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Thread: Inside Gaming - Interview with Former Square Enix Translator Tom Slattery

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    Ysy St. Administrator Macstorm's Avatar
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    Inside Gaming - Interview with Former Square Enix Translator Tom Slattery

    We go inside the Japanese-to-English translation process with former Square Enix translator Tom Slattery. Expect lots of Final Fantasy localization details, but some time travel as well.

    Interview
    "The universe is already mad. Anything else would be redundant."
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    Member TheAnimeMan's Avatar
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    Very wonderful interview Mac.
    I am bad and that is good, I will never be good and that's not bad, there's no one I'd rather be than me - Wreck-it-Ralph

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    Ysy St. Administrator Macstorm's Avatar
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    Thanks. I attribute any awesomeness of this interview to Tom, though.
    "The universe is already mad. Anything else would be redundant."
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    Damn. Now it feels like Squeenix just lost a very good talent. Tom also makes it sound like FF13 was a colossal internal disaster. We kind of knew that, but still surprising to see it officially confirmed.

    And Lightning is a chocolate covered treat, is she? For some guys, I guess. Heh.
    Last edited by TG Barighm; 04-23-2012 at 02:31 PM.

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    Angel-Possessed Priestess Administrator Strawberry Eggs's Avatar
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    Huh, so that whole "Celes's beating scene was cut due to a recent kidnapping" is just hearsay. It's incredible how much that piece of misinformation is repeated. Either way, this was an awesome interview.
    "Tiz, please. You're getting bumpkin all over my feral bikini woman fantasy. "

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    Member TheAnimeMan's Avatar
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    We should about getting this guy as one of the posters here (or at least a reader) if he's not already
    I am bad and that is good, I will never be good and that's not bad, there's no one I'd rather be than me - Wreck-it-Ralph

    27 years of gaming and still going strong
    and now a Proud if slightly annoyed Father :D

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    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff Nekobasu's Avatar
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    Very wonderful interview Tom.

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    AWESOME! He Who Lurks's Avatar
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    I still prefer the original translations of most of the games he redid. Woolsey 4 life.
    I'm He Who Lurks, and I'm AWESOME!

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    BEARSONA Administrator Paws's Avatar
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    The only one from all the games he's mentioned I'm adamant about the original is FFVI. Yeah, I know it's flawed, but I dunno, I like it that way. Love what I've played of Fortune Street. Can Tom retranslate FFVII for us? I think that would rock.

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    Excellent read. Really interesting.

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    Really cool interview. I'm probably one of the few people who prefers Tom's translations over Woosley's, so this was neat to read.

    It's surprising to hear about FFXIII being such a mess on the localization front, though it does explain why dialogue seemed to change around so much from trailer to trailer. It's just hard to imagine that they actually went back and rerecorded huge swathes of the game like that. What was the dev team DOING for four years if they hadn't even gotten the main dialogue set in stone by the time voice recording started?

    One question I wish you guys had asked is about Square-Enix's stance on song translation. I know Tom rewrote the Engrish lyrics for a bunch of FFXIII's songs, but I wonder if his team had any say in replacing the generic theme song with that Leona Lewis one.

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    Who needs Rinoa anyway? Rebochan's Avatar
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    First - oh god, thank you so much for this, I love translation geekery! I don't know how doable other articles like this are, but if this is a general indication of their quality, more please

    I never realized V and VI Advance were different translators, but in retrospect, the V script was pretty goofy (in my opinion, in an awesome way) while the VI script is more serious.

    I also really liked a little backstory on the Celes scene.

    Who would call their own realm "The Land of Summoned Monsters"? And hey, inventing words is always fun. "Feymarch" had zero Google hits before the game came out; now it has tens of thousands.
    This cracked me up.

    I'm sorry his work on Chrono Trigger was rushed, but at least he feels sorry about having to drop Frog's accent. Still, I would argue that Frog's unusual accent was more a result of his character than a flavor of speech.

    The FFXIII development gives me chills.

