Game translation for developers. What is game translation?

Game translation for developers. What is game translation?

As a game developer, you may ask yourself: What is game translation? How can I get my game translated?

Let’s start here. Game translation is called localization.

What is localization and what’s the difference between localization and translation, then? We use these terms interchangeably, although they’re not the same thing. If you call translation a game localization, it’s clear to me what you mean, so don’t worry. Here, we’ll go on using translation instead of localization.

Let me take 30 seconds to tell you about this technical difference anyway.

Translation is the act of making content available in another language. You may want to translate a birth certificate, medical device instructions, a contract, or a Terms & Condition agreement. These are among those documents that need little manipulation and the strongest compliance to the original text and their individual features.

Localization, on the other hand, is the act of making content available and suitable for another cultural context. This may involve a total change in the original text, so don’t be scared. The most important thing is that the resulting content is clear to your gamers.

If your game uses a specific tone of voice, for example, when literally translated this feature will sound awkward to those who don’t speak English very well. What a localization expert does, is turning your English content into an appealing one for gamers from another country and cultural context.

Another example: in certain countries, some expressions may sound rude. Localization allows you to respect these kinds of cultural backgrounds. Hiring a native or bilingual translator is the best choice as we’re perfectly aware of these issues and know what is the best solution to make everyone happy!

Also, if you think of your game app or video game title, localization might want to focus on other features which are catchier to the gamers of that specific country. If that title cost you a lot of time and efforts, and you don’t want to see it twisted, we can discuss it and find the best solution for your needs.

Moreover, if your game app is shared through Google Play and/or Apple Store, its description must be localized as well. Why?

Easy: ASO (App Store Optimization) is different depending on the language: what may give your game a good placement in the English Google Play or Apple Store may not work for, in my case, the related Italian app stores. In fact, I find many nice games scrolling through app stores that have a bad placement because the translation of their description is not optimized[1].

The process of translating your game into another language and culture is also called internationalization. I’ll stop here with technicalities as I know I’m spinning too many plates.

The game translation process requires certain attention on the developer’s side as well.

When you know you’ll soon ask for someone to translate your game, you should remember what follows:

  • Your game must be optimized for internationalization: this means that you should take care of a few things during development.
    • Graphics: keep in mind that graphic elements may need to be translated as well. Always keep your graphics source files at hand.
    • Images: as for some expressions, in certain countries also images may be seen as rude or even insulting. Follow our instructions in case we need to find more suitable images.
  • When you’re developing your game, be sure to take into account:
    • Text length or direction: English is a left-to-right and right-to-the-point language — words are shorter than many languages’ as well as sentences; Italian, for example, usually takes up 25-30% more space. So, you need to be careful when creating dialogue boxes or similar. Japanese, Korean and Chinese, on the other hand, have both a vertical and horizontal text direction. Arabic is right-to-left.
    • Accents and signs: I really need to explain why it’s fundamental that you as a developer takes accents or other signs into serious consideration while developing your game — English doesn’t use them. However, there are many languages out there that use accents or other types of signs, as well as other languages using completely different signs (think of Arabic, Hindi, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, etc.) Using a character set that doesn’t support accents or other kinds of signs will cause serious in-game issues and the developer(s) might be forced to dipping the code again and use another set. Have a look here to see how many characters you may need to make your game perfectly playable in a specific country.
  • What should you do to not go nuts about all these characters and signs related stuff? All you should do is planning.
    • Investigate your market: Where do your target gamers come from? Who do you want to reach? The so-called FIGS languages are usually the point from which most developers start: French, Italian, German, and Spanish (Western Europe). Central and Eastern European markets are expanding, though. Eastern Asian market is also very promising. You may want to focus on Western Europe first, then on Central and Eastern Europe or Eastern Asia in a second time when your game starts to profit.
  • Don’t assume that English is a widely spoken language.
    • Many people may have good knowledge, but it’s also true that your game might have a lot of dialogues and the gamer might have difficulties in understanding everything. You put so many efforts in writing your game’s content, you surely don’t want us to miss half of them, do you?
    • See this global ranking of English proficiency to get an idea.

What is the usual game translation process? For an in-depth explanation, see here.

In this post, I’ll let you know the basics.

  • Game translators usually try to know what they are translating. That is, we need to play the game. If you can’t or don’t want to give us access to your game for your own reasons before its release, that’s fine. In both cases, communication is of extreme importance: answer our questions, or provide us with screenshots when needed.
  • Moreover, translation is not enough: you need to have someone to double check it. Call it proofreading or review, you’ll need an extra pair of eyes to check on typos or better translations (in case of text overflowing, for instance.)
  • Translation testing should be performed two times: between the translation and the review stage and one more time after the review stage.
  • If everything is ok, then we’re done. Your game is ready for its new gamers. Exciting, isn’t it? Translating your game is even better 😉

An important note from me to you: Why it’s better for you to hire individual translators instead of an agency? Well, agencies are expensive. And I know that budget is important to you. If you get in touch with medium to bigger agencies, as there are not so many small and cheaper ones specialized in game translation and working with many languages, it may cost you an arm and leg. Hiring an individual translator might seem expensive, but agencies are more expensive. See for yourself. Moreover, you can be in direct touch with who’s handling your game. And it’s great. Also, we translators are often in touch with one another or may know where to find trusted colleagues to translate your game into other languages. Lastly, we often team up, so you might not even need to be the one in charge of finding someone to review our translation.

Just remember: game translation process requires time and carefulness. We may need more time than you expect our work to be excellent. Also, if you project is urgent and you want it to be good, we may need to ask an extra charge depending on factors such as our previous relationship, if we need to set apart other projects to take care of yours only, or if the amount of work requires us to work more hours than usual. For example, if you’re a regular client and we know we work well together, we may offer a discount. Another situation may be asking us too much (that is fast + cheap) which may influence the final result, that is an average translation rather than a good one. Here’s a diagram explaining why — while being specific for web designers, it’s true also for translators.

That being said, choose at your own risk 😉

If you liked this post and found it useful, remember to keep following me for other walk-throughs, tips, and thoughts.

If you want to share your idea, leave a comment on my Facebook page, my LinkedIn profile, DM or mention me on Twitter, or send me an email or WhatsApp — a lot of stuff, I know XD

I’ll be very glad to hear from you 😉

And, obviously, should you be interested in my translation services for your game, give me a shout!



[1] FYI, I’m very thorough: I use both Android and iOS devices, some consoles and a Windows PC.