Part 7: Best Practices
Succeeding in the current global gaming market means successfully matching the character and quality of the source-language version of a game in all localized versions. So, localization specialists must make sure that translators effectively portray regional dialects, use cultural references, use slang, and apply affects and other nuances. To meet the high standards of the industry requires a meticulous process of addressing vast volumes of considerations. Following this, today we look at games localization industry best practices for achieving high-quality game localization.
Understand the culture in your chosen market area
Research the culture and the gaming market in the country where you want to introduce your game. Know the most popular game genres there and learn about any games that have failed in that area and why. Test your game's content to discover how any cultural features and other aspects of it will be received in the area. See Part 4 on game culturalization for a discussion on collaborating to test and culturalize a game. Per IGDA recommendations, focus on and be conscious of the following four areas of strong cultural sensitivities:
- History — Inaccurate portrayal of histories that are dear to the cultural memory can trigger surprisingly strong and targeted backlash.
- Religion — Culturally inappropriate use of and allusions to religious symbols and concepts can offend and even cause serious consequences for in-country game developers and employees.
- Ethnicity — Ethnic stereotyping or failing to appropriately handle diversity in-game can lead to outright rejection of the game product in the target market.
- Geo-politics — Some countries do not permit media products portraying boundaries that conflict with government's claims to external land areas as part of its sovereign territory.
Facilitate quality translation
First, hire a games localization company with translators who love video games. They're likely to have the best understanding of the gaming niche market and can communicate with terms and styles that will more easily resonate with the gaming community. Once you have your team in place, turn your attention to these basic localization checklist items:
- Tools — Equip your translator(s) with the proper tools to do a quality job. See the section below for more information on the types of industry tools used for translation of game content.
- Fonts — Translated phrases are often shorter or longer than in the source text. So watch out when localizing text to ensure that the end results appear professional. See Part 2 on localization for more on this point.
- Text in graphics — Avoid using text in graphics if possible. Instead, consider replacing the text with symbols that gamers worldwide can understand. See Part 2 on localization for more on this point.
- Context — Provide translators with context to help them better understand the richness of the game's narrative and characters for your chosen international target audience. Help them first in order to help players fully engage with your content.
- Feedback — Gather as much input about bugs and other flaws in your game before releasing it in a new international marketplace. Like translators, game testers should be excellent linguists in the target language and should be experienced gamers.
Promote teamwork and free communications
Maintain transparency and promote a collaborative team relationship between game developers and localization professionals to make the localization process smoother, thereby making it easier to maximize the quality of outcomes and making the whole experience more satisfying for everyone involved.
Effective communication between developers and localization teams increases the ability of all involved to make the most of the process, which in turn benefits gamers and the game's success.
Complete all pre-production work
Determine whether or not your game is ready to undergo the localization process. Create a checklist, and use it to complete pre-production tasks, including: choosing languages for localization, executing legal documents, creating a budget, creating a localization workflow, testing in target markets and other pre-production work. See Part 1 on pre-production for details on important tasks and considerations to be addressed prior to launching your localization project.
Test and collect feedback
Gather feedback across your game's multilingual consumer base. Collect feedback from gamers on games similar to yours. Establish well-functioning channels for submitting and receiving feedback. After localization is completed, game company clients are advised to perform testing, per standard industry practices. See Part 9 for a discussion of recommended QA testing methods and other quality assurance processes.
Rushing research, translation work and other localization tasks lends to errors and the compromised quality of outcomes for game users and game company stakeholders. Appropriate localization project planning and preparation allows methodically executed processes and the ability to maximize the amount of attention to quality, instead of wasting time dealing with improperly organized and ill-equipped operational systems. Skill in time management is much of what separates average performing games from games that become international hits.
Quick list of video game localization best practices
For a comprehensive assessment of localization industry best practices, see the publication IGDA Best Practices for Game Localization. In the meantime, here's a good starter list of some key basic best practices for localizing games:
- Look to identify and remedy potential localization problems as early as possible in the design and development process.
- Write source code to allow localization with minimal rewriting.
- Leave room for translated strings to occupy larger space than the original text.
- Use CAT tools for pseudo-location and machine translation to locate internationalization issues prior to starting translation. See Part 6 on localization technologies for discussions on these and other important industry tools.
- Have your game tested by native gamers to help discover cultural issues in your game prior to starting localization.
- Be aware of national and local government constraints and cultural sensitivities. Make sure you're choosing a viable market for your game before you embark on localization.
- Provide translators with a thorough understanding of context. Leave notes in text strings to help translators understand their use in the game.
- Emphasize to translators the importance of not altering variables temporarily coded in the strings.
- When putting together localized strings, ensure that translators can reorder words in any way they wish.
- Limit substitutes you use in coding to a number or a single word.
- Set up a system for tracking changes to source text in order to prevent duplication in ordering strings and to avoid difficulties in integrating translated strings back into the game. This can be especially important when releasing frequent updates with added content.
- Make sure your localization efforts observe the differences between languages in grammar, possessive and plural forms, gender addresses, numbers, dates, currency formats, etc.
High-quality localization helps game developers and publishers maximize a game's value, facilitate its success and avoid potentially serious costs of lost revenues, public relations failures and brand damage. Beyond providing accurate translation, successful localization should enhance the player's experience through engaging and naturalistic interaction. Remember, achieving this outcome largely depends on the success of the collaborative relationship and open communication between developers and localization experts. Employing best practices further helps maximize accuracy, minimize risks of errors, time wasted and the needless duplication of efforts.
So with that, we have covered best practices within games localization. Next time in Part 8, we are going to give you a rundown on the challenges that game developers and localization providers will encounter during the localization of a game. No game has been localized without one or two hiccups during the process and this is just an unfortunate truth of the matter. However, knowing the common issues ahead of time and being prepared for multiple outcomes can facilitate the success of all parties involved and ultimately, the final product. Tune in next time for what problems you can expect to encounter and the best methods to deal with them. We look forward to seeing you then.