Thoughts on a Game Fan Translation Structure...
  • So, when I'm not working on Tenra Bansho, I'm flipping through the light but solid classic fantasy reimagined game, Sword World 2.0. I want to eventually translate this enough to be able to play it, up to the levels in the core book (1-6). Then, what the hey, offer the translation to friends that want to play.

    That's a bit of work, though.

    I was kind of going through some ways to help reduce the physical costs of translation: In other words, make some cold hard cash that I can apply like a *Shippu* to the sore muscles in my neck from all the PC-work.

    One thought I had was this: In the game, you make characters by combining various classes (Grappler 2/Sage 1; Fey Tamer 1/Sorcerer 1/Fencer 1; etc). You can theoretically begin with a "level 3" in a class, but practically it's pretty impossible, level 2 is the highest for the "Major Classes" (Fighter, All magic-users, etc; "Minor Classes" are the sub-classes of Fencer, Shooter, Sage, Ranger and Scout).

    Then it hit me. I could do something like this:

    1) Buy a bunch of copies of the game. If you want to play Sword World, your gaming group must own at least one copy of the rulebook. That's the Laaaaaaaaw. No book, no copy of the rules. If I don't do that and charge money for my translation to people who don't have the book, I'm stealing from Group SNE. If I decide to do it all for free and give away translations, that's morally less gray, but I simply won't ever be motivated enough to do it, ever, thus it won't happen. Dilemma.

    Anyway, continuing. You've bought a copy of the book for your group. You can't read moonspeak, so it's mostly a display item. Costing $10USD plus a few bucks for shipping.

    2) My translation comes with all the races, classes, all the basic rules, setting, weapons tables, character sheet, etc, but in completely simple detail, focusing more on the "rules bits" than the bits on things like "How to GM", etc. Because honestly, if you've come this far, you know what RPGs are. No need for that.

    3) The classes in the book have abilities (read: Magic) listed from levels 1-6. As explained above, you can create a character up to level 2 in a magic-using class (theoretically 3 for non-magic classes, but no one would do that). So what I do is, I translate all the magic abilities up to level 3 for all the magic classes: Sorcerer, Conjurer, Priest, Fey Tamer, Magitech, etc; but not 4-6. I translate all the combat abilities for the B-grade weapons, but not A-grade weapons (you can take an A-grade weapon buy buying it with kind of a D&D-like Feat) for the fighting classes. So this will let you play the game, and even gain one level before you hit a wall.

    4) Then, I translate the magic using abilities 4-6 for each class in a separate document (each), as well as the A-grade weapons.

    5) Players, when they create their character, decide which Major Class they want. Then, they basically (either themselves, or preferably through their GM) pay $5 to get the "unlock" for your character. So, I basically see it like, this:
    GM emails me, says "We're playing Sword World. I bought a copy of the game already. In my group we have a Magitech, Priest, and Sorcerer. Here's $15". And I'd basically email them the rules packets for the Magitech, Priest and Sorcerer abilities. I figure $5 per player is a totally fine minimum investment to play a game, either for one session or an extended campaign even.

    6) And a caveat of something like, "If you buy 4 packets (or just flat-out spend $20) then you'll get ALL the data of ALL the classes, so you can pretty much play indefinitely.

    7) Only thing is, at that point the investment is already about $33 total: $13 for the game plus shipping plus the free translation, plus $5 per person for four packets (which gives all the data). Still, when considering the per-player cost, it totally works out.

    Thoughts? I think something like this would both be morally white (cause you have to buy a copy to play anyway), and rewards me for the time spent translating. The micropayment system I think would work, since there's only about 10 groups out there that would be maniac enough to play this cool J-RPG anyway.

    Just a thought for something like Sword World. For a larger/more complicated game like Alshard ff, I'd want to try a GroupSource method (several translators tackle one section each), where everyone works absolutely for free, and the translation costs no money.
  • What kind of time table are you going to be able to start this?
  • Posted By: Mark CauseyWhat kind of time table are you going to be able to start this?


    Not soon. It'll be a few months before I begin. I've been idly reading the book myself, taking some notes, making characters, scribbling pet names for various Japanse-ish fantasy terms that pop up, etc. But I've got other projects to complete first.

    This is more of my thoughts on a plan that would benefit the original company, folks who want to try the game, as well as the translator who makes it happen.
  • Does the game book have any pictures or diagrams? How much is text?

