長文,《返校》發佈後的分析:爲西方玩家進行本地化

原作者:Tiff Liu 譯者:Willow Wu

2017年1月13日,在一個尋常的黑色星期五,我們的首個2D心理恐怖遊戲《返校》在Steam平臺上架了。發行之際,我們收到了廣大媒體們和玩家們的熱切關注。人們都很好奇,本地媒體們想知道,是什麼促使我們製作了這樣一個恐怖遊戲?另一方面,國外媒體對遊戲中的臺灣民間風俗文化十分感興趣。

一週之後,我們6個人一起坐在辦公室裏,暫時地遠離那些外界的喧囂。幾個人安靜地坐着,腦袋裏回想着剛剛到底發生了什麼?我們之前絕對不會想到這遊戲竟然會引起這麼強烈的反響。畢竟,我們只是一個享受制作遊戲的小團體。回溯之前,我們製作《返校》耗費了很多的精力,也遇到很多挫折。但是我們覺得這是一段值得和Gamasutra分享的故事。故事的開頭要回到在若干年之前。

《返校》是Coffee Yao想出來的點子。如果你瞭解Coffee的話,你就知道他是一個喜歡在深夜散步,有一點點鄉愁的人。有時候,1990年代的回憶就像兇猛的潮水一樣把他捲入其中。道觀裏飄出來的焚香,新浪潮時代的臺灣電影,街邊小吃的味道,布袋戲的聲音和畫面,還有其他在他學生時代的東西。那個時代,臺灣文化大放異彩。

Detention(from gamasutra.com)

Detention(from gamasutra.com)

遊戲伴他成長,他玩過許多以日本文化爲中心的遊戲,角色都是忍者或者武士。然而,還沒有哪個遊戲是圍繞臺灣文化展開的。出於一種想要把臺灣環境展現給世人看的渴望,他想:“爲什麼不做一個和臺灣民俗文化相關的遊戲呢?”那個時候,Coffee還沒有可靠的計劃,也沒有足夠的技術來開啓這個項目,但是這個想法從此在他腦袋裏紮根。3年後,在2014年,他作爲一個獨立開發者,開始製作《返校》的原型。在那之後一個接着一個,我們6個人組到了一起,開始合力製作《返校》。

在製作遊戲期間,有個問題一直在我們腦中縈繞。“西方玩家會怎麼看待這個遊戲?他們會不會對這樣一個基於臺灣/東亞文化的遊戲感到很迷惑?”我們的目標是全球市場,所以西方玩家能不能理解和接受是個很關鍵的問題。本地化對我們來說就是關鍵所在,因此我們對關卡設計和翻譯格外注意。爲了成功地把東亞文化移植到遊戲中,《返校》在2年的製作期裏經歷了4次大調整。這幾次大調整幾乎是重塑了原始設定,讓團隊的每個人都快瘋掉。然而,粉絲們的反響讓我們意識到我們爲本地化做出的每一次調整都是值得的。接着,讓我來跟你分享一下我們經歷過的掙扎,還有經驗。

制定策略——把文化元素壓下來

首先,關鍵事情之一就是要讓每個人都享受遊戲,就算不是中國人也一樣能玩得開心。爲了達到這個目標,我們決定把文化元素都壓下來。

這麼做是有原因的。在製作遊戲的早期階段,我們曾經爭論過有關於遊戲謎題設計中的文化理解問題。對於宗教儀式,我們每個人的意見都不一樣,像是要不要先燒香或者燒紙錢這類的問題。這次爭執讓我們意識到了,即使我們6個人擁有相同的文化背景,在文化理解上還是會有爭吵和分歧。僅僅是在我們之間都已經有爭吵了,那我們怎麼能讓西方玩家理解我們的文化呢?我們不想讓文化壁壘成爲遊戲劇情和玩法的障礙。我們充分意識到了,要讓玩家在3-5小時的遊戲歷程中理解臺灣文化是不太可能的事。順便說清楚,文化理解也並不是我們的目的,我們只是想要做一個有臺灣文化元素的遊戲。所以,我們遵循了“少即是多(less is more)”的黃金準則,決定不要把傳統文化習俗嵌入到謎題設計中,而是在邏輯思維上多下功夫。

此外,通過把文化元素轉化爲不同的文化象徵,有點像是把它們藏在遊戲設置中,我們成功地把這些文化象徵轉化成解開謎題的道具、字條、背景音樂、設置等等。最終,這些視覺和聲音象徵能夠更好地把玩家帶入劇情,創造了更好的遊戲氛圍。如果玩家喜歡我們創造出來的氛圍,那麼我相信一旦他們開始玩了,他們之中的有些人會自己去查閱相關的文化和歷史背景。
遊戲的服裝設計和建築設計也對塑造1960年代的臺灣有所輔助。

