Two years ago, I wrote up an odd little preview for Fate/Grand Order. It barely launched in Japan at the time and I was absolutely convinced it would never get an English release. Fate had other plans for me though and here we are, hot off the heels of its English launch in the United States and Canada. This massive free-to-play RPG for iOS & Android devices is now out in the west and I’m still a bit shocked to be honest.
I sat down with Producer Atsuhiro Iwakami from Aniplex of Japan and Creative Director Yosuke Shiokawa from DelightWorks Inc. at Anime Expo 2017 to learn more about how this came to be. There were many curious things touched upon, including the English localization debacle surrounding Fate/Grand Order. Read what they had to say in this group interview.
RPG Site: Congratulations on the English launch of Fate/Grand Order. It’s rare for a game of this caliber to receive a localization. How did the decision to bring it overseas come about?
Atsuhiro Iwakami: Last year, I noticed a lot of F/GO cosplayers at Anime Expo dressing up as various characters from the game. Even though most of them could not read Japanese, I felt a real strong love for it. This was one of the reasons I decided that we should probably localize it, so people could fully understand it to enjoy every single aspect of it.
Yosuke Shiokawa: Since you can still play the Japanese version of Fate/Grand Order from other regions, we saw that we had a substantial amount of players accessing it from America. I wanted to properly release it here since it’s technically not… recommended to play the game like this. Plus, I wanted to give English players the chance to experience F/GO in the best way possible.
Journalist #1: How has the success of Fate/Grand Order influenced the growth of the Fate franchise as a whole?
Iwakami: Because of F/GO, we’ve seen that people have felt it easier to get into other works in the Fate series.
Shiokawa: We’ve done two in-game surveys in the Japanese version of Fate/Grand Order. The surveys asked players how do they know about the Fate series and which Fate series are they most familiar with. During the first survey, not a lot of people chose Fate/Grand Order as their first entry into the Fate franchise. But in the second survey, we saw that a lot more people responded that F/GO was indeed their first exposure to the Fate franchise. From that, we realized that Fate/Grand Order has slowly become a gateway for newcomers to Fate as it links them to other Fate products.
Iwakami: We do want to release Fate/Grand Order to as many territories as possible. However, there’s a lot of other factors to consider before we can commit to it - local laws being one of the major things to think about. Once we can clear all of those hurdles, we would like to announce it to other territories one day.
RPG Site: One of Fate/Grand Order’s recent events was a collaboration with the game, Fate/Extra CCC. Despite that game never receiving an English release, is there a chance that it could appear in the English version of Fate/GO?
Iwakami: Right now, we can’t confirm that we will bring over the Fate/Extra CCC event to the English version of Fate/Grand Order. We are trying to have the US version receive everything that the Japanese version has gone through - at least, that’s what we have in mind right now. Remind me again… Fate/Extra was localized, correct?
RPG Site: Yes, Fate/Extra received an English release.
Iwakami: And Fate/Extella?
RPG Site: Yes, Fate/Extella recently came out in English as well.
Iwakami: But not Fate/Extra CCC?
RPG Site: No, unfortunately not.
RPG Site: Were there any games, or RPGs, in particular that inspired you when developing Fate/Grand Order’s battle system?
Shiokawa: It wasn’t so much taking inspiration from other games or copying them to fit F/GO into a certain genre archetype. Instead when F/GO was first designed, we focused on how to properly express the unique world and mechanics that the Fate franchise is known for. For example, even though the relationship between Servant and Master in Fate has absolute rules, it doesn’t always mean that the Servant will always listen to the Master (as we can tell from the TV series). That’s why in F/GO’s battle system, the Command Cards are randomized each turn. You don’t get to pick them; you work with what you’re dealt in the random set of 5 you’re given. That’s how we chose to express that relationship between Master and Servant in F/GO.
