Video game Localization difficulties

Video game localization is a subject that’s constantly overlooked in the industry despite being the main reason why video games are so big these days. My digital artifact is a podcast that highlights the ins and outs of the localization industry. The main aim of this project is to inform and bring to light hidden or overlooked information about the industry.

The main reason I picked this topic to explore is because my goal is to one day join a localization team. There is so much talk regarding what it takes to be a game creator or how to become a game programmer but there is very little discussion regarding localization. To learn about the elusive industry, I took it upon myself to look into it. In doing so, I’ve learned much about it. The podcast is the fruits of my research.

As for why a podcast was chosen to be the medium of my digital artifact, it’s because simplicity. While the podcast itself is mostly composed of factual content, the use of audio allows for some jokes here and there. This is so it doesn’t become bland or boring as a result. Podcasts themselves are meant to be relaxing and left on in the background while the listener does something else. The digital artifact was made with that intention as well.

The most challenging part of a podcast is getting the volume levels right. Sadly because of limited resources, I wasn’t able to get the sound I wanted with the headset I used for recording. It was indeed a challenge but after tweaking with Audacity for a bit, I was able to get the audio to a decent level. In order to make sure the podcast was up to par for what I needed, I listened to various recordings of the podcast to see if I could listen to it over and over while doing work. With this method I was able to get the podcast quality to what I wanted.

In terms of how research was done, most of it was looking through a lot of academic journals for academic information and looking online. Information regarding an already rarely discussed topic was a challenge to find but thankfully useful information was found. Sadly due to my own tight schedule, I wasn’t able to get in contact with some people within the industry as their schedule didn’t align with mine. With that said however, the amount of information coming from various places I was able to bring in different perspectives and a lot of facts regarding localization.

Without further adieu:

NANOMACHINES, SON! (DIGC335 DA)

The digital artifact is a video analysis of the parallels the Metal Gear series has with real life. The whole theme stems from the question “Does Science Fiction inspire reality or is it the other way around?”. After doing some research myself, the answer is both. Science fiction can inspire new ideas to be replicated in real life. While on the other hand, ideas based on real life ideas can be put to practice within the universe of Science Fiction.

The original idea was to go with the limits of our technology while using Metal Gear Rising as the basis for this theme. Unfortunately, the idea didn’t go very far. This was due to not being able to make a solid enough video on the topic. There were some ideas to go with it, but ultimately it wouldn’t have been a meaty video.

Originally the video would focus on Metal Gear Rising while referencing other Metal Gear games however, as the project progressed this changed. This was due to the change in direction. The main question could be answered more easily if it took from all parts of the Metal Gear franchise as it has more examples to pick from.

The medium that was used for this Digital Artifact was of course, video. This was to use both the audio and visuals to create an engaging product. A simple podcast would require the person to do something else while listening and a report seems too bland. Video allows for more freedom when it comes to writing. While a report requires a formal tone, video can use comedy while giving facts. So it can contain useful information while at the same time being entertaining.

With that said however, video editing is a timely process. It requires a lot of time especially when animating images for a simple gag. Of course, a joke is not there to just use up time, the joke is used to lead into and/or relate to a factual point. Another issue that comes from the video medium is the upload time. Roughly a 8-9 minute HD video would take 3 hours to upload using my internet at home. On top of this, balancing audio levels takes much longer to do right. Sadly, due to mic quality the voice quality in the video suffered.

All in all, the final product came out well. The entire aim of the project was to inform people that Science Fiction isn’t necessarily that far off from our own reality.

Music used:

  1. Off to Osaka – Kevin Macleod
  2. Boss 2 – Final Fantasy IX OST
  3. It has to be this way – Metal Gear Rising OST
  4. Rules of Nature (Kazoo/Guitar) remix

Reference list:

