Sifu is a game that draws heavily on Chinese culture. And, in its attempt to create something authentic to its source material and respect cultural differences, developer Sloclap sought to include Mandarin Chinese voiceovers from the game’s launch. Sifu’s story was constantly evolving until the end of production, however, by the time the script was finalized, scheduling issues meant voiceovers could not be implemented until the game was released.
“We already knew in December 2021 that we wouldn’t have the Mandarin voiceovers ready until early March, so that wasn’t a factor in our decision to push back our launch date by two weeks,” says Felix Garcyznski, marketing manager of Sloclap.
Fight against time
February 2022, in particular, was a busy month filled with big game releases. This included Destiny 2: The Witch Queen and Dying Light 2. Sifu was originally slated to launch on February 22, the same day as PlayStation’s exclusive Horizon Forbidden West, and very close to the highly anticipated Elden Ring on February 25. Back in November 2021, however, Sloclap announcement that Sifu’s release date had been brought forward two weeks to February 8. Even if the game had kept its original late February release date, the Mandarin voiceovers would still not have been available at that time.
Garcyznski notes that Sifu was ready ahead of schedule as Sloclap planned extra time in case of an emergency, given that this was the studio’s first experience with self-publishing. Garcyznski acknowledges that February was busy with big game launches, saying, “As an indie studio with limited means of communication compared to AAA, we decided to take the opportunity to release a little earlier, which has was a nice surprise for our fans and everyone who was waiting for the game.”
Voice director Li Zhengxiang, who notes that the tight schedule to record voiceover while localization files were being polished, was his biggest challenge working on the game. ‘a problem specific to Sifu, but a common problem in the games industry. Zhengxiang says he would also like to further improve his work on Sifu: “If the game is to do follow-up DLC, we also hope that we will have the opportunity to catch up on what we haven’t done too.”
Sifu is filled with references to classic martial arts movies and culture and is set in a fictional contemporary Chinese city. As such, Sloclap felt that for many gamers, including themselves, having Mandarin voiceovers would help with immersion.
“As the game is heavily influenced by Chinese culture and Kung Fu, we also wanted players in China to be able to experience it in their own language,” says Garczynski. Zhengxiang adds that he and his team would make simple adjustments to the Mandarin script based on the original English text, including some expressions and sentence structures, but only to make the expressions sound more natural.
For example, Sifu’s vocal lines were in more traditional Mandarin to reflect the culture’s ancient and classical roots, with a few exceptions. One of the bosses, Kuroki, had lines that contained modern buzzwords and slang to match his setting which was a contemporary museum.
One of the challenges Zhengxiang faced was trying to make the Mandarin voiceovers authentic for native Chinese players, as they have the highest expectations. Most games these days have an English and/or Japanese dub, depending on the studio and genre. “Previous voiceovers such as English and Japanese have already made the first impression among Chinese gamers, and first impressions are the most lasting, so naturally they will expect more from our Chinese VO version,” he explains. he.
Since Sifu is an action game, fights, dialogues and cutscenes are interspersed with each other. Zhengxiang wanted to reproduce the feeling of physical exertion of the characters in the game. he. “So when a fight scene came up, the actors could use body language to better show the emotion in the sound.”
Lui Beichen and Mi Xiao voiced the respective male and female versions of the protagonist of Sifu. When it came to choosing who would voice which character, Zhengxiang says he considered factors such as the actor’s timbre and tone, as well as age and gender. The actor’s individual temperament was also taken into consideration. “After all, during the actor’s performance, if his temperament is close to the character, things will be easier,” he says.
In the case of Sifu’s main villain, Yang, voiced by Huang Jinze, Zhengxiang recites a memorable line from the character, along the lines of, “After I killed your father, I saved a lot of people, but you don’t care. . All you see is hate.” Zhengxiang said that through this line, players can see Yang’s temperament and image.
“I believe players will also understand what this game is trying to tell everyone: the bad guys in the story, everyone has their own struggles and frustrations. There are no completely good people and completely bad people. in acting in the traditional sense, it’s just that they all have different values and concepts,” Zhengxiang explains. “As a director or an actor, I enjoyed this process very much, and we can live many different lives. .”
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