Would you play a game only using subtitles?

Nae_blis 101 Aug 14, 2006 at 07:24

I have an idea for a game based on a small Japanese boy who gains psychic powers and must find a rumoured group of psychics hiding in his city’s underworld, to try to get answers on what is happening to him. Sounds very Akira when I give descriptions, but it’s not really when in my design doc.

The overall graphical style of the game is almost like hand-drawn animation and very stylised, as the game is meant to be like a long and interactive anime episode.

But the thing I’m asking is: would you (non Japanese-speaking) players be interested in a game that only featured Japanese audio for speech and then subtitles for your own language?

I personally think it isn’t critical that a game is in my language if it is set in another location. As the game is set in Japan, I would prefer Japanese audio to set the mood further.


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moe 101 Aug 14, 2006 at 13:19

nihongo o tsuujinakute mo, ge-mu ga omoshirokattara, zenzen tanoshimeru to omou.

So if your game is nicely made you should be fine.

my two cents :)

eddie 101 Aug 14, 2006 at 14:28

Personally it depends on the style of game.

Battlefield 1942 had a ‘neat’ option where the players would actually shout things in the native language of the faction they’re on (Japanese would scream in Japanese, etc).

It was really great for immersion, but I had to turn it off quickly because I couldn’t tell the difference between “Tank on the road!” or “Sniper spotted!”.

So anyhow, for cutscenes, non-game-critical parts, your idea would be great (I always turn captions on, myself), but if it’s part of a game play dynamic it might be a bit frustrating.

Just the way I see it.

Nae_blis 101 Aug 14, 2006 at 14:57

Heh, I always preferred that option being turned on in BF1942. Made it a lot better for me.

And I always turn off subtitles in games where the audio is English, but I tend to watch foreign language films in the native language with subtitles on - very much so for anime shows, as the alternative is usually dire.

To clarify, all speech central to the game progression and the storyline would be subtitled - this included cutscene content, etc. Ambient voices when walking down the street, etc, would not be subtitled unless it was spoken by an important character - voices in the crowd constantly popping up on screen would get annoying quickly, I’m sure. Signs and warning notices, etc, would have Japanese characters/logos/text, but then there would be the localised language overlayed or surrounding it - just like when watching an anime show.

neptune3d 101 Aug 14, 2006 at 15:47

Interesting idea, it brings to mind a recent movie on Hiroshima I watched, the director obviously thought adding three to five minute long scenes of the Japanese emperor speaking in Japanese to his military advisors would add a sense of authentisity, unfortunatly they didn’t subtitle it which left me very confused and broke the continutiy of the show.

I have watched several anime shows including Magic Knight Rayearth in both translated English and subtitled Japanese and found the continuity was often lost in the subbed version as the viewer is struggling to read and watch the onscreen video at the same time.

If the context is a little more serious than it may be less of a distraction if used sparingly but I feel it would still be a distractor if overused.

As a suggestion how about having the characters speaking in Japanese but have the audio volume low and have a narrarator speaking in a louder volume in english? You would retain the character you are striving for but would not risk alienating other audiences.

Just an idea :) Good luck

Kenneth_Gorking 101 Aug 15, 2006 at 01:30

The whole subtitled/dubbed issue is also very culture specific. For instance, here in Denmark, everything foreign is subtitled and nothing is dubbed (except for a few german cleaning supplies commercials). Those commercials are truly hated by danes because of the fact its a translated version, it just creeps us out and seems so fake. Go south of the border to Germany, and it is totally opposite. Down there, everything is dubbed: movies, commercials, even interviews with famous english people are dubbed. Only rarely will a late night movie perhaps be subtitled.
Just something to think about. And just to be clear, i’m for the subtitles :)

As for the signs and things like that, take a look at how they did it in prey. When you encounter a sign in alien in the game, the letters pop out of the sign in english. Looks very cool, and doesn’t interfere at all with the gameplay.

For your game idea, it sounds alot like a japanified version of Psychonauts. Makes me wonder if you might have tried it :lol:

DracheHexe 101 Aug 15, 2006 at 07:18

Well, for me it’s a really mixed bag. When a work is subtitled it really allows me to get more meaning from the dialogue because I can hear the intended emphasis or inflections done by the original actors with the directors intent. However, I miss much of the visuals because I’m reading. Either way I am missing out on one part of the show or the other so there is really no winning choice for me.

That aside, the quality of the original recording is going to be important. Bad acting in japanese is still bad acting and if it’s bad it isn’t going to matter what language it’s in.

Nae_blis 101 Aug 15, 2006 at 12:00

I’ve never had the problem of reading subtitles and still follow along with the on-screen action. I know some people who do, though, so it would have to be carefully handled for sure.

