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  • A Step-By-Step Guide To Game Localization

    [08.24.21]
    - Alexander Murauski

  • Part 2 - Localizing a project

    Let's say that you've decided on your target audience and required languages, and assembled a loc-kit (either independently or with a bit of assistance from us). What happens next?

    Choosing a suitable localization tool

    Today there are many localization platforms with broad functionality, designed to facilitate the localization process and automate many localization tasks, such as file parsing for translation and managing placeholders and formatters. Besides, suitable localization platforms help automate updates and embed continuous localization within the continuous product delivery process.

    We, for instance, prefer the Crowdin platform, as it has all the features necessary for successful localization. If a game developer doesn't have a specific platform in mind, we suggest using Crowdin. Here are some of the most valuable features that Crowdin offers:

    • Adding comments and screenshots to text strings to provide references
    • Automatic parsing of files into separate text strings
    • Advanced options for setting up the required languages
    • An option to limit the number of characters per line to retain design consistency
    • An option to upload existing translations and localization resources
    • An option to upload updated file versions (Crowdin can recognize newly added or updated files)
    • In-context localization
    • Integration options
    • Cooperation between team members for transparent localization

    These are just a few of the key features that Crowdin offers. To sum up, Crowdin centralizes and streamlines project localization, speeding it up significantly by automating certain tasks.

    The actual translation process

    The most important and most complex part of video game localization is translation. Even the smallest mistake can lead to a loss of context, causing confusion and frustration for the players.

    In order to avoid critical mistakes, it is vital that you choose the right translation method. Below are several available options.

    Machine translation

    Machine translation is an automatic translation of the text by a machine (specialized automated software). The biggest advantage of machine translation is its low cost and high speed: a program can translate large chunks of text in an extremely short time. However, machine translation does not provide any personalization and often results in loss of context and errors.

    For video game translation, machine translation is a big no-no. Video games require a personalized, creative approach to translation, whereas automated machine translation ends up sounding soulless and mechanical, with numerous semantic errors.

    Community translation

    This method involves engaging your community in the translation (via Reddit, for example) with the aim of improving the content quality and obtaining knowledge about specific terms or expressions. This can be an effective approach, with several peculiarities to consider.

    In terms of video games, community translation has an unbeatable advantage: the translators have a superb knowledge of the product, i.e., the game. On the other hand, community translators often lack the skills that are needed for accurate and high-quality translation. In addition, many native speakers do not know their own language perfectly, so mistakes in translation are common. Other drawbacks include the fact that translation deadlines are not guaranteed, and that the community for certain languages is quite small.

    Obviously, the value that a community can bring to game localization is impressive. However, community translation is even more effective when combined with professional localization and/or proofreading. For example, in our practice, we either translate whatever text the community failed to translate or proofread the community translation. In both cases, you will receive community expertise that is checked and edited by localization professionals.

    A quick case study from Alconost: the Goat Simulator game


    A print screen of Goat Simulator from Google Play

    Goat Simulator is a well-known game by Coffee Stain Studios. The game has received mostly positive reviews (with many users calling it hilarious and epic), and is available in English, German, Spanish, French, and Polish.

    So how did the localization process go? At first, it was community translation only, with the community helping developers to translate the game. However, as the developers released more and more updates, it became simply impossible for the community to keep up and translate the game in a timely manner.

    That's when the game devs reached out to Alconost and handed the translation over to our team. Before starting work, we carefully studied the existing translation in order to adhere to its style. Next, we appointed translators with relevant game experience and let them play the game in order to fully grasp its concept and tone. We also transferred the project to the Crowdin platform for easier and faster localization.

    One of the main challenges of this localization was probably to correctly translate all the wordplay and jokes, of which there were many. We should also note that the community did a really good job: we ended up not having to proofread the existing translation, but simply continued it. As a result, the game has a very user-friendly and consistent translation thanks to the efforts of the community and the involvement of professional localizers.

    In-house translation

    It's a rare thing for a game developing company to have an in-house team of experienced translators (unless we're talking about giants like Ubisoft or Blizzard). So what most game dev companies do is outsource translations to a team of freelancers. This approach is not recommended, since freelancers may not be familiar with all aspects of localization, and they simply will not be dedicated enough to provide a sufficient level of quality.

    Other drawbacks of working with freelancers include:

    • Issues with quality monitoring and project control
    • High risk of errors
    • Risks related to costs and deadlines

    Collaborating with freelancers also requires employing a full-time experienced localization manager, and this may not be economically justified.

    Professional localization

    By professional localization, we mean hiring a localization company that specializes in localization and will not only handle translation but also manage the localization process.

    Working with a localization agency has the following benefits:

    • High quality of translation due to the team's experience
    • Better and easier project management
    • All the necessary specialists (translators, managers, QA specialists) on one team

    Finally, our best practice and advice is to assign a specific project manager to every project. The project manager delegates tasks to the requisite specialists, monitors work quality and progress, and in general serves as an intermediary between the developer's team and translators. In this way, the project is carried out in a highly organized manner, and the product owner can always check its status with the localization manager.

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