This actually happened yesterday, but between focus on real life and working on Appareden, we didn’t get this post out on the exact anniversary date. We’ll hit that date next year with something cool maybe. Or just another one of these posts, which should also totally count as something cool. Also, we didn’t post a one year anniversary post because we hadn’t exactly released any translation patches yet. Hell, we didn’t even have a group name until a month after that, and a website a month after that. That should give you an idea about how young the group really is.
In any case, let’s get to the meat of today’s post!
46 OkuMen Celebrates Two Successful Years!
It is a little weird to think that we’ve been working together on translating these retro Japanese PC games for two full years now. It still feels like we’re just starting out in a lot of ways. Every game we work on has new and interesting challenges in different areas for each of us to focus on, and all of the games on the horizon for us also feel like they’ll have plenty more to offer in that regard. It’s not really work, it’s puzzle solving.* But the fact of the matter is, two years have passed and a lot has happened in that time that we’d like to talk about and show off just how far we’ve come in such a comparatively short time.
First up, let’s talk about the translations we’ve released.
E.V.O.: The Theory of Evolution (46 Okunen Monogatari THE Shinkaron)
December 28th, 2016
The first of our releases and still the most significant to us. We officially started work on the game on September 25th, 2015 when hollowaytape found his way over to the RHDN thread posted by KingMike in early 2008, where he saw that both SkyeWelse and kuoushi had expressed interest in working on the project in different capacities, which is the day the group was formed. What followed was about a year of hollowaytape tinkering away at the game in the dark, sending updates to kuoushi through email and RHDN’s PM system about reaching certain milestones, until we finally had something worthy of showing people that was also ready for a full translation to be reinserted. This happened to also be around the one year anniversary, and kuoushi started to work in earnest on finishing the script’s main translation around then, further cementing the group into place. It wasn’t until sometime around early December during playtesting where hacking and translation was basically done aside from a few bugs and small revisions that we started to entertain the idea of doing more PC-98 games than just E.V.O., which is why we posted new project announcements leading up to E.V.O.’s eventual release.
May 6th, 2017
While playtesting was going on with E.V.O., hollowaytape and kuoushi had some extra free time to look at other games that could be a good next step in learning how to romhack PC-98 games. One of the games we ended up choosing didn’t really need a translation too badly, but we thought it was definitely worthy of one. I’m talking about Rusty here, the Castlevania clone that was released on PC-98. It posed a number of different challenges to E.V.O., the main challenge being that the game wouldn’t display ASCII text by default so it was going to take some assembly hacking to get that to work. Also, as we found out, the game is damn hard. Playtesting was going to suck a little if we couldn’t exactly beat the game.** As it is, we started the bulk of the work after our E.V.O. release, managing to knock the patch out in around 5 months. Not bad considering all of the new things required for hacking the text in. The other cool thing we did with Rusty after its initial release was try to create a new patching process that was more suited to the PC-98’s disk images as opposed to the ROM images you’d find for many consoles. It didn’t work out as well as we’d hoped initially, but it did move us along in the right direction.
CRW Metal Jacket (CRW Metaru Jaketto)
July 1st, 2017
Little more than a couple of months after we released Rusty, we managed to knock another translation patch out in the form of CRW Metal Jacket. The game was supposed to be a simple weekend project but it ended up challenging us with a number of unforeseen problems that ended up requiring some careful thought and a couple of assembly hacks. One of the issues was obviously the fact that they put a bunch of the text that needed to be translated into images, and the image format was entirely undocumented. That part took a while, and it’s entirely kuoushi’s fault for suggesting this project as “pretty dumb and easy to translate” and that he could “knock that out in an evening.” Yeah, okay buddy.*** Anyway, the release was another milestone for the group in that we’d taken what we learned with the patcher we’d developed for Rusty, and turned that into Pachy98, our multi-purpose patching program for disk images. We had very few bug reports about the patching process this time around, so both CRW Metal Jacket and Pachy98’s releases were a pretty great success for us.
PC-98 Community and Correspondence
While working on our projects, we here at 46 OkuMen have also been trying to network and talk to various people in the community at large in Japan. There are a number of developers of various different tools and games that have a lot of cool stuff to share with the English-speaking community, so since we have someone who can speak Japanese we thought it’d be neat to try to bridge the gap a bit.
One of the first developers we reached out to was ee, the developer of tools like ND which allows you to open up disk images and view what’s inside of them, and NHC which allows you to convert hard disk images from one format to another. Both are extremely useful, but the main thing we kept in contact with ee about was his version ND that ran in the command-line, NDC. This tool would prove invaluable to us as we have packaged it with our Pachy98 patcher to allow us to export and import files to and from disk images. So, when we reached out to ee he was super nice and implemented a lot of features into both ND and NDC that we suggested, which is awesome. He still updates the software occasionally and implements features that we think would be nice, so we are pretty grateful for his help.
Another developer we reached out to was Tomizawa, the developer of a from the ground up PC-9821 emulator known as SL9821 that is barely over a year old now. Our reason for contacting him is due to the fact that SL9821 is at present, the only emulator that can play Appareden with the CD audio. One thing we managed to help with was to report a display bug that we were noticing in Appareden, which he fixed rather quickly. The other thing was we asked him to change some things having to do with language settings in the emulator, making it English by default except when the locale set to Japanese, and also to do a quick quality pass over the current English translation so it looks a bit better to native speakers. Tomizawa was super helpful and very knowledgeable, and has even opened the floor to anyone else who wants to translate the emulator into their native language. We tend to think that SL9821 is one of the emulators to look out for in the future (and will be the best way to play Appareden).