  1. Sankalan Baidya. 2015. Viśpálā – The Legendary Warrior Queen From Rig Veda. [ONLINE] Available at: http://factslegend.org/vispala-the-legendary-warrior-queen-from-rig-veda/. [Accessed 24 May 2017].
  2. Boston Dynamics. 2017. Rhex Robot. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.bostondynamics.com/rhex. [Accessed 24 May 2017].
  3. CIA. 2008. Robert Fulton’s Skyhook and Operation Coldfeet. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/95unclass/Leary.html. [Accessed 24 May 2017].
  4. Victoria Turk. 2015. I Tried Out the ‘Rolls-Royce’ of Prosthetic Hands. [ONLINE] Available at: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/i-tried-out-the-rolls-royce-of-prosthetic-hands. [Accessed 24 May 2017].
  5. Jordan Pearson. 2015. Magnetic Nanoparticles Could Feed Drugs Straight Into Your Brain. [ONLINE] Available at: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/magnetic-nanoparticles-could-feed-drugs-straight-into-your-brain. [Accessed 26 May 2017].
  6. US patent 635501, J. A. Morath, “Agricultural Machine”, issued 1899-05-18 An early patent for an auger driven farm tractor. Available at: https://worldwide.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/biblio?CC=US&NR=635501&KC=&FT=E&locale=en_EP
  7. Greg Wade. 2005. Seeing things in a different light. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/devon/news_features/2005/eyeborg.shtml. [Accessed 26 May 2017].
  8. Miah, A M, 2008. The Medicalization of Cyberspace. 1st ed. London: Routledge.

Domination: Iron Fist play test results

The first play test of Domination: Iron Fist didn’t go the way I was expecting. This was because I spent a lot of time thinking about the game mechanics and how they blended with each other. Once I got together with a few friends I thought I had gone through everything but the feedback of the first test was interesting.

First play test feedback:

  • Players lose attention when it’s not their turn
  • HP for both player and avatar are too high
  • Map is too big for 4 players (20×20 grid)
  • Drawing 1 card per turn isn’t enough
  • Game speed is a little slow when it comes to movement phase
  • Catch up mechanic for low rolls is requested
  • People who choose to hold onto cards aren’t engaged enough in combat phase
  • Aggressive players punished too heavily if they fail to kill opponent early on

After tweaking the game by myself for a bit, I was surprised that players lost their attention at certain points in the game. Mainly when it wasn’t their turn and during combat if they wanted to play defensive. With all of this feedback in mind, I discussed with my friends how to fix or fine tune parts of my game. By the end of it we came up with:

  • 1 movement point is added for every roll under 3, these points can be stockpiled and added to a movement roll
  • Map size reduced from 20×20 grid to 14×12 grid
  • Draw Card mechanic revamp required
  • Waiting for a person to roll isn’t fun so everyone rolling and moving in real time would be better

After I went home I decided to tweak the game some more. The next weekend I was able to visit a friend’s house and play test the game once more. I added the “Reflection Chain” mechanic. Instead of an attack disappearing once a person defends, it’s reflected back to either the attacker or another player. It can be reflected an infinite amounts technically, but there’s not an infinite amount of cards so a player must take damage.

I also added safe zone spaces as a haven for people who don’t want to participate in a battle. It only works for 1 turn however and the player can never return to that specific safe zone.

Draw card spaces were added as well. When you land on a draw card space, roll for the amount of cards you draw.

Second play test feedback:

  • HP has been revised, but player HP is too low
  • Game favors aggressive play if 2 or more people are aggressive
  • Safe zones added to balance punishment for aggressive players
  • Map being reduced from 20×20 grid to 14×12 grid works
  • Draw card spaces are received well
  • Overall game speed is frantic

The game still needs a bit more tweaking but the game speed is where I want it, so play tests are a huge success!

Game Pitch (DIGC310)

The board game does not have a game yet however the focus is on strategy and resource management. The game itself is a competitive Player VS Player based game that can have up to 4 players playing at the same time. The game itself is inspired by Fire Emblem, a Strategy RPG, various card games such as Yugioh and Cardfight Vanguard. The game also takes some elements from the Mario Party series.

Players take control of an avatar which has 5 HP while the player has 10 HP which is separate from the avatar. The player and avatar are separate entities in this game. The victory condition is when there is one player left standing. Defending an opponent’s avatar or all of the opponent’s avatars does not grant a victory condition.

The game takes place on a grid based board with various spaces that grant different effects on players, both positive and negative. Movement throughout the board is also done through dice rolls. Currently the effects are still under development as there are some issues regarding balancing the board effects with card effects. An example of some planned spaces are; Space gives X amount of cards, space halves/doubles the next dice roll, prevents movement for one turn.

The main aspect of the game that has the most development so far is the combat system. The combat system combines elements from Fire Emblem’s weapon triangle and card elements from Cardfight Vanguard. There are three types of attacks; Power,  Skill and Speed. The triangle is as follows; Power (Red) > Skill (Green) > Speed (Blue) (Speed then beats Power). The attacks are then split into two categories which is melee and spells. These two categories will be explained in depth later in this post as it links to a different mechanic.

