Tame Wild Writers with a Style Guide

A writer’s room without a style guide is like the wild west: cowboys making their own rules, lawlessness and grammatical errors, and gunfights at the OK corral. Alright, the last one might be a bit of a stretch, but the other points still stand. This article discusses how to bring law and order to your writer’s room through a codified manual of style. This process might not be easy, and you may have a few showdowns at high noon, but in the end you’ll end up with a functional community of writers all working towards the same goal.

Finding Support

The most essential, and perhaps hardest, part of writing a style guide is receiving support from your company. Of course, your company would love a style guide to flash to clients and keep their writers in line, but they’re not likely to schedule time that could be spent doing billable work making a style guide. So, the first step in creating a style guide is convincing your managers of its worth. Thankfully, style guides offer a number of benefits that appeal to budget-conscious managers.

First, style guides save your team time in the long run. Style guides allow writers to concentrate on the content without being distracted by having to look up documentation and grammar conventions. Furthermore, they don’t need to be extensively briefed on matters of style when taking over a project from another writer. Finally, style guides cut down on debates between writers (at least the ones concerning grammar and punctuation), which saves everyone a lot of time and a little bit of tension in the office.

Second, style guides develop a brand that your company can leverage. Many companies, including Latis Global Communications, employ multiple writers at any given time. Often, there’s no guarantee that we can assign all of the projects from as client to a single writer, so the style used for a user’s guide may not match the one used for the accompanying administration manual. In fact, even the titling conventions may differ! A comprehensive style guide, well implemented, ensures that the style and voice of the writing remains consistent throughout all of a company’s projects.

Getting Started

After you’ve convinced your boss that a style guide is a valuable tool, you face another sizable challenge: the writer’s room. Writers – whether technical or not – hold fast to their views, especially with matters of grammar and punctuation. My first time implementing a style guide, I decided no harm could come from a simple open forum among the writers to start things off. Of course, the forum quickly dissolved into a generational battle about issues such as contractions in manuals and ending sentences with prepositions, so this was not the smartest option.

Instead, you should appoint someone to act as a style sheriff. The style sheriff is responsible for writing and maintaining the style guide as well as settling disputes regarding style issues. The style sheriff should have an eye for details and a genuine interest in matters of style. Look for the writer with the most well-worn copy of Struck and White. It also helps if the sheriff is appointed by someone in charge, such as a division head or team manager, in order to avoid some of the disputes that are bound to arise with one writer dictating matters of style to the others.

As their first action, the style sheriff should choose a base style guide to inform their decisions. The most popular style guides for the IT market are the IBM Style Guide: Conventions for Writers and Editors and the Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications. The former advocates a tone similar to that used in academic writing, while the latter promotes a more conversational tone. Either style guide is acceptable. However, these style guides should only inform stylistic decisions. The lengths of these style guides (389 pages and 464 pages, respectively) make them difficult to memorize for new writers. 20-30 pages is a better length for an internal style guide because new writers can easily digest it in a night and master it in a week.

Depending on your industry, you may want to consider authoring a glossary in conjunction with the style guide. The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications contains a substantial glossary of user-facing technical terms. However, you may want to use a more technical glossary, such as the IEEE Standard Glossary of Software Engineering Terminology, or even a controlled language glossary, such as glossary found in the Aerospace and Defense Simplified Technical English standard. Whichever you choose, you should treat the glossary in much the same manner as the base style guide. That is, you should incorporate entries from the base glossary into an internal glossary that contains only those entries relevant to your company in order to enhance the usability of the glossary. Tips on how to create a glossary will be covered in a future blog entry.

Lists and Meetings

After selecting a base style guide, you can start considering what to include in your internal style guide. Include too many topics, and users won’t be able to effectively memorize the style guide. Include too few topics, and users won’t be able to find the answers they need.

A good strategy when first developing your style guide is to list all of the topics covered in the base style guide. Then, armed with this list, review three or four recent projects and check off any style topics that match aspects of the project. For example, if the projects contain tables, then, naturally, you should check off the topics related to tables in your list. Finally, create a new list that includes only the checked off topics.

Distribute this list among the writers at your company, and then organize a meeting at which the writers can propose new topics. You should also allow the writers to vote on grammar and style issues that may be particularly contentious, such as ending sentences with prepositions and the use of Oxford commas. At the conclusion of the meeting (or series of meetings) you should know the topics that your style guide will contain as well as your company’s stance on most style issues.

