Game Localization: Afterthought, or Essential Aspect of Video Game Development?

Video game development is a complex process that involves multiple stages and a wide range of professionals (optimally), working together to create the perfect video game. The reason we say optimally, is because it is full of solo developers out there that somehow manage to create sensational video games despite working alone!

 

Video game localization on the other hand, is just as complex as game development, and can bring many benefits when done correctly. 

 

When combined together, instead of conducted separately, they can achieve the highest level of player immersion possible, creating breathtaking and engaging stories. 

 

Let’s jump right in!

Stages of Video Game Development

Game development is a long process that can be divided into multiple sections.

Conceptualization

The process begins with an idea or a concept. Game designers draft the initial vision, including the game’s genre, setting, story, characters, and gameplay mechanics, building the foundation for the next stages. 

Pre-Production

In this phase, the concept is drawn out into a more detailed design. Prototypes of the game are created and various ideas and gameplay elements are tested.

 

Production

This constitutes the longest phase, where the video game is actually built. A number of professionals step in: 

 

Programmers write code, artists create assets, and designers work on various levels and gameplay. A significant amount of time is dedicated to creating content and refining the video game’s mechanics. 

Testing

Once there’s a playable version of the video game, it has to go through rigorous testing before actually being released. Bugs are identified and fixed, and gameplay is fine-tuned and polished based on the feedback given from testers.

Pre-Launch

Marketing efforts increase to build anticipation and demand. Pre-orders may begin, and press kits are distributed. 

Launch

The video game is released to the public. This often happens in stages, such as early access followed by full release. Early access is oftentimes used as an opportunity for more testing.

Post-Launch

After being released, video games often receive updates, patches, and expansions. Community feedback is essential at this stage for ongoing improvements.

 

Further Updates

Some elements for example online gaming may also keep getting updated, usually for longer, in order to keep players interested and the game relevant. Also numerous DLC may be released onto the market for the same reasons.

 

With constant updates and content addition, the work of developers continues long after the video game is released, ensuring the maximum public engagement with new features available to players.

An Overview on How Game Localization Fits Into the Video Game Development Process

 What Is Game Localization 

Game localization is the process in which a video game is adapted to meet the language, cultural, and regulatory requirements of different target markets. It is a critical step for all games that are released globally. 

 

Just as video game development, localization can be divided into different steps.

Planning for Localization

During the early stages of production, developers plan for localization by designing game systems and features that can easily adapt to different languages and cultures, ensuring the widest reach in the international market.

Translation

Once the game content is sufficiently developed, translators begin the work of translating texts and dialogues. This work keeps on going as new content is created. 

Culturalization

Localization is not merely translation, but it also involves cultural adaptation, which may include altering content to make it more culturally sensitive or relevant to the target audience. This usually involves adapting cultural references and symbols, character representation and graphical elements and interface design.

Voice-over and audio localization 

For video games with voice acting, audio files have to be localized as well. This may involve hiring voice actors in the target language and ensuring that dialogues sound natural and smooth in the new language. 

Quality assurance

Localized versions must be thoroughly tested to ensure that translations are accurate, that texts fit within the UI, and that no cultural issues are present. 

Legal and regulatory compliance

Each market has its own laws and regulations. Localization ensures that games comply with local ratings systems and legal requirements.

Supporting localized versions

After launch, all versions of the game need ongoing support and updates. This includes maintaining or updating the localized versions, which may receive unique content or have different censorship requirements.

Now to the main point: Why is it so important that game localization and game development are carried out together in synergy, rather than separately?

Localization and Video Game Development Together: How to Captivate Your Audience

It is pretty simple, when localization and video game development are addressed simultaneously, the game can reach unparalleled player engagement and immersion. This can happen for a few reasons.

Cultural Relevance and Adaptation

When localization is integrated into the game development process from the start, there’s a greater opportunity to tailor content to be culturally relevant for different audiences. This can involve adapting jokes, references, and societal norms that resonate more authentically with players from various regions. This kind of tailored experience can make the game feel more relatable and engaging for a global audience.

Higher Quality of Translations

Conducting localization alongside development allows for a more seamless integration of different languages and cultural nuances. Translators and cultural consultants can work directly with developers to ensure that translations are not only accurate but also carry the intended connotations and emotional impacts. This close collaboration helps in maintaining the game’s narrative and emotional integrity across different languages.

Unified Voice and Tone Across Languages

Simultaneous localization ensures that all versions of the game develop a consistent voice and tone, which is crucial for storytelling. This uniformity helps in preserving the game’s atmosphere and character personalities across different languages, enhancing the overall immersive experience.

Feedback Incorporation

Ongoing localization allows for real-time feedback from linguistic and cultural testers to be incorporated into the game development. This can lead to adjustments in gameplay, narrative, or interface that improve the overall user experience and accessibility.

Avoidance of Costly Post-Release Fixes

Addressing localization issues during the development phase can prevent costly and reputation-damaging mistakes that might only be discovered after release. This proactive approach can lead to a smoother, more successful launch and better player reviews.

Conclusion

By considering multiple languages and cultures from the get-go, developers can craft experiences that resonate more deeply with players across the globe. This approach not only enhances the player’s immersion but also broadens the game’s appeal and market potential. Ultimately, when developers and localizers collaborate closely from the earliest stages, the result is a more cohesive, engaging, and successful game. On top of that, this course of action can eliminate the possibility of any issues with localization down the line, optimizing time and cost of the project. 

 

 

Image of video game uncharted, highly praised for incorporating localization in video game development

A great example of this approach is the Uncharted series. Naughty Dog planned for the localization of the Uncharted games right from the start, resulting in one of the best video game series of all time, receiving high praise for its adaptation.

How does game localization enhance video game development?

When localization is integrated from the early stages of game development, it ensures that the game resonates more authentically with international audiences. This integration enhances cultural relevance, improves the quality of translations, ensures a unified voice across languages, allows for real-time feedback incorporation, and avoids costly post-release fixes.

What are some examples of successful integration of game localization and development?

A notable example is the Uncharted series by Naughty Dog. The developers planned for localization from the start, which allowed them to create a series that received global acclaim for its seamless adaptation across various languages and cultures.

What benefits does ongoing support for localized versions offer to a video game post-launch?

Providing ongoing support and updates for localized versions of a video game ensures that all players, regardless of their region, continue to have a cohesive and enjoyable experience. This includes addressing unique content needs, handling different censorship requirements, and ensuring that all language versions remain updated alongside the original.