[MUSAI] Localization Tips for Game Developers: How to Localize Games Better

2021-04-23

 

What is a good translation in case of games? Translators or localizers would often ask themselves this question. No matter what the type of entertainment is, translation is the bridge that connects culture and contents to overseas markets, and a great influence on the success or failure in that market. As a result, developer companies are increasingly interested in ‘good translation’ and wondering what exactly a good translation is, especially in order to successfully select a localization company specialized in the characteristics of the game.

 

When we think of ‘what is a good translation,’ many will say minimizing translation errors. Of course, if you do not wish to be on the ‘funniest examples of mistranslation list’ on any websites, this is the first criteria to consider. Nevertheless, with today’s article we will go further beyond that and to reflect the special traits of the content, ‘game,’ and focus on what is a ‘good translation’ that enhances the users’ level of immersion. Let’s take a look at the good game translation by going through our work and know-how.

 

ONE. Translation that conveys the meaning smoothly

Game players mostly get the information by reading subtitles or texts: the flow of the story line, relationship between characters, quest conditions, and the overall setting, etc. Therefore, the purpose or the reason being of a game localization is to convey the meaning of the original text to the users without any glitch. Accordingly, it must be translated without any mistranslation, and spelling and grammar also need to be checked.

Sometimes, some words or sentences considered being grammatically or spelled wrong, may be used in the translation. Even some commonly used words may be avoided since it is outdated. For example, ain’t, or ‘mobile phones’ instead of ‘cell phones.’ Especially when the games are to be dubbed, following the grammar rules too strict may make the line rather awkward.

Moreover, localization is not just converting words into other words used in other countries; it is to convert the language conveying the meaning, in a way that people in other countries would actually say. Therefore, translating into the language spoken by the locals, and avoiding culturally inadequate sentences or expressions is crucial. The users should be able to understand the situation without peeping into the original texts. Furthermore, the top agencies would refer to other popular cultural contents such as movies or drama to make the translation catchier and sounding familiar.

 

♦ Example from Cyberpunk 2077 “Watch the gap!” 

Original

Translated

WATCH THE GAP!

발 빠짐 주의!

Translator’s Comment: referred to the famous metro announcement in Korea.

[Image 1] The subway concept art of Cyberpunk 2077 (Source: Cyberpunk 2077 official Twitter)

 

TWO. Translation that is easy to read

Game is an example of an experiential content, a dramatic entertainment which the users get to become the protagonist of the story and control the world. However, if you have to read the subtitles along the journey, it is quite tiring. For this reason, more and more developer companies add voice-over in their localization process nowadays, but when it is going to be subtitled only, it is very important to reduce the users’ fatigue due to reading too much text.

When reading wordy, lengthy, boring sentences, it is often hard to catch the meaning at once, although technically there is nothing wrong with the sentence when you read it over and over. Translated sentences should not be verbose. Sentences wrapped with all the colorful modifiers would just make the users’ eyes hurt. Rather, it should be simple and clear; A 9-10th grade-level sentences are preferable. So, the translators must be fluent in the original language as well as the target language. This is why perfectly bilingual translators are favored in the industry.

 

THREE. Translation for the users’ convenience

Some translators carelessly use the terms or slangs that are used only by certain groups, or words such as ‘he, she, the former, the latter,’ in their translation. However, unlike video or books, it is difficult to go back and check what it meant while playing a game. Therefore, terms and expressions that are direct and easy enough so the players can learn the information needed or the relationship between the characters immediately should be used.

Unlike some medium that can focus entirely on the content of the text, the purpose of games is to play, and the subtitles are to help the users to play. In other words, subtitles should help players without interfering with its entertainment.

 

♦ Example from GTA 5 “How a Korean couple argue!” 

Original

Translated

Screw you, Michael.

당신, 말 다 했어?

Ah, but you won’t.

아직 시작도 안 했어.

Translator’s comment: Unlike in western culture where married couples often call each other by their names, Korean couples call each other by ‘babe, honey, etc.’ almost all the time. (In fact, calling each other by their name between married couples can be considered impolite in Korea.) The name is substituted, and the entire line was paraphrased in a way a Korean couple would argue.

[Image 2] GTA 5. Argue between Michael and Amanda (Source: screenshot from GTA 5)

FOUR. Translation reflecting the difference between subtitles and dubbing script

Subtitles are still important in games that are being dubbed. Many users turn the caption on even when Korean voice is supported, and in terms of recording process, the speed of work process and quality of its result greatly vary depending on the quality of the translated subtitles. Simple. If the script is better, it is so much easier for the voice actors to do their job. However, translators who do not know how the dubbing process works cannot possibly know what actually matters.

Now, you may ask ‘can’t we just read the subtitles for recording session?’ But the answer is ‘no’. Translated subtitles often don’t count the length or the speed which the voice actors reading it, only translating words into other languages. Thus, various factors must be considered when adapting scripts for voice-over; it is not just to make the users understand the context. It is to entertain.

♦ Example from Cyberpunk 2077 “Sometimes thoroughly different lines are created”

Original

Translated

How’d you get here?

어떻게 왔지?

By car. Parked not too far from here.

차 타고 왔지. 뭐, 걸어왔겠냐? 이 근처에 주차해 뒀어.

Translator’s Comment: some expression is added to match the length of the English voice. When doing so, it must be smooth considering character’s personality and the situation.

[Image 3] Translation in Cyberpunk 2077. New expression added to match the original voice length. (Source: a screenshot from Cyberpunk 2077)

 

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