Thao & Co. Game Translation Services

Game Translation Services

From marketing materials to in-game assets, Thao & Co. provides artful translations that resonate with your target audience. Whether you’re looking to expand your market reach or elevate your current global presence, we work with you throughout the entire process to ensure that your vision is fully realized in every language.
What is game translation?
Game translation, also known as game localization, refers to the process of adapting a video game for a specific target audience in a different region or country where a different culture and language prevail. The translation process encompasses the translation of various elements such as user interfaces, menus, subtitles, in-game text, voice overs, dialogue, and documentation.
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What are the challenges of game translation?
Game translation/localization is a complex process that presents unique challenges in adapting in-game elements for different languages and cultures.
Cultural adaptation is a critical aspect of game translation, as games are intended to be enjoyed by people of different cultures.
The challenge lies in the fact that games are often designed to reflect the culture, norms, and values of their origin country. Therefore, game translators need to be able to convey cultural phenomena accurately without offending or confusing the target audience.
For instance, in a scene from the game Final Fantasy X (2001), the protagonist Yuna bids farewell to Tidus, her love interest, knowing that they will never meet again. While bowing slightly, Yuna says “ありがとう” (thank you) to Tidus. To the Japanese audience, this simple gesture carries deep meanings beyond the surface-level interpretation of the words. However, translators for the North American audience concluded that a literal translation of the phrase wouldn’t work, as a mere “thank you” would seem inadequate for Yuna’s last words to Tidus and wouldn’t align with the cultural context of the audience.
Furthermore, due to the close-up shot of Yuna in the scene, the translation process had an additional requirement of syncing the translated words with her lip movements for the voice over. This requirement, along with the significance of the moment, led to the decision to use “I love you” as the most appropriate translation.
Some fans of the series found the decision to use “I love you” controversial as they believed it was too direct and did not align with Yuna’s personality. Nevertheless, from a functionalist standpoint, this approach makes sense as it prioritizes the intended function of the translation in the target language.
Alexander O. Smith, one of the translators involved in the decision, contends that this approach met the cultural and technical (lip-synch) needs while serving both avid fans of the Final Fantasy series and casual gamers who just want to enjoy the gameplay.
This illustrates how game translators have to take creative liberty to strike the delicate balance between faithfulness to the source text and gamers’ enjoyment during the process of cultural adaptation.
Taking excessive creative liberty during adaptation, on the other hand, can sometimes lead to cultural complications.
In most types of translation, it is common to neutralize or omit certain taboo or discriminatory words. However, in game localization, as translators exercise their creative freedom, they may inadvertently introduce offensive elements that can be detrimental to the game.
An example of this is found in the English version of the game MindQuiz, which was released for both Nintendo DS and Sony PSP in 2007. The phrase “super spastic” was used as negative feedback on the player’s performance. This phrase was not originally present in the Japanese version of the game but was most likely the result of the translators’ creativity. However, the phrase proved to be highly offensive against disabled individuals in the United Kingdom, leading to Ubisoft recalling the product.
Similarly, the game Wii Mario Party 8 (2007) was recalled for the use of the word “spastic” in the blue wizard’s incantation: “Magikoopa magic! Turn the train spastic! Make this ticket tragic!” The word was chosen due to its rhyming effect without considering cultural nuances. In fact, the game was actually published earlier in the US without any issue as “spastic” is not a taboo word there.
These examples demonstrate the potential risks of unintentionally introducing negative elements, not present in the original, into the target language. It also highlights the difficulty in discerning between creative and offensive when translating into different variants of the same language.
Game translators need to carefully balance the need for accuracy and clarity with the limitations imposed by the game’s user interface.
In many cases, game developers design the user interface (UI) and allocate a specific amount of space for text that can be shown to the player at once. This space restriction can come in various forms such as text boxes, speech bubbles, captions, tooltips, buttons, etc., and it may vary according to the size and placement of the UI elements.
