I don’t know if this warrants a lengthy explanation or if a quick and short statement would be best. Anyway I decided to go with a bit of explanation. Only read on if are in the mood for a bitter, old man’s ramblings.
To clarify in advance – this only concerns the projects I’m directly responsible for. This means Devil Children, Haruhi and the SMT remake. Some others I’m not sure I ever announced officially. I’m still unsure about what to do with those. Kingcom’s projects are completely unaffected by this, you don’t have to panic over Tales of Innocence or SRWJ. There are obviously some delays on those, but they are still progressing and this really isn’t the right blog post for more about that.
So, where to begin…
I’m sure you all read a ton of “I quit” posts from various hobbyist projects over the years, some more convincing then others. More often than not you probably thought “That fucker is making all that shit up and is just too lazy”. I know, since I usually think that myself. It’s a convenient excuse, much easier to sell than “I have no interest in this stuff anymore”. If you chant it enough I’m you can even convince yourself that that was the reason. I’m not a fan of self-deception though, so I’m stating it clearly here: I just have no interest in romhacking anymore. I have more than enough free-time to continue with my projects. But I can think of a dozen things I rather do with it than sift through ASM code looking for code that loads an obscure string from only-god-knows-where.
So I guess I should explain why I ever started hacking in the first place. What do you gain by translating some obscure Japanese game into English?
I’m sure there are almost as many reasons as successful hackers out there. For myself it was a bunch of different reasons. What got me started in the first place was my involvement in Romhacking.net. When the site was created, I was just an enthusiastic fan of game translations like many of you are. I didn’t have internet at all for 2 years or so and when I came back online I noticed some of my favourite websites I used to check, like Zophar or The whirlpool were dead or dying. When I read about Nightcrawler’s plans to create a new community hub I was eager to help and become more involved myself. I basically grew up on translated SNES games, so I had a big desire to give something back to the translation community. At first that was RHDN, but over time I felt a bit awkward being the only staff member who had no real practical knowledge of hacking himself. (Though I’m a damn quick study and picked up most of the basics just by hanging around. I wrote most of the Romhacking Dictionary right after I had pretty much heard of those terms for the first time myself!) So I picked up what I needed and started my own translation project. Even then there were big stretches of time in between progress, where I just didn’t feel like spending time on it. Fortunately I also had a lot of help from awesome people like Gemini, D or Djinn who were there at exactly the right times to help me overcome major hurdles when I got stuck. Somehow, probably thanks to more luck than skill I managed to complete the translation too. I’m still damn proud of it and I hope you enjoyed the game. I know a few thousand people at least downloaded the patch, I hope at least a bunch actually played and enjoyed it.
Where should I have gone from there? I probably should have quit at that point and not now. The reason I had chosen DQM for my first project was really already nothing more than looking at screenshots of a couple of games and then seeing if I could find any text or not. DQM was taken since it was the only one where I quickly found the text and made progress. I wasn’t the greatest diehard Dragon Quest fan or something like that, I think at that time I had only actually played one DQ game myself. It was mostly luck that I ended up liking the game too, although I honestly can’t say if that’s entirely objective or just because I invested so much time in it I had to like it.
I had barely found a viable project the first time, what then? I basically got myself talked into various projects by people I had worked with before. I somewhat wanted to hack another game (I have the skills, why not use them!) but had no idea which, so I asked translators and friends from the scene about interesting games to hack. I then basically stuck with whatever they suggested and started working again. I guess you can already see where this is going and why I was never really in love with those projects. Instead of hacking something I want to do for myself I started a bunch of half-assed projects for other people and dragged them around for years before finally becoming fed-up with them. I’m really sorry, but I just couldn’t work on those projects anymore. As far as I am concerned they just aren’t good games too.
The biggest reason I can’t find good projects I want to do for myself is that I probably outgrew of the JRPG genre. I used to suck up anything Japanese with a turn-based battle system like a dried-up sponge. Nowadays I’m far far beyond the point where I’m so indiscriminate about the games I play. Those of you who know me from the RHDN board most likely even consider me a pretty big elitist when it comes to games, and I really wouldn’t say anything against that. I’m too old for mediocricy. There are a lot good to great games left I haven’t played yet and a dozen new ones being released every year. Why should I waste 50 hours of my time on some totally generic JRPG then? That genre is so fucking dead it’s not even funny anymore. Tired old battle systems consisting of nothing but pressing A on the attack option until the random enemies are dead, spice it up with a spell or item for boss battles, then move on. Level grind for 2 hours to overcome any lame artificial barrier the game puts in front of you. Click through completely pointless dialogue without even a shred of substance, getting my brain liquidified by tired animu stereotype characters without any depth. JRPGs suck. Yes there are exceptions to that. But if you delude yourself into thinking there are a lot of those that don’t suck left among the untranslated ones, … more power to you. I just turned 24 a week ago. I don’t want my intelligence to be insulted any longer by RPG developers who think they have to tell me about the incredible power of friendship and love to overcome evil. There is only so often you can hear the same crap over and over again. The stuff that wasn’t localized already, usually was so for a very good reason.
I have to look really hard to even find untranslated games I’m interested in. Those I found aren’t easy to hack, definitely not as easy as DQM was. DQM took me years, how much longer would these take? I’m interested in those games yes, but not interested enough to warrant that time investment by any stretch. And when it comes down to it, translating games should be about what you want to play for yourself. Translating stuff for others just doesn’t even begin to warrant the time investment needed. The only logical conslusion I can draw from this is to stop hacking. I think I contributed enough to the scene, I don’t owe anything to anyone but myself. The only person I’m indebted to is Tom who already translated the script. But I don’t think I would be doing him a big favor by dragging this out for more years.
Let me clarify something here. This decision is concerning my personal opinion of games and genres and nothing else. That I don’t want to translate or play most RPGs these days doesn’t mean I look down on all my hacking friends and colleagues who keep translating them. They still love those games and there are obviously a lot of fans out there who still love them. So I’m still fully behind all of the other current and future projects out there. When people invest a lot of their freetime to translate those games for free, they deserve nothing less than absolute respect from me or anyone else.
I’ll probably write a little blog post about which games it is I’d still like to see translated some day, just for kicks. And so you can rage about why I’d be interested in those crap games and not in Dragon Quest clone 27 instead. Who knows, maybe someone is also looking for a way to give back and would consider picking up those games! One can dream. I certainly wouldn’t ask of anyone to go through the hell of translating those.
So what will happen with those projects I started? That’s a good question. I would love it if they were being finished by someone with the skill and motivation to do so. Since I don’t have the motivation myself I can’t ask anyone else to do it. Maybe I’ll just upload anything I have so far on them to the site and if anyone wants to take a look at the stuff, rock on. But I’d have to clear this with the other people who were involved in them first. Except for one scene with a password question Devil Children should be fully playable from start to end. The menues aren’t pretty and some are damn glitchy, but it should be playable. Maybe I should just work around that password thing and release what I have, for everyone to use on their own risk? I’m not sure what to do. No promises, no predictions at this point.
I would honestly prefer not to allow any comments on this post, since there’ll probably be either angry kids yelling at me for dropping their favourite projects or good-luck cheers from people I’ve never even seen before. But those who absolutely want to get something off their chests would just do it in the comments of another blog post and closing them all would be unfair to Kingcom. So have fun flaming away.
Greetings to my respected friends and colleagues from the community (you know who you are). See you guys on IRC and the board.