English to French IT Translator Blog

Game Localization Link Roundup – December 2016 & January 2017

Video Game Localization Link Roundup

First things first, my apologies for sharing December’s links only now! The start of the year was pretty hectic for me, with very happy news on the personal side and more than work that I could hope for. Things are a *little* more relaxed now, so let me catch up.

We have lot of great links this time, from very formal material (thesis) to comical content (the MT experiment!), interviews, interesting facts and essays.

With LocJAM4 around the corner, you can expect a great flow of stories in the upcoming months, so watch this space!

Student Speak: Using MT for Game Localization – Giulia Mattoni, an Italian Translation Technology student from DCU talks about her experience using Machine Translation for evaluating player support content localization.

Funky Fantasy IV: a Machine-Translated Video Game Experiment – MT may be gradually improving, but it still has a long way to go, as illustrated here

The history of hit points

Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns – Localization Blog #2

Dark Conflict (EU) and Days Of Ruin (US) – An interesting video comparison of the EU and US localizations

Square Enix on why Dragon Quest hasn’t been as popular as Final Fantasy in the west

Imagined Commodities: Video Game Localization and Mythologies of Cultural Difference – If you’re in for a thesis

Interview: Localizing Yakuza with Scott Strichart

What Are These Japanese WarioWare Moves All About? – More great stuff from Clyde Mandelin

Localizing Video Games for Different Markets Is a Minefield

And to conclude, a list of links related to LocJAM Japan that you may find interesting ahead of LocJAM4: How to Localize the Package (the process will be the same for LocJAM4) or Tyrano Builder games in general, the Kyoto Workshop Presentation, and a more technical article about Internationalizing LocJAM Japan’s game, if you’re curious about what goes into organizing these events.

[Guide] How to Become a Game Translator

This is the text version of the presentation I showed on Crowdcast with SmartCAT (video available here). It is based on the notes I took to prepare for the webinar, hence the disjointed writing style. Still hope you will find it useful!

Working in the game localization industry is a dream for many gamers, but the path that leads to a career in this young world isn’t necessarily obvious. Here are a few pointers to help you get started and work in the right direction.

What Studies?

An educational background in translation/languages is not a necessity, but always a welcome addition to your CV. Two scenarios here:

Relevant university studies

As far as I know, there are no university studies fully dedicated to game localization yet, but a few specializations will help you in your quest for a job. Here are the three types of studies you should be aiming at:

Audiovisual translation: More and more universities offer courses in audiovisual translation, which generally include a part about video game localization. You can find a list of such universities here.

Translation (general): More broadly available, courses in translation will teach you the general theories of translation and help you prepare your career in the industry. Although not as focused as the above, it is still perfectly relevant and appreciated in the industry.

Languages and culture: Translation will have a smaller, but not insignificant role here. Such studies are also valued highly, especially if you study the language in a country where it is natively spoken. When I was working in-house, several of my Japanese to English translator colleagues had graduated from such schools in Japan and found a position soon after.

You’ve already graduated

A diploma is great, but you may be considering a career switch after working in a different industry. Don’t worry, there are still ways to fill the Education part of your CV.

Lessons/Courses/Books online and offline: first of all, you will want to learn about translation as a profession. There are plenty of courses and books available online and offline, some as specific as teaching you the basics of game localization, while other covers different aspects of the job, from finding clients to managing your taxes. Perform an online search, compare the options and see what works best for you

Go to seminars/workshops: look for relevant seminars and workshops in your area. A quick Google search will generally do wonders, but you can also check the websites of translator associations in your country. Most of them have a calendar listing such events

Consider taking a certification exam: once you’ve learned enough about the job and are confident in your skills as a translator, you may consider taking a certification exam. The most famous one is probably the ATA‘s, but again, feel free to look for options closer to you

Freelancing vs. Working In-House

Game localization projects can be handled in-house by developers, outsourced to localization agencies working with their in-house team and/or freelance translators, or handed directly to translators. Your first decision in your journey will be to decide the way you want to follow: in-house position or freelance work.

