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Written by Steven Bussey
on November 02, 2021

Part 1: Pre-production

Complete all pre-production tasks

Before you launch your game localization project, be sure that your game is really ready for the localization phase. Various tasks should be completed in advance of passing your game on to a localization agency in order to make the overall process run as smoothly as possible. Here is a list of some of the key pre-production responsibilities:

  • Gathering various pieces of information
  • Completing legal agreements and documentation
  • Preparing and executing certain documents and procedures
  • Designing a localization process workflow
  • Establishing a project management structure
  • Establishing communication protocols
  • Creating a budget for the localization project
  • Conducting various tests
  • Learning about ways to help prevent QA issues
  • Completing various other preliminary tasks

As you can see, these are fairly general areas of localization pre-production activity. So, where do you start? Below we have compiled some of the most important things to know and/or address when preparing for game localization.

Table of Contents 

1. Collaborate with your localization specialists
2. Choose the right language(s) for your game translation
3. Preparing necessary documentation
Budgeting for your localization project

5. Standard legal agreements for localization
6. Collecting critical feedback

1. Collaborate with your localization specialists

Your language service provider (LSP) localization team will work with you, advise and provide guidance on the specific research and actions you need to do in order to prepare your game files, documentation and team for the launch of the localization leg of your game creation journey.

Pre-production is the time to discover potential linguistic and/or cultural issues ahead of the localization process in order to help maximize the localization accuracy and quality of your game and its accompanying materials. The majority of potential issues can be prevented by addressing some fundamentals in advance. More details on best practices within the localization industry will be covered further in Part 7 of this guide.

Ask your game development team to leave notes within their text strings as context references for translators and localization project leaders. Those notes can provide excellent insights into the game's logic and can be a very valuable tool for your localization team.

Even if you plan to have complete linguistic testing performed following the localization work, providing translators and localization project leaders with such knowledge can increase the general efficiency and accuracy of the project and can have a positive impact on the quality of the localization work.

2. Choose the right language(s) for your game translation

Many problems with resizing, truncating, breaching character limits, syntax and other grammar issues, interpretation issues, and segments of unlocalized text, among other serious flaws, have been widely talked about throughout the gaming world.

All too often, such glaring mistakes are the consequences of confusion between parties regarding unclear expectations when developing or localizing games. The risk of such undesirable outcomes is further compounded in projects involving larger numbers of games.

So, it is essential that localization experts and marketing analysts be consulted first to advise on which languages a particular game should be translated into. Ensuring the availability of talented localization teams that can produce high-quality localization for the target language and local market(s) is a critical preliminary step in the pre-production process.

In some cases, games are published by a different company than the developer's. Because of this and other potential factors, a product management or promotion team may have the final authority on marketing and distribution decisions. Even in such arrangements, it's important that these professionals seek input from seasoned localization experts to help avoid potentially wasting precious resources (such as time and money) that could be much more profitably allocated.

3. Preparing necessary documentation

After it's determined which languages make sense for the translation of a game, even if the text is not ready to start translating, it's time to begin the essential preparatory steps for localization. One critical piece of this phase is assembling the critical documents for launching the production phase of the project. Necessary documents include:

  • Various checklists
  • LSP agreements
  • Project budget
  • Workflow
  • Test plans
  • Templates
  • Style guides
  • Glossary of key terms
  • Onboarding guides
  • Other important documents

In Part 2 of this guide, more information will be provided on developing workflow and test plan documents.

4. Budgeting for your localization project

Many problems can be avoided by having clearly established budgets. Without a proper budget, losing control of the overall process can unravel the best-laid plans. Timelines for the pre-production process can be affected, misunderstandings can arise and confusion can lead to issues that impact professionalism and localization quality.

Communicate with your games localization company in advance of starting you project to help calculate the budget for localizing your game.  Remember to reserve some additional funds for unforeseen additional expenses.

Check for and adhere to any legal restrictions that may apply to systems for payment transactions when working with vendors abroad.

5. Standard legal agreements for localization

Work with your legal department at the earliest possible point in the pre-production process to create your vendor contracts or modify agreements provided in order to clearly spell out terms and streamline your localization project both for yourself and your LSP. Also, try to lend the project the kind of simplicity that contributes to overall efficiency and quality outcomes.

Detail all arrangements to which you and the games localization company have agreed, the types and amounts of resources to be utilized, prices and all other relevant terms of the contract. Execute the agreement before scheduling production in order to help avoid misunderstandings, unexpected delays, quality issues, unexpected expenses, cost overages and other unforeseen issues.

6. Collecting critical feedback

Information about customer satisfaction levels is exceptionally valuable during game development and localization. Gather feedback on your game to discover what people think should be tweaked and if there are any elements that might affect overall accuracy and localization quality. You may also wish to collect information like game ratings, user comments, and other feedback from gamers about games similar to yours that are produced by other companies.

Even before you have text ready for localization, you can start benefiting from obtaining feedback. You may even opt to ask your design and development teams about building in means for gamers to leave their feedback.

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7. Takeaways

Above all, during this phase, develop a comprehensive checklist of pre-production tasks, including all documentation and information you need for thorough preparation and ideal collaboration with your localization project management team. Having an ideal checklist to work from will go a long way in ensuring the smoothest localization process and highest quality outcome in your current and future projects. See the IGDA's Best Practices for Game Localization for more detailed guidelines.

So with that the pre-production phase is over. Part 2 of this comprehensive mini-guide will dive deeper into localization itself, exploring exactly what and who is involved in the process, as well as what game companies should keep in mind when translating a game into other languages and cultures. We look forward to seeing you there.

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