The Top 5 Myths & Facts about Video Game Translation & Localization: What Every Game Developer Needs to Know (Part 5 of 5)

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Fact: Over 50% of worldwide video game revenue comes from markets outside the US.

 

Despite the importance of making games available in a variety of languages for gamers across global markets, translation and localization is still a source of confusion for many developers.  Due to the number of easily-avoided issues encountered by game translation and localization companies on a regular basis, we realized the value to the entire development community to dispel common myths regarding the localization process, thereby perpetuating a network of informed developers to ultimately enhance decisions regarding game translation, producing a global library of games with quality localization.

 

 

Here’s a recap of Myths #1-4:

 

Myth #1: A translation is a translation is a translation – In the long run, cheaper is better for my company’s bottom line, so I should always be searching for vendor alternatives.

-          In actuality, switching localization vendors can have a negative impact on your company’s financial statement.  In this section, we take a look at the implications of changing vendors.

Myth #2: Translation vendors are all built the same.  There’s no difference in one agency versus another.

-          Without a broad understanding of the quality issues you may encounter with some translation vendors, you are risking financial loss due to consumer drop off.

Myth #3: Prior localization efforts are unnecessary to current translators of my games.

-          Learn how to avoid paying threefold unnecessarily by effectively utilizing work that has already been done.

Myth #4: My friend/relative/significant other/guy down the street speaks (insert language), I’ll just have him/her translate my game.

-          Your game and company brand are at stake, and gamers know what they want when it comes to quality.  Don’t repeat the fatal mistakes made by other game developers!

 

This brings us to our final myth…

 

 

Myth #5: Everyone in the gaming world speaks English, so it’s a waste of money to professionally translate my game.  If nothing else, I’ll run it through Google Translate for other languages.  That’ll be good enough.

“Try not.  Do, or do not.  There is no try.”  Even though your prior English teacher would likely ring you upside the head for using phrases like “try not” in your essays, would anyone dare to correct the Jedi Master’s English?  Remember – Yoda is almost always the exception when it comes to English grammar.  George Lucas granted Yoda special artistic license in his use of the English language that just doesn’t apply to the rest of us – we checked.  As a general rule, jumbled sentence fragments simply do not create the immersive environment players want to experience during gameplay.

 

However, we can apply Yoda’s philosophy to translation attempts with Google Translate.  “Try not.  Do, or do not.  There is no try.”  Have you ever tried running a whole e-mail or article through Google Translate?  How much of the translation did you really understand?  While you may get lucky with a couple short phrases, would you really want to read an entire newspaper fed through Google Translate or even a whole book?  I could spend incredible amounts of time trying to warn you of the dangers of Google Translate, but it’s far more effective if you experience Google Translate for yourself…

 

Let’s perform a little experiment, running sentences from Don Quixote through Google Translate.  Now here’s an inspired quote, “All kinds of beauty do not inspire love; there is a kind which only pleases the sight, but does not captivate the affections.”  Now the full meaning of that quote may take some time for consideration, even for native English speakers but is far more poetic than the alternative.  If you run the original Spanish version through Google Translate (“No todas hermosuras enamoran, que algunas alegran la vista, y no rinden la voluntad.”), it yields a phrase which may sound poetic on some level but certainly not like a human translated version – “Not all love beauties, some happy sight, and will not yield.”

 

Let’s try another one – “Make yourself honey and the flies will devour you.”  (In Spanish, “Haceos miel, y paparos han moscas.”)  Google Translate’s version – “Honey yourselves, and have flies paparos.”  Google didn’t even attempt to translate “paparos,” though it would like to auto-correct Cervantes by changing “paparos” to “papas” (literally potatoes or fries).  If I go with Google’s suggestion, the sentence “Make yourself honey and the flies will devour you” becomes “Yourselves honey and potatoes have flies.”  Now there’s a translation reminiscent of old video games, in the times when companies cut corners in the translation process…Back when they didn’t see the need to spend hard-earned development dollars on quality localization.  (Can you say, “A winner is you?” J)

 

If you haven’t figured it out by now, Google Translate DOES NOT do the trick!  I’ll share a secret with you – native speakers can tell when you use Google!  I tested it myself in high school.  Classic scenario, true story – I was in the computer lab for French class and only had one class period to read a news article in French and write an essay about it.  The bell was about to ring, so I ran the two concluding sentences through Google Translate.  Baaaaaad idea.  It was only two sentences, but my teacher knew, oh wow, she knew.

