Category: Culturalization

An interview with Nutchayun AKA ‘GAME’ – EQHO Games Account Manager

Game – do you find Games Testing fun?

YES! The best part is being involved in the creative process. Whether it be interpreting something for a new culture, or making improvements that include actual gamers, it’s incredibly rewarding. When you can see your hard work in action on the final release of the game, it makes it all worthwhile.

What are the key components or methodologies of Games Testing?

There are 4 types of tests. First, there’s the Build Verification Test. The build verification test, or subsequent smoke testing, share the similar objective of eliminating potential bugs before localization testing starts. Typical build criteria include, is the build installable? Does it run? Is it free of major flaws? Can it be tested further?

The second is the Smoke Test. The typical sequence of steps in this brief and inexpensive test includes installing the application, starting it, creating a file using the application, saving and closing the file, and then restarting the application again. Next, open the file just created, make a few changes to it, save it and close again.

The third type of test is Graphical User Interface (GUI) Testing, which is performed once a build is accepted. The usual types of defects found include text expansion, resulting in truncated strings; GUI alterations, resulting in overlaps of GUI elements and controls or misalignment of their automatic hotkeys, resulting in duplicated hotkeys; hard-coded strings, resulting in untranslated strings; and missing or extra controls, resulting in missing or broken functionality.

And the fourth is Linguistic Testing, conducted by language-aware or native language testers on the actual localized product, running exactly as it would be used by local users in their own languages. Such testing is required, since much of localization takes place out of context, and much of the software testing is conducted by test engineers rather than language specialists.

There are different methods as well. Standard linguistic testing can be performed with language resources located onsite or in-house, in dedicated test centers or via local in-country staff.

Linguistic testing using screenshots of the localized product is another method, which can be conducted onsite or offsite. In this model, the language aspects of linguistic testing are separated from the engineering aspects. Non-linguistic test engineers prepare screenshots of all the requisite parts of the localized GUI and provide them to the language specialists, and remote access to a centralized test environment provided to linguistic testers.

What are the challenges you typically face in Games Testing?

One of the first challenges is the mythology the game is based upon, and the creative development required to adapt it to a foreign culture. For example, many ideas, characters, and lore that may exist in one culture do not exist in others – in fact, they may well be completely unknown! A game developed in one culture or country may even contain elements that another culture has never imagined.
The next biggest challenge is the fonts. Many games use typical Roman fonts, but when localized into other character sets, you have text expansion, contraction, tone marks, and many other additions that developers may have never considered when originally coding the game.

Are there any particular languages that are more troublesome than others?

Any language outside of Roman characters provides many challenges. Of course, Hebrew and Arabic present their own unique challenges, but generally, if you are outside the Roman language set, you’re going to run into issues that many developers never even considered when the game was first designed.

Is there any standard on how Bugs are defined and resolved?

Yes, we have a severity level as well as certain types. The type will always depend on the game. It is also important to prioritize the bugs and their severity.

Severity expresses the impact of a bug on the end user, usually scaled from 1-4.

1) Crash or hang bugs refer to loss of functionality, copyright issues, offensive text, etc.

2) Major bugs mainly impact functionality (or critical text is not visible).

3) Minor bugs are mainly cosmetic errors, and

4) Trivial bugs, which are the very small bugs like missing punctuation, for example.

After logging all bugs into the appropriate bug database, any outstanding issues or questions should be logged in the Master Question and Answer document. This document should be provided to the client each time updated source files or bug reports are sent.

The types of bugs that are typically found are hard coded strings in the code (that are not translated), concatenated strings in the code (that cause the ordering of a translated string to not make sense), key mnemonics mapped to native characters on the keyboard that don’t work (both accelerator keys and shortcut keys), GUI layout (often changes due to resizing of labels for text), some apps might need specific drivers for your target market (locale), if you have help files, they will need to be tested, and if you have web links, make sure they also point to the appropriate location (especially if those pages are localized)

What are the Top 3 Tips that will save money and time for a Games Localization project?