In order to keep the player’s movement constant, there will be various safe zone spaces spread throughout the board. These safe zone spaces allow players to avoid participating in combat. So for example if a person is low on player HP and cards, these safe zones can protect the player. However, these spaces only have a one time use. Once a player enters a safe zone once and a turn ends, that safe zone can no longer be used.

Combat occurs when one of two conditions are met which are:

  1. All players have moved in a single turn
  2. When a player’s avatar is one space away from another avatar

With the first condition, all players become involved in combat and any one can be targeted by any player regardless of location on the board. If the second condition is met then combat is initiated and only those two are involved, no other players can intervene. Combat is done in turns and in each player’s turn, players can use all cards within their possession. Attacking in these combat scenarios is not required either. A player can choose to hold onto all their cards and only defend.

Each attack uses up a single card within a player’s possession. Each card is marked either with red, green or blue to indicate what kind of attack the card deals. It is through these cards that influences what kind of attacks a player can use against their opponents. In order to defend against these attacks the player on the receiving must have a card that is stronger than their opponent. E.g. X attacks Y with red but Y uses blue to negate the attack. If an attack is successfully negated neither party takes damage, however the player adjacent to the one who defended will now take the damage. However they too can negate the attack just as the previous player did. This mechanic causes a chain reaction possibly involving all players.

As mentioned earlier there are melee and spell cards. Melee cards can only be used against avatars while spell cards can be used to attack the player directly. The reward for taking down an avatar is taking all the cards in the “graveyard”. The graveyard is a space on the board where all used cards go to and all cards have a one time use. This graveyard mechanic effectively becomes a valuable way of getting ahead of the competition IF people have been using cards.

As mentioned earlier, the focus is on strategy and resource management. The resource management factor comes from combat with other players but there is also a mechanic with the turn limit. Currently the turn limit is being tested and making sure it’s balanced with the rest of the game. On the final turn of the game, all players must use up all their cards and the winner is effectively decided then and there.

The “Rising” of Technology (Part 2)

Metal Gear Rising Revengence is set in the year 2018 which isn’t that far from our current year. As mentioned previously, Rising is known for it’s ridiculous and almost campy style of action. However the Metal Gear series has been known to take already existing technology and apply it with some tweaks in the Metal Gear universe, Rising is no different.

In Metal Gear Solid 3, the Shagohod is a variant based on the real life Russian tank, Shnekohod. The Shnekohod is a screw-propelled tank that’s able to go on snow and swamp terrains. The whole concept of the Shagohod mimics that of the Shnekohod, a tank that will go anywhere.

The evolution of the Shagohod in Metal Gear Solid, is Metal Gear Rex. The main evolution was that it had legs as opposed to being a screw propelled tank. While there is currently no real life version of Metal Gear Rex, there has been some development regarding a tank with legs, the RHex robot. There is some interest in the whole concept of a tank with legs.

“The Army Rapid Equiping Force has already bought four to use in Afghanistan, particularly to climb in and out of ditches and culverts where insurgents love to hide roadside bombs but where the wheel-driven robots used by most bomb squads cannot go.” – Sydney J. Freedberg JR.

Another example of Metal Gear technology already existing in real life is the Fulton surface-to-air recovery system from Metal Gear Solid 5. The Fulton system is used by the CIA, United States Air Force and United States Navy to recover ground operatives through the use of an aircraft. According to the official CIA website:

“Fulton first used instrumented dummies as he prepared for a live pickup. He next used a pig, as pigs have nervous systems close to humans. Lifted off the ground, the pig began to spin as it flew through the air at 125 mph. It arrived on board undamaged but in a disoriented state. Once it recovered, it attacked the crew.” – CIA

A prominent example of futuristic technology present in Metal Gear Rising are prosthetic limbs, or rather bodies. Prosthetic limbs themselves aren’t exactly new in this day and age. The earliest form of a prosthetic limb is a false foot believed to be roughly 3000 years old. The whole concept of upgrading your body through prosthetic limbs isn’t that far off either. While the main protagonist of Metal Gear Rising, Raiden is able to fight giant machines and has crazy fast reflexes, real life prosthetic limbs such as the Bebonic hand comes with some enhancements that are useful for self defense. As stated in this article:

