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The Almighty Buck Games

Steam Translation Community Slaving Away 214

An anonymous reader writes "Steam has decided to build a community effort to get its Steam platform and game files translated by the community, but here is the catch: Translators do not get paid. Millions could be saved by Steam by making the community work for free. The article describes basic estimates on how much is saved by Steam in translation costs."
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Steam Translation Community Slaving Away

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  • by The Archon V2.0 ( 782634 ) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @05:44PM (#37504528)
    Or people in some country are going to be wondering why everyone keeps telling Gordon Freeman that their hovercraft is full of eels.
    • I know this doesn't align with the personal view point of the original submitter, but given a popular enough service/game, the people who care about the service generally actually *want* to do those translations for free.

      And I'd take it one step further, not only users like to translate a popular service/game into their own language for free, but if given half a chance, and if given proper attribution, many people would actually *pay* for the chance to translate their favorite service/game into their own la

  • and you are bilingual wouldn't you want for your non bilingual Korean (or whatever) speaking buddy to be able to play the same games as you? I would think that contributors should at least get free games though.
    • Whether they want to or not, Valve is legally barred from profiting from volunteer labor. Valve is legally obliged to pay for the work at at least the minimum wage. I'm not up enough on labor law to know whether that means the federal minimum wage or WA state minimum wage, but accepting volunteer labor under these conditions is unlikely to be legal.

      And with good reason, I have a hard time believing that Valve couldn't find enough Korean speakers to do the translations for pay, without having to crowd source

      • Although that's a good viewpoint, how far should we take it?

        Would Amazon reviews also be illegal under the same legal theory?

        Come to think of it, if I got a dollar for every dumb post I've made so far on Slashdot, ...

      • Facebook has crowdsourced the majority of the work involved in its foreign-language translations, and as far as I know, it's not faced any legal repercussions because of it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 24, 2011 @05:50PM (#37504582)

    It's like a hundred million lawyers just cackled with insane glee!

  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @05:51PM (#37504586)

    For the most part, this isn't that unusual. See, for instance, the "Google in your Language" project.

    And it's not like the users are being scammed or anything. They weren't promised money or anything, and they're getting... exactly what they signed up for. I won't be surprised if Valve does, eventually, start giving them a few gifts, but I also don't think it's unethical. This would be like complaining that /. story submitters don't get paid for contributing content - after all, Slashdot makes several bajillion dollars every nanosecond, but it would be NOTHING without such insightful and well-researched articles provided graciously by the readers.

    This is also the only way to get some translations done. Sure, finding a translator for Spanish or even two types of Chinese may be easy, but what about Bulgarian? Or Thai? Or "Pirate"? Yes, there's poor, suffering, unpaid people slaving away at "translating" games into a fake dialect.

    • For most languages, professional companies use professional services. You are correct that Steam isn't going anything unethical per se, since the deal is clearly laid-out, but it is outside the norm to not pay for translation for commercial software.
      • by pjt33 ( 739471 )

        GPP already gave one example: Google. Another big company springs to mind: Facebook. Of course, FB did discover the downside of not paying professional translators []. But it's not too surprising that other companies should try to follow in the footsteps of such behemoths.

      • Actually, the practice of using one's userbase to crowdsource translations has been practiced specifically in the software business for ages - I've seen campaigns like these back in early 2000s, and participated in some. Normally people do it either because they like the application and want to share it with some people they know who don't speak English; or just because they like seeing their name in credits.

        • All my freeware apps include translations sent to me by users of the software, and I've been doing this since 2000. I just included a template people could modify, and a header asking them to send me a copy of the file. As someone else suggested, people like to translate software for friends and family who don't speak English (or any of the other existing languages.)
      • Re:And? (Score:5, Informative)

        by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @07:41PM (#37505130)

        You mean apart from the fact that this is almost certain to be a violation of the FLSA? [] for more information.

        The shortened version is that you can't accept volunteer labor unless you're a religious institution, a charitable organization or are public sector or are a similar type of non-profit entity. Valve definitely can't accept volunteer labor if its going to be profiting from it.

        • by artor3 ( 1344997 )

          So then how does Slashdot work? The site most certainly profits from the unpaid contributions of its users.

        • Re:And? (Score:5, Informative)

          by murdocj ( 543661 ) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @12:20AM (#37506208)

          The FLSA says that EMPLOYEES can't volunteer their time. In other words, I work for company X, I can't then "volunteer" an extra few hours to the company. Could someone please point to the point of the FLSA that refers to non-employees of Valve?