I would certainly toy with trying a speech bubble system next to each character as they spoke, or placing other character’s dialogue in the top-left corner like in an RPG game, as well as the traditional placing at the bottom of the screen, etc. The main character’s speech would have already been selected from localised text before the speech file played anyway, so there wouldn’t be any problems there.

I’m playing Prey at the moment, but only just started, so I can’t think if I’ve gotten far enough to see the signs you mention. And I’ve never played Psychonauts, but it is on my list of games to try - always got great critical reviews and is often mentioned as a great designer’s game.

geon 101 Aug 15, 2006 at 12:29

I’m all for subtitles. Just remember subtitles need to be more brief than the spoken dialog. Otherwise you will spend too much time reading it, and even have trouble following it if the charakters are speaking fast.

Normally, subtitles should skip anything not important. A sentence like “You damn idiot!” could be subtitled “Idiot!”. You will loose some of the meaning, but you will get the missing pieces from the intonation of the original dialouge.

pater 101 Aug 15, 2006 at 15:09

One fine example for subtitling is IMHO, GTA - San Andreas. In the original english dialoges, they use a lot of slang language and swearing. (Actually, there’s hardly a sentence without some swearing…) It would have been very difficult to really translate that kind of slang into a foreign language, but it works quite well with the subtitles. That way you also get the feeling of that gansta tongue. (And you learn some english words you’d better newer heard…)

Kenneth_Gorking 101 Aug 15, 2006 at 15:21

I’m playing Prey at the moment, but only just started, so I can’t think if I’ve gotten far enough to see the signs you mention. And I’ve never played Psychonauts, but it is on my list of games to try - always got great critical reviews and is often mentioned as a great designer’s game.

In prey it’s after you die and get the spirit of your dead pet bird (yes, it’s weird). Psychonauts IS a really cool and hilarious game. The first time I completed it, I just instantly started over because it was so good. Second time round I became a master psychonaut (level 100) :D

Nae_blis 101 Aug 15, 2006 at 17:37

The Last Express apparently did subtitles for everyone on the train (the game’s location) who didn’t speak English (the main character’s language). So I imagine that if your own language is not English then you would be playing the game entirely in subtitles.

I’m very interested as to how they did it and what I can learn from them. Plus, I’ve heard so much praise about how well-made the game is, I really want to play it now. It’s supposedly a superb game, and one that I really want to find a copy of. It’s a few years old and apparently suffered some bad marketing, so it’s supposedly quite rare now.

Childe 101 Aug 22, 2006 at 21:25

I would, sounds great mate :)

scanmaster_k 101 Aug 24, 2006 at 19:53

I would, I personally hate when everyone in the whole world seems to speak english or whatever, people in japan speaks japanese so if the game takes please in Japan there is no reason why the would’nt speak japanese,


Nae_blis 101 Aug 25, 2006 at 14:08

Yeah, same feelings for me. This is why I would want the game to not feature translated voices. And impersonations of ‘foreign’ accents while still using English are even worse.

Btw, I now have The Last Express to check out and see how it worked for them.

WoOdSpEaK_StUdIoS 101 Oct 06, 2006 at 10:30

I’m not sure how much in game speech would be needed. I mean, in most games, all the vital audio is in cutscenes anyway, so I wouldn’t mind the subtitles, so long as all the instructions in English (or perhaps just subtitles).

Another possibility is having no subtitles or the audio, witch, if done correctly, could be quite disturbing and make for a terrifying scenario. (Say the guys deaf, or something, and have all the sound blanked out or in extreeeme sloooow moootioooon).

And yes, I would play a game with subtitles. As a fan of many Japanese games, it’s either the subtitles or a corny, unsynched, american home-made voice over. I know which I’d choose.

Nae_blis 101 Oct 07, 2006 at 19:26

extreeeme sloooow moootioooon ? Heh, didn’t know deaf people heard stuff perfectly well, just slowed to 1/16th normal rate, or whatever.

But actually you’re quite right: in-game there wouldn’t be a massive need for subtitles during play. Incidental noises, shouts in the street, etc, wouldn’t be shown on the screen, and you have to be interacting with another character in ordder to have a conversation with them which would require subtitling. It’s likely that this character would at that time be one of few NPCs (if not the only one) on-screen at that time. That would mean there wouldn’t be large numbers of distracting subtitles flashing up as you were trying to figure something else out. Additionally, the everday folk in my vision of this game use a very simplistic (likely greyed-out) art style to signify they don’t have merit to your quest and don’t have psychic powers of there own. Many can’t also be interacted with. None of these characters would recieve subtitling at all.

Cutscenes and camera cuts are meant to be kept to when only cinemtatic benefits can be made within the game, so conversations and meaningful shouts from the surroundings, etc, would need subtitling during normal play.