好了,理論說夠了,讓我們往實際例子深入。

關卡設計的注意事項

例子1: 把日記當作是整體文化設定的介紹

一般來說,在各種各樣的遊戲裏,筆記本是經常出現的道具,《返校》也不例外。在《返校》中,我們創造出了“日記”這個道具來跟上游戲進程,來幫助玩家達到下個關卡,而且最重要的是把文化背景用圖文表現清楚。

日記在遊戲中有兩個功能:充當線索,記錄筆記。在遊戲中,玩家會見到一張又一張的字條。有些字條是線索,幫助玩家活下來或者解決謎題,其他字條則是輔助呈現整體文化以及遊戲劇情。

日記中的線索:有關於魍魎的信息以及如何在面對魍魎時活下來

Detention(from gamasutra.com)

Detention(from gamasutra.com)

例子2: 遊戲機制中關於民俗/當地人的信仰的應用

開始的時候,我們決定要做一個恐怖遊戲。就像其他同一類型的遊戲,遊戲中總是有些跳殺場景(遊戲邦注:jump scare scenes)或者可怕的怪物。這次,我們問自己:“要怎麼把文化和恐怖遊戲機制結合起來?”這就讓我們往回研究起了東亞民俗和神話,怪物和鬼怪在其中都是很常見的題材並且描述的很詳細,這讓遊戲機制中關於它們的改編工作輕鬆了一些。

魍魎

骨瘦如柴的外表,食人,這就是魍魎,在衆多亞洲民俗故事中,魍魎是廣爲人知的一種鬼怪。我們把魍魎的特徵實體化,變成遊戲中玩家會遇到的一類攻擊者。爲了給遊戲機制增加亮點,我們加入了兩種生存技巧,也是來自臺灣民俗文化。

傳統意義上,給逝者供上食物是告別。在《返校》中,食物可以分散魍魎的注意力,讓玩家脫離追逐戰。

在東亞民俗故事中,面對殭屍,你可以屏氣來假裝你不存在。類似的,要逃離魍魎,玩家必須做同樣的事,靜悄悄地走開。

黑白無常

當地人相信,黑白無常是冥界的信差。傳說中,他們手中分別拿着羽毛扇和木令牌,這些物品也成了解決謎題的道具,能夠拿到鑰匙去往下一個關卡。

門鎖住了,缺少了某個東西。把謎題空缺補全後,門終於開了。

例子3: 遊戲劇情中的宗教儀式

儀式也是文化的組成部分。要把儀式風俗加入到劇情中,我們打算把它轉化成遊戲中的道具。起初,我們以爲這應該挺容易的,只需要把我們以前的經歷移植到遊戲中,然後做個圖文講解清楚應該就夠了。但是我們大錯特錯,我們忽視了儀式的複雜程度。儘管如此,我們還是從錯誤中學到了教訓,並且在此基礎上進行修正。

紙錢

道教的喪儀有很多嚴格的規則和固定的步驟。剛開始的時候,我們作這個圖文來描述宗教儀式。

然而,當我們在進行demo測試的時候,我們發現這種圖文還不夠有效。文字描述在某種程度上太複雜了,應該還有比這更好的選擇。因此,我們進行了一點頭腦風暴,然後你看,答案就有了。

Detention(from gamasutra.com)

Detention(from gamasutra.com)

首先,還是要把“少即是多”的黃金準則記在腦袋中,我們拋棄了原始的計劃,不打算把整個儀式都展現出來。取而代之的是我們把注意力放在某一部分的儀式上——展現燒紙錢的過程,並且把它融入到劇情中。

擲筊

在道教寺廟中,擲筊的木塊通常被看作是向神靈尋求意見的工具。《返校》中,我們利用擲筊作爲劇情的催化劑,體現Ray對愛情、前途和家庭的擔心。

爲了讓你們大概瞭解擲筊是怎麼一回事,我們一開始是這麼做的:

就像之前的那些例子一樣,本來是有很多文字表述的。我們把這個圖文給一個臺灣的朋友看了,他花了好一會兒才理清楚其中的意思,這時我們就意識到這樣不行,必須改掉。

我們再一次地應用了“少即是多”的技巧。我們把文字表述減到最少,並且用交互視圖場景來代替。

例子4: 關卡中的通俗文化樂趣

文化認知差異是本地化過程中一直存在的窘境。一開始製作遊戲的時候,我們就知道我們面對的有兩組玩家。本地玩家能夠理解遊戲中的文化,國外玩家不能。把通俗文化融入到關卡設計的過程中,我們遇到了同樣的問題。經過了無數次爭吵和討論,我們得出了結論:理不理解得了文化,只要玩家們享受這個遊戲,裏面的相關流程對他們來講是說得通的,那麼應該就沒多大問題。

