Category Archives: Epic Battle Fantasy 4

Translating Games

Hey, this is a big blog about my experience translating Epic Battle Fantasy 4 and Bullet Heaven 2, and how I’m trying to do things better in Epic Battle Fantasy 5.

Translating EBF4 was a last minute decision – it didn’t even cross my mind until the game was almost finished. But I knew I had a lot of fans that didn’t speak English, based on my Facebook page and Kongregate data, and the fact that my Flash games were quite popular on Spanish, Chinese, etc, Flash game sites. The languages I chose to translate to were Spanish, Portuguese, German and French. The first two because I had a lot of fans in those regions, and the second two because they just seemed like the most popular European languages to translate to (ie. they buy a lot of games). I didn’t consider Chinese because they already had made unofficial translations, and I figured they just pirate everything anyway. (I don’t know how much that’s changed in the last 5 years, but China seems to be really big on Steam now)

I asked for volunteers from my fans to translate and proofread, and a lot of people stepped forward. I couldn’t judge their skill at their first language, but I made sure they were at least fluent in English. My translation strategy was to turn all of the text strings in EBF4 into arrays of text strings, and dump them on Google Docs so that all the translators could work on them at the same time. “Word” would turn into ["Word","","","",""] and the translators would fill in the gaps. I also provided a lot of notes and instructions for the translators, and hung around in case they needed me. Once translated, the script was also shared publicly, so that anyone could provide feedback if they wanted to.

This wasn’t very efficient, but it worked. The worst part was going through all of the game’s code, trying to find every tiny bit of text, copying it to a Google Docs file, and then later doing that whole process in reverse. It also means that adding a new language now would involve all of that work again. With EBF5, I’ve put all of the text in seperate files right from the beginning, and each file contains one language. The game’s code just loads the relevant text file depending on the options. This means that adding a new language requires almost no extra coding work: I can just give out the English files, they can be translated, and the game can load them as a new language. So that should save me a lot of work in the long term!

But there were some other problems when translating EBF4:
 It turns out that most translated text ends up being a bit longer than the original, so I had to significantly increase the size of many text boxes. Lesson quickly learned.
 Translating parts of sentences separately is a very bad idea, for example: “A ” + “fire/water/ice” + ” elemental attack!” This works well in English and a few other languages, but you never know when weird grammar rules might pop up. From now on I’m sticking to full sentences, even if it leads to a lot of redundancy, like typing out the full line for 10 different elements.
 Dialects! I didn’t realise how different these could be. With French and German we managed to settle on neutral dialects, but with Spanish and Portuguese we went with south American ones, since that’s where almost all of the volunteers were from. Some Europeans were not very happy with these translations. I’m not sure if this problem is totally avoidable, but it’s worth talking to your translators about it before you start. (and then marketting your translation accordingly – luckily Steam let’s me specify that it’s Brazilian-Portuguese)

One thing that went very well was, uh, Flash! Flash handles special characters and text related stuff very well. So I never had any problems putting weird non-English characters in my games. The default fonts seem to handle everything.

So, in the end, was translating worth it? Well… kind of? It took me about a month to organise and implement EBF4′s translations, which also includes countless hours of work by the translators and proofreaders. The Steam sales for German (8%) and French (4%) are reasonably high, so from a financial perspective, those languages were worth doing, maybe even if I had to pay professionals instead of volunteers. But even though tons of Spanish and Portuguese speaking people played the free versions of EBF4, very few of them bought the game on Steam (less than 1% of Steam sales each), so if I was translating just for money, I wouldn’t have done those languages.

EBF4 was overall very successful on Steam, with around 100K sales in total – so 8% more sales is a lot in the end (well, I’m sure a lot of Germans speak English, and may have bought the game without a translation, but whatever). My other game, Bullet Heaven 2, on the other hand, was not so successful. The game wasn’t a flop – but it’s not far from it. Even though it had much less text to translate, I think translating that game was a waste of time – it just wasn’t worth the extra work. And if I had paid professional translators, I would have lost a LOT of money on it.

