When Thimbleweed Park Kickstarter was succesful, raising more than the target goal, it was a joyous moment for all LucasArts adventure fans. You can bet that one of the happiest people was Fabio Bertolotti, AKA Kenobit, that translated the game in Italian. His excellent work made us steal some of his gaming time to ask him some questions! Enjoy!
NintendOn: We know that you’ve put yourself forward as Thimbleweed Park translator during GDC 2016 in San Francisco. Have you ever met Ron Gilbert before, during your journalist activities perhaps?
Kenobit: We exchanged a couple of emails, some years ago. I was curating a videogame encyclopedia and I was busy with the adventure games section. On his blog, he cited (and even linked) Monkey Island design document, where he defined the rules that would became the Lucasfilm standard (The player can’t die, forgetting an object will not cause the player to restart the game, there are no insoluble situations…). Given its importance, I was going to mention it correctly. I asked for a link and he quickly replied.
NintendOn: What was the most difficult part in your translation job? Could you ask Ron Gilbert and the other writers for advices and clarifications?
Kenobit: I was in contact with the team for the entire project. In particular with Ron Gilbert, David Fox, Rob Megone (lead tester) and the other language translators. In many cases I asked Ron Gilbert about nuances, intentions and details of the writing. That “him”, to whom is referred? This character knows about this event? Is this a quote from Zak McKraken? And so on.
The biggest hurdle was the absence of Italian dubbing. When a game is also voiced in the language you’re translating it to, you have less constraints, you can better adapt the most difficult expressions, as Ron’s games are full of wordplay. Instead I translated knowing that the player would still hear the English voices.
I hate when the subtitles are too distant from the voice over, I find it off-putting, so I did everything to avoid it. I translated in the most literal way possible, trying to find a compromise between fluency, the Italian gags and adherence to the original text. For worldplays, I came up with solutions that seem coherent, but in reality, are different enough from the original, in order to better convey the humor.
NintendOn: We imagine you were pretty happy for this job. Was there ever a moment when you felt the weight of the project? After all, Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick games are important pieces of videogame history and Thimbleweed Park seems likely to take its place among the bests.
Kenobit: At the end of the project. I translated dozens of games, but I was never involved on such a personal level, even just considering the everyday relationships with the team. The day of the completion of the first version of the game, the one who would end up on steam until the first patch, was terrifying. I spent the whole day checking the translation multiple times, doing some light changes and checking them again. There is a lot of text in a game like Thimbleweed and even with the greatest care, there is always the risk that you’ll miss something. I turned it in and dreamt about if for 3 days. I actually had nightmare about the protagonist’s notebook encumbrance. Luckily it all went right!
NintendOn: How much does the timetable affect stress in your job? Did you have enough time for Thimbleweed Park? Did you have guidelines to follow?
Kenobit: Time is always a factor, but luckily, I had plenty for Thimbleweed Park. I had time to play it start to finish and test on screen every single object and all dialogues. Truly a rare if not unique situation.
NintendOn: Being an adventure game enthusiast helped you in the translation? Being a retrogamer too, with all the references to the Commodore 64? Having a culture aligned with what you’re translating is still useful today, where internet can answer (almost) everything?
Kenobit: I translated the game listening to Martin Galway on my “cutting-edge Commodore 64”, still connected to a cathode tube TV on the desk. Being an adventure games enthusiast was crucial. Internet has an answer for everything, but if you miss a reference, you don’t know what to ask in the first place. In Thimbleweed Park, there are some references to Maniac Mansion and Zak McKraken, that I would have totally missed if I hadn’t played those games extensively.
NintendOn: You made a character speak Abruzzese! (An Italian dialect). This could have caused a shitstorm of epic proportions! You already explained on Facebook why you made this choice so the question is: did the shitstorm happen? Or better, was there a negative comment that couldn’t put your mind at ease?
Kenobit: Localization is nothing more than a giant series of choices to make. You have to make them firmly, otherwise you risk ending up with bland and characterless translation. I know that someone would not have liked it, but after seeing how it worked in the game, I was confident I made the right choice. The positive messages have been great, the negative ones lacked argument and feedback, which I would have gladly read, so I didn’t pay them much attention.
NintendOn: After Broken Age, were you concerned about how Thimbleweed Park would turn out? Do you think that Thimbleweed Park is a masterpiece level adventure game? How do you see Ron Gilbert Today and in the future?
Kenobit: I didn’t like Broken Age, but I was worried that I was the problem, that I didn’t like adventure games anymore. Then I played Thimbleweed Park and discovered that my passion was always the same and that Ron and its team is making me feel the same as when I played Monkey Island. Thimbleweed Park is in my top 5 best adventure games.
NintendOn: Thimbleweed Park was not the only Ron Gilbert’s game to be released on a Nintendo Platform. Maniac Mansion was released on the NES. Today many see it in a bad light, being inferior to the original DOS version. What’s your opinion on this port?
Kenobit: Junk. Maniac Mansion was an irreverent and sacrilegious game and Nintendo was at the time too harsh in its censorship. You can’t make a game like Maniac Mansion into a family experience.
NintendOn: Thimbleweed Park on Switch will benefit from the console features, touch control in particular. Is it a marginal or notable addition in your opinion? What’s the game you like to play more on Switch ?
Kenobit: I’m a mouse and keyboard man, but I can’t wait to replay the game on my Switch. Only then I will tell you if it’s a worthy addition. At the moment on Switch, I’m obsessed by Gonner, but I also play a lot of local Mario Kart 8.
NintendOn: Apart for localizing games, you’re also a retrogamer streamer, with your longtime friend Andrea Babich. Do you have plans for a Thimbleweed Park or Maniac Mansion stream?
Kenobit: Yes, absolutely. In September, with the new season, I will stream Thimbleweed Park, and I will tell some curiosity about the translation. I also have a strem about Maniac Mansion and one on Zak McKraken planned. You can follow us on Twitch (https://www.twitch.tv/kenobisboch), we’re like every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evening.
NintendOn: You’re also a “game boy music player”, as you compose chiptune music using the classic GameBoy and LSDj and you do concerts around the world. You also have an album on vinyl that we gladly recommend. Have you ever though about making music for videogames? Would you like to score a Ron Gilbert game? O do you have other preferences?
Kenobit: I’m working on two small soundtracks, both realized with my trusty GameBoy. I would be extremely happy to score a Ron Gilbert game, but I don’t feel like I’m up to the task. My style is more suited to pounding action, not something relaxed like a graphic adventure. I would never dare to ruin the calm of point and click games!
NintendOn: In addition to everything said before, you’re also a gentle person that granted us an interview so… Thanks!
Kenobit: You’re welcome!