Here are the main characteristics of both:


More freedom: work whenever you want, wherever you want. No commuting, no fixed hours.

Possible better long-term income and security: once you’re established and projects keep flowing in, you will likely make more money than you would in-house. And you don’t risk losing your job all of a sudden. If one of your clients closes their doors, you still have other customers to keep you busy

Requires motivation/self-discipline: freedom is great, but you’ll still need to dedicate enough time to your job. You’ll have to keep track of projects, chase clients for payment, keep marketing yourself, etc. That’s also part of “being one’s boss” job description. I know some extremely talented translators who never managed to succeed as freelancers because they didn’t have that self-discipline

Getting established takes time: building a clientele takes time,  no matter how hard you try. Receiving enough work to live on translation will take you at the very least 6 months, while 2 years or more is not rare at all. Try to put some cash aside before taking the plunge, or keep a part-time job on the side to keep bills paid

Working in-house…

Stable income, no need to hunt new clients: busy or not, your income is the same and you don’t have the pressure of finding new clients

More focused work: you will be translating/editing most of the time (hopefully). No accounting, no marketing, no sales, just what you like and what you’re good at

Comparatively limited financial prospects: the higher the risk the greater the reward. A busy freelancer will typically make more money than an in-house translator. In general game translator salaries are rather in the low end in the gaming industry. There are, of course, fortunate exceptions to this


Qualifications alone won’t land you assignments. Before you start your job hunting efforts, you will want to make sure you are prepared for success.

Learn about the ins and outs of the job (read articles/ebooks, take courses, etc.): this is especially true if you are going to work as a freelancer. Learn about the business aspects of freelance translation (how to define your rates, how to get paid properly, how to communicate with your clients in different situations, etc.). You will find a lot of articles, ebooks and courses online for a large number of topics.

Build a solid CV/introduction highlighting relevant strengths: make sure you highlight every relevant educational or hands-on experience you’ve got with translation. Be specific: make it clear game localization is your main or one of your main specialization fields. Mentioning your favorite genres can be a plus when project managers will need to select the most suitable translator for their project.

Note about fan translations: in my opinion, that kind of experience is perfectly relevant and show your motivation, but you may not want to get too specific in public to avoid trouble. Mention word counts, game genres, etc. but only give names informally to parties interested in more details (small devs and game localization agencies will generally be curious and really just want to know what you’ve worked)

Gain experience with a few projects: the best way to be ready for prime time is to actually try your hand at a few projects. Put everything you know in practice and make your beginner’s mistakes. More on how to gain experience in a minute.

About translation tests

Many potential employers and clients will ask you to take a test. All have different criteria for evaluation, but I would classify them in two categories:

Ability tests: typical with localization agencies, a classical pass/fail test. Your basic translation ability will be checked: are your translations accurate, natural, free of typos/punctuation mistakes, do you follow instructions and terminologies? Most criteria here are objective, and a serious work should be enough, regardless of style considerations.

Shootouts: typical with end customers. They want to find the one translator whose tone matches theirs. You’ll of course need to meet the basic quality standards expected of a professional translator, but the rest is very subjective in nature. You may deliver a great translation and still see someone else get the job.
As a general advice, check their games, see what inspired them and try to find something similar in your native language to give you ideas about what they may be looking for.

Gaining Experience (Part I)

Offer free translation to indie devs

To gain experience, it can be a good idea to offer your help for free. Rather than helping big companies for peanuts, I suggest starting with indie developers who really need help and don’t have the finances to hire a translator.

Browse the Indie Game Localization group on Facebook. Devs regularly post help requests there.

Contact indie devs directly: you can use social networks to find interested devs. I particularly recommend Facebook and LinkedIn groups for indie devs (there are too many of them to list!) where people like to share information about their upcoming games

Offer to translate game mods, articles, fan sites, reviews, etc.: let your imagination do the work here, there’s so much to explore!

[!] Keep word counts reasonable: be willing to help, but don’t let people take advantage of you. Politely explain than you can only handle a few hundred words for free. An App Store description, menus? Why not. A whole set of dialogs? Probably too much.