    I mean, if my group has to buy it to play it, what are we getting with the book? Could we talk to the SW people and see about buying a PDF of the same cost as the book with something we could use, like only diagrams or character sheets and some pretty pictures?
  • Posted By: Mark CauseyDoes the game book have any pictures or diagrams? How much is text?

    The artwork in SW 2.0 is minimal. There's an illo for each character archetype, and a handful more scattered here and there, but it's mostly text.
  • >>Does the game book have any pictures or diagrams?

    Very, very few. Just one illo to demonstrate each race type, one for equipment, and a few monsters.

    >>How much is text?

    Most all of it is text.

    >>I mean, if my group has to buy it to play it, what are we getting with the book?

    1) The ability to play the game. I don't want to give away the game (which isn't mine) and yet still charge for my translation. That's not right, IMO. Doing it all for free and encouraging people to buy the original to get the art and stuff, that'd be ok. But if I do it for free by myself, I know I'd never finish it in a form that others could play. :-)

    2) But mostly, it's just a show of support for the game. Buy the game, you get to play it.

    >>Could we talk to the SW people and see about buying a PDF of the same cost as the book with something we could use, like only diagrams or character sheets and some pretty pictures?

    Well, I'd rather keep it unofficial, and promote sales of the book even in Japan. Also, Group SNE doesn't do PDF versions of their games (most studios do not, it's just not big in Japan).

    -Andy
  • Well, you know I'll buy in. Will you be buying the books and sending them out when people order, or do they have to show proof of purchase somehow?
  • Andy,

    Your offer is perfect for me : it happens that I've just ordered SW 2.0 but my japanese skill is still pretty fresh. Besides, I am currently concentrating on understanding ryuutama.

    But, with the translation level you offer plus the few things I can understand on my own, I could realy kick start a game.

    So you can count me in.

    Antoine
  • "morally white" is an odd way to put it, since you're still infringing on copyright; while i'm sure almost no translator of japanese needs to be briefed on the legal issues of translation (given the now decades-long history of the culture of illegal translation/distribution of japanese media), ethically i would still argue that charging anything is still rather questionable.

    if you're going to break the law based on a philosophy of free dissemination of information (this being more or less the primary basis for the majority of unlicensed translations), why charge people for it? the way your proposed payment system is structured, you would probably even be making more money off your theft of group SNE's property than they would make from your method of making sure that people at least have legitimate copies of their books.

    i would of course LOVE a translation of SW2.0 (and it's been my current translating focus since those terrible tokyopop scrapped princess novels left me disheartened with my last project), but i know that i would always rather steal from a thief than buy from one.
  • Yet at that stage how is it different than charging in the early days of Fansubbing. It didn't go to profits per say, but rather the costs or production.
  • Fansubbing is such a gong show though. Early fansubbers did (and still do) some pretty questionable things. Even though you can claim production costs and such, you are still drawing in money to yourself instead of filtering money to the creator. Even offering the product for free is completely questionable. I used to work for a medium sized Anime convention until recently (left because of my pending Japan trip). Even when being very careful, we knew that everything we did was shifty and probably very illegal (and we are one of the better ones).

    It's a curious dilemma indeed. I'm curious about tackling some translation work post-degree (possibly even some gaming material). I too have been really curious about how the whole thing works. I'm aware of a few gaming companies States side that take new products and prototyped games. I suppose with some deft negotiation, you could arrange an official licenced translation. Failing that, you could always try to do a licenced product adapted to another game like Savage Worlds or GURPS (like a setting book. Not sure how appealing that would be though).
  • Thanks for the feedback: It's exactly what I was looking for, a "hockey-check", a different point of view, etc.

    Posted By: yugami"morally white" is an odd way to put it, since you're still infringing on copyright


    So here's the thing: I care about creator's rights, I care about getting money in the hands of the hardworking people who make the product come to life, and I also care about spreading the media far and wide. To me, copyright sometimes gets in the way of one or all the above, so I don't consider it at all.

    My model for what I'm thinking of comes more from the doujin society than anything else. Basically, the world's largest bi-yearly comic convention is a 200,000+ thousand person-a-day copyright infringement. But it pretty much benefits everyone, all the way up to the creators of the manga whose characters find themselves in pornographic indie pieces.