 

Google Translate aside, dictionaries are not always the way to go either.  You would think that just as long as you were able to match one definition with another, you would be able to produce an accurate translation.  Well, let me paint you another picture.  It was high school French, and this time we were in the classroom – no computers – and were asked to write an essay about anything.  I decided to write about my friend’s project for the local senior center.  Now, I was determined to stay away from any outside help (like an obedient student, I learned from my prior mistake).  However, for my chosen topic, I needed to use the word elderly throughout my essay, but I had no idea how to translate elderly into French.  I used the provided French-English dictionary with my teacher watching me like a hawk.  But guess what – I was still called in after school!  My mistake?  Using the provided dictionary!  My French teacher pointed to my translation of “elderly” and asked why I used that word.  I wasn’t sure how to respond, since I had no idea what was wrong with the translation.  “Um…because it was in the dictionary?”  She looked at me, shook her head, and said, “Impossible.”  Then, I pulled out the school-provided dictionary and watched her eyes go wide.  The dictionary translation of “elderly” was literally “old people,” a phrase I had subsequently used throughout my entire essay.  It just goes to show that even seemingly straightforward translation questions can be easily butchered in the hands of a non-native…even with acceptable tools like the dictionary.

 

You wouldn’t cut corners on game development looking to save a buck, so why would you treat the translation of your game any differently?  Google Translate doesn’t understand context and other linguistic nuances that make all the difference in quality translation.  In fact, some people have intentionally tried to sabotage Google Translate by submitting incorrect translations.  Anyone – including machines– can suggest “better” translations, but there is no human component involved to recognize context and literal translations vs. figurative.  It’s a fact of life – quality translation requires human translators, humans who understand the distinction between “elderly” and “old people.”  Low quality translation treatments will generate buzz about your brand – thousands of YouTube videos will be made and your game will get made fun of.  Google Translate doesn’t make for an immersive experience, but it can provide hours of entertainment in other ways.

 

Ever hear of Star War The Third Gathers: The Backstroke of the West?  It is a prime example of why machine translations just don’t work.  This bootleg version of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith provided English speakers loads of entertainment, though not due to Lucas’ original intentions.  This version took the Chinese subtitles and most likely used a machine translation to convert the text back to English, resulting in translations such as the Jedi Council as “Presbyterian Church” or “Hopeless Situation Presbyterian/Parliament,” the Sand People as “Pathetic people,” and C-3PO as “Below the skin.”  I can’t imagine the multilingual C-3PO would approve of those translations.

 

As for hoping the purchasers of your game speak English, that’s a tall order considering 50% of worldwide video game revenue comes from markets outside the US.  Even the US, UK, and Australia cannot boast 100% English-speaking populations.  According to a study conducted by the European Commission, English is not even the most widely spoken “mother tongue” in Europe but rather, German.  When looking at the country rankings in the English Proficiency Index, one of the top countries for video game consumption – China – ranks as one of the lowest countries in “low English proficiency,” with Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong ranking under moderate proficiency.  Even though the Nordic countries rank under very high English proficiency, it is still common for developers and publishers to localize their games for Nordic gamers.  Why?

 

First of all, the English proficiency rankings are based on adult knowledge of the language, meaning children will likely have a significantly lower level of language proficiency.  In addition, just because someone has moderate or even high level proficiency does not mean it’s their language of choice or that they will understand the cultural context of a game in English.  Even native English speakers from different parts of the same country or across international borders may not understand certain cultural elements.  Humor, vocab, holidays, etc. change depending on location.  References to Swan Upping (occurring annually in Britian) or cheese curds (commonly served in parts of the US and Canada) will not translate across all English speakers.  This is where localization comes into play.

 

 

What’s the bottom line?

