Nice to meet you all, my name is James R. Mountain, and I’m the guy who translated the entirety of the Japanese text for The Silver Case into English. In my field, we refer to this as “localization”. Say it with me now: “loh-cuh-lie-ZAY-shun”. The term “localization” is derived from the ancient Aramaic term luklizechin, which means “diversification of targetable markets through word surgery”. Today I’ve been afforded the pleasure of speaking with you about my experience localizing The Silver Case and what it meant to me.
The Silver Case was originally released way back in the halcyon days of 1999, and with this latest iteration of the game scheduled to be released this year (2016), a bit of simple geometry tells us that it took approximately a bunch of years for the game to receive an English localization. Why did it take so long for this to happen? Apart from any possible behind-the-scenes troubles or legal problems which may have occurred and of which I would not be aware, I would like to submit my own professional opinion that the delay was due to the fact that “this shit was hella hard”.
The reasons for the difficulty in localization are sevenfold-minus-five-fold: First of all, the Japanese language is, as some of you may have guessed, completely different from English. For one thing, where we use “letters” (the little squiggly things composing a good number of the words in this text) in English, the written Japanese language employs pictograms known as kanji (the little squiggly things composing that totally sweet tattoo you got that you think means “strength” but which actually means “dysentery”). They’re sort of like cave scribblings that don’t make any sense. Anyway, to grossly oversimplify the matter, each kanji has anywhere from one to seven or so different ways it can be read, and the meaning can change significantly when stuck together with other characters. While one can get used to the subtle subtleties of these wonky little stick figures to a certain degree, sometimes grokking their intended meaning can be close to impossible. One particular example seen throughout the text of The Silver Case would be the character 己. This can be read two ways: onore, meaning “you”; or, less often, ore, meaning “me”. I’m sure you can see how confusing and frustrating this can be. For every single line of dialogue, the translator has to figure out, based on the preceding/following text, exactly WHOM the character is referring to. Obviously, getting this wrong can drastically change not only the meaning of individual sentences, but the entire plot of the game. And in The Silver Case, this character pops up ALL. THE. TIME. That’s not to mention the fact that Japanese often drops pronouns altogether, making it nigh impossible to figure out, well, anything.
The traumatic memories of spending weeks meticulously searching through every single damn line of conversational text for this 己 thing and making sure they were all translated in the proper context are beginning to flood back and make me curl up into the fetal position and cry, so I’m going to take the liberty of cutting myself off here. Anyway, don’t worry: thanks to my outstanding translation skills, I can guarantee that you gamers can continue to live your lives in relative peace and tranquility, able to devote hours upon hours to the absolute masterpiece of English localization that is The Silver Case, forever free of the wretched curse of 己. If you’ve played the trial version, then I’m confident that you’ll understand that this neither boasting nor empty sales talk―it’s simply a cold, hard, scientifically-proven fact.
In the next DevLog, we will continue with talking about the localization of The Silver Case.