Hey! Welcome back once again to Rules Processing. Long time no article read, huh? Your boii Yoh just hasn’t been feeling creatively motivated to write, honestly, until now that is! Yes, I’m back with vim and venom, to tackle a topic that’s long annoyed me — and a recent event has pushed me to actually write some words about it. The article title probably gives you some idea of what I’m here to talk about but let’s just do a quick overview.
For today’s article, I want to discuss the translation and wording of cards, and the impact that has on players’ understanding of the rules of the game. Mainly, I want to talk about the often bad translation job done taking cards from Japanese to English, with poor wording, errors, and ultimately erratas, although not every bit of poor wording is purely because of translation, sometimes it’s exactly the same in Japanese, so I’ll also talk about card wording in general. Fair warning, I’m not intending to hold back here, to quote the TWICE song I’m currently listening to while writing, “I can’t stop me.” Be as warned as you need to be about that.
How It All Began
The catalyst for today’s article came from a seemingly simple question posed by a new player on the FFTCG Discord. This led to discussion and eventually a revelation regarding a botched translation job from way back in Opus 2 that has continued to essentially be copy/pasta’d since. The question was thus:
To be clear, the question is assuming the player controlling Tifa has 3 damage already, to make Tifa’s Damage 3 ability be live, thus giving her protection so she “cannot be broken by opposing Summons or abilities that don’t deal damage.” The crux of the question comes down to what the term “that don’t deal damage” actually means. Another user initially answered that Round Edge can break Tifa, because if read literally it is an ability that deals damage, albeit also breaks. I disagreed. In fact, I thought this was simply just a badly worded way of saying that Tifa can’t be broken by opponent’s Summons or abilities but can be broken by damage via rules processes. I thought this because it seemed like such a weirdly niche thing otherwise. Of course, it could just as easily be true as so often the rules are like shifting sands sometimes, and as I’ll get into, wording choices in this game can be questionable at best; utterly shit at worst. Anyway, I wanted to see the Japanese wording to compare, or rather I wanted eureka to come tell us what the Japanese text said. The step after that was to contact @FFTCG_SQEX on Twitter for some kind of confirmation.
Eventually, eureka arrived. He stated plainly that Tifa in Japanese said it can’t be broken by Summons or Abilities. No mention about damage on the ability wording at all. So, we started looking at older examples. That’s when we discovered the original card to have the “don’t deal damage” text in English, Vincent [2-077L]. Here he is:
Now, in Japanese:
“Yoh, I can’t read Japanese dude,” I hear like 95% of you cry (hi eureka). Don’t worry, you don’t need to be able to read Japanese, just be able to know what parentheses are. See how Japanese Vincent has text in parentheses? For those who have played card games long enough, you should probably know what that signifies. For those that don’t, it’s used for reminder text. Text that’s put on cards to remind you how certain rules work but isn’t part of an ability/effect in any way. In this case, it’s letting you know that Vincent will be broken by damage as part of rules processes. Figured it out yet? Let me give you a second.
Swiper no swiping.
Yes, that’s right! (Hopefully you figured it out!) The English translation team completely fucked up and for some reason took the reminder text and the ability and combined them into one monstrosity. Then, they’ve continued to copy/pasta this absolutely abysmal error onto others cards with the same wording. At current count there are 6 cards that have been given this wording. They are:
Now, thankfully 6 cards over 12 sets isn’t the worst. I mean, if for now we ignore the fact there’s a lot of other translation and wording issues that I’m going to get into. But, the fact it’s only been on so small an amount of cards is one of the main reasons it has not been addressed before as it simply slipped through the cracks (Editor’s note: also because Round Edge is the only effect for which it could possibly matter, barring obscene edge cases like Doga on an animated Koboldroid targeted for destruction by a Ramuh o6 that is also dealing damage.) The idea there isn’t a review policy in place, some form of quality control, that this translation has been allowed to continue to be slapped on the cards, well I feel like that speaks volumes. It makes sense to have an index of translations to make things faster and easier, which is what I’m assuming they have to have for this to happen, but they should be reviewing that, especially for those translations that have remained the same since earlier sets because even if all the translations are perfect and nothing needs to change, if you don’t do it, this shit happens.
As a final note on this, in case you doubt my word it’s a mistranslation, we have confirmation from Kageyama himself here.