So I think that’s what it all comes down to for me. If I have a lot of fans in some region, and they want to volunteer to translate EBF5, I’m perfectly happy to work with them and make it happen so that more people can enjoy the game. But I wouldn’t bet on the translations to be worth it financially if I had to pay professionals. I guess I just don’t like taking too many risks. It’s also not particularly fun to program my games to support multiple languages.

Anyway, I’m almost ready to start translating. I’ll start doing research and asking for volunteers soon-ish. German, French, Spanish, and Portuguese are coming back, and the new languages I’m strongly considering are Chinese, Russian, Polish and Vietnamese. Feel free to suggest others, but I think those are the most likely. Of course, I can always add more languages after the game is released, as the new infrastructure makes that much easier than in previous games.

I’m interested to hear what you all think.

tl;dr: I translate for the fans, as it’s probably not worth translating a text-heavy indie RPG for financial gain, except maybe to German.

EBF4 Speed Run

I found a super cool speed run of Epic Battle Fantasy 4 that was done a while ago. I’ve only watched the first 10 minutes and I’m already very impressed, so watch at least that much if not the whole thing.

There’s a very interesting bug being exploited here. :P
I didn’t think EBF had interesting speedrun potential, but this video shows otherwise.

If anyone knows other cool videos of my games that I might have missed, let me now!

EBF4 in Russian

A bunch of guys made an unofficial hacked Russian version of EBF4.
While I’m not super happy about sharing a hacked version, I don’t have plans to make an official Russian translation of EBF4, so here it is. Anyone interested can have a look at it and tell me if you think they did a good translation, as I might get the same guys to work on the official EBF5 translation later. Feedback is appreciated!

You can download the .exe file here.
russian

Steam Winter Sale + Xmas Gaming

My games are 70% off during the Steam Winter sale!
http://store.steampowered.com/search/?term=ebf
(I’m so bored of posting about sales that my picture is not up date)

I borrowed my brother’s PS4 Pro over Christmas, my first 4K gaming experience on my huge new TV. And… it looks pretty good! The low framerate is pretty noticeable in some games, but in non-action games that’s acceptable I guess.

Until Dawn is a fun alternative to watching horror films. Everyone’s Gone to Rapture is… relaxing and pretty. Black Ops 3 campaign is generic and boring IMO. We’ll see how many games I get through over the holidays…steam-sale-copy

Christmas Steam Key Giveaway 3!

(This competition is now over!)

Hey guys, it’s time for my 3rd Christmas giveaway!
I’m giving away free Steam keys for Epic Battle Fantasy 4 and Bullet Heaven 2.

If you’re interested, leave a comment about what sorts of games you play and about your gaming life in general.
How winners are chosen will continue to be a secret, but honesty is quite important. You should also mention which of the two games you want.

Make sure to fill in the email field correctly so I can email you the prize if you win.

Last year I got 531 entries and… I can’t remember how many games I gave out.
But your chances of winning are decent. The more people that enter, the more I’ll give out, so get your friends involved!

As usual I’ll be busy around Christmas, so the giveaway will end a few days after.
Probably on the 27th, so you have until then!
frozen valley

Steam Autumn sale!

Oh, it’s Steam sale time again? Well, here’s my obligatory post. Epic Battle Fantasy 4 and Bullet Heaven 2 are 70% off, and I’m sure everyone reading this already owns them by now, right?

And just so you know, they’re gonna be 70% off in the Winter sale. So you can get them later too.

You can also just play free games on Kongregate or Newgrounds. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately, and most of the stuff on my Steam wishlist isn’t that steeply discounted anyway, so…steam-sale-copy

EBF5: Tipis

Last scene, and it’s one of my favourites!
I think I’ve got enough assets now to build a world.

Next up I’ll port over the EBF4 map code and program some new puzzle mechanics, which hopefully won’t take too long. For the most part the map system is not changing very much.

