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Welcome Back to the West
By oneshotstop
Posted on 08/01/16
The only thing that stops the dust is the rain. It’s a sweet reprieve, but there is no middle ground. The land is either as dry as the Betty Ford clinic, or as wet as the ocean floor. Everything can be seen from the ridge overlooking Armadillo as John Marston gently bounces along atop...

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On Translation and Consumer Rights
Posted on Saturday, February 27 2016 @ 07:49:19 PST

Translation is inherently dicey.  In the 13th century Dante Alighieri warned against even trying to translate his Commedia out of its native Italian because it was impossible to reproduce the original meter and rhyme scheme.  As I sit here I have physical proof of that - a translation by another luminous poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, cannot reconstruct either one properly so it aims for the spirit rather than the letter of the original.  In other fields, such as philosophy, translation is even dicier yet, especially with more ancient works such as the collected works of Aristotle and Plato or even more recently the writing of Thomas Aquinas.  Aquinas, as well, wrote in a time when such a thing as a 'common reader' was known and could be assumed to be holding the book, providing helpful context to both reader and writer.

What concerns our attention today is neither the difficulty of archaic language, the exactitude of poetry, nor the difficulty of abstruse technical literature.  We're dealing with a translation and presentation which simply didn't care to even try to be faithful to the original work or represent it well.  This is not the creative porting of Ted Woolsey, who was constrained by various limitations when working on early Nintendo games and had to get around them by taking a bit of editorial license.  Woolsey's contributions sometimes improved the scripts to such an extent that they're still reproduced today.  Look no further than Tellah's line from Final Fantasy IV, "You Spoony Bard!" which features in pretty much every translation of the game's script even though it's not in the Japanese original.  What we're looking at is Treehouse, Nintendo of America's in-house translation department, and one justified reaction to the backlash surrounding their increasingly questionable work.

The spark, of course, was Fire Emblem: Fates, where whole conversations are simply dropped, characters are effectively rewritten, features were cut, and it was clear the localization department did a lot more than 'localize' - they appointed themselves editor of the game's content.

Jeff Gerstmann, of Kane & Lynch fame, made a rather flippant comment which attracted some justified hostility.  Twitter is, after all, a lousy medium for nuance.  After the storm came a follow-up post on his personal blog at some more length on the subject of bad translation.  While the reaction to his initial statement was justified - Treehouse should be doing their job, Japanese is an especially difficult language to learn, much like hardliners in the Linux community refuse to understand that most users simply don't want to develop that mastery because the opportunity costs are too high, etc. - his longer post allows for some nuance and consideration.  I'd like to hone in on two specific points.  He suggests finding a way to hurt Nintendo in its wallet.  If reaction to the quality of their work is poor enough that it starts losing them money you can bet at the very least reprimands, restaffing, and new guidelines will be forthcoming in the wake of that.  It would take a long time but if there's no other way to convince NoA that their translators are doing a poor job then that's that.  It has to be done by those passionate about the issue or at least with their direct support.

There is one statement to which I must take severe exception:

"Money talks. Hunting down individual Nintendo employees on social media doesn’t."

I'd love it if this were true but it's not.  This kind of targeted hounding can force direct responses faster than letter writing campaigns, boycotts, seeking out alternatives or even conventional protest.  I'm not saying it's right.  I'm just saying it works.  There's a reason the phrase 'social justice warrior' is a thing and it means something ordinary people understand.  It's been a useful method for activists whose enthusiasm makes up for their lack of common decency.  To act like they haven't gotten some of the things they've wanted, particularly a narcissistic high derived from a feeling of unwarranted power by making perceived important people grovel and beg forgiveness from them for transgressions they define, is to close one's eyes to recent history.



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A Couple News Items
Posted on Thursday, February 18 2016 @ 09:36:32 PST

As reported yesterday by GamesIndustry.biz, Warren Spector has left his academic post to join OtherSide Entertainment full time to work on Underworld Ascendant and System Shock 3.  As mentioned in previous coverage of OtherSide and System Shock 3, sounds of seraphic choirs chanting the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah are completely coincidental and in no way related whatsoever.  Present author's enthusiasm for these projects has gone from 'moderately excessive' to 'absurdly jubilant' upon hearing the news.

In other news the Khronos group announced on Tuesday that they have officially launched the new Vulkan API which aspires to nothing less than an open-source multiplatform API which will replace OpenGL and Mantle and compete directly with DirectX 12.  As it's not beholden to a particular OS or body of hardware everyone can use it and leading industry hardware vendors have cooperated towards its adoption.  It appears quite promising, so much so that AMD abandoned work on their proprietary Mantle API to support it.



