Mad Haxing, and Other Busy Work

Sorry about the lack of recent updates, I’ve found myself in a situation where I’ve got a lot of stuff on my plate all at once.  I figured I’d take a moment to show off all the fun and interesting things I’ve been working on.

Mangagamer Titles

I did testing for this game, Harukoi Otome. It’s cute, but like Koihime, holy sh*t is it long. Too long for my poor attention span.

I wrote a post over at the Mangagamer blog when I was first getting started, but I’ve been doing a variety of work for Mangagamer recently, including testing and more interestingly, programming and script work.  I’ve been working on all the titles that have been coming down from Softhouse Seal, doing engine localization and text insertion.  It’s pretty grunt level work but I can automate a lot of the text stuff and focus more on engine details.  So far ‘Sexy Demon Transformation’ and ‘Boob Wars’ have been released (If you encountered the crash bug in the original release, that was my mistake), and I’ve mostly finished up on SSSS – Super Secret Sexy Spy.  There’s more in the pipeline I’m sure, but I haven’t started working on any of the newer titles.

Mangagamer’s decision to go with the Softhouse Seal titles is interesting.  I’ll be the first to say that they aren’t exactly masterpiece games, but they are relatively fun for what they are (which is a attractive looking – compared to say magical teacher- sexy romp with a lighthearted story and a wide variety of sexual scenarios).  I actually liked Sexy Demon in particular, since it had some pretty creative scenes. While I’d rather see higher quality titles get translated, these titles are fairly quick to localize and sell pretty decently.  I don’t think these nukige are replacing the big name titles that MG does, they’re just filling in some of the gaps between releases.  They don’t sell as much as those flagship type plot focused titles, but they do require only a fraction of the translation muscle to localize.  I hear Boob Wars is actually selling fairly well, at least well by normal sales standards.

I’m also working on a separate title, one that’s been requested fairly frequently by MG’s fans.  I’m not allowed to give it away, but it’s being given quite the treatment.  I’ve been tasked with completely porting the game from it’s original game engine over to the Kirikiri game engine, the same one that runs the seal games, Kara no Shoujo, Jast’s Girlfriend is the President, and a whole bunch of other titles (it’s a very common free open-source game engine).  I must admit, my experience with the game engine before hand was quite limited, but I’ve gotten pretty good at using it.  It really is a quite advanced engine, and you can do a lot of things with it, but damn, it can be a little fickle at times.

Doing a full port is really quite interesting, but there’s a lot of work to do it.  Like, a LOT of work.  It’s a bit strange, since the original game engine wasn’t too bad for English text, but the company doesn’t have any staff available to support us since they’re all busy working on their new title, so porting seemed the best option in order to make the project feasible.  Relying on the Japanese companies to do a lot of the technical work can be difficult sometimes since they often don’t have dedicated staff to handle our concerns (and often it wouldn’t be economical to do so).  Doing things on our own gives us a bit of leeway and speeds up the process a lot. Anyways I’ve gotten kind of attached to the game, having put in so much time working on rebuilding it from the ground up.  It’s a big undertaking, and I will probably write a bit about the process once they actually announce the title.

On another note, I’ve also been doing some testing for Mangagamer.  I’ve worked on the re-edit for Koihime for the voice patch (which arguably made the game’s text bearable), and Harukoi Otome.  They’re both decent games, but holy cow they are long.  I do have a spare free game coupon that I don’t really need, maybe I’ll just drop it on the /vg/ VN thread or something.

Trample On Shatten!!

Probably the first time I’m mentioning this one, I’ve gotten involved with Moogy and Makoto over at JAST to do work on their recent acquisition, Trample On Schatten.  The original game engine is a spectacular train wreck when it comes to English text, so I will be porting this game as well to the Kirikiri game engine.

Schatten is a fairly action heavy game, as opposed to the Mangagamer title and there’s a lot of fancy on screen effects, movement and transitions, which complicates the porting process a lot.  Effectively what I did is I built a tool that compiles the original game scripts into equivalent Kirikiri scripts, and then work in all the functionality into Kirikiri that the original game requires to run.  If that sounds like it’s hard work, you would be right.

Progress is pretty good so far.  At the moment the entire first chapter plays (more or less) correctly in the new game engine.  There’s a lot of features that are missing, important things such as save/loading, message history, the gallery, and the scene select system thingy the game has… but it’s coming along well.  Moogy’s plodding along with the translation too, so hopefully we can work this one out before dragging it into JAST TIME.

Honestly it is a little weird to be working for both players in the English VN market, and I’ve heard a couple of joking ‘working with the enemy’ comments too.  But both of them are pretty cool though and I’m actually pretty happy to be working with both of them.  The differences in process between the ways each works is intriguing, although I guess I have to be careful about what I say and who I say it to.