In other news: As of the end of the Steam sale, Epic Battle Fantasy 4 has sold over 100k units in total! (not counting bundles)

Also EBF5 is 60% done.

tipis

Humble Bundle Results

So this blog is a few months overdue…

Back in January Epic Battle Fantasy 4 was invited to take part in the Humble “Overwhelmingly Positive” Bundle. EBF4 has been bundled before, but it was a few years ago and in a very small bundle (5K sales), so that barely counts. Back then I didn’t expect to EBF4 to have such a long sales tail, so I figured there was no harm to be done by bundling. But it turned out that EBF4 would be selling well for years after release, thanks to Steam’s Discovery update which does a lot to recommend the game to Steam users. I told myself I wouldn’t bundle EBF4 again until the sales dried up and I was invited into a more prestigious bundle. It’s quite flattering being a new Steam dev and getting tons of bundle offers, but one quickly realises that most of them want to bundle your game with garbage and devalue it.

So a long time later comes along Humble Bundle asking to sell EBF4 next to games like Shantae, N++, and Day of the Tentacle. I hadn’t played these at the time but I knew they were very popular and well rated, and also not as old as EBF4, so I was definitely bundling up rather than down with this lineup. Another major stroke of luck was that the Steam review system was changed shortly before this offer, so that reviews from key activations don’t count towards the review score. EBF4 has a Steam review score of 98% (overwhelmingly positive), which is why it was included in this bundle, and this change meant that opening up the game to a more general audience was unlikely to hurt it even if a lot of them didn’t like it. It would have been rather embarrassing if EBF4 lost this high rating during the bundle, and being the somewhat niche Flash game that it is, I would have absolutely expected that to happen.
Clipboard01[1]

The bundle ran for two weeks, and with EBF4 being in the $1 lowest tier, it sold 135K copies. Around 92K of the keys were actually activated, and the amount of user engagement was incredibly low, as expected from a bundle. Very few of them left reviews or posted in the forums, and the ratio for players to owners drastically decreased (the bundle more or less doubled the number of owners on Steam). Success! This is the best result I could have hoped for: Free money for almost no work! No user complaints to deal with! Though it did hurt a bit that the other games got more attention for being in the bundle. (I lurked Reddit to see which games people were most interested in) (also the few reviews EBF4 got during the bundle were around 75% positive, so definitely much worse than usual)

Overall the bundle almost doubled my income for the year, and with Brexit plummeting the value of the UK pound, the incredible exchange rate boosted my earnings further, making last year my most profitable year ever! And I didn’t even release a game that year! Being self employed is weird.
(note: the UK tax year ends in April for reasons unknown)

The only real question left is whether or not bundling EBF4 hurt its long term sales. It’s hard to say. Sales have been a bit lower after the bundle, but they were already slowly going down, and the Steam autumn and winter sales shipped a lot of units shortly before the bundle too. EBF4 has been on Steam for over 3 years and hasn’t been getting any updates, so it’s still doing remarkably well either way. Today it still more than covers my living expenses, which is all a developer could ask for really.

Tinkering with things

Yesterday I spent the day fiddling with EBF3 on Steam to see if I can get in all the features I want (mainly adding stage quality). Turns out AS2 is just too old, and trying to update it is probably a lost cause. Each way I package the game has different trade-offs, so I trade some options for others. (I can get stage quality working at the expense of game speed and full screen resolutions) Not good.

I also thought a bit about Mac versions of my Steam games. It looks like technically it wouldn’t be much work, only problem is that I have to compile the games from a Mac, and I don’t have one and don’t want to get one. I spent a few hours installing a Mac virtual machine under Windows to try it out. That was a fun exercise but I don’t think anything of value came out of it, it wasn’t very usable in the end.

Maybe someday I’ll pick up a Mac mini or something. I wonder if I even have any Mac users left in my audience at this rate. Sorry guys! I haven’t ruled it out but it’s not a high priority.

Anyway, I’m going to revisit EBF4 next, with some luck I’ll get the game running nicely in Adobe AIR. I’d finally add that Steam overlay, “windowed” full screen, and reduce the amount of compatibility issues users have. This is important to figure out early since EBF5 will be running on the same tech.