Gaining Experience (Part II)

The LocJAM:

Online game translation contest, a chance to compare your skills to your peers. Winning entries are selected by reputable video game localization agencies, giving you a great chance to get noticed by professionals

Free and open: no need to join the contest, you can translate and share your work anytime (translation kits available here). That’s concrete work you can show your prospects

Local study groups: generally before/during LocJAMs. Great opportunity to learn & network with fellow translators

For more information about the LocJAM, you can read this related article

Gaining Experience (Part III)

Start in a different position in the game/localization industry: many game translators started in testing, marketing, project management, etc. Once you have a foot in the industry, it’s much easier move toward a translation position, for the same company or somewhere else

Consider internships: many localization agencies have some sort of internship program. It can be a good chance to gain experience and possibly impress your employer. Again, I know of people who started as interns and became full-time employees after that

Finding Work In-House

Specialized game job sites: browse industry sites such as games-career.com, Gamasutra’s job section and similar portals in your native language

General job sites: big job sites such as Indeed, Monster or even LinkedIn have a lot of localization job listings. Make a smart use of filters and notifications, and check new postings regularly

Local job sites: don’t underestimate the smaller job portals. Many of them are free and appreciated by employers for this reason. You may find exclusive offers there, so look at sites specifically covering your area

Translation portals (Proz, TranslatorsCafé): while most projects posted on those websites are aimed at freelancers, offers for in-house positions, including in the video game industry, are occasionally published there

Dev websites, social media accounts: regularly check the websites of developers/agencies in your area that have a job page. Follow such companies on social networks and look for job offers in your feed

Networking, online and offline: more on that a little later

Finding Work as a Freelancer

Register and check job postings on translation portals (Proz, TranslatorsCafé): register on those websites and build a solid profile to gain visibility and be able to bid on projects posted. A lot of agencies are recruiting new translators and offering projects through such platforms

Contact specialized agencies directly: there are lots of localization agencies specialized in video games, and many of them are constantly looking for new translators. Check their website, social accounts, etc. and see their preferred method contact.
Be careful to only contact reputable agencies with good payment practices. The Blue Board on Proz is a good way to distinguish good payers from the bad ones. To help you get started, I included a small list in the notes of the slideshow above.

Freelance offers on job sites: you can occasionally find freelance (sometimes labeled as “part-time”, “remote”, etc.) job offers on all types of sites mentioned in the previous section

Networking, online and offline

More on Networking…

I am a strong advocate for networking. It has plenty of benefits. You meet great people, build relationships, learn from each other and, yes, get access to jobs otherwise unavailable. Many experienced translators are happy to refer their clients to younger translations when they are busy, or to introduce them to colleagues in different language pairs.

Prepare business cards and an introduction: always carry business cards with you. Make sure the key information is there: your name, language pair and specialization, contact info, etc. Also prepare a quick introduction you can repeat when you meet new people. Clearly tell who you are and what you do. Then forget a bit about business and try to build a genuine relationship!

Go to game/translation conferences, seminars: conferences and seminars are great places to meet potential clients and colleagues. Don’t restrict yourself to just translation or game-related events, both are perfectly fine places to network. Don’t underestimate smaller, local gatherings. It’s easier to talk to people and have them remember you when the place is not awfully crowded

Join associations, attend meetings: here again, target both game and translation associations. They will always have more or less formal networking events, besides conferences mentioned above. For those that have a directory of service providers on their website, it’s also a good way to earn visibility

Also look for informal meetings around you: once you start networking with people and join their circles, you will realize that a lot also happens besides publicly advertised meetups. I can only speak for Japan here, but we have a lot of fun meetups, with a good mix of freelance translators, in-house project managers, developers, students, etc. Be curious!

Use social media to interact with colleagues and game developers: establish yourself as an expert in your field. Share interesting content, interact with developers and colleagues, answer questions people may have about localization. Consistency is key here. If you regularly show up in someone’s feed with strong content about localization, they may remember you the next time they are looking for translation services

Start acting now!