Grisaia no Kajitsu

Koestl has been making steady progress on the game’s translation, having completed Amane’s route, and nearing completion on Sachi’s route.  That’ll put the entire project’s translation progress at about 60%.  I’ve not been doing much work personally on this lately, since the tools are all pretty solid and no major technical issues remain.  There’s still some interface translation work and some work in entering modified images, but at the moment there’s not much that needs my immediate attention.  Koestl’s the real hero for his work on translation, it’s amazing that he can keep dedicated and continue steady progress after all this time.

Other Fan Projects

I created this glorious piece of art while attempting to get duel savior to load new images. It took a lot of wrangling to get it to this point, but it worked.

I’ve gotten asked to help out on a few other random projects.  I helped Pun-kun with some text insertion tools for his Majikoi S project, although it was a relatively minor contribution. I helped Aroduc with his duel savior project, wrangling with the massive nightmare that is giga’s game engine. I didn’t do the hard stuff, but I did do a bunch of exe hacking, which was fun.  I also had to reverse engineer the ps2 version of the game to get all the voice files out (shout out to the people who worked on the Tomoyo PS2 project since I was able to re-use the decryption routine with Duel Savior).  I couldn’t decrypt the image data though, so I think Aroduc actually ran through the ps2 version in an emulator and captured all the cg directly.  Crazy.  Working with Duel Savior was a huge pain since the game engine hates everything, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a huge number of issues still present.  I heard CG unlocks were still broken for destiny route… but there’s not much I can do.

There are a few other random projects I’ve done work on, although not much I can talk about. One of them had maids in it though.  Mmm, maids.  At some point they’ll probably get announced,  or may not.   The unfortunate thing about doing technical work for games is that a lot of the time the work is very front loaded on a project.  Translation on the other hand is often the opposite, and drags on a very very long time.  I’ve only been doing this for a little bit and have already run into doing work for projects that effectively go nowhere, but I’ve put in a whole bunch of hours on.  I can see why the VN scene loses hackers at a steady rate, since they probably get burned by failed projects a few too many times.

I’m lucky in this regard, working with JAST and Mangagamer at the moment, as it’s unlikely I’ll really run into the issue of projects getting canned or abandoned.  Working with Koestl and co as my first project has really been a great experience, and while Duel Savior was frustrating to work on, working with Aroduc was cool. I’m certain he somehow has more hours in a day than I do cause he somehow gets a huge amount of work done in a short period of time. The reception seems to have been quite positive, despite some of the remaining bugs.

Here’s hoping future projects will go as smoothly.

Updated Shuffle Font Patch

Mangagamer released a new patch for Shuffle a few days ago, which apparently fixes a game crash that occurs when viewing some of the CG in the CG room.  The patch also breaks the font patch I put out for the game.  So that said, I’ve updated the font patch on the site to work with the new patch.  If you want to install the font patch, you’ll now need the latest version first, head over to Mangagamer’s site to grab it, it’s only 1.3mb.

Updated Shuffle Font Patch

Shuffle and Soul Link Font Patches

So over the Halloween sale I picked up Soul Link from MG, and also at the same time decided to grab Shuffle too. Both games default to my least favorite second least favorite font in the known universe (behind Comic Sans), Courier New, so I quickly fixed up a font patch for both games.

Shuffle! Font Patch

Soul Link Font Patch

I’ve also set up a Game Patches section on the site which has a collection of all the patches I’ve released, so you don’t have to go looking around for them later.

Launch Mangagamer Titles In Steam

For a while now, I’ve been trying to get my Mangagamer games to launch from steam’s game library as a non-steam application. Unfortunately, the DRM that is built in with Mangagamer releases crashes because of how Steam hooks into the games. Downloading a cracked version is of course one option, but it’s kind of a pain and I have quite a few games.

Luckily, it turns out there’s an easy solution.  All you need to do is enable compatibility mode for the game executable in question, and it will launch properly in steam.  I’m unsure exactly why it works, it doesn’t require you to set any OS compatibility in particular, just that it’s enabled.  Either way, now I can launch my games from Steam and creep my friends out by having it show when I’m playing an Eroge!

Da Capo Dialog Update Released!

Alright, it’s done! As I mentioned in detail in my last post, Kotori Love ExP contains the shared route story and Kotori’s route for Da Capo Plus Communication, which is an improved/expanded version of the original Da Capo. It also gives the game a much needed editing pass over the original release (back when Mangagamer’s releases weren’t as high quality) to make the game much more readable. The original translation wasn’t so much bad, but it was in desperate need of an editing pass to make it flow properly.