A Slew of Botches
“Don’t deal damage” isn’t the first time we’ve had translation errors of course. From things like the death (pun intended) of an exciting new deck in Death Machine, to just spelling errors with “abilites” on Halicarnassus and Gentiana (again, because of a copy/pasta job). Errata ultimately crops up in any game. Bushiroad are fairly infamous for poor translations and mistakes, from the usual of simply mistranslating, all the way to printing a card the wrong colour (yes, really). For example, the Weiss Schwarz errata page is eye-wateringly long. Konami on the other hand, while having generally solid translations with few errors, errata the text on cards all the time, from trying to continually stop having 1000 words on every card, to simply nerfing banned cards so they can take them off the Limited & Restricted list. Thankfully, the FFTCG translation team aren’t as bad as Bushiroad, and we’re not quite on the level of Yu-Gi-Oh! in terms of changing the wording on cards, although as we’ve seen with the “damage becomes 0 instead” change to Minwu et al, we’re not immune from having a lot of cards changed when HJ decide it’s time for another rules change. Don’t worry though, they don’t need to update the Comprehensive Rules because it never mentioned it in the first place.
If you’re interested, you can find a full list of errata here. For now, I want to zero in on two specific examples.
The first is
“Choose as many Forwards as the [Job (Moogle)] you control. Activate them.”
As you can see, this means that if there aren’t as many to choose from as there are Job Moogles, this ability won’t be able to be activated due to a lack of targets.. Of course, it would transpire that Nono was supposed to allow you to choose up to the amount of Moogles controlled. How was this translation error discovered? Because some players using English cards went to Japan to play in one of the events there, and when Nono was played against them, they assumed it wouldn’t work and called a judge. Huzzah, it did. This led to Serah (7-035L) and Alba (8-091H) being errata’d as well. This case, and the previous “don’t deal damage” mistranslation are why I suspect some sort of translation index being used as reference. In both cases it comes from an earlier card being translated wrong and that translation continuing to be used with no checks being carried out.
The second example is regarding the recent change for Krile and Lani. These were changed to specify that you cast the card as though you owned it. Now, this is all to do with making it clearer regarding the rules for cost reduction when casting these cards. The issue here is the wording on something like Yuna (1-177R). Instead of the text currently being:
“The cost required to cast your Water Summons is reduced by 1 (it cannot become 0).”
It should instead be something like:
“The cost required to cast Water Summons is reduced by 1 (it cannot become 0).”
This is how it reads in Japanese, and is similar to the way Magic words cards. This “your” phrasing is yet another translation issue, and has now required changing the wording of other cards which interact with these, instead of the actual cards causing the issue. Unbelievable, honestly.
Wording That Needs To Change
Continuing off the back of Yuna and related cards having poor wording, let’s take a trip down a very special street. This street is a street I like to call “Why the Fuck Would You Word It This Way”… uh… Street…
In this segment, I want to go over some of the wording that’s not a mistranslation (as of the current moment) as much as wording which is simply so poorly phrased as to be confusing. Now, I want to be clear, sometimes players who are newer can get confused by wording, simply because of an unfamiliarity with the game. The examples here are looking at phrasing that’s mostly just generally bad and/or confusing. Credit to the people on Discord I asked to provide me with additional examples beyond what I already had noted, saving me a bunch of time.
Let’s begin with a relatively recent card, Ardyn (11-065H). Specifically looking at the following text:
“When Ardyn is put from the field into the Break Zone by your opponent’s Summons or abilities, play Ardyn onto the field at the end of the turn.”
When he was revealed, I remember debating what would and wouldn’t allow him to come back, and even to this day many players get confused on what does and doesn’t let Ardyn come back. As I’m a kind soul, let me tell you specifically. Only something that breaks like Odin (1-124R) and something that puts in the Break Zone like Famfrit (3-123R) will let Ardyn come back. Damage, losing power, fighting, etc. will not bring him back. You can see this specifically asked and answered in the Extended Comprehensive Rules on Twitter here. There is also some player confusion regarding when Ardyn comes back if he’s put into the Break Zone during the End Phase but that’s not about wording so we won’t dwell on it too much, it’s just I’m sure if I don’t mention it someone will be like “reeeeeee.”
Alright, so I’m not going to look at tackling how to fix Ardyn, or any of the other examples right now but don’t worry I will get to a point and discuss changes/fixes that should/could be implemented to help all of this in a section further down (and I promise it won’t just be me ranting about the Comp Rules for a thousand words, mostly). For now, let’s continue with more examples!
Another recent card this time: Regis (12-122L). Specifically:
“When Regis enters the field, choose up to 2 Forwards other than Card Name Regis, Light or Dark put in your Break Zone from the field during this turn. Play them onto the field. “
Do you see it? I’m talking about the “other than Card Name Regis, Light or Dark” part. In context, this just reads so poorly and it’s maybe minor compared to others but I’ve seen more than a few players get confused about what this card is trying to say and want to clarify. I know I said I wasn’t going to fix cards here but this is so simple. Just swap some text around.
“When Regis enters the field, choose up to 2 Forwards put in your Break Zone from the field during this turn, other than Light, Dark or Card Name Regis. Play them onto the field.”
