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'It definitely feels unrewarding and demotivating not having my name in the credits'

Chris Kerr, News Editor

March 7, 2024

5 Min Read
Three pirates preparing to set sail.
Image via Ubisoft

At a Glance

  • Ubisoft contracted external development provider Keywords Studios to assist with translation on pirate game Skull & Bones.
  • However, multiple translators hired by Keywords say their names are not included in the game's credits.
  • This is another high-profile allegation that suggests major studios are not crediting employees who worked on a game.

Update (03/07/24): Keywords is working with Ubisoft to amend the Skull & Bones credits after omitting the names of some translators.

In a statement sent to Game Developer, a Keywords spokesperson thanked us for highlighting the issue but didn't explain how it managed to miss the names in the first place.

"Thank you for highlighting this, after further verification, the team working on the game had evolved from those on the list initially provided to Ubisoft," they said. "We have provided an updated list of contributors to Ubisoft, and they are already working on incorporating these changes into the in-game credits via a future update."

It's unclear when that update will land or how many names are being added. One Skull & Bones translator impacted by this instance of miscrediting said that neither Keywords nor Ubisoft have been in touch since we published our article, but explained the company could be using its own internal records to acquire the names of those omitted.

Game Developer has asked Keywords for more information on the names being added and will issue another update if we hear back. Ubisoft has still failed to provide a meaningful response since telling us it was looking into the situation.

Original story (02/27/24): Ubisoft and Keywords have failed to credit a number of external translators who worked on Skull & Bones.

Multiple localization workers speaking to Game Developer have shown they worked on the project for Keywords as contract staff, but have yet to be credited for their contributions.

One anonymous source worked on multiple projects for Keywords over many years. Although they've been credited for previous translations done under the Keywords banner, they have yet to be credited for their work on Skull & Bones despite spending years working on that specific project.

"Neither Keywords nor Ubisoft has contacted me regarding adding my name to the credits," they said. "It definitely feels unrewarding and demotivating not having my name in the credits, since it's mostly passion that keeps us grinding in this line of work."

They also indicated that some other translators were omitted from the credits. That allegation was corroborated by George Ou, a freelance translator who previously worked for Keywords as a contractor but has since parted ways with the company.

Ou told Game Developer he worked on the Simplified Chinese version of Skull & Bones for Keywords but, like others, has not been credited. Documents shown to Game Developer indicate Ou made significant contributions to the project, but that his work hasn't been acknowledged.

Notably, Ou claims Keywords is preventing freelance translators who haven't been credited from publicly disclosing, discussing, or promoting their involvement in some productions by attempting to weaponize NDAs even after a project has launched.

"According to the then NDA I signed with Keywords, I need to have their authorization to publicly list these games in my portfolio," said Ou.

"Emails were sent back and forth. A friendly request received nothing but 50-day radio silence, which soon turned into a tense dispute, and eventually ended up in a situation where their legal team sent me a cease and desist letter and I hired a solicitor to counter who told me my understanding on NDA termination was correct—I can proactively end my cooperation with Keywords Studio with written materials and the NDA remains in effect for one year."

"One year later, I can safely list any titles I worked with Keywords on my website," he continued. "What Keywords and other large localization service providers (LSPs) are doing actually constitutes a fact that freelance translators can't be credited or prove their work experience. The indifferent attitude of LSPs is partly because of their own self-interest, but it's also passively incited by large publishers like Ubisoft."

Another freelance translator who wishes to remain anonymous corroborated those reports, and explained that while they have been credited for some of their work at Keywords, they don't feature in the Skull & Bones roll call.

They claimed to have worked on Skull & Bones for months, but said the project manager tasked with wrangling translators didn't ask for their name. Despite that omission, they seemed more ambivalent about the miscrediting issue. "I focus more on getting things done and get paid," they said. "Showing people that I did something isn't my top priority."

Keywords cannot guarantee all workers will be credited

When contacted by Game Developer, Keywords said it was "impossible" to comment on individual allegations and stated that game developers and publishers will ultimately make the final call where crediting is concerned.

"As a services provider to the global video games industry, our standard procedure is to provide the names of all who worked on the game with the understanding that this is no guarantee of inclusion in the final game credits, as crediting decisions remain with game developers and publishers. This may not always happen, due to specific circumstance, but in those cases, we subsequently engage with our clients and ensure they have a complete list of content creators," said a spokesperson.

After being pressed on claims it uses NDAs to silence contract staff, Keywords said NDAs or confidentiality clauses are a "common requirement" for localization workers. It added those contracts are used to "safeguard client confidentially" and protect information such as release dates and key details from leaking into the public domain.

"Keywords does not restrict workers from mentioning that they have worked for Keywords, but it is up to Keywords' clients to determine how the workers game contributions are treated, as the clients own the IP (some will have no issue with workers noting their contributions publicly, others might choose for this to remain confidential) It's our standard practice to acknowledge all contributors, but inclusion in final game credits isn't guaranteed, as that decision rests with the client," it added.

When asked to clarify whether it uses NDAs that prevent freelancers from discussing their work in perpetuity, Keywords said that "NDAs do not restrict contributors from mentioning who they have worked for, but it is up to the client to determine how their game contributions are treated."

Game Developer reached out to Ubisoft multiple times for comment, but only heard back from the company late last week. A Ubisoft spokesperson claimed the publisher would look into the matter but has yet to provide a meaningful update.

Last year, we spoke with a host of sources who claim miscrediting has become normalized within the game industry, leaving many workers—including those who choose to ply their trade as contractors—feeling undervalued and disenfranchised.

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About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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