If you were left wanting to play ‘Zero Escape’ or ‘Danganronpa’ in your day because you lost with English – or with Japanese – but you played them years later when you found them in Spanish, then you must know that you have a debt of gratitude with certain people: the video game fantractors .
In Spain, there are not many fans who are in charge of translating and even dubbing games into Spanish, a practice that is known as fansub . Adding the different groups, the total of fantractors does not exceed 200 . The majority is grouped into teams of two or more members, such as Artema Translations, XT Translations or Uncle Victor Translations . However, if we talk about the scene in Spain, we must talk about the most numerous group: Tradusquare , a platform created just over a year ago that already has 194 translations between completed and in process.
When we speak of fantraduction, it is normal to think of fans and translators who are fans. However, the world of fantranslation has a much more choral cast . Translators get the recognition but there are a few indispensable roles such as graphic artists, style correctors, testers and ROM hackers.
Each fantraduction starts precisely with the ROM hackers . They are the programmers who dive in the bowels of the files that make up the game to find the texts that need to be translated. When they locate them, they extract them with great care and send them to the translators. “The hacker ROM removes the content with reverse engineering and leaves everything ready for translators to edit it. Then, he also takes care that the game does not pete when he puts the translation. A game is like a machine: it is ready to function as it is. As you change a bit without having a clue, it breaks down. ” Hence, the ROM hackers, few in Spain – they are like “unicorns”, Guerra says – are essential.
When the texts are already selected, the translators put on their work. According to Guerra, the normal thing is to have a maximum of 3 translators per game , but it is not recommended because it puts the consistency of the translation at risk. Once the work is finished, the translators pass the magnifying glass: they correct errata, misspellings, inconsistencies in the style and differences in the speech of the characters.
‘Shin Megami Tensei II’, one of the games translated by Tradusquare within the AMALA project, whose aim is to translate all the main games of the series Megami Tensei and Persona
With the translations already corrected, the graphic artists come into play, whose task is to place the translated texts in the boxes where the text went in the original language. Sometimes the process is complicated because the space prepared for the dialogues in Japanese or English does not have to match the needs of Spanish. In cases like this, it is necessary to touch up margins and colors.
And when all this is done, and the ROM hackers have added the translation to the video game, it is time to test if everything works: the testing phase . “This phase is much more important than people think,” Guerra explains. “It is thought that it is only to correct some erratilla and see it in game , but we speak of correcting crashes, texts that appear where they are not, spelling mistakes, words that go out of the picture … This phase usually lasts for a long time”. “It’s especially difficult in super-open RPGs that change conversations every time you move a little on the map. You have to come back again and again and replay it. We do not have access to debugs like companies, “Guerra says.
Fantranslation teams have some habits that are repeated regardless of the project to be translated. One is the close communication between all team members: in Tradusquare they work with private Discord groups. Another habit is that mandatory dates are not marked .
“From my point of view as a veteran, no deadlines are set,” explains El Tío Víctor , of Traducciones del Tío Víctor, also known as IlDucci . “It is marked that the project does not stop and that there is rhythm and activity on the part of those involved. The deadlines are usually set when the thing is about to end. ” “Frankly, it’s not a receipt that something we do in our free time we have to be with the whip as if this were a paid job.”
Because the fantraductores do not charge , they do it out of love for the video game or for other reasons. In the case of Tío Víctor, a 31-year-old dubbing actor who has been a fantraductor for a decade, it all comes from “a passion for telling stories and exposing them to the Spanish-speaking public” and recognizes that many of the games he has translated and dubbed – more than 20, ‘Shenmue 1’ and 2, ‘Time Crisis’ and ‘The Worlds Ends with You’, among them – have nothing to do with their preferences as a player.
For Jorge Guerra, a 22-year-old computer scientist, his motivation is double. It all started as soon as he got level B1 in English, at the age of 15, when he started translating for Artema Translations to test his level of English. But there was another reason: to return the favor to those fantractors that made it possible for him to enjoy the ‘Final Fantasy VI’ and the ‘Chrono Trigger’. “When I read comments like ‘Thanks for the translation, because if not, I could not play it’ , I see that I’m getting what I wanted to do.”
Also to practice the language began Tony Carmona , alias Xulikotony, Translations XT, English teacher of 27 years. Carmona recognizes that there was a specific cause. “I started playing ‘Final Fantasy VII’ in Spanish in 2010, and I saw that the translation was disastrous. So I started playing it in English and it seemed just as nefarious to me. I played it in Japanese and I started to find out, so I saw that it had to be translated better. ” And he got the retranslation. Carmona is one of the very few fantradutores of the Japanese that there is in Spain ; in the words of Jorge Guerra: “if ROM Spanish hackers are unicorns, Japanese translators are even stranger”.
“If you want to play the retranslation of ‘Final Fantasy VII’ on a real Playstation, there is no other way to pirate the console,” explains Tony Carmona. Although there are no known reports in our country of a company against a fantraduction portal, whether they are console manufacturers or video game companies, the threat exists. The best example is Nintendo. The Japanese company, which has reissued many of its classic games on its modern consoles, has been chasing download portals for a while. At the end of last year, Nintendo managed to close LoveROMs and LoveRetro under claim of 10.7 million euros. In the case of Carmona, neither Sony nor Square Enix have moved a finger. “I have not received any mail, although we talk about ‘FFVII’, which is in its early years. But come on, let’s cross our fingers. ”
In Tradusquare they are clear from the beginning. They do not distribute ROM or ISO nor copies of complete games unless they are freeware and have a license that allows their distribution. What is distributed, explains Uncle Victor, is the patch with the translation of the game, a file that only contains the information that has been translated. Although this file only contains that translation, it is equally protected by copyright as it is considered a derivative work .
According to Uncle Víctor, many of the groups of fantraduction are “against piracy and our noses are touching every time the uncle comes on duty saying ‘Hey, when do we get the ROM of the game?’ And if we talk about the unfortunate ones who upload the pretranslated ISOs and who upload them on paid links … I do not even tell you the animosity “.
The threat of an intimidating email from a video game company is not the only tense relationship they have with the videogame industry. Uncle Víctor believes that translators do not swallow the fantractors: “they consider us unfair competition”, when there is no reason for it: “I am absolutely against the remuneration for these things. If you pay for this, you become a professional . ”
Precisely the distance of the fantractors with the professional translators is one of their most basic characteristics. For Jorge Guerra, from Tradusquare, “we would not accept compensation for videogame companies. We are not professionals and it would be work intrusion. We do it for love of art, of fans for fans ” .