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Save the Visual Novels! Eat the Whales!


Darbury

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How do you eat an entire whale? One bite at a time. Preferably with Cholula.

How do you edit/translate/whatever a visual novel? One line at a time. Preferably with bourbon.

Whether you’re a fan of the final product or not, one of the things that impresses me most about MDZ’s fan translation of Koisuru Natsu no Last Resort is that it got released, period. As in, if you were so inclined, you could download the installer right now, patch the original Japanese game, and go play the thing on your new-fangled Windows Pee-Cee. No demos, no one-route partial patches. The whole damned VN in English, finished on schedule and out there in the world.

The project didn’t stall. It didn’t wind up in no-updates-in-six-months-but-we-think-they’re-still-working-on-it hell. It didn’t climb into that white panel van with Little Busters EX, never to be heard from again. The nice man was lying to you, Little Busters EX — there were no cute little puppies in the back. What were you thinking?!

The KoiRizo team did nothing particularly special to make this happen. We just ate the whale one bite at a time.

The rhythm method

By his own account, MDZ worked very methodically on the project, spending an average of 30 minutes every day translating scripts into English. Not when he felt like it. Not when inspiration struck. Not when enough people harassed him with all-caps emails asking why the HELL hadn’t there been any progress updates on the KoiRizo tracker lately. He made it an expected part of his routine, like brushing his teeth or eating dinner. He scheduled regular translation sessions between classes or before heading out in the morning.

He did a little bit. Every. Single. Day.

There’s a word for that: consistency. That’s what gets things done in the real world, not 48-hour marathons every random.randint(1,6) weekends fueled by Red Bull, Hot Pockets, and intense self-loathing. Consistency keeps you from getting burned out. Consistency lets you make reasonable schedules and estimates, then stick to them. Consistency is like goddamned black magic.

Over the course of the project, MDZ had consistency in spades. If he can maintain that approach to life, I have a feeling he’ll be successful at whatever he puts his mind to after college.

SPOILER: Professional lumberjack sports. You heard it here first. Act surprised when he tells you.

When I came on board as an editor, I kept a somewhat similar schedule. I resolved to set aside my commuting time each workday for editing. And so for 40 minutes in the morning and 40 minutes in the evening, Monday through Friday, I’d park my butt in a train seat, break out my laptop, and just edit.

Weekdays were reserved for my family. If you’re married with kids, you know there is no such thing as free time on weekends. If you’re not married and don’t have kids, please tell me what the outside world is like. I hear they came out with a PlayStation 2? That’s gotta be pretty awesome.

Anyway, that’s what I ended up doing. Edit every single workday. For six months. Until it was done.

(Six months? That long to edit a medium-length visual novel? Yeah, that long. KoiRizo weighs in at 36,000+ lines. Over six months, that works out to about 1,400 lines a week, or 210 lines per hour. That’s an edited line every 17 seconds or so, with most of the lines needing substantial polishing/rewriting. I have no idea what pace other VN editors work at, but I felt like this was one I could maintain over the long haul. Call it the distance runner’s lope.)

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Special topics in calamity physics

So why all this rambling about whales and consistency? Because I just got back from vacation a few days ago and I’ve been surprised at how long it’s taken me to get my head back into the various projects I’ve been working on (or even writing this blog). And then I got to wondering how often something small like that snowballs into a stalled or even failed project. A missed day turns into a skipped week turns into a skipped month turns into a dead translation.

Which then got me thinking about the coefficient of friction.

It’s basic physics, which I excelled at (failing repeatedly). In layman’s terms, it’s a ratio (μ) that gives you a sense how much force two surfaces exert on each other and, therefore, how much force you need to exert to get something moving from a dead stop. Wooden block on ice? Low coefficient of friction. Wooden block on shag carpet? High coefficient of friction ... and a senseless crime against tasteful décor. Once you overcome that initial friction, it takes comparatively little force to keep an object in motion.

I can easily imagine there’s a coefficient of friction between us and our work, some quantifiable level of resistance that needs be overcome before we get our asses in gear and be productive. And unlike the one in Physics 101, which is constant for any two materials, this one is different every single day. It depends on a bunch of different factors: how interested we are in our projects, how appreciated we feel, what other projects we’ve got going on at the same time, how much sleep we’ve gotten, what else is going on in our lives, whether or not the Mets are currently in the World Series, etc.