Writing the Style Guide

After determining what your style guide will cover, you can finally start the fun part: Making decisions about grammar and punctuation. If that doesn’t sound like fun, then you may want to step down as style sheriff or risk a showdown when you can’t justify not using the Oxford comma.

Each entry in an internal style guide should state a specific rule, outline some of the exceptions to that rule, and then provide an example highlighting the rule. As in the following:

Compound Nouns

Avoid using more than three nouns when creating compound nouns. Use prepositions to clarify noun clusters.

Examples

(O) Maintenance procedure for the operator area

(X) Operator area maintenance procedure

The style guide should abide by the same formatting and style that it recommends. This allows writers to infer answers to style questions while reading, which saves time when looking up multiple issues. Furthermore, your style guide should be just as readable as any other document that you produce. So, it needs an appropriate amount of white space, pages that readers can scan easily, and an intuitive structure. Finally, formatting your style guide in this way ensures that all of your company’s internal documents, such as standard operating procedures and employee handbooks, have a consistent style and appearance.

In addition, you should author your style guide using the software most often used by your company. For example, if your company uses Microsoft Word, then you shouldn’t author your style guide in Pages. Furthermore, you shouldn’t author your style guide using a tool or markup language that is unfamiliar to members of your team. For example, if your team regularly authors documents in XML, then it wouldn’t make sense to author your style guide in Markup.

Distributing the Style Guide

After writing the style guide, determine whether your writing team would benefit most from a physical copy of the style guide, an electronic copy of the style guide, or both. If publishing the style guide electronically, select a format that uses a program openly available to your writers, such as PDF. If publishing hard copies of the style guide, consider distributing the guides in small binders so that the information can be easily updated without incurring too many additional costs.

You should then distribute the style guide in conjunction with a kickoff meeting involving all of the writers and other personnel that will use the style guide. This meeting should instruct the personnel how to effectively apply the style guide to their writing and the scope to which it applies. For example, you should specify whether the style guide applies to all documents and written correspondences or only those that the customer will see. You should also specify who will update the style guide and how personnel will be notified of such updates.

Conclusion

A good style guide can help you bring law and order to an unruly community of writers. However, implementing a style guide requires tenacity, strength, and the support of your company. It also helps if you’re organized and have a plan of action. I’ve armed you with the plan, so it’s time for you to strap on that sheriff’s badge and set the town straight.

Korean Startups

The startup culture is slowly starting to spread from its locus in the Silicon Valley. It’s even reached the CJK countries (China Japan Korea), which were locations infamous for their general disregard of startups as a legitimate source of business.

Below is a collection of excerpts that summarize this nascent trend in Korea:

WSJ: Next Wave of Startups in Korea

That’s no longer a problem. So far this year, venture-capital investment in Korea’s tech industry has reached $198 million, more than four times that of 2012, according to the Asian Venture Capital Journal. That is a much more dramatic rate of growth than in the larger neighboring countries of Japan and China even though in value terms, it still lags Japan’s $370 million and China’s $3.3 billion.

4x growth, much of it government sponsored as seen by this next quote:

Through one program, called TIPS, or Tech Incubator Program for Startups, South Korea’s Small and Medium Business Administration magnifies startup investments made by venture capitalists whose firms have won designation as qualified investors. For example, if an investor makes a $10,000 investment, the government can pitch in with a five-fold grant of $50,000 — up to a maximum of $500,000.

These sorts of private/public investment combinations have led to a lot of competition for government grants.

Venture Beat: Meet Korea’s Unicorns

Some learnings from the Korean Unicorn Club:

  • Korea is good at software: Many have said that Korea is only good at hardware (think Samsung and LG). However, the data we have gathered shows that that is simply not the case. Koreans have proven they can make good software with great monetization.
  • Gaming is clearly a Korean specialty: Four out of the 10 unicorns are gaming companies (Com2us, NC Soft, Nexon and Smile Gate)

Though this article muddles the line between a startup and the idea of an “established” company, it does neatly summarize the hot spots in the new Korean economy. Games are a big part of this: some of the more recent stars in this field are Fincon and 4:33, companies we will discuss in more detail in later post.

