Aksys Blog – Localization 101

By Mike Engler - Localization Editor . October 15, 2010 . 2:31pm

Greetings and salutations to my adoring public (all 17 of you!) and welcome to another longwinded and meandering journey through the damaged psyche of a localization lackey. Once again let me, Mike02 (my official designation here in the Aksys salt mines), take you through the twisted, chaotic process that transforms an incomprehensible collection of runes and mysterious alien palaver into a wonderfully whimsical and perfectly understandable work of entertaining escapism. So, without further ado, allow me present to you:

 

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Localization 101

 

Despite the admittedly overwrought agonizing I tend to inject into describing the whole thing, in reality it really is pretty straightforward and somewhat mundane, with the condition that everything goes as planned. First, here is a basic outline of the whole localization process:

 

1) Get the rights to the game. This in itself is worthy of its own series of posts.

 

2) Set up a schedule complete with drop dead dates (not hyperbole folks, people are usually dead inside by this time) for text and voice recording, QA testing durations, approvals, manufacturing, and marketing campaigns. The schedule for any project is written in melting butter as it is in a constant state of flux akin to the principles of Bistromathmatics.

 

3) If we don’t have it already, get a hold of a playable version of the game. Spend a few days grinding through it in order to get a feel for characters, settings, etceteras.

 

4) Get the text files and have the translators start plowing through the Japanese. Something to note here is that the translator’s job is to get the literal meaning out onto paper without any real regards to character limits, characterization, or cultural differences. Basically the translators are more concerned with “what is says” rather than “what it means”.

 

5) Here’s where I get let out of the closet and start working, and the part of the whole deal that most people think about when talking about localization. Here’s where the dumb jokes, characterization, and agonizing over character limits comes in. I’ll go more into this later on in the program, but for the time being, if you want to live my life, bang your head against your desk while screaming “It’s still one fukkleducking character over the limit!”

 

6) If the game is to be dubbed into English, a recording script has to be prepared. This involves yanking all of the spoken lines out of the main text and creating a separate file (always in Excel. If you plan on becoming a localizer, learn to love Excel). Then someone (me, in this case) has to listen to EVERY SINGLE LINE (in this case, 3434 total lines. The 8000 thing came from looking at the loop numbers…my bad) and then jot down basic voice direction for each line as well as note any effects used on the voice such as echo, distortion and whatnot. Also, this is the time when the first round of tweaks happens, as what looks great on paper won’t work when spoken due to length.

 

7) Head into studio and bang out the voices. At Aksys, we normally have two people go into the studio when recording; the producer and either the translator or the main editor on the project. While there is a director running the session, they generally won’t know the game as well as any of us, so we’ll occasionally chime in to offer background on a scene or ask/beg/demand alternate readings. This is also where the second round of script tweaks occurs as time constraints really come into play.

 

8) Once all of the text and voice files are finished, we send everything off to the developer and will start putting all of the English stuff into the game. This is also the time when we find out that all of the character limits they gave us were wrong, the voice files won’t fit, or that the head of the team went completely insane and now thinks he’s a fluffy pink cloud. Oh, and QA/debugging also starts around this time. I’d like to take this time to give a shout out to the fearless testers who had to grind through the game repeatedly. So Tsunabu, Wesley, and Zack, if you’re reading this just let me say: I hope the nightmares have gone away…

 

9) Once QA is done, we send it in for approval, manufacturing and then package and ship it.

 

10) Profit?

 

Blazing Souls more or less followed the above timeline, but with the added fun of incomplete text, unlabeled lines, unidentified voice files, and of course the constant insanity that was BlazBlue. Another wonderful event that happened right in the middle of voice recording/editing was of course Anime Expo. Since Aksys usually has a fairly major presence there, the entire office basically shut down as we were all working our booth and trying not to die. While people often dream of becoming a zombie, I can speak from personal experience that joining the ranks of the undead is no es bueno.

 

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Let’s seeing each the other time!
Mike02
Text Monkey
Aksys Games


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  • http://www.youtube.com/user/xxHiryuuxx Hiryuu

    Hey now, there’s more than 17 of us. Some are more vocal. :P

    Do appreciate the explanations.

    • Code

      Yeah! rar, on a good day I count as 3 people >w<~!

      • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

        i count as 6 people >8(, i feel less important being counted as 1

        • Code

          Six people!? That’s just preposterous!

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tommy-Lee/518924335 Tommy Lee

            Actually… You count as 4, WildArms counts as 8, I count as 8 or 9 depending on you look at it, and MisterNiwa counts as 10…. If you get it, I just felt the urge to do this since it just popped into my head and felt like it shouldn’t have went to waste.Edit: I’ve been playing too much of a certain London-based game.

          • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

            omg im more valuable than i thought, now i feel important, i should control the world…. MisterNiwa is my only obstacle….

          • Code

            But the number of characters/space in my name shouldn’t impact how many peoples I am >O>~! Whatever, fine then I guess I’m only one person or 4 or something. Damnit WildArms, you just had to go and be 6 people and then you got Tommy Lee quizzin` us, look what you gone and done!

      • MisterNiwa

        I count as 1 people.

      • Yusaku_Matsuda70s

        I’m actually legion. Everyone that I consist of types one word in each of my posts. There are no repeats. Ever. >8D

  • Ereek

    I love hearing about your process and difficulties during localization. Thank you for sharing and taking your time to type this up for us.I do translation work (not related to games, anime, or media in general) so I feel for the Japanese side as well. There’s a lot of effort that goes into these titles and it amazes me when people call the localizers “lazy.”

    • Roses4Aria

      Ditto the above^^ I also have to metion that it’s great that you can have a sense of humor about something that sounds like it can be a grueling process. Keep up the great work and I’ll continue to look forward to your blog!

