The Boogie Man Translator's Notes: Electric Boogieloo
Due to my role in this game, plain old translation notes wouldn't really suffice this time. Instead, you get translator's notes: pretty much everything I can say about the game and its development, with the actual game script just being one part of it.
This is kind of long, and spoils everything. Make sure you've gotten the happy ending before reading.
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep...
The story starts - after us getting to know each other somewhat via me translating her previous games - with Uri saying on Twitter how she'd like to have English voice acting for the third game of the Strange Men series. Planning way ahead as usual, but at this point it was just an idea she was doubtful of the feasibility of.
(For those who weren't sure, yes, the English voices are in the Japanese game, which happens plenty in games with American settings, notably Silent Hill. Many Japanese comments on TBM say that the English voices make it feel like watching an English movie with subtitles.)
I can't remember exactly how it went, but later she seemed more intent on trying it, or at least seeing if it would work. I didn't do anything for a while, figuring she had a plan or would eventually contact me. Eventually, I decided to email her offering my help, and...
"HYAHAAAAA!! No joke, vgperson is a god among us!! vgperson’s kindness does laps ‘round the world!! ⊂⌒~⊃｡Д｡)⊃"
She sent me the audition post to translate. At this point I had absolutely no knowledge of The Sandman beyond one screenshot, and all I knew of The Boogie Man was the post I was translating, which indeed just called everyone "Man A" and the like. Still, I translated it for her ASAP.
The original plan was to post the audition on Voice Acting Alliance, buuut their forum was broken. Thankfully, she got a fair amount of auditions from Twitter and my Tumblr post.
Once she'd made her decisions, she sent me a file with the character names, sprites, and winning auditions. This was the first point at which I had any idea there would be characters from the previous games (again, I knew nothing of TSM, so I didn't even know that had David and Shirley). And the first time I saw Sophie and Richard, even.
Not much happened for a while as Uri worked on The Sandman. She started having me translate emails to be sent to the voice actors (and also a response to those who didn't make it).
Eventually, she started appending things like "Are you well? It's getting cold!" to her emails... I mean, uh, she informed me that she wanted Sophie and the Boogie Man's voice actors to record brief lines for The Sandman, so I translated that email too.
To Spoil the Absolute Most Important Part
At the end of November 2013, when she had a rough idea of when she'd release The Sandman (...which ended up being about two months off), she felt somewhat pressured to get started on things because of the actors waiting to do their part. So she sent everyone detailed character bios and the first part of the script (up to meeting everyone on the ship), allowing them to start recording lines. Of course, she did this by sending them to me for translation first.
These character bios revealed a ton of stuff: everyone's pasts, Tod and his death, who the Boogie Man really was, that there'd be a playable Sophie part intended to show how Keith's perception of TBM is unreliable, etcetera.
The voice actors only got their own character's bio (and in some cases a few others), but of course, I got everything. However, Daveosity (the Boogie Man's VA) got everyone's bio so as to match how Boogie Man himself knows everything about the attendees.
Now then, some excerpts from this amazing document:
"Rather than being chased by your foes as in The Crooked Man and The Sandman, you're now the one chasing the Boogie Man."
"To spoil the absolute most important part, [the Boogie Man] is actually Brendon Dumont."
"Helena often teased him saying he'd make a good comedian, but Keith became a detective instead: "I like to make people smile, but there are times when that's not easy for people to do. I want to protect people and give them peace, so they can all smile.""
It's more of a general thing than one quote, but apparently the Boogie Man did single out not only Keith but David, wanting David to fall into despair over Shirley's death before he killed him. Evidently he really did look at his history and think, "How can I make this guy's life even worse?"
"While [Helena] may seem weak, she actually has immense strength when it comes to protecting the ones she loves, even being willing to die for them."
"Also, [David] hates anchovies. That's a hint for something in-game, so it's somewhat important."
"While David isn't the protagonist, he does have a very important role. There's a scene where Keith goes to light a cigarette and his lighter won't light, so David lends him his. That scene symbolizes how he "shows Keith the light," and in a sense guides Keith."