The interesting thing is that these game companies, of which there are rumored to be over 2000 with Korea, have been able to deliver strong performance without a clear strategy for the Western market. Instead, global strategy for Korean game companies focus mostly on South East Asia, China and Japan, as these markets have proven to be fertile fields for growth. Companies that do do well in the West, such as Com2us, have large regional branches located stateside that help smooth the cultural differences between Korea and the West.

Korean companies that don’t have the funds to create their own branch and still wish to reach out to the Western market are often left in a state of befuddlement. At Latis Global, we have expanded our services to include Western-facing global strategy, to not only help these companies reach the west but also to create a standardized, proven process for Western expansion. It’s still a work in progress, but we expect to create and share case studies in the near future. Stay tuned!

-Daniel So

dan.seo@latisglobal.com

Pocket Gamer Partnership: The News Gangnam Style

news-gangnam-style

The Latis Global Communications team is very pleased to announce a partnership with the folks at Steel Media’s, Pocket Gamer Biz. Starting this month, Latis Global will be contributing a bi-monthly article featuring opinion and news on Korea’s mobile game industry. The feature will be called The News Gangnam Style, and will appear in the Pocket Gamer Biz Asia section. The first article, titled China: An opportunity or threat for indie Korean mobile game developers?, was published last week.

Here is an excerpt:

With over 700 games on display and thousands in attendance, the booth girls weren’t the only ones shining the eyes of eager Korean developers at ChinaJoy 2014.

Hopes were high for small and mid-size Korean studios that the conference would open doors to more opportunities than the domestic market.

With over 2,000 studios operating in Korea competing for the top spots in just a few stores, stiff competition has forced smaller developers to start seeking opportunities abroad. While some have set their sights on western audiences, others have looked a little closer to home.

china-joy-booth-girl

But there is a growing sense of concern in Korea that China is becoming more foe than friend in the tech industry.

For smartphones, Xiaomi’s stunningly high-quality phones threaten Samsung’s position as the high-end Android leader.

Kakao and LINE – the darlings of Korea’s industry – are reportedly being blocked in China, in what appears to be a brazen attempt by China to redirect its smartphone users to the indigenous QQ and WeChat platforms.

After the display by Chinese developers at this year’s ChinaJoy, some Korean developers are concerned mobile gaming will see a similar trend, and the Chinese market will change from one of open opportunity to one rife with the same competition they are facing at home.

As Chinese game companies continue to raise the bar on quality, the nature of the relationship between China’s and Korea’s game industries bears examining.

You can read the full article by clicking here.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more great coverage on the Asian game industry!

Com2Us Killing it Without Kakao: How one mobile gaming company is doing it different

com2us-no-kakao

Time and sales have gone on to show that the Kakao platform is an extremely powerful platform when it comes to having a source to deliver games to a wide audience. Successful publishers have fully embraced the Kakao model and their success shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

While using Kakao is a huge advantage to becoming successful in Korea, it is by no means the only route to success. Several publishers are currently experiencing their own brand of success both in Korea, and overseas without relying on KakaoTalk to reach potential customers. Publishers like Com2US have demonstrated how to be successful without Kakao, demonstrating that knowledge of your demographics, a willingness to expand to the international community and giving your player base incentives to stay loyal can allow them to stand their ground against the juggernaut that is Kakao.

In the Beginning

In 1999, Com2US createcom2-us-mobile-gamingd their first mobile phone game and in 2008, produced their first game for smart phones, making them one of the first companies in Korea to successfully tap into the mobile gaming market. Combined with advertising company AdMob, Com2US was able to learn and discover what are now considered essential skills in selling a successful mobile game. Com2US found success by learning how to target consumers by age and gender, essentially targeting people who had not even downloaded the app yet. They learned the importance of tracking and analytics, and were able to quickly identify the difference between success and failure, and therefore learning where to place their focus to optimize profits.

 

The Rise of Kakao

For the next 15 years, Com2US and rival publisher Gamevil would have fierce competition as the mobile market began to take its hold on Korea. Com2US was the first developer to earn 10 billion won in revenue.

This period of success leads us to modern times where Kakao has become a major force in game distribution and the success of Com2US has begun to decline, unable to compete with Kakao’s social based distribution system. Faced with a fierce competition, Com2US was purchased by rivals Gamevil, and the two publishers formed their own distribution platform: HIVE.

