriptions, character names, etc.), I jumped into the editing process as our other translator took on the various events and NPC dialogue.Once she had finished translating, our team would edit the files and pass them off to our proofer.

The Japanese source text was being updated regularly during localization, so there were lulls in our workflow as we waited for newly written text or reviewed lists of changes that had been made to the Japanese text to determine what we would need to reflect in our English.

But even when things slowed down to let the Japanese development get ahead of us, we had to run like a well-oiled motorcycle to make our deadlines.”

Two of the hardest things to translate from one language to another are puns, and gender. Pretty much every language carries within it a concept of gender – whether that’s the gender of the person speaking, the person being spoken to, or sometimes just a randomly-assigned gender for an object that has none (looking at you, Europe). English often doesn’t take these into consideration, except for things like pronouns – but Story of Seasons will be one of the first games that actually recognises the player’s gender, rather than just referring to them (and their partner and child) with gender-neutral wording.

An image from Friends of Mineral Town, in which the NPC changes his dialogue to match the player's gender
An image from Friends of Mineral Town, in which the NPC changes his dialogue to match the player’s gender

Ordinarily, it’s a pain to program these things in, because localisation translates a line as a whole, and swapping out individual words is much harder. Pioneers of Olive Town has new text tags that make the process easier, allowing the localisation specialists to swap pronouns, or even change lines, like this example that Snyder gives:

If the player is male: “You’re welcome to join us if you like! We wouldn’t mind the extra company.”
If the player is female: “You’re welcome to join us if you like! We’d love to have another gal to chat with.”

Lovett's menu requests
Lovett’s menu requests

Although Snyder doesn’t go into a lot of detail about puns, they are notably tricky to figure out in translating Japanese to English, since they rely on similar-sounding words. In order to recreate the joke in English, puns often have to be completely re-worked, and it’s really worth reading Ace Attorney localisation expert Janet Hsu’s piece on how it worked for them to get a full sense of how hard it is.

Luckily for the Pioneers team, one pun worked out perfectly: the name of gourmet chef, Lovett. In Japanese, his name isダイスキー (Daisukii) – a play on words meaning “I love (it)”. Snyder calls her choice of “Lovett” as the English name an “amazingly timed localization epiphany” – sometimes things just work out perfectly!

There’s even a bit of information on how the title was chosen. The original Japanese title is “Olive Town and the Land of Hope”, which was deemed too wordy. The team wanted to explore the game’s theme of the wild, untamed frontier, which eventually led to the “Pioneers of Olive Town” title for the western release.

Snyder's title options
Snyder’s title options (Image: Lori Snyder)

Snyder ends the blog with a personal aside, saying that localising the game has brought the team “a lot of happiness and laughs” in a year that was incredibly difficult for many of us. “It is my sincere hope,” says Snyder, “that when you pick up this game, you’ll be able to make the most of those small joys: growing crops, raising animals, customizing your farm, and getting to know Olive Town’s lovable and diverse cast of characters.”

We don’t have long to wait – so let’s hope Snyder is right!

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