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Bethesda Announces DLC Release Plans
Posted on Tuesday, February 16 2016 @ 09:58:32 PST

Fallout 4 came out 3 months ago with no definite word on when DLC would be coming along, making the season pass rather like buying a pig in a bag.  As of today, February 16, the wall of silence has dropped and three planned DLCs have been announced.  On Bethesda's announcement page we see the three DLC packages slated for releases in March, April, and May.

Automatron, set to release in March, sounds like it takes some cues from Morrowind's Tribunal expansion and Oblivion's Knights of the Nine DLC in that their content is seeded into the base game rather than adding new areas.  Judging by the name the antagonist is probably a woman/evil female sounding AI.  It will be priced at ten dollars.

Wasteland Workshop is Hearthfire 2.0, right down to the price; $5.  Its release is set for April and it's centered around embellishing existing systems rather than anything altogether new.

Far Harbor priced at $25 is set up as a spiritual successor to Point Lookout, Dragonborn and Shivering Isles.  It centers around a separate world space as those did with its own quest lines, factions and content.  It's touted to be the largest expansion area they've ever built and also promises additional equipment.

Further below is a rather curious announcement which I'll reproduce in full to save anyone who doesn't want to the trouble of clicking through to Bethesda:

"Given the expanded DLC plan, the price of the season pass will increase from the current $29.99 to $49.99 USD (£24.99 to £39.99 GBP; $49.95 to $79.95 AUD) on March 1, 2016. However, if you already purchased the season pass for $29.99, nothing changes - you still get everything at no additional cost— the full $60 offering of add-on content for the original price of $29.99."

This is a curious announcement.  On the one hand it's a little strange - why jack up the price now?  Were the yet-unannounced DLC plans held hostage to Fallout 4's sales numbers and since those have come back solid they'll have ground to work on them and justify the increased purchase price?  Whatever the reason there it is.  If anyone wants everything they plan to put out for the game at $30 they must fork it over before any of it is released and before the remaining DLC is announced.  On the other, this is still less sleazy than, say, Borderlands 2's DLC program which has rendered the game a jigsaw puzzle of multiple paywalls and it is still impossible to get all of that game's content with a single purchase.

At the end of the post is a reminder that yes, Virginia, the GECK will come out eventually and they are also working on an update to make Survival Mode a more nuanced option than a higher difficulty setting and are both apparently in testing now.



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Reviewing a Bad Editorial
Posted on Friday, February 12 2016 @ 15:27:51 PST

One thing which continues to mystify me to this day is editorialists, ostensibly knowledgeable about video games and gamer culture, going to bat for Ninja Theory's ill-fated reboot of Devil May Cry.  It's not just that they're openly...   read more...

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October 18, 2005: The Day the Guns Went Quiet
Posted on Tuesday, February 9 2016 @ 19:33:45 PST

    The first person shooter genre has been in commercial and artistic near-freefall for a decade.  They were always a niche genre, even if they tended to draw disproportionate publicity, but now the number of actual releases per ...   read more...

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What Fallout 4 Got Right, and Wrong
Posted on Saturday, January 23 2016 @ 19:39:27 PST

Introduction
Fallout 4 is a mixed bag.  If I were reviewing it I would give it a C, perhaps a C+, and move on.  I never ran out of interest in either a Bethesda title or a Fallout game as quickly as I did Fallout 4 even when Fall...   read more...

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System Shock 3 Teased
Posted on Tuesday, December 8 2015 @ 09:33:19 PST

Otherside Entertainment, a studio currently working on a crowdfunded revival of the Ultima Underworld series, has teased System Shock 3.

http://www.othersidetease.com/strawberry.php

Sounds of cherub choirs singing Handel...   read more...

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Tim Cain Discussing the First Fallout
Posted on Monday, October 26 2015 @ 11:36:43 PST

At GDC 2012 Tim Cain, who played what is inarguably the single most important role in seeing Fallout into existence, gave a lengthy talk about the game's inception and development, followed by a Q&A session.  Watch it here.

...   read more...

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Fallout 4 Gone Gold
Posted on Friday, October 23 2015 @ 11:53:06 PST

Via their twitter feed, Bethesda have announced that Fallout 4 has officially gone gold.  It will be on store shelves/available for digital purchase on November 10.

Earlier Bethesda released the system requirements but the page co...   read more...

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John 'Total Biscuit' Bain Suffers Relapse
Posted on Thursday, October 15 2015 @ 11:05:42 PST

I don't have to introduce Total Biscuit.  You know who he is.  I respect his work but admit I know it half as well as I should like.

In a Twitlonger post today he revealed that his cancer has relapsed and he's been gi...   read more...

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