IMUG: Game Localization: Are We Having Fun Yet?

Tonite at the International Multilingual User Group (IMUG), Anthony Fitzgerald from SimulTrans gave a good talk, “Game Localization: Are We Having Fun Yet?”

Anthony has extensive experience in game localization, going back to Sierra On-Line’s Leisure Suit Larry franchise (challenging to localize because the user input was freeform text) and Valve Corporation’s Half-Life (requiring about 6 months to localize.)

Also many members of the game development community were there, including an Ubisoft localization project manager and SO-L’s fourth staff programmer.

Localization staff typically have to play the game for a week to understand how it works and what work needs to be done. 🙂

There are various localization levels for games:

  1. Just localize the box art
  2. Add subtitles
  3. Localize everything

For networked games, some additional issues are:

  • localize just the client (user) program, or also the server too?
  • what if player messages to each other are in different languages?

Cheats are very helpful to expedite testing when testing levels, features, etc.
Testing on the lowest supported resolution is the fastest way to find font and string problems.

When testing PC games, particular graphics cards may be needed. Localizing console games is more involved though, requiring a developer console and software development licenses, possibly costing thousands of dollars per console.

Besides the usual challenges in localizing products, games have 2 additional steps:

  1. for console games, manufacturer (Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft) acceptance testing is required. 10 to 15 days need to be scheduled for the initial test run, followed by 5-10 days per round of additional testing for rejected games. Additional test runs are billed by the mfg.
  2. government ratings boards, like ESRB in USA.

Also, holiday deadlines for games are literally that: missing a holiday means that your audience has already spent their discretionary budget, so the release is fruitless.

Thanks to Google for hosting the meeting.

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