    One angle I didn't think of that I also want to take as a model, which you guys brought up well, is the whole anime fansubbing community. What they're doing is technically violating copyright, and probably illegal. No one really bothers with it that much, because the community is self policiing in one regard: They don't sell their product (at least these days), and when the product is picked up by a real studio officially, they drop their material and delete it from major sharing sites. Every DVD boxed set of anime I own, I originally watched the fansubs first and all that.

    This is the clincher, though, and thanks for bringing it up:

    Posted By: yugamiyou would probably even be making more money off your theft of group SNE's property than they would make from your method of making sure that people at least have legitimate copies of their books.


    Yeah, you're right there. Hmmm, and that doesn't stand up right to me.

    What I intend, in the end, is to basically do the following:
    * A fan translation of the game, very roughly.
    * Disseminate it to interested folks.
    * In every way possibly encourage them to buy a copy of the original product to support the original company (in this case, especially, since it's a $10 game).

    But yeah, my points on wanting to collect money for my effort... It doesn't seem so morally clean now. Of course, there's the fact that a single anime episode script, or manga chapter, has the dialogue of about 2-3 written pagess of Japanese text usually. But yeah, if I want guaranteed money for my efforts, I agree that the correct thing to do would be to contact the original company and license it.

    So having said that, I'm totally going to step back from that, and come again with a simple, free, rough translation (it will take longer, but in the end be In The Right in my eyes).
  • Posted By: ScooterinABIt's a curious dilemma indeed.


    Yeah. Fansubbing is one thing, because doing it right, providing simple Amazon links and the like, will encourage people to go buy the original work. Back when I fansubbed the manga Blade of the Immortal living in Japan, folks would regularly ask me to pick up the original Japanese manga set for them and all.

    I'm wondering, though, with RPGs (since honestly, it's a much smaller business) if there can be a way to fansub something and release it in a way that outright requires people to buy a copy of the original work... Hmmm.

    Posted By: ScooterinABFailing that, you could always try to do a licenced product adapted to another game like Savage Worlds or GURPS (like a setting book. Not sure how appealing that would be though).


    Blah, setting alone wouldn't be worth it for me. There's so little in the SW2.0 books, and in the end it was the combination of rules, plus in some cases the setting. And in the end, it'd be easier to write my own setting from scratch than translate an existing one. But yeah, point taken.

    Also, since other folks seem interested, maybe we could think about doing a group-sourced small translation effort or something. Hit me up in whispers if you'd be interested in helping out (you'd need to buy a copy of the game if you didn't have one already).
  • Here's another possible way that could allow you to bend the moral code. Note this is a random thought process.

    Andy, you have stated previously that you have met the author of SW2.0. So that a simple can I for "fan sake" may be a handshake ok.

    Then instead of selling the translation, rather build an organization with a pay membership and then as a "benefit" members can access the translation for "free."

    Just an idea. I promise I haven't been drinking either.
  • Join the Andyk-kun JRPG Club and your membership dues keep the website going. Part of the website's content is excerpts from the game translated.

    Is that what you mean?
  • yea though it sounded more like an organization than a club in my head :)
  • I just wanted to say that I received my SW2.0 (the first book only). Physicaly, it's a nice product. I love to have it in my pocket. I'd love to have such a book for the other games I play.

    For now, I can't tell more about the content of the game because, like I said, I am a beginner and I am focusing on Ryuutama.

    To follow on the discussion, I also wanted to say that when I finish some doc with the bits you realy need to play Ryuutama, I'll probably find a way to get it to people too. Like, get it for free if you send me a photo of you with your book open on a certain page or something like that.

    And also, one day, when I am a big boy (= able to read japanese fluently), I'd love to be part of an international free fan translation brigade. But that's not for now :)

    Best,
    Antoine
  • What if you post translations to all of the text and effects of the game, but post none of the numbers and stats that come with the book? =3

    Anyone who owns the product will have no trouble looking up and reading numbers. And, you can't just make up numbers for the translations and hope the game balances right; it'll fail miserably without the book.

    This is how I plan to release translated bits of Night Wizard 2nd (which are already underway!!). I'd assume that it'd work for most J-RPGs. I wouldn't disagree with also applying membership fees for translations, but I'd want to ensure the game makers get money out of this somehow, and that requires the books be bought.

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