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Games Entertainment

Inside Video Game Localization 90

Atlus USA is a company known for their skill at localizing games — that is, adapting the text and speech in a game to a different language or culture. They've written a summary of their timeline for modifying a game, explaining that it's much more complicated than just running everything by a translator. They also have other articles looking at various parts of their work with more detail. When work begins, they take a few weeks to familiarize themselves with the game, giving them the proper context to understand character interactions and names. The actual translation then takes anywhere from a week to a few months, depending on how much material there is and whether they need to bring in new voice actors. Another month or so is allotted to actually implementing the changes and making technical modifications, after which another month or two is dedicated to bug testing. Then the game is submitted back to its original manufacturer for approval, a process that can take two months, and finally the new discs and game boxes are created, which adds another month. Thus, what many gamers see as a "simple" localization process can take six months or more to complete.
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Inside Video Game Localization

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  • Bollocks! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by HotFat ( 46399 ) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @06:54AM (#28825813)

    If the game is developed with localization in mind during production, there's no reason the localized version cant ship at almost the same date as the English. I've shipped ~20 games that have been localized and the EFIGS (English, French, Italian, German, Spanish) version has never been more than about 1 month after the English release.

  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @06:56AM (#28825827)

    Simultaneous worldwide release is nice if you know the game will be a hit, otherwise it's doubling down your gamble needlessly, imo. Besides, if the foreign gamers are so desperate to pirate it by downloading it, might as well just offer it for sale (download) to all takers the way things are going with digital media. Only problem with that is if your game runs afoul of some laws in country X - say Germany's ban on blood in video games.

  • Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Amarantine ( 1100187 ) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @07:08AM (#28825859)
    I know every country is different. I live in the Netherlands, where tv shows and movies are NOT dubbed, but subtitled instead. Every kid in school learns English.

    Yet, every game on the shelves appears to be translated to Dutch nowadays. Thank God not the software itself, but the packaging and manuals are all Dutch everywhere. I asked around a bit amongst friends, but nobody understands why they exactly do this. For the small percentage of kids games who don't understand English, we can understand, but why translate the paperwork of Grand Theft Auto IV? The target audience has learned English in school, watches English on tv anyway, and the game itself is English as well. On the other side, the manual is written as a tourist guide to Liberty City, with sarcastic remarks between the lines about how crap the city is... But all these are lost in translation.

    Why do they even bother? If nothing else is translated on our (tv) screens?

    EA learned a hard lesson with the first Black & White game, one of the few games that got translated completely to Dutch. After a storm of complaints from just about everyone, they offered exchanging discs for a native English version, and later even offered separate voice pack downloads. It's not the the voices are bad (which they weren't, honestly) but nobody wanted a Dutch version in the fist place.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 26, 2009 @07:16AM (#28825885)

    I'm not a native English speaker, but I always take the (usually original) English version over the one translated into my own language. This goes with operating systems, desktop applications, games and so on. I absolutely hate using something like that in my own language. Either the translations suck, use incomprehensible and made up words, or especially in games just sound so stupid that it completely breaks the immersion. Whenever I have to use a localized version of anything, I'm usually completely lost.
    But maybe that's just me.

  • Captain Obvious (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CarpetShark ( 865376 ) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @07:22AM (#28825913)

    This could be the most obvious article I've ever seen posted on /.

    There are interesting things about localization, such as not being able to write the message like:

    print greeting + " " + greetee

    because in other languages, the greetee might come before the greeting. Instead, you have to make sure your app is coded to work with full sentences, using something like:

    print_with_named_args(greeting_message, greetee="John")

    Likewise, issues like presenting dates, times, and currencies in local formats are interesting. But this article superficially ignores that stuff. Instead, it seems to be an advert along the lines of "we do good localised ports. Let us do your next game."

  • I miss WD too but (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NotSoHeavyD3 ( 1400425 ) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @08:27AM (#28826133)
    I don't miss the fact it usually took years for a game to get translated by them. (Oh, and I actually liked the humor they'd inject. True it wasn't in the original game but it usually got a chuckle out of me.)
  • Re:Atlus (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lbbros ( 900904 ) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @10:25AM (#28826771) Homepage

    who no one really properly appreciated for their localization efforts.

    Perhaps because they inserted a lot of things that weren't even loosely related with the original text? Adaptation is one thing, inserting pop culture references were they aren't there another.

  • by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @10:40AM (#28826895)

    ... they provide original english and japanese voices AND subtitles.

    It also helps that SF4 was designed from the start for both japanese and english speaking markets.

    Even though I have quibles with the voice over work since I've seen so many SF anime movies with different voice actors (the ones who did the anime that came with the collectors edition of the game in english sucked pretty bad).

    Capcom and Sony usually have done pretty alright voice work, it's finally good to see original japanese + subtitle options.

    I really wished over PS2 RPG's went that route, although if you want to see OUTSTANDING localization check out level 5's rogue galaxy, that game is effin amazing in terms of what they did. []

  • Re:Captain Obvious (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zalas ( 682627 ) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @12:09PM (#28827549) Homepage

    For problems such as variable placement of variables, there's two ways I've seen it done, at least in Japanese Windows games. One is for a smart parser in the game engine, which turns your example into something like:

    1. print "Hello, $charactername1, how are you doing today?"

    Another choice is to separately issue text display commands and insert a special text display command in the middle:

    1. print "Hello, "
    2. printcharactername 1
    3. print ", how are you doing today?"

    This can be reduced to the previous problem by having a smart script compiler handle wildcards instead of the game engine. In either case, while this is interesting, I don't think the general audience for which the original article was written would be interested in that much detail.

    As for your points on currency, dates and times, Atlus USA as far as I know does primarily JP->US localization. For "nonfictional" dates, times and currencies, there's a pretty straightforward conversion, depending on what the editor decides to do (leave in Japanese style or convert to American style). For "fictional" dates, times and currencies, I don't think it's that big of a problem, since those are just directly carried through. This is either trivial or too detailed for the typical reader of the article to enjoy, in my opinion.

    Overall, I think the article presented a very good bird's eye view of the process, and I think it would be interesting for a more detailed article for localization aficionados.

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