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Game Global 2020 - Testing and Localization centered event

VG Localization & Testing are critical steps in the development and publishing of Games that have highly professionalized over the years. Game Global centers its experience in those. Read a brief summary of what what discussed this year at the event.

At the core of gaming

There's a growing tendency to conceive gaming as a language that combines both technology and art to give place to immersive experiences that are built around gameplay and narrative elements. But providing a perfect definition has always been tricky. Constant technology advancements are disruptive and the growing exploratory approach of both industry giants and indie studios manage to challenge every single one of them. Walking simulators, interactive movies, structure building based personal shooters, PC building games, games based on the exchanging of encouraging and emotional letters with unknown gamers… Gaming always manages to offer new experiences and to expand the definition of what Video Games are. And we love that.

SCYTHER5, ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS

Still, truth is that in every single video game we can find an element that’s at the core of the experience:  there’s some sort of interaction through a certain interface and audiovisual feedback. There are other elements that we thought were also at the core of the experience but time has proven us wrong. There are gameplay centered games, such as Tetris, but there's also story-driven games, such as Heavy Rain. There are games in which a challenge seems to the experience in itself, and there are others in which that challenge is nonexistent or strongly recedes to exploratory, narrative, or even social and collaborative core components.  Games can all rely on different elements to engage their players, but in all cases what cannot be left aside is immersion and cohesion.

Remember this. Gamers value the immersive nature of the medium and feel strongly alienated when the experience is spoiled by elements that were not part of the design.

When developing a game and localizing for another market, many things can go wrong if Functional and Linguistic Testing (FQA and LQA) are not properly done. It is a long list with which gamers are more familiar than they ever wished. Glitches, bugs, freezes. Wrongly implemented sound or music. Typos. Poorly, ineffective, and too literal translations. Non-intended innuendos. Tiring, uninspired, or poorly normalized voice recordings. Badly adapted interfaces.

Game Global was held digitally this year.

Unsurprisingly, developers and publishers are well aware of how irritating and experience breakers these non-intended "errors" are. Furthermore, poorly localizing or insufficiently testing their games can impact mercilessly in their ROI and brand recognition, not to mention spoiling what otherwise would have been praised products. And bringing back a dissatisfied customer is always hard.

Localization and testing to succeed internationally

As the industry increasingly specializes, linguistics and testing professionals gather to discuss their better practices, their struggles, their challenges, and the opportunities they see ahead in events such as Game Global.

Born out of one of the most important localization events of the World (LocWorld Conference), Game Global initially was a round table that evolved into a proper conference. It is designed as “an event where stakeholders from the video game globalization industry, including text and audio translation and localization, localization and functional QA” meet to talk to “fellow video game globalizers, discover the latest trends from our industry and learn from the experts.”

High-quality content, networking, and focus on specific processes and areas around Localization, Localization Testing, and Functional Testing seem to be some of the distinctive elements that give relevance to this event.

Game Global Digital Summit 2020

This year’s edition was naturally somewhat conditioned by the worldwide pandemic and it was held virtually. A Whova dedicated webpage, Whova’s mobile app, Zoom, Spatial, Hangouts, Teams, Skype, and some other meeting platforms allowed the event to be held surprisingly well. The only natural setback was that as attendees were from all around the world, including Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, they all had to adjust to CEST Berlin’s timeline, at least for presentations, while staying at home.

The digital event was held for two days and its program included a wide variety of topics. From strategies to approach WFH, to adding value to localization through data mining, machine translation or better workflows between teams of different processes, the speakers shared their experiences and dedicated valuable time to answer the questions that the attendees made, making it a very open and dialogue-centric experience, very nurturing for everybody.

On June 9, these were some of the topics that were discussed:

