Final Fantasy Fan Translation Has Become A Fiasco

Final Fantasy Fan Translation Has Become A Fiasco

Last week, the creators of an unofficial English translation for the role-playing game Final Fantasy Type-0 announced that they were taking down the patch and all blog posts associated with it.

"Unfortunately I'm forced to remove my posts and pages related to the popular Final Fantasy Type-0 fan translation project," wrote the project lead, who goes by the handle SkyBladeCloud. "That's right, [publisher Square Enix] thinks that threats and false accusations are the way to treat its biggest fans."

For many gamers and media outlets across the web, the narrative became simple: big bad corporation comes out of nowhere to step on hardworking fans. But the story of Final Fantasy Type-0's fan translation -- which I've been following for months now -- is far more nuanced, full of drama both external and internal. Square Enix has been engaged in conversations with the fan translation team for quite some time now, according to team members. And not everyone on the team is happy with how the patch was released -- or how this story seems to be ending.

Final Fantasy Type-0, a PSP spinoff in Square's ubiquitous series, was first announced at E3 in 2006. When it finally came out in Japan during the fall of 2011, the PSP was on its last legs in North America, and though Square had been preparing to release the game in English, they changed those plans for business reasons, according to people familiar with the project. By 2012, Square had shelved a near-complete localisation that included an English script and voice recording work, various people have told me, speaking anonymously because they were not authorised to talk about the game.

But Square never talked about those plans publicly, leaving western Final Fantasy fans in dismay as they wondered whether they'd ever get to play Type-0. So when SkyBladeCloud and his team of translators and programmers announced in mid-2012 that they were working on a patch for the game, people were thrilled. If Square Enix wasn't going to release the game in English, well, hey, at least we could all still play it.

Over the next two years, Square stayed silent about the fate of Type-0 in the west. Though Square's executives would occasionally drop vague hints about the game in interviews, there was no concrete news, and the few times I did ask Square about the game, they sent over non-answers like "we have nothing to announce at this time." Meanwhile, the fan translation team kept plugging away, and at the time, project lead SkyBladeCloud said he wasn't concerned about legal repercussions.

"I'm not worried since I live in Spain and different laws apply," Sky told me in an email earlier this year.

In March, the team announced that work was almost complete on the translation patch, and they had a final release date: August 8, 2014, almost three years after Type-0 came out in Japan. Not long after that announcement, Square Enix representatives reached out to the fan translation team, warning them that the company intended to protect its copyrights, and asking the team if they'd like to talk further about mutual solutions that would leave both parties happy.

The Square representative asked Sky to sign an NDA, and they talked extensively over the next few weeks, though Sky could not tell me anything about those conversations or even acknowledge that they had happened. It's my understanding that from Square Enix's end, the conversations were friendly and casual, and representatives for the publisher saw legal action as a last resort.

Meanwhile, other members of the translation team -- who say they have spent a combined thousands of hours on the Type-0 project -- speculated that Square was reaching out because they had a big announcement to make. They talked about how they would proceed if Square did announce a western release of Type-0 -- and they discussed the possibility of not releasing the patch at all, to avoid potentially hurting sales if the game did come here.

Soon that would all go out the window. In early June, Sky suddenly announced that they were releasing two months early, and that the patch would be available on Sunday, June 8 -- the day before E3. The patch was immediately popular, Sky said -- he estimates that it got 100,000 downloads in four days -- and fans were ecstatic to finally get to play Type-0 in English.

But the rest of the team wasn't happy about this. Some of the writers felt like the patch shouldn't have been released yet -- they needed more time for edits, polish, and bug squashing.

"The patch was far from ready and we still had some videos to translate and some more text to proofread," said Adam, one of the team's writers. "We also hadn't fully played through the game after all of our updates. Sky was the one who pushed for the August release date even though most of us felt like it was unrealistic."

Here's an excerpt from one Skype conversation among the team:

[6/7/2014 12:50:13 PM] Adam: Sky just tweeted for everyone to expect a release today or tomorrow though

[6/7/2014 1:21:24 PM] Core: Sky, the rest of the team agreed to wait until after E3. Why are you tweeting about releasing the patch?

[6/7/2014 2:46:14 PM] Merkabah: Yeah, that's extremely not cool

[6/7/2014 2:46:38 PM] Merkabah: kind of feel like you're just using all of our hard work to try to stick it to SE

[6/7/2014 2:49:35 PM] Merkabah: I figured this was a team effort, especially since I've been putting in 12-hour days for the last two weeks that maybe my opinion would have some sort of bearing on how all of my work ends up being used

[6/7/2014 3:09:05 PM] Hakurou (TJ): well this is interesting

"Then Sky didn't log onto Skype, answer emails, or answer tweets from us until about 8pm," Adam said. "After that Core, Merkabah, and I gave Sky a piece of our minds. Sky accused us of holding the translation hostage and that he thought it was 'good enough' back in February. He really had low expectations."