So what I’ve done is taken all of the matching dialog from Kotori Love ExP and ported it back to the original Da Capo. Things don’t line up exactly, so not everything is updated, and the individual character routes will use their original translation since they aren’t in Kotori Love ExP. Obviously updated content from Plus Communication doesn’t make an appearance, just lines that were the same in both versions.  That said, there’s still a huge amount of text that was updated, with approximately 260 of the games 600 script files receiving updated text.  Maybe I’ll give a full count sometime, but it makes up about ~40% of the game dialog.

They're both the same lines from the game's opening scene. The bottom screenshot is the updated translation.

Porting it has been kind of an adventure of it’s own.  Normally I would attempt to automate the process, but the scripts from the two versions are different enough that that’s not really possible.  So what it came down to was manual comparison and text insertion.

It's kind of embarrassing some of the strange things that made it in the translation...

After a bit I realized that just manually copying over lines was going to take ages.  There’s thousands of lines that are in need of updating, and just the act of copy/pasting that much makes me a sad man.  Eventually I wrote some tools that rips the dialog from each of the game scripts and puts them into a comparable format.  I used Beyond Compare to compare the two, because out of all the diff/compare tools I looked at it was the only one that allowed (effective) comparison of entire folders. After that it was just a matter of going through the slow process of merging lines that made sense to merge, skipping lines when the story diverged, and making small tweaks to lines where it’s needed.

The actual comparison process. Boring right? At least one click to merge a line makes it go quick.

The whole project gave me an interesting glimpse at exactly what was changed for the Plus Communication version.  It’s not just the new characters, but a lot in general was updated.  Some particularly awkward scenes and development have been outright replaced, some scenes are extended to make them flow better, and characters are added to other scenes which increases the amount of time the characters are interacting with each other.  Oh, obviously also new CG, new character stand art, and improved ‘gameplay’ aspects.  It’s a real shame that they aren’t planning on bringing this over, because it gives Da Capo a rather impressive face lift.

So yeah, that’s about all there is to say about it.  You can download it below, it’ll work with both the download version and package versions of the game.  It also includes the font fix.  I hope at least someone out there finds it useful!  If you don’t already have a copy of Da Capo, you can pick it up over at Mangagamer.com.

Download the Da Capo Dialog Update Patch

 

Da Capo Translation Update?

So I’ve been playing Da Capo recently, which is one of Mangagamer’s earlier titles. It came out roughly around the time where their translations are kind of sketchy. They’re good translation wise, but there’s no… flow. Maybe they just didn’t have an editor back then, who knows!

This was more of a stand out issue in Da Capo than it was in Suika I think because Da Capo has more humor and just general randomness, which doesn’t come across very well in a stiff translation. I think Suika’s story came across a lot better (despite it was probably the same translator) probably just because the script works better with a direct translation.

But! Mangagamer released one of the Da Capo fandisks, “Kotori Love ExP”. The fan disc contains Kotori’s stories from Da Capo Plus Communication (the updated version of Da Capo with new characters and content), Da Capo Innocent Finale (an all ages retelling of the DC story), the other fan discs White Season, After Seasons, Christmas Days, as well as a new scenario featuring Kotori.

The key here is Plus Communication, the Kotori Love ExP version is the main game except it won’t let you continue on any story other than Kotori’s. That means that the entire common route for Plus Communication is actually already translated. Most of the games content is the same as the original though, just with extra scenes with the new characters. Since I’m just playing Da Capo for the first time, and I happened to already own a copy of Kotori Love ExP, I decided that when playing Kotori’s route I should play through the updated version of the game instead. Why not?

I wasn’t sure if Mangagamer would re-translate the content that was already translated for Da Capo, but it seems they did actually do that. It looks like they did a full re-translation, or at least a serious re-editing, of all the game content, which is quite obvious when you play the two side by side.

Well, even though Mangagamer won’t fix the translation of their old games, and likely won’t release Plus Communication fully in English, we do have a re-translation available for all of the game’s shared content (scenes that appear before the routes branch off). It’s only the first half of the game, but it’s still better than nothing right?

So what I’ve started doing is actually port the translation back from the new translation in Kotori Love ExP back to the original Da Capo where the scenarios actually overlap. I’ve got the first two days done, and while it’s kind of tiring, boring work, it’s not really that hard. And, hopefully when it’s done it can be used to provide a more enjoyable experience for the common route, and maybe even Kotori’s route if it’s not too different in the Plus Communication version.

