One of the best ways to boost interest in your game in foreign markets is to localize it. Translating the text into the local language is likely to boost downloads or sales and increase player satisfaction in your target market, but it must be done properly with due care and attention. Localization goes beyond literal translation to adapt the content to the target language and ensure that a similar meaning is achieved, so it resonates with that culture in the way it should. How do you know that your localization is striking the right chord? That’s where Language Quality Assurance (LQA) comes in. In a nutshell, you engage experts in the target language and culture to review the text and make sure that that there are no errors or problems with it. LQA professionals come equipped with in-depth knowledge on the platform, the audience, and the linguistic approach you’re targeting. Not only does this ensure that your game has the desired impact on players using different languages, but it also negates the risk of releasing something that might spoil the immersion you’re aiming for. When localization and LQA are done right, the player will feel as though the game was originally written in their language and the tone will be consistent regardless of the language they play in.

Assessment or assurance?

Before we delve deeper into what LQA entails it’s worth delineating the difference between “quality assessment” and “quality assurance” because these terms are often used interchangeably, though they mean different things.

  • Quality assessment is simply about evaluating the overall quality of a completed translation and scoring the accuracy based on a model with pre-determined values.
  • Quality assurance goes deeper to pre-empt and avoid errors, ensuring the quality at any stage of the localization.

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What can LQA do for you?

The impact that LQA can have on your final product is profound. Games often feature fantastical storylines that rely on suspension of disbelief for true immersion. A localization error can take you out of the moment. The wrong word, awkward phrasing or stiff language can erode the virtual world you’ve painstakingly created. Bad translations can even change the motivations of characters, destroy the mood of different environments and make your game a laughing stock.

Few people remember the game Zero Wing, but one of its biggest translation errors “All your base are belong to us” is still going strong as an internet meme. Thankfully, those kinds of errors are easy to spot and fix, but what about ambiguous phrases where the context is lacking? Some translators will just have a guess and send it off, and without solid LQA that misunderstanding can carry over into the final release and impact on players.

While bad translation breaks immersion, great translation can have the opposite effect.

It feels wonderful when a game conveys a feeling or thought in exactly the right way, matching colloquial, day-to-day speech for players. Great localization boosts the credibility of characters and settings, making virtual worlds more believable. It should convey the storyline, the landscape, the characters, and everything else to players in the way that the designers originally intended.

When there’s a need for technical language, translators should be experts in the field the game is set in, whether that’s medicine, construction, space, or sports. When context or supporting material is lacking, they should be prepared to research, investigate, study and probe for the best possible wording. That extra effort lends authenticity to the final game, making it infinitely more immersive.

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There’s no substitute for expertise

As budgets and development schedules are under constant pressure, it’s no surprise to find that many developers try to secure translations cheaply and then make do with partial assessments near the end of development. Text may be exported from the game and sent off for proof-reading without any context. Pressure to hit release dates, combined with late assessments, can mean that problems are overlooked or swept under the carpet.

There’s no escaping the truth that this combination is a recipe for disaster. Bad translations can leave players feeling ripped off and angry and cause significant reputational damage for developers. True quality can only be achieved by bringing in experts and having them review the localized strings in context. If they can’t play the game for some reason, they should at least be provided with background information, gameplay videos, relevant screenshots and art.

LQA professionals should also have access to the development team, so that they can ask questions and gain a full, rounded understanding of what the game makers are trying to achieve. The earlier you can integrate LQA into your game development, the better the final product will be. A pitch perfect localization requires a bit of back and forth – it can’t be done in one testing cycle at the end of development.

If you believe in the efficacy of creating a fast feedback loop to hone your gameplay and nail your mechanics, then you’ll instantly understand how the same logic can be applied to localization.

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Measuring language quality Working out how to quantify and measure a subjective thing like quality and then tailor it to meet the expectations of a demanding public is a real challenge. Clearly expectations have evolved as text and dialogue for games has grown in volume and importance. Given pressures on cost and time it’s vital for LQA professionals to develop a set of metrics that consistently result in high linguistic quality.

This is such a difficult challenge because every sentence presents a multitude of possible translations, language quality is intrinsically subjective, and translations can be judged in many ways. The LQA professional must stir together grammar, consistency, background, situation, character, terminology, and more to arrive at the right wording.

Objective defects, such as spelling, grammar, omissions, and terminology are easy to define, but judging readability and consistency requires some real expertise. What really matters here is the impression that players form, and so objective defects must carry more weight in the first analysis, but attention must also be given to subjective factors if the game is to reach the highest standard of quality.

Making best use of resources

Given unlimited time and a generous budget every localization would be of the highest quality, but that’s not the world we live in. Taking limitations into account, it’s important to assess how to leverage the greatest value from your resources. You may be tempted to localize your game into as many different languages as possible, but it can prove to be counterproductive to release your game into new markets with poor quality translations.

Choose your targets carefully and make sure you have set aside enough time and money, not just to complete localizations, but to polish them to a high standard. Releasing a game that boasts superb localization quality will generate a real buzz in your target markets and get the media and the gaming community excited and talking about your game. Because localization doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, quality really stands out and can turn early players into evangelists for your game. This kind of positive reception and press can prove invaluable.

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Integrating the LQA process

At LocalizeDirect we believe every localization project we undertake is important. Elevating your game to the next level requires a full suite of linguistic expertise, and a streamlined, seamlessly integrated LQA process can help you reach the pinnacle of linguistic excellence. It’s vital to stir quality assurance into the localization mix from the beginning, to provide actionable feedback for translators in real-time, and to aim for the very highest standards of translation.

Translators should be gamers, expert linguists and, where applicable, subject matter experts too. They must always seek confirmation to find the true purpose and intention of any ambiguous phrase. Top quality localization is about nailing the exact meaning the writer intended, so when supporting screenshots, videos, or gameplay footage are lacking, it’s important to obtain further guidance.

Ultimately, it’s crucial that players experience your virtual world the way you envisioned, and language is always going to be a big part of the overall impression they form. While bad translation takes people out of the game, causing the curtain to drop and breaking the reality you’ve so carefully constructed, good translation goes unnoticed. Players don’t come away thinking “what a great translation”, they come away thinking “what a great game”.