Estinien (6-089R). Enough said. Next.
Okay, okay. Let’s talk a little about this. For most people, you’re probably familiar with this card and others similar (Tidus 7-116L) if only for the wording. What generally makes people confused isn’t just this card but the fact there are cards with similar wording that allow different things, for example Emperor Xande (2-007L). The key here is the additional “to play Estinien from your hand onto the field” text, meaning it can’t be cheated with Al-Cid (2-097H) for example, but Emperor Xande can be cheated from hand. This reminds me of something in Yu-Gi-Oh!, where a set of cards were printed with an effect that worked when it was played from hand. It didn’t allow the opponent to counter it once it hit the board. However, there had been cards with similar wording printed before that did allow you to counter them. This led to judges misruling at a big event because Konami hadn’t officially released this information. It was a whole thing. Maybe if Twitter had been more prominent then, Konami could have got the information out quicker…
The point is that this wording isn’t clear enough, even with the difference between Estinien and Emperor Xande, it frankly still needs a decent rewrite.
Quick-Fire & Nitpick Examples
Let’s end this segment by looking at a few quick-fire examples where I’ll just throw it out rather than writing a whole paragraph about, including some nitpicks where it’s not the worst but I want to mention them anyway.
“Can I use another Kefka on my board to pay for Kefka?”
“Can I use my opponent’s Forwards?”
Those questions aside, Kefka isn’t exactly clear that it’s an alternative cost to play it from hand, which can led to other confusion.
These Minwu say you cast the card “without paying the cost” yet it’s been ruled they actually reduce the cost to 0. That’s problem number 1, the text is wrong. The other problem is with cards like Bahamut which specify that you have to pay with CP from Backups to cast it. It makes the whole thing rather confusing for players. FYI, yes, you can cast Bahamut from these Minwus.
Lossley believes it should say “Bartz has every job.” rather than “Bartz has all the jobs.” I agree.
Ought to be “non-Light non-Dark Forward” instead of “Forward other than Light and Dark.” Another Lossley nitpick for you there.
Let’s end with a real treat of a nitpick.
“When The Emperor enters the field, if you have 2 or more Card Name The Emperor in your Break Zone, your opponent discards 1 card from their hand.
When The Emperor is put from the field into the Break Zone, you may search for 1 Card Name The Emperor and put it into the Break Zone. If you do so, play The Emperor from your Break Zone onto the field dull at the end of the turn.”
So, The Emperor enters the field and The Emperor then, if you have 2 or more The Emperor in your Break Zone, will cause your opponent to discard. Also, when The Emperor goes from field to BZ, the Emperor lets you search for The Emperor from your deck and put The Emperor in the BZ which then will, at the end of your turn, let you play The Emperor (The Emperor that went from field to BZ, not The Emperor that went from deck to BZ by The Emperor that went from field to BZ) from your BZ to the field. Which, btw, will trigger The Emperor’s first effect which when The Emperor…
You see my point. Now, look, the difference between just “The Emperor” and “Card Name The Emperor” is easy enough to understand once you actually know the difference (to me) but fucking hell does this thing (The Emperor) make a lot of people scratch their head. As Esufer put it to me, explaining it makes people look at you like you’re still playing Scions in Opus XII.
Negate The Wording
I’m almost done and ready to get to a point, I swear, but I need to talk about this, and I made it it’s own section because this is, by far, my most hated wording in all of FFTCG. I detest this wording. It literally burrows into my bones and pains me whenever I see it:
“Negate all damage dealt”
Urgh. WHY. Seriously, of all the words in the English language, why did they pick “negate?” Why did they phrase it this way? This wording choice utterly baffles me beyond belief. Thankfully only two cards so far have this absolutely fucking trash ass wording but that’s 2 too many. For reference, here are the two cards: Asura (5-049C) & Larsa (9-119C). Now, I’m not sure how many people reading this aren’t sure what that phrasing means in FFTCG but I’ll let you know anyway. Before I do, just sit and try and guess. Just take like 10 seconds and think what the most likely meaning is. Then pick the opposite. Yeah. Negate all damage means to remove damage already on a Forward(s). It doesn’t stop damage being received, it removes damage already dealt. Now, there is a clue here in the fact it doesn’t say “until the end of turn” as otherwise it would just last forever but the fact is this is just an absurd choice. It boils my blood. Oh, and want to know what it says in Japanese?:
“Remove all damage that forward has taken.”
Yeah. This is 100% a translation problem. Okay, I’ll move on now. Wait, just 2 more seconds. ARGGGGGGGGGGGGH.
Okay, for real, let’s move on.
