Localization of content can be an arduous task. Time is of the essence, and no game developer will push back the rollout of the game for the purposes of localization. Often, there is hardly enough time to translate the content, proofread it and test it once. 4-day localization and quality assurance in a 7 day production cycle is unrealistic. Ideally only one iteration of the content would be sufficient – but it never works like that – social gaming content changes all the time and needs to be updated regularly.
Initially we received localization prior to final quality assurance, but this stopped working for us when our final source texts came in just hours prior to the game's release. Therefore, we brought in localizers earlier, and provided them with the info they needed to produce copy in 2 languages at the same time – Russian and English. This gave us the time we needed for proofreading as well as quality assurance.
Bring in localization ASAP! When you’re translating the strings, translators will have a better picture of what needs to be done when you can supplement the tasks with things like feature descriptions and concept art.
The web is peppered with examples of localization fails; there are even websites that highlight them. Remember that what sounds great in one language can be offensive or completely out of place in another language. Sometimes this is obvious, sometimes less so; you will know when your audience takes to it or not!
With our new projects, we know that we have a global audience. There are always tweaks that need to be made, and we work alongside our translators to maintain flexibility in our adaptations of content for individual markets. In Total Domination, Independence Day in the US would go down well in the English version on July 4th, while we may make it General Winter's birthday in the Russian variant.
Understand the culture, history and nuances of the country you're targeting. Translators are a great resource and should have carte blanche to operate as part of the localization process. Humor is central to translations and who better than a local to keep your audience of gamers in good spirits. Limit the volume of graphic content since it's always difficult to do.
In games with lots of dialogue with well-written characters, voiceovers are a great idea. A fully localized voiceover is especially beneficial. Be prepared for the time intensive nature of researching, tweaking and planning the voiceover process. Work with your sound engineer and creative director, and if you decide to have voiceovers on a social/mobile game, you've got to do it in all languages!
We have voiceovers for all of our languages in every game. It can become tedious with all the updates and recording sessions. Fortunately, our translators are often scriptwriters and they help us. Since we can't always have all the characters in the same room at the same time doing work, we work remotely. We may use multiple studios with voice actors and sound engineers, and our translators/director using Skype chat. We once completed a studio session with participants across 4 time zones.
Professional work and nothing less will suffice. If you put in several weeks’ worth of scripting, you’ll want to be sure that the voiceover is not a hash job. A single language voiceover process is much the same as multilingual voice-overs; the only difference being that more scripts are required. These processes should run simultaneously across multiple languages, to cut down on wasted time.
Localization begins with an excellent team of proofreaders and translators. At most, 3 different people should proofread the texts. Native speaking beta testers and QA engineers are absolutely essential, but there is more work to be done. Localization can go awry in many ways. Most mistakes are trivial, sometimes remaining dormant for all weeks or months until a player stumbles upon them and reads the game guide again.
The story we like to reference is the Research Lab update of 2012. We launched a new feature in Total Domination – without any localization – on Facebook. Russian was the only available language. We couldn't roll back the game to a live version and patching in missing languages required several hours’ worth of work. The situation got very hairy, very quickly!
Our community of social gamers were frantically trying to deliver their own translations first.
Our engaged player base showed that they could adapt to the situation, but it resulted in us creating an additional level of eyeball checking. While mistakes arise at the most inopportune times, attention to detail is imperative. A great idea is to create a blog of shame and publicize it. Fortunately, this has never happened since.
While automated testing is great, there is no substitute for human quality assurance and cross-checking. Localization needs the human touch. Problems may slip through from time to time, and several localizers standing by can help you to correct these issues. Extensive community management and a high degree of user support are great accoutrements in minimizing the negatives that may arise.
We have listed 6 challenges that you are likely to face in game localization. There may be others that you come across. Revisions and adjustments of your processes and time considerations are necessary. We work with the rules and standards in the industry and devise a style to localize every product. Localization should be conducted during the process as part of the process, not at the end.
Believe it or not, localization actually gets a new life once the game is released!