"[Brendon] is abducted by the Boogie Man while he's sleeping, and is decapitated as a sacrifice.
... ... ...Except, that was all a big lie. In truth, he IS the Boogie Man."
"The two couples in the game - the Barings, and David and Shirley - are presented as total opposites. Keith and Helena act as shields to protect the other, while Shirley and David protect each other back-to-back. They trust each other and let the other cover their back. They come off as less a married couple and more comrades in arms."
"[Sophie] hates being treated like a kid, so when Keith calls her "young lady," she retorts with "old man.""
"Actually, back when David was detained for trying to kill his mother, [Eric] was the detective who heard his case. Eric had a sick grandmother himself, so he felt sorry for David and worked to release him ASAP."
Another thing was that she mentioned Shirley was a "coin locker baby," which is a thing in Japan where unwanted babies are left in coin lockers and many die. Uri knew this was Japan-centric and requested an equivalent term, since Shirley's American and all. I proposed "dumped baby," i.e. a baby left in a park or something. Though when it came to actually mentioning it in-game, a better indirect phrasing surfaced... but that's getting ahead of things. Let's start at the beginning.
A general note for the original dialogue scripts versus what appears in the textboxes in-game. In games without voice acting, there are a lot of considerations for how to present a line - in essence, things that add up to influence how a player will mentally read it. Ellipses, extended words, stutters, capitalization for emphasis, multiple exclamation marks, etcetera, can affect the tone of a line without technically changing the actual words. It's hard to explain my thoughts on this stuff in detail, but I pay attention to it.
However, these things are different when there is voice acting, yet they also play a role for conveying tone to the VAs in the script beyond outright instructions. So the script generally contains more of the aforementioned things than the voiced version's final text. When creating the translated version at the end, I did my best to check every line against what the voice clip was actually like and make it look "right." Sometimes the reading of the line would be slightly different (intentionally or otherwise), so I changed the text accordingly. I definitely didn't want it to feel there was an incongruity between what was said and what was on screen; besides just feeling unprofessional, it would sort of take you out of the game.
As for the scripts themselves, they were somewhat like movie scripts - general descriptions of the settings, characters' actions, and (numbered) lines of dialogue, with basic parentheticals for smaller actions and things like laughing, sighing, etc. How much detail Uri gave varied quite a bit; I suppose it got better over time, with her increasingly explaining motivations and what the characters were thinking to help give enough context for good acting, as the game wasn't in a fully playable state yet. In retrospect, it may have helped for me to add more notes of my own about how I'd picture the line being read, but of course, I'd need to be careful that I actually had the right idea if it wasn't something Uri explicitly stated.
As I said, for the early scripts, The Sandman wasn't out and I knew little about it. Thus, I was translating the early scenes with this being my first look at Sophie, and... that's essentially why she says "papa" instead of "dad" now, because she's super affectionate with him in TBM. Luckily, the whole "growing up" theme of TSM ended up working okay with this; Sophie never had time to be a kid, so she's trying to catch up now, and using a childish name for her father is part of it. Also, unless choco.lait did retakes later (I know some did, but I didn't pay close attention), I'm fairly sure they didn't get to play TSM before recording these early lines, which would have given them more of an idea of what Sophie was like before, even if she is intended to have changed since TSM's resolution.
Arriving at the Castle
The part where you're waiting outside the castle before meeting Brendon was, oddly enough, added in a while later. Originally, the scene just started with Brendon introducing himself. I guess Uri added it for the sake of showing some interaction between Brendon and the servants on top of just Stevie, making him seem nicer and less suspicious as, well, the one who killed them all. Of course, it also added the "Ah, the Barings! Who are... not the Andersons who I know all about... but that's great of course!!" part.
A stage direction from when the Barings arrive at their room and Helena brings up Europe: "Helena talks to Keith, but one can sense how she's pushing herself to sound like she's having fun."
"...Come on, Dick." was originally just "...Dick." And... like, it's not like I couldn't have done that given the language that ended up being used later, but...