Translators, therefore, have to work within this space constraint while ensuring that they deliver a faithful and appealing translation that accurately conveys the intended message. They need to be aware of the target audience and cultural nuances while selecting the most appropriate phrases that can fit within the given space.
Some languages require more space to convey the same message as others. As a result, space limitations can be severe when translating from Japanese or Chinese, where one character can represent a concept that takes more words in Western languages. German and Romance languages require more space than English for in-game text. Handheld and mobile games face even more space constraints, with length measured by pixels instead of characters.
In such cases, translators may need to condense the text by reducing the number of characters in a sentence without changing its meaning or using abbreviations. Otherwise, the UI will have to be modified to accommodate the translated text, including changing the font size, reducing the size of graphic elements, or reorganizing the layout of the UI.
From a game developer’s perspective, to accommodate for localization, menus and text boxes should be designed to allow for extra space and leaving at least 30% extra free space is recommended when translating from English. Using expandable or scrollable text boxes can also help. Icons, tooltips, and page breaks can prevent truncations and excessive abbreviations that may slow down gameplay.
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Our solutions
Thao & Co.’s highly specialized game translation services are dedicated to ensuring that your game crosses language and cultural barriers with ease. We offer a wide range of services, including Translation + Proofreading, Voice overs, and Consumer Language Research© to make sure your game resonates with players globally. With rigorous QA testing (upon request), we guarantee cultural accuracy and ensure that your game is free of any errors or inaccuracies that may detract from your players’ experience.
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What are some popular game genres? How do game genres affect game translation and localization?
Games can be categorized into different genres based on their gameplay and mechanics. Popular genres include action (Call of Duty), adventure (Uncharted), RPG (Skyrim), strategy (Civilization), simulation (The Sims), sports (FIFA), racing (Need for Speed), fighting (Mortal Kombat), puzzle (Candy Crush), and platformer (Super Mario Bros.).
Different game genres pose unique challenges for translation and localization. For example, RPGs require extensive translation and cultural adaptation for dialogues, story elements, complex mechanics, and professional voice acting. Action games rely on immersive visuals, audio cues, and cultural sensitivity for symbols, images, and themes. Puzzle genres, on the other hand, may require redesigning puzzles to ensure accessibility and avoid confusion for players of different ages and skill levels.
What are indie games vs. AAA games?
Indie games are games developed by independent game developers or small game studios that are not affiliated with major publishers. These games are often budget-friendly, creative, and experimental in nature. Examples of indie games include “Undertale”, “Stardew Valley”, and “Cuphead”. These games were created by small, independent studios and were highly praised for their unique gameplay, art style, and storytelling.
AAA games, on the other hand, are games developed by major publishers with large budgets and development teams. These games are typically high-profile titles that are expected to perform well and generate significant revenue. AAA games often have high production values, large amounts of content, and extensive marketing campaigns. Examples of AAA games include “Call of Duty”, “Assassin’s Creed”, and “Grand Theft Auto”. These games are developed by major publishers like Activision and Ubisoft and are often part of long-running, highly successful franchises. They typically have large budgets and development teams and are marketed heavily to ensure maximum visibility and sales.
What kinds of games do you translate?
We offer professional game translation services for all genres and types of games, including mobile, console, PC, and more. In addition, we also provide translation services for game production studios, including website content, marketing materials, blog posts, and press releases. Visit our Get a Quote page and tell us about your game localization project to get a free quote!
What is the standard game localization process?
The process of game localization may vary depending on the chosen model, but it typically involves 3 stages: Pre-translation, Translation, and Post-translation.
The Pre-translation stage involves extracting the elements of the game that require translation and preparing them for localization. These elements are compiled into a “localization kit,” which should include clear instructions and adequate context for the separate text segments. Analyzing this localization kit, we create translation guidelines and a glossary, which guarantees consistency throughout the game’s localization process.
