Saturday, June 30, 2018

Choubu Inn Floor Plans | Translation & Commentary

Choubu Inn Floor Plans | Translation & Commentary
In this post, Phantom River Stone examines Shenmue III design documents for an inn in Choubu.
Going back three years to the very start of the official Shenmue III project, soon after its successful funding on Kickstarter, Yu Suzuki tweeted out several images of concept art and design documents. Among these were floor plans of a building in the town of Choubu.

Building floor plans tweeted by Yu Suzuki in 2015 (tweet #1, tweet #2)
There were clues scattered through-out the plans in the form of labels (in Japanese), but Yu did take the precaution of releasing the images in low resolution making the text extremely blurry and difficult to distinguish. In this post we will scrutinize every inch of the image and attempt to translate as much as possible into English.

This topic was selected from the blog's candidate topics via a poll of Phantom River Stone's patrons for June 2018.

The Town of Choubu

As described in the Kickstarter Stretch Goal introductory video, Choubu is a town on the Li River that Ryo will be travelling to during his adventure.
Choubu is the second main area Ryo will visit in Shenmue III
Choubu is the second main area Ryo will visit in Shenmue III

Below is an early piece of concept art that depicts Choubu as a small collection of buildings set at the side of a river, nestled in the mountains among rice fields.
Early concept sketch of Choubu  (Kickstarter Update #15)
Early concept sketch of Choubu  (Kickstarter Update #15)
Note that, based on Yu Suzuki's comments reported in our earlier translation of an interview with Yu Suzuki by Japanese gaming site Dengeki Online, we can expect the actual size of Choubu to be significantly larger than this early sketch:
YS: "The second area you visit, which can be seen in the teaser video, has approximately tripled in volume compared to what I had been originally thinking, becoming open-world-like. With the original budget I had been thinking that an open world might not be possible, but it's looking like we will be able to give it shape."
A comparison image from the teaser video released at Gamescom 2017, which Yu refers to above, shows that the number of shops and other buildings has greatly increased, and the larger port even shows warehouses nearby (hopefully with forklifts!). However it appears that the characteristics of this location remain true to the concept sketch.
Choubu's main shopping street (Gamescom 2017 teaser video)
Choubu's main shopping street (Gamescom 2017 teaser video)

Choubu Inn Floor Plans

The floor plans require some best educated guesses as to what the labels say. Some were simply too small and indistinct to work out, but I was happy to be able to manage a fairly good coverage over the diagrams.

In fact this was a revisit for me, having created translations when they were originally posted in 2015. This time, I managed to identify a couple of extra labels that I missed the first time round.

First Floor - Points of Interest:

The first thing to note is that these are the floor plans for a "Choubu Inn" (I imagine it will be given a different name in the game). Click on the image below to expand for easier viewing.
Choubu Inn First Floor Plan (labels translated by Switch)
Choubu Inn First Floor Plan (labels translated by Switch)
  • The plan is headed "Chapter 5". While Shenmue's story chapter numbering over the years is a popular source of debate and discussion among fans, this number fits in with the explanation Yu gave during his talk at Chuapp X 2015:
  • YS: "The composition for Shenmue 3 has been finalized, and will begin with Chapter 5 as the continuation of Shenmue 2, to move on past Chapter 6."
  • In terms of the general lay-out of this floor, there are double doors at the entrance which lead in to a small lobby area; to the left is a store-room (will it always be locked, or will Ryo be able to access it?) and round to the right is a reception counter (with a mysterious "curtain partition"... I'm sure players will be dying to investigate what's behind it as soon as the manager's back is turned!).
  • An interesting feature lies straight ahead from the entrance: there is a small internal courtyard area with a well and plants, and the ceiling open to the sky. This should seem familiar - it is something we have just seen represented in some of the buildings on the Choubu early concept sketch (the courtyards in the sketch take up a larger portion of the building's footprint however).
  • Choubu buildings with internal courtyards. Could one of these be the Choubu Inn?
    Choubu buildings with internal courtyards. Could the floor plans be for one of these?
  • A narrow staircase next to the inner courtyard leads to the upper floor.
  • The top-left area is bathrooms for men and women. Note that the meaning of the word "bathroom" here literally means a room for bathing (rather than toilets).
  • This floor has two 4-person rooms (with bunk beds), and two 2-person rooms, and the rooms seem fairly spacious with room for small tables and chairs. For some reason, only the first two rooms are labelled on the plan with room numbers: "Room #1" and "Room #2".
  • The 2-person rooms are labelled "18-". Jō (畳) is a Japanese measurement of area that corresponds to the area of a single tatami mat - or approximately 1.8m² - so these rooms are a spacious 33m² in area.
  • Also on this floor is a large dining room that seats 20 guests, and an adjoining kitchen.
  • Next to some of the doors on the plan is a label (hamegoroshi in Japanese) that I have given the translation of "fixed pane" - it's a word normally used to describe a fixed window that doesn't open, but I'm not certain of its significance here. As far as I know it doesn't usually apply to doors, but if anyone can help shed some light, please leave a comment below!

Second Floor - Points of Interest:

Here is the second floor (upper level) plan:

Choubu Inn Second Floor Plan (labels translated by Switch)
Choubu Inn Second Floor Plan (labels translated by Switch)

  • The second floor holds seven more "standard" 2-person rooms - plus at the top-left a massive 10.8m x 5.4m VIP room with its own ensuite bath and toilet, a king-sized bed and an in-room folding partition. Even the entrance to this room has double doors!
  • At the top of the page are some symbols marked "sample", including set of stairs, a door and so on. These are just for reference and are not part of the plan.
  • Although not written on the first floor plan, the overall building size is given: 30.6m x 14.4m.
  • This comment applies to the first floor also, but the width of the main hallway seems quite excessive compared to the width of a doorway!

Interior of a Room

There is one more related image that Yu Suzuki tweeted out, which shows how one of the rooms looks inside - and reveals another important fact about this inn.

Not just any room at the Choubu Inn, but the one in which Ryo will stay.
Not just any room at the Choubu Inn, but the one in which Ryo will stay (2015 tweet by Yu Suzuki)
  • Based on the positioning of the beds and windows in this room, it matches with the corner room on the second floor of the inn - I have highlighted this in yellow on the floor plan.
  • As per the title given on the sketch, Ryo will actually be staying in this room at the inn when he comes to Choubu. (Shenhua is not mentioned, but presumably would be staying here too).
  • Some of the details of the room are apparent, such as the cloth or netting hanging over the beds (perhaps for privacy, or as protection against mosquitoes).
  • The bed frames are simple wooden boards on low trestles.
  • Each bed has a small wooden bedside table, with a larger table and chairs against one wall.

Final Comment

Although the sketches were released a few years ago, this has been a good opportunity to examine them again with the expanded town of Choubu in mind; possibly the inn has grown larger since it's original conception (based on the room capacity noted, the inn currently holds 28 people).

Did you notice any other points of interest from the plans?

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  1. Switch! Fantastic work here! Knowing Yu Suzuki, this will be pretty much the standard for the game, and with your plans, day one I bet I will be able to find Ryo's room haha :D

    1. That'st true, you might get a feeling of deja vu! As you say, the incredible level of detail in these plans really shows what we can assume has been carried out for the rest of the game too.