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Sifu devs on the challenge of bringing Mandarin Chinese to the action brawler

Private Server is a game based on Chinese culture. To create authentic source material and respect cultural differences, developer Sloclap experimented with recording the game’s release in Mandarin. However, as Sifu’s story and textual dialogue continued to change until the end of production when the script was finalized, timing issues prevented the voiceover from being implemented before the game’s launch.

“We knew back in December 2021 that the Mandarin dub wouldn’t be ready until early March, so that wasn’t a factor in our decision to push the release date back by two weeks,” Felix Garcyznski, the company’s marketing manager, told Papa Papa.

fight against time

Four Houses

(Image credit: Sloclap)

“As the game is deeply influenced by kung fu and Chinese culture, we also hope that Chinese players can experience it in their own language.”

Especially February 2022, a month full of major game releases. These include games like Destiny 2: The Witch Queen and Dying Light 2. Sifu was slated for February 22, the same day as the PlayStation exclusive Horizon Forbidden City, and very close to the highly anticipated Elden Ring on February 25. February. However, in November 2021, Sloclap announced Sifu’s release date has been pushed back two weeks to February 8. Even though the game maintained its original end-February release date, Mandarin dubbing was not available at the time.

Garcyznski noted that Sifu finished earlier than expected because Sloclap set aside more time in case it was needed, as this was the studio’s first experience with desktop publishing. Acknowledging the large number of major game releases in February, Garcyznski said: “As an indie studio with limited media access compared to AAA, we decided to take this opportunity to release early, which is a great opportunity for our fans and all of our players. Surprise. Us.” Those who waited. “game.”

The key player in bringing Mandarin to Sifu was Dub Director Li Zhengxiang, who pointed out that the tight timetable for recording the dub and perfecting localization files was his biggest challenge in the game. He clarified that this is not a problem specific to private servers, but a common problem in the game industry. Zhengxiang said that he also wants to further improve his work on “Si Fu”: “If the game is going to get a sequel DLC, we also hope to have the opportunity to make up for what we didn’t do.”

Four Houses

(Image credit: Sloclap)

“The actors were able to use some body language to better convey the emotion in their voices when the fight scenes came up.”

Full of references to classic martial arts culture and movies, Sifu is located in a fictional contemporary Chinese city. As a result, Sloclap believes that for many players, including herself, the Mandarin voiceover helps with immersion.

“As the game is heavily influenced by kung fu and Chinese culture, we also want Chinese players to experience it in their own language,” Garczynski said. Zheng Xiang added that he and his team will make simple adjustments to the Mandarin text based on the original English text, including some expressions and sentence structures, but only to make the expressions more natural.

For example, the phonetic lines of “Si Fu” are in more traditional Mandarin to reflect the ancient and classical roots of the culture, but there are some exceptions. One of the owners, Kuroki, uses catchphrases and modern slang to match his setting, a contemporary museum.

One challenge for Zhengxiang is to make the Mandarin dubbing feel authentic to local Chinese players, who have the highest expectations. Today, most games have English and/or Japanese dubs, depending on the studio and genre. “The previous dubs, such as English and Japanese, have given Chinese players the first impression, and the first impression is the longest, so they will naturally expect more from our Chinese VO version,” he explained.

Since Sifu is an action game, combat, dialogue, and cutscenes are intertwined. Zhengxiang wants to reproduce the physical exhaustion of the characters in the game. “That’s why I asked the actors to be in the studio all the time, and I managed to give them enough space,” he continued. “So when the fight scene came, the actors were able to use some body language to better express the emotion in the voice.”

Four Houses

(Image credit: Sloclap)

Lei Beichen and Mi Xiao dub the male and female protagonists respectively. When choosing who will voice which character, Zheng Xiang said he considers the actor’s timbre and pitch, as well as factors such as age and gender. The actor’s personal temperament is also taken into account. “After all, in the middle of an actor’s performance, it’s easier if his temperament is close to the character,” he said.

The male protagonist Yang, Zheng Xiang, dubbed by Huang Jinze, recited a line from the character, such as: “After I killed your father, I saved a lot of people, but you don’t care. All you see is hatred.” Zhengxiang said , Through this line, players can see Yang’s temperament and image.