You’re putting your time, company resources, and ultimately, your company’s name on global versions of your game.  You wouldn’t want to slap your brand on another “All your base are belong to us,” now would you?  The reputation you worked so hard to build can disappear in an instant through fatal localization errors keeping with the above myths.  There are proven problems with Google Translate, machine translations, the use of novice translators, and vendors that cut corners on quality, passing the subsequently lower cost AND lower quality product onto you.  While cheaper vendors may appease higher ups in your organization and game studios just starting out, the overall goal is to satisfy your consumers, and gamers don’t stand for subpar translation.  Gamers continue to make videos, blog posts, and forum comments about poor translations from older games.  DON’T let your game fall subject to this treatment!  It is ALWAYS worth the cost of QUALITY translation and localization – including the use of fully-qualified, professional translators who understand game terminology and translation agencies that employ quality-checking techniques such as review by a 2nd translator and quality assurance testing methods.  Quality translation begins with a quality translation vendor.  Use a translation service that you can trust to deliver a quality product to your consumers and eliminates the cost of translation and localization errors.  Speak with Language Automation, Inc.’s CEO, David Lakritz (dave@lai.com) to learn how LAI can meet your cost and quality considerations.

The Top 5 Myths & Facts about Video Game Translation & Localization: What Every Game Developer Needs to Know (Part 4 of 5)

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Fact: Over 50% of worldwide video game revenue comes from markets outside the US.

 

Despite the importance of making games available in a variety of languages for gamers across global markets, translation and localization is still a source of confusion for many developers.  Due to the number of easily-avoided issues encountered by game translation and localization companies on a regular basis, we realized the value to the entire development community to dispel common myths regarding the localization process, thereby perpetuating a network of informed developers to ultimately enhance decisions regarding game translation, producing a global library of games with quality localization.

 

Part 1 taught you that switching localization vendors can have a negative impact on your company’s financial statement.  Part 2 revealed the quality issues that distinguish one vendor from another, and part 3 showed you how to avoid paying threefold unnecessarily by effectively using prior work.  In this post, we cover one of the most common mistakes made in video game translation and discuss how it, too, can have a significant impact on the quality of your game.  Be sure to check back this Friday, November 16th, for Myth #5.

 

 

Myth #4: My friend/relative/significant other/guy down the street speaks (insert language), I’ll just have him/her translate my game.

Good plan, in theory.  However, there is a reason translators spend years earning their qualifications, despite their fluency in more than one language.  Due to the long hours spent training, preparing for their future careers, there is a significant difference in the quality of translation between a professional translator and a bilingual off the street.

 

If you were developing a massive RPG, you probably wouldn’t want novice writers creating the multiple, overarching storylines that define your game’s genre.  You would want established writers who have a deep understanding of the intertwined web of fully-constructed characters, their complex relationships with one another and the rest of the world, plus the development of an incredibly intricate society, complete with new races and relevant languages, backstories for all aspects of the civilization (including origin) and the creation of different cultures, among a host of other complex components.  There is a layer of depth that will likely be lacking in the hands of someone who has not spent years training and practicing their creative writing abilities under the supervision of highly experienced and studied mentors and, besides that, has no professional writing experience of which to speak.  Just as a RPG with the depth of Skyrim cannot hope to achieve a similar immersive experience by writers with little to no experience writing on a similar scale, quality translations cannot be wished into existence by bilinguals who may not have a clear understanding of translation, creative writing, and/or game terminology.  You wouldn’t want your original text to be written by someone without a thorough understanding of creative writing and video games, so why would your thought-process change when it comes to the translation of your game?

 

Professional translators have a thorough understanding of the intricacies of languages and what makes a quality translation.  Translations cannot be sufficiently handled by machines because translation is not a straightforward process and there are multiple ways to translate even seemingly simple words.  There are subtleties in meaning, idioms and words without direct equivalents, and the reinvention of character names, equipment, places, items, etc. that make game translation incredibly complex.  While an unstudied translator may be able to handle certain pieces of your game, you don’t want to compromise the overall quality of your game by entrusting its complete iteration into another language to a novice translator.  Remember – your game and company brand are at stake, and gamers know what they want when it comes to quality.

 

One of the worst mistakes people make is believing that someone with less than native proficiency in the target language is fit to localize their game.  It is a common misconception that a couple semesters of a foreign language or a couple summers abroad qualifies someone to translate a game.  If you’re lucky, a couple summers abroad might set you at the proficiency level of a 3-5 year old, but would you let a 3-5 year old translate your game or even write the original text for your game?  How long did it take you to achieve an adult-level of proficiency in your own native language?