Next, we move on to the translation and proofreading of game assets. Our team is made up of skilled and professional game translators who are passionate about gaming. They ensure that every translated word captures the essence of the original text, conveying the original intent and creating a high-quality translation that resonates with gamers speaking the target language.
Once we complete the translation, we proceed with post-translation tasks. Game elements are integrated back into the game and tested, as is the practice in software localization. This testing ensures the proper functioning of the localized product (functional testing) and verifies that the translation fits the intended context (linguistic testing). Linguistic testing is especially challenging as translators often work with extracted strings without context and games have a non-linear structure, which makes it difficult to verify the accuracy of the translation.
Voice acting is another significant component of game localization. Depending on the game, we may offer voice over services to give your game’s characters a more authentic feel. This involves recording the voice overs in the target language, ensuring that the characters’ speech sounds natural and fluent.
If requested, we offer Desktop Publishing (DTP) services for physical aspects of your game, such as packaging, art booklet, coupons, and collectibles. Our team ensures that all physical materials are accurately translated, formatted, and designed to cater to the local language and culture for the best gaming experience.
What are game assets? Which game assets need to be localized?
Game assets encompass a variety of elements that make up a video game, including graphics, audio and sound effects, music, scripts, in-game text, art and cinematic assets, as well as other materials, all of which must be adapted for localization and integrated seamlessly into the game code using specialized software.
Additional components may also need translation, such as the readme file, marketing releases, official website, online help, and strategy guides. Localization efforts may also extend beyond simple translation, requiring modifications to game characters, animations, mechanics, and difficulty levels for a complete experience.
How are game assets extracted for translation?
One of the first steps in game localization is extracting the text and audio files from the game engine – the software framework that powers the game and provides the tools and features for creating and running the game. Various techniques are used to extract text and audio files from game engines, depending on the file format, encryption method, or game engine type.
Game engine developers provide built-in or external tools to export or import these files in a simple manner. Unreal Engine uses UnrealEd, while Unity provides a tool called Localization Manager to export/import CSV text files into the game.
Third-party or custom-made tools can also be created by localization professionals or developers if the tools provided by the game engine are outdated or insufficient. For instance, RPG Maker Trans is a third-party tool used to extract text files from RPG Maker.
However, sometimes, manual or semi-automated methods that require human input can be deployed for game engines with proprietary or complicated file formats. Such processes may include opening each file individually in a text editor and copying its content into another file.
What are the common file formats used for extracting in-game text assets?
Some commonly used file formats for extracting in-game text assets include XSLX, CSV, XML, JSON, INI, and TXT files.
• XSLX (Excel) and CSV (Comma Separated Values) – These are spreadsheet file formats that can be used to store large amounts of data. Excel and CSV files are commonly used for localization in Unity, Unreal Engine, and CryEngine.
• XML (Extensible Markup Language) – XML is another structured file format that is commonly used for game translation. It allows for more complex structures and can support multiple languages. XML files are commonly used for localization in older game engines.
• JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) – This is a lightweight data interchange format that stores data in a human-readable format. JSON files are commonly used for localization in web applications and mobile games.
• INI (Initialization) – INI files are simple text files that store configuration data. They are commonly used for game localization because they are easy to read and edit.
• TXT (Text) – Text files are another commonly used format for game localization. They are straightforward and don’t require any special software to open or edit.
How does game translation differ from other types of translation?
Game translation can differ from other types of translation in several aspects.
Firstly, the files received for translation and delivery in game localization are often unique to gaming and can come in various formats such as XML, JSON, CVS, and TXT. These formats include both game text and code and may require the translators to be proficient in both areas.
Handling tags in game translation can also be a challenge, as these tags define the context in which the text appears in-game and need to be translated correctly. Post-translation integration of the translated files requires extensive testing as even a small error in the code can break the game.
Linguistic testing and QA testing are also important parts of game translation, ensuring that the translated text works seamlessly within the game environment. Voice acting services may also be required to record in-game dialogues.
