Camp Hyrule Interview: NOA Localization Team (Treehouse)

camp hyrule

Camp Hyrule, an online virtual camp held by Nintendo every year, is under full swing. Every year, Nintendo invites people to take questions from the campers. We had featured here at QJ transcripts of the chat with the Nintendo Senior Online Producer, Senior Vice President of Operations for Digipen , and George Harrison. Now, we continue our Camp Hyrule updates by bringing to you a transcript of our chat with Nintendo of America’s Localization Team – Treehouse!

Treehouse is responsible for a LOT of the games that we see brought over from Japan and published by Nintendo. Zelda, Mario, Tales, Animal Crossing… the list is endless! Currently they’re working on localizing loads of games for the DS and Wii!

The complete transcript awaits after the jump. It’s a live chat so please excuse grammatical errors and typos.

Camp Hyrule

Camp Hyrule, an online virtual camp held by Nintendo every year, is under full swing. Every year, Nintendo invites people to take questions from the campers. We had featured here at QJ transcripts of the chat with the Nintendo Senior Online Producer, Senior Vice President of Operations for Digipen , and George Harrison. Now, we continue our Camp Hyrule updates by bringing to you a transcript of our chat with Nintendo of America’s Localization Team – Treehouse!

Treehouse is responsible for a LOT of the games that we see brought over from Japan and published by Nintendo. Zelda, Mario, Tales, Animal Crossing… the list is endless! Currently they’re working on localizing loads of games for the DS and Wii! Note that this interview is a bit harder to read because of the amount of people answering questions. It got quite hectic with almost a dozen employees trying to talk at once!