          • Read the first paragraph. [] Employees includes anyone doing work that is not specifically excluded. Only listed exclusions are religious, non-profit, and public agencies.
            • by murdocj ( 543661 )

              Since the article refers to "working on the premises" it's not at all clear that a volunteer who on his own time in his own house translates some text is an employee. I've also heard about "unpaid intern" positions which do occur in many companies. So pretty clearly the law is not so black & white as people would make it.

              • Work doesn't stop being work because you do it off the premises - feel free to research farther, but if being in your own house meant employment law didn't apply to you, telecommuting wouldn't work.

                Unpaid internships are supposed to provide some sort of compensation, in the form of directly valuable (and quantifiable) experience, training, etc. They're often abused, and are strictly delimited by law as to hours permitted and allowable types of work. In practice, again, they're often abused, but the law is

            • by murdocj ( 543661 )

              So why aren't unpaid volunteers who do beta testing "employees" covered by FLSA? They are clearly doing work for the company, work that would otherwise need to be done by paid company employees. They may not be generating content, but that doesn't matter at all, an employee doesn't have to generate content to be doing work.

              I don't see anyone complaining that software companies don't pay the beta testers, in fact "being in the beta" is considered a privilege. Why isn't it a similar privilege to help get y

            • Yes, read the first paragraph indeed, which you did not quote from. I'll help:

              However, the Supreme Court has made it clear that the FLSA was not intended "to stamp all persons as employees who without any express or implied compensation agreement might work for their own advantage on the premises of another."

              In this particular case, Valve's customers have not entered into any agreement for compensation, and individual translators are likely working for their "own advantage," e.g. having available a transla

              • So, you accuse me of cherry-picking, but fail to even read my reply closely enough to realize that I mentioned public-service and non-profit agencies as well as religious?

                Good job, I guess. Except not.

                I never said Valve was evil, or that corporations are bad. I quite agree that corporations are amoral, frankly, and I don't know whether the FLSA applies to this specific case. I'd imagine that it would depend highly on how the translations are bundled with the games in question.

                For profit companies are not,

  • what money saved? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaveGod ( 703167 ) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @06:03PM (#37504650)

    The "article" assumes Valve would otherwise pay to have the translations done.

    This is a questionable assumption. The alternative assumption is that these translations would be uneconomic to do professionally therefore they have allowed the community to do translations instead of not having it at all. The latter assumption seems more probable given we're talking about the back catalogue.

    It's difficult to judge since the "article" has no citations, not even a link for the quote cited "Steam forums". There's no basic information such as the languages being translated.

    And... Oh forget it. The "article" isn't even of a standard worthy of criticising.

    • Anyone can say they aren't going to do it when a option is offered for it to be done for free... on top of it the website doesn't take into account sales that will be made because people who speak a different language will actually buy the product, what this is after in the first place.

      I found the article to be acceptable in terms of 'standards' considering what is actually available. It's adequate back of the envelope math. The article doesn't need citations for what it's offering besides the steam transla
    • As to the pernicious lie that Valve has enslaved these translators: really? Are you claiming that Valve has stuck a gun to their collective heads and told them to work or face dire consequences up to and including torture or death?

      This is certainly a volunteer effort to begin with, done so that the translators themselves can enjoy the games in their native languages.

      Seriously, this article is a troll. Slavery, indeed.

  • Double standard? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MimeticLie ( 1866406 ) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @06:10PM (#37504702)
    "Millions could be saved by Steam by making the community work for free."

    So when open source crowdsources development it's great, but when video game companies do it it's exploitative? And how exactly are volunteers "forced" to do anything?

    If the costs of professional translation are as high as the article suggests (nearly $1 million just to translate Steam storefront pages), then this move makes sense to me. How many sales are you going to gain by having 26 different translations of a game? How many people who might use a translation wouldn't have just played the game in English in the absence of one? Even Valve's AAA titles from before this weren't in 26 languages. Half-Life 2 [] is only in 18. And that's for a big budget game. For smaller titles, the benefit from translating is undoubtedly not worth the cost.

    Given that, I think this is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Rather than fans of a game having to organize a team to translate it and hack up a patch, there is now a way for everyone to contribute as much as they like to a publisher-sponsored effort. You'd have to be pretty damn cynical to see this as a bad thing.
    • Open source development is open source-- everyone benefits. In this case the "crowdsourced" product is proprietary and only benefits stream; unlike Google's product, o one else benefits from the CrowdWork.

      • Sure, nobody that plays these translated games will have benefited.

        The flaw in the core of your logic is that you believe that in every transaction that involves money that there is one winner and one loser. The fact is that in most transactions involving money, both the buyer and the seller win.

