This is a post that I have been meaning to write for a while, but has been difficult, to say the least, due to the subject matter. It is, however, time I got it off my chest – not just to possibly help myself through unburdening, but because our followers and fans deserve an answer to why the past year in particular has been so quiet after last year’s thunderous announcement.
The answer is not short, nor is it pleasant.
And as a preface: please note that the following blog post is extremely likely to trigger a heavy emotional response to readers sensitive to suicide and related topics. Please proceed with caution.
It is a little difficult to know where to begin.
Why the silence, especially after the SC blog post said there wouldn’t another lengthy one? Why the apparent delay in Trails in the Sky SC getting out the door? Why no other project announcements to date?
I suppose the only real way to start is to make a terrible and offensive pun and say we’ll get right to the point of it.
That is, the point of the knife.
The knife I was going to use in my suicide attempt in March.
That is the very short version of what’s been causing delays: this past March, I very nearly killed myself and both the lead-up to, and fallout from, that incident impacted my work on Trails SC. Specifically, my work; Robin actually finished the base translation of the entire game quite some time ago, and XSEED themselves have been finishing the editing work on the remaining files that had been translated but not given an editing pass.
In greater length, beginning around December of 2013 I began to sink deeper into the negative thought patterns I’ve struggled with for at least a decade and a half. This is a side of myself I have generally not shown to the public previously; a spirit of can-do-optimism has always been the forward facing element of our “PR”, for what it is, to date. And while that has never been a lie (it took some optimism to get as far as we even have, trust me), it has also never been the entirety of the truth.
I’ve often struggled with self-defeating thought patterns before; they stalked me all throughout middle and high school (with the accompanying slide in grades), likely damaged my college advancement, and even affected the speed with which Recettear was first localized to a small degree. These are usually born of a sense of shame and fear of “failure”, which of course tends to be self-reinforcing. And these thoughts had always, for fifteen years, eventually led to contemplating suicide.
I’d never before acted on them; something had always come up to prevent going through with it. Lack of easy access to means, worries about what my parents or friends would think, shame that going through with it would only inflict an even greater burden on those I knew since a funeral would cost money… so many little things ultimately got suicide off the table, even if I thought about it, not constantly, but consistently.
The situation a year ago, however, was far more desperate. I had fallen a little behind for unrelated reasons beginning that October, and then in December I fell fairly heavily ill and was also kept busy with holiday things and could find no time to focus on work. Not a particularly unusual story for this time of year, to be sure. But the pressure was on, and working on Trails for so long already had taken a toll. Not only was there a need to deliver the script, but a script of this size always makes one worry about how it will be received and whether you need to make any changes to it – which meant I kept fretting away at finished files.
And so I fell further and further behind until by February and March of 2014 I was virtually paralyzed in terms of work and found myself unable to work on the script at all due to the mental weight of my shame. This was a problem, given that while the main scenario and a good deal of the “miscellaneous” NPC text was done, the towns were still not finished on my end, and the town conversations and quests comprise a fair bit of the meat of the game, and formatting problems had also arisen between the standards and tools CF was used to and the ones XSEED and Falcom used, which simply added another worry on top of everything.
Needless to say, the messages from XSEED got more than a little stern as time went on – to them it must have appeared as though I was simply being astoundingly lazy or had simply abandoned the project outright, since I had of course not shared a word of these “personal” troubles with them, aside from attributing the delays to “personal troubles” in the absolute vaguest of senses. And, of course, I hadn’t told Robin about any of this either – it was a personal failing and clearly I had to deal with it myself.
And so, in March, the issue came to a head. An email came in from XSEED which was particularly (if understandably) cross about the seemingly pointless delays, and, at least when I first read it, raised the spectre of CF being removed from the project. Even more importantly, however, it was sent to Robin as well as myself – I had previously been the only point of contact on the project. So needless to say, Robin was also exceptionally, and understandably, angry with me for apparently being pointlessly lazy.
And that was the snapping point. That was it, I thought. I had ruined everything, we were going to be removed from the project, my reputation was shamed forever, I had lost the respect of one of the people who matters to me most in life, and now the only option left to me was to die.
None of the barriers remained – I left a check for the entire contents of the CF bank account in Robin’s door, I knew funerary costs would be a drop in the bucket of that, if not covered by what was in my own bank account, and I had implements for self-mortality all over the place in everyday items. I could even think I had at least accomplished something – the spark of our early projects had, even nine months ago, turned into a mighty blaze, with Japanese gaming software of all kinds finding its way into the American market, and with several other translation houses having stepped into the J-indie market. For the first time, not only was my shame and failure absolute and complete, but I could feel as though I’d at last done something before irreparably mucking it all up.
And so I tried to kill myself. There are some, I suppose, who might argue that I didn’t “actually” try to kill myself; even today, I have never engaged in true physical self-harm, the knife did not break my skin on that day, and I didn’t spend any time in a hospital or anything. I certainly did, however, lie down on that bed with the intent of ending my own life; I held the knife to my heart and began to press down, and was only stopped by Robin’s desperate pounding on my apartment door.
If you wish to thank someone for me still being alive, thank him. He was the one thing that still held me back; hearing him pounding on my door made me realize I at least owed him an explanation of it all before I did the deed. Needless to say, the deed in question never happened, to the general happiness of all involved.
