Monday, August 27, 2012

Non-Game Elements Of Game Localization

When localizing a video game, the biggest part of the project is obviously the localization of the language and content of the game itself. However, there can be many other aspects of a game localization job that many people don’t even consider when thinking of such projects.

One element of video game localization is a game’s manual. This aspect has many inner elements itself. For example, as is the case with in-game text, translated text will not always fit properly into the space allotted in the original manual. This is especially true when translating from a language such as Japanese – in which entire phrases can sometimes be written in just a few characters – to a language such as German – in which a single word can easily take up a dozen characters or more. This also applies to text-based graphics throughout the manual, as well as to charts, etc. Usually problems with such “overflows” are dealt with by conferring with the client and having them either alter the manual layout, or decided which parts of the text to cut, when necessary.

Another aspect of game localization which is similar in nature to the one above is the game’s packaging. On top of text overflows (and sometimes, conversely, large gaps or openings in the text boxes), depending on the country for which the game is being localized, there are some types of scenes and screenshots which may have been prominent on the original packaging but which cannot be displayed on the localized version. Violence, nudity, and blood are extremely common on Japanese video game packages, but in some cultures – especially particularly religious ones – these sorts of images are forbidden. This of course has little to nothing to do with the job of the translator himself, but once a translator becomes a “localizer,” the chance that these factors will have to come into consideration rise considerably.

Websites are another such part of the game localization process which must be dealt with carefully. Once again, the overflow/text gap matter comes into play – although this is much more easily dealt with on a Website as opposed to a physical manual, and so does the matter of proper and improper imagery and content. For more video- and audio-heavy Websites, regional bandwidth allowance must sometimes be taken into consideration as well. (Countries such as Australia have notoriously low monthly bandwidth allowances, which may drive prospective users away from an extremely content-heavy Website).

Finally, there is the matter of press releases and advertising. Although a developer will oftentimes hire two or more unrelated agencies for the translation and localization of a game and it’s directly related branches (manual, Website, etc.) and PR-related materials, they also sometimes hire a single agency/translator for the entire package. This can be rather tricky, as a translator with great expertise in actual video game translation may not exactly be equipped for formal press releases and advertising translations, and vice versa. After all, the sort of terminology and language used in video games can differ quite significantly from that used in more business-like press releases.

As you can see, video game localization is much more than just translating the in-game text on an Excel file and sending it back in. All-inclusive video game localization can be much more tedious and trying than simple in-game text translation, but at the same time on top of having the obvious benefit of broadening a translator’s skill set, it can also be much more lucrative and profitable for those willing to commit to the extra work.