“I think players will also understand what this game is trying to tell you: the villains in the story each have their own struggles and setbacks. In the traditional sense of the game there are not all good people and all bad people, just everyone There are different values ​​and concepts,” Zheng Xiang explained. “As a director or actor, I really enjoyed the process, we went through a lot of different lives.”


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Sifu devs on the challenge of bringing Mandarin Chinese to the action brawler

Sifu is a game that relies heavily on Chinese culture. And, in its attempt to create something authentic to its source material, and adhere to cultural differences, developer Sloclap sought to include Mandarin Chinese voiceovers from the game’s launch. With Sifu’s text dialogue and story constantly under change until late in production, though, by the time the script was finalized, scheduling issues meant voiceovers could not be implemented prior to the game’s release. 
“We knew already in December 2021 that we wouldn’t have the Mandarin voiceovers ready until early March, so it wasn’t a factor in our decision to push our launch date ahead by two weeks,” says Felix Garcyznski, Sloclap’s marketing manager.
Fight against time

(Image credit: Sloclap)

“As the game is heavily influenced by Chinese and Kung Fu culture, we also wanted players in China to be able to experience it in their own language”.

February 2022, in particular, was a packed month filled with big game releases. This included the likes of Destiny 2: The Witch Queen and Dying Light 2. Sifu was originally scheduled to launch on February 22, the same day as PlayStation’s exclusive Horizon Forbidden West, and very close to the hotly anticipated Elden Ring on February 25. Back in November 2021, however, Sloclap announced that Sifu’s release date had been moved up by two weeks to February 8. Even if the game had retained its original release date in late February, the Mandarin voiceovers still wouldn’t have been available at that time.
Garcyznski notes that Sifu was ready earlier than expected as Sloclap budgeted extra time in case of emergencies, given it was the studio’s first experience with self-publishing. Garcyznski acknowledges that February was loaded with big game launches, saying, “as an indie studio with limited communication means compared to AAAs, we decided to seize the opportunity of releasing a bit earlier, which was a good surprise for our fans and everyone waiting for the game.”
One key figure in bringing Mandarin Chinese to Sifu was 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. He clarifies that it’s not an issue specific to Sifu, but a common problem in the games industry. Zhengxiang says that he’d also like to further improve his work on Sifu: “If the game needs to do follow-up DLC, we also hope that we have the opportunity to make up for what we did not do as well.”

(Image credit: Sloclap)

“When a fight scene came up, the actors would be able to use some body language to better show the emotion in the sound”.

Sifu is filled with references to classical martial arts movies and culture, and takes place in a fictional contemporary Chinese city. As such, Sloclap felt that for a lot of players, including themselves, having Mandarin voiceovers would help with immersion.
“As the game is heavily influenced by Chinese and Kung Fu culture, 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 according to the original English text, including some expressions and sentence structures, but only to make the expressions more natural.
For example, the voice lines in Sifu were in more traditional Mandarin in order to reflect the ancient and classical roots of the culture, while there were a few exceptions. One of the bosses, Kuroki, had lines that contained buzzwords and modern slang to match her setting which was a contemporary museum.
One challenge that Zhengxiang faced was trying to make the Mandarin voiceovers authentic to native Chinese players, as they have the highest expectations. Most games nowadays have English and/or Japanese voice acting, depending on the studio and genre. “The previous voiceovers such as English and Japanese have already set the first impression among Chinese players, and first impressions are most lasting, so naturally, they will expect more from our Chinese version VO,” he explains.
Since Sifu is an action game, the fights, dialogues, and cutscenes are interspersed with each other. Zhengxiang wanted to replicate the feeling of physical exertion of the game’s characters. “Therefore, I required the actors to be on their feet in the studio the whole time, and managed to provide enough space for them,” he continues. “So when a fight scene came up, the actors would be able to use some body language to better show the emotion in the sound.”

(Image credit: Sloclap)
Lui Beichen and Mi Xiao voiced the respective male and female versions of Sifu’s protagonist. 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 or her 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 sentence 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 says that through that line, players can see the temperament and image of Yang.
“I believe players will also understand what this game is trying to tell everyone: the villains in the story, each have their own difficulties and frustrations. There are no completely good people and completely bad people in the game in the traditional sense, it’s just that they all have different values and concepts,” Zhengxiang explains. “As a director or actor, I enjoyed this process very much, and we can experience many different lives.”
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