四月望雨

《返校》中,用傳統亞洲樂器演奏的電子lo-fi音樂成爲了文化氛圍的製造工具。除此之外,聲音元素也是關卡設計的關鍵所在。

有個關卡,玩家需要進入Ray的3段不同記憶中,我們就把收音機當作轉換場景的媒介,把四月望雨組曲當作是玩家轉換不同時間地點的鏈接。

1930年代的四月望雨是由4段廣爲人知的日據時期的臺灣歌曲組成的,在之後的戒嚴時期就被禁止了。

其中3段歌曲被應用在電臺謎題設計中。調到的正確頻道,對應的歌曲片段就會放出,然後忽然之間,玩家就轉換到了另一個時間。

望春風

第一個電臺的背景音樂是望春風(試聽),向我們傳達了Ray的破碎家庭的樣子。

四季紅(試聽

原本,這首歡快的音樂是表達的是含蓄的調情。我們用這首歌來揭露Ray的爸爸對她媽媽的不忠之事。

月夜愁(試聽

第三個電臺,伴隨着傷心之人的憂鬱樂曲,讓Ray回憶起了她的戀情。然而,最後餘留的只有無知和仇苦。

每首歌都是刻意放在特定的時間中,來加強渲染Ray對家庭和愛人的情感。爲了增加遊戲的復古感覺,我們有意在歌曲中了應用lo-fi聲效。熟悉這些歌曲玩家可能會了解歌曲的含義,對於其他的普通玩家,從另一個角度可能會覺得這些歌曲具有異國風味,感到很新鮮。他們也許不瞭解歌曲背後的故事,但是肯定能感受到歌曲隱含的感情。

布袋戲

布袋戲是早些年最重要的娛樂項目之一,即使在今天,它在某些特定觀衆羣體中還是很受歡迎的。然而,1950年代開始,權力機構把他們的爪牙伸向了布袋戲,把它變成了政府的宣傳工具,宣揚所謂的“愛國主義”。

把這個通俗文化元素引入到關卡設計中,布袋玩偶就成了解決謎題的工具。

戲臺上的布袋玩偶不見了

一旦完成謎題,鑰匙就會從被砍頭的玩偶中掉出來,玩家就可以繼續到下一個關卡了。

除了關卡設計的兩難困境,還有翻譯也是製作《返校》另一個棘手的部分。曾經我們都玩過一兩個翻譯質量低劣的遊戲,給享受遊戲的過程大打折扣。糟糕的翻譯可以毀了遊戲,這絕對不是我們的意圖。因此,讓我們轉換焦點,聚焦到翻譯部分,分享一下我們的小小經驗。

翻譯錯誤和對策

我跟你說,爲了對應1960年代的臺灣,《返校》的原腳本是混合了文言文,現代文和方言,翻譯難度簡直難以想象。作爲一個獨立工作室,我們並沒有那麼多的資源。對我們來說,要把《返校》翻譯成多種語言,那麼費用將是無法承受的。因此,我們的目標並不大。我們寧願把注意力都放在翻譯質量上。所以除了遊戲本身的中文,就剩下英文作爲《返校》的目標語言,進行本地化。我們希望遊戲在英文環境中也能順利運行。幸運的是,我們的共同創始人Vincent Yang是個中英雙語者。有Vincent來檢驗翻譯質量,加上與譯者的交流,我們成功發佈了能夠順暢閱讀,接近原文意義的英語版本。

例子1: 適合場景的對話翻譯

把一種語言翻譯成另一種語言,有個問題也許是譯者常常遇到的:沒有和原文意思對應的詞彙。就《返校》來說,要在英語中找到對應詞彙更是難上加難。因此,我們不採用逐字翻譯的辦法,而是注重原文字裏行間的氛圍/情感。

老婦人的對話

《返校》中,我們創造了老婦人這樣一個角色,只會說臺語(遊戲邦注:閩南語)。除了普通話,臺語是在臺灣用得最多的方言。把她的話語翻譯成英文,我們當初的想法是把它翻譯成某種英語方言。但是,鑑於不同國家有很多不同英語方言,要選擇一種對玩家都通用的還是比較困難。

然後我們考慮把它翻譯成古代英語,但是很快我們就發現這主意不好。第一版草稿出來的時候,我們之中,包括Vincent,沒有人能讀懂。可讀性太差了。最後,我們有了想法,把原文中的氣氛反映出來就好了。所以,這就是我們最終的結果。儘管做成詩性對話可能不是最完美的翻譯,但是至少能夠接近原文

