The days of "all your base are belong to us" style translations might be thing of the past, but localization is still one of game development's Cinderella specialisms.
"A lot of people in the industry still don't understand localization very well," says Kate Edwards, chair of the IGDA's Game Localization Special Interest Group. "Many still think of it as something done at the end, but it is as much a part of the development cycle as coding or writing or designing."
But as the pressure for games to connect with a global audience grows, localization is starting to shed its afterthought status. When Sandra Pourmarin, localization manager at Ubisoft Montreal, joined the studio eight years ago, localization was closer in status to the testing department than the development team.
"All the localization resources were on a separate floor and worked as a service to the development team," she says. "Now the localization project manager is under the direct responsibility of the producers and we're on the same floor as the team. It's a huge improvement."
Localization is also starting to show that it's about more than translation as developers and publishers start to think more about how their games will go down in different parts of the world.
"Everyone perceives localization as language and for the most part it is but that is not all localization is," says Edwards. "Culturalization -- thinking about the use of symbols, environments, costumes, everything that isn't language -- is also part of the big umbrella of localization."
So how can developers and publishers make sure their international appeal is up to scratch? To find out we asked the localization pros who have worked on games such as Diablo III, Assassin's Creed and Fallout 3 for their helpful hints.
1. Make the context clear
Games often get translated before they are finished, so any text or speech handed over to the localization studios needs to be accompanied with detailed information about the context, says Irene Panzeri, content lead at localization studio Synthesis which has worked on titles such as Diablo III and Red Dead Redemption.
"Languages don't share the same grammar rules. In English 'you' is both plural and singular, but in French the singular is 'tu' and the plural 'vous' with the verb changing accordingly. Knowing how many people a character is talking to is a common dilemma for translators." Clarifying words with dual meanings is also important, she adds: "Does 'aim at the tank' mean aim at a fuel container or an armored vehicle?"
Assassin's Creed: Revelations
2. Let localization in early
Getting the localization team involved as early as possible can reduce crunch time headaches says Pourmarin. "With Assassin's Creed: Revelations the localization team worked with the development team on localization earlier and it really smoothed the process," she says.
"If we are aware of specific content that might be a challenge we can prepare for that and come up with options for how to address it rather than trying to do it in the rush time at the end of the project.
"For example on Assassin's Creed, we had cameras that needed to move to avoid showing some nudity that would be a problem in some countries. Being able to identify that early in the process is very precious. If you arrive late on a project with those issues there might not be time to tackle them properly and that will result in additional cost and harm the quality of the game."