Interview with the Granblue Fantasy Localization Team

As a change of pace from interviews with voice actors, FKHR, and KMR, we reached out to Cygames and asked if we could pick the brains of their localization team. To our delight, they agreed!

Making the team

Granblue_en: What was the reasoning behind the decision to have an English translation for Granblue? And why handle it internally instead of outsourcing it?

Cygames: It was one of the most popular games we had at the time, so the decision to localize the game and make it accessible for more people came very naturally. We have gotten and still do get help from external partners from time to time, but we prefer to localize everything internally as it is beneficial both in terms of quality and scheduling.

Granblue_en: How many characters and words get translated in an average month of Granblue Fantasy?

Cygames: Approximately 100,000 to 150,000 characters are being translated per month.

(editorial note: light novels tend to range from 20,000 characters for a short novel to 200,000 for a long form, to provide some context on how much text is produced by GBF each month)

Granblue_en: Approximately how many people are involved in the translation and localization of Granblue? Is it a specific team, or does Cygames have an overall localization department that handles all their English titles?

Cygames: Unfortunately we cannot disclose the number of people, but we are lucky to have a very passionate and competent team that includes translators, LQA, and coordinators working hard to bring the game to its fans. We do have a specific team for Granblue Fantasy; some members are also involved with localization for our other titles.

(editorial note: LQA stands for Localization Quality Assurance)

Lowain and the bros in their fully localized glory in GBVS.

Granblue_en: Is the team involved in any of the localization efforts for Granblue material outside of the game? For example, the anime, manga, GBVS, etc.

Cygames: Yes, our team oversees a wide spectrum of content outside of the game itself including the anime and GBVS, as well as CDs and other merchandise.

Granblue_en: What are some of the typical challenges the team faces when localizing Granblue? For example, Japanese text is much more dense than their English equivalent, etc.

Chloe-speak, from her sumemr version fate episodes
Chloe has one of the most unique ways of speaking in the game.

Cygames: In terms of UI, it always requires a bit of effort to fit the necessary information within a limited amount of space. In cases where there are only a few kanji characters in Japanese, it’s not easy coming up with a concise yet comprehensible equivalent in English. Another challenge is being mindful of all the characters in the game. Including the different versions, Granblue Fantasy currently has over 600 characters; getting a good grasp of every single character’s background and their previous events can prove to be a formidable task. Our team has a glossary that we constantly update with information on each character’s story, personality, speech patterns, and so on.

Granblue_en: Has the localization ever influenced decisions about content in the game itself?

Cygames: Yes, we are constantly communicating with the Japanese side. There have been instances where names for skills, classes, items, and so on were suggested by the localization team. The team also works as a safety net by looking out for any sensitive content—for example, relating to politics or religion—that may pose to be a problem, and discussing with the Japanese side on possible alternatives.

Granblue_en: Does the team see comments and reactions from English speaking users? How do they feel about it?

Cygames: We do keep an eye out for reactions from our English players. Positive comments are shared among the team to boost motivation, while more critical reviews help us talk over what we can change to make it better next time. We are also attentive toward any bugs reported online and work to fix those as quickly as possible.

Granblue_en: Does Cygames consider the localization of Granblue a success, whether in user numbers, feedback, etc? Will English localization be a point of discussion in their other titles, both current and future?

Cygames: We are very happy that Granblue Fantasy has so many fans across the globe. We hope to make more products and services available in English and other languages in the future.

Localizing events

Granblue_en: How much work is involved in the localization process? Can you describe in general terms how an event gets localized, from receiving the script to putting it into the game?

Cygames: Scripts and other material are translated, checked, implemented into the game, and go through debugging before they are ready for release.

Granblue_en: How early does the localization team usually receive the script to an event?

Cygames: We generally receive scripts about 5 weeks before release.

Second Advent

Granblue_en: What was the most difficult event to localize?

Cygames: It’s hard to choose just one, but long-standing events with a more serious tone can be challenging to localize. Stories like the “What Makes the Sky Blue” trilogy and Society events touch on lore such as angels and moondwellers—these are significant to the world of Granblue Fantasy and involve a lot of underplot and characters. In cases where a continuation can be anticipated, it is important that we neither add nor take away anything from what is intended in the original Japanese. This especially can prove to be a daunting task.

Granblue_en: The preview text and trailer for “Seeds of Redemption” was dense with Buddhist concepts and double meanings. How much research was done to localize it?

The English event preview for Seeds of Redemption, which included references to all ten Eternals

Cygames: Although we decided not to adhere to specific Buddhist terminology, thorough research was done during the translation process. We opted for something English-speaking players may be more familiar with, and paid extra attention to preserving double meanings in the text. We’re ecstatic that both Japanese and English-speaking fans were especially impressed with the translation of the preview. As we usually receive the original text without any precise explanations, noticing and reproducing this kind of wordplay depends solely on the localization team. We are very lucky to work with members highly skilled in both English and Japanese with an open understanding of both cultures.

