Captain’s Log #12 – Translation

This is an archived Kickstarter update, originally only available to Nelly’s Backers:

Ahoy Stranger!

I’m sorry it’s been so many weeks since my last update. We have been quite pre-occupied in the wake of the Steam Greenlight Campaign, Gamescom Cologne and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It’s high time I let you know what we’ve been up to.

Character Animations

Alex at ASH has is currently constructing a robust point-and-click interface using Unity 3D – one which is designed to work flexibly across different platforms and resolutions. There is still work to be done to streamline the gameplay and polish and refine the aesthetics, but we’ve reached the stage of incorporating animation assets into the HD locations.

Commodore LXIV

This means that characters I’ve animated are now coming to life throughout the game: walking, talking, lighting candles…

Harbour Master Van Zandt

…and in some cases, doing a strange dance.

El Mono

The benefits of working in Unity 3D really become apparent when we see beautifully smooth parallax effects, subtle lighting and vignetting creating more depth and atmosphere in the locations.

Translation has begun!

Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet has around 4600 lines of spoken dialogue which will be translated into German, Spanish, Italian & French. The big challenges here are context and comedic value. All right, ‘comedy’ may be too strong a term for puns, wordplay and allusions, but it’s important for the tone of the writing to be preserved and the wordplay adapted accordingly. Context is more important still. I suspect we’ve all played adventure games where poor translation rendered puzzles more frustrating than they were intended to be.

Parenthetically, my pet-niggle is games like Secret Files: Tunguska that don’t distinguish between ‘closed’ and ‘locked’ because of a quirk in translating from German to English. The Secret of Monkey Island‘s Monkey Wrench is probably the most infamous untranslatable puzzle. (Incidentally, it doesn’t work in Britain either because we call monkey wrenches ‘spanners’.)

YOU: What’s that!? Is he using brackets within a paragraph that started “Parenthetically”? This boy’s on fire!

So, how are we going to deal with the pitfalls of translation? As we go through the script, we are compiling a translators’ guide: contextualising lines and breaking down jokes where necessary. This means that silly off-hand gags I found funny a year ago now have to be explained in much more detail than they deserve. But it’s all good news if it makes the game more enjoyable for our European Backers.

Play Expo

ASH will be attending Manchester’s Play Expo on the 11th and 12th of October, and I hope to be joining them for one or more of those days. I’m not sure if we have any Mancunian backers, but if we do it would be lovely to see you.

Until October!

– Alasdair

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