Define your goals and strategy: decide if you will be a freelance translator or try to work in-house, do your homework and pick up a couple of strategies you feel comfortable with to get started. It always gets easier once you take that first step

Look for communities around you: look for associations and groups in your area, as well as online. Join a few and start networking

Join the IGDA LocSIG group on Facebook: because we’re a bunch of nice people who love games and languages. You will find plenty of useful information about translation case studies, interviews, tips for beginners and the latest news about the LocJAM.

And don’t forget to connect on LinkedIn!

7 Points you MUST Check Before Accepting Translation Projects

Accepting translation projects

“Hi, I have a document for translation, can you help me?”

We all know at least a client who keeps checking our availability that way. I had one such customer. They would send me that very sentence every single time. And every single time I would reply with the same answers before accepting or refusing their translation projects. And I’m glad I did, as some were definitely not meant for me.

Fortunately, not all clients are that vague in their communications. But that doesn’t mean we should let our guard down. Here is a quick checklist you can use as a reference.


    1. Never accept an assignment before seeing the actual file(s)

Some clients are very protective about the information they share. They will tell you a lot about the kind of text they want to send you, yet strictly refuse to show a source file. The problem is that, all too often, they will omit (knowingly or not) important details, or give a misleading description of the content. At a minimum level, try to see an extract of the source file(s), and explicitly state you will only give your final confirmation once you have access to the whole package.


    2. Make sure you can handle the format

First of all, you will want to make sure you can a. open the file and b. edit it. Is it a file format you are comfortable with? If not, check if you can have a different version. Else, adjust your rates if the extra work involved is significant.

If you are using a CAT tool, try to create a project with the source files AND export pseudo-translated target documents. Sometimes, our favorite tools seem to perfectly handle what we’re feeding them with, until they need to generate the final file… Yes, my dear “Object reference not set to an instance of an object”, I’m talking about you and your little friends. And naturally, these issues tend to occur when deadlines are looming.

If you find out about such problems early on, your client may be able to send you another version that will work, or find some technical workaround. Better safe than sorry.


    3. Only accept if you are 100% confident about the deadline

Don’t accept a project if you’re not certain you can comfortably make it by the deadline.

Life is full of surprises, good and nasty ones. So many things can happen during a project. You may get the flu, your hard drive could decide to suddenly give up on you, or an exciting prospect may appear out of nowhere with an urgent but highly interesting and/or lucrative project.

Say you can translate up to 3k words a day. That’s on an ordinary day, spread over the different projects you’re currently translating. But how can you be sure tomorrow is going to be just another day?

I try to only accept projects for which I would have at least twice the actual time needed to perform the translation.

People tend to focus on rate negotiations and forget about deadlines. Often rather than not, you will be able to get a bit of extra time simply by asking. It costs nothing to try. Aim at the most generous deadlines possible. You will have an extra cushion for unexpected events, and more room to accept other projects in parallel.


    4. Ensure you’re comfortable with the whole content

Obvious, right? On paper yes, but this one can get a little tricky. Reading a complete manual before accepting to translate it might be a little excessive, but so would be only checking the front page. There are things that are not necessarily obvious at a glance. Occasionally, a document will look straightforward… until you realize it was written by a non-native speaker or that there are 10 pages of legal notices hidden at the middle.

As a general rule, scan through every source document, carefully read a paragraph here and there, and make sure nothing falls out of your expertise.


    5. More on formats: is design/DTP work expected from you? Are you sure?

Clients will probably tell you clearly what file format they want for your translations in, but they can be quite ambiguous about what they want you to do with the layout.

“It doesn’t have to look perfect, as long as the layout remains roughly the same” – sounds familiar?

The problem here is that your client may mean one of two things, and you need to be absolutely sure of what is expected from you:

  1. The final document will be created from scratch by a designer/DTP specialist, and they really just want to know what goes where
  2. They don’t mind doing small adjustments in-house, but they’re expecting your file to be almost ready for production and easy to edit. It can be a huge issue if you are working on files processed with OCR software. You will typically have the right layout, but the resulting file will be horrendously hard to edit and polish visually. Your client might get upset when they realize they need to find and pay someone else to finish the job, so clarify this point as early as you can.


