Localization is one of those things that most players never think about unless it’s awful, much like game UI or camera systems. The difference is that the localization work tends to be done by groups external to the game’s core development team. This is because the localization usually doesn’t need to happen until after all of the game’s text is locked down and audio is recorded, which doesn’t usually happen until late in the project. The localization team is usually attached to the publisher (and part of the cert team) since they can have one group of experts work on multiple games, rather than having to partition a (publisher-wise redundant) group of each development team to do localization and certification must be obtained for each language the game ships.
What the dev team needs to do is create a system for handling audio, text, and timing. Cinematics and conversations tend to be timed for the beats from a specific language, which means that another language with a different rhythm may not work as well. Imagine needing to time an explosion or environmental activity to a specific line. Well, in English that line might occur 17.35 seconds into the dialogue, but in German it might be 21.72 seconds in. The system needs to be able to handle variable lengths like that, as well as handle text that’s baked into textures and such too. There’s a lot more that goes into it than just taking a text identifier and pull the appropriate line in the appropriate language for it from a spreadsheet or database or something (though this needs to be done as well). These are tasks the dev team need to do. It isn’t up to the dev team to fill out the database completely though - they usually fill it out with whatever their lead language is, and then the rest of it gets filled out by the localization team.
The dev team will also (rarely) be responsible for content concerns on specific platforms. This is very very rare, but it does happen on occasion. For example, the government of the People’s Republic of China had content requirements that had to be met, or they wouldn’t allow the game to run within their borders. World of Warcraft had to make several specific content changes, including getting rid of all skeletons and skeletal type content.
It is the localization team’s job to make sure that all of the text and audio gets filled in correctly. There is also often some creative editing/translation of some of the text in order to make lines fit on screen while retaining the correct context. For example, the line “Hello, how are you?” in English is “Hallo, wie geht’s ihnen?” in German. It might look somewhat similar, but there are 20 characters in the English string (including spaces and punctuation), and 24 in German. What if those extra 4 characters push you over the length of the line? What if they go past the total size of the allotted space for text on screen? You may end up with phrases or sentences covering each other up, and that’s a cert violation. The primary job of localization is “Make it fit while retaining the context”. Retaining that context is the hard part and why so many localizations aren’t very good.
If you’re working in localization, you’ll almost certainly never be working on a cool new feature. However, what you will do from day to day is coming up with creative and efficient ways to bring the cultural context of stories and phrases to other languages. It’s not the most glamorous job in the world, but it is a very necessary and one millions of people will likely utilize (if not necessarily appreciate).
Loc people are some of my favorite people to work with. It’s a hard job, often unsung and usually under the tightest of deadlines, and they do it so, so well.
Localization is a freaking art form and I am so fascinated with it. Did you know Final Fantasy VI's Terra is named “Tina” in Japan? It's Terra on the Western front. In both instances, the priority was a name that sounded to be “Not from around here”.
FFVI gets a lot of well-deserved praise, but when talking about video games in any sort of academic pipe-smoking, vest-wearing perspective, it’s important to focus on how one thing that made FFVI great was the U.S. Localizer’s choice to change Kefka’s dialogue. In the Japanese version, Kefka’s a pretty straight-up and serious villain. The choice to make him “Anime Joker” happened during the move over here.
It’s a wonderful topic and I love it.
This is one of those ideas where some person was like “Hehe, this might be silly.” And then struck fucking gold.
ah you’re playing dragon age? i love those games. the way those dragons just [clenches fist] frickin age
do i have a crush on you or am i just lonely
do i like you or do i like that you like medo I like you or do I like the idea of you
do i want to be in a relationship or do i just want to prove that i’m worthy of one
WTF I LIETERALLY THOUGHT IT WAS ABOUT DOGS UNTIL NOW I AM 20 YEARS OLD
of course it was, why would he actually sing about real dogs and why they got out
No it isn’t. It’s actually talking about the men who predate upon women in clubs, calling them dogs, not ‘ugly women’. Just look at the lyrics:
And tell the fellas stop the name callin’
Yepee ah yo
Then them girls respond to the call
I hear a woman shout out
Who let the dogs out
Woof, woof, woof, woof, woof
Or if that isn’t clear enough for you that it’s women quite clearly calling the men dogs then read this next bit:
Get back gruffy, mash scruffy
Get back you flea infested mongrel
Now I tell meh self dem man go get angry
Ah yepee ah yo
To hear them girls calling them canine
It’s saying that men who attack women for being ‘ugly’ or refuse to leave them alone are worse than stray mongrels! It plainly points out that women do not want or appreciate the attention and so taunt them with the verse of ‘who let the dogs out’ because they are both unable to control themselves and vile little creatures. Learn to do some fucking research.
JRPGs are the last true art form