The D Day thing is a reference to "Double-D Day" in What Dreams May Come. However, in Japanese, Uri just wrote "2D," so I didn't understand it at all and translated it as, like, "two directions" for the auditions. But I asked Uri about it since it was so baffling ("Can't you see, Keith? Our marriage is two-dimensional..."), and corrected it once she pointed out the reference.
There were a few times when Uri asked me to translate a message to a voice actor to help clarify the details of a scene for retakes, as well as cases where she anticipated that further explanation would help and sent an extra message to the actor. However, it seems like she did a good deal of this by herself without me even seeing it - she only asked me to translate if it was too complex or detailed.
The History of Castle Livingstone
Uri had me translate a whole big thing just for the quickly-shown book pictures at the beginning which don't quite show everything, so... here's the whole big thing.
The history of this castle begins with a tyrant from another land who came here to conquer.
He brought architects from his homeland to mimic its designs, and used fear to coerce the land's natives into doing his bidding. With their assistance, the castle was completed in 1620.
This tyrant, Constance Livingstone, invited his family to live in the new castle, set the natives to work as farmers, and established dominion over the land.
It was his deplorable treatment of the natives that solidified his reputation as a tyrant.
The natives had long been farmers on the land before his arrival. But Livingstone sought to make riches from the export of corn, and so ordered the natives to expand their farmland.
To ensure that none would defy him, he kept family members in the castle as hostages, ultimately repurposing some as servants.
The natives held in the castle were forbidden from speaking their native tongue and were made to learn Livingstone's language.
If they made any attempt to flee the castle, Livingstone would mercilessly punish their family.
For a time, Livingstone made a massive profit taking the natives' corn through heavy taxation and exporting it back to his motherland.
However, he forced cultivation with a continued disregard for the natives' traditional farming methods, resulting in nutrient-poor soil and steadily diminishing corn crops.
This left the tyrannical family impoverished. But they were no less strict on the natives, and would not come to any compromise.
If ever a thing did not please Livingstone, he would subject the natives to hard labor, torture them, and kill them to raise his spirits.
One man was said to have been cut in twain with a giant blade, sewn back together, and displayed as a scarecrow in the fields.
A parent and child were said to have been pushed onto a bed of spikes and pierced through the hearts, their corpses then left to rot for a month.
One woman was said to have been burned alive before her husband's eyes.
It is thought these horrible deeds were not only intended as cruel punishment toward the natives; he also simply delighted in watching people despair over losing those who they held most dear.
Even after Constance's death, his descendants followed in his footsteps, bringing suffering upon the natives for many an age.
But finally, in 1778, the natives revolted. They invaded the castle, kidnapped the Livingstones, dragged them out of the castle, and had them executed.
Another note: in the Japanese version, there are actually subtitles for the "highlighted" words that catch Keith's eye and make it clear to him the castle had some bad history.
I didn't actually get sent this until later (close to the passed-around key puzzle), which I guess was around the time Uri worked out how she was rationalizing having a castle in America. It was also sent alongside Livingstone and his daughter's diaries and the notes, though the former didn't get English pictures or anything. But yeah, she noted to me how she knew it was strange and came up with an excuse that she wasn't too confident in. She also said the natives were "based on the Cherokee, though it's not clearly stated" - of course, you can tell that from the names.
Bring Me A Dream
After part 2 of the script (up to Keith waking up to find Helena gone), Uri decided it was time to focus on finishing The Sandman and did so.
Toward the end of Sandman development, Uri got the idea for preview videos and had me help translate for the TBM one. Then when testing began, she suggested the simultaneous English release, and I did the translation in about three days once testing was complete. The timing worked out such that Uri tweeted "I'm so sorry, it won't come out in February," and then, around 11:30 PM Japan time, "HAHA NEVER MIND I LIED."
After that, Uri could focus on developing TBM, apologizing profusely for her delay in writing more of the script. Her method from then on became to actually more or less create a chunk of the game, then send over the script. Later she took advantage of this process to provide screenshots in the script, which were sometimes helpful.
Something Strange Is Happening.