 

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in English alone there are roughly over 170,000 words, 9,500+/- derivative words plus 47,000+ obsolete words.  A BBC article estimates that most people know about 50,000 words, and educated individuals may know about 75,000…but how many of these words do people use in everyday speech?  Certainly not all of them!  There are bound to be significant knowledge gaps among people who are still working toward fluency in a language, resulting in lack of quality options for the translation of words and phrases.  There are specific groups of vocab that new speakers of a language may not even be exposed to, such as situation-specific words (describing tools, house repairs, and plumbing emergencies; explaining philosophy and ancient cultures; telling a doctor how you injured yourself, relevant allergies and family medical history).  And, unless your pal is an avid video game player, comic reader, or has managed to expose him/herself to genre specific vocab through consumption of relevant books, movies, and games, it is highly unlikely (s)he will know the words central to the theme of your game – words pertaining to sci-fi, fantasy, MMO’s, etc.

 

While your friend/neighbor/etc. may be the most intelligent person you know, that doesn’t mean they have reached a level of proficiency that qualifies them to make difficult translation calls or understand cultural nuances pertinent to quality translation.  For example, in a number of cultures, it is common to call boyfriends and girlfriends “husbands” and “wives” if the couple is acting as husband and wife (aka living together).  Someone without that cultural knowledge may translate boyfriend literally as boyfriend as opposed to husband, contextually changing the nature of the couple’s relationships.

 

In addition, even though someone can easily converse with natives does not mean they can write like natives.  There are different proficiency levels in speaking, writing, and listening that can vary drastically for individuals in a given language.  If the individual lacks writing skills to begin with, they are likely to face equal or greater difficulty writing eloquently in another language.  While you may very well trust your friend to help you close a business deal with a foreigner, it may be a very different story when it comes to writing a follow up e-mail.  Some people learn how to speak a foreign language without ever learning how to read or write, others may have trouble with grammar, spelling, and punctuation in general that would make written interactions disastrous.  After all, do you really want your video game text to be akin to the incomprehensible spam comments you receive on your blog?

 

The breadth of vocabulary and grammatical knowledge necessary for translation would be lacking in those who are less than native in the target language, and natives can definitely tell the difference.  After all, would you honestly translate a game with your high school French or Japanese?  It’s like taking a high school level biology course and then applying for a job as a scientific writer – while the fundamental knowledge may be there, a high school bio course does not qualify someone to speak, or write, at a level equivalent to scientists with years of experience in the field.

 

Even bilinguals will not have the skills of a professional translator and will quite possibly not have the writing abilities or gaming knowledge pertinent to quality translation of your game.  The experts have a thorough understanding of all of the components important to video game translation and localization – be sure to stick with a qualified professional.

 

 

Don’t make the same mistakes commonly made by game developers and publishers.  Read the rest of our “Top 5 Myth” series to ensure you don’t fall into the same pit traps as others, and be sure to read our final game translation myth this Friday (Nov. 16th).  Here’s a preview:

 

Myth #5: Everyone in the gaming world speaks English, so it’s a waste of money to professionally translate my game.  If nothing else, I’ll run it through Google Translate for other languages.  That’ll be good enough.

  • Low quality translation treatments will certainly generate buzz about your brand – thousands of YouTube videos will be made and your game will get made fun of.  Google Translate doesn’t make for an immersive experience, but it can provide hours of entertainment in other ways.
  • As for English speakers of the gaming world – not even the US, UK, and Australia can boast 100% English-speaking populations, and even in countries with high English proficiency rankings, children are likely to have a much lower level of proficiency.  Besides that, children and adults alike are not likely to understand the cultural elements that have a significant impact on immersion into a game, elements that are remedied through quality localization efforts.

The Top 5 Myths & Facts about Video Game Translation & Localization: What Every Game Developer Needs to Know (Part 3 of 5)

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Fact: Over 50% of worldwide video game revenue comes from markets outside the US.

