Rune Factory 5 Localization Blog #3
Hi there, rangers! Assistant Localization Manager Lori here with a brand-new blog entry on Rune Factory 5’s localization! Today I’m going to talk about this title’s voice recording process—namely, what we did to make the voice acting work in the English version.
But before I get into the nitty-gritty, I should describe my role in RF5’s localization first! I initially did miscellaneous tasks for the team, which included giving feedback on character names and making sure the localization’s tone matched that of other titles in the series. Around the summer of 2020, however, I began translating the game’s massive voice script. I balanced this responsibility with my tasks for Pioneers of Olive Town, which I was still working on at the time. Since I’d attended several voice recording sessions for other titles, I had a general idea of how to translate these sorts of lines. But this was the first time I’d ever worked on a full voice script, so I was pretty excited about it!
Rune Factory’s always been known for its partially-voiced dialogue, which ranges from random greetings to love confessions. But what exactly did it take to bring this world to life? Well, I’m going to guide you through the whole process, so sit back, grab a fizzy beverage of your choice, and enjoy the ride, because we’ve got lots to cover!
Casting the Crew
After we finished translating, editing, and proofing the script, it was time to ask the most important question of all: who would play whom? The team began discussing this right away. We created a reference sheet with basic info about each of Rigbarth’s residents, which helped our recording studio decide who to cast for what part.
Here are two examples from that document, featuring our protagonists:
For some characters, our team already had a general idea of who we wanted to cast. As you can see, we suggested that Robbie Daymond and Allegra Clark voice the protagonists, and their auditions were right on the money. We hope you all enjoy Ares’ and Alice’s English voices as much as we do! Here are some excerpts from their auditions:
Robbie and Allegra are both amazing actors who perfectly captured the energy of their Japanese counterparts. One of Robbie’s battle cries so resembled the Japanese version’s that, during LQA, I was repeatedly asked whether the developers had forgotten to replace that specific English clip…but no! It was just Robbie!
We had a harder time choosing voices for some of the other characters. While we had a general “range” in mind, we didn’t always know which actors could do what sort of roles. We asked our recording studio to provide some suggestions, and they sent us auditions in return. Our team would then vote on which we liked best. We did have one special case, specifically a character who’d rather go on a special case rather than be a special case—and that’s Cecil, the apprentice detective!
Cecil’s Japanese voice actor, Ayumu Murase, has one heck of a range. While the team wanted our Cecil to have lots of peppy detective energy to preserve the essence of Murase’s performance, we weren’t quite sure who could do that in English…but one audition for Ares had what we were looking for.
One of the team said, “Hey, what about Zeno for Cecil?” and the rest of us slapped our foreheads: “Now there’s an idea!”
After auditions were over and we’d chosen our cast, it was time to get ready for…
Remote Rune Recording
Rune Factory 5’s English recording took place from November to December 2020. Due to the pandemic, most of it was done from our homes via Zoom, in the form of three two-hour sessions per day. Characters like the protagonists and marriage candidates required multiple sessions to complete, while we finished most of the other characters in only one or two. My schedule for RF5 recording days looked something like this:
- 8AM – 10AM: Make last-minute updates to the studio script based on our editor’s suggestions. We sent that to our director and the studio once we’d finalized lines for the characters we were recording that day. (I don’t recommend doing this, but our schedule was pretty tight and RF5’s a big game, so we didn’t have much of a choice!)
- 10AM – 1PM: Morning recording sessions. At least two XSEED staff who worked on RF5 were always present. We took 5-10 minute breaks every hour or so to let the actors rest their voices, especially if they were doing battle lines that day.
- 2PM – 5PM: Afternoon recording sessions. Usually went the same as the morning sessions.
- 5PM – 7:30 PM: Reflect more edits for the next day’s studio script based on our editor’s suggestions. (Since recording requires a big time investment from everyone involved, we worked a few extra hours per day during this period. But don’t worry! That’s not our norm.)
We included context explaining when each line in the script would appear in the game, using information provided by the devs. This helped Christian LaMonte, our director, explain what the actors needed to do. HUGE shout-out to him, by the way. Christian gave our actors so many funny prompts. One of our favorites was:
“Okay, so the protagonist gave you a present, but it’s just a [LARGE ONLINE RETAILER] gift card. Not the best thing in the world, but thoughtful enough.”
Trust us when we say he had dozens more, all of them equally great.
Despite our hectic schedule, we had an absolute blast telling the actors about their characters, seeing their reactions, and watching them bring the cast to life.
After recording wrapped, our studio gave us the voice files to review for any issues. We sent our feedback, received the updated voice files, and shipped our English lines to the developers!
At this point you’re probably thinking, “Oh, cool! So that was it, right?”