        ....that some people might give their time freely to steam in no way alters the win-win relationship between buyer and seller, but it does enable it.
        • Moreover, it's not like there aren't monetary relationships present in open source too. The developers of the Linux kernel don't get royalties whenever it gets sold as part of an embedded system (for example), but that doesn't mean that no one benefits from it.
      • Open source development is open source-- everyone benefits.

        If you don't think translating a game benefits you then don't translate it... I think this is great, that Valve builds a community of people dedicated to improved the gaming experience, just for fun.
        Who knows maybe this community could in the long run get other/more responsibilities, build levels and mods, the more involved users are the better, both for the users and the publisher. I mean if the community grows strong, maybe it'll complain about DRM, lack of linux support or unfair user agreements. Who kn

      • In this case the "crowdsourced" product is proprietary and only benefits stream; unlike Google's product, o one else benefits from the CrowdWork.

        What about people who want to play that game but can't because of the language barrier? Would you suggest that they're not benefiting from a crowd-sourced translation?

    • Apparently, people don't understand the difference between an open source development model, where the money is in support, and that of closed source development, where the money is in... development and support.

      In essence, what's happening here is that Valve is getting done work for free because... I don't know. People think that Valve will think they're awesome and hire them? In the case of some rarer languages like Basque or Woloof, I can see that this would be a welcome labor of love. But what about Tag

  • Posted by timothy...

    An anonymous reader writes...

    Is timothy going to split slashdot's ad revenue with anonymous?

  • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @06:13PM (#37504722)

    Maybe has their children hostage? No?

    So how are they "making" them do this.

    Just wait until this moron finds out all the people being "made" to write linux code. Actually he has a minecraft section in his top menu, is he getting paid for that prime advertising spot? Or was he "made" to do that by the evil Mojang folk?

  • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @06:37PM (#37504834) Homepage

    Images float through my head; the paradise of the end of scarcity, the oligarchs chanting that scarcity is what motivates the free market and so must be protected, then hiring legislators to pass laws to increase artificial scarcity, while capitalizing on the new option of non-scarcity to get free tools for advancing the market penetration of their artificially scarce goods.

    It seems apparent that they would rather be kings in hell than peers in heaven.

  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @07:12PM (#37504988) Journal

    Slashdot has decided to build a community effort to get its Slashdot news blog proof-read, edited and reviewed by the community, but here is the catch: commenters do not get paid. Millions could be saved by Slashdot by making the community work for free. The article [] describes basic estimates on how much is saved by Slashdot in editing costs.

    • Commenters also still own their own comments. If Slashdot was asserting copyright over them, rather than providing a place for user-owned comments/stories, it might be different.
  • by juancn ( 596002 ) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @07:24PM (#37505040) Homepage
    There are many projects like this. Many times crowdsourced translations are better than professional translations, and for many situations they are the only option.

    Languages like spanish have a huge number of variations (it's pretty much different in every country, heck, even inside the same country), and we end up enduring a washed-up version of an international spanish that's usually awful. Crowdsourced translations at least let you correct the translation and add variations that feel better for a speakers of a certain variation of the language.

    One good example of this type of crowdsourced effort is subtitles. See "" [] for example. You can get a complete movie or series chapter translated in a few hours. From the basic result obtained there, several teams around the world further localize the language (for example to Argentinian spanish).

  • by flimflammer ( 956759 ) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @09:48PM (#37505706)

    If we want to translate the pages for free to help spread fun to those who don't speak English, I don't see why third parties should give a damn.

    No one is forcing anyone to translate these pages. People not involved shouldn't get their panties in a twist. You're not looking out for us. We care more about helping those who would otherwise miss a good game find them.

    • by Cloud K ( 125581 )


      As far as I can see nobody is being "forced" to do this. I don't see anything to back up the claims that they're preventing people in other countries from using their service until they've done some translation work for them, and I seriously doubt they're doing that.

      So if people choose to, they can help out. They know what they're getting (nothing, except the satisfaction of sharing the fun), they're presumably individuals with their own minds who are capable of making their own decisions, so why doe

  • Welcome to the nineteenth century ! Next up: electricity.

    Oh so it's about some game company never mind.

  • I do not see the sense in translating closed source games for free. The translation is usable only by the game company, most likely there is a clause somewhere stating the translator loses all rights to his/her work after submitting the translation to the game company.

    Surely there are umpteen open source applications needing translation to any language. There the translation also becomes "free", so it can be used in other similar appliations or in other contexts.

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost