Notes on Translation

Translating something from one language to another can be a finicky thing. If I were to turn it into a dichotomy, I’d say that there are two styles of translation with different ideologies: ‘Literal’, where the aim is a word-for-word translation, and ‘Poetic’, which sacrifices the 100% accuracy in favour of preserving the intentions and meanings of the text. ‘Poetic’ is just my personal term that I think sums it up more simply – it’s usually called a ‘localisation’, versus the literal ‘translation’.

Anyway, the two methods are somewhat incompatible in its ideals.

‘Literal’ favours technical accuracy over understanding – things like the cultural implications, connotations, and language quirks that slang, figures of speech, and puns take advantage of are lost here, because the audience that will hear the translation will come from a different background and cultural upbringing. If the intended audience is someone who is also studying these cultural differences (and perhaps the language itself), then a more literal translation would work for them. You can guess that not everyone would do this, though, so it would be quite niche.

‘Poetic’, on the other hand, favours understanding over technical accuracy. In the more difficult cases, the lines would be replaced or rewritten with a different line, but one that contains the same implication – an idea that contains the same intended feelings, but based on the audience’s local culture – hence the term ‘localisation’. Since this is quicker and easier to understand, this would naturally reach the larger, common audience – rather than calling it ‘Poetic’, I’m also inclined to labelling it as the ‘Common’ translation, since localising it happens more often than just leaving it in a literal form.

Due to its opposing ideologies, the choice of translation style can more or less be divisive, at times. I’ve seen several communities that are already niche in their interests, yet eventually split because they prefer one out of these two ideologies. Over time, that hobby community may even continue to shrink, and then just disappear, one day. It’s a real shame.

The real challenge in translating something well is converging the two together in a balanced way. One style can’t work on every translation scenario, and having both accuracy and understanding would trump having only one or the other. I can probably compare it to the Yin-Yang, at this point.

Accomplishing this is obviously not easy. It requires a good understanding of the languages and cultures to find a reasonable middle ground, and even then it may still be subjective. An alternative would be to make two translations, but that requires a lot of effort. The most common method I believe is to simply cater to one side or the other. It may make it feel sub-par, but, well, I suppose it still gets the job done.

Baldur’s Gate Enhanced UI (Mockup Only)

Here’s a little something I made just for kicks, when I was starting a new game of Baldur’s Gate a few weeks back. I don’t own the Enhanced Edition, but I got the idea of making this mockup after looking into it and finding some criticism on the dated UI, and overall poor appearance.

Baldur's Gate UI Mockup

I should probably stress that this is just a mockup and won’t turn into a mod for now. The UI is deeply intertwined with the Infinity Engine and I don’t believe it’s possible to modify most of the UI unless you rewrite a fair chunk of the source code. Even the Enhanced Edition doesn’t modify it that much outside of adjusting the anchors and margins – though I don’t know if that’s because it’s difficult to rewrite, or they just wanted to remain faithful to the original design.

Full explanations and thought process behind every adjustment I made, follows.

Continue reading ‘Baldur’s Gate Enhanced UI (Mockup Only)’

Qantm Prototype Showreel

A showreel of all the games made whilst studying at Qantm — all of these have been previously posted individually with extra info and download links.

Please note that this video is quite old (as of this posting.)

Aside from the games themselves, the production of this video and its annotations was made with a set of completely free (and perhaps unorthodox) set of tools.

The footage and sound were spliced together with Blender (primarily a 3D modelling toolset,) annotations and subtitles were made with Aegisub (complex subtitle production,) while various rough cuts and the final processing was done in Avidemux and VirtualDub (both video editors with different processing options.)

The Panda’s Slumber

Play Online (Unavailable)
Download (Standalone)

A small prototype that’s more of an “interactive panorama” built within a game engine.

This piece enters you into the imagined life of a giant panda in its natural habitat, alongside the deforestation that occurs in the same area.

The game is intentionally up for interpretation; it was not made with any political or ecological statement in mind, and depicts only the facts in a unique method.

Design, Programming and Sound by Lloyd Nguyen
Art by Vannasouk Phadilok

Final EVAc

Final EVAcPlay Online (Requires Unity Web Player)
Download (Standalone)

Final EVAc is a proof-of-concept made at Qantm which explores environmental navigation under zero-gravity. The core gameplay centers around wall jumping for primary propulsion and a limited jetpack as a secondary.

The goal of the game is to navigate the course and reach the end in the shortest time possible.

