Tom Edwards, principle consultant and founder of Englobe, Inc. and chair of founder of the IGDA Game Localization SIG, presented a webinar on Game Localization for the IGDA yesterday. The loudest message of that presentation is just how important it is to include localization from the beginning of the project.
The point of localization is to make any game as far-reaching as possible. The goal of every game title should be global reach. International game sales account for at least 50% of industry revenue, Edwards states. Some companies generate up to 70% of their total sales from localization. This is why the subject is so important.
For most, localization is thought of as merely translation. It is translation, but there may be more assets involved than some designers are aware of. Content that the localization team looks at includes words, voice acting, cinematic lines, the number of characters, the artwork in the game, locations, and religious and cultural implications. It is because the job is so huge that it absolutely cannot be done in post-production. The localization team will need access to the entire development team for fixes. In addition, it is much cheaper and easier to fix a problem as it develops than it is to rewrite entire sections of a game that may be offensive or unusable in another region. In addition, the localization team needs to have a much access to the game bible or wiki as the rest of the team. In other words, to keep problems in check while the game develops, the localization team must be a part of the core design team.
The localization team has a lot to offer the rest of the team. They will help the team create Localization-Friendly Code including user interface and fonts for other languages, Unicode, and considerations for different keyboard inputs. They'll help the team with culturization, bringing up religious, ethnic and political issues from the start. They'll help make sure an element in the game isn't jarring, taking the player out of the game experience. For instance, a piece of artwork on a wall may mean little or nothing in our culture, but may stand out tremendously in another, offending the player and taking them out of the experience.
Localization is risk assessment that begins in pre-production. While controversy may create good press for a game, having the game banned in another country will ultimately lower potential sales. No one works as hard as game developers do with the hopes that their work won't be seen.