Last December I had the pleasure of meeting Gearbox Software’s Micahel Weber at the Game QA and Localization Summit in San Francisco. During one of the discussion seminars he posed an encouraging question: with tight deadlines, and games often seeing last minute changes to text and art assets, how can developers help their localization vendor work efficiently to deliver a quality product?
It’s an encouraging question that shows localization is being considered in earlier phases of development, so in response we have crafted five content management strategies that can help your vendors ensure your game is a hit in whatever markets you explore.
1. Arrange your files into categories
Good content management begins with an organized file structure. While it might seem like an obvious point, arranging files into clearly defined categories – such as, items, NPC names, location names, quest text, voice over text, etc. – is often overlooked under the pressure of a tight delivery schedule. Taking the time to organize files into categories has a number of time and money saving benefits. First, it allows your vendor to easily create a glossary and style guide that will ultimately ensure consistency in translations, naming conventions, and overall tone. A well-organized file structure also makes it easier for automation during quality assurance checks, reducing the turnaround while still maintaining a high quality localization.
2. Clearly mark deprecated text or text susceptible to change
The last minute nature of the game development process, particularly where certification and submissions are concerned, means that text will often change or be entirely removed. Unfortunately this can lead to a lot of confusion in the translation process, and retroactive changes can be time consuming and costly.
To solve the problem, vulnerable text should be clearly marked or separated from text that has received the final stamp of approval. This can be done by color coding the text, leaving comments, or using translation software, such as TRADOS or MemoQ, to lock vulnerable strings until they are ready for translation and review.
3. Use easily manageable file formats and include meta-data
The file format you choose to deliver your content to your vendor has a significant impact on project scheduling. Delivering files in a difficult format, such as Excel, can create delays as the data must then be extracted and re-engineered into a format that translation software can read.
As a rule, it is best to discuss with your vendor which file type is most ideal, but when in doubt either plain text or XML is the best option. Both allow for easy formatting that can cut out hours, and sometimes days, of work. These formats also allow for the easy addition of meta-data, a helpful, and often ignored, tool in providing information to translators. This can include speaker information, such as gender and age, quest information such as objectives and location, or other useful information to help clarify the context of any particular string.
4. Organize text chronologically
The larger the volume of text you have, the more frequently your localization team is going to need to cross-reference information to ensure consistency throughout the project. Meta-data goes a long way to help here, but it is also best to organize your text in narrative blocks as it appears in the game. This will also help in the testing phase when editors may need to go back and change text, making it much easier to find.
5. Have an open Q&A platform to solve problems and answer questions
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, keep an open dialogue with your vendor. Your localization team and translators should be asking questions (if they don’t, consider it a red flag), and they will need an easily accessible platform to manage their queries. Smartsheet, Google Docs, Bugzilla, and Redmine are all valuable tools for creating query boards and bug tracking. These should be supplemented with frequent face-to-face meetings (or video conferencing) to make sure that your project is on schedule and meeting quality expectations.
If you have any comments or questions about this post, feel free to comment below, or email Curtis File at firstname.lastname@example.org