12 Tips To Make Game Localization Affordable
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Here is another post of mine that a number of developers and people in the localization industry have found helpful. Most of the tips shared here are pretty straightforward and applicable right away. Any other cost-saving ideas?
Even if the benefits of software localization are well known, the associated costs are often a turnoff for developers. Yet, by applying a number of rather simple tips and best practices, you can significantly reduce the price you'll have to pay to see your product available in new languages.
There are of course limits to how much you can reduce the amount of work need for the localization process, but savings of 10-30% can reasonably be expected depending on the characteristics of your product's localizable elements.
1. Write with localization in mind: When you write the texts for your software or game, it is important to keep in mind that all languages don't use the same sentence structures and formats. When you use variable substitution, make sure your strings can be translated in any language without touching the code. For software error codes, try things like "Error: %s" rather than integrating such variables in sentences.
Also, try to avoid redundancies. For example, if you write "you got %d %s" (which would display as something like "you got 2 items") in a video game, you would need to plan for both singular and plural variations of the object name, which means more translation work. But if you use a string like "you got: %s x %d", a single translation will be enough.
2. Choose a simple file format for localized strings: The use of external files for localized strings is the Golden Rule of localization. But using separate files for translated texts is not always enough.
You also have to make sure these files are in a format that makes translation easy, or that can easily be converted in a translation-friendly format (Excel file for example). XML files and tab-separated text files usually work great.
Keep in mind that many translators charge an extra fee for complex file formats. It's always a good idea to discuss with them and see if you can provide them with something easier to work with.
3. Avoid text in images: Rendered texts are very expensive to localize, in particular for languages that use completely different fonts. Whenever possible, try to use plain text and available fonts. There are plenty of nice ones out there, so no need to reinvent the wheel!
4. Use visuals instead of descriptions: Images and videos can however help you saving on localization costs. Instead of writing a long how-to document, try to create short videos and visuals that show what your software or game does, independently of the language. Such resources may even make your product easier to understand - we're looking at user satisfaction benefits here.
5. Avoid repetitions as much as reasonably possible: Avoid having the exact same strings more than once in your string files, or remove them before sending them out for translation. Just make sure they are all used in the same context, as identical sentences can have different translations based on what they are used for.
6. Avoid verbosity: When you are reviewing your text before sending it out, try to use simple sentence structures and eliminate any wordy sentences. Most linguists charge per word, so you can save significant money here. Moreover, people tend to prefer short and straight-to-the-point texts, especially when they're reading on a screen.
If your usual process is to only do a quick spell check on your documents, you may be surprised by the gains made possible here.
7. Does everything need to be localized? If costs are really an issue, consider writing simplified versions of your documentation, marketing materials, etc., before localization. Take out any information that is not absolutely necessary and look out for parts that are not relevant for the territories you are localizing for. Here again, the use of images and videos can be helpful.
8. Track changes: It is likely that you will need to update the text of your software to match its evolution at some point. Make sure you keep track of these edits to avoid paying twice for the same strings. It will also help you ensure everything is properly localized.
9. Send updates by batches: Many localization providers have some sort of minimum fee system. If your text updates are not urgent and that you're planning to have more in the future, try to wait until the word amount reaches a reasonable number (ideally a few hundred at least).
10. Take out updates that don't affect the translation (typos, cosmetic changes etc.): Small typo/grammatical fixes and minor style improvements generally don't affect the translated strings. Translators are used to detect typos and they will generally try to write in a fluent style by themselves. Don't pay twice for what is essentially the same thing, and don't send these minor updates for localization. If you think your edits clear an ambiguity or correct a serious mistake, consult your language provider first.
11. Plan ahead (and avoid rush fees): A tight deadline is another thing that can lead to extra charges. You will often be able to negotiate better rates if you give your localization provider ample time to do their job. Try to finalize texts as early as possible during the development process.
12. Cheap provider doesn't equal cheap localization: As you could see above, there are quite a few things you can do to save on localization costs for your software, game or application.
On the top of that, you may be tempted to go for the cheapest provider you can find out there. This is the most counterproductive thing to do. Bad translation quality comes with a myriad of direct and hidden costs: high QA and testing costs because of the large quantity of fixes needed - maybe even a complete retranslation if the quality is too poor-, missed sales due to poor credibility, endless support calls from clients who don't understand the translated content, long-term negative impact on your brand... The list goes on and on.
Here is some sound advice: if you want to reduce localization costs, don't be cheap. A good provider won't cost you more than what they charge, and they will accompany you professionally every step of the way.