Three courses were made for the prototype to explore various aspects of gameplay: the “Prototype” level is the original gameplay test course; the “Digital” level tests jetpack play; and the “Space” level is the projected “typical” course with many objects.

Programming and Gameplay Design by Lloyd Nguyen
Main Art and “Space” Level Design by Vannasouk Phadilok

Pushing Your Design Limits – Learning from Live A Live

This is an abridged rewrite of a post about my observations of a game called Live A Live.

Live A Live is a JRPG on the SNES that I still sometimes rave about, because I’ve never seen another game that’s ever explored and pushed the design limitations of its engine to such a high extent. This game was actually made by Squaresoft in 1994, and there’s a great deal of unique design details that can be taken from Live A Live. Even though it’s relatively obscure, this is actually the predecessor of Chrono Trigger and has a lot of design approaches that went against the grain of its time. Sure, it falls short in a few places and it’s a bit tacky at times, but each of the game’s eight chapters manages to present a completely different experience, and half of them even feel like game genres completely away from the standard JRPG format.

The “JRPG format” generally has three components: Character building a la stats, combat, and exploring the field. The overall system seems to be an offshoot of Final Fantasy IV, but with a different combat system that’s fairly similar to chess. The player and the enemy each take discrete turns on the person with partial direct control, and you can either use a traditional combat menu or fast-forward through them. This lets you go as fast or slow as you like –  from slow and tactical up to a pseudo real-time speed-chess feeling. This partly allows Live A Live to present so many different feelings, but the meat is in how it’s used.

You can fight traditionally, or skip the menus.

Each of the chapters use the exact same rules and limits of player controls, fields, combat, and character building. But, each of them breaks from the normal JRPG format by either placing an uneven emphasis on the three components, or using them on a completely unorthodox fashion.

Examples?

The finest chapter is the Kung-fu story set in Ancient China. This chapter uses all three JRPG components in an unconventional way by completely reversing its usages from what we normally assume, and also weaves many of the mechanics directly towards enhancing the story. You play as an old kung-fu master trying to find students, which already reverses the idea of character building – you don’t need to level up the master. Rather than playing the students, they’re trained by actually playing the master and defeating the students in standard combat, and how you win influences their growth. In exploring the field and building your “party” of students, the story is enhanced by the fact that you’ll never use your party; the master more or less defeats anything swiftly and the party is quickly broken for training.

Another great example shows up in the Contemporary chapter. In this, you have no field, and no character growth. The thing is pure combat, and you go through this by selecting a boss and immediately fighting them one-on-one. If you play through this in the more speed-chess way, this chapter ends up feeling close to a fighting game.

There’s something unique like this to find in every chapter. The Ninja chapter goes crazy with the amount of content in the field, and it’s completely non-linear. The Sci-fi chapter is inversely short and devoid of extra side-details, yet it this gives a striking story akin to a visual novel. Prehistory plays mostly like a standard RPG with the kicker being that it tries to have zero written dialogue, and manages to keep together. All of the other chapters also eschew some or all of the three JRPG components and they all have their own unique experiences. Going over it in detail would be far too much, (thus the rewrite,) but in the end there’s something unconventional and interesting to be found in each chapter.

Learning from the Game

Live a Live for the most part shows us that working within the confines of an established gameplay format doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to follow them. A few chapters might have suffered from it, but the Kung-fu chapter is both the most unconventional and the best chapter in the game.

From this, we can also take the idea that there’s much more than one perspective or interpretation of the rules presented to us. The difference in the speed you play within combat, or the amount of content in exploring the levels drastically changes the feel of the game.

It also demonstrates how far a limited gameplay system can be taken in terms of its design. Things were pushed by simply ignoring or emphasising other parts of the system, and it created interesting effects. Even though half of the chapters still had an RPG theme, each one presented the RPG under different lights, especially in the second-to-last chapter.

 

Overall, this game serves as one of those reminders to keep on experimenting and challenging the preconceived notions we might have against something like an “established format”, especially in terms of its design approach or interpretation of such. Even in a limited system, with enough imagination we can come up with something completely different from the rest.

Ascending Warriors

Ascending WarriorPlay Online (Requires Unity Web Player)
Download (Standalone)

This is a proof-of-concept game made in a prototyping course at Qantm. Driving concepts include a full portrayal of indoor rock climbing, and complete control over the player’s movement i.e. manual control of both of the avatars feet and hands, as well as the torso.

The goal of the game is to explore the wall laterally and find and collect coins, while balancing the primary objective of not-falling and reaching the final goal of the wall’s top.

Programming by Lloyd Nguyen
Art by Vannasouk Phadilok



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