Uri asked me if it was strange to use "WUZ" for the graffiti. Obviously, it wuz not.
"Catch me if you can!" was, of course, given in English and pointed out as a reference to the movie. Uri even specified the quotation marks!
I wasn't aware of the "truth" of the cell scene when I translated it, so the translation is a bit strange and probably not quite what it should be. Helena repeats "daijoubu" a lot in it, and at that point, it seemed natural that she would be saying she'd be fine. However, in full context, she doesn't actually care so much about her own well-being (as Dick points out in the happy ending, she and Keith are very selfless), and she sustains injuries as she runs from the Boogie Man. Instead, she's reassuring Keith, who she thinks is in TBM's captivity, that he's going to be okay - she'll try to save him, and she won't let herself die, since Keith will be next if she does.
Saving the Grundlers
For Lance's reaction to seeing the Boogie Man again, I just wrote "eek!" for some reason, so the "hyehhh!" was basically all Nurvuss.
Speaking of the voice actors doing their part, Richard's encouragements to Sophie during the event were adlibs Uri told his actor to do.
Originally, there was going to be a sofa in the room to the right of the spikes which you could push under Richard to try and do the opposite thing, dropping Richard and catching him - however, if you tried that, the spikes would pierce the sofa due to Richard's weight and you'd die. This was scrapped, and while I don't know exactly the reason why, I'm guessing it was probably too hard for a player to predict that would happen.
What's in the Box?
The box scene is a Se7en reference, of course, and that part of the script is titled "What's in the box?" David's swearing after the reveal was specifically requested as stronger language than David would usually use to show how genuinely upset he is.
The water pressure part of the Shirley rescue was going to be much more involved at first, apparently. Uri asked me to translate some text on the control panel which implied you had to press buttons that added different values to get it up to a certain point. One can probably guess why that was dropped.
As I made mention of earlier, the Boogie Man outright called Shirley a "coin locker baby" in Japanese. The more natural wording that I ended up using in the translation was "dump her the same way her parents dumped her."
The Oingo Boingo lyrics were, of course, given in English. While the game says "???", the script simply says it's the Boogie Man's voice, so there's that.
I don't like the chess puzzle either. In Japanese, the hint is literally just like "if the battle does not begin..." When it showed up in the script, and Uri said the solution was "putting them in their positions before the battle," I assumed it was saying to put them in their actual chess starting positions, and while that would have been really annoying if true... Yeah, I'm not sure what her logic was. Anyway, I tried to make the hint more reasonable by talking about "back in the camp," but I still think it's a really iffy puzzle.
From the flashback with Sophie and Helena: "Sophie feels happy but embarrassed by Helena stroking her face and turns red. Having not had a mother for most of her life, she hasn't experienced this kind of thing much."
For the Boogie Man meeting Sophie before siccing the dogs on her, Uri gave the instruction to sound much more unemotional. She actually described it somewhere as "how Brendon is trying to act," and said the view from Sophie was important to show how the Boogie Man "really is." Yet Keith sees something very different. Brendon is trying to be a terrifying movie villain, but Keith sees what he perceives as his "enemy" - someone who reminds him of his former joking self, which he feels is to blame for his failure to protect others.
After saving Sophie, Keith warns Richard about not keeping an eye on her. When I translated the script, since he just said "shinu zo," I wrote: "Don't take your eye off that brat, Richard. She'll be the death of you." However, I think Uri caught that it should have been the opposite, since he was speaking from the experience of losing Tod. Thus, I'm assuming it was her who changed it to "It'll be the death of your daughter." I didn't realize this until the completed game, so I had to leave it like that to match the voiced line. But I was able to change it to "It'll be the death of her" in the voiceless version.
Keith's dream about Helena that changes meaning depending on your route was originally written in English, but it slipped Uri's mind to give me any context about the idea (the stage directions only described the "bad" version where Helena strangles Keith). So I wasn't sure what was up with it until I asked and got Japanese translations that showed the different meanings in each version. I did have to reword a few things that were just awkward English (Uri described it as "modified from lyrics she liked"), but I'm still really impressed by that idea.