NOA_ANDY: Chat with Nintendo’s Localization Team, currently working on a wide variety of upcoming games for Wii and Nintendo DS. The show starts in 14 minutes!
NOA_ANDY: Chat with Nintendo’s Localization Team, currently working on a wide variety of upcoming games for Wii and Nintendo DS. The show starts in 9 minutes!
NOA_ANDY: Chat with Nintendo’s Localization Team, currently working on a wide variety of upcoming games for Wii and Nintendo DS. The show starts in 5 minutes!
NOA_ANDY: Chat with Nintendo’s Localization Team, currently working on a wide variety of upcoming games for Wii and Nintendo DS. The show starts in 2 minutes!
NOA_ANDY: Hi everyone! It is my pleasure to introduce Nintendo’s Localization Team, also known as The Treehouse! Please welcome NOAs Bill, Nate, Ann, Reiko, Tim, Ramtower, and Erik to Camp Hyrule 2006. Hi guys!
NOA_RAMTOWER: Hello, I say. Hello.
NOA_BILL: `I want to say a big hello to NOA_DANO… The OG-Localization man!
NOA_NATE: Hi! And Bill’s not here.
NOA_RAMTOWER: Wait, yeah he is.
NOA_ALAN: Hey. Andy didn’t welcome me, but i’ll just crash it.
NOA_RAMTOWER: He’s just stealthy.
NOA_BILL: Way to go, Nate.
NOA_ANDY: Sorry Alan!
NOA_RAMTOWER: Shhh… Bill, we can see you.
NOA_ANDY: Before we begin, could you please give us a top-level view of what your team does at Nintendo?
NOA_NATE: Shouldn’t you be translating?
[GTGD asked if the first six Fire Emblem games would be translated but his question never appeared]
NOA_TIM: Hello Hello Hello!Hey, GTGD! Thanks for the FE love! No news on a release of Japan-only titles, but we’re all looking forward to digging into the new title. Wii + Fire Emblem = BRILLIANCE! (and lots of overtime for yours truly) Stay tuned!
NOA_BILL: I am translating as we speak. Er… type.
NOA_RAMTOWER: Seriously. Any game delays? That’s Bill’s fault. As of now.
NOA_ALAN: We translate games. Tim sits in the corner and goes crazy.
NOA_ANN: Hee hee hee!
NOA_TIM: Oops! Got ahead of myself
NOA_TIM: Grrr!
NOA_RAMTOWER: nimble fingers there, Tim.
NOA_ALAN: OK, basic overview. We get games from Japan, translate them into English, then make it all pretty.
NOA_ANN: Yes, what he said.
NOA_ANDY: Alan, the voice of reason.
NOA_NATE: We also record cast and record voices!
NOA_ALAN: That’s the only time andy will ever say that
NOA_ANDY: OK, I have a question here for ya … Let’s just get this one out of the way …
NOA_NATE: typooooo
ZERO_13: Are there any plans to bring the MOTHER 3 game to USA?
NOA_BILL: Was there a question Andy? Haven’t seen one yet!
NOA_RAMTOWER: Alan already answered it.
NOA_RAMTOWER: He’s got me beat for speedy fingers.
NOA_ALAN: Mother 3 plans?
NOA_NATE: What’s Mother 3?
NOA_RAMTOWER: There’s a Mother 3?
NOA_TIM: We translate, rewrite, edit, advise, record voices, name stuff, travel to Japan, stay chained to our desks, etc.
NOA_ALAN: Yeah. We don’t know. About Mother 3.
NOA_ANN: Yes, and Tim goes crazy…
OF_DESTRUCTION: Hey everyone! Last year I was playing through Advance Wars: Dual Strike (great game, by the way 😛 ). When I reached the end, I noticed there was a lot of text “cutscenes” where the dialogue had to support actions with little visual aid. I think you did a great job, especially with the finale. But my question is this, are situations like that in Advance Wars: Dual Strike hard to write for? Or have you had more difficult times in other games?
NOA_NATE: I’ve had more difficult times, but only because I didn’t work on that game.
NOA_RAMTOWER: Alan, Tim, Erik, and I all worked on the last Advance Wars title together. It was a blast, really. We broke up who handled each character, which helped us bring more life to each of ’em.
NOA_RAMTOWER: It wasn’t too hard for us, really, because we’re all fans of the series, and we have those characters in our heads pretty well.
NOA_RAMTOWER: Heck, they’re talking to me right now… Telling me to burn things.
NOA_ALAN: I think it’s harder to match text to cutscenes when the cutscenes are active (like in Fire Emblem: POR). It’s a little easier when you’re working with still images.
NOA_ALAN: Flood control to major tom…
NOA_TIM: Wars is only tough when we don’t know what’s happening on screen. (‘Course that’s true for every game.) This is one of the difficulties of shorter developmen cycles.
NOA_RAMTOWER: True, true, but Intelligent Systems does a great job of helping us understand what to expect as we’re working, and those games are so character driven that the characters practically do all the work for us — they’re a blast to write.
NOA_ERIK: We really try to make those long conversations between the characters exciting, funny, or dramatic – Alan was the one who actually wrote that last finale scene and I think he did a great job.
JSR: Hey guys. I’ve noticed that in recent years, games have been translated much faster, sometimes even debuting in North America first. How early in a game’s development cycle do you start getting involved?