  • Dominick Kelly, from XTM International, and Audrey Lepage, from Bigpoint GmbH, described how they worked together to create a continuous localization process using Git to embed a QA phase, enabling the QA team to capture, edit, and update changes on the fly.
  • Mario Bergantiños, from Electronic Arts, held a Keynote in which he presented how data mining can be used to better localize the experience and improve the engagement of gaming audiences, through in-game events and updates. Data mining is a game-changer in every industry, even in gaming. Therefore mining through data to secure relevant information is key and clever decision making can be held if the process is done correctly. During the session, people were able to realize how relevant localization decisions can be properly influenced by a data-driven business strategy.
  • Some different approaches were discussed in a panel on how to adapt Linguistic Quality Assurance to Work From Home in times of social distancing. Lessons learned during the pandemic process were thoroughly discussed by panelists from different areas of the industry:  audio localization (Olivier Deslandes – PTW), functional quality assurance and localization quality assurance (Matt Wilson – Sony Interactive Entertainment;  Chris Rowley – Keywords Studios; Tülay McNally – DICE; Federica Lusardi – Square Enix).
  • Some very interesting insights were shared on India as a market and the challenges faced when deciding to localize to this huge country of 122 languages. It is mainly a mobile market based on F2P, with ad-based monetization, but where there’s a willingness to spend money on games on the rise. Renée Jessen from Character Publishing & Localization treated this topic.
  • Industry leaders of companies such as Keywords, Altagram, Ubisoft, and LocNapps Media discussed aspects related to resource management in a fast-paced industry within the contextual restrictions. Videogames localization most of the time requires an immense amount of attention to detail which is only possible with a deep knowledge of each specific IP. Deeply knowing each linguistic area of expertise, their cultural knowledge of games and entertainment, different ways to categorize and test them were some of the topics discussed. Different strategies to increase freelancers’ engagement and to score them consistently were later brought to the round table.

On June 10, the sessions pivoted on these topics:

  • Valentina Mollica from Testronic discussed Localization QA for Google Stadia as a platform. It was noted that Stadia brings new unique challenges to the process:  the streaming-to-any-device nature of the platform implies that HUD, menus, and relevant information must be adapted and tested on multiple screen variations, with different aspect ratios and resolutions. That’s an important element to be considered in WFH scenarios. Her presentation included a review of the technical setup that led to the successful delivery of several projects and the challenges and opportunities that emerged in the process.
  • Playrix specialists, Anastasiia Chertenkova and Kseniya Shorokhova, analyzed Localization and digital marketing processes. Today’s fast-paced workflows force us to integrate localization as early and effectively as possible. And for most games, effective digital marketing must go hand in hand with proper localization. They discussed how they use templates, how they approach fonts in different alphabets, and what are some cultural aspects that they need to take care of when making ads or communicating. They advocated for a more fluent communication between marketing teams and linguistics. Automation of the marketing process was one of the aspects more relevant to the attendees.
  • Simulators of any kind usually appeal to gamers very well educated on the specifics. Localizing simulators of any kind demand very acute work from the localization teams in charge of globalizing the experience. Manuel Verdinelli, from Testronic, held a praised presentation in which he shared some relevant insights out of the successful localization of a very well renowned rally racing simulator that involved voiceover of context-sensitive commentator text. He explained how they approached technical descriptions of customizable components based on real-life models and products, and provided specific examples and solutions implemented by his team while working with the development studio of the game.
  • Goodgame Studios’ Clara Gómez Perez and Isabell Rudolph talked about their strategy to receive feedback from localizations made: localization user surveys. Their session include the sharing of best practices and potential pitfalls. It also advocated on how this user feedback helps to improve their localization program and increases the support of their stakeholders. 
  • Cristina Anselmi, from Electronic Arts, presented her analysis on the evolution of specific machine translation engines. She showed herself confident that machine translation will keep growing in reliability over the years and foresees that automation processes will continue to increasingly optimize time and increase speed, without jeopardizing quality. She stated that all languages, no matter how complex, can be effectively approached by machine translation given time.
  • Finally, the relationship between Localization and Game Writing first (Blanca Joplin, Socialpoint) and Localization and UX Writing later (Mario Ferrer - UX Writers España; and Patricia Gómez Jurado - King) were the two main topics to finalize the event. Engagement strategies, writing –localization interaction, and UI and localization insights were shared and discussed. Once again, it was reminded that UX design should always be aware of factors that impact localization and integrate related considerations into the design process as a whole.

Global localization

It’s in the interest of gamers and the industry as a whole that linguistics, marketers, and quality verification teams grow specialized and learn to integrate their processes in fast-paced lean environments. Events' as Game Global are relevant because ultimately they impact both in the business success of developers and publishers that rely on these processes to ensure quality in their products and effective and relevant communication with their audiences, and utterly in the gaming community, that have access to seamless localization.

This specific iteration of Game Global had to face the challenge of going virtual and it succeeded. Its first virtual experience was satisfactory for newcomers and people who had already assisted previous events too. 

If there was an idea that implicitly prevailed through each session is that when you build a product from the ground up and localization is conceived as a key process from the beginning, better player engagement, player experience, market penetration and return of investment are in due. Well implemented technology, reliable vendors and partners and well-trained resources are critical for brand recognition and localization success, every time.

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