Game translation
Thread poster: xxxwonita
xxxwonita
China
Local time: 19:56
Apr 28, 2009

We have downloaded many Chinese Nintendo games for the kids. Since their Chinese is not good enough to read all those instructions, they come to me from time to time to ask what they should do next.

It seems to me that game translation must be quite easy. All sentences are short and simple, you only need to have the basic software vocabulary to do them.

And I assume most game translations are done in Exel sheets.

Am I right?


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Lany Chabot-Laroche  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:56
Member (2009)
English to French
Not really Apr 28, 2009

Some gaming translation are indeed easy when it comes to only translating repetitive manuals or simple sentences. But for others it can be as hard as translating a book. Keep in mind that some of the modern games can have as much in game text and dialogues as an entire novel.

Also, unless you work in-house for a company, you rarely have access to the game itself and even getting screenshots is difficult. It can be quite hard to understand and create all the terminology of an imaginary world with little to no context, let alone name various weapons, power-ups, etc.

Another point, generally, the in-game text is presented in dialogue windows and you usually need to give a translation that will fit in that window as the programmers cannot change the font or change the game content so that there is an additionnal dialogue window. If the dialogue is spoken, you must create subtitles that will be readable in the allowed time (all standard subtitling rules actually apply).

Then you must keep the tone in various games. Translating the dialogues for rugged army soldiers is very different than translating for a game that takes place in medieval times. If you translate a racing or sport game, you must be very familiar with this sport's terminology as people that play these games are usually very aware of the technical vocabulary used.

There is of course a big difference between games adressed to kids from 5-8 that must use short sentences and a limited vocabulary that kids understand and games that are adressed to people from 20-30.

[Edited at 2009-04-28 13:27 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-04-28 13:57 GMT]


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Hynek Palatin  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 23:56
English to Czech
+ ...
Game translation Apr 28, 2009

It seems to me that game translation must be quite easy. All sentences are short and simple, you only need to have the basic software vocabulary to do them.


Not really. Some games are quite technical (simulators), use specific terminology (sci-fi, fantasy) or contain large amounts of storytelling and dialogue. Not every game is a Nintendo game for kids (whatever it means).

And I assume most game translations are done in Exel sheets.


Sometimes, but not always. There are many file formats.


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xxxwonita
China
Local time: 19:56
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your quick reply Apr 28, 2009

The basic idea behind the question is: Can I do game translation?

The games my children have played are really easy. Once she wanted to open a beauty salon, and bought the stuff she needed for it; then she acted as a doctor to make an OP...

The Nintendo games must be the easiest of all, and they are really lovely for kids. But generally I don't like the simulators stuff.


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Andreas Nieckele  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 19:56
English to Portuguese
Apples and oranges... Apr 28, 2009

There is a wide variety of games out there, for different types of audiences.

Just like with books or movies, you can find everything, from the most casual and colourful kids stuff, to complex tought-provoking political plots filled with philosofical questions.

I'm not saying you CAN'T do it... with enough determination anyone can do almost anything. I'm saying your view on the subject is a bit warped. You're basically saying "I bought some comic books for my kids. Boy, it sure is easy to translate books! Can I do it?"


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Przemysław Szkodziński  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 23:56
English to Polish
+ ...
Pretty much like localization Apr 28, 2009

In my experience, game translation rarely differs much from normal software localization - it's still software, after all, but the content is usually much less technical and (if the game's any good) more creative.

Things to take into account: the target audience (especially the age group), any estabilished fanbase (especially when dealing with a game that's yet another installment in an already well-established series), heaps of marketing lingo, hardware-related technicalities (platform-dependant: consoles, PC, operating system, etc.).

You sometimes get Excel sheets, you sometimes get snazzy .edbs for your LocStudio, you sometimes get manuals or documentation in .inx - mostly depends on the end-client's needs and requirements.

Still, the point I'd like to stress is that localization know-how, at least in my experience, is a must. Software is as software does, games are no different.


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Francesca Pezzoli  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 23:56
English to Italian
+ ...
Not really... Apr 28, 2009

Bin Tiede wrote:

We have downloaded many Chinese Nintendo games for the kids. Since their Chinese is not good enough to read all those instructions, they come to me from time to time to ask what they should do next.

It seems to me that game translation must be quite easy. All sentences are short and simple, you only need to have the basic software vocabulary to do them.

And I assume most game translations are done in Exel sheets.

Am I right?


Believe me, it's not easy at all. The fact that it is perceived as a child's play often attracts unprofessional translators without any experience that generally do a mess. If it was so easy, you wouldn't find bad translations such as the ones you mention.

Games localization requires years of specialization. Moreover, being a relatively "young" field, it is constantly evolving and you always have to be very careful with the specific terminology.

Style is also an important issue: you say that all sentences are short and simple. Have you ever played a RPG or a FPS?

Last but not least, you have to deal with different file formats: Excel sheets are not the rule (unfortunately)...


