Spent, or why localizers shitty translate games

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The computer games industry has long become international. Good games are valued in all corners of the world, so their localization has long been transformed from "pirated bread" into a full-fledged gaming industry.

Localization of the game is a complex and lengthy process, during which errors must occur. And the larger the project, the more these errors.

Immediately make a reservation, among the Russian localizers there are a lot of good projects, there are just great ones, and there are real masterpieces. True, there is enough mediocre transfers and even outright slag.

Let's see why this happens. Why can not all games be localized at the highest level?

Reason 1. Lack of resources and time

One of the main reasons why gaming localization is mediocre. It all comes down to money.

When a development company decides to enter a foreign market, it assesses all the risks and possible benefits.

Based on this information, the developer or his publisher in a particular country adopts a budget. Localizer is repelled by the approved figures and in most cases can not require more.

Depending on budgets and developer decisions, several levels of localization can be conducted:

  • Text localization. Localizer translates only game texts - dialogs, menus, descriptions, stories. In general, this path provides a complete understanding of the game with the least effort, but does not fully convey the atmosphere.
  • Text + audio localization. A complete re-sounding of the content. All characters receive voices, even minor ones. The finished game turns out to be much more atmospheric, and you can dive deeper into the setting.
  • Full localization and cultural adaptation. Absolutely everything that can be translated is translated. The inscriptions on the pictures, buildings, labels. But that's not all. Localizers are trying to bring the game as close as possible to the consumer. Especially for the game localizers write songs, adapt jokes. Sometimes, after serving localizers, they cut out whole lines of quests, change and introduce new characters.

The game "Fallout 3" from Bethesda Game Studios has a line of quests, during which you can blow up a nuclear bomb, which is located right in the middle of a residential city.

In the line there is a choice: you can deactivate the charge by neutralizing the bomb, or you can blow it up with the city. But in the release for Japan they completely removed the quest that leads to the bombing. For her, the choice was left only to “Defuse” and “Do not touch at all”.

This is due to the memory of the events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese would simply not understand if they were offered to detonate a nuclear bomb on their own.

Naturally, each new stage requires an order of magnitude more money. For voice acting, you need to hire a few dozen professional actors and a studio. In large projects there can be up to 500 hours of dialogue and even more.

And for the total translation of the game world and its adaptation, many testers, programmers and designers are needed. After all, even to translate the “Store” signboard, a programmer needs to pull out some of the textures, the designer needs to redraw them, and after returning the signs to the place, they need to be tested for bugs. What to say about cultural adaptation.

Often there is not enough time for localization. Running in a full-fledged language version should be done within a month or two. During this time, beta testers catch all blunders, and localizers fix them.

But this is the ideal. In reality, there is a terribly limited period of time for which EVERYTHING needs to be done. Therefore, minor problems like typos in the dialogue or the presence of incomprehensible moments or strange humor is the norm. After all, the priority is the quick release of the game in a particular language, and players will have to put up with a few problems, which are often solved by official or unofficial patches.

Reason 2. Lack of context.

Localization of the game is much more than just a translation. Unfortunately, many continue to treat this process as a trivial translation without any difficulties.

Explain the difference. In direct translation of text and dialogues, translators and actors do not understand what character they play for, there is no context for the situation.

Many developers give as a source file with a set of text segments for translation, and the localizer needs to figure out for itself what and where it belongs.

As a result, such pearls are obtained as “Spent” from GTA: San Andreas. In the original there was the slang word "Wasted", which translates as "Done" or "Overwhelmed." But the context was lost during the translation, which is why the legendary “Spent” appeared. Although it only pleases that it was a pirate translation, and not an official one.

Context is also the character of the characters. And without him, it is extremely difficult to guess exactly how the hero should be voiced, what intonations are peculiar to him, whether he is inclined to impulsiveness or, on the contrary, prefers to speak quietly.

If the developer did not bother to give any meta-information about the heroes and the NPC, especially if they have similar nuances, it can turn out like in Far Cry 3 with the voice of a character named Dennis Rogers.


It turns out that the character must have an emphasis, which he speaks about himself in the story campaign. But nobody warned the localizer about this. Therefore, the emphasis was removed, and a cult video from the voice actor appeared on the network.

Sometimes the voice actors don't even know what their characters look like, and can only guess about their character. After all, they come only text scripts, from which you can not get too much information. And the actors can only see the result of their work in the released game, but not before.

Reason 3. Word games and language features.

