When Johnnemann Nordhagen brought his team together to make Gone Home, he did it from the basement of a shared rental house with nothing more than a small savings account and a dream. That dream became one of last year’s greatest localization stories as he turned Gone Home into an award winning, multi-lingual success.
His localization budget? $0.
At GDC 2014, Nordhagen revealed the secrets to success behind the crowdsourcing translation of one of the best games of 2013. In this post we’ll cover the lessons learned from Gone Home’s localization and whether or not crowdsourcing can work for you.
Lessons from crowdsourcing Gone Home’s localization
The first, and most obvious, problem when crowdsourcing anything is forming the crowd. First and foremost, your game has to be interesting and exciting enough for people to rally around. Use Kickstarter, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, news outlets, and any other media to form a community around your game, and make sure you promote ownership of their work. Don’t forget to give credit where credit is due.
Second, if you are going the route of crowdsourcing, do it early and do it right. Make lots of documentation to help provide your translators fill in context gaps and solve technical issues. Using plain-text files (XML for subtitles) is easiest for editing. There are a number of other technical considerations you will have to make before starting as well. For example, will you localize voice acting, or make subtitles? How will you handle baked-in text? (Gone Home solved this problem with overlays). Lay out these problems beforehand so that you won’t be surprised by them later. Some problems may not have easy fixes.
Nordhagen said that crowdsourcing localization ultimately meant a very simple dictionary where changes in the source text resulted in un-localized versions in the target. Some languages presented font difficulties and UI spacing forced translations to be shortened rather fixing the UI. Crowdsourcing also meant they didn’t have enough testing and there was no support on launch. Keep these problems in mind when you decide how you will localize your games.
Can crowdsourcing work for everyone?
The Gone Home example provides hope for developers on a budget, but in the larger picture, crowdsourcing is not likely to replace traditional models of localization. First, it requires that you build a community around your game; a community dedicated enough to take time to help you. In the PC gaming world this is much easier to create than in the mobile market, where the majority of gamers are more casual and only spend a few minutes a day on any given game. If you are going the crowdsourcing route, be prepared to put more resources – money, time, and people – into community management and foster a strong following for your game.
The technical issues presented by crowdsourcing may also present a number of problems when localizing higher budget titles where accuracy and testing are a higher stakes game. This goes double for Asian translations where font and UI become much bigger problems.
For the time being, crowdsourcing is a great option for indie devs on a shoe-string budget, but If you have the budget to pay for localization, it is an investment worth making.
What do you think about crowdsourcing translations? Can it work for everyone or is it just for indies? Leave a comment or tweet @CurtisFile. Make sure to follow us on LinkedIn to get more updates!
*To see more about the localization of Gone Home visit the GDC Vault at: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1020097/Crowdsourcing-the-Localization-of-Gone