    6. Expectations should be perfectly clear

Let me conclude with a general reminder and a few extra ideas. One of the keys of good communication with your clients is to spot and clear any ambiguities before the project starts. It would be difficult to give an exhaustive list here, but here are a few examples:

– Imagine someone is asking you for “translation + proofreading” services. Do they mean they want you to proofread your own translations (in my case, this is a given), or are they expecting you to also ask a 3rd party to check your texts? Depending on the answer, the pricing and deadline will be very different.

  1. Character limitations. Whenever possible, try to get a hard limit, rather than “roughly the same length as source text”. If that’s not a possibility, clearly state you will try to keep length under a certain limit. And that they will need to pay extra if they later come back to you with a million requests to shorten your translation.
  2. If you’re localizing websites and are asked to produce a copy “optimized for SEO [sic]”. Are there any specific keywords they want you to target? Do they want you to take care of the keyword research? Again, adapt your rates if necessary.


    7. When unsure, follow your intuition

Do you have a bad feeling about a project? It happens from time to time. There’s no deal-breaker you could single out, but a combination of small things: the deadline is a little tight, the format is not the simplest one, and the client seems to have very specific demands… If you feel somewhat uncomfortable with job description, it is properly wise to politely decline it.


Video Game Culturalization: Definition and Best Practices (IGDA LocSIG)

The Best Practices for Game Localization is a true gem of information kindly shared by the IGDA LocSIG. It contains everything one needs to know about game localization. The format in which it is shared might make it a little hard to find and digest, so I decided to split it in a format easier to share and process.

The document starts with a very interesting part on game culturalization: its definition, its different aspects and best practices recommended for game developers. Often overlooked, that step of the globalization process is critical to avoid cultural issues down the road – some other which can have disastrous effects (an example of a game discontinued for that reason is given in the document).

That specific section was written by Kate Edwards, executive director of the IGDA and expert on the topic. She first worked for Microsoft, creating the Geopolitical Strategy, which evaluates and manages geopolitical and cultural content in software products. After her stint at the IT giant, she started her own consulting firm, Englobe, engaged in content culturalization and strategy, primarily for the video game industry.

Here, she shares her knowledge in a well-written, simple yet exhaustive text, with her main points clearly organized and summarized.

What is game “culturalization”?

Culturalization takes a step beyond localization, making a more fundamental examination of a game’s assumptions and choices, and then assesses the viability of those creative choices in both the global, multicultural marketplace as well as in specific locales. While localization assists gamers with simply comprehending the game’s content through translation, culturalization allows gamers to engage with the game’s content at a potentially more meaningful level. Or conversely, culturalization ensures that gamers will not be disengaged by a piece of content that is considered incongruent or even offensive in the game’s environment.

Cultural mistakes often prove to be costly for game developers and publishers – not just the loss of potential revenue but the greater effects of negative public relations, damage to corporate image, and strained relations with the local government. In the worst-case, a local government may not only ban the game but take more direct action against the company, including detainment of local personnel for questioning and even incarceration.

Levels of game culturalization

The need for game localization is a well-known necessity within the game industry; however the need for culturalization remains relatively unrealized. Culturalization isn’t just a specific task; it’s also a broader intent for all international adaptation of content. In its most basic form, content culturalization can be viewed as the following three phases:

  1. Reactive culturalization: Make the content viable; i.e., avoid disruptive issues to allow a game to remain in the target market.
  2. Localization & Internationalization: Make the content legible; i.e., perform “typical” localization to allow the game to be understood.
  3. Proactive culturalization: Make the content meaningful; i.e., adapt and provide locale-specific options to allow the game to be locally relevant.

In regards to these phases of culturalization, some clarification may be helpful:

Localization is critical but the process of achieving legibility through translation is not the only step required in preparing content for other cultures. This is true for video games as much as it’s true for every other type of content.

It may be argued that a game title should be “legible” before it is “viable.” But a government will restrict a game based on sensitive content regardless if it’s localized or not.

These phases are not a hierarchy. As with localization, culturalization takes place in various stages within the typical game development cycle and is a coordination of various tasks and priorities being orchestrated across the entire development process.