Let’s call it the coefficient of slackitude.

Once we get started on a project and make it part of our everyday routine, we can largely ignore this number. We’ve overcome the initial slackitude and, with moderate effort, can keep things rolling along fairly smoothly. But each time we let things coast to a stop, even for a few days, we’ve got to overcome the slackitude all over again. And since that value is variable, it might be much harder the second time around. In fact, it probably will be.

Eventually, we’ll fail to do so. And our project will die.

The takeaway

So other than the fact that I had no business being anywhere near a physics classroom, what can we take away from my incoherent ramblings? A couple things:

  1. The easiest way to make sure your project gets finished is to stick to a regular schedule. Eat the whale a little at a time — every day if you can. Minimize the gaps. Avoid having to face off against that nasty coefficient of slackitude more than once.
  2. The easiest way to make sure your project gets started at all is to pick a time when that coefficient of slackitude is low — when you’re excited by the prospect, when you’re well-rested, when you have relatively few competing interests. When you can focus. Use that time to build your momentum, so when your interest wanes or real life intrudes — it always does and it always will — the project is so embedded in your routine that you can just ride it out.

We need more finished translations in the world. So pull up a chair and eat your whale. Do it for your team. Do it for yourself. Do it for poor Little Busters EX, drugged and ball-gagged in a basement somewhere, forever wondering when it’ll finally get to see the puppies.

SPOILER: Never.

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Not to sound ungrateful but trash needs to be called trash. This is why fan translations and official works aren't exactly the best. If more people complained then they'd release a more polished product.

IDK about that. I'd wager a good portion of the general vn-playing populace is satisfied with this iteration of translation/editing.
If, as you say, we bashed every which translation that was not worthy of your judgement, then perhaps indeed that the general level of VN translation/editing will be better overall.
It will, however, also mean that there are that much less translated VNs overall (I mean, just see how many translations are encouraged to shut down for not having skills necessary to fuel their enthusiasm even now).
I can't say for sure which is more to the benefit of the western VN community.

Edited by storyteller
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 I understand what you mean but for some reason this one translation is the worst I've ever seen imo. I'm not saying there aren't worse translations out there but this one suffers from choosing weird word choices. Sometimes I even had to look up uncommon words used. They're not hard words but uncommon enough that I forget what they mean.

Uncommon word usage, in comparison to other VN translations, is actually a good thing. This is because most VN translations use incredibly basic and rudimentary language, to the extent that it sounds like it was written by somebody still in school. I've heard people complain about complex language usage in VN translations before, but when I had a look the language use was quite normal. 

When something's bad the first place to jump on it is 4chan. ESPECIALLY when the 'bad' thing originated from Fuwanovel, because they love to put the boot into Fuwa. But not even 4chan complained about the editing found in this game. And (imo) there's been far worse translations than this *shudders*

Also, you're free to complain, I do it all the time. You should keep in mind though that a lot of people (not on 4chan) will get ticked if you complain without providing reasons. So if you don't provide any, you should expect one of the first questions thrown back at you to be 'how so'?

Edited by Rooke
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I understand what you mean but for some reason this one translation is the worst I've ever seen imo. I'm not saying there aren't worse translations out there but this one suffers from choosing weird word choices. 

I think you might have ended up at the wrong blog by mistake? I wasn't the translator on the project; I was the editor. It was my job to turn Engrish into English. And while there are lots of things I would change, I think I did a fairly good job of that overall. Especially compared to the raw text I was given.

If you have a bone to pick about the translation, that's fine. But since my name isn't MDZ, this is probably the wrong place to do it. I don't speak Japanese. I don't translate Japanese. It's like me complaining to my interior decorator about why there are cracks in my house's foundation, y'know?

You're welcome to stay and voice your opinions, positive or negative. I'm more than okay with that. But I would ask that you try to be a little more civil about it. Thanks!

