Localization, as a required element of global game publishing, has been around for decades. It used to be simple: develop your game in its
originating language, then translate the text for consumption in other languages. However, the modern game landscape has changed the
way games are played, with active, ongoing titles receiving numerous updates over their lifecycle. This has required the localization
process to undergo a similar change, from static to dynamic.
Continuous Localization is the practice of pushing out smaller, targeted localization updates to a live game when the game in question generates new content. Executing on this strategy is not a simple task, but it can be managed with careful consideration. PTW’s Senior Director of Localization, Loreto Sanz Fueyo presented on this topic with Gábor Kovács, Game Localization Expert at memoQ. They discussed the proper strategy for maintaining continuous localization in a sustainable way.
“Involving the Loc team early means you know how it can affect the dev process, who is
involved, how long will it take, what's the cost, etc.” Gábor agrees: “The loc team will ask you questions you might not have thought about.
They may not know how much time good translation requires, so it's good to get that sorted early.”
Indeed, live games get constant updates, so it’s important to know the planned schedule far ahead of time so resources can be prepared in advance. Early updates, event updates, DLC, weeklies, whatever the content is, support is only possible when all factors are accounted for. In this, automation and integration are vital. Gábor says “Automate as much of the file flow as possible. Files come from different sources: files get put on FTP, text gets exported from a CMS into GitHub or you can have an API connection, all of which direct the text to memoQ to process. This means you can send the text directly to memoQ from a number of sources, depending on the content type. Without automation and integration, this becomes an arduous process.”
Unfortunately, it’s easy to break this automation. Changing logins, two-factor authentication, changing IP address, migrating to an alternate source system entirely… there are numerous ways to throw a wrench into an otherwise functional process flow. A new system with new integration, combined with the client’s demand to have things immediately, can break integration. At that point, the process would need to be managed by hand, which is more time consuming and error prone. File structure and naming conventions are at risk, and even minor changes need to be manually managed to maintain the integrity of the workflow.
In the process of developing a functional workflow, there are also tech considerations to be aware of: character and line counts, variables, line
breaks, gender, tags; these are usually defined in the configuration of the file. But the parties involved must agree on specifics. Gábor notes “The
goal is to standardize the structure of every file that comes your way. Set up everything in advance. Changing things mid-project can be a pain.”
“Line spacing: space on screen is at a premium. Should we employ auto-wrapping or not? What happens when there are unbreakable spaces, like in French? Do we put the last word on the next line? Do we need translators or linguists to insert the line break manually? When thinking about on-screen space, is it 20 characters per line? Or is it a fixed number of pixels? This must be accounted for ahead of time.”
An additional consideration for continuous localization are so-called “pivot languages”: non-English sources that are translated into English, then that English into other languages. Gábor says “It’s way easier to find linguists working with, let’s say, Korean-to-English and English-to-Turkish language pairs than Turkish translators translating from Korean directly. It’s a common practice to use placeholder English to see what it looks like on-screen, then translate to the actual English, then to other languages. The challenge is that you need to maintain two text databases in parallel. Version control can be challenging.”
Summing it all up, continuous localization will only become more prevalent, as the trend for games to always be online continues and the ecosystem grows richer. Games-as-a-service (GaaS) require constant updates to keep players interested and invested. GaaS accounts for over half of projected game revenue for the year. Updates are frequent, low in word count, and it’s common to see weekly updates of 100 words translated into 10-15 languages. The takeaway is to automate as much as possible. CMS tools should ideally connect automatically into your CAT tool of choice. Configure updates to occur automatically whenever possible, so you don't spend precious project manager time performing manual tasks.