撰寫話劇

遊戲的第三章中,逐漸變成故事引導模式,出現越來越多的情節敘述來體現Ray對家庭和愛人的情感。因此,我們在遊戲中加入了話劇元素。話劇部分是用中國現代詩歌體裁撰寫的,和古代詩歌比起來更容易翻譯。然而,我們還是在了英文翻譯中做了一點點改動,爲了加強玩家與Ray情感之間的聯繫,我們在行間加了重讀。

這就是描述Ray父親酗酒問題的話劇片段。這裏原文中的“棕色玻璃瓶”是酒精的隱喻。當翻譯成英語的時候,爲了強調父親的酗酒是導致Ray家庭分裂的主要原因,我們把上述部分替換成了“A glass cup of nauseating color.(一個顏色噁心的玻璃杯)”另外,這也能表達出Ray對他父親行爲的厭惡態度。

例子2: 譯順口頭對話

在某些情況下,儘管翻譯和原文意思相同,但這並不意味着這就是好翻譯。好的譯文必須考慮到原作品的設定和讀者的背景。《返校》的東亞背景參考是設定在1960年代左右,我們做了一些更改讓現代的西方玩家更好地沉浸在遊戲中。

學校用語

當Wei和Ray一起回到教室的時候,爲了表現對Ray的尊重,Wei稱呼她爲“學姐/female senior classmate”。在西方,不管年齡有沒有差別,同學之間基本上是稱呼對方的姓。然而,在亞洲國家,年級不同的學生之間是有特定稱呼,這在英語詞彙中是找不到的。

第一次嘗試翻譯的時候,“學姐”翻譯成了“Senpai”。儘管意思很貼切,但是這個詞是從日語中借用的,在英語國家並不常用。考慮到這個詞並不在日常裏用到,我們決定把“Senpai”轉換成“Miss”,一個很常用的詞,包含了尊重。

髒話

有些場景裏,爲了表達驚訝,Wei就會無意識地說出髒話,例如“靠/what the heck” 。一開始,我們打算把它翻譯成跟原文一樣的意思。但是,再想一下,“what the heck” 的意思更接近現代的某個四字母詞。非常不幸,這和《返校》的時代背景設定對不上。所以,後來就改成了“What…!”,加上感嘆號,也突出了Wei自然流露出的驚訝。

例子3: 決策,要創造一個新詞,採用現有的翻譯,還是音譯?

在《返校》的原稿中,包含了大量從臺灣民俗和當地宗教裏提取出來的詞彙。有些詞彙能在英語中找到對應,有些則沒有。我們不得不選擇創造一個新的英語單詞。但是接着,更多問題出現了——我們是不是應該就直接簡單地音譯過來?還是根據意思創造一個新詞?

大多數時間,我們都面對着決策兩難的境地,要使用現有的翻譯呢,還是採用音譯,還是創造新詞。經過一段時間的掙扎,我們最終定了一套準則。把我們當成玩家本身,假裝不知道任何有關於臺灣文化的事情。這樣的話,能夠幫助我們更好地制定策略,解決翻譯問題。

現有的翻譯

在我們決定要不要採用現有翻譯之前,我們都會問問自己:“這些現有的翻譯是所有人都認可的嗎?”我們認爲,不論文化背景和語言,只要這些翻譯是大家都能理解的,那麼玩家就能明白其中的意思。就比如佛教習俗吧,佛教的基本思想全世界都知道,“南無”和“金剛經”這種詞彙就可以直接用在遊戲中,不用更改。
造詞

玩遊戲的時候,玩家經常會遇到魍魎。就如之前所說,它的靈感來自中國民間傳說中的一種食人怪,叫做“魍魎”,在英語中是“Mōryō”。在《返校》中,我們拋棄了現有的英文翻譯,用我們自己創造的詞彙代替,我們想讓這個詞記起來容易點。相比較起來,“Mōryō”這個詞對於大部分玩家來說難讀又難記,我們創造了“the Lingered”這個詞,比較好讀而且也體現了這種食人怪喜歡徘徊在人世的特點。

音譯

有時候,某個詞的文化色彩特別強烈,也找不到現有的適合翻譯,也沒辦法用簡單的一兩個詞來描述,那麼音譯就成了我們最後的選擇。音譯的特點就是譯詞的發音跟原詞幾乎一模一樣,所以在大多數情況下,光靠讀是沒辦法理解它的意思的。

除此之外,詞語本身就包含特定的文化意義也無法複製到在另一種語言中,我們認爲最好是在音譯詞之後補充上對應的解釋。例如,“HeiBai Wuchang”,日記本中的信息就可以作爲補充解釋。結合“HeiBai Wuchang”的圖文描述就可以幫助玩家更好地理解它的背景,中國人相信他們是冥界的信差。

