We’ve been plucking along with the translation over the past several months, though the blog updates have been infrequent. We’ve recently come up with a new work schedule, and it’s been a more productive process so far. Many thanks again to our head translator, Justin, for all his fine work. We’ve also started a Twitter account, @SegagagaEng, so we can update on a more regular, bite-sized basis.
Also, I realize that alot of your comments haven’t been appearing on the blog. I apologize for this. They require individual approval since we’ve received a deluge of spam comments. I’ll wade through them after posting this.
This blog post contains spoilers for references, in-jokes, and plot elements for Segagaga. Most of these spoilers are for set-up narrative elements rather than big reveals, though, so you can tread with less trepidation than you might otherwise.
Magic: the Gathering appears as an early reference in Lab C. Taro enters to discover that the place has the appearance of a factory and is divided into class-based tiers (Penthouse, Commons, and Slums). One of the slum workers views Magic cards as a kind of currency.
We’re taking those class-based tiers as cues for rendering the speech of each area’s inhabitants. For example, some of the bug-check workers on the lowest tier are supposed to sound like backwoods hicks, and we’re giving those higher up the social ladder exaggerated, high Victorian speech patterns.
I’m vaguely uncomfortable with many attempts in videogames to draft rural stock types since it leans toward an unoriginal lambasting of Southern US accents; therefore, in my mind at least, the language that we’re using for these stock types can function with most lower social class American accents except for extreme New England. The exaggerated speech patterns of the American upper class, however, seem a bit harder to generalize, so those drafts will be something generally lofty and preposterous.
The interesting thing about using speech patterns as a way to make fun of someone’s educational or class background, though, is that even people who identify as the target class use an exaggerated form of those speech patterns to signify someone who’s uneducated. Much of my family comes from the rural South, so I’ve got some experience here. We just use a more extreme exaggeration… sometimes choosing an accent from a different region other than our own, whereas someone from another region of the South might choose our accent as their go-to referent for dumbness.
In literature, though, using unorthodox spelling and punctuation is rarely an attempt to record actual dialect. Even in Twain’s local color, writing dialectical character speech primarily conveys differences in class status and background, so, in one sense, designating these characters with different visual language cues does much of the legwork itself. Achieving the same effect with strong and original prose, of course, is our goal.
This also allows us to take advantage of the flexibility in word-coining and (especially) idioms that occurs on a dialectical level. Being ironic and Southern is an object lesson in self-awareness, folks.
The slumlord (boss of the lowest tier) requires a little more fine-tuning than that, though. I’m able to draw upon some personal experience for this guy. I’ve worked on a number of manual labor crews in the past, and my supervisors’ code-switching between talking to their crew and talking to their supervisors is sometimes amazing. (For those who don’t know, “code-switching” refers to changing speech patterns in dialect and accent to adjust to a different social context.) They’ll switch from using informal and regional speech with their crew to using less accented, more standardized and “educated” speech with their superiors.
This character, then, has a tone that slides on a spectrum, betraying his familiarity with one extreme when he’s at the other. When he’s speaking with his underlings, he uses that more “hick” flavor text, and he uses a more standardized English when speaking with Taro or his immediate superiors. In either case, though, he has a formal touch when speaking informally and an informal touch when speaking formally… so he doesn’t sound as refined as his superiors.
We’re working this into his very first lines when Taro first appears in his office. He initially addresses Taro using the informal speech he’d use with his workers, then code-switches to more standardized speech when he realizes that Taro has corporate authority.
Taro: Who’s in charge? Where is he?
Doorman: I’m his go-to guy. When I work up a sock-sweat, the slumlord he give me cards. Man’s in ‘ere.
Slumlord: Yeah? Who’s knockin’?
Taro: Nice to meet you. I’m Taro. I’m here from Project Segagaga to meet Lab C’s director.
Slumlord: Oh, ahem, uh, Segagaga? Word is that you’re closing down lab after lab. If you’re here, that means… You plan to rein in Lab C too?
Taro: Exactly. That’s why I need to speak to whoever’s in charge.
These are our readings of the characters, not all of which are objectively in the text but which can be defended as strong interpretations. Making the characters in some way your own is a huge part of strong dramatic copywriting, I think.
I actually had the impulse to give the slumlord’s first line a very regional phrase (currently in use) that actually sounds archaic if you’re not familiar with it: “Who darkens my door?” Unfortunately, as lovely as I think that line is, it wouldn’t decode as informal to most players, so we’ve had to consider alternatives.
Part of Lab C’s material involves moe, an anime aesthetic. Lab C has a repressed atmosphere, and the reigning order doesn’t approve of moe despite its integral place in otaku subculture. As a result, moe bubbles beneath the surface and becomes a kind of subversive, underground trade-economy (anime figurines, moe posters, etc.) Because Lab C follows such a rigidly organized and bureaucratic structure, we’re dropping Orwellian terms into our copy editing when appropriate to convey the hunted nature of moe.
Moe as thoughtcrime!
Here are some screencaps from Lab C so you can visualize the characters we’re talking about.
1: Taro stands in front of a closed-down elevator shaft. To the left sits the Magic: the Gathering obsessed Doorman, while below stands a grunt worker. This elevator shaft plays a dynamic part later in Lab C’s story.
2: Taro speaks with the Slumlord. His and another character’s designs are very clearly riffing off the style of Hayao Miyazaki.
3: The enemy designers appear to love Ralph Macchio. Macchio appears in the dojo segment of Lab B as a standard enemy, and he appears in the slum of Lab C in various mecha forms.
If there’s any doubt that this is, in fact, a reference to Ralph Macchio, the katakana for the original character’s name transliterates directly to “Macchio,” though earlier Segagaga translators have rendered the name as “Macho.”
PROGRAMMER MACCHIO BOOSTER
There’s a lot to love in this game.