Conquering the Queen – Review

This is a title that is definitely outside of my comfort zone, as ‘surprise sex’ is not usually on my list of favorite things. Liquid games are widely known for their mastery of the non-consensual, which is definitely a put-off. But you know, they say a wise man once said “Don’t knock it till you try it”. I’m not sure this phrase was intended for sexual assault, but what can I say. When Kouryuu of Mangagamer announced that “Rape is now on sale! Get your rape now!”, I knew that I had to at least give it a shot.

(For the record, I do feel some guilt for playing and reviewing this game!)

Title Conquering the Queen
Original Title: 魔将の贄 (Mashou no Nie / Sacrifice to the Demon General)
Original Release November 2004
English Release October 2011
Studio Liquid (Nexton)
Localization Mangagamer
Genre Visual Novel (Dark Fantasy Rape Adventure)
Rating Adult Only (18+)
Availability Download Version @ Mangagamer € 19.95 ($28 USD Approx)

Read more of this post

In Brief: Suika

I’ve been playing this game over the last little while after an online friend (Olf) pushed me to play it.  It’s an earlier game that Mangagamer released in English (and just an older game in general), but it has a good translation.  I must admit, it’s a little hard to follow the writing though… but I don’t think that’s the fault of the translation.  The story shifts perspectives and it doesn’t necessarily make it easy for you to determine who’s narrating.  At first I thought it was bad writing, but I’m starting to think that in those cases they are deliberately making it ambiguous.

The story itself is broken down into 4 separate chapters, each one with a different cast of characters.  The stories all take place over the same period of time, so there is some overlap and characters in one story will sometimes interact with the characters of the other stories.  In certain cases, your earlier choices in an earlier story will actually change the outcome of the future chapters.  It’s a bit confusing to figure it all out so I’ve been playing with a guide myself.

The stories themselves are all quite interesting.  They’re all fairly different from each other, even if they’re all stories about relationships.  Some of the stories are quite are very clever… chapter 3’s story more or less broadsided me with it’s reveal.  I completely failed to catch the significance of what was going on until it hit me right in the face. The characters are also a really interesting bunch, they don’t really fall into general VN stereotypes.  Definitely my favorite so far is Sayaka, who’s the heroine of chapter 2.  She’s just too awesome.

Well, back to playing.  Maybe once I’m done I’ll give it a full, proper review. 🙂

Kira Kira Review

High off my recent visual novel binge and having had a good time with Edelweiss, I decided to move onto Overdrive’s and Mangagamer’s next big title, Kira Kira.  It’s not a new release by any stretch, but I bought the game a while ago and never really had a chance to play it.  The game has quite a reputation as one of the best the English market has to offer, and I’ve been pretty eager to see how it lives up.

Kira Kira
Original Release November 2007
English Release June 2009
Studio Over-Drive
Localization Mangagamer
Genre Visual Novel (Young Love Rock ‘n Roll Novel)
Rating Adult Version is Adult Only (18+), All-Ages Version removes sexual content.
Availability Digital Adult Version: 29.95€ (Approx. $41 US)
Digital Bundle w/ Curtain Call: 39.95€ (Approx. $49 US)
Digital All-Ages Version: 24.95€ (Approx. $34 US)
Package All-Ages Version: $19.95 US
Apple iPhone AppStore All-Ages Version: $9.99 US
Trial Available at Mangagamer.com

Read more of this post

Edelweiss + Eiden Fantasia Review

Edelweiss Eiden Fantasia

Early September Mangagamer released an updated translation for the OverDrive title ‘Edelweiss’. Edelweiss was one of Mangagamer’s launch titles back when it opened summer 2008, but the translations were rather poor and reflected badly on the company. Fast forward a couple years, Mangagamer is making right on their promise to fix things up for their fans with a complete re-translation of the game.  This was more than enough reason for me to get off my lazy butt and play it.

Edelweiss also has an expansion or fandisc called Edelweiss Eiden Fantasia, that provides stories for the two side characters that did not get their own stories in the original, Sakura and Rin. Eiden Fantasia is a standalone game in that you don’t need to have the original, but since it ties seamlessly together and requires you to play the original to get the best out of it, it’s in your best interest to play both.  I picked up both through the Mangagamer website.

Edelweiss Edelweiss Eiden Fantasia
Original Release December 2006 August 2008
English Release July 2008
September 2011 (Re-translation)
March 2010
Studio Over-Drive
Localization Mangagamer
Genre Visual Novel (School Love Adventure)
Rating Adult Only (18+)
Availability Edelweiss Digital Version: 24.95€ (Approx. $34 US)
Eiden Fantasia Digital Version: 15.95€ (Approx. $21 US)
Edelweiss + Eiden Fantasia Bundle: 30.95€ (Approx. $42 US)

Read more of this post