RPG Site: What’re some of the difficulties that you encountered in the localization process from Japanese to English in terms of its script? Kinoko Nasu [the original author of the Fate series] has a very poetic way of expressing his stories, so conveying that in English must’ve been difficult. Can you walk us through a bit of that process?
Iwakami: In regards to the system translations, that was done by DelightWorks. As for the story translations, we worked with Aniplex of America. Of course we outsourced it to some companies as well to handle parts of the translation. As you can tell, Fate/Grand Order has a very large amount of text; other writers have their own unique way of writing and interpreting Nasu’s story to English. We knew this would be a difficult task, so we hired translation teams that really liked Fate.
Yes, we have heard all the feedback regarding the English translation. We’ve read through every single comment about it and we will put our best effort into improving that aspect of Fate/Grand Order’s English release. The best thing about mobile games is that implementing improvements on it is a seamless, ongoing process.
Shiokawa: We hear that request every single day. Noble Phantasms are a very important element in the Fate franchise and when we were making F/GO, we definitely did not want to undermine that.
Iwakami: We feel as if the game would be missing something if we allowed players to skip Noble Phantasm animations.
Journalist #1: Maybe just make it a little faster…
Iwakami: Just set it to double speed!
RPG Site: Are there any plans on future collaborations with other Type-Moon properties in Fate/Grand Order down the line, like the Kara no Kyoukai and Fate/kaleid liner: Prisma Illya events? Maybe Tsukihime?
Iwakami: Mr. Shiokawa, Mr. Nasu, and I are always talking about what collaborations with Type-Moon we want to do next. Nasu has a lot of events in his mind and is always eager to voice his thoughts with us. We talk about it and see if it can be done. In fact, Nasu himself has already publicly declared his interest in a Tsukihime collaboration with Fate/Grand Order. That definitely makes us think that maybe we should do Tsukihime soon…
RPG Site: Mr. Iwakami and Mr. Shiokawa, who are your favorite Servants in Fate/Grand Order?
Shiokawa: It would have to be Mash for sure.
Iwakami: Just based on power and how fast you can grind for experience cards and levels, my favorite Servant would have to be Raikou (Minamoto no Yorimitsu).
Iwakami: In the original Japanese version, it was definitely true that we couldn’t release certain Servants to the game because they weren’t made yet. Now in the case of the English version, certain Servants - their visuals and animations - were already done so we decided to release a few early beforehand. This doesn’t mean we’ll release all of them at one time. We’ll carefully release Servants based on story progression. When we add more of the story to the English release, we’ll add more Servants based on their relevance to the plot, era, and events. Still, it may not be the same pace as the Japanese version of F/GO.
Journalist #1: Certain crafting materials have very low drop rates in Fate/Grand Order. Will drop rates stay the same or will it be tweaked in the English version?
Shiokawa: We have no plans of adjusting the drop rates of materials at this time. We want the experience to be as close as possible to the Japanese version of the game.
Iwakami: Right now the English version of F/GO only goes up to Chapter 2. As time goes on, we’ll be adding more story chapters and events that has these rare materials as rewards. We want English players to experience the same excitement for these occurrences the same way Japanese players have had to.
RPG Site: Lastly, can you tell us one of your favorite memories in the production and development of Fate/Grand Order?
Iwakami: The first Type-Moon collaboration in F/GO with Kara no Kyoukai was one of my favorite moments in producing for the game. I was also the producer for the Kara no Kyoukai anime films; that was the first time I worked with Type-Moon and Mr. Nasu. Seeing the main heroine, Ryougi Shiki, again and meeting her once more in Fate/Grand Order was truly a memorable moment for me.
Shiokawa: Fate/Grand Order’s event with Kara no Kyoukai is also one of my most treasured memories in working on F/GO. Obviously my reason will differ from Mr. Iwakami’s, of course. I joined the development of Fate/Grand Order midway. The Kara no Kyoukai event was one of my first big projects for it. I learned a lot from it and also what kinds of collaboration we could do next. It was a very impactful and memorable moment for me. One I will never forget.