How To Build a Better Game With Localization


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The gaming market is growing at an unprecedented speed, and it’s forecasted to surpass the 200 billion dollars in value in 2023. With the advent of online gaming and platforms like Steam, reaching a worldwide audience has never been easier for game developers. Expanding your customer base to a wide arc of countries will boost your revenue, level-up your brand, and create better conditions for you to embark on better, more challenging projects.

But the more complex your game, the more challenging and the more necessary it’ll be to properly localize it. In this post, we’ll cover some best practices for game localization, to ensure that your world-class game can be enjoyed by players across the globe.

Market Value of Video Game Industry
Market Value of Video Game Industry

Define your Goals and Recognize Potential Problems

It’s relevant to remember the definition of localization. Game localization and game translation aren’t interchangeable terms. Game localization involves a holistic overview and retailoring of your game so it meets the standards, requirements, and expectations of its new audience while preserving its identity. The goal of game localization is ensuring that players in your target region have a quality gaming experience in their own terms.  What is a quality gaming experience for your game? Define it, and define the elements that you’ll need to take care of, aside from language, to make it possible.

Localization should target a specific market. You can’t adapt your game so it appeals to every market at once. To succeed across the globe, you’ll need to develop and execute winning strategies for each particular market or region. Once you’ve defined your target audience, you’ll need to consider potential issues.

The localization process for a videogame involves constant problem-solving. Many of these issues may be intrinsic to your game’s theme or format. War games often suffer a backlash from certain audiences since they are prone to deal with geopolitical issues and historical rivalries which can stir emotions. Moreover, certain countries have legislation that restricts the depiction of historical symbols or figures, or cultural taboos that will force us to change graphic content.

Lay Solid but Simple Foundations

A notorious example of poor game translation is the 1989 Japanese arcade game Zero Wing. Zero Wing, a game about an intergalactic war, features confusing lines like “Somebody set up us the bomb!”, “You have no chance to survive make your time”, and the very popular: “All your base are belong to us”, which became one of the first-ever examples of what we now know as an internet meme.
All your base are belong to us
All your base are belong to us
A vague translation can be the result of either an unskilled translator or vague source material. So make sure all your in-game instructions are precise, both for your local and for your international players. One of the best practices for game localization involves simplifying your script. Game development is an art form, but avoiding unnecessarily complex dialogs and convoluted interface texts will make translation work easier, resulting in a more cost-effective and time-efficient process. If your script includes cultural references, they should be given special attention during the translation process. Since you’ll probably delegate translation to a third-party, make sure that they’re using cutting edge translation technology that facilitates an accurate and dynamic translation process.

Pay Attention to Domain-Specific Terminology

A video game can include terminology that’s specific to an activity or profession. This is the case for sports games, flying simulators, and other types of products.

Hiring people with background knowledge in game localization will streamline your video game localization process since they will either be accustomed to the specialized terminology in your game or skillfully bridge that gap between the source material and their subject matter knowledge. 

Properly handling your terminology will make your game more realistic, but also more accessible. Learning how to play a game often requires the player to incorporate these terms, and their proper translation and usage will contribute towards a great gaming experience.

But games that are narrative or experimental will require another type of focus since they introduce new gaming concepts and mechanics. Make sure you pick the right team for each job as it will grant you a satisfying game localization.

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Be Aware of Local Legislation

Sometimes, significant changes have to be made so your game meets cultural standards. And sometimes these cultural standards are also established by law. For instance, World War II videogame Hearts of Iron IV had to censor all its references to the Nazi Party, to comply with the 86th article of the German Criminal Code. This is something that video games developers don’t have to worry about since 2018, when Germany began to legally consider video games as an art form.
World War II videogame
World War II videogame

Coding Best Practices for Game Localization

Make sure that your interface is coded in such a way that it can adapt to longer strings without breaking, and don’t hard-code your script.  Hard-coding means including the text directly into the code of the game, instead of handling the script and the code separately. While hard-coding increases the risk of leaving lines untranslated, it’s universally regarded as a bad practice for reasons unrelated to localization. For example, hard-coding translates into difficulties updating and changing your content, making your writers unnecessarily dependent on your developers.

How to Streamline Your Localization Process

How to translate videogames
How to translate videogames

Simplify your script, don’t overlook domain-specific terminology.

Don’t hard-code your script, make sure your interface is coded in such a way that it can adapt to longer (or shorter) strings of text.

Images & Media
Don’t dismiss cultural standards and regulations, especially if your game has a sensitive subject matter.

Localization is an investment, and the winning strategy for connecting with international players. Localize, test and refine all parts of your game, as well as its collateral material.

In conclusion, when looking for the best practices for game localization , you should think of the process as a unified project within game development, or at least consider that you will probably do it later on and approach development with future localization needs in mind. That is what we call “internationalization”. Basically, the game should be able to work as a solid foundation for various international versions.

Treating localization as an afterthought will probably hamper the overall quality of the game, as well as hurt the development chain, requiring extensive revisions, and thus draining time and resources. With marketplaces having hundreds, if not thousands of games in their catalogs, and an increasingly demanding and vocal international gaming community, a game that’s poorly adapted will underperform, and the backlash from that underperformance could have lasting effects on a brand’s reputation.

Proper localization is a complex and multifaceted process that involves the adaptation of in-game content (assets, audio, and text), extensive functional testing, and the localization of promotional and instructional material – from guides to your product’s social media presence.

When embarking on a game localization project, it’s wise to hire a reputable and experienced localization company.

bayantech provides customized Video Games localization solutions!

Table of Contents

The Essential Guide to Games Localization

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bayantech is a leading language service provider. Since 2004, we have been providing ISO-certified, smart, and effective translation and localization solutions to major global businesses and organizations, helping our clients smoothly cross the frontiers of language and culture, communicate effectively worldwide, and expand their markets.


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