Hear A Phone
The doctor after Keith confirms Tod's death used to have the line "There's been three incidents just today... It's not a good day." But it just got taken out, since I guess it sounded out of place.
After Keith gets yet another call in the hospital hallway: "He suddenly stops and glares at empty space. He feels like he hates someone enough to want to kill them. But he doesn't know who. Desperately suppressing his urge to scream, he goes back to walking."
When Keith assumes David hates liver given them both hating anchovies, Uri was unsure what to put for what ended up as "liver," asking if I could come up with a "similar" food to anchovies. And... actually, my first thought was liver, but I didn't say it. And then she came up with it independently. Well, it's not the first time.
There's a huge explanation in the script of David's thoughts about Keith during their conversation. To summarize: He has to wonder how Keith can be so calm if he really does value Helena - he feels there's no way he'd be as calm in Keith's shoes. So he questions why he goes so far protecting people, wonders if it's merely pride or something more, and how the notion of "pride" bothered him back when he was in flight school. In fact: "David wonders if, had he done the impossible and become an Air Force pilot, he would have ended up like Keith."
"While he speaks, Keith feels his heart calming down slightly. He had never told anyone about his fear of phones, and never intended to. It would have showed weakness. He doesn't know why he ended up telling David about his trauma. He considers that maybe it's because David is honest, doesn't poke fun at what people say, and would earnestly listen."
After talking with Lance: "Keith always tried to be unfazed by everything, handling things calmly so that he wouldn't cause anyone to worry. However, in this urgent situation, young people like David and Lance are causing him to feel restless. What upsets him most is that others have to tell him that he should be upset about Helena not being around."
I Will Beat Him Up
Keith's taunts toward the Boogie Man are adlibs. The subtitles were probably just for the sake of the Japanese translation, but I figured I should keep them, and they're necessary for the voiceless version anyway.
"He's got some keen insight, I'll give him that" was another mistake I made and could only fix in the voiceless version; as you can pretty easily tell from the context, Dick is actually saying that Richard was clever to have picked up on the oddity of Brendon's "death."
It'll Soon Be Sunny Again
Even once the last script was done and the actors finished their lines, Uri still had a lot of work to do. Since she'd skipped over them for the time being, she had to draw all of those many illustrations (her plan to do them while watching the Stardust Crusaders anime every Friday didn't last long at all), and had to edit over a thousand voice clips. Even after all that, there was still some lengthy testing due to all the opportunities for bugs, and it was slowed down further by her dog having surgery.
Oh, and not quite relevant, but Uri revealed to me that there was going to be a Paranoiac movie months before anything was publicly announced, because she "just had to tell someone." Aww.
Anyway, the game was finally tested, bugfixed, and sent to me to translate at the end of August. Non-dialogue generally wasn't in the scripts and thus I hadn't translated it in advance, so that was the main thing, though as I mentioned at the start, I also had to check that the dialogue "matched" the voice clips instead of leaving it exactly how it was in the script.
At the very end, I found two issues. First was that the readme said, in the part about skippable cutscenes, "Shit = Skip the scene." Oops.
The second had to do with the character bios. Uri gives the heights in feet and inches in the Japanese version, too. However, something was odd. At first I thought it was just a typo, but I realized almost all of them were weird.
You see, Keith was listed as 6'10". Which is pretty tall. Helena was 5'24". That's... that's really tall. Stevie was... 5'57". Um, what?
Then I realized: Uri had pretty much decided the characters' heights in centimeters, then converted them to feet, then replaced the decimal point with '.
So that was... really good. (I felt sort of bad, but honestly, I really enjoyed that I got to write an email explaining it to her. "If you take this literally, Stevie is a three-meter-tall giant at 5 foot 57 inches...")
And that's pretty much the whole story from my perspective. It was an experience, and my conclusion was that a translation spanning over a year and a half isn't something I exactly want to experience again. (Uri feels similarly and has certainly learned lessons for the future.) But it was really great working so closely with Uri and seeing the game unfold the way I did. So...
*Keith voice* So long-a, Boogie Man!