Unfortunately, this also meant there was now an even greater mental burden attached to the Trails project; while the formatting issues were eventually sorted out, the project itself now carried even more emotional baggage than it once had. As a result, even opening the files or going into “the office”, such as ours is, felt like a burden, and while I still made a little progress- including a few Bose sidequests which I think stand among the work I’m most proud of on this project – it was still entirely too slow compared to when the project needed to be finished. So the files Robin had translated but which I had not finished were formatted for readability, and the lot was shipped off to XSEED to finish. And I still struggled to not feel like a failure and have the deadly thoughts well up inside my head again.
It is worth emphasizing, though, that I do not blame XSEED for any of what happened (and, read: I don’t think anyone else should, either). As I noted, I disclosed virtually none of these issues to them, and so to them it must have simply looked as though I had suddenly abandoned the project. If only it was that simple, really.
That, then, is the technical, objective explanation: about how my personal failings and neuroses got in the way of the game’s progress, and XSEED has had to finish the remainder. So I was sad and mopey. So what? Why would that prevent me from working on the game? Why would I feel the need to take my life because of a silly little delay? Why all the fuss?
The why is not objective. Or technical.
Failure. Failure. Failure. Shame. Failure. Shame. Failure. Shame. Failure.
Failure Is Death.
Failure Is Death.
Failure Is Death.
Endlessly it repeats in my head.
Failure Is Death.
To fail is to bring shame upon yourself and pain and discomfort and inconvenience and lower life-quality on others. The only way to atone for this is death. Death. Death. Failure Is Death.
Only death will assuage the savage hearts of Men once they are in pain – only the uttermost removal of the thing which has spoiled their life can bring them peace. Only death can slake Man’s endless lust for retribution for pain and failure.
You are Failure.
Failure Is Death. Failure MUST BE Death.
So the argument goes in my head, despite having a hundred counter-arguments that I know to be true. It does not matter. The argument remains and has run for years. And years. And years.
So it goes.
A thousand, thousand failures haunt me. Failures that caused others pain, discomfort, distress. Failures so many I can no longer count them all. Offending one person without meaning, a brief school flirt which was unwelcome, a careless word breaking a friendship, laxitude causing a missed project deadline. So many failures causing so much pain, and so, so much pain which could be cleansed with my elimination.
But I do not. Even though Failure Is Death, Must Be Death.
A month, a year, ten years later. I try to put it behind me, try to convince myself I can go on living. And then I encounter a song, a smell, a single word, and I am flung back, and I remember the hot shame again, and the unpaid debt, the debt which my mind, my logic, says no action but my own brutal self-slaying can pay.
Others tell me no, go on living, but what else can I offer those I have wronged? Those I will inevitably wrong?
The knife always seems to provide an answer, even if I try not to think about it.
And I am so often reminded.
So it goes.
Thus I try to do something with my life. To bring some joy to the world and try to balance all the pain my mere existence has caused.
actually done it?…
have I made people happy
have I done something they have liked
am I now no longer causing pain?…
Failure Is Death
Failure Is Death
Failure Is Death
Failure Must Be Death
I have delayed something anticipated due to my own inadequacy. I have cost people money, cost them frustration. People look up to me, people depend on me to help bring a little happiness to their lives and I have failed them.
Failed them. Failed them.Failed them.Failed them.Failed them.Failed them.Failed them.
The people who still (inexplicably?) care about me tell me I can still go on. Some of the people who still want me to bring them happiness tell me I can still do so.
But what if they are wrong? What if this is the final, greatest failure? What if this spells the end of the only way I know how to really bring myself and others joy? What if people think this is simply a disgusting publicity stunt for upcoming products?
What if talking about this merely causes people more pain?
The knife always provides a final answer.
So it goes.
I still continue to work through the line of thinking you got a sample of above. As terrifying as it may be to even read (though try living it), it does not constitute the entirety of my thought process… though it would be a lie to say it is not always there, and always significant. Perhaps revealing it and discussing it will doom my career. Perhaps not. But it is important to acknowledge that it is there. It is important for people – for you – to know. To admit that anyone can suffer, and for the mystery of the past year’s silence to be dispelled. There is, at least, comfort in that.
While my involvement in the main with Trails SC is finished, I do still hope to participate in its upcoming debugging and any last-minute script revisions (and there’s always a few). And I am so, so very sorry to XSEED, and to all our waiting fans, for causing such delays with this project with my inadequacy.
Whatever my inadequacies are, however, work continues here. It might seem like we’ve been doing nothing for a long time – and that, at least, is not true. We have one game which will almost certainly be announced in the coming weeks (hence my trepidation at this being seen as little more than a particularly vile publicity stunt), and one game which has been awaiting announcement for some time, and it appears its time is coming soon. And as ever, our oldest partner’s largest project looms ever on the horizon, and it appears that the time for that also draws near.
I once made a claim that we would release multiple games in one year. At long last, it appears I will finally be able to keep that promise.
I will keep working. Working to bring you excellent games in English. To bring you what joy I can. And I will have the best human beings I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing beside me to help.
I will attempt to prove the knife wrong. Even if that task seems daunting.
- Andrew Dice
Project Director & Lead Editor, Carpe Fulgur LLC
December 26, 2014