FFXIV Backstage Investigators (No. 9): Localization Team (Pt. 2)
Hello everyone, this is Hama from the Promotional team!
FFXIV Backstage Investigators is a blog series that shares behind-the-scenes stories from the team members who work on all aspects of FFXIV.
Continuing on from our previous blog, we're back to interviewing Paul, Pamela, and Odilon from the Localization team, who work on English, German, and French respectively!
Hama: Do you have a favorite part of the game that you worked on?
Paul: In the many years I've worked on FFXIV, I've had the pleasure of trying my hand at a little bit of nearly everything, from momentous dialogue moments in the main scenario to miscellaneous side quests delivering packages in Limsa Lominsa. If I had to pick a favorite─or perhaps most memorable─it would have to be the Great Serpent of Ronka quest line from Shadowbringers. And I'm not simply saying that because I fear the wriggly wrath of our serpentine overlord... A very close second is quests from the FFXI collaboration event, The Maiden's Rhapsody, as I have a soft spot for all things related to FFXI.
Pamela: Since I joined Square Enix right when the work on Shadowbringers kicked off, my very first content batch─the fisher quest with sweet Frithrik─will always have a special place in my heart. As a long-time player, it was incredibly exciting to step behind the proverbial curtain and be an active, creative part of the game myself.
** This answer contains Endwalker spoilers.**
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In Endwalker, I happened to be in charge of the beginning of the Final Days in Thavnair. The scene in Purusa is an especially vivid memory for me, when Matsya encourages the terrified crowd to pray. On the one hand, it was a unique challenge to adapt this prayer to a format that us Germans are familiar with, while weaving Thavnair's own principles of faith into it as well. It also had to be simple enough to be spontaneously recited by an array of different voices without losing any of its emotional impact. On the other hand, I will never forget how much that scene ended up affecting me as I was struggling to find the right words that had to bring hope into a moment of deepest despair.
** This answer contains Shadowbringers spoilers.**
Click to expand.
It's really hard to choose one specific moment. The latter part of the 5.3 MSQ really resonated with me, saying goodbye to your friends as you're leaving for a faraway land, not really knowing if or when you'll see them again, well it was strangely familiar. If I had to choose one quest, it would be "The Journey Continues." The scene with Seto was quite hard to get just right, to convey all the emotions while not overplaying them. I'm very satisfied with the result and the stellar performance by Michel Raimbault and Mathias Kozlowski. They took the text I translated to a whole other level.
Working on the MSQ is generally very rewarding. As a translator, you usually work with written words only, and having such a talented cast play the lines you've translated is always a pleasure to listen to. And when everything is assembled in game, it's quite magical.
Hama: Players often highlight the playful puns and references found in the localization. Could you tell us about how you come up with those?
Paul: When inserting linguistically specific humor or memes, we do so bearing in mind a number of rules that ensure we're being respectful to the writers' text, the FFXIV world, and our players.
For instance, we make a distinction between "in-world" text, as viewed by characters in the world of FFXIV, and "system" text as viewed by the players, as well as the tone and content of any given text in Japanese to make sure that humor is appropriate and won't cause important information or sentiments to be lost.
If a situation is ripe for humor (or at least a groan-inducing pun), the person translating or crosschecking will typically be inspired by the original text or the content itself, and something humorous will come to mind organically. If we desperately need a clever idea─for instance, when working on a minion with a Japanese name that doesn't translate well─we'll toss it out to the rest of the translators for brainstorming. Generally, though, we're not spending all day workshopping jokes. Alas!
Pamela: As mentioned before, there are many parts in the game where we are allowed to let our creativity run fairly free. When you decide to tackle item text, you approach the translation with a certain mindset─you just know that you're allowed to write more freely there. As such, we draw on our own humor and pop cultural knowledge, inserting it where it feels natural and funny to us. Not every pun or reference will resonate with everyone, but if you end up smirking at your text, there's surely a handful of players out there who share that particular brand of humor and will enjoy that particular quip.
Odilon: I don't believe that puns and humor are specific to the localized version, quite the contrary, the Japanese text also has its fair share of puns. Humor in general is one of the hardest things to translate. Even if the words are similar, what's funny in one language simply isn't in another. Most of the times, play on words use a language-specific attributes. For example, in Patch 5.2, you get to meet the Qitari tribe in the Rak'tika Greatwood. In Japanese, those quests all end with "tari", a grammatical tool that's used for enumeration. After trying and failing to find rhymes in "tari" in French, I finally named the first quest "Qui qui qui sont les Qitari ?" ("Who who who are the Qitari?"). It fit the theme of the quest, reuses a part of the word Qitari and icing on the cake, bears a strange resemblance to a famous cartoon opening in French.