Top Four Cultural Variables

The effort of thinking outside our given cultural worldview often makes it difficult for a game designer in one locale to be aware of the issues that could cause problems in another locale. However, by considering at least the following four cultural variables that most often generate conflict between the game’s context and local cultures, it is possible to reduce the potential for issues to arise:

  1. History: Past and Present

The issue of historical accuracy is one of the most sensitive issues for local markets. Many cultures are extremely protective of their historical legacy and origins, so any alternate or inaccurate history can yield strong, emotional backlash. History is a compelling topic, but it’s rarely possible to provide the full context of a historical event in a game. But it’s not only distant history that can be problematic but recent history can be a very sensitive topic as the memory of the events and outcome are very fresh in people’s minds.

  1. Religion and Belief Systems

Game content creators need to be sensitive to the underlying mechanics of the cultures into which their game titles are to be released. In general, a society based on sacred rules tends to be less flexible and yielding to the context in which information appears because they are following what they consider to be a higher standard than human judgment; i.e., if the problematic content appears at all, regardless of context, then there is potential for backlash.

  1. Ethnicity and Cultural Friction

Besides the more volatile issues of history and religion, there are many of issues that fit under a broad category that addresses various forms of disagreement, misperception, attitude and ongoing friction between cultural groups. Chief among those is the use of ethnic and/or cultural stereotypes and the perception of inclusion and exclusion with a negative bias towards a specific group.

  1. Geopolitical Imaginations

National governments often reinforce their local worldview and the extent of their geographic sovereignty through digital media, including online maps and video games. This involves a situation where the government claims certain territories and they expect those territories to be shown as integrated with their nation, whether it’s on a functional map or in the world of a video game (hence the term “geopolitical imagination,” as the depiction they’re demanding doesn’t reflect reality). With some governments, such as China and India, there is no room for error on this issue as they maintain laws that dictate how national maps must appear or how their local political situation must be shown.

Culturalization Best Practices

The underlying principle of culturalization is that a minor investment of time and effort during the game development process will offset a major loss of time, money and public relations in resolving post-release issues. Fortunately, there are some key steps developers can take to be more proactive about their culturalization strategy.

Gain awareness

  1. Attain a basic awareness: A key step is to attain a fundamental awareness of the potential for cultural issues; content creators and managers need to understand that cultural issues can occur and in which key markets and which key types of content. For example, most people are aware that China, India, Korea, and the Middle East can be sensitive markets. Also, many people know that certain types of content can become a real flashpoint for backlash, such as maps, flags and historical information.
  2. Ask questions: The goal isn’t to establish subject-matter expert proficiency, but to ask appropriate questions during development. For example, the game Kakuto Chojin (2002) contained a brief audio track with a chanted portion of the Islamic Qur’an, resulting in widespread backlash that eventually caused the product to be discontinued (note: this happened after an official protest from the Saudi Arabian government. Despite the problem being known at the time of the release, the developer assumed the issue wouldn’t be noticed. There have later been attempts to release an amended version of the game).
    Screenshot of Kakuto ChojinThis issue could have been avoided if someone had asked the question: “From where did these lyrics originate and what do they mean?” If something doesn’t seem quite right – even if the exact reason isn’t known – raise the issue immediately.
  3. Create accountability: In order for culturalization to be successful, it must be treated as a standard component of the development cycle. This means that responsibility for the process should be assigned to a specific person/team, often times the content coordinators and/or editors. Also, a new bug type “cultural” or “geopolitical” or whatever appropriate should be created in the bug tracking system to ensure the issues are flagged and resolved.

