Interview:ANTAGONIST Games Network 1998

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ANTAGONIST Games Network 1998





ANTAGONIST Games Network


ANT hosts a chat Q&A with Dan Owsen, focusing on his experiences translating and localizing the Ocarina of Time text.



ANT Stoic's note: The chat with Dan Owsen got off to a rocky (and unfortunately delayed) start, when Dan unexpectedly experienced a few technical difficulties logging on. Just when we were about to be forced to reschedule the chat, Dan arrived.

Fortunately, most of the audience stayed in the room throughout the delay. And Dan chatted a long time, answering lots of great questions! Here's a special thanks to Dan for his persistence and good cheer. The chat was a total success!

Dan Owsen: TAHDAH!!!!
Dan Owsen: I finally got through on my fourth computer! That dang there Internet... it's real easy man...
Dan Owsen: Well, am I too late?
ANT Stoic: Oh my! It's never too late to talk Zelda...
ANT Stoic: Just when the darkest hour was upon us...Dan comes through!
ANT seinpheld: I know that computers don't always work as you'd expect so I'm not mad. Come on people, has ANT ever let you down before? Keep your faith, and just be patient!
Dan Owsen: I don't know what happened... I got into the chat room easy this morning but tonight, no way.
Dan Owsen: I'm just glad I finally conquered the Internet monkeys that were messing with me today.... So what's up?
ANT Stoic: Dan, we're just glad you made it!
ANT Stoic: Okay ANTs, tonight the ANTAGONIST Games Network is honored to have a very special guest. Joining us live from Nintendo headquarters is none other than Dan Owsen himself. Dan is something of a Nintendo legend.
Dan Owsen: <blush>
ANT Stoic: A longtime veteran of the Big N, he has contributed his talents to such diverse endeavors as Nintendo's own Web site (, numerous strategy guides, and even translating video games from Japanese to English!
ANT Stoic: Tonight we're here primarily to discuss Dan's most recent accomplishment: translating the text of the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. As part of the project, Dan actually traveled to Japan to work on Zelda. He played a crucial role in bringing the most anticipated game of all time to American shores.
ANT Stoic: Dan Owsen, welcome (at last) to!
Dan Owsen: Thank you. Thank you very much.
ANT Stoic: In deference to all the Zelda fans here tonight, we'll go straight to their questions...
Dan Owsen: Bring 'em on!
ANT Ksult1: Is there a lot of pressure to rush through the translation, or do you get the time you need to do your best?
Dan Owsen: Well, I was in Japan for six weeks altogether working on it, though I actually started in July. I worked on it over the course of about 4 months.
linkage: Dan, What is it like working with someone so famous as Shigeru Miyamato and a project as big as Zelda 64?
Dan Owsen: I didn't feel too much pressure. This is the third Zelda game I've worked on after all. Of course, more time would have been nice but I think I did as good a job as I could. There are a lot of challenges in working on screen text that people might not think about....
ANT Stoic: So you also translated A Link to the Past...and which other Zelda?
Dan Owsen: I also worked on the Game Boy game.
Dan Owsen: Now, I'm not saying there was no pressure at all working on Zelda. Obviously it's a very anticipated game and I wanted to do my best.
ANT Stoic: Of's as anticipated as it gets!
Dan Owsen: Mr. Miyamoto is an extremely nice person. I have had nothing but great experiences working for him. This time, he was really involved in finishing up the Japanese version so I didn't have too much direct contact with him.
Dan Owsen: Of course, his input on the Japanese text affected the English version. We did have a good discussion about the amount of tips to give out in the text. He was very concerned about having just the right amount. This will be a challenging game for a lot of people!
ANT Stoic: Speaking of Japanese...
ANT Tai: How and where did you learn to speak Japanese? How long did it take to achieve fluency?
Dan Owsen: When I translate a game, I work with a translator, so I don't have to be fluent in Japanese. I understand a little but I couldn't do it alone.
Mew: Jason Rich (the author of the upcoming Zelda novelization) said that the game will take 100+ hours to complete for the first time. Is this true?
Dan Owsen: I don't know exactly how many hours it will take to finish this game.
ANT Stoic: I guess it depends on the player!
Dan Owsen: It's a huge game.... I think that if you go through without hints, and are a very good player, it might take you less than 100 hours, but you won't find everything on your first time through, I can just about guarantee that.
djrobo12: Dan, what is your opinion of the game? Others have called it "the game of the century." What are your thoughts?
