Localizers have a critical role to play in the development of games. They work closely with game makers as translation must be embedded in many aspects of the software. This includes character names, rules of the game, help topics, weapons, and so on. The major disadvantage that comes with being a localizer is time and scheduling constraints as needs to be incorporated as the game is being developed, not after it is completed. This situation comes with its own set of challenges. Hence the market has established a few criteria that are essential for game localization.
1- Script Pre-Editing
The most critical and important necessity is that any original game must be written in a proper language. This requires a good script writer, which allows translators the advantage of translating the game into multiple languages with greater ease. It is important that the text is kept as simple as possible. Any jokes, puns or idioms can be misinterpreted and are not easy to translate. Using “you” in the text may also be confusing and should be avoided; rather use the actual character’s name. The style of writing is very important and should be stipulated as each language has its own use of informal and formal manners of addressing other people and the tone of voice also needs to be documented. Line lengths need to be stipulated, but in each instance, the source code will dictate this, as some languages may need more words to say the same thing. The verbal text is quite often altered to support the voice over in studio edits in the final game. This does not affect localization as the meaning of text is never altered, just often a more suitable preference for each language.
2- Semi-Real Experience
When localizing a game it is best to be able to play the game and get a proper idea of what the game makers require from the text that is to be added. Unfortunately this is not always possible. Most companies, to keep costs down, will incorporate localizers while the game is still being developed. In this case, it is very important that communication is kept open between the localizers and the developers. Changes will need to be documented as they are made, and localizers must keep up to date. It is also a best practice to do changes to the game in batches rather than in a piecemeal fashion.
Bearing in mind that translators may never see the actual game, game makers need to provide as much information as possible during their work, including images to help give a better picture of the game. The information must be as descriptive as possible, adding character descriptions and even screenshots if available. The more information provided the less chance of misinterpretation.
Being consistent with character names, locations, as well as various objects used in the game will help prevent confusion. A character bible can be created and used for each character to improve communication. This document contains all the background information on each character, for instance, their gender, age, accents, demeanor, etc. This information is never used in the game; it is just to help with correctly translating the text. This information is also imperative when doing voice over recordings as voice work is a very expensive venture, no matter the language that is being used.
3- Cost Reduction
Cost is always a factor in any industry, and localization is no exception. Keeping the text simple and short will also reduce the cost in developing the source code. Keeping the dialogue and explanations short will help get your message across quickly. What also needs to be kept in mind is that gamers need to be able to read the instructions quickly while playing, so the shorter and more direct the instructions the better. This will also affect costs when doing voice recordings.
Dummy voices can be used in the first run of the recordings; this can serve as a guideline for the actors and ensure the proper expressions are used. It is also useful to add directions in the script to ensure the correct tones are being used. You may also want to document the voice actors used in each game to keep consistency for future title.
All work done on the localization text and translations will need to be thoroughly checked and double checked! This is considered the first step of all the quality assurance (QA) steps. The team will need to check each other’s work, negotiating within the team to make suggestions and corrections. A review will then need to take place; this can be done by an internal or external QA team whose specialty is video game localization. The original localization team can take all suggestions under advisement and make the necessary changes. Once all this has taken place, the localization and translation can be implemented into the game. Testing is extremely vital thereafter to ensure all is perfect within the game.
5- Success Replication
If the game is a success and the localization and translation have been instrumental to that success, they can be used again for other games with either similar or the same characters or even a sequel for the same game. Games such as Halo have had tremendous success with subsequent releases and utilization of the same voice actors helps out tremendously as the “familiarity” of the voices in the game helps the flow of the games between the sequels.
Game localization and translation has played a very vital role over the years as video games have grown from the first Pac Man consoles to the multi-billion dollar industry gaming is today. By using the techniques described above, localization has been perfected to enhance the gaming experience and open up new markets around the world. It has been a very expensive and challenging process, but one that has literally revolutionized the gaming industry. Gamers around the world have played these games and have marveled at the story lines, the action, and the incredible graphics. Undoubtedly localization has also played a key role in the adoption of video games worldwide, and will surely play an even more important role in the future.