The people at Sekai Project graciously filled us in on some details on how their relationship with 0verflow (or more precisely, the parent company STACK) started and progressed, and we thought we’d share the story from the point of view of the two parties involved.
To start the stage, let’s take a look at what 0verflow and Sekai Project had been up to before this year’s Anime Expo. Sekai Project had started in April of 2007, announcing the start of a translation project for 0verflow’s animated branching video game School Days. They are currently finished up through chapter three of the six chapter game. Meanwhile, as an April Fool’s joke for 2008, 0verflow released the trial version of the sequel, Summer Days, translated into Chinese, Korean and English using their new multilingual game engine. They had used this to see what kind of demand there was for the different languages, and English was on top by a wide margin. Then, in 2009, one of the staff traveled to Anime Expo and helped out with the HOBIBOX area in the MangaGamer booth. Furthermore, there were a few mechanized sex toys on display in conjunction with Summer Days. At this point, no contact had been made between the game company and the translation group.
Now Anime Expo 2010 came around, and the situation started moving. When the 0verflow representatives arrived on the first day of Anime Expo, one of them, Mathers Numakichi, wrote an email to Sekai Project. In it, he said that they had received several inquiries from their users about the translation project’s website. Apparently these users thought the project had received an official license from 0verflow. Since at that point, one of the posts on the top page was talking about the cancelled eden* project, Numakichi noted in the email that he was aware of the TLwiki issue beforehand. Apparently, there was a public lecture held at Tokyo University last year that talked about, amongst other topics, sites hosting translation projects undertaken without the original creators’ permission. This was a large lecture, with even member(s) of the Diet present. Thus, Numakichi said that the hardball response from minori was not unexpected and that many game makers had become overly sensitive to the issue.
However, according to Numakichi, 0verflow didn’t believe that hardball responses are the only way. They wanted to find some way for the game company and the fan translation group to coexist, if possible. Apparently, the game engine for their latest game, Cross Days, and their upcoming game, School Days HQ, ran on a multilingual core, and if it were possible for the company and the translation project to coexist, then insertion of translated scripts would be very simple. The prototype build of the engine was apparently used in the Summer Days translated trial version.
According to the email, 0verflow was apprehensive of their games being illegally distributed for free, but they also wanted to see if they would be able to answer to the demands of fans who want to see their games in English. In closing, Numakichi said that they would be at Anime Expo for the duration of the convention and invited the project members to visit their booth. They were not part of MangaGamer, but had borrowed a section of the booth from them. Numakichi then apologized for his English skills and said that another staff member who was better at English would be present at the booth.
In response to this email, the project leader of Sekai Project, Kanna, wrote that they would like to do everything they can to help get an English version of School Days and other games from the company out the door. However, the project group was done as a hobby and thus might not be able to adhere to a rigorous schedule. Lastly, due to residing in Canada, Kanna could not come to Anime Expo but offered to send representative(s) in the area instead.
At Anime Expo, a representative from Sekai Project met with the 0verflow staff, and it looked like 0verflow was willing to allow the fan translation project to move forward as an unofficial translation. 0verflow also wanted to talk to the project members about the legal framework needed in order to release their games overseas as well as using their scripts for an official release, should that be possible. Due to discussions being rather short at the convention, the project leader decided to put the translation project on hiatus until more discussions can be made. In a follow-up email, the project leader thanked 0verflow and made it clear that they would not distribute the actual contents of the game and that they had already implemented a disc checking system to make sure people playing the patches had the game disc. The reasoning for this was not just because they wanted to avoid copyright infringement, but mainly because they wanted to encourage fans to buy the actual game. Therefore, they did not want to become an obstacle to an actual official release from 0verflow and wanted to hear more about 0verflow’s plans.
0verflow, in their reply email, stated that they would actually officially recognize Sekai Project under two conditions — that they made it clear on their website that the project was done through voluntary interest and that 0verflow is not involved in the endeavor, and that they make it known that 0verflow is looking for information on what is considered inappropriate or obscene, how it may be considered that way and in what regions or countries do these rules apply. Once these two conditions have been fulfilled, 0verflow would officially recognize the group and link to the group’s website from their website. With regards to an official release, they currently had no concrete plans but are having discussions with interested commercial parties.
In response, Sekai Project agreed to implement the changes and then suggested that putting up a survey would help 0verflow’s goals as well as some additional survey questions with regards to pricing and copy protection. The project group also informed 0verflow that their stance has garnered a lot of positive responses. 0verflow then thanked the group for their efforts and agreed that a survey would be a wonderful idea.
And thus, after roughly one months time, we’d reached the point where Sekai Project had released a translation patch for chapters 2 and 3 as well as a survey. 0verflow stated that they wanted to use the fruits of their discussion with Sekai Project to suggest more optimistic dialogue to game production companies who are currently wary of the overseas market. Apparently 0verflow is also looking into the ability to custom tailor content for specific regions. As an example, Numakichi brought up a scene where Makoto was having a bath with his little sister, which was supposed to bring up the notion that even though Makoto was such an unfaithful person, he still cherished his family. This new system was intended to allow the game to skip that scene in regions where having brother and sister bathe together was forbidden or if displaying a small child in the nude was prohibited, should such regions exist. They also wanted to make it so that these content changes could be changed quickly should the law get changed. Therefore, they would be really interested in what types of contents are banned where. In closing, they hoped for more development with this cooperation and noted that they will post a link to Sekai Project’s website, which is currently up now, under the “officially recognized fan activities” section.