Original title: “Landmark”

This is an edited version of a blog post that originally appeared on 05/10/2007.

We’ve almost reached a checkpoint in our work. I’ve smoothed the bumps from the translation for the Lab A gameplay section; I’ve got English subtitles on the movies that play through the first part; and the incidental text (such as the descriptions and names of items) has been done for a while. As soon as we plug the English text into the game and give it a whirl, we’ll be ready to release a demo patch that will make everything up through the end of Lab A playable.

One of the jokes in the Lab A section gave us a real headache. I think it really shows exactly how specific the game’s market really was. SegagagaTaro: The Chief, he mentioned a Golden Flag!

NPC: …I see… the Chief, huh…. Okay, then. The Golden Flag–also known as Flag Number F6–controls the door between the Programming and Design Wings.

Taro: Controls the door?

NPC: It’s basically a key to unlock the door to the Design Wing.

Taro: That’s why it’s called “Golden.” It’s just as the word says.

NPC: Pretty damn user-friendly!

Taro: But only older gamers are going to get this stuff.

NPC: It’s okay. We can play with a portable console nowadays. I can’t say which one, exactly, since it’s another company’s trademark… well, anyway.

Narration: Anyway.

(Yes, the narration actually dismisses the topic of conversation.)

The translation trouble arises when Taro says, “That’s why it’s called ‘Golden.’ It’s just as the word says.” Something’s afoot that’s not very evident. I’ve researched the problem and asked some people who know a fair piece about programming–certainly more than I know–and they clued me to the probability that “F6” refers to a hexadecimal position in the programming code.

In a game, a “flag” is a little yes-or-no binary switch that allows something to happen or not. So, in this instance, the “Golden Flag” represents the “switch” in the program code that lets the player open the door to the Design Wing. Someone suggested that the hex position F6 was an arbitrary place where the flag happened to reside in the Segagaga program code.

My reasoning and research leads me to think that F6 doesn’t refer to a hex position, but that it does play into a technical, programming pun.

Four questions stand out about that dialogue I transcribed. First, why is the “Golden” color significant? Second, why did the programmer rename the flag “Flag Number F6?” Third, why does Taro say only older gamers will understand the topic of conversation? And, finally, why does the programmer bring up handheld consoles as a remedy to the problem of the player’s age?

My answers:

(1) The Importance of the Golden Color

First and foremost, the flag is literally yellow. The Japanese description of the flag is “kin no furagu,” which comes out directly as “Flag of Yellow.” The kanji used for “gold” can also be pronounced “kane,” which means “money,” but that doesn’t seem to have any bearing on the remainder of the conversation. I’m taking it as incidental and irrelevant to the puns.

Taro’s remark about the appropriateness of the description immediately follows his learning that the flag opens the door to the Design Wing. Prior to the conversation, he had seen the door, which was also yellow. This explains the most superficial part of the pun: the flag that opens the only gold-colored door in the development studio is also gold-colored.

This, however, doesn’t seem like enough to justify Taro’s reaction. He pulls his share of Solid Snake moments (“A Hind-D!?”), but he’s not an idiot. This leads to the next question.

(2) Why the Golden Flag is Flag Number F6

I searched around some programming databases to see what connection “F6” would have with colors in videogames. Those results have led me to my current interpretation.

I’ll skip a long explanation of the nuts and bolts and jump to the conclusion: the hex number FF6 is used as a standard code to tell a monitor to display the color yellow. This is similar to the codes used to assign colors in HTML, except that the FF6 hex number specifically related to 8-bit graphics.

“Flag F6” = FF6

FF6 = 8-bit Yellow

Flag F6 = Program flag with the same name as Yellow = Golden Flag

(3) Why Only Older Gamers Will Get This

I expect that Taro’s referring to the fact that most younger gamers cut their teeth on the Playstation, and they aren’t very familiar with 8-bit gaming. This has changed, of course, given the wealth of access to 8-bit games via efforts like the Virtual Console as well as ROM piracy.

Another question remains: why the hell would any gamer, however old he is, be expected to know the color code pun?

I think this has a lot to do with Segagaga‘s target audience, otaku. These are the people who will most likely appreciate Segagaga‘s industry satire, and they’ll also likely know enough about the rudiments of programming to know the 8-bit hex code for one of the primary colors.

(4) Handheld Consoles

Sega released Segagaga in 2001 barely one week after Nintendo released the Gameboy Advance. Up until that time, the most popular handheld console in Japan was the Gameboy Color. It could display 8-bit colors, and it didn’t suck batteries as fast as the Atari Jaguar and Sega’s own Game Gear. (Many thanks to Brady Hartel. This was his observation, and I think it fits the scenario perfectly.)

I expect that the programmer refers to the Gameboy Color. It’s popular, meaning wide access among younger gamers. It’s 8-bit, fitting with the FF6 yellow code. And it’s owned by another game company, preventing the writers from specifically mentioning Nintendo as the trademark owner.

The pun is also appropriate since the Golden Flag unlocks the door that connects the Design and Programming wings of the development studio. The joke involves the technical code for graphics, so the Golden Flag represents the combined fruit of Design (which decided to make the flag yellow) and Programming (which coded the flag to look yellow).

I can’t think of another explanation that satisfies all of the questions lingering from the exchange. If anyone reading this blog has a better idea, let me know!

Signing out!

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One Response to Original title: “Landmark”

  1. Gareth Jones says:

    Excellent article but just one oversight: the Atari Jaguar wasn’t a portable – you’re thinking of the Atari Lynx.

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