Game developers love verbal puns - they bring a highlight to the game. They like to call characters “talking” names and give hidden references to other works of the gaming industry, literature, cinema and other industries.

But all this is fiercely hate localizers, because because of these highlights, it becomes much harder to localize the game at times.

Take, for example, the acclaimed Ukrainian game STALKER: Shadows of Chernobyl. Very remarkable are the replicas of the bandits, which the hero often encounters in shootouts.

"Blah, I caught the olive."
"Shiki-bricks and in the ladies."
"Come on, we hate it here."
"Fraer piled up Honduras."
“Shva hoof move”.

And this is just a couple of quotes. Imagine how it would be to translate them, for example, into English without knowing the context and a deep understanding of slang expressions. True, the localization team of the “Stalker” into English was occupied by the development team itself, so more or less appropriate expressions were picked up by meaning. The English localization turned out with a Ukrainian accent, but in the sense it was not bad.

In the case of localization from English has its own nuances associated with the features of the language.
For example, action logs in RPGs are conducted using a set of triggers and symbols. Let's say your character hit the monster:

[Forest wolf] was hit for [22 points] by [hero's arrow].

The blocks in brackets vary, depending on the situation. Instead of [Forest wolf] it may be [Dragon], but the essence will remain unchanged.
To adapt this simple idea for the Russian language, you need to invent a bunch of bicycles. And all because in Russian words are separated by gender and still leaning.

There are difficulties in localizing the game world. For example, it is easy to translate the words “Shop” - “Shop”. But how to put 7 letters into a picture, where there used to be 4, is a question.

Reason 4. Technical difficulties for full localization

If the developers think about future localizations and lay enough flexibility to adapt the game to a specific market, then the localizers themselves call such a game “localization friendly”.

Friendly to localization projects provide an opportunity to see the meta-information on the characters, it is easy to get the texture, the inscriptions on which you need to translate and stuff like that. But such developers are united only by one thing - they do not exist.

Of course, some game creators are introducing individual elements to simplify further localization, but no one works through this moment in detail.

Take, for example, the game "Witcher 3: Wild hunt." There are no complaints about the elaboration of characters and the voice of dialogues. Even more, in some places they are masterpiece. Separate plus that localization was carried out from Polish - the original language of the game. Therefore, Cyrill's famous phrase “I am terribly guilty” in Russian preserved perfectly, and in English it lost some of its meaning, turning into “I'm terribly sorry”.

But with the localization of "The Witcher 3" there was a problem that the developers did not foresee. The duration of the animation in the dialogs was strictly limited - it could not be changed without major code modifications.

The point is that Russian remarks did not always coincide with Polish ones in terms of duration and articulation. Say more, almost always did not match. And to adjust these two values ​​at the same time is almost impossible.

The Russian division of CD Projekt RED solved this problem by simply accelerating or slowing down speech in a replica. This is the most economical of all options, but still causes some inconvenience during the game. If the acceleration of sound x1.1 is completely imperceptible to the human ear, then x1.25 is already not felt very much.

On the other hand, a solution at the level of program code change would have cost an additional several hundred thousand dollars, but would allow for better localization. Therefore, this move is completely on the conscience of the developers.

Reason 5. Lack of testing

Most of the errors that get into releases could be caught using quality testing. But the problem is that far from always localizers conduct large-scale testing with the participation of dozens of testers. Often, everything is limited to a few test runs in which they check whether there are too serious files.

There may be no global failures, but if you still have minor errors, players will definitely find them.

For example, the Russian localization of “The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” turned out to be quite good, but it just has a lot of small errors that were not noticed during accelerated testing. Naturally, it all hit the release.

One such error. The NPC-man, while answering the question, suddenly began to speak in a female voice. That's because the cue was recorded without context. It does not relate to the main storyline dialogues, so it was not noticed. True, it is still part of the secondary storyline, so there is clearly a lack of time for testing or simple negligence of testers.


Localization is a difficult and long stage of adaptation of computer games to the realities of the national market. And not all projects go through it successfully. There are small shoals, like in The Witcher, which are noticeable, but do not greatly affect the enjoyment of the game. And there are large squads like "Spent".

There are reasons for this. Many of them do justify localizers, which bring a damp product to the market, but not all. And the point is not that some kind of English is not that difficult or the setting. No, the main reason is, after all, razdolbaystvo and the traditional "and so it will come down."

Players will always find such mistakes and laugh at them wildly. By the way, there are even separate groups in social networks and forums where they discuss such “surprises”.

So even failures in localizations will be able to amuse players. True, not at all as expected by the developers.

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