  • xhunter

    I hope I can manage to buy it once it’s out… =/ Way too many good games lately.

  • rockhamster

    I love hearing from the different parts of game development, both posts were good fun. A lot of frustration but I’m sure it must be a fun challenge as well :)

  • kariohki

    Localization has always been an interesting topic to me, especially the more technical things like making text and voice files fit (I like using them in arguments against the haters -3-). Nice post :Db

  • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

    lol, how i wish i could work in something related to this, to bad in my country this isnt something that could be easily achieved… im learning japanese though… better than nothing

  • http://twitter.com/inclassable José Figueiredo

    You know, I’d love Record of Agarest War Zero.

    • Mr_Rogers413

      I’d love to see a Record of Agarest War Zero released in NA. I can’t get enough of Generations.I watched my wife play most of Cross Edge so when I found out Zelos and Blazing Souls were coming to the PSP I was thrilled. I can’t wait until it comes out.Now, how about that ‘rottweilers wearing top hats!’ that was mentioned in the last blog? One of our dogs is a rottie and the thought of rotties in top hats is priceless.

  • vall03

    after reading this, its feels like this kind of job is stressful yet interesting. Im just really thankful that some companies are taking a lot of effort just to get the 1st step.

  • MisterNiwa

    1) Localization
    2) Developing
    3) ???
    4) Profit!

    I got it. This was actually pretty interesting to read, thank you.

  • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

    Another great entry! I really love reading these. Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tommy-Lee/518924335 Tommy Lee

    I gotta say this is actually a pretty humorous read. Looking past the humor of both articles though, I gotta say your jobs are even more hectic than I imagined before I read these.

  • [The Hunter] Doomrider

    How the hell did I miss the first one? Inexcusable!

    Really interesting read, and this makes me more appreciative of what people like you do (sounds like really tiring stuff), so thanks for the insight.

  • http://whatistheexcel.com/ Excel-2012

    I love Excel.

    • http://innerchildgamer.com Doc@ICG

      I just finished relearning it… >_<
      For the purposes of localization and/or production, actually. good timing :P

    • cj_iwakura

      The program, not the unhinged ACROSS lieutenant.

    • http://whatistheexcel.com/ Excel-2012

      Are you so sure?

    • dusk
  • epiphaniesarefun

    I’m loving these entries :) Keep the goodness coming!

  • CaveNut

    I would love for Aksys to localize the rest of Cave’s Xbox360 shooters.

    • http://twitter.com/Ale598 Ale598

      I would love them to localize Fate/Extra…

      • http://tristsantithesis.tumblr.com/ Tsunayoshi Sawada

        If I was to generate a map of the words you use the most in your post…Im quite sure Fate/Extra would no doubt me the word with the most hits, lol.

        • http://twitter.com/Ale598 Ale598

          It’s just that… -sniff- … I want that game so much! -cries-

  • http://tristsantithesis.tumblr.com/ Tsunayoshi Sawada

    Wow this game is being built up to be awesome. I cant wait to get it and with so much text! This game is gonna be awesome.

    I wont probably ever be a localizer as it sounds like difficult work, more power out to yous

  • Yusaku_Matsuda70s

    I would like to hear much more about step 1, step 5, and some anecdotes from step 7. Also, there’s no way I can be a translator because I hate Excel sheets.

  • http://myfigurecollection.net/collection/ashgail Ashgail

    A very informative article, from a person who works in the field himself. I see that the task could be quite gruelling, and I salute all the good localisers for bringing us awesome games.

    It’d be quite good if articles like these open people’s minds to support the companies that does good localisation.

  • epy

    I hate Excel! :(

  • cmurph666

    I rather enjoy these, “Aksys Blogs”.

    Keep doing them, ok?

  • http://www.jb2x.com/wordpress/ JB2X

    Maaaaaaan… sounds as much as a pain as I expected it to be.

    Well, just be aware that I’ll be supporting y’all with my wallet. So stay together, zombies! ;)

  • http://innerchildgamer.com Doc@ICG

    Siliconera is becoming an excellent repository for articles like this relating to localization/translation. I read them all, so keep ‘em coming!

  • neocatzon

    Aksys is quite a vocal O_O
    Now, I love u guys even more

  • http://several-hours-into-the-game.blogspot.com/ Nika

    your fans seem to have increased ;)

    As someone who has hopes to work in the translation/localization field I find your articles really interesting. I have a question though, you said that the translators job is to translate directly what it said, how much of that do You edit in order to make the final translation?

    I’d be very happy if you could answer my question, and I’m looking forward to new blogs :D

  • Kamion

    Time to emigrate so I can work for you guys.

    Kidding (or am I?). I need to finish my Master’s Degree first :P

  • http://twitter.com/matty_125 matty

    You guys definitely rocked the casba at AX. It was worth the trip to meet “Botaku” in person ;X

    I definitely feel for you guys. When we were kids we would think how cool it would be to “make” games, but if you catch certain articles on places like Gamasutra the industry kind of sounds like Fight Club meets Grand Theft Auto side missions – without the exploding cars. Intimidation, politics, etc., but I guess most industries dwell into those levels in some way. It’s interesting.
    When I play the game this week I’ll be sure to smite the foes to see your fruits of labor ;)

  • Joanna

    Don’t worry, you’ve got more fans than you think. ;D

    I just never posted a reply on your first post. So I’ll thank you for sharing your experiences now. It’s really interesting and it’s sounds like a pretty fun job -I kid you not- if a bit hectic. But I have always been some one that finds working with words to be engaging.

    I’m be looking forward to reading more of your posts~

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