Bandai Namco's new MMORPG Blue Protocol is already out in Japan, but Western players will have to wait a bit longer as Amazon Games works on the localization. Many may wonder about the philosophy behind the localization work done by Amazon, and how the game will compare to the Japanese version in terms of business model and more.
In order to shed some light on what we can expect, TechRaptor talked to Blue Protocol franchise lead Mike Zadorojny.
Blue Protocol's Localization and the Changes Made for the West
Zadorojny explained that Amazon's intent is to capture the theme of the game but doesn't necessarily want to do a one-to-one word-by-word translation because that may not actually capture the same elements.
The team at Amazon is working with the original developers to understand how the characters are created and designed. Their focus is on bringing that same philosophy to the target languages to allow international players to connect with these characters in the same way Japanese players do.
He also explained the major changes that are being made to the game:
Generally speaking, if we're making a change it's usually for a regulatory reason.... USK, PEGI, ESRB... Because we're covering the Western market there are a lot of these to focus on. The goal is to keep the artistic integrity of the game.
The story should be the same. The feel of the game should be the same, but there are certain aesthetics or certain styles of content that are more acceptable in Japan than they are in the Western market and those are the types of things that we're making changes to.
So it's very light-gloved. We're trying to do a very light polish on this and make sure that the game can be as approachable as possible to the Western market.
Two of the main examples that we're talking about are... for one in the character creator in Japan, for female characters there is a button that will test the physics of the breasts. We removed that from the western version.
The other major one is... There is a bigger concern about child-looking characters, combat, death-related, things like that, so the smallest body type has been removed.
Those are the types of things, anything that's trying to protect the image and integrity of children from a regulatory perspective is let's say the harshest thing that we've done, but generally speaking, we're trying to leave as much as possible untouched.
Zadorojny mentioned that the Japanese development team is fully involved in this process and are making the changes directly.
Amazon and Bandai Namco engaged in conversation on where they want to draw the line and how they want the game to be represented because it's not just a reflection of Amazon Games, but also of the original developer.
On the topic of the different cosmetics that Blue Protocol has to offer, there's still a conversation about making sure that the aesthetic works for the West. Amazon will be careful about that, but generally speaking, they want to make sure that players have access to as many of the costumes and outfits as possible.
Japanese voice acting will be included in the Western version alongside English dialogue. Amazon Games wants fans who really love anime to be able to enjoy that experience, while they also want it to be approachable via the English voice track.
For those wondering what content will be available when Blue Protocol launches Amazon has clarified that they will talk about what will be included in the initial release at a later time.
Zadorojny mentioned that Amazon understands the importance of launching content globally in a similar time frame to let players complete content more or less at the same time.This doesn't just include story content but gameplay like raid bosses and so forth.
The goal is to be as close as possible to content available on the Japanese servers, but there are logistical challenges involved. Translation alone may cause the Western version to lag one or two months behind Japan.
Regardless of what the launch content is, Zadorojny reassured us that the goal is to catch up as fast as possible.
Seasonal content and events however may follow a different release schedule. Amazon is trying to figure out a way to have big festivals happen at the same time in Japan and in the West even if monthly events may lag behind.
Localization is being done by working with some external companies, and a lot of them are the same that worked on other Amazon games, with the intent of keeping quality high.
Blue Protocol's Monetization and Business Model
The business model is going to be adapted, but the core monetization model will remain the same. Zadorojny explained that completely ripping it out and trying to repackage it into something completely different would be dangerous, as the game was designed around the idea of cosmetics and Amazon will respect that.
That being said, they will apply tweaks that will allow the model to work better with the Western mindset. For instance, you're guaranteed an S-rank item after a certain amount of purchases.
The secondary currency implemented in Japan is being preserved, so if you get an item that's a duplicate or you don't want, you can convert it into the secondary currency that can be then used to purchase the items you want. The battle passes will also be maintained, albeit some of the numbers may be tweaked.
Our guideline for the monetization system is "fun and fair." We don't want people to feel that they need a purchase. It's all optional. You can play the content from the beginning to the end without doing it, and if I'm buying and you're not, there shouldn't be a competitive advantage for me.
There will potentially be progression-accelerating items like XP boosts, while temporary stat boost items can be purchased with in-game currency.
Representing the Voices of the Western Blue Protocol Fans
Interestingly, Amazon is also working with the Japanese developers to add options to the character customization. An example of this is two hairstyles that have also been implemented in Japan as a result of feedback from the West.
The two companies are working together to continue to expand the character creator because they want to make sure that the whole Western audience (not just Northern Europeans or Americans) feels like it has representation in the game.
Zadorojny cannot think of a scenario in which difficulty has been changed for the Western version, and generally, it'll be the same in both regions.
Amazon is currently building the infrastructure to collect the voices, thoughts, feelings, and concerns of the Western players and convey them directly and as accurately as possible to the Japanese developers so that they can implement them and keep the game as global as possible.
The Amazon team is also constantly providing feedback to the Japanese developers in terms of accessibility features.
Amazon is still aiming to have a version of the beta in the hands of Western players in 2023, and the goal is to do it as fast as possible.
Zadorojny explained that working with Bandai Namco has been a lot of fun. He was especially complimentary of how open to conversation they are. Amazon is very data-driven, and they've been able to provide Bandai Namco with a lot of data representing the international perspective.
They also have a Western development team in Japan working on integrating the game with Amazon's ecosystem. The teams work together often and have a very productive dialogue.
Blue Protocol Console Release
Amazon isn't ready to talk about the console versions just yet but plans to provide more information on the ports when we get closer to the beta. Steamdeck functionality is also being actively investigated.
Zadorojny concluded by mentioning Amazon's excitement about the game and reiterating that he aims to start the feedback loop with players as soon as possible.
Amazon is super excited about this game. We're super excited about the IP. We're super excited to share the game with the community. I want to put the game in the players' hands. We want that feedback and we want to make sure we're listening.
We're stewards of this game for the West, and we'll be responsible for the Western voice as well.
Blue Protocol will be released in the West in 2024 for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S following a recent delay.
While we wait, you can take a look at the latest trailer in English, some more recent gameplay and details, and the opening cutscene featuring the song "Mirai" by the popular Japanese band L'Arc-en-Ciel.
You should also definitely read our hands-on preview, in which our Robert Scarpinito described Blue Protocol's most interesting perks, mentioning how the game made him feel "like an anime action hero during a dramatic cliffhanger battle."