What’s Your Point?/SOLVE IT YOH FOR FUCK SAKE
Alright, so understandably you may be thinking “where the hell is your point in all this Yoh?”
Well, firstly maybe you should learn to enjoy the ride more, and also I’ve clearly made some points along the way. Secondly, I’m getting to that right now. Let’s go!
The main crux of my point is that cards being mistranslated causes difficulty in understanding text, which makes it inherently difficult for players to actually know how cards work. That’s pretty much it. This isn’t about new players alone struggling, this about the majority of players. This isn’t (entirely) about the rules being in a fucking shocking state (unless you like getting the rules exclusively from your Twitter feed.) It’s simply about the fucking awful wording.
So, what can be done to fix this? Well, let’s start with the translation team. It’s very clear to me that, at least initially, the translation team had no fucking idea how FFTCG worked. Hell, I’d say they didn’t even have any card gaming background. This presented the problem of funky wording being used. For example, they didn’t know what reminder text was, so Vincent ends up having his reminder text shoved into his ability (also cards like Yuna 1-177R have reminder text with actual literal effect on the game.) They FOR SOME REASON translate “remove all damage” to “negate all damage dealt.” As I speculated earlier, I believe there is some kind of translation index that’s being used. It makes sense, no point translating a phrase over and over. The problem (hopefully) now is the lack of quality control. This index of translations needs to be audited. Honestly, this should be partly reviewed at least once a year.
An audit of the existing translations, be it the index, or simply just all the cards out there, might lead to a butt-load of errata, true; but it will also enable players to understand their cards better moving forward. I hope this game goes and goes, and I don’t want to be in Opus XXII and still finding out that cards got botched translations because some niche interaction is asked that brings it to light.
Outside of translations, I think we need to look at more keywords, or specific terminology. Now, in the case of the Ardyn mentioned earlier, there is some funky wording in the Comp Rules that makes it more confusing if you do actually know the rules well (although I did correctly guess which would and wouldn’t let him come back, humble brag) but besides that there are other issues with its wording anyway. Of course, this issue goes far far beyond Ardyn and will continue on into future cards unless something is done.
Ultimately, the wording on cards needs to be explicit. There can be no doubt. Keywords will help that. It’s not all it takes, it’s not even most of it, but it’s a start.
The fact is the general rules knowledge across the board in any card game is never amazing, even at the top player level. Trust me, I’ve been to enough high level tournaments and been asked enough basic questions at the top tables to know that pretty well. In FFTCG, probably because of the rules being in the state they are (look I can’t help banging on about this,) the general rules knowledge is lower than in the average card game, I’d say. At the end of the day, however, the cards can go a long way to making it easier for players to play and understand. Pokemon, while yes a very simple game comparatively, has like ~90% of all the rules you’ll ever need to know on the cards. I don’t expect FFTCG to be anywhere near that level but right now it’s shooting itself in the foot and making it so much harder for players to understand the game.
It’s an entire pipe dream to believe most players will be up on the latest rulings, read all the FAQ, the errata etc. It just isn’t going to happen. I mean, only recently some players noticed that King of Burmecia (4-110R) has errata, when it’s been that way for an age.
With that said, the cards are never going to tell you the Backup limit (although the Comp Rules don’t even tell you that so don’t get me started) or the lose conditions for the game, but while I do believe that a player does need to know a decent amount of rules knowledge that will never be on the cards, the cards can do the rest of the heavy lifting for most games. The rest besides all that is why we have judges. Although don’t get me started on the level of knowledge there, or in that judge test.
That does it for me this time. I took you on a journey through poor translations, bad word choices, and I eventually got to a point. Honestly, this stuff does annoy me a great deal, and the fact it’s continued for 12 sets is just shocking, and has led me to probably be far more ranty this article than before (maybe) but hopefully you can see that I care about the rules, and I want players to get the best experience, which HJ/SE should want as well, so hopefully if nothing else you can feel my P A S S I O N. Anyway, HJ/SE, feel free to contact TFE/The Crystarium for wording help if you like. Seriously, we have a ton of card game and judging experience, and eureka even speaks Japanese (to be clear, I am, without his permission, offering him for translation help and I promise he can’t say no).
Anyway, thanks for reading. Hold on two seconds while I go look at previous articles to see what hot trash I put at the end of this normally.
Oh, right. I normally put links to my Advanced Rules and such. Let me quickly say I won’t this time, only because I have a lot of work to do on them, and I can’t promise an ETA on that. Although, mine are still better than the official ones honestly (just saying). The Japanese Comp Rules was recently updated, just FYI. I haven’t looked at what changed yet but I bet it still doesn’t say anything about the 5 Backup limit. *shrug* …bye!
Article & Rules Processing Material
“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
El. Psy. Kongroo