The rest of the God of War 2 team started a break about 2 weeks ago, but for a few 'lucky' select individuals the fun continues for a bit longer. A bunch of the programmers, the european producer, the HUD and Shell guy ... we all get to carry on working on the PAL version. I see lots of post on the boards from Europeans wondering why they always get the shaft on release dates so I though it might be interesting to explain what happens for the Euro release and why it takes us a bit longer. If your easily bored by an overabundance of tech detail, this might not be the blog post for you, so be warned!
For GOW2, our Gold date was about 3 weeks later for the euro version than the US. This is already a lot better than the original God of War. In that case Europe dragged its heels on some decisions so we ended up all having our break before we even started. This time we made a decision to try and get PAL done asap. So what is involved?
First, PAL TV's run at 50Hz compared to 60Hz in the US. All of the movies needs to be converted from the 60Hz (30 Movies Frames Per Sec) to 50Hz (25 Movie Frames Per Sec).
Second, you have to hope your programmers made allowances for multiple languages. Fortunately on this score we are working with some mature tech and we already did this for GOW1. However, there are always some wrinkles.
For a PAL release you have to do the EFIGS languages. This stands for English, French, Italian, German and Spanish. That covers the majority of the major Euro market with obvious apologies to the Benelux countries. Look on the bright side Benelux, you all speak amazing english from an early age and make English people like me, with crappy language skills, very jealous. On this occasion Sony Europe asked us for one extra language, Russian! That is a fun one, it has a completely different alphabet and is completely illegible and unintelligible to westerners. Its more like doing Korean or Japanese in that sense. So all the text has to be translated. In many cases the German for a particular phrase will be much longer than the original English, so all the formatting has to be worked out again. In fact this can lead to the HUD needing to be re-laid out and this actually just happened on GOW2 today.
On GOW1 we picked the language that the game ran in by looking at the language setup of the PS2. But with the addition of Russian, we couldn't do this. Since when the PS2 was made 7 years ago, they didn't include Russian. So a language selection screen had to be added at the start.
Next comes all the voice overs and spoken dialogue. God of War has lots of actors, earnestly speaking their lines. Because its a very story driven game we chose to translate these properly, no subtitles here. This means that we have to fit 6 times the amount of spoken audio on the disc compared to the US version. So lots of re-compressing of movies and relaying out of the disc gets done, to make everything fit and still have the seemless loading work. And of course, our musicians and audio guys didn't actually finish the mix and voiceover work until the end of January, so some of the final translation recording couldn't be done til then.
Last game we had to make content changes to the game for Sony Europe, as they were a bit uncomfortable with some of the scenes. The guy in the cage was the main problem, for anyone who played it. This time no changes were requested, which was cool, so this didn't slow us down.
Which brings us to some of the subtle technical crap that we have to do. PAL TV's operate at a different resolution and frame rate than US TV's. So we have to make allowances for this. This means bigger screen buffers and a re-arrangement of video ram. Also PAL runs at 50fps instead of 60, so we have to make sure this doesn't introduce any issues.
And then we get to testing. Obviously we already went through test for the US version, but now all the new translations need to be tested. Plus any given set of 40 odd people playing the game will find new stuff.
The final disc should go off to Europe tomorrow *fingers crossed*. So in about 6 weeks or so (I don't actually know the exact date) you should be able to play GOW2 in Europe compared to 2 weeks from now for the US. As a Euro type, I feel bad .... but *hooray* 2 more days and I get to go on holiday! Whoo hooo.