The #1 tip is to start early! The earlier you start to look at your code and prepare it for some of the bugs listed above, the more time and money you’ll save. Tip #2, start small. If you’re not completely comfortable going into multiple languages at once, start with one, learn the ropes, find mistakes, make a corrections plan, and build on it for future languages. Tip #3, invest in tools. At the end of the day, a human touch will always be required, but the technology available will make everything way more streamlined as well as consistent.

Challenges to entering the mobile gaming market abroad

Breaking into Asian mobile games markets is no cakewalk. While some games, like Clash of Clans, enjoy multi-year runs of wild popularity, they are the exception rather than the rule. Most mobile games release quickly, gain popularity fast, and fade away to make room for the next game just as quickly. Time is of the essence, but there’s good news: Since mobile games usually rely on action-oriented game play with simpler graphics, less text and character restrictions, and little or no voiceover work, they don’t take very long to localize!

That’s a good thing, because to stay on top of the market, you have to come in already localized with a system in place for simultaneous delivery (which a full-service localization company can facilitate). You’ll also need a local partner for distribution and/or monetization.

From there, you’ll need to master the finer points of what makes each country’s mobile players tick – or tap, as the case may be.

A few top-tips on what makes who tick (or tap) in Asia

Japan

Japanese players expect in-game social interaction, like combat between guilds.

South Korea

South Korean gamers have come to expect frequent game updates and special in-game events.

China

China has more than 15 app stores – which is a significant change from just dealing with two (Apple and Google’s) – as well as networks selling games, and middlemen at telecom companies and hardware manufacturers.

In general, Asian gamers are better conditioned for more complicated games than Western audiences – your game might be too simple for them. There’s a reason Angry Birds took off in the U.S. and not so much in Japan!

Find out more by downloading our eBook…

Finding out which cultural issues may affect your game

In our last post, we spoke all about the 4 pitfalls of Culturalization – History; Religion; Customs & Beliefs; Cultural/Ethnic Friction; and Geopolitical Perspectives. Now it’s time to discuss how you actually go about avoiding them.

4 top tips to avoiding cultural issues in your game

Build culturalization into the development cycle.

As you’re developing a new game, consider the perspectives of different cultures, ethnicities and religions and incorporate diversity and sensitivity from the beginning (or don’t – but don’t be surprised when there’s backlash!).

Gain awareness of your target culture by asking questions.

Request that your translators alert you of any potential offensive material or content that doesn’t carry the same nuances or connotations in the new language that it did in the original (another reason why in-country, native translators are valuable resources!).

Use in-country translators familiar with the gaming culture of your target audience.

Some cultures are more apt to shrug off material that doesn’t match up with their belief systems; others become militant; most are in between. But, even if the gamers in your target location aren’t sensitive to cultural differences, you’ll still want to tread lightly – it’s not the players but their governments, religious leaders and parents who often lead the charge against “offensive” content.

Decide between deal-breakers and “reasonable risks.” Remember: you don’t have to change anything about your game.

Any changes are at your discretion, though many developers are willing to alter potentially offensive material so their games appeal to wider audiences.

 

Find out more..

The 4 Game-Overs of Culturalization

OK, so you’ve got a seriously great game that blows people away in the US. It’s bound to have the same impact in China, Japan and South Korea, right? Wrong. What makes a good story in one country may not work so well in another, worse still it may even cause offense – call it what you wish, a ‘culture clash’, but this is where culturalization comes in.

Culture

When approaching culturalization, there are four major potential pitfalls to consider:

History, beliefs, cultural/ethic friction, and geopolitical perspectives. Run afoul of any of these, and your game might well be banned from the most sensitive markets.

Let’s look at them one by one:

History
Victors may write history, but rewrites may be in order before that history is presented to foreign markets. Past events are among the most sensitive topics when entering into foreign markets since most (especially non-Western) cultures are very protective of their historical legacies.