NOA_TIM: Yeah, Alan!
NOA_ALAN: The hardest part of AW:DS was Jake. That;s why we made Erik write him.
NOA_ANN: Well, our team has gotten a lot bigger.
NOA_TIM: Depends on the title. Some very, very early. Some not until the last minute.
NOA_RAMTOWER: It all depends on the game — Animal Crossing takes a long time, because we have SO MUCH writing to do on those games. For Advance Wars: Dual Strike, we had maybe a month or so for all the writing, if that.
NOA_BILL: For Animal Crossing Wild World, we were in early while the game was still in development.
NOA_NATE: Some games, reaaaaaally early. We got involved with Zelda TP before the unveiling 2 years ago.
NOA_ALAN: Getting involved early helps, because you can suggest changes. But it’s also a bit of a problem because you’re working with unstable code.
NOA_TIM: Of course, the sooner the better for us.
NOA_BILL: Ann And Reiko were translating and writing on AC before the team even finished writing all the Japanese text.
NOA_BILL: Nate and I are doing that right now with Zelda, too.
NOA_RAMTOWER: The more linear a game is, the easier it is to work on, in a lot of ways, because you’ve got a straightforward story to work on. But something really open-ended, like AC, well, you’ve got to work hard to make all the conversations come together, to give character to everybody.
NOA_NATE: This is ridiculous, Rich must be copying and pasting.
NOA_BILL: And when I say right now, I mean am switching between this chat and one of my Zelda text files.
NOA_REIKO: And we wrote some text for the soon to be release Clubhouse Games from scratch!
NOA_ANN: Woo! Clubhouse Games!
NOA_ALAN: Bill and I spent two years writing Magnetica.
NOA_RAMTOWER: Remember: any delays? They’re Bill’s fault. Because of today.
TSA: Tetra’s Trackers never made it out of Japan, and I’ve always wondered why that got axed from Four Swords Adventures outside Japan. This also has me concerned about Tingle RPG (what’s the official title of it, btw?). It seems like that game has almost no chance of coming out outside of Japan. What are its chances for coming out outside of Japan?
NOA_BILL: Sorry! I’m busy translating right now…
NOA_NATE: Kooloo limpah!
NOA_BILL: Actually, there were a number of different factors involved in the Trackers decision.
NOA_BILL: Part of it was simply trying to localize the voice cues they had in that game, which were all based on Japanese.
NOA_ALAN: Go, Bill, go!
NOA_ERIK: Here comes Bill’s all-business voice.
NOA_TIM: I type so slowly the questions are answered by the time I’ve gotten started. So sad…
NOA_BILL: It would have taken much longer to get that game out had we kept it, so in that sense, any decision on Tingle would be based on entirely different citeria.
NOA_RAMTOWER: Bill used a big word.
NOA_ANDY: Who named Tingle?
NOA_ALAN: Tingle is a big word?
NOA_ERIK: Criterewhat?
NOA_BILL: The Zelda team named Tingle.
DIGIPEN89: Has the Treehouse ever had their “All your base are belong to us” kind of translation mistake before?
NOA_NATE: That WAS us!
NOA_RAMTOWER: We try to sneak them into OTHER people’s games when they’re not looking.
NOA_ALAN: No, but we were the first people to use the phrase “smackdown soup”
NOA_RAMTOWER: So, in that sense, we’re pioneers.
NOA_TIM: Computer died. What’s happening? HELP!!!
NOA_ALAN: Some of the early Nintendo games had…less than perfect translation, but we usually avoid that kind of stuff.
NOA_ERIK: Don’t forget “righteous hindspanking”
NOA_BILL: We’d like to think we’re perfect, but I think we’re the only ones who think that…
NOA_ALAN: Although i tried to put the phrase “Watch in amazement!” on the back of the Fire Emblem box before Rich yelled at me.
NOA_RAMTOWER: Seriously, though, localization’s come a long way since those days. We’ve got a staff of rock-solid writers, testers watching out for us, all sorts of safety nets to stop us from making fools of ourselves. And right now? All those nets are GONE, GONE, GONE!!!
NOA_NATE: Oh my goodness, Rich is so cuddly!
NOA_RAMTOWER: I yell good.
NOA_DANO: Yeah those kinds of things only happened when I was workign in localization.
GREATMIZUTI: In SSBM why were Marth and Roy’s voices in japanese?
NOA_ALAN: He’s yelling at me right now
NOA_RAMTOWER: Ha! Awesome, Dano!
NOA_ALAN: Because Marth and Roy aren’t bilingual
NOA_BILL: They were in deed. They both talked about kicking a$$ and taking names.
NOA_RAMTOWER: “A dollar signs”? What are you saying, Bill?
NOA_DANO: Did Bill just censor bypass?!
NOA_TIM: I tried to get the to use my voice, but was denied.
NOA_ALAN: Cry more n00b!
NOA_ANDY: I’m impressed you know our termonlogy!
NOA_TIM: I know your other screen name, man!
RETRONINTENDODUDE7: When developing a game that has voice overs, how do you decide who will voice the part in English?
NOA_ALAN: We get people to audition, then listen to them and pick the best ones
