Okay, hands up, the game localisation setup for Kenshi was a hideous spaghetti tangled nightmare of ongoing problems, unexplored territory and language rules I never even dreamed would exist. I’d never handled localisation before, let alone managed over 6 translators for a 300,000 word project – in fact, nobody in our team had.
In all honesty, I hated it. I think we all hated our parts in the stressful localisation process. This was the worst part of my job working on Kenshi. Did I mention how much I hated working on Kenshi’s localisation? But… where we suffer, sweat and cry tears of umlauts, we also flourish and grow along a steep curve of learning and knowledge!
So, what better way to structure this guide than to build on my own sweet failures. Most of the below I learned the hard way.
Tips For GOOD Localisation
- Make GUI character limits clear to the translator. Some languages, in particular French and German, can have extremely long translations which may not fit so neatly on small fixed displays in your pretty UI which was designed for English words.
- Take the time to write up detailed documentation. Use it to explain any consistent tones in the game, speech styles, slang, personalities, key facts and famous names they should know in the game. Show screenshots of GUI and dialogue in the game so that the tranlsator can see how it will display in game. Even better than that (but not always possible), give them a key to get familiar with the game themselves.
- Leave lots of notes attached to dialogue and data during writing. If they’re not seeing the atmosphere or how this is used in the game, they can easily misinterpret meanings and tones – same way an email can be interpreted rudely or innocently without physical context. Remember the more information you can provide for your translator, the better. For GUI and other data, make sure to use plenty of category tags which you can refer to in the documentation to give context. This will save you the time of answering 1001 questions in the long run.
- Organise dialogue by using consistent dialogue names. This is dumb; I’m a big dumbass for not doing this. Some software may be different and this may not be applicable. But you want a way to easily categorise or tag your dialogues depending on character types, cultures, accents and speaking habits. Again, you can refer back to these categories in the documentation. E.g. Title ‘Mages Guild Apprentice Approaches Base’ – So we know he should talk like he’s from the mages guild, he’s a lowly apprentice level character, and he’s outside the player’s base without being able to see him/her.
- Be aware of pronouns, plurals and genders when writing. It may not be a problem in English, but there can be complications in European languages when adjectives and nouns completely change depending on singular/ plural or mixed gender/ same gender groups. Sometimes consider writing extra branches instead of being lazy and vague in English.
- Be available to answer questions. Make yourself approachable on Skype, Slack or whatever to help with any extra information or misunderstandings.
- Ask for feedback. You can’t quality check the translations yourself, but your players can sure help. Open for beta testing, if not already, and directly ask your fans for their feedback in your forums and social media. If you don’t ask, you might not get. It also shows that you care what your players have to say.
What to look for in a translator
- They are able to speak fluent English to you and there are absolutely no difficulties in communication. This is a really obvious one I know, but it’s important nonetheless.
- They ask lots of questions. If you hire a translator and they go silent, this is a red flag. A good translator will make sure they understand meanings properly. It doesn’t matter how good your writing is, there will always be misunderstandings when reading out of context from the backend and they need to be cleared up.
- Realistic deadline estimates. A fast deadline means a bad translation. If you get a quote offering quick translation, chances are they’re either going to rush it over quality or, even worse, use machine translation.
- Choose independent. This is a matter of personal preference I suppose, but I had a better experience with solo freelancers than larger companies. Freelancers tend to produce higher quality translations with more care, though they are considerably slower and less efficient. Larger companies seem to focus more on banging out the translations as quickly as possible without wasting too much time asking questions. In this case it’s unlikely they’ll put in the time to really understand the meanings and consistencies behind the words. They also tend to throw multiple translators at projects which again leads to more inconsistencies. On the other hand though, they can be easier to work with because of their experience and management, and their speed gives them an advantage if you’re low on time.