    Quote Originally Posted by merr View Post
    Really cool interview. I'm probably one of the few people who prefers Tom's translations over Woosley's, so this was neat to read.
    You're not the only one. I really wish people would take off their nostalgia goggles and look at those scripts objectively. It's also pretty clear from Tom's interview that the entire process of their scripts have changed since the 90s. In addition to the usual space problems Woolsey has documented (which is probably where issues like the coin flip line came from), Tom seems to have had greater access to resources that Woolsey wouldn't have, since I'm pretty sure he had to do all of his work remotely and without the Japanese studio's involvement. It seems to be a greater issue than merely a translator's inventiveness.

    I also really hate that saying I prefer the more recent scripts means that clearly, I hate Ted Woolsey and want him to die in a fire. Which is the furthest from the truth. I think that statements "Ted Woolsey's script is fine" and "I like this script better" are not mutually exclusive. There's rarely a lot of objectivity to a good translation, and what is produced is something that is as much a subjective art as the story its adapted from.

    Anyway, y'all just got linked off Kotaku, enjoy the hits.
    "One original thought is worth a thousand mindless quotings." -- Diogenes

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    Ysy St. Administrator Macstorm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rebochan View Post
    First - oh god, thank you so much for this, I love translation geekery! I don't know how doable other articles like this are, but if this is a general indication of their quality, more please
    I can't guarantee they will all be this good (because I thank Tom for the quality here), but more are already in the works. These are taking longer than a typical interview, so just know that it won't be super quick.
    "The universe is already mad. Anything else would be redundant."
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    Veteran RPGamer watcher's Avatar
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    I agree that this was a great interview. And while I don't favor either of the translation as I'm generally more forgiving of localization than most, I must dub Tom the Un-Woolsey based on his repertoire of work alone.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rebochan View Post
    There's rarely a lot of objectivity to a good translation, and what is produced is something that is as much a subjective art as the story its adapted from.
    Which is why I think people that take translated works literally are silly.
    Last edited by watcher; 04-24-2012 at 09:44 PM.

  15. #15
    Pretty much...
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    I'll echo that this was a great interview!

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    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff Wheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by merr View Post
    Really cool interview. I'm probably one of the few people who prefers Tom's translations over Woosley's, so this was neat to read.
    I don't think so, I just think those who prefer the new translations are very vocal about it.

  17. #17
    Best thing to pop up on RPGamer all year! ^_^

    Though, I may be a bit biased.

    Professional translations are as much products of their working environments as they are of the text. As I recall, Woolsey was the only translator, had no access, and was put on pretty unreasonable deadlines. Plus censorship requirements were different, and space was generally tighter. While I prefer the recent translations (and I do love every one of Tom's I've played) and I'm not happy with every choice Woolsey made, it's pretty much impossible to fault Woolsey for everything knowing what he had to go through to translate the games he did. And given how much nostalgia his localization garnered, he must have done something right!

    There's a long way between incredibly loose and casual translations and super literal translations, and finding that sweet spot can be tricky and can vary by game. For example, you probably wouldn't place a Final Fantasy game and a SMT game at the same point on the scale. FF has always been a more western-centric series, at least in terms of setting and tone, while SMT is distinctly Asian. You want western players to feel right at home in an FF, but you'll want to keep some of the exoticness of an SMT game, as that is integral to them. See: what happened with Persona 1.

    I think Tom hit that sweet spot in every game of his I've played. I think Woolsey tried, but had neither the support nor the time to do the same.

  18. #18
    Who needs Rinoa anyway? Rebochan's Avatar
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    Frankly, the interviews I've read in the past with Woolsey suggest that if he'd had the resources that translators at Squeenix have now, his scripts would probably look a lot more like Tom's. He's certainly expressed a level of passion for the games he worked on that's on par with Tom's.

    I have nothing but respect for both men and their work.
    "One original thought is worth a thousand mindless quotings." -- Diogenes

  19. #19
    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff Wheels's Avatar
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    Having attended a panel at pax east last year and heard some of the insanity translators have had to deal with in the past, I really appreciate the work all these guys do, even when the efforts don't turn out perfect.

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    It's nice that they had an actual fan of the original games working on the re-translation. I think it showed in the final product.

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