"Most of us, however, are pretty big Final Fantasy fans and had high expectations for the quality of the translation," Adam said.

In the coming days and weeks, this decision would fracture the group, and members of the fan translation project have described a rift between them and Sky that led to a number of angry conversations and even some team members quitting.

"I went ahead and released it without the consent of the whole team," Sky told me a few weeks ago, when I asked what had happened. "I'm not proud of that, but I think it was the right thing to do in that situation, to release it, to let the fans have what we were working on before the official announcement."

On Tuesday, June 10, Square dropped a bombshell of their own: Type-0 would be coming west, not for handheld systems but as a high-definition remake for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. (A consequent Vita announcement flub left a bad taste in some fans' mouths, and led many of them back toward the fan translation patch.)

http://kotaku.com/vita-fans-are-...

The sequence of events has led some gamers to speculate that Sky found out about Square's announcement and released the patch to preempt them, but Sky says it was just a guess. In fact, he believes that Square's announcement was actually just a reaction to them releasing the unofficial patch.

"I had no information about any E3 announcement," he told me. "Note that it wasn't an actual E3 announcement, but a press release. This, added to the fact that the trailer had no actual game footage (or music, for that matter), and [the Vita announcement mix-up], makes me think this was something completely improvised."

It's unclear just how much Sky knew before E3 -- neither he nor Square Enix would talk at all about their conversations -- but the timing was certainly strange, no matter who was reacting to whom.

Within the next few weeks, Square Enix started sending legal requests to Sky, and they eventually asked him to take down the patch, which he did. He has also removed all blog posts connected to the Type-0 translation, other than the one that's currently up:

You know I normally use blog posts for relevant information only, such as project announcements or releases. However, I'm sorry this time it will be a little bit different:

Unfortunately I'm forced to remove my posts and pages related to the popular Final Fantasy Type-0 fan translation project. That's right, certain game company thinks that threats and false accusations are the way to treat its biggest fans. For the time being I can't answer questions related to this matter, but I'll write a more comprehensive post about all this once I get the chance.

I hope you understand, and as always I appreciate your support (that I might need more that ever in the near future). Thank you very much:

~Sky

A representative for Square Enix declined to comment on this story.


Comments

    Rookie error. When I was researching how to avoid Square Enix interfering with my FF7 2D remake, the pattern I found was that anyone who announced an advanced release date got slapped with a C&D. Don't do it.

    Who the hell cares? The patch has been on the wild for weeks now. With this, Square Enix is just reminding that to the fans.

    Man... I know it'll never happen, because Final Fantasy is just an endless pit of money they can draw from, but Square need to stop making those games and just consolidate the brand.

    The more games they release the worse it gets.

      FFXIV has been pretty decent, especially when compared to past Final Fantasy games (while it doesn't really need to take much effort, it's already leagues better than FFXIII).

      The FFXIV team will even give minor characters their time to shine: http://youtu.be/bRRUzPTkGzo?t=22s

        I cant really agree that FFXIV was decent. I'd say, not worse than ff13. Which isnt high praise.

          By contrast, I really enjoy 14. And HATED 13. :)

          14's definitely received a better critical response, too, post-relaunch.

            The only time I played it was post-relaunch, it's still a pretty basic mmo, more polished than most, but lacking a bazillion features you see in wow, guild wars 2 or wildstar.

            Also the story just makes me cringe and the voice actors are terrible still :P that much it shares with ff13 lol.

            Of course this is all my opinion.

            Last edited 23/07/14 7:59 am

              Gotta admit, til now I'd never really thought about trying to measure FF14 'as a Final Fantasy game' and have it stack up against the others.

              While the meat-and-veg of the combat is very 'basic MMO' in its stand-and-trade-blows combat which is even slower than the more reactive 'action combat' favoured in newer MMOs, the basics are still very solid, the art is gorgeous, and the story is... well. Play a character who started in Ul'dah and you might enjoy it more (the others are definitely naff). For me, the best part of it is the crafting system and the non-combat classes. Each gatherer and crafter class has its own levels, equipment, skills and 'talents', with their own mechanics and 'combat' system for ensuring a successful/higher-quality gather.

              If you've watched the Log Horizon anime (and I highly recommend it, if you haven't), you'll probably find FF14 is one of the closest MMOs around which you'll get to that, so far.

              In terms of how it stands up 'as a Final Fantasy game', I think the difference is the story. With everyone choosing their own avatar, you can't impose a personality on the protagonist, which weakens the story immensely - by allowing for any kind of personality, you display and explore none.