NOA_ANN: Some characters have established voices attached to them, like Mario.
NOA_TIM: We check the personalities of the characters and have auditions.
NOA_BILL: Sometimes we decide to the voices ourselves…
NOA_RAMTOWER: Back when SSMB came out, the games hadn’t been localized. We didn’t have preestablished voices for them, and because, at that point, there were no plans to release FE in America, we felt we’d just better let ’em be. That’s my take, anyway. I may be totally wrong.
NOA_BILL: No. Seriously…
NOA_NATE: We either use legacy actors (like Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario, Luigi, Wario, Waluigi) or cast for new actors.
NOA_RAMTOWER: Seriously, we draw straws.
NOA_BILL: Legacy actor for Shy Guy? NOA NATE
NOA_ERIK: Sometimes they let me scream in pain in front of a microphone!
NOA_TIM: Voice recording has become a pretty major part of what we do. We use a professional studio, professional actors, etc. Do you like?
NOA_ALAN: We punch erik in the gut and he makes funny noises
BREAD_KO: Hey Localization Team! I was wondering about how many games you guys work on at a time, and which games you enjoyed working on the most. Thanks for your time!
NOA_BILL: Too many…
NOA_NATE: Uh…anywhere from 1 to 6, maybe?
NOA_TIM: Usually 2 or 3 at any given moment. (That’s per person.)
NOA_RAMTOWER: I -love- Fire Emblem and Advance Wars. I also had a blast working on Minish Cap. Those are some of my favorite titles.
NOA_BILL: That sounds about right, Nate.
NOA_RAMTOWER: Oh, and Animal Crossing.
NOA_ANN: Animal Crossing: Wild World, probably.
NOA_ALAN: My favs: Fire Emblem: POR, AW:DS, Animal Crossing (although i didn’t do much), and maybe sorta kinda Brain Age. Just for the historical value.
NOA_ERIK: I know us writer types love to work on the games with a ton of character and personality. Animal Crossing, Paper Mario, etc.
NOA_BILL: For me, the original Animal Crossing was by far the most fun to work on.
NOA_ANN: I liked working on Fire Emblem too.
NOA_RAMTOWER: Yeah, I’ve had as many as six projects going on at a time. Those are…dark times.
NOA_REIKO: We have a white board that currently has 7 lines, one line for each project the group is working on at any given time… lately, there’s been A LOT of overspill.
NOA_TIM: Hmm… FE, AW, AC and currently a new title, Hotel Dusk is promising to be fun.
NOA_TIM: It’s always nice to have a break from text heavy games, too.
NOA_BILL: I also really enjoy working on the Zelda games, including Twilight Princess, which I just translated another message for two minutes ago.
CUBE_FAN90: Hey guys. One thing I’d like know: Do any Japanese gamers, developers, publishers, etc. object some of the changes you make?
NOA_RAMTOWER: Those messages? “ARG!” and “AIEEE!!!”
NOA_ALAN: In Fire Emblem, Ike was originally going to be called “Captain Stoopid!”, but the dev team said no.
NOA_REIKO: The development teams are pretty reasonable and trust us to make decisions that are best for our audience. It makes the job much easier and more enjoyable.
NOA_TIM: Sometimes, but we try to explain why we want to make changes, and they generally agree that we know what’s best for our market.
NOA_BILL: There was one instance, but it wasn’t our fault…
NOA_BILL: We didn’t know she was a he…
NOA_TIM: Oh, thanks, Bill!!!
NOA_RAMTOWER: Typically, anything that goes into the game goes in with their blessings.
NOA_RAMTOWER: It’s true. Tim’s a she.
NOA_ANN: Poor Tim…
STORMTROOPER88888: How do the voices in Animal Crossing work? It doesn’t seem like each and everything they say is recorded… Does it recognize words and try to pronounce them or something?
NOA_RAMTOWER: (Tim’s going to kill me. He’s much stronger than I am.)
NOA_TIM: Those are the sounds Rich makes when I kick him
NOA_BILL: Actually, if you listen carefully, you’ll hear that all they are doing is pronouncing the letters.
NOA_RAMTOWER: We recorded one yelp of pain for each letter!
NOA_TIM: That’s right! Listen while you type letters and you’ll see how it works.
NOA_BILL: You can tell by putting in spaces between letters when you enter a catch-phrase.
NOA_REIKO: It’s a lot clearer with some letter combinations…
GHOSTPIKMIN: Is it difficult translating things such as humor? I’ve heard some significant parts of Paper Mario for the GCN were changed when it came here because Japanese humor is very different than our own. How do you go about inserting in humor that works in America (such as the 1337 Hammer Bros)?
NOA_RAMTOWER: Sometimes, you can almost make out the word they’re saying if you listen closely.
NOA_NATE: When we find a joke that won’t work, we just try to think up something funny that’s somewhat, kinda close.
NOA_BILL: It depends on the kind of humor.
NOA_TIM: Basically we try and find parallels in American English / culture. If there aren’t any, we make up new stuff that fits the situation.
