Game Localization Worst Practices How Not to Make a Game Localization-Friendly

  • Greater than 2 minutes, my friend!

    Plenty of great advice has been published on the best practices for game localization and how to make a game localization-friendly. But what if you don’t want to be friendly? What if you’re an adventurer, a fierce rebel who couldn’t care less how your game sells in other countries and how cumbersome the whole localization process will be? Combine several of the following to enjoy the worst possible result for all parties involved. Oh, and don’t try this at home.

    Don’t worry about the length of text boxes
    Help translators show their true artistic colors by giving them as little word space as possible. Bonus: Fewer words means less room for typos.
    Example: “Sorry” is “Entschuldigung” in German. But think how much better it will look as “Entsc,” which means… nothing as far as I know, but that’s what’s so fun!

    Work with the cheapest
    A cheap translator will not waste your time with in-depth thoughtful questions about ambiguous text in your game. They’ll just randomly choose a meaning for you! How lucky! By the way, a good candidate for cheap translator is your nephew’s girlfriend who studied French for a semester 13 years ago. While you’re at it, why not hire the cheapest coder, marketer, and sound artist too? Sure, it will cost you later, but tomorrow is promised to no one, so forget about the long run.

    Hardcode everything
    If you do something wrong, do it right. By mixing in-game text with the code, you’ll not only waste the translator’s time, but your own too. You’ll have a hard pulling out and implementing the text for translation, and the translator will have to work extra hard trying to distinguish text from code. If we all lose, who wins?

    Let the machines do the work
    Because to err is human and robots rarely complain. Also, it is known that software never makes mistakes and never has bugs. So why pay peanuts when you can get crap for free? Copy/pasting your game text and having it right away is simply too tempting.
    Bonus: A game text that makes no sense adds an extra challenge to your game, almost like a bonus difficulty setting you can force upon the player. Your game might even get featured on boredpanda.

    Keep them guessing
    Context, shmontext. If the translator is as good as she claims, she will guess what you intended. Context is knowledge. And we all know that knowledge is power. What if your translator gets drunk on this power and becomes a superpowerful supervillain?? It could happen!!
    Example: You might have the single word “address” in a to-be-translated field. In some cases (“Meet me at this address”), it’s a location. In another (“Address your king properly, fool!”), it means to direct speech at someone. Whatever you do, do not reveal which one you mean!

    Don’t proofread your game before giving it to translation
    Get your money’s worth and let the translators take care of improving your text. It will wear them out and help them get really good at guessing. Sending out poorly written text can add lots of features you never knew you wanted in your game. And translators are known to love to correct grammar, typos, and other mistakes in the original text—all for free!

    Don’t worry about localization until it’s time to localize
    Live in the moment, they say. Tomorrow is yet to come, they say. Thinking about localizing your game before it’s ready to be shipped off to your translator will only result in headaches and make you think about boring things like content, culture, or reading directions. So stay present and leave the worrying to future you.

    Sign up for blog posts and 1UP TRANSLATIONS news!
    Join the mailing list for occasional blog post reminders and updates.
    100 % privacy. No spam. Ever.
    Marianna Sacra

    About Marianna Sacra

    2 thoughts on “Game Localization Worst Practices How Not to Make a Game Localization-Friendly

    1. Aaaaah, I second the first! String length is annoying as hell! Ok, sometimes it’s a valid need (like when you are doing push notifications for a mobile game), but come on!
      Sometimes it feels like clients live in a bliss where all languages work in the same way.

      P.S. Marianna, I absolutely enjoy your articles. Every time I read (and re-read) them I wish we could work on a project together… It’s a pity our pairs don’t match.

      1. Ah, how would they know? I don’t know that much about programming either 🙂

        Thank you so much for your inspiring comments, Aleksandra. I really appreciate it. You do have a pretty exotic language pair 🙂 Give me a shout if you would like to guest post for my blog one day or if there is anything you’d like me to write about.

    Leave a Reply

    The Open Mic

    Where translators share their stories and where clients find professional translators.

    Find Translators OR Register as a translator