 

Despite the importance of making games available in a variety of languages for gamers across global markets, translation and localization is still a source of confusion for many developers.  Due to the number of easily-avoided issues encountered by game translation and localization companies on a regular basis, we realized the value to the entire development community to dispel common myths regarding the localization process, thereby perpetuating a network of informed developers to ultimately enhance decisions regarding game translation, producing a global library of games with quality localization.

 

In part 1, you learned how switching localization vendors can have a negative impact on your company’s financial statement, and in part 2, we discussed the core quality issues that set one vendor apart from another.  Thus far in our “Top 5 Myths & Facts” series, we have covered

-          Myth 1: A translation is a translation is a translation – In the long run, cheaper is better for my company’s bottom line, so I should always be searching for vendor alternatives.

-          Myth 2: Translation vendors are all built the same.  There’s no difference in one agency versus another.

This brings us to Myth #3:

 

Myth #3: Prior localization efforts are unnecessary to current translators of my games.

Would you want a surgeon operating on you without any knowledge of your medical history – past surgeries and illnesses, allergies, patterns of disease within your family?  While localizing a game certainly isn’t life-threatening, that doesn’t mean past localizations don’t have a place in current projects.  You don’t want to send translators in blind.

 

You know that dropdown “synonym” button in Microsoft Word?  Think of multiple games in a series, each using different translators without access to prior translation work directly relevant to the current game (a terminology database for the game series).  Now imagine the series is sci-fi, and each frequently used keyword has multiple options for translation.  Just like receiving roughly 5-10 different possibilities in that dropdown “synonym” tool, each translator is subject to using a different word for each new game in the series or even within the same game!  There may very well be no consistency in words like warp speed, cyborg, and lightyear.  That may not be a huge deal between games in the same series (although it would be odd for one game to consistently use the word “cyborg” and for the next to refer to those same cyborgs as “robotic humans,” no matter how accurate the two translations may be).  However, some game companies won’t hesitate to change translation companies midway through a project.  Since these are frequently the same organizations that don’t see the need to provide the translation work completed for the 1st half of the game, the second translator is lost in an ocean of “what ifs”…What if the quality of the 1st translation agency was subpar and the 1st translator didn’t understand science fiction, instead translating warp speed as light speed?  What if the 1st translator continuously referred to the Empire as the Galactic Empire, leaving the 2nd half of the game subject to inconsistencies?

 

The really tricky part is the translations of essential character names, equipment, and places.  These items pertinent to the game and overall gameplay are often difficult to duplicate without knowing the prior translation, particularly for names and places invented specifically for the game series.  There is no frame of reference for these names, so it is impossible for future translators to know whether to translate by sound, meaning, etc.  The world of video games is such a creative space and sometimes, so too are the translations.  In our recent post regarding the intricacies of game translation, we discuss the translation challenges unique to video games, including the pairing down of translations to fit UI space.  UI considerations and other aspects unique to video games must be balanced with the creative translation puzzles faced by game translators.  For example, in addition to developing an entirely new word for a weapon eloquently conveyed in Kanji through wordplay, translators must balance screen space with the translation of 4 separate Japanese characters into a concise equivalent, while maintaining a large part of the meaning expressed in the original text.  Therefore, it is nearly impossible for two game translators to develop the exact same translation for the “who,” “where,” and “what” of games – characters, settings, and items.

 

How do you think players would react if some Final Fantasy games had moogles and others had an alternative translation, like moogrels, for example?  The Twitter feed and Facebook pages would be flooded with gamers angry over lack of consistency between games in the same series.  What if two different translators had handled Star Wars and had no access to the other translator’s work?  In half of the movie, Darth Vader may have ended up as Lord Vader.  While a couple instances of Lord Vader would be acceptable to fans, there would have been a big problem if he was Darth Vader for the first half of the movie and Lord Vader for the second half.

 

Since localization is such a complex process with many decisions made by individuals outside of your control, how can you make sure that you end up with satisfactory results?  A: Linguistic QA testing.  It is only through linguistic QA testing that all of the elements and decisions made during localization can be seen in-context to make sure they are the choices most appropriate for your game.  Of course, experienced game localizers make those decisions all the time, but they’re handicapped because they’re working out of context – typically from an Excel spreadsheet whose layout of in-game dialogue may not even match the flow as experienced by a real gamer.  Do you really want the millions of gamers who purchase your game to be the first to actually see your localized game?  It would be like skipping normal QA testing during the development process and shipping a game merely on the basis of having built the executable without actually playing the game.  (Check out the upcoming interview on our YouTube channel with Language Automation, Inc.’s CEO speaking about these aspects of the game localization process.)

