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Interview: Xseed Translator Tom Lipschultz

Tom Lipschultz is Xseed�s resident translator for the Japanese developer Falcom, makers of the Ys RPG series, and the newest addition to their localization team. I had a chance to chat with him about what it�s like to localize niche role-playing games, how to get a career in making sure a video game never has a line of text that reads �All your base are belong to us,� and more.

Tom Lipschultz and Jessica Chavez

LG: What are some of the most difficult things you encounter when localizing a game?

TL: The biggest challenge is if you�re not 100 percent sure where a line of dialogue is spoken -- context isn�t always there to help you. Japanese can be a very vague language.

You may have heard that Japanese is a language that doesn't really use pronouns, and if you don�t know where a line is spoken and there are no pronouns, it�s kind of hard to figure out who is being talked about and who is doing the talking. One of the biggest challenges is tracking down the source of those stray lines where you just have no idea what is going on.

LG: What would you tell someone who wants to be a localization writer or editor?

TL: That�s actually a really good question. I kind of feel like I lucked into the role, but I think part of what did it for me was I have a degree in English and East Asian Studies, which is a good combination for localization. I knew English literature quite well, and I�ve studied Japanese quite extensively.

I�ve also done quite a bit of freelance translation and fan translation in the many, many years before looking into a job at Xseed.

I had a bit of experience I pursued on my own, which I think really helped. It looked good on my resume and to be able to say, Yeah, I�ve done freelance translating, and I�ve done fan translating, and here�s my portfolio" -- it looks good to show that you take initiative like that.

I think if anyone else is looking to become a localization specialist, they should probably start picking out a game or an anime or manga or something and just try translating it. Send a text file around to people; let them see what you�re doing. Try to get on some websites like Translator Cafe where you can register to become a freelance translator and have people pick you out and hire you for things. It helps.
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About Louis Garcia12one of us since 7:09 PM on 08.02.2010

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Gaming has just always been something I've loved since I was a wee lad. Ever since I picked up that NES controller and played Super Mario Bros...much like any gamer, really!

Video games were actually the impetus for me going to college and earning a journalism degree. If not for EGM, Nintendo Power, OPM, Expert Gamer, GameNow and countless other magazines I don't know what I would have done after high school! I'd like to think professional footballer for Liverpool...well, a man can dream can't he?!?!

Right now I'm replaying Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. I keep up with all the big-time releases, (Marios, Halos, etc.) but I'm also always trying to whither down my pile of shame.

I game on all systems. PC is my least played platform, but five years ago I've finally started to play classics after finally buying a home computer. I've now enjoyed games like Half-Life and others I had only read about before having a mouse and keyboard controlled gaming rig.

Some favorite games of mine: Metal Gear Solid series, almost anything Mario, Halo, Xenogears, Fallout series, Final Fantasy Tactics, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Suikoden 1 and 2...Well, pretty much any good game from any genre except for sports released from the NES era and on. Then it is only Mario sport titles and Winning Eleven and FIFA.

Sad fact about me: I'm desperately (perhaps hopelessly) waiting for a new Shadow Hearts game. :(

Update: It's September in Minnesota (getting chilly), and I'm enjoying Borderlands 2.