簡而言之

好了,這就是我們爲《返校》這個遊戲本地化所做的努力,還有我們的失敗經歷。在製作遊戲之前,我們之中誰都沒想到有這麼多的細節和想法需要研究。在這段經歷中,我們學到的一大教訓就是要考慮玩家的反應是怎麼樣的,時刻把玩家放在第一位。每次我們覺得事情不對勁的時候,這個教訓就能提醒我們,幫助我們改掉錯誤,回到正確的軌道上。

後來,《返校》發佈,我們從玩家那裏收到了各種不同的反饋。有些玩家覺得謎題設計太簡單了,需要再複雜一點。還有,英語國家的玩家指出了遊戲文本中出現的若干語法錯誤,告訴我們需要再次校對。儘管如此,我們還是有些積極的反饋,告訴我們正式版的英文翻譯質量比demo版本的好很多了。在我們收到的所有反饋中,有一條是讓我們感觸很深的。一位西方玩家玩過《返校》之後,他說:“我很慶幸我們沒有活在那個時代。”這種反應就是我們想要的。我們很高興語言和文化屏障在《返校》中被打破了,希望世界各地的玩家都能知道這個消息。

作爲我們工作室的處女作,《返校》給赤燭遊戲開了個好頭。儘管還有提升的空間,但是我們還是覺得能夠向世人展現我們的作品是一件很幸運的事。反饋也能激發我們對未來作品的靈感。以後,我們還是會繼續爭取做到最好,希望能夠爲玩家們帶來更多沉浸式的遊戲體驗。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

Tiff Liu In one ordinary black Friday on January 13, 2017, our debut title 2D psychological horror game Detention was launched on Steam. Upon the release of the game, we received overwhelming attention from the media and players. People were curious. The local media wondered what triggered us to created a horror game like this? The foreign media, on the other hand, were intrigued by the Taiwanese folklore in the game.

A week after, 6 of us sat in the office temporarily drifting away from all the chaos. We sat still and wondered, what just happened? Never did we know that the game will draw such response. After all, we were just a group of developers who enjoy making games. Thinking back, it took lots of effort and failure to make Detention. But we feel that this is a story worth sharing on Gamasutra. And to begin with, it all started years ago.

Detention is the brainchild of Coffee Yao. If you know Coffee, he is a man that enjoys late night walk and somewhat a bit nostalgic. Sometimes, memories of the 1990s flow back to him like a wave. The incense smell from the Taoist temple, the Taiwanese movies in the New Wave era, the taste of the street food, the sound and visuals of the glove puppetry show, and other stuff he did as a student back then. It was a time when Taiwanese culture blossomed.

Growing up as a gamer, he played plenty of Japanese cultural-centred games with characters like Ninja or Samurai. However, there had yet been a game that centres around Taiwanese culture. Feeling an urge to show the Taiwanese ambient to the world, he thought, “Why not make a game with Taiwanese folk culture?” By that time, Coffee hasn’t had a solid plan nor enough skills to initiate the project, but this idea has since planted in his mind. Three years later in 2014, he finally started making the prototype of Detention as a sole developer. Then one thing came to another, 6 of us got connected and started working together to pull off Detention.

While developing the game, a question kept haunting us. “How will the Western players take it? Will they be confusing with a game based upon Taiwanese/Eastern Asian culture?” We aimed at the globe, so the understanding and acceptance from the Western players are crucial. The localization is the key to us, and in our case, we paid extra attention to the level design and translation. To successfully transplant the Eastern Asian culture into the game, Detention underwent 4 times of major adjustments throughout the course of 2-year development. The adjustments almost reshaped the original setting and made everyone in the team insane. Yet, the response from the fans let us realize every adjustment that we made for the localization was worthy. And in the following, let me share our struggles and experiences to you.

Set the Strategy – Flatten the cultural element

First thing first, since one of the crucial thing was to make a game that everyone would enjoy, even for the non-native Chinese speakers. In order to achieve this, we decide to flatten the cultural element.

There is a reason behind this. At an early development stage, we were having arguments about the cultural understanding we input in the puzzle design. Each of us has different opinions about the applied religion ritual, things like whether to burn the incense or spirit money first. This argument let us realize that, even if 6 of us share the same cultural background, there are still agreements and disagreements toward the cultural understanding. When there are already disputes among us, how can we even get Western players to understand our culture? We don’t want to let the cultural barrier be in the way of the storytelling and gameplay. As we are well aware that it is unlikely for the players to understand Taiwanese culture within a 3-5 hours gameplay, and to clarify, cultural understanding is not our intention as well, we just want to make a game with Taiwanese elements. Therefore, we followed the golden rule “less is more,” and made the choice not to apply the traditional cultural rules to the puzzle design, making them more about logical thinking instead.

