checklists - how to avoid game localization pitfalls

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Internationalization in Video Games How to Avoid Main Localization PitsVirginia Parades GurreaDiana Daz MontnI VGVWA, Barcelona 2010

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Language >> main barrier to access & enjoy gamesLocalization is a way to make a game accessible for an audience that doesnt speak the language in which the game was originally conceived.1

Localization PitfallsContext


Format & Coding

Wrong ImplementationLayoutHardcoding & VariablesPRE-DEVELOPMENT CHECKLISTFamiliarization Templates Query Log

Internationalization in Video Gamesoverview of the main localization pitfalls. weve just picked the most relevant issues due to time restrictionsdivided into two categories: formant & coding and context.

The conclusion >> share >> most of these issues can be avoided with a good analysis >> following a simple list of guidelines >> outlined in the form of a predevelopment checklist.

Yesterday, consider localization / accessibility from the beginning

And by relying on three major elements:Familiarizationdocuments templatesproper use of a query log

2Format & CodingWrong ImplementationExtraction & InsertionEmbedded textFile structure & namingTrack of changes

Why?Internationalization in Video Games1st main category >> format & coding, from cropped or overlapping text to the buggyman of all videogame translator: variables. Spotted during linguistic testing, but better prevent than to cure.

Most recurring issues of wrong implementation: text left in English or in a wrong language.No translation error per se, rather an implementation mistake.

Why?Text not well extracted or inserted > specially when it is embedded in the code (hard coded) leads to a manual copy & paste. Files not correctly identified or stored in the wrong place. Changes not well tracked

Solutions No hard coded textImplementing proper extraction & insertion proceduresEasy tracking of changesProper file structuring /unique IDs / name broke down by category (in game, dialogue, etc) / date & version in name files3Format & CodingLayoutOverlapping

Wrong rendering


Internationalization in Video GamesSecond point: format & conding >> layout. Actually problems in layout.cropped or overlaping text

boxes or buttons too small / text too large

allowing scalability resizing of boxes & buttons / not always possible due to deviceDecrease of font size / Avoiding cluttered IU / use of icons instead of words

When both the box & the text are reasonable >> lack of information right character restrictions >> Diana

wrong rendering of text.showing codewrong rendering of special charactersUnicode font4Format & Coding

Date & Time FormatDecimal SeparatorsCurrencyMeasuring Units


Hardcoding & VariablesInternationalization in Video GamesDate format, time separators, decimal separators, currency units or measuring units

Ability to change order and adding particles

Variables & concatenation > ability to integrate the article in the text of the variable, plan for gender and number changes (plural)Placeholders


Clearly identify game termsGlossariesTermbasesTranslation memoriesAutomated QA & terminology checks

Internationalization in Video GamesThe second main category that we are going to look at is Context, or rather, the lack of it.When context is not properly provided, translators have to guess or make assumptions. True, we can always ask, but we might get the wrong idea and might take for granted things that are not what they seem

Inconsistencies might be due to a lack of context, for example if a key term in the game is not properly marked as such and included in a glossary and subsequently into a terminology database. For heavy text games it might be worth it to use software aids, like translation memory tools and termbases. This type of software usually include an automated terminology check which will help spot inconsistencies in the translation of key terms. Definitely necessary when translating 300k words full of different Pokemon characters!

There might also be incosistencies in the source texts, again because terms have not been properly tagged as terms. In order to ensure consistency in the target languages, it is crucial that the source text is also accurate. Otherwise the inconsistency will be propagated to all other languages.

Automated checks are a quick and rather accurate way to ensure consistency, though the result logs need to be checked manually to discard those instances where a synonym can be used or a term needs to be translated differently because of the specific context.

In the example above, a minor inconsitency. The term magic wand is translated as vara in the inventary screen and later appears as varita in a dialogue box.

My favourite treat My favourite meat6ContextCosmetic Issues in Layout

Internationalization in Video GamesVirginia outlined before layout issues like cropping and overlapping because of the code not being flexible or scalable. In other instances, translators are given specific characters and line restrictions which might not be 100% accurate. It is common to receive instructions for ingame saying: keep the same length as the source language (usually English). So if the English string is very short, translators are forced to use abbreviations, only to find out that they had more room.

These are the opposite of text overlapping and not as bad as text that appears cropped. But again, abbreviations are not as easy to understand and they look rather bad on the screen if it is obvious that there was plenty of room to write the full meaning.

The same goes to line wrapping. Developers should provide clear and reasonable/feasible character and line restrictions, so that the text is not overlapped nor cropped and to keep abbreviations to a minimum.7ContextMistranslations

Gender male or femalePuns plays on wordsGrammar noun or verbDisambiguationInternationalization in Video GamesBut possibly the most serious error that might arise from the lack of context are mistranslations.Luckily, many can be solved during proofreading, editing or testing. However there are times when they are not spotted, mainly because of short testing rounds or because the title was not tested at all (heavy dialog RPGs are not usually fully tested or demand long testing periods that are not often planned for).

If developers provide the right context during the creation and writing of the text or at the time of the extraction, the number of queries would be reduced and testing times would also be shorter.

We have a few examples here, like Repelent stick, an issue solved in Fallout 3 during the ingame QA. Without context it was unclear what kind of stick this was, and it is a play on words with the insect repelent stick. Also in Fallout was the term Board of Education which is not exactly an institution but an actual wooden board to educate by hitting the kids with it

Driver Nephi > Drive refers to the golf club, not a car driver or a bus driver

Head & Tails > literally translated as head and tails, as in the parts of an animal when it refers to the two sides of a coin. The character cannot decide and rather have luck decide for her Which of course is not understood. cara o cruz

Without the proper context it might be difficult to determine whether a character is male or female; whether they are addressing to one person or a group of people. It might become real hard to catch puns and plays on words.

A sink can be a kitchen sink, or a bathroom sink. The translation is usually different.The play message can refer to playing a game or playing a music track. Also different translations.And an all time favourite: game. The actual title or one of the saved games?

Context can be provided just by grouping terms by category. The word duck under category animals clearly refers to the animal duck. This same word in a list with the category moves clearly refers to ducking, a move to protect yourself from being detected.

Play > jugar o reproducir // Game > juego o partida (the title / one instance of the game)

Turn > giro, vuelta, turno // End Turn > to end the turn > conocer en qu momento del juego8ContextTemplates


Internationalization in Video GamesHow can context be provided.

First, within the actual file for translation. Since we are using Excel as an almost standard format for translation, dev teams should include as much info as possible:

PlatformCategoriesEmbeded imagesGender/numberContext notesLine and character limitationsLocation of the text in the game > pause menu, character selection screen, etcCharacter name, gender, who is speaking to, stage, action (what is going on), emotions, etc.

9ContextFamiliarizationPlay the gameGame websiteLegacyDesign documentsCharacter descriptionsScreenshotsArtwork

Internationalization in Video GamesSecond, translators should be provided with as much information on the game as possible. Being able to play the game a week prior to translation would be terrific, the best way possible to get familiar with. However, as this is not often the case, there are other tools:Online references, design documents, character bibles, etc.

Again, we should give translators enough time to get familiar with the title, allow them to read through those documents in search of the context that was not previously incuded in the texts for translation. These refere