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New challenges in interactive media & video game localization projects

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How are globalization, technology and the rise of social networks and virtual communities affecting interactive media localization projects? Globalization and the increased access to new technology have opened new opportunities but also bring quite a few new challenges.


The game localization process cannot be considered at the end of the game production cycle anymore. Code and content internationalization has to be considered since the very beginning of the design process. Awareness of international requirements needs to be present at an early stage of the game creation.

Of course localization approaches vary depending on the specific needs and the global ambition of the developer. New online project management and collaboration tools, combined with an easier outsourcing, makes the creation of global teams possible for companies of all sizes. Many of the tasks that big developers could only perform in-house, now can be taken care by all types of external vendors. Cloud computing and virtualization is an important enabler of this trend.

The amount of content that needs to be localized has increased significantly. Developers and distributors need to consider alternative approaches for different types of content. Wikis, Forums and online Guides can now be managed by the players themselves. Those who consider Crowdsourcing as a cost saving approach are failing, while those who enable fan participation and use this approach to create a sense of community are creating solid networks of contributors and buyers.

An easier access to international markets also brings new challenges. A direct translation is not valid anymore to engage costumers. Players need to feel they are taken into consideration in the games they chose to play. Culturalization checks are now crucial, not because of legislation, but because a crowd of game players is scrutinizing every single detail. Localizers and developers have to work together in order to produce a set of products that will please the different markets. Localizers need to be proactive and propose changes, while developers need to code with a conscience that their game will need local adaptations.


The session will explore the mentioned topics and trends and will provide guidance on what works and what doesn’t. The reasons why a new global, community driven, and locally adapted mindset is necessary to succeed in such a competitive industry will be analyzed.

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New challenges in interactive media & video game localization projects

