This article was originally posted on Level Up Translation's blog.
As the developer of your game, you understand the history, style, and context associated with every string of text. But as outsiders, we don’t understand it (yet) like you do!
That’s why a localization kit is crucial when handing off your indie game for localization.
Here’s what to put in it and why it’s key to a successful localization.
1. Specify your target player
Who are you targeting your game at?
You surely have a type of player in mind - we need to know who that is (gender, age, hardcore/casual, other games they might like, etc.).
The language used won’t be the same if your game is aimed at teenage boys rather than middle-aged moms.
2. Include your formatting preferences
What do you prefer in terms of formatting? Remember to include:
Any other preferences.
Remember that we can’t assume your preferences. If we don’t know them, we may use formatting that doesn’t suit your workflow, and we’d really like to avoid that.
3. Describe the tone
Is your game supposed to be funny and sarcastic? Or is it rather dark and gritty? Maybe it’s more conversational, or rather formal in tone.
Localization will vary drastically according to the tone you specify. There are endless ways to localize a given string, depending on the tone you choose.
4. Character introductions
Who are these characters we’ll be getting to know in this project? Don’t just mention what players will find out about characters throughout the game itself - go deeper into the backstory of every character.
Maybe your players don’t need to know about all this, but we do.
In other words … everything you know about a character is something we want to know about, too!
Why? If we want to truly capture the essence of your characters in every language, we need to truly understand these characters and how they operate. For us, they’re not just lines of code - they’re real. Or at least, they need to be for an effective localization job.
5. Details about your game world
We need to become fully immersed in your world to give you a translation that accurately depicts your game.
There may be some details about your game world that you know about in the back of your mind, but remember that a localization team is not around throughout the entire development process. Help us to get up to speed with all the details!
Even if you feel that certain aspects of your game wouldn’t be relevant to the localization process, we’d still like to know all about it. This will give us the additional context we need to take your localization from “good” to “amazing.”
6. Context hints
Speaking of context - the more we have, the better the localization.
Here’s a quick example of why context can make a huge difference in localizing to other languages even though it may not play a huge part in localizing to English:
In French and many other languages, nouns and adjectives are gendered, unlike English. This means knowing the gender of your characters is crucial to an accurate localization in these languages.
For example, “You are an excellent driver” would be translated differently in French if the driver in question was male or female:
Male: “Tu es un excellent conducteur”
Female: "Tu es une excellente conductrice”
This may seem like a very minor point, but it will sound really odd to a French player and thus reduce their enjoyment of the game.
Here's how you can provide your localization team with more context information:
String order and name
Make an effort to organize your strings in a logical way that provides as much context as possible.
It's best if your text is sorted chronologically, but in case this is not possible, try organizing it per stage, per quest, or even per character - just don't sort it in alphabetical order.
String IDs can also contain hints to help the localization team understand when and how this string is being used.
If you’re afraid of going overboard and overwhelming your localization team with comments, don’t be! Too many comments on a localization file are far better than not enough.
Adding images of characters and props can help with context as well.
List all your tags
We need to know the meaning and function of all your tags, so we can translate accordingly.
For example: What string will appear instead of the tag? Can it be plural? Can it be moved in the sentence?
7. Editable text files
Chances are that we’re not using the same software as you are to edit text, so we need to be able to easily edit your strings using our translation tools.
This means you should never hardcode strings that need to be localized.
Remember that translators are not developers. We have our own set of tools that enable us to provide you with localization of consistent quality.
Limiting a localization team by restricting us to working only within your development software can result in work that is performed less efficiently and that may contain more inconsistencies. And no one wants that.
Keep your text in spreadsheets (.csv, .xml, .xlsx). PO files are fine too, but they're not the most practical format for us to work with.
8. Questions and answers
Jot down all of the foreseeable questions about your game and answer them ahead of time.
For example: Should the title be localized? Should character/location names be transliterated?
Every question & answer that you include in this file will save you precious time - time you would otherwise be spending going back and forth to explain a concept to your translators.
Wrapping it Up - Allocating Time to Maximize the Efficiency of the Translation
Even if you include the most thorough localization style guide that’s humanly possible, we will still need to ask you questions about your game (through our online Q&A sheet) to provide you with the best translation we can.
And that’s a good thing! Spending time collaborating will give us an opportunity to get up close and personal with everything your game entails.
To make this process as painless and efficient as possible, make sure to allocate time to work with us and answer these questions.
When you plan for this process in advance, it ensures that all questions are answered promptly and thoroughly - and this reduces the chance of bottlenecking, which can slow down the localization process. Plus, it makes the experience much more pleasant for everyone involved.
Like what you just read?
Check our blog for more game localization best practices and tips.
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