HIVE

com2us-hive-logoBoth Com2US and Gamevil’s catalog of titles are available to download from HIVE as well as the applications and features from Com2US’s Hub and Gameevil’s Circle distribution platforms. With HIVE, gamers who enjoy each company’s titles can interact, share, download and create a community around their favorite mobile games. HIVE in essence, is a platform less focused on social interaction and more on communities of like-minded fans and gamers. HIVE caters more to the mid and hard core crowd rather than the casual gamers that Kakao attempts to ensnare, but as stated before, this is a market that is ripe for growth and has proven to be one of the most successful and less crowded areas when it comes to finding success.

 

 

Why Different is Better

While it’s undeniable that Kakao is a highly successful way to distribute games, Com2US has been able to not only hold its own in the crowded mobile market, but remain a strong competitor against Kakao. While it would seem likely that building a service similar to Kakao and then trying to outdo them at their own game would be the route that most developers would attempt to do (and most likely fail at), Com2US has found success by separating itself from the majority and doing something completely different.

As mentioned earlier, HIVE offers a social experience built around the games themselves, offering players to meet each other and form relationships and communities through the games, rather than the other way around, which is how Kakao operates. While this may alienate those who only want to play games as a time waster and little more, those who enjoy the games and those who are fans have an almost guaranteed community of similar individuals from all around the world.

Through HIVE, many of the marketing duties are shared by the two developers along with administration duties such as communities, stats and game updates. Also through HIVE, the developers are allowed to interact with their audience and fans in a way that KakaoTalk does not allow. One example is allowing gamers to participate in open betas and polls, not only giving them a chance to have early access to games, but to allow Com2US to practice that important lesson they learned nearly 15 years ago: finding out what gamers like, and marketing a new title to them early and at the peak of its popularity. Com2US, through years of experience, has realized what many smaller and less experienced developers have not yet grasped: the importance of making new games while their current games are popular and having a marketing campaign that targets current users of a popular game, and therefore linking it to a new, potential title.

 

Outside Influences

com2us-no-kakao-mobile-gaming

While Com2US has achieved success in Korea, its success can also be credited to some outside sources as well. Many of Com2US’s titles such as The God of Fishing and Summoners War: Sky Arenas have achieved a huge level of success outside Korea, and have been embraced by foreign mobile markets across Asia and the United States. While gaining revenue from outside markets, Come2US has also found success on devices that most Korean developers have experienced difficulty becoming successful with. Com2US’s games feature attractive 3D artwork and visuals, but are still able to run on even low powered devices, making the entry and price range for gamers to enjoy their titles very accessible. Com2US has also found success on tablet devices with both of its most popular titles: The God of Fishing and Summoners War, an impressive feat considering the Korean market and the difficulty they have faced in trying to find success on these devices.

com2us-acefishing-no-kakao

Old Dog, New Tricks

The mobile gaming industry in Korea is an industry where refusal to adapt and change most often results in failure. Those who are flexible and creative, are often the ones who can stand the test of time and cement their legacy as more than just a passing fad. Com2US has managed to be at the inception of mobile gaming in Korea, reach incredible heights during the market’s rapid growth, see itself loose to the competition and finally reinvent itself to remain a strong competitor. With both The God of Fishing and Summoners War, Com2US is said to be earning more than 500 million per day on both titles, numbers that rival and in some cases, surpass many Kakao based games.

Com2US may not have the same number of casual gamers that Kakao can boast about, but in this case, they don’t need to. Com2US has successfully used its past knowledge and game development experience to craft compelling games and in the process, create a community of dedicated gamers who will most likely remain loyal as their fan base and revenue continue to grow.

 

profile picKyle Hovanec is a writer currently living and working in South Korea. He writes for several Korean publications including Latis Global Communications. You can contact him at khovanec87@gmail.com 

Building Community Through Localization: How to be a Global Hit

game-next-logo

This week Latis co-hosted Game Next 2014, one of Korea’s biggest mobile gaming conferences. We shared some of our strategies for helping indies be successful global businesses by delivering quality localized products in markets around the world, and we’re sharing the slide presentation with you here.

Here are some of the take-away lessons:

It’s not just about impressions, it’s about good impressions

The current environment for mobile marketing has been heavily focused on interstitial ads, banner ads, push notifications, and an array of other in-app ads all indexed by list of confusing acronyms –  CPC,CPI, CPV, CPA, etc. – that can be both intimidating and confusing for new developers. Not to mention that users find them annoying.