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xxxXX789  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:56
English to Dutch
+ ...
Nintendo games are a nightmare to translate Apr 28, 2009

Don't forget that the source
text in Nintendo games
is often infested with
hard enters as the developers
want to control exactly
how the text appears on
your screen.

Of course, these hard enters
will need to be present in your
translation
too.

There are also length limitations (per line) *and* line limitations (maximum number of lines per dialogue).

And of course you are expected to do this for your normal rate. Now I wrote special software myself that takes care of this, but as you can understand, I'm not giving it away

Do you still think it's easy?

[Edited at 2009-04-28 17:01 GMT]


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Claudia Digel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:56
English to German
+ ...
And ... Apr 28, 2009

Loek van Kooten wrote:
Don't forget that the source
text in these kind of games
is often infested with
hard enters as the developers
want to control exactly
how the text appears on
your screen.

Of course, these hard enters
will need to be present in your
translation
too.


Loek, you forgot to mention that some developers think it's clever to sort these strings alphabetically or to sort dialogues by speaker so that you have no clue who is talking to whom, nor when, nor why. - And, of course, they expect you to make perfect sense of the mess they have created.

Claudia


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Sushan Harshe
India
Local time: 04:26
English to Hindi
+ ...
Definitely, it's easy; but... Apr 28, 2009

Forum quotations;

There is a wide variety of games out there, for different types of audiences.

Some games are quite technical (simulators), use specific terminology (sci-fi, fantasy) or contain large amounts of storytelling and dialogue.

Style is also an important issue: you say that all sentences are short and simple. Have you ever played a RPG or a FPS?

There are also length limitations (per line) *and* line limitations (maximum number of lines per dialogue).

you have to deal with different file formats: Excel sheets are not the rule..


My contribution;

In game localization; Gadget base games has character limitations, where online game text involves, tags and links (this expects general understanding of XHTML, and DHTML). Different games have different display and different text styles (that is terminology) depending on game nature, and age group. Excel, Word, and CAT tools are common in any type of translation/localization, but as like Nokia, Microsoft and other software/mobile localization clients, Game localization companies also have developed there own localization applications, some are online. After knowing this, you can understand a bit about the depth of the field, and once you know the depth of the water, it is easier to sail inn!


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xxxwonita
China
Local time: 19:56
TOPIC STARTER
Now I see why Apr 28, 2009

Loek van Kooten wrote:

Don't forget that the source
text in Nintendo games
is often infested with
hard enters as the developers
want to control exactly
how the text appears on
your screen.



I've noticed on the games that all instructions are very short, sometimes even unclear, but I could manage to guess what to do next out of the words available. I had believed the translation was not good, but it obviously had some other reasons.

Saying easy I mean the content itself, for example my daughter needed to buy nail polish, scissors, comb etc. for her beauty salon. When the patient bled, she must treat him with plaster...

I didn't consider the technical part of the game translation, just reckened most of them could be done on Excel sheets.

Indeed I had never been interested in games of any kind until recently. We could get those games only in Chinese to download for free...

Thank you all for your inputs. Obviously I am not ready yet to sell me as a game translator.

Bin

[Edited at 2009-04-28 17:37 GMT]


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Miles Crew  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:56
Chinese to English
Not Easy Apr 28, 2009

I did a test translation for a game (which I was very disappointed not to get, because it seemed like fun) The material was in XLS as you said. Take a look at this game and see how easy it looks:
http://ra.moliyo.com/

The test made most of it seem like a fun creative challenge, but you know how fantasy games or books are full of made-up "fantasy words" and names? Well, imagine taking Chinese people's conception of western "fantasy names" and trying to turn them into reasonable-sounding English "fantasy names":
凡瑞娜絲城
庫伯人
皮爾拉諾克

And then on the other hand we have a hero named 喬治- "George" is a bit lacking in that Tolkien feel, but should that be my problem? After all, I'm a guy who always used to feel like too much of a nerd to make up proper "fantasy" names in games and ended up naming characters things like "Deathguy."


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xxxwonita
China
Local time: 19:56
TOPIC STARTER
Some of the names are nasty Apr 28, 2009

Miles Crew wrote:
凡瑞娜絲城
庫伯人
皮爾拉諾克


腐臭的正义徽记 骨纹软靴 禁锢者的镣铐 灵魂束缚者 流浪法师指环 蘑菇盾 蘑菇骨剑

母亲之荣辉 伤痕 圣火之环 圣火之戒 圣火之链 死亡凋零之花 蚁翅披风 银丝荆棘

and don't make sense at all.

Honestly, it is not for me, as I dislike those half-human, half-monster figures. I wouldn't do it any way.


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Niels Stephan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:56
Member (2009)
English to German
German to Chinese Apr 28, 2009

I think one key argument hasn't been even mentioned:

I believe the market for German to Chinese game translation to be extremely limited. If it exists at all ...


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Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 00:56
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
Interest Apr 29, 2009

Niels is right, in most games the original language is English.

And anyway, I do not think you or anyone should try game translation if you are not interested in games and/or have experience in playing them (obviously the same goes for many other specialized fields).


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