Additionally, by transferring the cultural elements to different symbols, and sort of hiding them in the game setting, we managed to transform these symbols as the tools for the puzzles, pieces of note, background music, the setting, and etc. Eventually, these visual and audio symbols became the reinforcers to lead the narration and create the ambient in the game. If the players like the atmosphere that we created, I believe that some of them will look up the cultural and historical background on their own once they tried the game.

The visual design of the costume and architecture help build up the atmosphere of the 1960s Taiwan.

Alright, enough with the theory, let’s dig more into the actual examples!

Dos and Don’ts for Level Design

Case 1: Journal as the introduction to the general cultural setting

Normally, the notebook is constantly seen as a tool in various kinds of games, and it is not an exception for Detention. In Detention, we created the tool “journal” to keep track of the game progress, to help players reach the next level, and most importantly, to illustrate cultural background.

The journal serves as two functions in the game: the cues and notes. Throughout the gameplay, players will come across pieces after pieces of notes. Some of them are cues that assist players to survive or solve the puzzles, and others are notes that help shape the general cultural and storytelling of the game.

Cue in the journal: Information and survival skills when facing the Lingered

Note in the journal: The school announcement depicting the martial law period

Case 2: Folklore/ local belief application to the game mechanism

In the beginning, we set up our mind to make a horror game. Just like every game that falls into this genre, it always come with some jump scare scenes or terrifying monsters. This time, we asked ourselves the question, “How can we combine culture with horror game mechanism?” It got us to dig back to the East Asian folklore and mythology in which monsters and evil spirits are common and well descriptive, making it easier for us to adapt them into the game mechanism.

The Lingered

The man-eating skeleton figure, the Lingered(魍魎), is a well-known ghost spirit appearing in numerous Asian folktales. We embodies the Lingered’s characteristics in the game as one of the attackers that player encounters. To give additional touch to the game mechanism, 2 survival skills, originating from Taiwanese folk culture, are added.

Traditionally, food offerings is served for the dead as farewell. In Detention, it helps distract the Lingered from chasing you.

In East Asian folklore, you can fake your existence in front of the zombie(jiangshi) by holding the breath. Likewise, to escape from the Lingered, the player must do the same and silently walk away.

HeiBai Wuchang

HeiBai Wuchang(黑白無常) are the death messengers in the local belief. Legend says that each of them holds a feathered fan and wooden token in hand, and these items become the tools to solve the puzzle, holding the key for players to reach the next level.

The door is locked, and something is missing. With the completion of the puzzle collection, the door is finally unlocked

Case 3: Religion rituals embodiment in game narration

Rituals are a part of the culture. To add ritual practice to game narration, we intended to transfer it to in-game items. At first, we thought that it shall be an easy task, and we could simply follow suit from our past experience, making a depictive illustration to explain it all should be enough. But we were completely wrong. Neglecting the complexity of the ritual was a big mistake. Nonetheless, we managed to learn from the mistakes we took, and correct them accordingly.

Spirit Money

For the Taoism praying process, there are rigid rules and steps to follow. Initially, we came up with this illustration to depict the religion ritual.

Yet, when we did the demo testing, we found out that such illustration was not effective enough. The literatural description was somewhat too complicated. There should be something better than this. Thus, we did a bit of brainstorming, and voila.

First, keeping the golden rule “less is more” in mind, we got rid of our original plan to showcase the whole ritual. Alternately, we only focused on a part of the ritual – the representation of the spirit money burning process, and transformed it into the game narration.

Ying Yang Poe

In the Taoist temple, the wooden pieces ying yang poe(擲筊) can often be viewed as a tool to ask advice from the god. For Detention, we utilized ying yang poe as the plot accelerator to pinpoint Ray’s concern towards love, prospects and family.

To give a bit of idea how ying yang poe works, here was what we did at first.

Just like the previous example, there were lots of wording in it. When presenting this illustration to a Taiwanese friend, it took him a while to understand the whole saying, and that’s when we realized changes must be made.

Again, the same “less is more” technique is applied here. The literature description was minimized to the least and replaced by the interactive visual graphics.

Case 4: Pop culture employment to level design

The cultural cognitive difference is the constant dilemma for localization. From the beginning of the game development, we know that we would be facing two groups of players. The local players who understand the culture, and the foreign players who don’t. When dealing with the use of pop culture in level design, we encountered the same problem. After tons of arguments and discussions, we came to the conclusion: Cultural understanding or not, so long as the players enjoy our game and things make sense to them, it will be fine.

April Rain

In Detention, the electronic lo-fi music played with traditional Asian instruments is used as the cultural atmospheric creator. Apart from that, the audio element also holds the key to level design.