  1. 1. Víctor Alonso Lion @valion Localization Consultant New Challenges in Interactive Media Localization Projects New Challenges in The purpose of this talk is Interactive Media to try to explain the changes localization is Localization Projects living nowadays. We are in an environment of continuous change. And these changes are definitely going to continue I International Conference on Video Game and Virtual with, in addition, an Worlds Translation and exponential increase of Accessibility changing speed. Faculty of Translation and Interpreting Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
  2. 2. These changes are in fact, at least I understand it this way, a great opportunity to those willing to reconsider their processes, those ready to reconsider what is “the right way” of doing things today, and those who are open to check new ideas and transform them in new opportunities. Those who are open to press the reset button from time to time are the ones that will adapt the better to all changes.
  3. 3. I strongly believe that interactive media and new media localization is the part of our industry that has the most potential to enable research, and change. This due to the fact that Interactive Media and Video Games in particular offer a framework which is at all times at the edge of new technology. Interactive Media content localizers could be the ones that will lead the “localization revolution”.
  4. 4. So what is going on in our environment? What is exactly this strange ecosystem we are working in today in new media localization? We will first try to describe this Ecosystem and a few of the enablers or facilitators of this change.
  5. 5. Enabler # 1: Global Playground It is of course no news anymore that we live in a global world. Interactions come and go in seconds from Beijing to San Francisco, from Berlin to Barcelona, or Singapore to Dublin This is of course a general trend in all content related industries, nothing specifically particular for localization professionals or professionals working on interactive media. Still it is radical change important to note.
  6. 6. Increased access to new technology Enabler # 2: Global Increase of technological access And we are only at the beginning of this. A second enabler we can mention which is going to facilitate this "revolution": The raise of broadband connectivity will definitively give access and open collaboration channels to millions we do not even consider today. This will bring not only significant content changes, but also new competition in all areas.
  7. 7. Enabler # 3 (1): Social Media Landscape: We have given ourselves (developers by creating it and users by adopting it) a layer of worldwide interactions: social media. We can see this as simply a layer of new communication channels. Videogames, social games and Virtual worlds play a crucial part in all this.
  8. 8. Enabler # 3 (2): Social Media Landscape: Interactions are not preprogrammed (they can be designed however), and can be triggered by the community itself. In addition, a new layer is coming. It's basically a gaming layer (ref. Jesse Schell : Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center); or as I prefer to call it, an "interactive layer". This new upcoming layer is here to stay and will influence many other areas. I believe education and eLearning will be the first ones to join “this game”.
  9. 9. The challenges
  10. 10. CHALLENGE -1-
  11. 11. Challenge #1: Preparation Localization cannot be an afterthought: “Got my English/Japanese stuff and now let's try to sell this somewhere else. Lets make it French, Spanish .... Germany is a pretty big market too... “ The bad news is that you will not make it on time anymore. Costumers do not really wait, and the most common situation today is that a new thing will come out while you are working on making your media international and you will lose you buzz timeframe for making your project a success.
  12. 12. Localizers and developers have to work together in order to produce a set of products that will please the different markets. Localizers need to be proactive and propose changes, while developers need to code with a conscience that their game will need local adaptations. As mentioned Code and content internationalization has to be considered since the very beginning. Awareness of international requirements needs to be present at an early stage of the game creation in order to facilitate a smooth internationalization process. GAME DEVELOPMENT PROCESS Pre- Post- Concept Design Production Launch Production Production INTERNATIONALIZATION AND LOCALIZATION PROCESS Localization related Engineering & Technical Procurement Internationalization Localization Testing International Launch
  13. 13. CHALLENGE -2-
  14. 14. Challenge #2: Flexibility Not many projects come as a big bunch of files that you have to deal with and organize the translation from there. Your process has to be ready for working in iterations. If you allow the project management analogy, no waterfall project will work, but an agile approach will suit the process better. You have to be ready to process your files on a batch basis. Still of course, it is crucial to offer a solid ground: process to handle style, glossaries, etc... No matter if you are a freelance translator, a team, or a company. Your structure and way of working has to be flexible. © Disney
  15. 15. CHALLENGE -3-
  16. 16. Challenge #3: No static content This is the most important trend we have seen lately. Games can be internationalized and even ready for localization, with even an early involvement of localization teams (no matter if internal or external); the new challenge of continues change is here. Not even AAAs with years of previous development are static anymore. NextGen consoles allow for DLC content. And we are not talking only about MMOs who by themselves are really virtual worlds.... Those changes evolve and create new content everyday.
  17. 17. CHALLENGE -4-
  18. 18. Challenge #4: Community owned content But how is this interactive media changing? The community is starting to have influence in the content: Source and Translation. Do you know what is the 2nd biggest wiki in the world? WOW wiki, just after wikipedia, with 80k articles (June 2010) Which is kind of amazing. Think of it. People creating content and more content on information of a world that is not real. The input of the final user reaches much easily the clients, Community owns the content the developers. The community somehow decides what the today. Not the technicians. next expansion will look like, what developers will create, Community owns the content what kind of characters are more popular and which ones but is even influencing the will not be attractive. This input comes from this social way we localize it. network layer we have created ( and we all have somehow created it: even if only by our participation).