We know getting impressions is important, especially since only 2% of users ever make purchases, but don’t make this the only impression on your would-be-fans. Building a solid community where your fans can feel a sense of ownership and excitement is equally important for curating a following. There are a number of great ways to do this that include forums, contests, and community pages.  Figure out what will work best for you and don’t be afraid to experiment with new ideas.

Customer Support is not just about fielding complaints

We are used to a model of customer support that focuses on solving customer complaints, often pushing them through frustrating email ticketing systems. While it is important to have a system in place to field complaints, customer support strategy should involve more than that. A good customer support model includes:

1) Hearing customer feedback

2) Helping new gamers feel comfortable

3) Keeping current customers satisfied

These can be accomplished by providing easy problem resolution (FAQs and Forums where your customer base can help each other solve problems), social networking communities, and reward systems. Once you have curated a community around your game, give them a space to live.

Language translations alone can help you increase your rank

It’s been shown time and again that having your game in the language of your target market alone can help increase your rankings. Even if you are on a budget, don’t skip this very important step.

Share your ideas

Do you have experience building a community around your game? What successes or failures did you have? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments or send us a message via twitter @latisglobal.

We’d like to thank everyone that came out to Game Next 2014. The speakers shared some great ideas that we will be posting online in the weeks to come. If you have any questions or comments about this presentation, or the summit, please leave a comment.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for more great ideas on how to tackle the global mobile market.

What’s in a Symbol? The Case for Culturalization [Kate Edwards Guest Post]

The need for game localization is a well-known necessity in the game industry, particularly with the reality that roughly 50% of the industry’s global revenue is generated from localized versions.  So there’s no question that localization is critical and necessary. However, the need for culturalization is still an often overlooked yet much-needed reality.

Culturalization is going a step further beyond localization as it takes a deeper look into a game’s fundamental assumptions and content choices, and then gauges their viability in both the broad, multicultural marketplace as well as in specific geographic locales. Localization helps gamers simply comprehend the game’s content (primarily through translation), but culturalization helps gamers to potentially engage with the game’s content at a much deeper, more meaningful level.

One cultural artifact often leveraged in games are symbols, whether it’s on a piece of military hardware, a clan emblem or an icon in the UI. Part of the power of symbols is found in their visual compactness, i.e., multiple messages can be conveyed at a glance. In relation to digital content, symbology is used to facilitate user interaction with software (e.g., icons, such as the thumbs-up icon for “Like” on Facebook).

While there are four main categories of symbols – sacred, historical, cultural, and functional — the latter three are most relevant to localization for most businesses:

  • Historical: Historical symbols can be endearing, such as the Macedonian sunburst associated with Alexander the Great, or reviled in the form of Nazi Germany’s right-facing swastika.
  • Cultural: Symbols with culture-specific meanings are usually not universally recognizable. Many hand, face and body gestures differ widely in meaning from locale to locale. For example, the open-faced palm usually meant to signify “stop” or “warning” in the U.S., can be a very offensive gesture in some countries, particularly around the Mediterranean. While the production of functional icons representing inanimate objects (like printers) can be helpful to a PC user, the use of gesture-related icons can be a significant risk exposure since such icons assume that gestures are universal.
  • Functional: Symbols used in transportation, utilities, safety notices and so forth. They serve a straightforward but critical purpose, and the International Standards Organization (ISO) has even created the specific standard ISO 3864 for international safety symbols (many of which are quite effective in their conveyance of meaning – such as the corrosive effect of acid on a hand, one that always induces an instant cringe).

Symbol creation, including the development of logos and trademarks, is one of the more research-intensive forms of content development. Here’s a list of resources that can help you get started:

 