Dan Owsen: I genuinely like this game. It is one of the best games I've ever played. Even though I've seen everything in the game, I'm still finding things. I still need to sit down and run through it from start to finish. When I was translating I saw some of the scenes out of sequence. I'm looking forward to seeing everything in one continuous story.
ANT Stoic: That's the way I felt playing the game at E3. The game is awesome even in a broken up format... I can't wait to see it in one piece!
ANT Stoic: Here's a question about gold...
TUCKERS: Dan, Do you know if a sticker or something on the packaging will show if it has a gold or grey cartridge inside?
Dan Owsen: Although I haven't seen both boxes, I am told the gold cartridges will also have a different box. It will be clearly marked so you can tell which version is inside. Remember, though, that the game play is identical in both versions.
Dan Owsen: I do already have my gold cartridge though....  :-)
ANT Stoic: Hehe... you lucky dog! ;-)
ANT Stoic: Okay, here's the next question for Dan...
GroovMstaX: Was there a cultural problem when translating the game (like Japanese themes that were not suitable for the United States)?
Dan Owsen: There were just a couple of puns that didn't translate very well, but other than that, the game play, characters, graphics, etc are all identical between the US and Japanese versions.
Dan Owsen: With the tight schedule we were on, there would have been no time to really change the graphics between the two versions.
ANT Stoic: Here's a question about the audio of Ocarina of Time...
TheSaint: In a video being given out at Target, the music in Zelda is very Star Fox 64 (average). We all know the graphics are amazing, but how's the sound?
Dan Owsen: I think that overall the music is very good, better than Star Fox. My only slight disappointment was, there wasn't really a new version of the main Zelda theme. However, I quickly got over that when I realized how many other new tunes there are in the game. There may also be tunes that I haven't heard yet, because not all of the music was final when I was working on the text.
Dan Owsen: The game also has a pseudo surround sound mode that is really cool if you have a nice big TV with speakers on either side of it.
ANT Stoic: They say Zelda is a big game. Link24601 wants to know HOW big...
Link24601: Approximately how large would you say Hyrule is? I mean, if it were a real place, how many miles or square miles would it be?
Dan Owsen: Hmmmm, I have no idea. The world is very large, bigger than just about any video game world that I have played before.
Dan Owsen: The cool thing is, it's big enough to feel big, but not so big that it gets tedious to walk around. And there are a lot of shortcuts and tricks to getting around quickly once you've gone into the game.
ANT Stoic: Here's a question about how Zelda may influence N64 sales...
WG Scott: Dan, it's not a big secret that N64 sales in Japan are definitely not doing too well. Do you think that Zelda 64 might be the cure for the poor sales in Japan?
ANT Stoic: Zelda may be a turning point for N64 in Japan, IMHO. Given the Japanese love for RPGs, how can they resist?
Dan Owsen: I'm not sure how Zelda will do in Japan but I think it will do pretty well. Famitsu magazine gave it a perfect rating. They are a very influential magazine in Japan. I've heard that there was some pickup in sales lately on N64 systems.
Dan Owsen: We'll have to wait and see.
ANT Stoic: Here's one from a bald Texan wrestler...
STONECOLD: How will the Rumble Pak affect the game?
Dan Owsen: The Rumble Pak is pretty cool with this game. I use it all the time, in fact my batteries recently died. Of course it will react to action that occurs on the screen, like when you get hit by enemies, etc. If you get a certain item in the game, though, it will also rumble when you get close to certain things....
ANT Stoic: That sounds cool! Here's a 'big' question from Biggie188...
Biggie188: How is auto-jump? Is it good?
Dan Owsen: The autojump is GREAT! It still takes some skill to make jumps; you have to approach the jump correctly, etc.
Dan Owsen: Really, I know it sounds kind of weak, but there are so many other things to do in the game, you will not miss being able to jump. Plus, it's not impossible to do some jumping manually.
ANT Stoic: Here's a practical question about poultry...
xdagamer: What's the deal with the chickens this time? Can we still beat em up? =)
Dan Owsen: Do you really want to know?
ANT Stoic: Heh... Some things may be better left unspoken (or untyped, as the case may be).
Dan Owsen: Let's just say you can interact with the chickens. That's one of the cool things about the game, almost everything can be interacted with in some way. Makes the world feel very realistic.