  19. 19. CHALLENGE -5-
  20. 20. Challenge #5: Massive content In the early days of interactive media, there was not much content to localize. The idea of a game was that a game needed to be simple and global since its more basic design. You needed to please everybody with a few basic concepts. The amount of content that needs to be localized has increased significantly. Developers and distributors need to consider alternative approaches for different types of content. Wikis, forums and online guides can even be managed Images copyright: by the players themselves. But those who Lego© consider Crowdsourcing as a cost saving Microsoft © approach, are failing. Those who enable CDC Games© NetGame © fan participation and use this approach to Blizzard© create a sense of community are creating CCP Games© solid networks of contributors and buyers.
  21. 21. CONTENT is what WE CARE ABOUT • Big RPGs and MMOs + 1 Mio. Words Mio. • AAA Game About 500k words to translate 300k words to dub. dub. (20 blockbuster movies). movies). 50 dubbing actors per language • Social games (250 studio hours) hours) 1k words • Basic games No l10n
  22. 22. CHALLENGE -6-
  23. 23. Challenge #6: Security In the past, to secure the assets trusted by the client you had or had to have a locked room, or to heavily trust your external and internal team. There were unavoidable licks in security. This forced many developers to bring production in-house, with all the cost that generated by having a complete international localization team internally.
  24. 24. Today technology has brought us what we were strongly looking for... virtualization. Today we can ensure files will never ever go out of our network and still enable an external collaborator to access them with the rights we need to give them. Basically, with virtualization you can ensure no assets, tools, content ever, never, leaves your server. Being able to work with this technology will increase your chances of clients trusting you their content assets.
  25. 25. CHALLENGE -7-
  26. 26. Challenge #7: Collaboration You need to have buddies. You won’t be able to do it alone. Massive content leads to increased process control. You will need to share glossaries, discuss terminology and share your style guides. Collaboration tools like wikis, discussion forums, tools to share files are absolutely mandatory nowadays. And if your clients are still not using these tools at the moment... they will.
  27. 27. CHALLENGE -8-
  28. 28. Challenge #8: Technology One important thing I say to people that wants to enter the loc field is... you need to be up to date on technology, you need to be friends with it. Technology is your essential everyday tool. You need to master not only related technology, but also be a master in the use of this social layer mentioned before. You simply will not perform right if you work on an industry , supposed to be at the edge of new tech, without being yourself open to test, try and invest time in researching new approaches everyday. Its challenging, but definitely worth the effort. You will need to understand how your content is built, understand automated language strings, on-the –fly messages at least a few basics of language engineering. Even if it is only to explain to your clients engineers, what they can and cannot do with the content if it is supposed to be localized.
  29. 29. CHALLENGE -9-
  30. 30. Challenge #9: Transparency Of course localization approaches vary depending on the specific needs and the global ambition of the developer. New online project management and collaboration tools, combined with an easier outsourcing, makes the creation of global teams possible for companies of all sizes. An interesting and challenging consequence of this is that you wont be able to hide the way you are working, who your collaborators or outsourcers are... who your partners are. Its very clear if you are a MLV, your local partners will probably need to work with local PR and Marketing teams of the final client. The same can happen if you are a team of translators: you may need to work together at client premises to test the game, .. or clients will require each contributor to sign a personal NDA... We should better work on this, specially companies. Control will not work anymore in such a connected world.
  31. 31. CHALLENGE -10- 10-
  32. 32. Challenge #10: Engagement If you want to engage your players you will need to understand them. You will need to know them deeply and know the tricks that will make them love your work. For translators you need to be awesome writers /copywriters. Know when to use an expression closer to marketing and when to use a more creative and literature like style. Direct translation is not valid anymore to engage costumers. Players need to feel they are taken into consideration in the games they chose to play. You will need to adapt to your local and culture not because of legislation, but because a crowd of game players is scrutinizing every single detail of your output. The more popular the game, the more critics you will have. And today, they can use social media as “loud speakers” to spread their message (positive or negative). Users are fans and emotionally bound to the product. They could really feel spoiled and disappointed if a game translation, voice over or functionality in a specific language is not working properly.
  33. 33. Conclusion: So how can we deal with this environment of continuous change? I personally believe Project Management is a strategic competency essential not only for companies working on localization but even for the freelance working on smaller projects or on a specific tasks. Project management as the disciplineof addressing and navigating change, risk and opportunity. The technician cannot work in his own silo anymore, and needs to understand the overall needs of the client, understand the “why” of this continuously changing environment. We need to adapt, we need to be connected, we need continuous communication and be open to change the way we work. We all better be adaptable to change.
  34. 34. www.pinknoise.es Víctor Alonso Lion Twitter: Twitter: @valion Personal blog: www.globalcontentstrategy.com Find me on: on: Linkedin

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