Localising a game for multiple languages

Localising a game for multiple languages

By Jan Werkmeister

July 23rd 2013 at 10:00AM

Synthesis Germany exposes the reality of tackling multiple languages simultaneously with Dishonored

[This feature was published in the July 2013 edition of Develop magazine, which is available through your browser and on iPad.]

Managing and coordinating projects with multiple languages presents a myriad of potential issues for any localisation company.

“When it comes to multiple languages, full visibility and communication between the local departments and teams involved have some crucial advantages,” says Emanuele Scichilone, project manager at Milan-headquartered localisation and translation outfit Synthesis.

“When my work on a project begins, I first analyse the assets and clean them up. Once I have done that I share them along with all the instructions I would recommend for my own language to all other teams. This is valid both for the project kick-off, but also for the whole localisation process. When we spot a problem, we share this information with the project managers that coordinate each language team.

“This approach is also valid in the opposite direction: when any of the teams find a problem, they report it and their project manager shares it with my team,” continues Scichilone.

“This clearly is a great benefit because there are more chances to find and fix issues in advance. The internal harmonisation and communication process is a clear advantage of handling several languages with one vendor like Synthesis – single local vendors just can’t share information easily. This working method is applied at all localisation stages; translation, all audio recordings phases and linguistic testing. It’s not always easy, but that is a ‘must do’ for us.”

HANDS ON LANGUAGE­

This approach has not changed since the 1990s because still nothing is automated and no project is the same. It remains hands-on work and experience helps assess a project’s needs.

“We require the game design document glossaries where we look at the language tone to be used, the characters relationships and so on. Some RPGs need to maintain some existing terminology (the D&D rule set, for instance), some games are IPs coming from known licenses as cartoons, comics, movies and some titles are set in fantasy or medieval time, etcetera. We can’t use the same style everywhere. Quite simply, squires don’t talk the same way as noblemen.”

Coping with, and planning, all the different assets for each project calls for a good organisation, as good organisation is the whole basis for consistent quality.
“The most important aspects for a successful triple-A localisation are organisation and coordination from the localisation provider, and an company with good source assets from the client side,” offers Scichilone.

The workflows of today’s blockbuster games have to be more advanced since their overall game content has grown. In addition, the team sizes grow and sharing information and keeping this information updated ensures a trouble free production.

“Using two of our recent projects as an example; Skyrim was over one million words to be translated, with over 700,000 words to be recorded, while Dishonored was actually about 90,000 words of recordings,” continues Scichilone.

“It’s evident that for Dishonored, according to the schedule, we could use one translator – and one proof reader – for Skyrim. However, we needed to build teams of four-to-five translators, plus a dedicated reviewing team that could cope with such a big amount of words within the given schedule.”

A GLOBAL MARKET

Good organisation and sharing information among teams becomes even more vital when it comes to localising a game into additional languages. As with other localisation providers, Synthesis is getting requests for more languages than just the classic FIGS.

“The FIGS countries are the most important countries in Europe, but I am seeing that with some of the eastern European countries like Poland and Russia where their games markets are growing, these languages are becoming required more and more often. Outside of Europe, publishers are now looking with interest to emerging markets, like Brazil, South America and Asia, with focus on China and Korea in particular” says Scichilone.

However, Synthesis’ workflow approach does not change when a client needs any additional language. As a client there is one point of contact – the project manager – and s/he coordinates the different territories.

“We have dedicated teams to cover all other European languages; Dutch, Nordics, Eastern European, Oriental and all Asian languages,” continues Scichilone. “Once we have been asked even for Tagalog. Indeed, we also have to cope the different time zones, but we are pretty flexible and always try to match clients’ needs.”

A client requesting more languages as a result of the global publishing approach is just one of the many changes the localisation market is experiencing. Synthesis has consistently reacted to market developments in the past and it will do in the years to come.

TRANSLATING THE FUTURE

The most important aspect is keeping up with the quality standard for any new language, territory or workflow. The process of establishing and integrating new languages into the group’s portfolio takes its time, so it’s vitally important for any localisation provider to not only adapt to the current situation, but foresee future development of markets.

“We’ve been doing this job for so many years now, working on literally thousands of different projects on different platforms, from different developers with different issues, that we got to instinctively know what the client expects from us,” explains Max Reynaud, Synthesis CEO and founder.

“Our goal is to put all our knowledge and dedication at the client’s disposal on a daily basis. This is what our oldest partners and clients have been experiencing over the last two decades and this is what every new client is going to receive from us. The market follows its own path and Synthesis adjusts to it. In doing this, we try to approach each new project with what we consider the best balance of assistance and proactivity.”

Reynaud believes that the globalisation of game localisation has only just begun and that videogame publisher’s demands will get even more global and comprehensive.

“I expect the market to progressively head towards global multitask vendor providers. It’s like a circle; we started 20 years ago with multi-language providers which were not able to fully deliver on the expectations of the publishers, and this opened the doors to local agencies with a strong territorial positioning to flourish, as with Synthesis. At the same time, some publishers have been bringing in-house some key services, like QA.”

And the challenges don’t end there.

A TIME CRISIS

“The upcoming years won’t be easy for the industry” Reynaud predicts.

“I’ve been studying how the economic scenario has been unfolding over the last five years, and I’m getting more and more convinced that the current crisis will extend and will not hit just the ‘weaker’ countries like Greece, Spain or Italy but also central Europe and US in a way that few could expect at the moment, so clients and publishers will be looking to counter this by expanding into new territories and markets.”

Synthesis will need to keep focusing on the reliability of the service it provides and take every opportunity coming.

“This is going to be one of the biggest challenges that Synthesis has faced and it is this direction where we’re channeling all our efforts at the moment,” confirms Reynaud.

Economic pressures also force clients to go for low-cost offers says Scichilone, who has seen a lot of these projects. But low-cost approaches seldom work well in the long-term.

“In the end many of those clients came back to us and asked for help with their localisation and then stayed with us for their upcoming projects,” concludes Scichilone.

Maybe this is one of the aspects that drives Synthesis forward and makes clients stay working with the company over so many years: support and solving problems, even under difficult circumstances.