FFXIV is filled with running gags, references to other games in the series and even other works of pop culture. While we try to stay faithful to the original version, when comedy is involved, our goal is more to convey the intent of the writer, to make people smile or smirk, and that often means some degree of adaptation.
Hama: What makes the job worthwhile for you?
Paul: The obvious answer would be when seeing player reactions to announcements for new game content or playing through it themselves, but there's a lot of fun to be had throughout the entire localization process. Collaborating with the other languages and the developers to breathe life into the game's world and characters is an experience I wouldn't trade for anything. Make no mistake─the job can be quite demanding, and even after all these years, I sometimes worry my work doesn't live up to the high standards we set for ourselves. But I have the good fortune of working with an incredibly talented team of people who all push each other to be better. I doubt I would be half the translator that I am had I worked elsewhere.
If anyone is interested in joining us in our localization endeavors, don't hesitate to send us an application!
Pamela: Personally, FINAL FANTASY XIV has been a part of my life for many years now─ever since beta phase two! It has been a motivator when my Japanese Studies classes seemed particularly taxing, and acts as one of my favorite havens on stressful days to this day. It is also where I forged bonds of long-lasting friendships. As such, I am aware that this game is more than just an MMORPG for a lot of people, me included. Being able to intertwine my love for creative writing with my passion for FFXIV still seems surreal sometimes, even after three and a half years.
Then there are the players, of course, our most prominent source of motivation. When I see everyone engaging with the story and its characters, sharing their thoughts, and excitedly expressing their anticipation for upcoming patches and expansions firsthand. Nothing warms the heart quite as much as knowing that your work contributes to that kind of joy and passion.
By the way: we are looking for reinforcements for our translation team. If you feel like you may be interested, do feel free to send us your application!
Odilon: Before working on FFXIV, I did a lot of technical and legal translation, where there is little to no feedback concerning your work. But when working on games, thanks to the popularity of streaming, we can get live feedback from our players. It's always incredibly gratifying to see people laugh or just react while playing the game. You get the satisfaction of having chosen the right words to deliver what the writer wanted to convey in the first place, erasing the boundary of a foreign language.
One more thing that is very specific to FFXIV is teamwork, and the feeling of camaraderie it conveys. People usually imagine translations being done by a lone worker tackling mountains of text, but given the scope of FFXIV, communication is paramount. As I explained before, within our own team, as we spend a good amount of time checking each other's work, but also with our colleagues from the English and German teams. We also exchange a lot with our QA team, the project management team and of course the developers. All in all, working on FFXIV involves a lot more discussion than people may think.
Which by the way, if you've read this article all the way up to this point, and feel like you'd like to join us, we are still recruiting Japanese to French translators. As the world of FFXIV is expanding so does our team need reinforcements! If you'd like to apply, please follow this link.
Hama: Last but not least, please tell us what you're looking forward to in the future or would like to convey to our Warriors of Light!
Paul: To both our green-leafed sprouts and veteran players, thank you so much for joining us on this FINAL FANTASY journey. The love and support the FFXIV community has shown us is more than we could have ever hoped for. I've had the honor and privilege of working with this team for nearly ten years now, and I very much look forward to another ten!
Pamela: What would FINAL FANTASY XIV be without the passion and creativity of the players? They inspire and motivate us every single day and are, after all, what makes this game really special. For this, a big thank you to all of you, both professionally and personally speaking. Those of you who play the game in other languages, I'd like to encourage you to give the German version a try as well. Maybe we'll manage to positively surprise you after all!
Odilon: Thanks for reading all the way here. I hope that your travels through Eorzea and beyond have been as pleasant as they were for us writing them. The passion that radiates from the FFXIV community is a big source of motivation for us, and pushes us to give our all and offer you the best experience possible. I'd like to encourage you to try the French dub as well, and its formidable cast of talented actors. Try it, you'll love it!
This interview has been a look into the Localization team's immense passion and zeal to convey the world of FFXIV in all of its vigor! It was also an uplifting reminder of how their efforts allow us to experience FFXIV alongside countless Warriors of Light around the globe!
A big thank you to our friends from the Localization team for joining us for this interview!
- Promotional team
Previous Editions of FFXIV Backstage Investigators
・ (No. 1): Main Scenario Writer Banri Oda
・ (No. 2): Lead Level Designer Arata Takahashi
・ (No. 3): Web Director Hiroyuki Takachi
・ (No. 4): Lead UI Artist Yoichi Seki
・ (No. 5): Character Concept Artist Hiroyuki Nagamine
・ (No. 6): Community Planner Takeshi Kato
・ (No. 7): Lead Technical Artist Tatsuya Okahisa
・ (No. 8): VFX Artist Takayasu Ishii
・ (No. 9): Localization Team (Pt. 1)