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How not to localize your games
Thread poster: xxxXX789

xxxXX789  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:02
English to Dutch
+ ...
May 6, 2009

Hi all!

I'm back with another lengthy write-up about game localization, as seen from the translator's perspective. Any suggestions, comments and remarks are welcome!

You can find the article right here:
http://www.loekalization.com/projectfromhell.html

It's long and complicated, but hopefully offers a few interesting insights in how you should not tackle the translation of games, or software in general.


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Niels Stephan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:02
Member (2009)
English to German
Thanks! May 6, 2009

Hi Loek,

I just had a quick look at it, it looks very interesting.
I will read it in detail later, but I already believe that I will feel tempted to forward the link to some PMs ...

Thanks for sharing!


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Wilmer Brouwer
Netherlands
Local time: 17:02
Member (2006)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Very interesting read! May 6, 2009

I also translate a lot of games and I recognize many of the things you notice. Good to see there are more people experiencing this. Very worthwhile and interesting read.
I didn't work on this particular project by the way, luckily.


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Hynek Palatin  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 17:02
English to Czech
+ ...
Project From Hell May 6, 2009

Great article, Loek!

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Claudia Digel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:02
English to German
+ ...
Great! May 6, 2009

Thanks, Loek. Indeed a great article.

And it all sounds so familiar ...

Claudia

[Edited at 2009-05-06 09:59 GMT]


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Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:02
French to English
format from hell May 6, 2009

What a great article, I hope the right people will get a chance to read it!

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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 18:02
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Very detailed but a fun read May 6, 2009

I daresay you went into too much detail, but I personally enjoyed every bit!

I ran into Japanese hard returns last year on a couple of ninja games. Thankfully they weren't that long (how much can you write about ninjas, anyway?), and there were few client-updated batches. Still, they really ought to look into this and start using normal word wrapping.

As for using a host (not 'team,' mind you) of translators to combat tight deadlines -- or, conversely, accepting tight deadlines in hopes of getting the job done with a host of translators -- don't even get me started on that!


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Uwe Schwenk
Local time: 10:02
English to German
Article May 6, 2009

Excellent article. I would recommend that you submit it to MultiLingual Computing for publication.

Submit it to Donna Parish.


Uwe


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xxxXX789  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:02
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! May 7, 2009

Thank you for your kind words, all!

Uwe: the article was rather meant for my website and not for publication in a magazine, but if MultiLingual is interested in publishing it, they may always contact me! It's not a must for me personally though.


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:02
French to English
+ ...
Console developer mentality? May 7, 2009

Loek-- I wonder if you're up against a "consoler developer mentality" as much as anything else. Compared to writing a modern console game, it's obviously a really easy programming task to allow text to be split by word boundary. And statistical algorithms also exist to guess the word boundaries in a string of words where the boundaries are otherwise unmarked. Such algorithms are actually used in machine translation systems in deciding how valid a sentence the output appears to be, and since Japanese translation systems exist, I'm guessing that such algorithms could be applied to Japanese.

So it sounds like you're dealing with a culture. Maybe things like insisting on one line allocation routine stems from once upon a time when writers had to fit their game into a 128K cartridge that would run on a Z80 and everything had to be wittled down to the bare minimum. OK, maybe I'm trying to rationalise the irrational...

[Edited at 2009-05-07 03:25 GMT]


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Arianne Farah  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 11:02
Member (2008)
English to French
loved it :-) May 7, 2009

Loved the article

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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 16:02
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
What a project! May 7, 2009

Fascinating tale. Glad it wasn't me in that mess.

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Marina Soldati  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 12:02
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Great article! May 7, 2009

Hi!

I´ve never translated games but usually do EN>ES tranlaltions of software strings written by Japanese developers. It´s the same format from hell. They even use the same colour coding for user´s manual sentences.

Thank you, I really enjoyed reading it.

Regards,
Marina


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Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 00:02
Japanese to English
Different conclusions May 9, 2009

Hi Loek,

It's nice to see something about the Japanese market on Proz, especially a very detailed look at a slice of the market. You took an admirably skilful and ingenious approach to the problem.

Can I ask you - was the agent a Japanese company, or European?

While your conclusions provide a good summary of the problem, I wonder if they represent what should be learnt from your experience. Your lessons seem to be addressed to end clients, but realistically, who with the authority to implement them at a Japanese company is going to see and understand your advice? In my experience, you can tell the Japanese people you actually work with 100 times how they can make the processes more efficient and their products more salesworthy, but they're totally unable to implement it, however willing they may be. And if there's an agency in the way, then the situation becomes even more resistant to improvement.

As an example, I was asked by an agency to translate the web pages explaining a new payment plan at one of the mobile phone companies as part of the agency's bid for the work. First I explained to the agency that it would be best if I had a glossary - the end client could then judge 'our' work on the clarity of my English rather than my ingenuity in finding the preferred terms from other documents. The agency told me the client had no glossaries and was aware that they needed one. OK. Crazy, but fair enough for the time being. I took that opportunity to talk to the lady at the agency about CAT tools and how 'we' should be using 'our' capability with Trados to sell ourselves to the end client. She said she personally wasn't familiar with Trados, but that they were working on the bid with somebody who knew all about it. So I delivered my work, got paid, and waited for the results. Several weeks later, I heard that 'we' had withdrawn 'our' bid. Although the translation was perfectly acceptable to the end client, the agency and their partner had determined that they couldn't use Trados effectively with the format of the web documents. This is a horrible story for many reasons, and one shudders to imagine the details of how the whole thing unfolded.

Now I could draw up a list of lessons from this and even distribute them to the relevant parties. In fact, I used to do that sort of thing. But the lessons for my business seem to point in an entirely different direction, as do the guidelines for my own sanity.

In your case, the lessons I would draw would be these;

1:
You have to make up your mind on the value of your 'portfolio' based on factors that you can't really know for sure. It may be that it counts for nothing. Or it may matter a lot but the quality doesn't matter a whit and instead, only the brand matters. I'm inclined to believe that one's portfolio counts for little, but a few obvious brand names might be worth mentioning. Therefore, act accordingly, if you can figure out what that is.

2:
Language quality counts for little in the Japanese market. Very few people seem qualified to judge it, and most processes are designed to thwart it. No effort is made to improve the quality of the original Japanese, while only laughable efforts are made to improve the English. Therefore, act accordingly, if you can figure out what that is.

3:
Given 1 and 2 above, all that counts is your pay. Since joy in providing quality and a good track record are effectively impossible, all that's left to you is your time and the wealth to enjoy it. Therefore, act accordingly, if you can figure out what that is.

It should be noted that although these are the lessons I would take from the situation, I don't at all approve of it and would love to help change it.

Trouble is, nobody's asking me.


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Kroz Wado
Japan
Local time: 00:02
Japanese to English
Interesting read... May 11, 2009

Good story, my friend did some work with hard returns and it took him forever to find succinct wordings, he's lucky he was doing it for the love of the games...

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