In the case of board games, DTP (Desktop Publishing) services may also be needed to ensure that all the elements of the game are accurately translated, formatted, and placed for the final product.
For these reasons, game translation requires a specialized skill set and expertise.
We’re always here to help if you have any questions or concerns about game translation, so please feel free to reach out via our Get a Quote page!
Are there any differences between translating games and translating apps or websites?
In terms of browser-based games or mobile games, the translation process is similar to that of web or app translation. However, the difference lies in the translation of PC and console games, as well as board games. These types of games typically involve more complex graphics, game mechanics, and storytelling elements that require a specialized approach to translation.
Our team of experienced game translators can handle all types of game translation projects, ensuring accurate, culturally nuanced translations that truly resonate with your target audience. Visit our Get a Quote page and share your project details with us today. We can’t wait to get started on bringing your vision to life!
What advantages does partnering with a full-service translation agency or game localization company offer over conventional translation agencies that primarily focus on document translation?
Partnering with a game localization company or a full-service translation agency like Thao & Company provides you with unique benefits.
With us, you get a team that can interact better with game developers or production companies, ensuring that the translation process goes smoothly. Our in-house developers can help with text extraction or post-translation integration, making sure everything works seamlessly.
We also understand game translation, its unique challenges, and how to tackle them, ensuring that your game reaches the widest possible audience. With our help, you can be confident that your game will be localized to the highest quality standards. Head over to our Get a Quote page and tell us about your game project to get a free quote!
What’s unique about game translators? How do you recruit them?
Game translators are unique in that they possess both a deep understanding of language and culture, as well as a passion for gaming. This combination of skills and knowledge allows them to translate game content accurately and effectively while also ensuring that the intended tone and style of the game are preserved for players around the world. Game translators are not simply linguists, they are also gamers at heart, which gives them the ability to relate to the intended audience and provide a localized gaming experience that truly resonates with players.
When recruiting game translators, we look for linguists who possess a strong passion for gaming, as well as a deep understanding of language and culture. We typically look for candidates with a degree in translation studies or linguistics, along with extensive experience translating game content. Additionally, we also conduct game-specific translation tests to ensure that our game translators have the necessary skills to accurately and effectively translate various types of gaming content.
At Thao & Co., we are committed to providing our clients with the highest quality game translation services, and we take great care in selecting the most qualified and experienced linguists to join your game translation project!
How do you ensure your translations would be appealing to gamers?
Our team of qualified and experienced game translators is committed to ensuring that our translations appeal to gamers. We understand that the language used in gaming is often unique and specific, requiring a deep understanding of the gaming culture and audience. To ensure the appeal of our word choices, we conduct Consumer Language Research© upon request. This research helps us to understand the preferences and language used by gamers, allowing us to choose translations that are both accurate and appealing. Depending on the characteristics of the project, we can also work with local research agencies to conduct Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) or In-depth Interviews with gamers. This process allows us to gauge the language used by gamers and finalize translation options for key translations. Need more information? Visit our Get a Quote page and leave your game project detail for a free consultation!
What are the translation rates for games? How long does it take to complete a game translation project?
The fee and time required for game translation depend on various factors such as the length of the content, the complexity of the game, the languages involved, and the urgency of the project.
Additionally, the level of support required, such as text extraction, integration, QA testing, voice acting, DTP (Desktop Publishing), and other related services, may also impact the rates and delivery timelines.
Our goal is to provide our clients with timely and cost-effective game translation solutions without compromising on quality. To provide a more accurate estimate, we would need to assess your specific requirements and workload. Please feel free to contact us via our Get a Quote page. We will get back to you with a tailored solution to meet your game translation and localization needs.
Do you provide translation services for game production studios in terms of marketing content, blog articles, social media content, etc.?
Yes, Thao & Company offers a wide range of language services for game production studios. We specialize in providing high-quality translations for various types of content, including marketing materials, blog articles, and social media posts. Head over to our Get a Quote page to discuss how we can help you effectively communicate your message to your target audience.
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