In one level that requires the player to travel to Ray’s 3 distinct past memories, we designed this radio as the transformation port, with the musical suite April Rain(四月望雨) acting as the connection for players to shift to different time and space.

The 1930s April Rain is the combination of 4 widely-known Taiwanese songs during the Japanese Occupation Period, that later banned in the martial law period.

3 of the songs are employed in the radio station puzzle design. By tuning in the right radio stations, the melody of each song appears, and all of a sudden, the player is in different time zone.

Bāng Chhun-hong(望春風)
The first radio station’s background song Bāng Chhun-hong(望春風) tells us how Ray’s broken family is like.

Sù-kùi-âng(四季紅)
Originally, this cheerful melody is the implication of firting. And we used it to reveal Ray father’s unfaithful affair towards her mother.

Goa̍t-iā-chhiû(月夜愁)
For the third radio station, along with the melancholic melody of the heartbroken people, it brings Ray back to the romantic memory. Yet, only the emptiness and bitter remain in the end.

Each song is deliberately placed in that specific time zone to emphasize Ray’s emotion towards her family and lover. To enhance its retro feeling, we purposely applied lo-fi sound effect to the songs. While some local players might be able to recognize the songs’ meanings upon hearing the familiar melodies, for the general players, on the other hand, may think that the songs are foreign and fresh. They may not know the background story of the songs, but for sure they could sense the emotions implied.

Puppet Show

Puppet show is one of the most important recreation in the early days, and even in nowadays, it’s still popular in certain group of audience. Yet, starting from the 1950s, the authority has spread its force to the puppet show, turning it into one of the government propagandas to promote the “patriotism.”

To bring in this pop culture to the level design, puppets are served as the tools for puzzle solving.

Puppets are missing on the stage

Once the puzzle collection is completed, the key drops from the beheaded puppet, allowing the player to move on to next level

Apart from the level design dilemma, translation is yet another tricky part to deal with in the making of Detention. Once in awhile we all came across 1 or 2 games with cheesy translation that distracts you from enjoying the game. Bad translation can ruin a game, and that is certainly not what we are looking for. So let us switch the focus to translation and share our humble experience with you.

Translation Mistakes and Strategies We Took

For your information, to correspond with the 1960’s Taiwan, Detention’s original script is a mix of classical Chinese, modern Chinese and local dialect. The degree of difficulty to translate the script is beyond imagination. As an indie, we didn’t have much resources. For us, we couldn’t afford to have Detention translated into multiple languages. Therefore, we didn’t aim big. Rather, we focused on the translation quality. Thus, besides the original context in Chinese, English is the only localization we did for Detention. And we intended to make it work out well. Luckily, our co-founder Vincent Yang is a English-Chinese bilingual. With Vincent taking the role to examine the translation quality, and communicate with the translator, we managed to release the English version that met the readability standard and close to the original context.

Case 1: Dialogue translation to fit the scenario

When translating one language to another language, one problem the translator might often encounters is that, there is no corresponding vocabulary that fits the original meaning. In the case of Detention, it is even harder to find the exact words in English. Thus, we decided not to do word-by-word translation but to focus on the atmosphere/emotions of the original script.

Old lady’s dialogue

In Detention, we created a character of an old lady that only speaks Taiwanese. Besides Chinese, Taiwanese is the most common dialect used in Taiwan. When translating her dialogue into English, our initial thought was to translate the dialogue to a specific English dialect. However, given that there are a wide variety of English dialects out there from different countries, it is relatively hard to pick up one that is universal to every player.

We then considered translating it into Old English but soon found out that it was a bad idea. When the first draft came out, none of our team member including Vincent could understand. The readability was simply too bad. Finally, we came up with the thought to reflect the ambience of the original context. So, here is our final result. Though it might not be the perfect translation, by making the English dialogue poetic, at least it provides a close approximation of the original context.

Stage play writing

In the third chapter of the game, as it gradually shifts to story-driven, more narration is needed to describe Ray’s feelings towards her family and lover. Thus, we decided to add a stage play in the gameplay. The stage play is written under the structure of modern Chinese poetry, which is relatively easy to translate compared to ancient Chinese poem. Yet, we did a bit of alternation for the English translation, adding emphasis in between lines to best connect players to Ray’s emotions.

This is the play describing the alcoholism problem of Ray’s father. Here, the original context “棕色的玻璃瓶/ brown bottle” is a metaphor of alcohol. When translating into English, in order to emphasize the cause of father’s alcoholism leading to Ray’s family falling apart, we translated and replaced this part with “A glass cup of nauseating color.” Additionally, it also points out Ray’s disgust feeling towards her father’s behavior.