Identify issues

As mentioned previously, culturalization is most effective the earlier it’s applied to game content, thus engaging in team discussions around meaning, intent and purpose of characters, plots, environments, objects and so on during the conceptual stages can often catch the majority of potential issues. Here are the fundamentals of identifying potential issues:

  1. Context proximity: Stated simply, contextual proximity is the concept that the closer a content element approaches the original context in person, place, time and/or form, the greater the potential for cultural sensitivity. Developers should be looking for content that mimics real world locations, buildings, people, events, religions, nationalities, ethnicities and so on, and then evaluating the degree to which the content resembles its real world inspiration.
  2. Leverage external resources:
    a. Text references: Many reference works can be useful for basic research, such as cultural studies, country-specific guides, symbol dictionaries, encyclopedias of religions and deities, etc.
    b. Online research: Wikipedia, official government websites, non-government organization (NGO)
    websites, religious organizations, etc.
    c. Local opinions: Accessing the knowledge of people from a specific locale and/or culture can be particularly useful. If you work in a large multinational company, make use of the internal diversity of the company and ask your fellow employees for opinions. Alternatively, you can solicit opinions online in various forums (e.g., Yahoo Answers). This ad hoc opinion gathering may contain subjective viewpoints, but a large enough sample can reveal a clear pattern.
    d. Subject-matter experts: If the above forms of research do not yield clarity, seek out people in different fields such as history, cross-cultural studies or geography.

Assess severity

Just because issues have been identified in the research, it doesn’t mean every potential issue needs to be fixed. After identifying potential cultural issues, the key in next stage is to be able to effectively determine the “must fix” issues.

  1. Triage the found issues: Separate the “overt offenses” – the obvious things that you know for certain will be a problem from the “reasonable risks” – the things that might raise some concerns but won’t likely prevent a game from staying in the intended locale.
  2. Document your choices: Every game publisher has a choice as to whether or not to change sensitive content. Most companies do but there are times when it may not make sense to make even a minor content change because the issue is borderline sensitive. In such cases, it’s critical to document the decision-making in a defensive explanation, in case it might be needed if a government or consumers raise the issue.

Implement with precision

Many game designers carry a preconceived notion that culturalization is about making massive changes and rethinking the entire game idea. This is a misperception, and one key reason why many don’t confront the geopolitical and cultural aspect at all, as they believe it’s going to be too disruptive. This highlights one of the most important principles of culturalization:

  1. Be surgical: Make the most minimal change to the least amount of content. Only change what really must be changed in order to ensure distribution to the game’s target market. In the majority of cases with cultural issues, the resolution is a small, precise fix of a specific symbol, or word, or character design; it’s usually not a major issue such as the entire game’s premise (although this can occur).


Create the game you want to create, but don’t forget the global, multicultural audience who will be participating in your vision, and hopefully enjoying it without any cultural disruption. Well-executed culturalization within a development cycle isn’t turnkey; it takes time to implement successfully. However, the benefits to a company’s content quality, government relations, and public image amongst local gamers will prove to be a valuable long-term investment.


Internationalizing Ikinari Maou for LocJAM Japan

Introducing Ikinari Maou

Simply put, Ikinari Maou is a puzzle-solving game disguised as an 8-bit RPG.

It was created during the Tyrano Game Fes JAPAN 2016, a jam where the goal was to create short games with TyranoBuilder (or using the TyranoScript language), a visual novel creation tool.

The game won the 2nd prize, and was praised for its originality, the quality of the challenge and its clever use of TyranoScript’s capabilities.

As a parodic RPG, the game ticked all the boxes for the LocJAM’s needs: reasonably short, diverse (lines from different characters, menus, system messages) and using a vocabulary typical of video games.

The Localization Tool

For the purposes of the contest, Shikemoku-MK, the creator of TyranoBuilder, kindly wrote a localization tool that reads scenario files and extract localizable strings, with the possibility of previewing and generating the game in the target language.

Technical Challenges

Most of the technical obstacles we met during the internationalization process were due to the nature of tool. TyranoBuilder is originally designed for novel games. You will typically have the scenario read in a windows, with the occasional selection to make through textual buttons.

Ikinari Maou, however, isn’t your typical novel game. As mentioned earlier, it could be described an RPG/puzzle-solving game, albeit a very scripted one. And to keep that old school RPG feel, the developers had to push the tool to its limits and use its features in creative ways. Long story short, we also had to find ways to accommodate the specifics of the game to make it localization-friendly.