 

By not providing future translators with previous translation efforts, you are not only squandering the money and time spent on the previous translation, but you are ultimately reducing the overall quality of your game.  It takes time for translators to develop quality translations, and you are paying for their time and the output of their time – a database of terminology used on the project in addition to the game translation.  The problem with denying future translators access to those terminology records is that you are not only comprising the quality of your game through inconsistencies, but you are also requiring translators to redo work that has already been done.  Thus, you are paying threefold unnecessarily – for the time of the original translation plus the 2nd translator’s new translation of terminology used throughout a game/game series; for the output of the two individuals’ translations; and for the inflated workload of the QA tester.  If you don’t have a linguistic QA tester ensuring the consistency of terminology throughout the game(s), you are also costing your company PR dollars and quite possibly diminishing your customer base due to a perception of a low quality product.

 

Do yourself, your translators, your brand, and your consumers a HUGE favor, and absolutely ensure terminology databases make it to relevant translators.  It will make a significant impact on your financial statement and will save a huge headache for future translators and QA testers.

 

 

Here’s a sneak peek at next week’s topic (watch for it Tuesday, November 13th):

 

Myth #4: My friend/relative/significant other/guy down the street speaks (insert language), I’ll just have him/her translate my game.

  • Your game and company brand are at stake, and gamers know what they want when it comes to quality.  Don’t repeat the fatal mistakes made by other game developers!

The Top 5 Myths & Facts about Video Game Translation & Localization: What Every Game Developer Needs to Know (Part 2 of 5)

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Fact: Over 50% of worldwide video game revenue comes from markets outside the US.

 

Despite the importance of making games available in a variety of languages for gamers across global markets, translation and localization is still a source of confusion for many developers.  Due to the number of easily-avoided issues encountered by game translation and localization companies on a regular basis, we realized the value to the entire development community to dispel common myths regarding the localization process, thereby perpetuating a network of informed developers to ultimately enhance decisions regarding game translation, producing a global library of games with quality localization.

 

In part 1, you learned the ways in which changing localization vendors can actually have a negative impact on your company’s financial statement and also received a quick look at the quality concerns between different vendors.  In this post, we will delve further into the core issues that sets vendors apart from one another.  In case you missed the first installment of our 5 part Game Localization Myth series, be sure to check out “Myth #1:  A translation is a translation is a translation – In the long run, cheaper is better for my company’s bottom line, so I should always be searching for vendor alternatives.”  Feel free to send us feedback on our Twitter page @LanguageAutoInc.

 

 

Myth #2: Translation vendors are all built the same.  There’s no difference in one agency versus another.

Would anyone dare to apply this same logic to video games?  Example – Mario and Mortal Kombat are both video game series, so they’re roughly the same entertainment experience.  No!  You wouldn’t give Mortal Kombat (hopefully) to a young kid looking to be entertained.  Why not?  Mario and Mortal Kombat belong to two entirely different genres of games –Mario won the hearts of families around the world through his appearance in child and family-oriented games, whereas Mortal Kombat is a mature fighting series that would have parents picketing outside of game stores if marketed to or placed in the hands of children.  Just as there exists large gaps in the experience provided by games of different genres, so too, exists a significant difference in translation vendors and their abilities to adequately bring your video games to global markets.

 

First of all, there are translation agencies that try to cater to everyone – legal, medical, website translation, video games – they do it all!  But didn’t anyone ever warn you that you can’t be everything to everyone?  While some companies may be large enough to where they can successfully pull off such a feat, it is unlikely they will be able to provide the specialized services of a company focused solely upon video game translation and localization, meaning not only will you lose the opportunity to take advantage of service offerings designed for your game studio or publishing company but you may also not have access to a wide breadth of languages and a large team of translators who understand video game vocabulary and gaming culture necessary for quality translation.