Granblue_en: Does the team have any favorite events in terms of localization?

Cygames: This is also hard to say, but events popular with both our Japanese and English players are generally favorites for the team as well, from the more somber Society events to heartwarming stories like “Ranger Sign: Bravo!” and “A Peace of the Pie,” to comedy such as “The Maydays.”

Granblue_en: When translating a collab event, how much of the source material do you familiarize yourself with? Are there extensive style guides that the rights holder sends you, or do you work on those guidelines yourselves?

Granblue Showdown was localized with clear love for the SNK source material, warts and all.

Cygames: We’ve had the pleasure of participating in numerous collaborations with other games, manga, anime, and other franchises. In addition to familiarizing themselves with the original work, our translators also look at existing English communities and work to bring something that is enjoyable not only for fans of Granblue Fantasy, but also for fans of what we collaborate with. For franchises that have already been officially localized into English, we make sure to have the appropriate materials on hand before we begin translating. It really depends on the franchise, but in most cases, we don’t work off of any specific guidelines other than checking names and so on with our partners.

Localization with flair

Granblue_en: Some of the characters have very unique ways of speaking. Does the team have any favorites, purely in terms of localizing?

Cygames: While we don’t have any specific favorites, for characters like Chloe, Ilsa, Cagliostro, Lowain, Cassius, and so on, we try to make it so you can tell who they are just from their way of talking. Speech and word choice give a closer look at characters’ personalities as well as their backgrounds, so we give those aspects careful consideration when localizing a character for the first time.

Granblue_en: Certain characters’ names are different between the Japanese and English version of the game. What is your reasoning behind the changes?

Alexiel’s name, shared across Granblue Fantasy and Shadowverse

Cygames: We believe the best kind of localization is when the audience doesn’t feel like something’s been localized, as that realization can hinder their experience in enjoying the content. This is something we constantly keep in mind as a company that strives to provide the best experience through our products and services.

When our Japanese writers come up with names, one of the things they consider is the impression the sound of the name gives. Although this can be subjective to some extent, it’s also something largely dependent on the player’s personal linguistic knowledge and cultural background.

Vania, known as “Vampy” in Japanese

A name that gives a certain impression to someone proficient in one language might give a totally different impression to someone more acquainted with another language. As much as we respect the original writer’s intentions, keeping a name the same can end up delivering a different idea than what was originally intended to those unfamiliar with the source language.

The English version of Granblue Fantasy has been blessed with a very diverse audience. Each player has a different understanding of Japanese language and culture, and it is our intention to make the game experience enjoyable for as many people as possible through our style of localization. Of course, if you like a character’s name in its original Japanese, that’s great too!

Granblue_en: A quiet trend we’ve noticed is that the localization team tends to go back to old event translations and clean them up. How often does this happen?

Cygames: In regards to translations from when the English version of the game was first released, due to limited resources at the time, we had no choice but to outsource a lot of the content which led to lower quality translations compared to what we have now. As such, we have been fixing older translations that don’t match our current standards along with our newer releases. As of June 2020, we’ve completed reviewing and editing almost all of our content in the main quests, fate episodes, free quests, and so on. Reduxes of older events and side stories are reviewed when they are lined up for release. Our team is constantly working to improve the quality of not only our new releases, but of content previously released as well.

Shalem’s abilities, Abacab, Invisible Touch, and Los Endos, would be harder to localize without knowing they’re all Genesis songs

Granblue_en: When the writers or planners make a reference, either to a song or to ancient mythology, do you ever get advance warning so you can either look up the mythological source or make sure the reference is correct?

Cygames: We work closely with writers so that we can have the necessary information ahead of time for the localization process.

Closing thoughts

Granblue_en: Before we wrap up, we would just like to say that we are consisently impressed by your work, and are glad that a game that we love so much is in such good hands. Thank you very much.

Cygames: With Granblue Fantasy being a social network game, we are constantly working with a confined schedule on infinitely expanding content. There is a need to continuously put out something new that will give our players a fresh experience—this goes for both the Japanese and English versions of the game. Consequently, it is important for our team to grow along with the content we work with. It’s been about 4 years since the launch of the English version, and we believe that the quality of our translations now is not the same as it was 4 years ago. This is also thanks to all of our dedicated players who have given us the motivation and support to keep moving forward. With this in mind, we hope to keep fans of Granblue Fantasy excited and surprised by our work from here on out.

Granblue_en: Finally, is there anything you would like to say to overseas players?

Cygames: Out of all the games out there in the world, we can’t express how grateful we are to everyone for choosing to play Granblue Fantasy, and for giving it so much love. We love Granblue Fantasy just as much as you do, and we are so touched to see how well-received it is all over the world. Your voices are what keeps us going and gives this game its wings to soar to even greater heights. We hope you can keep expecting more from us, and in return, we’ll do our utmost to bring you the best entertainment possible. Granblue Fantasy will only continue to grow from here, so stick with us and look forward to it!