The Technical World of Localization

Hi there, I am Krunnie. I am a localizer for many games such as Work at a Pizza Place, Vehicle Tycoon, Saber Sim and the recent Bloxy Award winning Restaurant Tycoon 2. Today, I want to show you the technical side as well as tips and tricks to localization.

But first let’s establish what localization is? According to the Oxford’s Business Dictionary localization is nothing more than the process of adapting a product or service to make it suitable for a new area. It can have at least 3 main processes to fully adapt the product to a new group of people but on Roblox it’s divided into 2: translations and adapting the game to the group’s culture. The difficulty of every process depends on which nationality you’re working to adapt the game into. For certain countries there may be little to no cultural differences but in countries like China for example, you won’t be able to push a horror game with lots of skeletons and zombies in it because any depiction of death is considered taboo.

Before We Get To Work

Before going deep into everything that the localization process is, we need to do some stuff on our own which is:

- Check if your game’s main idea is culturally appropriate for the country you want to push the game for.

- Choosing a translations database and create a “translation table” for the game

- Hire a reliable team

Checking for cultural appropriation is quite simple but might take a little while. All you need to do is google “is x appropriate in y” and read up on it.

Once you establish that your game won’t offend anyone, it’s time to pick and create a translation table. What is it, you ask? It’s a place where all the text in game (“strings”) gets translated. There are many ways of going about it but the two main ones are with excel sheets with Google Sheets and the Translation Portal.

Which one’s better?

I while can’t give you a definite answer to that question, I can point out the differences between them. While Sheets is more mobile accessible, offers you more personalization and the workflow isn’t botched by having to click on a new tab every time, the Portal doesn’t require you to have a google account to set up and edit the text and it automatically updates the strings on new servers. For the developers, it’s easier to set up the portal than the excel sheets since the portal doesn’t requires you to constantly reupload strings and has an auto scraping feature which automatically picks up strings to translate.

Once you have everything ready, you can start hiring your translators. Where and how do I look for them?

There are currently 2 options on the market: hire everyone individually or hire a localization team. While hiring individually can result in you getting scammed, you will most likely pay more for the team (most team managers charge you a fee for assembling a group of trusted translators and managing them for you).

If you’re hiring an individual, make sure you find stuff like their English skills, credentials, previous work and legitimate vouches. While many translators see being a native speaker as their only credentials, in some languages that are considered difficult, age is the limit to how fluent they actually are. Most of the reliable translators will have proof of skill level assessment tests such as the Cambridge Assessment Test or TOEFL (Test of English for Foreign Languages) and won’t bash on people for caring about them. When hiring teams, it’s important to first check their previous work, the languages they offer and the vouches. Please keep in mind that teams with more popular games under their belt will be looking into you to assure that you won’t scam them.

I’ll be listing my personal recommendations on the bottom of the article.

Community Translators vs Outsourced Translations

One of the biggest and most controversial debates I’ve seen about translations is whenever a translator from your game community is better than an outsourced one. Both have their pros and cons but personally I do believe that outsourcing is the best way to go. While a community translator will be emotionally invested in the process, they may not deliver as high quality of work as someone who you’re paying for and has more experience as a translator. Many people also use the community translations and pay them in “exposure” or in game items. Please note that exposure or in game items are not a valid main form of payment! You can use that as a perk for translating the game but it’s better to reward them with something that will be useful to the translator.

Process 1 - Translations

Now that we have found people that’ll work on translating the game, it’s time to kick back and relax for a little. Translating a game takes a long time to complete from a few days to even 2 weeks depending on how many strings there are and how many times the translator has checked for errors. During this time, all you need to do is take the translators feedback (mainly missing or duplicate strings) and the community feedback (something should be translated differently). While both of the feedback is important, in the end the translator is the one in control of the translations. Why’s that? You see, many people have many ways of interpreting the same sentence. While Brian sees Diana’s interpretation of x sentence as wrong, Diana is the one to choose whenever she’ll take Brian’s opinion.

Process 2 - Cultural Appropriation

This may not be as long but can be difficult scripting wise since Roblox doesn’t really have the API to almost automatically change around stuff in the workspace. You can try detecting the language they’re playing in and have them display the UI that is appropriated to a certain culture (some colors have different meanings in different cultures and it might affect your UI) but physical items can’t just not be affected only on the client side. Some people also changes up thumbnails and icons of their games to make it more welcoming to the player by showing that their game is localized. It’s always best to ask your translator (best if a native speaker) about what’s ok and what isn’t for their country.

So we’re finally done with those two steps, can you finally release the game? Yes you can, however now that you have an active localization table, you need to make that everything’s translated before pushing an update. You don’t really have to do that but I recommend it for best user experience.

Personal Recommendations

As someone who’s been on the market for little over a year now, I can easily say that I have experience and connections to trusted translators in the community.

I am also a part of one of the biggest and most trusted translation teams, the Roblox Localization Team ran by PeteyK473. I highly recommend using their services because unlike most teams, in order to become a member, people need to take placement tests.

Recommended translators:

- Dronetto (Spanish, was featured by Roblox)

- MemeProduced (Russian)

- TheBoxofGhost (Brazilian Portuguese)

- Halru (Simplified and Traditional Chinese)

- qEvann (Greek)

- KayaLucifer (Danish)

- and of course myself (Polish)