July 15, 2024


[MUSAI] GAME LOCALIZATION GUID with MUSAI Ep3. Did you happen to know the game localization needs lots of research and SME?



Some people say that game is “Culture”. Apart from the pros and cons of games, it’s true that game includes a diversity of subject matters and topics reflecting the real world and has a cultural impact apparently. Game is an imaginary content, but the background of the story and all the components in games are based on reality for immersive play. That’s why game localization requires a chunk of time for research and even supervision of SME (Subject Matter Expert) in some cases. We will take a look at the cases which needed research and SME during the localization process in this article.


Animals and plants

Open-world games

Sometimes open-world games have certain places or animals and plants as in-game objects for the story and use the existing names to enhance the feeling of reality and immersive play. For instance, ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ is one of the representative open-world games to provide a high level of freedom to players in nature. Since the background is the America West of the 1890s, there were various horses in the game. 

[Photo 1] So many horses have appeared in ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ (Source: the screenshots of ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’)

Simulation games related to animals and plants

It’s impossible to discuss the simulation games related to animals and plants without ‘Zoo Tycoon’ series. Especially, ‘Zoo Tycoon 2’ used the scientific names of plants and there were tons of different plants in the game! Can you imagine translating all the scientific names of plants into Korean which you have never heard in your daily life (except the science class in high school)?

Eventually, the localization team asked a professor of Botany at A university for help so the project was able to be done thanks to his supervision.

[Photo 2] The supervision of a subject matter expert (the professor of botany in this case) was needed to localize the names of plants in ‘Zoo Tycoon 2’ (Source: the screenshots of ‘Zoo Tycoon 2’)

Transportation – automobile, airplane

If a racing game includes the models and properties of existing cars, in-depth research should be conducted after translation. In the case of ‘Forza Motorsport 2’, the localization team requested a manager of Hyundai Motor Company for supervision to localize the limited-edition manual which explained all the specs and properties of cars in the game.

On the other hand, Microsoft ‘Flight Simulator’, one of the popular simulation games, is still not localized into Korean. We can guess that the reason behind is not only the vast quantity to be translated, but also the difficulty to deal with the expertise regarding the content.

[Photo 3] The limited-edition manual of ‘Forza Motorsport 2’ in Korean (Source: Musai Studio)


All the series of ‘Assassin’s Creed’ have a certain historical epoch as a background. The story unfolds based on an imaginary history, but the background is built from the in-depth historical investigation for immersive play. That’s why there is a rumor that the localization team in charge of ‘Assassin’s Creed’ should study the historical background of a new series until understanding it fully before beginning translation.

Recently, Ubisoft has released ‘Assassin’s Creed Discovery Tour’, the educational version of the game, for free amid the COVID-19 crisis. It can be an evidence that the game is well ascertained through historical research enough to be used for educational purpose. Therefore, research to understand the historical background is necessary for localization process.

[Photo 4] ‘Assassin’s Creed Discovery Tour’, an educational version available to explore the ancient world with an audio commentary (Source: Ubisoft store)

Classical literature or other forms of entertainment

Some games, especially titles with historical background, draw upon the lines from poetry, novels, songs of the time. If the source of quotes is the well-known piece, it’s possible to find the Korean translation easily and apply them directly.

However, there is a problem when the source is not well-known or no clue about quotes are provided. If the quotes don’t have any official translation in Korea, they should be newly translated into Korean which means the localization process is going to be very tricky. Besides, it happens occasionally that the original source of the quotes and translation are founded after all the in-game text was newly translated since there was no notice about quotes.

Furthermore, the quotes frequently come from not only the classical literature but also various forms of entertainment like music and movie that the game developer or writer are inspired by. Likewise, if the quotes are involved in the conversation or on-screen text in games without notice, it’s very difficult to distinguish if it’s a quote or not during the localization process.

Therefore, it is the best that clients-side informs the localization team about the source of quotes or at least the quoted section in games in advance. In the case without information from clients-side, the localization team should ask if there are quotes in the games for effective progress.

[Photo 5] The quotes and its source in ‘Buried Stars’ (Source: the trailer of ‘Buried Stars’)


As you expect, a variety of weapons show up in FPS games so the names of weaponry should be supervised by experts indeed. Besides, it’s recommended to determine which sites or books you will look up as a reference in advance since the names in the materials are slightly different depends on the publisher.

In Korean, there is another important factor to be checked for the military game localization beyond the supervision of weaponry – military terms. Since military service is mandatory in Korea, most Korean guys are discharged from the military duty. That’s why the reality of conversation with appropriate military terms are important and the linguists who completed the military service are usually assigned for the project with military contents.

[Photo 6] The weaponry in ‘Call of Duty: War Zone‘ (Source: ‘Call of Duty: War Zone‘ homepage)

We discussed the cases of game localization required in-depth research and supervision by SME in this article. Even though the game localization required a lot of effort and time as we’ve seen so far, it’s not noticeable while playing the games so those effort may be regarded less important. However, if there are errors no matter how small or not, it can be a critical factor to interrupt the immersive play. For those reasons, there are many perspectives that game localization is counted as a difficult field in the localization industry.

In the conclusion, some components in games can be seemed small and less valuable, but they can matter a lot to players. They should be dealt with carefully no matter how small they are and how much effort is needed. That’s what we Musai Studio has kept in mind for the game localization.



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