Zeldarulz: I am a little worried about the controls for Zelda. Are they easy to get accustomed to?
Dan Owsen: I think the control is superb, even better than Super Mario 64. It's funny because I was playing Zelda for a while and then I went back to Super Mario 64 and I found myself pressing the Z Trigger to look straight forward. It's a really simple, elegant system. Plus, there are lots of places to train and learn the play control early in the game and you build on those techniques as you go.
Dan Owsen: It's a typical Miyamoto game in that respect. It's easy to learn all the techniques, you have to then figure out how to apply them.
ANT Stoic: In Miyamoto games, you battle the enemies, not the controller.
ANT Stoic: The Z-button technique sounds innovative! Now here's a question about Link's already-famous horse...
RikimaruVI: Is this horse simply for transportation or can you fight on horseback?
Dan Owsen: Here's another one where I don't want to give too much away.... Yes you can do more than just ride the horse from place to place.
Dan Owsen: And you probably won't get the horse until you've already played for several hours.
ANT Stoic: Here's a good one from a man named Link...
Link24601: What are the items like in Zelda 64? Are there any items that reoccur from other games?
ANT Stoic: It sounds like there are many, many items in Zelda to collect and use.
Dan Owsen: Many of the items in the game will be familiar to Zelda veterans, but there are many new ones too.
Dan Owsen: You probably already know there are bombs, a bow and arrow, magic spells, potions, etc.
ANT Stoic: Here's a RAM oriented question...
RikimaruVI: Was there any consideration to use the 4-meg RAM Expansion Pak?
Dan Owsen: I'm sure it was considered, but Mr. Miyamoto said in an interview we did that it wasn't ready in time for them to use for this game. Mr. Miyamoto never uses things just for the sake of using them; there has to be a good reason. I think Zelda was too far along in development to properly and fully implement the RAM Pak.
Dan Owsen: Anyway, I think Zelda looks great just as it is. And I do think the Expansion Pak works well with Turok 2: Seeds of Evil and Star Wars: Rogue Squadron....
ANT Stoic: Now, we've all heard about the Zelda cut-scenes. B0BBA FETT wants to know more...
B0BBA FETT: How are the movie sequences? Do they run smoothly?
Dan Owsen: The movie sequences are like butter.
Dan Owsen: They're all done in real-time 3D so there's no load time.
ANT Stoic: Excellent! Here's one from a newcomer to the magic of Zelda...
BrainByteX: I've never played another Zelda game before. Will you need to know about the events that occurred in the previous Zeldas?
ANT Stoic: My $.02... You should go out and get the other Zeldas because they're incredible games.
Dan Owsen: It really all fits together totally seamlessly.
Dan Owsen: This game is a great one to start out with! It is really the first game in the Zelda series from a story perspective. It tells the origin of many characters and things in the Zelda universe.
Dan Owsen: Of course if you've played the previous games you might notice some things that are familiar....
Zeldarulz: I have heard a lot about Zelda's bosses. Are they really breathtaking?
Dan Owsen: Yes. Some of them are impressively huge, others are impressively challenging. Do yourself a favor and figure out how to beat them all on your own-- don't read any tip books or FAQ's!
ANT Stoic: Agreed. Get help from your friends, not cheat books!
ANT Stoic: Here's a good one about the game's depth of vision...
MgR14: Dan, can you see things such as Death Mountain and tall buildings from long distances? And when you get there, are they actually as you saw them from a distance?
Dan Owsen: Yes. For example, when you are in Hyrule Field, you can see Death Mountain in the distance. It has a ring of clouds around it. When you get to the top of the mountain, there's the cloud ring!
Dan Owsen: The world feels very realistic because of little details like this.
ANT Stoic: Here's a good one about other Zelda characters...
GroovMstaX: Are there any cameos of characters from previous Zelda games? (Will we be hear someone saying "Grumble, Grumble"?)
Dan Owsen: Maybe...
Dan Owsen: You'll see some characters like you haven't seen them before. Wait until you see Impa...
Zelda007: Dan, you said you played the game and you have it. Did you beat it yet, or how far are you into the game?
Dan Owsen: I have to admit I haven't played through the game start to finish. However, I've played all the areas, beaten all the bosses, and seen the ending. A lot of the scenes weren't connected yet when I was translating the text. That's why I'm playing through it again now, to see everything as it was meant to be.
