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How Difficult It Could Be for Translators to Localize Online Games

How Difficult It Could Be for Translators to Localize Online Games

From some point of the time, whether or not an online game comes with a localized Chinese language version had become a hot topic of discussion by the Chinese players – on the game review forums we often see comments like “no Chinese version – negative points”, “Providing a translation is so difficult for the company?” etc.. However, localizing a game full of its original flavor from English into Chinese language is obviously much more difficult than the players could imagine. As an important process of game development and market promotion, the overwhelming pressure and workload on the game localization team is self-evident. In this regard, we should adjust our mentality and see the Chinese localization of the games as just one of the many projects in the development cycle of the games – all of them are important and very challenging.

As we can easily understand, there is Never Any Standard Answers in Language Translation. In addition to the lack of localization of language, the quality of sinicization of language in the game is also a part of the players’ concern. For example, the game “Civilization VI”, although it provides mandarin dubbing, simplified Chinese language options, but the players of “Civilization VI” official level of sinicization is constantly teasing. An official Chinese translation team with professional level frequently makes a stylistic structure that seems to be “translated by machines”, which inevitably causes players’ antipathy. This problem is not unique to one game. Many games have the same problem. However, it is the unreasonable translation process that leads to the birth of such poor translation.

“The official Chinese text of some games is as messy as an abandoned garbage station,” one in-service localizer told me.

The game text he talks about is used to build the vocabulary, which is the first step they will take in the culture of the game. Building a vocabulary is also the most time-consuming step of all. The modern game is more and more large amount of text, individual small game also can reach more than five hundred thousand word level, translation work is not a monopoly, to reduce the number of differentiation and individual style, translation team must have a leader to analyze these unruly text, so as to make sure all the proper nouns, and their unique translation, eventually forming a vocabulary for use by the personnel involved in translation.

Carrying out such nitpicking task to a million word RPG game is more boring and uninteresting than any of us can imagine. The flow of words that players see, in the beginning, is just a piece of illogical text and a few caveats in front of them. The translators need to decide how to use the words based on the content of the game, the style of the translation and how to translate the troublesome puns. Yet these difficulties are only the beginning.

The extracted text illustrated in the pictures is the “main part” of their daily life. It can be seen that the whole text is in a mess in terms of content, and the dialogues, scenes and introductions cannot get a clue from the words, which is often referred to as “context connection”. These headless texts are the main reason for the decline of the translator’s level. The meaning in the text is not understood, so the translation can only be carried out according to the general situation. How can the translation be accurate?

Messy text is not the only difficulty in the localization process. The bigger difficulty is that most of the translated text is grammatically incorrect, making it difficult for players to read. Translating a language into words and localizing a language are two different concepts, and translation is much simpler. The localization process of the game is sometimes accompanied by the development process of the game. In many cases, the small changes of the game plot are enough to overturn all the previous work done by the translation team. Each pun requires a translator to come up with a Chinese equivalent that matches his or her native language.