Every game needs a good round of LQA, or Localization Quality Assurance. We fix all kinds of bugs and play the game as much as we can to make sure everything works as intended. Since Rune Factory 5 had 1.5 million Japanese characters’ worth of translated text to check, this was an absolutely ginormous undertaking. Our LQA took place over the summer of 2021, and my main job involved checking the game’s English voice clips. The moment I booted up our first build, I knew I was in for a farm dragon-sized QA adventure.
I mentioned earlier that we’d received information explaining when and how each line would be used in the game. Well, it turned out some of that context wasn’t quite correct.
Remember how in Rune Factory 4 Lin Fa would tell you “Happy birthday!” instead of “Congratulations!” when you won a festival? Or when Pico said the same thing upon learning that you and Dolce were expecting a child?
Okay, great! Now imagine that times a thousand across all of Rune Factory 5’s cutscenes and dialogue. Characters had out-of-context voice lines absolutely everywhere.
Rune Factory has always had English lines like these because the games are only partially voiced. Sometimes the voiced line doesn’t exactly match the textbox’s contents, but if the general sentiment is still there, it flows well with the text.
That wasn’t the case here. These out-of-context lines were popping up in important main scenario scenes where they didn’t belong. For example, Ares and Alice were saying lines to Palmo that they were meant to say to Warden Gideon! Martin had a “Congratulations” line that was supposed to be used during his brother Cecil’s wedding, but that voice clip ended up appearing all over the place, so he was saying “Congratulations, Cecil!” to…well, not Cecil, that’s for sure!
Obviously this was a major problem, so we had to address these issues on a large scale to make sure the appropriate English voice clips were used at the right time. We contacted MARV’s localization department about this issue, and they offered to help us in any way they could. But how could we solve a problem of this magnitude?
Lori and the Enormous, Humongous, Very Big, Extremely Large List
Since Rune Factory 5’s voice programming is a little complicated, I’ll explain how it works before I describe how we adjusted it for the English version.
Each voice line has a unique ID, like a little name tag. Every Japanese text box uses a specific voice line ID, so the English version of that text box uses the exact same voice ID but plays the English version of that voice line.
Consider this line from one of Martin’s events: when the English text under the green box here appears on the screen, the game knows it should play Alice’s “Good work today!” line.
Originally, we couldn’t change an individual text box’s voice ID. If we wanted the developers to change a voice ID for us, system limitations would force them to adjust every other text box in the entire game with that voice ID. Depending on the situation, a single voice line might be used just a few times…or a few hundred times!
So if we wanted to change that Alice line to something else, we’d also need to change the other lines that used it.
We spoke about this problem with the developers, who decided to create a new system for the English voices. This let us change an individual text box’s voice ID if absolutely necessary, which meant we could now fix voices that didn’t match the context.
But someone would still have to look through a list of every voiced text box in Rune Factory 5 and check whether the voice line made sense. If it didn’t, we had two options:
- Change ALL instances of a voice line to something that made more sense.
- Change individual voice lines where needed (generally reserved for high-priority fixes).
So that is exactly what I did! When the developers gave us the list of all the text boxes associated with a voice line, I reviewed every single one (all twenty-six thousand of them) to make sure that the voice lines made sense. So your Rune Factory 5 experience might be one of the most immersive partially-voiced RF adventures you’ve had!
This process took about three months: one month to check and finalize the list, one month for the developers to implement my suggestions, and one more month for me to review those changes in-game. I checked the main story events, each romance scenario (opposite-sex and same-sex!), and every sub event.
Because the English voice track pulls different voice lines in different places compared to the Japanese version, your gaming experience may differ slightly depending on which audio language you pick! Whether you play as Allegra Clark’s Alice or Sora Amamiya’s, you’ll discover something new every time you play!
Some of the English version’s voice lines are actually exclusive to that version. I definitely recall some conversations in our version with extra voice lines that the Japanese track lacks! If you get to know Lucas, you’ll probably hear one or two, but the game has many more, so keep your ears open!
Here’s one of the clips exclusive to the English track. Unfortunately, some of the others contain spoilers, so you’ll just have to find them yourself!
See Your Mission Through!
It still blows my mind that RF5 is coming out in about a week. I’ve now worked at XSEED for 3 years, localizing a series that I grew up loving, and I’m so honored to have contributed to yet another RF title (and the first one to have same-sex marriage, to boot!). Thank you to every Earthmate out there for always supporting Rune Factory and making it the wonderful series it is today! I don’t think RF5 would be here without all of you cheering us on!
Rigbarth has so many surprises in store, and I’m eager for you to start your adventures there! Put on your ranger hats, pick your special someone, and get ready to cultivate giant crops to your heart’s content, because the wait’s almost over!
If you haven’t pre-ordered RF5 yet, don’t fret! It’s still available at participating retailers. Hooray!
I hope you enjoyed reading about how we recorded and implemented voiced lines for RF5! It was a lot of work, but absolutely worth it…times twenty-six thousand.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m heading back to Rigbarth! I have a certain succubus to impress…
See you there, rangers!