Topic: The Do-It-Yourself Corner
Before I begin, I'd like to say that working on Sylvanian Families for GBC has given me more experience with translation hacking than any project I've ever attempted. I dare say it's given me more experience with translation hacking than any one game could provide. It's like the game equivalent of the Chateau d'If, only warm and fuzzy: I came in Edmond Dantes, hopelessly naive sailor, and I came out as the Count of Monte Cristo, implacable agent of divine justice with a buried fortune at his disposal, deus-ex-machina powers that most shonen manga heroes would be envious of and characters like Zorro and Batman claiming their heritage from me. Well, not really, but you get the idea.
On that note, I'd really, really like to claim I'm an expert on the topic of translation hacking, but I can't. Sylvanian Families really is only one game, no matter how hard it is to get a translation inserted, and there are probably monsters out there lurking in some game ready and willing to tear my head off if I even think about translating them.
You know, if I keep beating around the bush like this, the DIY Corner is going to become the Lecture Circuit. So here it goes, as best I can: the real, genuine Chapter 1.
If you've ever had any serious interest in games, you've probably had a title you really, really wish you could play in your native tongue, but for some reason, the powers that be denied you your gaming goodness. You've found the ROM, downloaded it, played it, got frustrated at having absolutely no idea what was going on or having to constantly consult a dictionary, got more frustrated that no one but you seems to know your game exists and hence nobody's tried to translate it. Or maybe you just want to prove your translation skills and have a likely target in mind.
That said, translation hacking is often a multi-person job, but it can be done by one person working alone, assuming he/she is skilled at all the tasks required: the bare essentials are script dumping/insertion, graphics editing, and of course, the actual translation.
For the sake of argument, I will assume that you, the reader, have either 1. enough of a grasp of Japanese to translate with the aid of a dictionary or 2. a ready, willing and able translator on hand. If you have neither, I strongly suggest you visit the following link:
Do not ask the users there to teach you. Use the resources provided in this link. The Japanese forum on AnimeLyrics.com is for language help and advice, not for dumping your translation woes upon.
At the absolute least, you should learn the kana, the syllabic writing system which represent the basic atoms of the Japanese language. There are around 100 total, split between two systems: the hiragana, cursive letters used to write native words, and the katakana, which more resemble print and are used like italics are in English: for emphasis and for writing words of foriegn origin. Some games, Sylvanian Families included, also throw in a smattering of simple kanji; you should prepare yourself with the appropriate resources.
Trust me. Even if you have a translator handy, it pays to know these.
Right. On to the more tangible requirements. Apart from the game and a good emulator (one with tile and map viewing is preferable; for the trickier parts, make sure you have memory viewing and some debugging functions), you will require:
1. A graphics editor. Your ordinary Paintbrush won't help you with this: in fact, not even Photoshop will help you. Directly, anyway. Games store their graphics in a myriad of strange (but usually efficient) formats that can't be read by ordinary graphics programs. I used to swear by Tile Layer Pro, but the Java-based Tile Molester (pardon the name; it's not mine) beats it in practically every concievable way. Most graphics editors, Tile Molester included, also allow you to export graphics in BMP format for editing in your favorite paint program: this is handy when it finally comes time to do the title screen. If you run into something tricky, FEIDIAN is a tool written in PHP for extracting graphics from a ROM directly into BMP format, but if the game you've chosen has anything Tile Molester can't view on its own, you should probably see if you can find an easier project. ^_^;
2. A hex editor. This has absolutely nothing to do with spells or curses: a processor, be it in a game console or sitting behind a prominent "Pentium 4 HT" label, is ultimately a sophisticated abacus for shuttling numbers, and as such a game, from the emulator's viewpoint, is merely a long list of numbers to shuttle around. Even the game's resources. The graphics editor, as with any paint program, takes those numbers and assembles them into the graphics they're meant to represent: the hex editor takes those numbers and presents them to you at face value. You see, even the all-important text is stored as numbers, and by using the two aforementioned editors in tandem, you will assemble a table that allows you to see what numbers represent the game's text and where and how it's stored. I strongly recommend Bongo's WindHex for this.
3. A script dumper. Once you've taken care of the above, you can use this program to extract the game's text, or "script", according to the table you compile. I've been using romjuice, but it comes compiled for Linux with C source code: you could get a C compiler and compile it for your own machine, or I could get off my butt and provide my Windows-compiled version if you need it.
4. Klarth's Atlas. Generically speaking, you want a script inserter, which will take your translated script and transform it into the digits that the game understands using your table as its guide, but Atlas is the best I've found, and if you have some skill with C, you can tailor Atlas to your precise needs (although it should have everything you need already if you've chosen a simple project).
5. A word processor with Japanese support. As noted above, actual Japanese knowledge is purely optional, but knowledge of the basic kana and possibly a few simple kanji is a must. JWPce is a great freeware program which supports multiple formats: WindHex, to my experience, requires its tables be in Shift-JIS format, and if you wish to reinsert Japanese text for any reason, Atlas supports UTF-8 (although I'm uncertain what other formats it supports). For some strange reason, I can't remember what format, or formats, romjuice supports. Of course, you could always construct a table using the romaji (literally "Roman letters", i.e. the English alphabet) equivalents of the Japanese symbols, but I can't recommend this.
Some games will require tools other than the ones outlined above, but for a simple, tutorial-worthy project, this is all we require.
This chapter is called "Getting Started", and that's precisely what we've done: gotten started. I seem to have a nasty habit of either having too little to say or embarking on page-long rants where they're not needed. Tune in next time for our next step: making the table!
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