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IDK about that. I'd wager a good portion of the general vn-playing populace is satisfied with this iteration of translation/editing.
If, as you say, we bashed every which translation that was not worthy of your judgement, then perhaps indeed that the general level of VN translation/editing will be better overall.
It will, however, also mean that there are that much less translated VNs overall (I mean, just see how many translations are encouraged to shut down for not having skills necessary to fuel their enthusiasm even now).
I can't say for sure which is more to the benefit of the western VN community.

You're making it sound like I'm the only one with a problem. If you ask around then more people would chime in. Hell, this guy mentioned something about liking or disliking the translation in the post so he probably knows that it's a shit job.

You might be right but that same mindset is holding back polished translations. The reason official companies get away with it is because a lot of people are happy just reading the work. If no one complains then they'll just keep on playing dumb and releasing shit translations.

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I understand what you mean but for some reason this one translation is the worst I've ever seen imo. I'm not saying there aren't worse translations out there but this one suffers from choosing weird word choices. 

I think you might have ended up at the wrong blog by mistake? I wasn't the translator on the project; I was the editor. It was my job to turn Engrish into English. And while there are lots of things I would change, I think I did a fairly good job of that overall. Especially compared to the raw text I was given.

If you have a bone to pick about the translation, that's fine. But since my name isn't MDZ, this is probably the wrong place to do it. I don't speak Japanese. I don't translate Japanese. It's like me complaining to my interior decorator about why there are cracks in my house's foundation, y'know?

You're welcome to stay and voice your opinions, positive or negative. I'm more than okay with that. But I would ask that you try to be a little more civil about it. Thanks!

I know who you are. I also know what the work of an editor is. I'm just confused as to how you chose to leave/use certain words that don't flow good.

Edited by bigfatround0
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You're making it sound like I'm the only one with a problem. If you ask around then more people would chime in. Hell, this guy mentioned something about liking or disliking the translation in the post so he probably knows that it's a shit job.

You might be right but that same mindset is holding back polished translations. The reason official companies get away with it is because a lot of people are happy just reading the work. If no one complains then they'll just keep on playing dumb and releasing shit translations.

I wasn't sure how to make it sound like it wasn't just you. I'm aware you aren't the only one who's unhappy.

Even if this is the case, a strong, reasoned out argument is going to do more good than just headlong bashing.
It doesn't reflect well on the people/cause you're supporting, even if there are others that have already done the arguing for you. 

Edited by storyteller
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 I know who you are. I also know what the work of an editor is. I'm just confused as to how you chose to leave/use certain words that don't flow good.

If you're confused about why things don't flow well, then just ask. No need to stand on my front porch and hurl insults.

You'll find I'm good like that.

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 I know who you are. I also know what the work of an editor is. I'm just confused as to how you chose to leave/use certain words that don't flow good.

If you're confused about why things don't flow well, then just ask. No need to stand on my front porch and hurl insults.

You'll find I'm good like that.

That's funny....

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I'd much rather take that than having to reword sentences constantly in my head while reading something or having to deal with transliterating dots (god this annoys me so damn much now). I've had problems with the way certain words or phrases were translated in official translations, even phrases that were reoccurring. Though maybe I just didn't care that much about the tricky use of tricky because I lost interest in this game after like an hour in the first route. Oh well.  

I understand what you mean but for some reason this one translation is the worst I've ever seen imo. I'm not saying there aren't worse translations out there but this one suffers from choosing weird word choices. Sometimes I even had to look up uncommon words used. They're not hard words but uncommon enough that I forget what they mean.

What kind of fan-translations are you playing? At least from what I've played, most have glaring mistakes. This game read 10x better than most fan-translations I've read. The only problems being the translation choice that's currently driving you insane, some wording choices I felt were wrong, and the few translation errors I caught. The norm for fan-translations is stuff done by Ixrec or TakuJun which read stilted as ever-living hell. If you think this is a horrible translation I'm not sure you could read through something like Fate/Stay Night and actually survive. 

 

 

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Dammit, Little Busters. After a year of inactivity, I decide to make one little joke at your expense and — BOOM — you announce an official Steam release. Seriously?

Wait. Unless I caused that to happen. Maybe my blog is like the Death Note of VN releases. Time to start writing some Subahibi jokes ...

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