 

Then there are the differences in quality.  While price doesn’t always indicate quality, there is likely an important reason for translation agencies charging significantly less for their services.  After all, if you were searching high and low for a top-of-the-line sports convertible and found a new one for less than $10k, you probably wouldn’t be overjoyed the price.  Rather, you would likely be left wondering what’s wrong with the car and who’s trying to scam you.  You’re not being pessimistic, it’s just a fact of life – quality products and services require money.  And since you’re ultimately putting your company’s brand on your games (translated games included!), you want to ensure you’re receiving a quality translation.  After all, when it comes to your company’s reputation, it’s worth paying full price (unless you’re aching to be the next “All your base are belong to us” case study).  All the money in the world sometimes isn’t sufficient for damage control.  Who’s to say your cost-effective translation solution wouldn’t result in a crowd-sourced disaster like the racial slur that appeared in Minecraft?  Crowd-sourcing-related problems aren’t the only quality issues to consider in translation and localization.

 

Your game could end up in the hands of a translator who understands the source language and target language but doesn’t understand gaming language, posing a big problem for gamers who expect game-centric words like “rez” and “drop” to read correctly in the target language as opposed to an absurd translation like “resolution” for “rez” and “faint” or “release” for “drop.”  (As discussed in our previous article, just because you are fluent in 2+ languages does not mean you are fluent in “gamer” jargon.)

 

In addition, some translation companies don’t hesitate to place non-native speakers on translation projects.  While you might be able to understand the use of a translator “practically” fluent in the target language, would you be so understanding if your translation agency places a student on your game translation with only a couple semesters of experience in the target language?  Would it help if the student stayed abroad in the relevant country for a summer or two?  These are just some of the quality issues you may encounter with certain translation companies.

 

Unfortunately, you likely won’t be able to assess for yourself whether your localization provider is providing quality localization for each translated version of your game, since only a select few people in existence have been able to speak the number of languages necessary for adequately expanding the global reach of your video game.

 

This is why you need a company you can trust, a company with proven experience for a wide array of industry leaders.  Translation companies are not built the same.  In addition to using translators who don’t speak gamer or don’t speak the target language well enough to translate your game accurately, companies may go a step beyond crowdsourcing and simply run sections of your game (perhaps even your whole game) through Google Translate.  (See myth #5 when it comes out Nov. 16th to learn why this is a bad, bad idea.)  This is why you want to ensure your translation company has built in methods for ensuring quality, such as review by a second linguist and quality assurance for multiple elements (including UI limitations and consistency of terminology).

 

Make sure you do your homework – What is the business model of your translation agency?  Who are their clients, and what is their satisfaction level?  If you catch wind of the use of translation techniques that result in poorly translated games, it is better for your company to find another organization with a business model you approve of.  The pennies you save per word with certain translation agencies will not be worth it in the long run.  Gamers frequently cite “immersion” as a key factor for the enjoyment of video games and will very quickly lose confidence in the quality of your products if the translation is off, resulting in financial loss due to consumer drop off as opposed to the financial gain you seek by taking your games to foreign markets.

 

 

Be sure to check back on our blog Friday, November 9th for myth #3.  Until then, here’s a snapshot into the future:

 

Myth #3: Prior localization efforts are unnecessary to current translators of my games.

  • In this upcoming post, learn how to avoid paying threefold unnecessarily by effectively utilizing work that has already been done.

The Top 5 Myths & Facts about Video Game Translation & Localization: What Every Game Developer Needs to Know (Part 1 of 5)

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Fact: Over 50% of worldwide video game revenue comes from markets outside the US.

 

Despite the importance of making games available in a variety of languages for gamers across global markets, translation and localization is still a source of confusion for many game developers and publishers.  Due to the number of easily-avoided issues encountered by game translation and localization companies on a regular basis, we realized the value to the entire development community to dispel common myths regarding the localization process, thereby perpetuating a network of informed developers to ultimately enhance decisions regarding game translation, producing a global library of games with quality localization.

 

 

LAI – Obliterating Translation Errors for Nearly 20 Years.

Our pumpkin features Cats of Zero Wing atop an Angry Birds scene, and his quote infamous to game translation, “All your base are belong to us.”  He’s on top of the tower of Angry Birds enemies because he represents the worst scenario in game translation – gamers have spent the last 20+ years quoting Cats when making a point about how little emphasis was placed on video game translation in the past.  It is Language Automation, Inc.’s mission to capsize these poor translation efforts, and we use our blog posts to aid this process through educating developers and publishers about video game translation and localization.