“The hand may be impressively lightweight and streamlined, but it can pack a punch. Wallace explained that they have to make the fingers stronger than human fingers owing to the lack of biofeedback. While you’d never lean your entire weight on your little finger—it’d hurt—you could put a lot more pressure on the prosthetic without realising it.” – Kevin Evison
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The main piece of technology that’s responsible for all the crazy and insane stunts pulled off in Metal Gear Rising is nanomachines. Nanomachines in Metal Gear Rising is the source of all the powers the characters have. In real life however rather than having a combat-focused function, they’re used for medicinal purposes. While still very early in the development stage, the possibility of using nano-particles to feed medicine into a person’s brain is being explored. These nano-particles can also be remote controlled to guide the nano-particle to it’s destination. As stated in this Motherboard article the nano-particles can be used to fight brain tumors. “With magnetic heating of magnetic nanoparticles that are attached to the BBB, we can evaluate the efficacy of orally administered chemotherapeutic drugs such as temozolomide on this tumor.”

Despite how detached the Metal Gear series can be from reality, there is a surprising amount of technology that’s achievable in our current day and age. Although not to the insane level of taking down colossal war machines, not yet at least.

Flash Point Fire Rescue analysis

Flash Point: Fire Rescue is a cooperative board game in which you and other fire fighters work together to save civilians and put out the fire before all civilians die or the building collapses. Before getting into the mechanics, a little background check for the game.

Flash Point started out as a Kickstarter project with a pledge goal of $5000. The final amount ended up being $51,398 from 891 backers. So it’s safe to say the Kickstarter was a huge success. The Kickstarter campaign boasted a few points on what made Flash Point worth pledging money for and they are:

Easy to learn: The creator of the game, Kevin Lanzing points out how the rules of the game are so simple that his five year old son can play the game just fine.

True to life: In this point Kevin mentions how limitless the possibilities are with the game as the “experienced” game mode is very realistic due to the amount of mechanics at play. The various mechanics within the game make it feel very realistic as if it feels like “fighting a real fire”

Fun to play: Kevin emphasizes that while the goal is to win and beat the game, difficulty had to be balanced correctly to make the victory feel worth it. In this point, the various difficulty modes are mentioned to emphasize that any one regardless of skill level can enjoy the game to it’s fullest

A great gift: Travis mentions that while he likes video games he also loves board games. In this point he mentions the appeal of sitting around a table with friends and playing the game.

 

flash_point_fire_rescue_board_game_cover

Flash Point Fire Rescue cover

With all of that in mind, let’s go into the mechanics and see how they effect the game. As someone who rarely plays board games and has limited experience with them, Flash Point was definitely a unique experience. Despite the Kickstarter advertising how the game had easy to learn rules, I had some difficulty learning them. Of course, this is coming from someone essentially completely new to board games outside of Monopoly. Learning them took a while however once things got going, they went fast.

 

Unlike monopoly, going through your own turn is quick. This is due to the limited amount of action points a person has per turn which is 4. Most things take up 1 point but there are occasions where spending 2 is absolutely necessary. For example, putting out a fire isn’t as simple as using up 1 point to put it out. 1 point is required to turn the fire into smoke and then 1 more point to completely put out the fire. The limited action points help keeps turn quick.

Another factor that keep turns quick is how the game is cooperative and other player’s actions can affect yourself. This is a huge contrast to Seasons by Régis Bonnessée where the focus on building your own things and rarely will you interact with other players. Instead of finishing your turn and waiting for your next turn, in Flash Point one player’s actions could completely change your own situation.

As fast as the player turns go, the system itself moves just as fast if not faster. See, as mentioned earlier the goal is to save civilians and put out fires before the building collapses. Just like in real life, fires spread at an alarming speed. Aside from the fires placed before the game begins, smoke is placed on any of the grids at the end of a players turn along with a civilian (with the possibility of it not being a civilian). If two smoke coins are next to each other, one smoke coin is replaced with a fire coin while the smoke coin is taken out. On top of this, if a smoke coin is placed on top of a fire coin, it causes an explosion. This explosion places fire coins around the place of origin and damages walls if the wall is close enough.

Despite being a board game, with all of these mechanics in place it moves the game along very quickly. On top of this, the cooperative aspect keeps everyone engaged at all times so everyone is keeping an eye out for any major changes all the time. As someone who’s currently in the middle of designing their own board game these mechanics are ones that I would like to take and tweak for my own game.