Religion, Customs & Beliefs
When entering into markets with strict religious codes, any problematic content can cause backlash. Consider the dominant religions of your target audience. In Indonesia, Malaysia and the Southern Philippines, Islam is the most widely practiced religion; in Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore, it’s Buddhism; Christianity and Catholicism in the Philippines and eastern Indonesia and East Malaysia.

Cultural/Ethnic Friction
Ethnic conflicts in Asia abound (at least 24 ethnic minority groups with potential for conflict have been identified in Southeast Asia alone). But mostly, conflicts arise when there are ethnic or cultural stereotypes within games, or plot points that reinforce negative bias towards specific groups.

Geopolitical Perspectives
Wars are generally fought over three things: Religion, resources, and land. Geopolitical problems arise from the latter as nations vehemently defend their borders and geopolitical perspectives. Usually, these issues result from a nation claiming a territory and requiring that territory be shown as part of their nation in game world maps.

Find out more by downloading our eBook..

The importance of understanding different cultural nuances in games translation

Translating any work of art into a new language brings with it a wide range of challenges that must be overcome. It is not enough to merely convert the text word-for-word into another tongue, as there are usually a number of nuances and subtleties that you will miss if you take this approach. If you are not careful, this could completely change the meaning of certain sections of the work.

This is especially important in the world of video games. While this is not always the case, many games contain significantly more text than a film script would. There is also the possibility of having dialogue trees with multiple options, all of which need to be distinctive and carry a different meaning.

Getting this right is crucial. In order to produce the best work that you can, you will need to look out for some of the following roadblocks that can make a translation job twice as difficult as it should be.

Multiple meanings

If you’re accustomed to working in a language such as English, you will be used to most words meaning one thing and one thing only. This is not always the case – such as with ‘minute’, which can be taken to mean ‘small’ or as a measurement of time – but where there is a double meaning it is usually easy to understand it from context.

However, when converting a work into a new language it is easy to miss these contexts, and you could end up mistranslating a word by taking it too literally. This actually caused one of videogaming’s most famous translation errors, when a sentence from Street Fighter II was completely transformed from the Japanese to the English editions.

In the Japanese game, a character says: “If you cannot overcome the Rising Dragon Punch, you cannot win!” However, a translator misinterpreted the characters for Rising Dragon and instead took them to be the name of a new character called Sheng Long. The English version therefore instructed players to defeat Sheng Long, a character that did not exist.

This is a great example of a simple error that completely altered the gameplay of Street Fighter II, with fans fruitlessly searching for a way to get past that level. This shows the importance of making sure that any instruction you give your players is clear and well-translated, otherwise your game could end up confusing people.

Censorship

Another hurdle that must be overcome is that of censorship. Dialogue that might seem completely well-meaning to you might offend people in another country, which could result in the game being given a higher rating. This will affect sales, as it will shrink your game’s potential market.

An unusual example of this can be seen in the 1989 side-scroller Final Fight. One of the bosses in the Japanese version was a sexualized woman referred to as ‘Poison’. However, this was deemed unsuitable for American audiences, so in the US release of the game all references to Poison use masculine pronouns.

Hearing the character referred to as ‘he’ rather than ‘she’ sparked a debate about whether or not Poison was transgendered, which continues to this day. This kind of change is inadvisable, as it can be clumsy and cause more problems than it solves.

Cultural differences

Of course, there are some games that need to have text and dialogue changed from place to place so that they make sense in context. References to curry might be altered to something like pizza in the American release of the game, as curry is not associated with junk food in the US.

Similarly, a character might talk about playing cricket in a western game, but the Chinese release might talk about table tennis instead. This is simply a matter of changing the dialogue so that it evokes the right impression to players in different cultures.

The Pokemon games have done this a lot, perhaps most notably with the series’ villains Team Rocket. In the original Japanese games they were supposed to represent the Yakuza, but in the West that was changed to the Italian Mafia. As such, the group’s leader was renamed to Giovanni to suggest Italian heritage.
There are so many differences between cultures that translations need to be as flexible as possible so that the meaning of the game comes across correctly no matter what market you are selling it in. As such, you should constantly watch out for these potential pitfalls.