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Robin-post: Some Thoughts on Silence & Purpose

This is a “guest” blog from Robin, the other half of Carpe Fulgur , who had a lot to say about our recent announcement himself and why it is we’ve chosen to do what we’ve done. Without further ado, I’ll let my partner in crime take it away:

Hello.

Thanks for coming. I know we haven’t been on the best of terms, lately. I’ve been busy with other things, and haven’t had the chance to pay you the attention you deserve. I know every time you ask where I’ve been I get evasive and never give you a straight answer. I know you’ve been suspicious, and I know you’re sick of listening to excuses. More than that, I know that you’ve stuck with me, and believed in me no matter how suspicious I’ve been.

Well, here. I know it’s about four days too early, but- happy anniversary. http://www.carpefulgur.com/drakblog/?p=48

So, putting the jokes aside, now that we can talk about what we’ve been doing, I wanted to talk about why we did this. I know a lot of people have been rightfully bothered by our silence for… far too long now, and have been wondering what happened. For those people who feel bothered, betrayed, upset, or just curious, now that we can talk, I want to talk. I’ve been wanting to talk for months- going on a year, now, really. Not really to make excuses- while there were elements beyond our control, I do recognize that we could have done better to make this happen sooner- but to explain why I think it’s nonetheless important.

When we started this company, Andrew and I didn’t really expect to make a ton of money. Recettear was a good game, but actually getting recognized even with a good game is equal parts blind luck and purpose. In the best case, we’d help a Japanese group get some foreign recognition, get them on Steam, and get something for our own resume to bring somewhere else. In the world of the time, it was our best bet at actually getting a job.

Well, we hit the lottery with blind luck, let me tell you that. I couldn’t possibly be thankful enough to the people who made sure we could come this far, who still make sure we can keep going. We found exactly the people who wanted what we have, and you found us- a fact I’m still incredibly grateful for, and frankly surprised at to this day, three years later.

Blind luck, however, isn’t enough- no matter how much. You have to have a purpose; people aren’t idiots, and if you’re just grabbing cash you’ll be found out. A message you want to say, something you want to accomplish- there has to be something, and that something led us here.

Around the time we were considering contacting EGS, a game came out. To avoid offending anyone, I’m not going to refer to it by name; we’ll call it The Game. I’d had the chance to play The Game in Japanese, and I felt it was probably one of the best games released. It was clever, fun, and had a real message to tell; through insidious satire it mercilessly pointed out and called out the worst of Japan’s nerd culture, all while containing incredibly human, incredibly touching stories.

The Game was released in America shortly before all of this began. It wasn’t given anything close to the treatment it deserved. Its localization was flat, the characters lost much of their point, and what was insidious, yet almost indignant satire was played straight, giving a lot of people the wrong image. The Game does not have a good reputation over here, and frankly, the American version probably deserves it. Some people saw through to what it really was, but I can’t blame anyone who didn’t.

That was probably when I started really considering Andrew’s suggestion. I told him that I was going down to a bookstore (Powell’s, for pacific-northwesters) to see if they had in their tiny  shelf of used Japanese books sold by Japanese locals, a book on writing business letters. If I did, I’d agree to gamble a year on releasing Recettear. (I probably would have anyway.)

On those shelves, there was maybe half a row, not 20 books long, of non-fiction; and in there, there was exactly one book on Japanese business letter writing. I still have the book, in fact (though it turned out to be very old and not very useful when dealing with more casual independent groups!)

I started work on the mail to EGS when I got home.

When this succeeded, I had to ask myself what my purpose in this was. My answer was this; As much as I can, as far as I can, I want to make sure that the story above never happens again. I don’t want to see deserving games get bad translations. I don’t want to see deserving games get left in Japan because no one ever noticed them. As long as I’m doing this job, that’s what matters to me. That’s what I took from Recettear’s success; a message saying, ‘Do your best to get these over here with the translation they deserve.’

That’s what it means to be Independent. Not that you get to be a stylish rockstar who buys a Ferrari and burns it when you get to your destination, that’s just being Famous and Rich. It’s not even exclusively developing pixel-art platformers (though you can certainly do that as part of it!)

It means that you get to try something new, and most importantly, it means you get to learn from your mistakes. There’s no manager firing a scapegoat and saying “the users aren’t ready,” “we didn’t message properly,” to make nice to the stockholders and whitewashing everything so no one figures out what really went wrong. There’s no byzantine maze of bureaucracy making it impossible to even figure out what your contribution to the project was.

If you mess up, you know, because the people who you need to serve and the people who pay your paychecks are actually the same.

Of course, I don’t think I’ll be able to get everything. Nor do I think my opinion on what’s ‘deserving’ is an absolute standard. But if I can raise the standards even a bit- if I can make more people come to expect that good works will come over, with good translations, instead of just sighing and accepting that’s how the industry works when something’s left unnoticed or poorly treated- then I can hope that the industry will take over the rest.

Do I think XSEED wouldn’t have gotten SC over otherwise? I don’t know. I do know the first game was a severe strain on them, as the interviews with their localization staff near its release can testify to. I think they’re smart cookies; they’d probably have found a way. But things have a way of getting shuffled to the back burner, especially big things hard to deal with and once they’re there it’s easy to forget. XSEED’s had a lot to release since then, and this would’ve taken a lot of their time; something probably would have been lost, and if you think it’s hard for us to take the risk to go silent on a project for this long, imagine a big company like them!

We, however, could step in and make sure that that didn’t have to happen, by working on it- even if it was a somewhat risky path, even if it meant we couldn’t talk about what we were working on for months, years- and making sure that the work on it was the translation a great game like this deserves.

Because, again, that’s what it means to be Independent.

The result of all of that is that all of you reading this have been left wondering for a very long time what in the crazy eights we’ve been doing, and us basically having to put on a shadow show behind the curtains to try to avoid answering the question, because we’d agreed to silence. That silence was supposed to be broken a long time ago, but… a lot happened, and a lot of it was out of our control. It wasn’t even XSEED’s fault; if I’ve learned anything since starting this, it’s that the business world is insane. The only choice was to break our agreement and tell everyone, but give up on the project, or keep working and keep silent even at the cost of offending our fans.

We chose to keep working, because I still believe that the message you gave us was that you wanted us to do that- that even at the cost of some silence, some weird behavior, if it meant we knew that we could get this game out and make it good, it was okay. Your chance to vote on that will be coming up, once this game is released- though personally I’d rather you buy it anyway and just tell us you don’t want us doing this again, since Falcom deserves your money even if you feel we don’t!

So, to all who we’ve offended, who we’ve bothered, who we’ve upset- to all who feel our silence and seeming inactivity betrayed or disappointed you- to all who who still believe in us but want to know what happened- this is my explanation for these last two years. I still believe in what we did; if we were asked to do the same again, I’d probably (after writing in a clause to make sure an announcement happens someday no matter what!) do it again. It is, however, also an apology. We could have done more, and no matter what, we’ve upset our fans in the process, and that’s never something that should be ‘just part of doing business.’

To those who have continued to support us, even through your hesitations and misgivings, I am sincerely sorry for our mistreatment of your trust and support.

And thank you.

I hope you think it was worth it too.

-Robin Light-Williams

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Posted in Carpe Fulgur.

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