ANT Stoic: Understood. I imagine that translating the game kept you busy enough!
Dan Owsen: There was that and plus the game still crashed when I was working on the text.
ANT Stoic: Here's one about the game's overworld...
Zeldarulz: Dan, is it true that the overworld of the game will take many minutes to get from one side to another?
Dan Owsen: It will physically take several minutes to walk from one end of Hyrule to the other end.
Dan Owsen: Obviously they could have made it take an hour to get from one end of the world to the next, but that would have gotten pretty tedious.
ANT Stoic: Ah, which leads to our next question...
ZELDA JM64: Will there be any mode of transportation besides the horse?
Dan Owsen: Yes, there will be other ways to get around, and a lot of shortcuts. However, they are not always obvious!
ANT Stoic: Mr. Rampage wants to know JUST A LITTLE about the ending...
Rampage: Will the ending be worth the estimated 70-100+ hours of gameplay?
ANT Stoic: My guess is that you will cry...because the game is over!
Dan Owsen: Will the ending alone be worth it? That's tough to say. Hopefully you'll be happy and have had fun for that 70-100 hours!
Dan Owsen: I'm pretty sure you'll want to play through the game again after you finish it to find everything.
ANT Stoic: Which relates to replay value...
ANT MGS42: Does this game have a lot of replay value?
Dan Owsen: I would say as much as the previous Zelda games. Try going through the game without using certain items, etc. But there are a lot of secrets you will miss on your first time through.
ANT Stoic: Here's a good one about pack-in goodies...
ONSLAUGHT: Will the game come with maps or other reference sheets?
Dan Owsen: There's an overworld map in the manual but it's pretty small, and there are the traditional page wasting NOTES pages... There's also an automap feature.
ANT Stoic: Here's a practical question...
DanDanger: When will Zelda be in stores? On the 23rd, or is that the shipping date?
Dan Owsen: I've heard that some stores already have theirs. But 11/23 is the official street date. It may take some extra time to get out everywhere.
ANT Stoic: So the game may be already available?
Dan Owsen: We aren't officially getting ours in our employee store until November 23. I got a special advance copy.
Dan Owsen: I don't think the stores are supposed to sell them until November 23, so DON"T rush out to the store looking for them.
ANT Stoic: Hmmm... Speaking of sequels and prequels...
zelda64rulz: Hey Dan, is there a second Zelda for the N64 being worked on, or that will be worked on in the near future?
Dan Owsen: I would have to say I don't know the answer to that question.
Dan Owsen: Let's just say I haven't translated any additional text.
ANT Stoic: Understood.
WG Scott: Dan, do you think Zelda 64 could pave the way for future RPG/Adventure games on the N64?
ANT Stoic: It seems that Zelda will demonstrate that the N64 is an excellent platform for adventure...
Dan Owsen: I hope so. Nintendo is planning to publish Ogre Battle....
Dan Owsen: The main problem is that these kinds of in-depth adventure RPG type games take TONS of development resources.
Dan Owsen: So we can't just decide to develop a bunch of them. Smaller companies can't afford to tie up their development resources for the 2-3 years it takes to make a good RPG / adventure.
ANT Stoic: Well, we're getting to the end of our time with Dan. Here's a good overall question about Zelda...
Biggie188: Would you say Zelda is the best game of all time?
Dan Owsen: OF ALL TIME? I don't know. There's that little game called "chess" that has been around for a few hundred years and seems to still be kind of popular....
Dan Owsen: I would say it is one of the best video games of all time, though.
ANT Stoic: Heh...good answer... And here's a final one from an adoring Dan fan...
latino: Is Dan married?
Dan Owsen: Yes I am, so sorry ladies.  :-)
ANT Stoic: lol....Well, we'd like to thank Dan Owsen for joining us at tonight!
Dan Owsen: Glad I could finally make it through!
ANT Stoic: It has been true honor to have such a revered Nintendo veteran visit our fair HTML pages. Thank goodness the Internet finally decided to cooperate!
Dan Owsen: It's those darn monkeys, gnawing at our T1 line!
ANT Stoic: The work of Gannondorf, no doubt!
Dan Owsen: Y'all are too kind. My part on Zelda was so small; there are tons of guys in Japan who deserve all the credit. I hope you enjoy the game!
Dan Owsen: As my rival in Pokemon always says, Smell ya later!
ANT Stoic: Dan.... you are indeed The Man. Later!