Developer Diary: The Naming of Stuff - Operation Localize!
Etrian Odyssey isn't just old-school in its approach to gameplay-it presents certain old-school challenges for localizers. Back in the day, you may remember playing RPGs on your NES and casting HRM3 on a group of WzMummys. Well, for memory reasons, the Etrian Odyssey games have similarly strict character limitations on names.
Just as in the original Japanese game, we had a hard limit of 8 characters for player skills, enemy skills, and enemy names, and a generous 10 for item and equipment names. The hard part is that 8 characters in Japanese can give you weird & unreadable enemy names, which romanizes as "Fundo No Gankou-Nushi" and translates as the even lengthier "Owner of the Malicious Glare."
That's a lot to pack into 8 English letters. So in this case, we jettisoned the word "Owner" as being the least meaningful word in the name, and were left with "Malicious Glare." Casting about for some shorter synonyms for "malicious" gives us words like "evil" and "bad," which are both short enough to fit. But Evilglare and Badglare have that slightly clumsy air that went hand-in-hand with the old NES days, and we try to produce localizations more natural than that, even with character limits as tough as these.
With a little more thought, we settled on "ill" as a suitable modifier, and dubbed the FOE "Illgaze," substituting "gaze" for "glare" to avoid too many Ls in the name. Note that there are enough spaces to use "Ill Gaze," but we chose to omit the space to keep it consistent with the decided-on naming pattern of one-word entries with no middle caps, chosen to avoid awkward-looking abbreviations like WzMummy or GrOgre.
By a similar process, the 3-Headed Flying Pumpkin enemy becomes Trigourd, the Precision Shot skill becomes Snipe, and the Executioner's Axe weapon becomes the Beheader. Sometimes, some research is necessary to come up with an acceptable substitute. As you might have noticed if you played the first game, virtually every shield in the Etrian Odyssey series is called an Aspis, the ancient Greek term for a generic shield. This is because our convention for shields calls for two words with a space, but if we had gone with "X Shield," the word Shield and the space take up 7 of our 10 characters already... leaving us 3 letters for a word to distinguish all those shields from each other. By using "X Aspis" instead, we gave ourselves an all-important 4th letter, making the task difficult but no longer impossible.
Of course, research is often necessary when translating names in a Japanese RPG even without character limits. A lot of the equipment in Etrian Odyssey is named for real-world items, much of which is obscure, and finding correct spelling references isn't easy when reverse-transliterating the phonetic katakana alphabet. All the credit for historically accurate weapon names like the Katzbalger, Dainsleif, Caledfwlch, and Tshirovha goes to our diligent, thorough translation staff.
Apart from the historical references, there are also the ever-popular mythological references. I can't go into the one I found the most fascinating, since it's a spoiler, but there's another one that's worth going into. One of the characters you run into in the Labyrinth this time out is named Raishutsu in the Japanese version. The translators and I, always wary of cultural or mythological references, dug a little deeper, and discovered that the character's name was a likely allusion to Der Freischütz, a German folk tale and subject of an opera by Carl Maria von Weber.
To make the allusion clearer, we decided to have him self-identify as Der Freischütz when he spoke. But this meant we'd have to change his name to avoid calling him "Reischütz, Der Freischütz," so we did a little more research. Once we came across The Black Rider, Robert Wilson's modern-day retelling of von Weber's opera, we decided to call him Wilhelm after that version's protagonist.
So now when you meet Wilhelm in the game, you'll know a bit more of his behind-the-scenes backstory, which is only one of hundreds of such decisions made over the course of naming process in Etrian Odyssey II. If we do our jobs right, that process is invisible-but for those of you who have wondered, hopefully this answers any questions you might have had.
- Nich Maragos, project lead
Continuing one of the genre's purest experiences, this sequel builds upon the original cult classic with more diverse areas to explore, new character classes, more fiendish FOEs, and an improved mapping system.
Etrian Odyssey II boasts an all-star development team, led by director Shigeo Komori (scenario designer; Etrian Odyssey, Odin Sphere). Composer Yuzo Koshiro (The Revenge of Shinobi, Streets of Rage, Etrian Odyssey) returns for Heroes of Lagaard, in addition to character designer Yuji Himukai and monster designer Shin Nagasawa, who both worked on the original Etrian Odyssey.
In the Grand Duchy of High Lagaard, it is said that the Duke is descended from inhabitants of a castle in the sky. When an unforeseen crisis befalls the nation, it is decreed that the first explorer to retrieve the Grail of Kings from that mythical floating palace will be rewarded with wealth and fame beyond imagining. Enter the central city of Lagaard and begin your journey to the clouds!
- Make the adventure yours - Rediscover true role-playing as you build your party of stalwart adventurers from 12 different classes. From basics like name and sex to advanced settings like combat formation, skills, and spells, every detail is yours to customize!
- The Odyssey continues - Experience an all-new story, more classes, improved mapping capabilities, new Force Skills, and over 100 side-quests.
- Chart your progress through the dungeons - Etrian Odyssey's innovative mapmaking tool returns with more options and features! Use the touch screen to map out the halls, chambers, treasures, and dangers of the realms you explore.
The odyssey resumes June 17, 2008.
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