Case 2: Making sense of oral conversation translation

In some cases, although the meaning of the translation is the same as the original context, it does not necessarily mean that it is a good translation. A good translation must also takes the original work’s setting and reader’s background into account. Considering Detention’s East Asian reference set in the 1960s, alternations was made in order for nowadays western players to better immerse in the game.

School term

When Wei and Ray went back to the classroom together, as a way to show respect to Ray, Wei called her by “學姊/female senior classmate”. In the Western world, schoolmates tend to call one another by the last name no matter the age difference. However, in Asian countries there are specific terms, for juniors and seniors to call each other, that cannot be found in English vocabulary.

For the first try of the English translation, “學姊” is translated as “Senpai”. Though the meaning is cohesive, this term is a borrowed word from Japan, and is not commonly used in English-speaking countries. Considering it is not a word that we say on daily basis, we decided to switch the word “Senpai” to “Miss.” A much common word that carries the meaning of respect.

Foul language

In some scenarios, as a way to show surprise, foul language like “靠/what the heck” slip from Wei’s mouth. At first, we intended to translated the word just as its original meaning. However, on the second thought, “what the heck” is more of a modern four-letter word. Unfortunately, it didn’t match the time of Detention’s setting. So, it’s then replaced by “What…!” , by adding the puntuation, it also highlighted Wei’s astonishment in a neutral way.

Case 3: Decision-making, to coin a word, use existing translation or convert into transliteration?

In Detention’s original script, it contains a great deal of vocabulary deriving from Taiwanese folk culture and local religion. Some of the words can be found in English, while others don’t, leading us having no choice but to create a new word in English. But then, more problems occurred – Shall we simply convert the word to transliteration based on the pronunciation? Or coin a word by its meaning?

Most of the time, we were faced with the decision-making dilemma whether to use the existing translation, adopt the transliteration or coin a word. After a period of struggle, we finally came up with a standard rule. To put ourselves in the player’s shoes, and pretend we knew nothing about Taiwanese culture. In this way, it helped us to better identify the strategy and tackle with the translation.

Existing translation

Before we decided whether to apply the existing translation to the game, we would ask ourselves, “Is the existing translation recognized by everyone out there?” We felt that as long as the existing translation is universally understood by the public regardless of the cultural background and languages, the players won’t have problem interpreting its meaning. Take buddhist practice as example, since its basic idea is widely-known to the world, vocabulary like “amitābha” and “diamond sutra” appear in the game dialogue without any alternation.

Coin a word

When playing through the game, the players often bump into the Lingered. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, its inspiration is a man-eater from Chinese folktale called “魍魎”, or known as “Mōryō” in English. In Detention, the existing translation is abandoned and replaced by a new word we created, for we want to make an impression that can be easily remembered. Comparing to “Mōryō” that may be hard to pronounce nor remembered for most of the players, we coined the word “the Lingered,” which is catchy and showcases the feature of the man-eater lingering around the human world.

Transliteration

Sometimes, when the word is too culturally unique, and there is not a suitable translation existing out there, nor is it easy to be depicted in a word or two, transliteration tend to be our last resolve. The feature of the transliteration is that its pronunciation is almost or exactly the same as the original word, so most of the case, it is impossible to understand the meaning of a transliteration word by reading it alone.

Despite that, for words carrying specific cultural meaning that cannot be replicated in other languages, we feel that it is best to convert it into transliteration word with additional explanation as supplement. For example, for “HeiBai Wuchang,” the journal is functioned as the supplement. With the illustration and description about “HeiBai Wuchang”, it helps players better understand its background as the death messengers in Chinese local belief.

In a nutshell

And here you go, this is all the errors and effort we did for the localization of Detention. Before developing the game, neither of us knew that there were so many details and thoughts to attend to. Throughout this journey, one big lesson we learnt is to consider how the players will react and to always put them in the first place. Each time when we felt that something went wrong, this reminder helped us to adjust the mistake to the right direction.

Later, once Detention is released, we received different kind of feedbacks from the players. Some players felt that the puzzle design is too simple and needs more thought into it. Also, native English speakers pointed out a few of the grammar errors in the text, and said that proofreading is needed. Nonetheless, we also received some positive feedback, saying that the English translation quality of the official launch version is much better than the demo version. Among all of the responses we got, there is one that touches us deeply. After playing Detention, a western player told us, “I’m glad that we don’t live in that time anymore.” This is exactly the response we look for from the player. We were happy that with Detention, the language and cultural barriers were broken, and that the message could be delivered to the players around the world.

As the first title of our studio, Detention marks as a fresh start for Red Candle Games. Though there’s still room for improvement, we feel blessed that we get to showcase our work to the public. And the feedbacks we got inspire us for the future projects. In the future, we will keep striving for the best, hopefully we could bring more immersive gaming experiences to the players.(source:gamasutra.com