Since 2021, we at Musai studio launched and have been running a dedicated team only for the script adaptation.
For today’s article, we have prepared a Q&A session to share our thoughts on why we put so much effort into the adaptation process and why it is necessary for localizing video games.
Question: What is script adaptation exactly?
- Script adaptation originally refers to a process of recreating a script from one form of media to another. Creating scenarios out of an original novel for movies or dramas would be a great example, and the adaptation process is not limited to dialogues for characters and actors.
- Even in the actual business area, the adaptation is considered a recreating process that entails a significant modification of the script. In that sense, reviewing a script for recording is technically different from the actual script adaptation. Nonetheless, the voice recording for video games encompasses delicate jobs of reviewing dialogues and requires analyzing the overall structure of the script to naturally recompose the conversation and capture hidden information that had been overlooked in the translation process. Hence, we prefer to use the term “Script Adaptation.”
Q: Why does voice-over for video games need script adaptation?
- Script adaptation is an inevitable task in the game development process regardless of the translation quality in the TEP process.
- On many occasions, the localization of a video game begins with incomplete source scripts, which leads to unorganized scripts with bits and pieces of dialogues mixed up randomly, not to mention the missing speaker information. Also, the source itself often changes substantially. Under these challenging circumstances, the translations for character names, terms, and even the form of address tend to change halfway through the project, which is why it is important to go over the translated scripts before the voice recording begins. Also, the recording starts in the middle of the translation process. Assuming the script is divided into multiple parts, the recording begins right after whichever part is translated the first.
- Matching the original audio file’s length is also a challenging task, which is often necessary for localizing video games. Another thing to note is that the audio length can differ depending on the original voice actor’s intonation. Because the translation heavily relies on the length of the source text, the script adaptation team has to review each audio file, read the translated script as if they’re actually acting, and adjust the length. In extreme cases, the adjusted length changes to half or double the length of the translated text.
- To top it all off, the recording sessions for cinematic scenes and cutscenes that require lip-sync and sound sync demand close attention to the lip movement. Especially when it comes to projects that involve delicate interpretation of emotions and even how the character breathes, there are more things to consider in the adaptation stage, as the translation was done based on the written text.
Q: How do scripts for video games differ from animations and movies?
- The biggest difference is that the information available on each scene is very limited compared to other media. With a few exceptions for cinematic scenes (even for cinematic scenes, we sometimes only have audio files to work with), videos are rarely provided, and in many cases, the related staff, including voice actors and directors, have to work with textual information provided in the script. That is why we have to assume and predict how each situation would develop.
- Another thing to consider is that unlike animations and movies, scripts for video games are rarely translated and recorded in chronological order. Assuming the storyline is divided into four parts of A-B-C-D, the localization project could progress in C-B-A-D, and if the story develops in multiple directions or depending on the player’s choice, it could go as complicated as C-A’-B’-D’-B-A-C’-D’. In this case, the recording staff should pay extra attention to which part is being recorded as they could easily lose the hang of the correct order.
- Furthermore, in some cases where dialogues are arranged by characters not story order, we have to rearrange the script and prepare the recording sessions from scratch as there can be multiple characters involved in a single conversation.
- Cultural differences could also pose an issue when trying to convey information to the user. Due to the linguistic characteristics of Korean, the literal translation of pronouns such as “He” or “She” could confuse players unless more concrete information such as the character’s name is provided. The translation for “that” can also be controversial, as we don’t have enough information on the actual distance between the object and the speaker. That being so, it is necessary to go over these issues in the recording session to provide a quality gaming experience to players.
- The lack of information is really challenging for voice actors as well. When it comes to expressing emotions, there are many circumstantial factors to consider. One might grieve over the loss of loved ones (which in many cases we are unsure who they are) or over the fact that they just blew up a big opportunity, making it difficult for actors to perform realistic acting. Regardless of the actor’s skills or enthusiasm, the final product might fail to meet expectations depending on the discrepancy between the actual gameplay and how we had imagined it’d be, such as the character’s motion, surrounding environment, camera angle, the distance between characters, and character modeling. That is why sometimes recording pleasurable voices with less context is considered safe. Even so, because some of the titles we have worked on had a number of scenes that required outbursts of emotions and realistic acting, we request actors to perform with rich emotions and boldness. The adaptation stage helps the actors to do so by polishing the translation’s quality and length.
As mentioned above, the lack of information acts as a significant burden in the script adaptation stage. For our next article, we would like to go over why we are working under such circumstances by explaining the workflow of a localization project.
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