Berserk Games released an update for Tabletop Simulator over the weekend that aimed to open the digital tabletop game platform up to more folks by expanding its list of supported languages, but the actual update missed the mark by opting to use Google Translate to do so.
Tools like Google Translate can provide rough translations for many languages but, as this debacle with Tabletop Simulator and many games before it shows, is not a replacement for the expertise and judgement of actual professional translators.
Tabletop Simulator's 13.0 update includes support for 29 languages, including Chinese, Spanish, German, Polish, and Japanese. However, as folks were quick to point out online, Tabletop Simulator's language support is entirely powered by Google Translate and far from accurate as a result.
People fluent in some of the languages now supported by Tabletop Simulator spoke up on Twitter about how rough the new translations actually are, while others have shared examples of how Google Translate misunderstands context and botches translations for things like chess pieces as a result.
The folks at Dicebreaker have collected some of those Tweets with examples of particularly rough translations now found in Tabletop Simulator, as well as comments from localization professionals explaining why and how machine learning-powered translation falls short.
The 13.0 update does also include tools for players to build their own translations, a helpful addition given the robust community of modders that create content for Tabletop Simulator. However, entirely relying on the unpaid labor of a game's community to translate the primary game and its DLC (or fix the botched Google Translate translations) isn't the correct way to approach the localization process either.
For its part, Berserk Games has issued a statement saying that traditional translation for so many languages wasn't a viable option and that the studio plans to highlight community-made translations on Steam down the line.
"Thank you for all your feedback on our translation update. We chose to use Google Translate while providing tools for the community to create their own translation mods, as this is the only feasible solution to support 29 different languages," reads a portion of the statement sent out Sunday night.
"Due to our frequent updates and new features, translating additional texts in 29 languages is not a viable option. The alternative, seen in many other games, is to only support the most popular languages. Instead, we added the ability for the community to create translations not only for their own mods but also the main game interface. There has already been great progress on translations in the workshop and we anticipate even more in the future."