And finally, one of the absolutely neatest people in Japan that we’ve been in contact with has to be Hoee Kuwata from quarter-dev.info. I say he’s from that website, but really he’s a former developer of Glodia, a company that released a decent number of high quality games for the PC-98 and other retro Japanese PCs of the same time period. We were asking him for some help with figuring out how a file type stored characters and text for Different Realm. He gave us a full file specification for it which helped immensely. Then another of our friends, RadicalR, straight-up asked him for the full source code to the game and Mr. Kuwata sent us that with a full build environment. That’s pretty outstanding and extremely helpful to us in getting text into the game. It could even lead to a source port…? Nah. That’s a huge job. Kuwata himself made source ports for one of Glodia’s other games and even he said that it was tough as hell, and he’s one of the guys who wrote the original code whose job involves porting games to other systems. We have been kind of kicking around the idea of making a small expansion pack for the game sometime after our own translation patch release though, but that’s another one of those dream projects. Translating the game itself is already a dream project, too.
Unannounced, Discarded, and Possible Future Projects
We’re constantly on the look out for the next shiny new (old) game from the PC-98 series of computers to grab our attention and see if it’d be worth translating. So much so in fact that we’ve compiled our own candidates spreadsheet on Google Sheets to keep track of the projects and any exploratory hacking we’ve done with them. The sheet itself isn’t public, but we’ve just setup a page to show some information from it so you guys can see what sort of projects we’re considering for the future. This sheet doesn’t contain official project announcements, as we don’t know if or when we’ll start working on them, but it is a safe bet that when we do announce projects, it’ll probably come from this sheet.
All that being said, take a look at the things we’re considering at this shiny new project candidates page. It updates whenever we add anything to our candidates sheet on Google Sheets, so you’ll always be in the know if you check that page occasionally.
Some of these games we’ve taken a much closer look at than others, one example of those being Wind’s Seed from Compile. A few of our friends are pretty interested in the game, including celcion of Nebulous Translations who had done some reverse engineering of the game’s odd text storage. So hollowaytape picked up where he left off, and did a few of the basic assembly hacks required to get ASCII text to show up properly in the game.
We haven’t gone so far as to dump the script or anything yet, but we also haven’t announced it as a project just yet either so no need to get that far yet!
Also, not visible in that list, is a number of games that we had previously considered but ended up ultimately rejecting for various reasons. Two of them ended up being eroge, adult games, so that was a pretty easy decision to knock both Mission and Moongate off of our list. There were also a number of other games that looked pretty neat but ultimately ended up having better versions on other systems. These were Advanced Power Dolls 2 and Giten Megami Tensei (Windows 9x), and Last Armageddon (PC Engine CD). Not all of the candidates we lost were due to any bad news like the last few I’ve mentioned. One was dropped because someone else has stated they were working on it already, and that was the game Tamashii no Mon, the Dante’s Inferno action game! No, before that one. No idea how far along they are on it, but hey, some progress is better than no one working on it at all.
The Near and Far Future of 46 OkuMen
As you can see, we’ve had a pretty action-packed couple of years here, and we’re still looking forward to many more. At least 46, I guess? We’re not looking that far into the future, obviously.
One thing we do know is on the immediate horizon, and that is…
Appareden -Fukuryuu no Shou-
Let’s take this time to give you guys a pretty solid update of where we are on the work with Appareden. On the hacking front, hollowaytape has managed to solve a ton of the problems involved with reinsertion and getting ASCII characters to show up properly.
A large portion of the game’s UI has been reinserted, and we just need to work on nailing down some character lengths for things like item names and the like. The UI is also fully translated in the script’s draft. Scenario files have also been fully reinsertable for a while now, and the text will show up properly in the game. Just need to fix up some of the typesetting parts to make it look nicer. This part is, at this moment, not fully translated though. kuoushi is around 71% done with the dialog script’s draft.
The GEM image format has been mostly figured out (enough for our purposes), and SkyeWelse has already begun working on getting the title screen into English. Once all of that is done, it’ll come down to revisions which will take a decent amount of time since the script is decently large. There’s also a lot of localization decisions to mull over and try to see what works best for the setting.
Still a lot to do, but getting that rough draft done will be a great milestone. Oh, and we’ve got the manual and artbook scanned in as well. Nothing translated yet, but we’re going to get that process started as soon as the draft of the game is done. Can’t release a translation patch without a manual.
Different Realm: The Eternal Sage
Not a lot has happened on this project since our announcement as we’re still currently focused on Appareden for the time being, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything new to report to you guys. We’ve got the full manual scanned and ready to be translated, all 25k characters of it. That’s basically a large short story in length, as the entire thing is pretty much just talking about the setting and world of the game. It’s super neat and has a lot of neat illustrations, so it’ll be fun to get that to you guys on release, as well as a volume of manga that was also set in the world of Different Realm. Beyond that though, not too much else to report here beyond the fact that the game script is larger than Appareden’s.
That being said, we might pick up a couple of other little projects to work on between Appareden and Different Realm. Two huge RPGs back to back would probably kill us. We’ll probably have more to announce on that front once we’ve kicked the Appareden patch out the door for you guys.
And that’s it!
It’s been a busy couple of years, but with all of the neat things that we’ve had going on, we’re definitely pretty motivated to keep going with all of our different projects. Hope you guys have been enjoying the games, and we hope you guys are looking forward to more.
the 46 OkuMen Core Team
P.S. This post is too long, if you’ve read all the way down here, then give yourself a pat on the back.
*Yes, it’s also a hell of a lot of work.
**Save states are a lifesaver.
***This was written by kuoushi. These are actual quotes.