  

Myth #1: A translation is a translation is a translation – In the long run, cheaper is better for my company’s bottom line, so I should always be searching for vendor alternatives.

As tempting as it might be to constantly hunt for cheaper translation and localization vendors, not only does the search waste valuable company time and resources but transferring your localization projects could ultimately have a negative impact on quality.  Over time, translators build a deeper understanding of your games and your organization’s needs – commonly used words, company mission, cost vs. quality considerations – all of the factors most important to producing a localization aligned with your company’s global vision.

 

As you spend more time working with a translator, you develop a certain knowledge base that is not immediately transferrable to other translators.  It’s like playing the original NES Mega Man – no save capabilities, no password system… no magical way of skipping forward to avoid repeating hours of work.  Your translators spend valuable time learning the unique aspects of your studio that sets your games apart from others on the market.  Details that you might not consider of primary importance to your game’s translation team (such as your company’s overall vision) are components that specialized game localization companies put at the forefront of your localization projects to ensure consistency with your business strategy.

 

When switching translation vendors, you are actually squandering company resources.  Think of all the statistics out there about the expense associated with signing new customers.  Some specialists believe it’s 5 times as expensive, some 7.  You should apply a similar financial loss estimate when switching localization vendors due to the time spent learning (and in the case of your new vendor, relearning) the specifications of your unique business needs, and that is a significant chunk of money from your pool of game production capital.  This learning and relearning by multiple translators equates to valuable company dollars and sunk cost for your company.  At the very least, before switching to another translation company, you should ask for the list of terminology developed by translators specifically for your game.  These files legally belong to your company and are directly relevant to current and future iterations of your games.  (See part 3 of our upcoming blog post for more information.)

 

Decision-makers within your organization are looking to cut costs in order to better serve financial considerations.  There is a reason game developer and publisher industry leaders (such as Sony and Ubisoft) repeatedly do business with us and why we choose to remain a boutique company dedicated solely to the video game industry.  When you work with a highly specialized game translation company like Language Automation, Inc., you receive closely tailored services by an organization who understands the specifications and key considerations of the game development community.  We have proven solutions for the common issues most relevant to game developers due to our longstanding and vested interest in the industry:

 

Due to our deep understanding of the cost versus quality battleground and relevant tradeoffs, we work with companies to accommodate these shifting needs.  Unlike vendors focused on providing translations across a wide range of fields (legal, medical, literary, website, etc., ultimately thinning corporate resources for deeper reach into specialized industries such as game development), our game localization services are expansive and are designed to grow with the needs of your company.  If low cost is your priority, we provide a more economical approach to work within your budget.  On the other hand, if schedule is your priority, we developed proven solutions to ensure your needs are met.  We give you complete freedom to achieve your goals according to your specifications.

 

Is there ever a time to change vendors?  Certainly – but switch vendors only if your current vendor doesn’t satisfy your needs or understand the growth path of your organization.  As you’ll read in the next section, not all translation vendors are built the same.  As such, there could very well be another organization better suited to your needs.  If you are unhappy with the quality of your vendor’s translations, encounter communication issues with the translation team, or find that the company simply can’t cater to the business goals and strategies of your company, open the lines of communication.  Talk to your vendor and discuss relevant issues.  Quality problems are frequently due to poor communication or lack of in-game testing (an essential part of the complete localization process, and a component we’ll cover in a future blog post).  These problems are usually easily resolved with a phone call or meeting.  The key to remember is that translation vendors are on your side and want you to be successful.  However, if you’re looking to switch translation vendors due to a minor or even moderate difference in price per word, it’s likely you won’t save your company anything by jumping ship.  You could even be costing your company in ways that may not be immediately transparent on your financial statement.  Check back on our blog Nov. 6th for part 2 in order to gain a better understanding of these nuances and learn which kind of translation company best fits in with your organization.

 

Here’s a snapshot at next week’s blog post:

Myth #2: Translation vendors are all built the same.  There’s no difference in one agency versus another.

  • Without a broad understanding of the quality issues you may encounter with some translation vendors, you are risking financial loss due to consumer drop off.