Kate-PAX2013Kate Edwards is the Executive Director of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), appointed in December 2012. She is also the founder and principal consultant of Geogrify, a Seattle-based consultancy for content culturalization, and a unique hybrid of an applied geographer, writer, and corporate strategist, built upon a passion for global cultures and media technologies. Formerly as Microsoft’s first Geopolitical Strategist in the Geopolitical Strategy team she created and managed, Kate was responsible for protecting against political and cultural content risks across all products and locales. In the Microsoft Game Studios, she implemented a “geopolitical quality” review process and was personally responsible for identifying potential issues in all 1st party games between 1995 and 2005. Since leaving Microsoft, she has provided guidance to many companies on a wide range of geopolitical and cultural issues, and she continues to work on games such as the Dragon Age series, Modern Warfare 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Dance Central series, Mass Effect 3, Halo 4 and Ryse. Kate is also the founder and former chair of the IGDA’s Localization Special Interest Group, a former board member of IGDA Seattle, the co-organizer of the Game Localization Summit at GDC, and is a regular columnist for MultiLingual Computing magazine. In October 2013, Fortune magazine named her as one of the “10 most powerful women” in the game industry.

To learn more about Kate’s work, visit the Geogrify website.

Mobile Profile: A guide to China’s mobile gaming market

chinainfographic

Overview:
With over 450 million mobile internet users it’s no wonder why so many developers and publishers seek to conquer the Chinese market in hopes of making a hit. But even as the biggest market in the world by user-base, China’s market is still one of unlocked potential. With no Google presence, a fragmented app market, and rampant piracy, achieving success means coming up with a targeted plan to overcome the unique hurdles the country presents.

The Smartphone Environment:
• China is similar to most other countries in that both Samsung and Apple have the lion’s share of the market. Xiaomi, a domestic manufacturer, is a growing presence making it a company to watch in the future.
• Due to a strained relationship with the government, Google has no presence in China.
• With dozens of third-party and carrier stores, China’s app market is extremely fragmented. Getting your game into one store does not guarantee that your game won’t be copied or pirated in another store.
• Apple has a significant presence with the App Store being one of the most reliable sources of revenue in the country.

Things to consider:
• Localization is a must for entering the Chinese market. Simple translation is not enough to be a success.
• Due to rampant piracy, your game will likely already be in China by the time you decide to release.
• Strong partnerships are a must before entering the country. You will need someone that can talk to the major carriers (China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom), advise you on marketing strategies, and help with localization.

Mobile Profile: A guide to South Korea’s mobile gaming market

Mobiel Profile South Korea

Overview:
Korea may seem like a small market in comparison to the powerhouses of China and Japan, but as the third ranking country for Google Play and App Store revenue, it is not to be overlooked. Boasting one of the most advanced networks in the world with near saturation of smartphones, Korea is one of the most dynamic markets North East Asia has to offer.

The Smartphone Environment:
• The Korean market is dominated by Android, which holds a whopping 90% of the operating system market share. This is largely due to the fact that it is home to both Samsung and LG, two powerhouses in Android smartphone manufacturing.
• As a result, third party and carrier app stores, such as SK Planet, drive the vast majority of revenue, with Google Play and the Apple App Store trailing behind.

The Game Charts:
• South Korea’s charts are dominated by a handful of domestic publishers: CJ Group (Kakao), Gamevil, and WeMade Entertainment.
• Kakao, an OTT, is the predominant platform for mobile gaming in the country, taking in a total of 66% of all app revenue.
• The majority of successful foreign games to have entered the country thus far are Chinese and Japanese, western games, like Candy Crush Saga, have managed to make an impression. With Kakao taking a 21% cut of the revenue (in addition to the standard 30% from app stores), developers are left with just 49% of their revenue.
• As Korea’s mobile game market continues to grow, it is likely that Kakao will have less of a stronghold. With the right partnerships and a good marketing strategy, publishing on your own will become a more viable option.

Benefits and Advantages:
• Very good monetization, with average spending around $5 USD per person.
• Less piracy and copy-catting than China, making it a much easier market to break into.
• Korean culture has an influence on the rest of Asia. A game that becomes very popular in Korea is easy to turn into a success in Japan, China, and South East Asia in particular.
• Excellent infrastructure and smartphone saturation that combine to make it a great potential test market for Asia.

5 Content Management Strategies to Get the Most Out of Your Localization Vendors

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 curtis.file@latisglobal.com

Welcome to Latis Global Communications

In an environment dominated by global businesses, Latis knows you’re looking for one thing: to grow. Grow your reputation. Grow your customer base. Grow your profits. So why not grow your communication? This is a platform to help you do just that. We’ll provide in-depth knowledge of the translation and localization industry that will allow you to build bridges to new markets, connect to fascinating people, and change the way you think about taking your business worldwide. Thank you for visiting.