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  • A Step-By-Step Guide To Game Localization

    [08.24.21]
    - Alexander Murauski

  • Localization best practices

    It's not enough to just take text strings and translate them. In order to deliver a truly superior user experience and ensure that users enjoy your game, you need to invest a little effort and follow the best practices for localization. We feel like this point is really important since many translation projects tend to fail here.

    1.Provide lots of references and context

    It's impossible to overemphasize the importance of providing translators with lots of references and context. For instance, as mentioned above, the Crowdin platform allows translators to write comments and add screenshots to the strings. But why would you need that?

    The fact is, without context, certain strings can be interpreted in several different ways. So in order for the translator to understand what the string is about, there has to be some point of reference.

    2.Double-check your video game content

    Although a professional localization company normally does not alter the content in terms of plot or dialogues, it can point out specific things to consider when localizing a game for a specific market.

    Asian countries, for instance, have a strict set of rules regarding violence, drug use, religion, and other topics in games. So it's best to double-check such content and see if it is allowed in the country that you're targeting.

    3.Keep an eye on design

    When you design a game with the intent to localize it in the future, be very aware of the design in terms of whitespaces and layout. Some languages take up significantly more space than others, so you'll want to consider this.

    A quick case study from Alconost: the Family Island game


    A print screen of Family Island from Google Play

    Family Island is a farm game for mobile devices (iOS and Android) that is available in multiple languages. When we were tasked with localizing the game for the Japanese market, we came across an issue with the game's interface.

    The game developers did not consider the fact that Japanese characters take up significantly more space than English or French words. As a result, the translated text sometimes extended beyond the bounds of the text boxes.

    Once we detected the issue, we quickly addressed it so the game development team could resolve it. In addition, we tried to reduce the number of characters while retaining the context and original meaning. However, this case illustrates how important it is to watch out for similar issues if you plan to localize for different languages.

    4. Let translators play the game

    There is no better way to understand a video game than to play it. This means it's a good idea to provide early access or Steam keys to your game in order for the translators to fully understand its concept, slang, etc. Playing a game in order to study it thoroughly is a common practice, and it's one we highly recommend.

    5. Perform linguistic testing

    Quality assurance is an essential practice, which must be performed throughout the development of any software product. Localization QA helps detect any errors, bugs, mismatches, and other issues that will impact user experience and hurt the game content.

    For video games, the applicable QA process is called linguistic testing. During this testing, a specialist evaluates the quality of translation, context, adherence to the target audience culture, and other aspects. So when the translated strings are uploaded to a game, developers usually forward the game to a localization agency so translators can play it and make sure everything is fine. Another way is for translators to check the game through the gameplay or screenshots provided.

    Here's a quick example from our experience of how quality assurance can work like. The quality of the content is checked throughout the entire localization process, and the person responsible for the quality checks is the project manager. The manager makes sure that the translated content meets the client's requirements (for example, the title of the game should not be translated), that translators cross-check the translations, and that there are no misunderstandings. We also use the xBench tool, which helps detect inconsistencies in translation, mismatches between the glossary and the translated copy, mismatched numbers, problems with tags and variables, and other issues. If a client wants, an additional quality check is offered as a separate service after the localization is completed.

    Conclusion

    Video game localization is kind of a big deal. You want to retain the core and the spirit of the original game while making it understandable for other audiences as well. This is not an easy task. Bear in mind that translation is only part of game localization. Your team will also need to consider visual elements, development of special events, and other important elements, all of which come together to create a unique user experience. Approach localization with a well-planned strategy and patience, and you will be rewarded by a loyal international audience that is willing to spend money on your creation.

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