NOA_RAMTOWER: Humor’s tough, because it can be so culturally dependent, and… oh, wait. Yeah, what Tim, Bill, and Nate said.
NOA_NATE: The l33t bros., I dunno what happened that day.
NOA_ERIK: Making sure a game stays funny is one of the best parts of the job here. A lot of times, stuff that is hilarious in Japanese just doesn’t make any sense over here, so we have to come up with our own stuff that’s funny AND conveys the same message.
NOA_BILL: Sometime jokes can transfer, but sometimes we just tell the writers “this is a joke about something that smelling really bad. Go to town on it.”
AURAKNIGHT1: Do you guys get a wii or get to play the wii before it is released?
NOA_TIM: What’s Wii?
NOA_BILL: Check. Got one right here on my desk.
NOA_ERIK: Muwahaha!
NOA_RAMTOWER: It’s so purty.
NOA_ALAN: SOME OF US HAVE WiiS AT THEIR DESK!!! Some of us have old computers powered by vacuum tubes
DARKMAN.EXE: Has there ever been a time where you were just completely stumped while translation a phrase/conversation?
NOA_TIM: I’m working on DS stuff, but I do get to watch the other folks,
NOA_REIKO: Definitely.
NOA_ANN: Yes. Particularly since I don’t speak Japanese.
NOA_NATE: Great anecdotes!
NOA_RAMTOWER: Sometimes, I’m stumped by what I just wrote.
NOA_BILL: That’s when the unabridged dictionary comes out.
NOA_ALAN: Yeah, every game has a few of those “what in the world?” moments. Luckily, we can usually ask the dev team if it’s a real stumper
NOA_BILL: I have had cases where I’ve had to call Mitsuhiro Takano (the write on the Zelda games) and ask him what in the world people are talking about.
NOA_ERIK: Sometimes I’ll know what I want the message to say but I’ll have to write it a dozen times before it’s perfect.
NOA_TIM: We use lots of dictionaries and lots of personal contacts to figure out the really rough stuff.
NOA_BILL: Usually they just explain it in simpleton terms and then we move along.
NOA_ALAN: Sometimes i call Takano and i’m like “what’s up?” And he’s like “nothing…”
NOA_BILL: Erik! What was that crazy word from Pikmin 2?
NESSMAN: How often during localization do you have to actually edit the graphics or programming of the game to make sense in the US?
NOA_RAMTOWER: We don’t do any of that stuff ourselves. We’ll make recommendations for the development team, though.
NOA_REIKO: Ann and I are working on WarioWare for Wii now and we have a working list of graphic change requests.
NOA_NATE: Depends on the game, but we have to ask for it frequently. This is why we request graphic text so early.
NOA_ANN: Yeah, some stuff just doesn’t make sense to Americans, like certain types of food.
NOA_TIM: Yeah, sometimes we make suggestions on character design. A lot of the times developers will ask for feedback early on.
NOA_BILL: Depends on the game, too. A lot of teams are used to developing for a world-wide audience, so on most projects that isn’t an issue so much anymore.
NOA_ANDY: I think we have time for about one more question …
NOA_BILL: I can tell you one graphic we missed that we still don’t understand…
7THMAGI: What is your favorite game you guys have ever worked on?
NOA_TIM: Like Ann said, anything that’s too Japanese and wouldn’t make sense needs to be reworke.
NOA_ERIK: My favorite is my first, Pikmin 2!
NOA_BILL: On the bottom of the barrel in Smash Bros. it says 2L84U
NOA_NATE: We didn’t miss that!
NOA_ANN: Animal Crossing: Wild World!
NOA_REIKO: I’d have to say Animal Crossing: Wild World.
NOA_NATE: My favorite game, all time, no holds barred, is a secret.
NOA_TIM: Favorite? Much too hard of a question. Ilove the Fire Emblem series. My favorite character I’ve worked on is Mr. Resetti. SCRAM!
NOA_BILL: I would have to say Animal Crossing (GCN), Wind Waker and METEOSSSSS!!!!
NOA_RAMTOWER: That’s a harder question than it ought to be. Even games I haven’t totally loved, I’ve always found SOMETHING special about. Like I said, Fire Emblem is and will always be my precious (we loves it, we does), but I’m so proud of Animal Crossing, AC: Wild World, and Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap.
NOA_RAMTOWER: But Fire Emblem — all three of those games still mean so much to me.
NOA_ANDY: Alright, well thank you guys so much for stopping by Camp Hyrule … it’s not like it’s easy to get here this year.
NOA_BILL: Rich! What about our Golden Sun glory days?
NOA_ALAN: Rich is in LOVE with Fire Emblem! He’s going to MARRY it!
NOA_ERIK: Mwamwamwa
NOA_RAMTOWER: Those were good times, but…Fire Emblem. MAN! That game is HAWT.
NOA_NATE: Bye guys.
NOA_TIM: Thanks, Andy! Thanks all! BYE!!
NOA_REIKO: Thanks everyone!
NOA_RAMTOWER: Bye, y’all…
NOA_ALAN: Yeah, thanks.
NOA_ANN: Good chatting with you!
NOA_ANDY: Hopefully we’ll see you at Camp Hyrule 2007. See ya!
NOA_ERIK: Later everybody!
NOA_TIM: I’m so glad we’ve had this time together…

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