              It's a difference you notice pretty starkly in the storytelling of, say... Mass Effect, Tomb Raider, Dragon Age. DA:O's Grey Warden is a weaker character than DA2's Hawke, but there's less room for interpretation, self-insertion; the story that people tell for themselves, rather than the story the game tells you. Mass Effect walked the line brilliantly; there is no doubt that this was Shepard's story, Shep as a clear and distinct character only nudged in either direction by the player. Final Fantasy has always told the story of its characters. An MMO can't do that without telling the player who their character is and what motivates them, which MMO-players don't want. So, if - to you - a Final Fantasy game is defined by its story, then yeah. FF14 would be one of the weakest.

              But in pretty much every other area? It's a much, much stronger game.
              Graphics, amount of territory to explore, freedom of movement through that space, number of classes/jobs, complexity of combat techniques, number of side-quests and detail-filling/world-building stories, customization... on its merits, there's simply more to FF14 than any other Final Fantasy.

              I think the catch is never actually seeing it due to how fucking slow it is.

              You move things along a lot faster in a SP FF game, purely thanks to the concessions 14 made to MMO conventions (all with the aim of keeping people playing it for years and fitting multiple people in the world). But when you look at each piece of game mechanic/game world to experience there's infinitely more complexity, variety, and longevity in 14 than 13 or any of the predecessors. It's just difficult to see because it only unfolds over a hundred hours of play. :P

              Summary: Weaker story, but more of it. Better/more varied/complex mechanics, but takes fucking forever to unlock them.

                Yeah, that's a fair summary. The story picks up a bit when you start doing the 2.1-2.3 storyline's (which is AFTER you hit level 50), as well as the Hildibrand, Binding Coil and Crystal Tower storyline's. SE have also confirmed they plan on making the future dungeons have more story to them (though it'll be hard to compare to Tam-Tara's "Corpse Groom").

                By the way, Rogue (Thief) and Ninja confirmed for 2.4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5LJUBaug_g Three-four months away.
                Gold Saucer might be coming around in 2.3x (if not, then 2.4), as well as the Dragon Quest X, FFXI and Lightning Returns cross over events (anniversary).

                Last edited 23/07/14 9:49 am

                  I never made it to 50, I think im a black mage around 45.
                  Found the story and characters really bad so far, like no interest at all (my opinion). The story and the story of the quests/actual interactions on said quest is just not up to par with the other AAA's. I feel its pretty restricted in terms of size of the world and graphics (I like the ff style, but for some reason it still feels overall worse to me than WoW, more bland, less personality).

                  @riavan
                  You also have to keep in mind that they remade FFXIV in two years (starting when FFXIV 1.23 was still up). The entire 2.0 storyline is pretty generic, though once you finish that and start on the 2.1 storyline and on, it shifts from being generic and becomes interesting. Also, as said before, the Tam-Tara Deepcroft Hard Mode has a pretty nice/gloomy story. Edda Pureheart has pretty much become one of the most loved/popular characters in FFXIV, almost taking the spotlight away from the entire cast of the Hildibrand storyline (which involves Gilgamesh and Ultros)

                  http://www.reddit.com/r/ffxiv/comments/2a9wji/tamtara_lore_welcome_to_creepsville_spoilers_all/

      Type-0 is really, really good though. That's the biggest rub here: the one excellent Final Fantasy game they made in the last decade or so was also the one they couldn't be bothered releasing despite having localized it completely.

    A shambles by the sounds of it. On the plus side, for anyone who missed out on downloading the patch officially, there's probably about 100 torrents out there somewhere by now, not to mention mirrors and so forth. Square Enix demanding the patch be removed after it's been released is too little too late. Now that it's out there, the internet never forgets.

    I hope you understand, and as always I appreciate your support (that I might need more that ever in the near future). Thank you very much:

    that statement alone, is written in such away that he is claiming full credit for the hard work of many many individuals. at no point does he give any other team member any credit whatsoever. extremely selfish of him to have made his own decisions, without ever consulting the rest of the team.

      He totally knew they were going to announce it at E3- coincidence my a**

      It was a major pat on the back to himself and a major blow to his team and the greater good. Sad to say but I'm glad it blew up in his face. His decisions dictated the consequences.

    Feels like he's got delusions of grandeur if he thinks the SE announcement was a reaction to his...

    Even though its just a remake, its still a relatively significant financial commitment for a company

    nice how he worded it as "certain game company thinks that threats and false accusations are the way to treat its biggest fans" whilst avoiding the fact he's a douche - both to the game company and to his team. way to go a$$ -0

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