  • In terms of volume, the main task was to convert graphical buttons in text buttons to make them localizable without the need to produce new image files. Remember, the contest is aimed at translators, many of whom aren’t familiar with advanced image editing tools, so everything had to be plain text.So we went over the script files and converted image buttons (“button”) to text buttons (“glink”), switching the image attribute of the former to the text attribute of the latter. We also tweaked TyranoScript’s CSS files to render these links a little more nicely, as options were a bit limited inside TyranoBuilderThis part went fairly smoothly as text and image links essentially work the same way… for the most part.
  • On the name entry screen, switching the graphical confirmation button to a text version had the game crash and it took us a while to figure out why. As it turns out, graphical buttons and text ones work a little differently in the background. The way TyranoScript was designed, clicking on a text button would actually kill the name entry field before any extra code can be applied, effectively making it impossible to save the name entered (and making the script crash by calling an element that has been deleted). The solution here was to dig a bit deeper and make a couple of edits to TyranoScript’s JavaScript files, the core of the tool that converts script (scenario) files into the HTML your browser displays.
  • This time we had to prepare not only the game but also the localization tool, and so we had to debugging on both fronts. One issue that appeared is that the tool originally didn’t extract strings under the “ptext” tag, which allows you to place text anywhere on the screen (outside the space reserved to the “story”) and was used in a couple of places in the game’s scenario files.
  • Another challenge was to find a good format to make strings easy to translate in a broad range of software. We decided to go for a tab-delimited .CSV file using UCS-2 Little Endian encoding – a format that can easily be opened in spreadsheet editing software and most computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools. It is flexible, universal and allows for instant implementation of translated strings.
  • Finally, we had to adjust the original text at a number of places, because of the limitations of our localization tool and TyranoScript. For example, variables were not localizable, so we had to remove a number of things, such as the default character name. We also had to make sure there would not be strings concatenated on a single line. Otherwise the options were to either automatically add a space every time, which would have made punctuation non-compliant in certain cases, or ask translators to add line-breaks manually every time. Obviously the latter option would have been a little tedious, so we just opted to move the text around to avoid issues.
  • As for the font, we used Atari Small, which we carried over from the very first edition of the LocJAM. It covered all of our needs and matched the game’s feel.

LocJAM Japan Presentation – Kyoto Study Group (December 2016)

Here are the slides for the presentation I gave for the Kyoto Study Group organized during LocJAM Japan. You will find a quick introduction to LocJAM Japan (what it is, reasons to participate, etc.), basic information about the tools we are using this time (TyranoBuilder-based games, and Tyrano Translator to localize them) and an overview of the game localization process applied to Ikinari Maou, the game we are offering for localization.
The idea is to have a grasp of how a typical game localization project works. Although we’re taking Ikinari Maou as an example, the whole process can be applied almost identically to most games, including analog ones.
Speaking of which, the presentation is based on the one I gave in March for LocJAM3, with a full text version available here.

How to Localize TyranoBuilder Games


Important note: This tutorial is meant for translators who want to practice on actual games and see their work in context. If you are planning to localize a game and make it public at some point, please do ask the developer for their permission before

Although Tyrano Translator was created for LocJAM Japan with いきなり魔王 in mind, it can be used for pretty much any title based on TyranoBuilder and mostly relying on plain text.

Find a game to localize

There are lots of free games built with TyranoBuilder available out there, both in Japanese and in English. You will find some of them by following the links below:

English games: https://itch.io/jam/tyranojam15

Japanese games: http://novelgame.jp/fes/search/2016

Get your hands on the source files

The following procedure applies to Windows, but the steps are probably very similar for Mac users.

  1. Download the game of your choice, and extract it
  2. Run the game. Once the title screen shows up, you can safely close it (or keep playing, of course!)
  3. A folder containing the source files will be created in “C:\Users\{YourUsername}\AppData\Local\Temp” (don’t forget to replace {YourUsername} with your Windows username).
    The folder name should look like “nwXXXXX_XXXXX”
  4. Copy that folder to a more convenient, non-temporary place on your computer

Generate a translatable file

  1. Download/Extract Tyrano Translator and run translator.exe.
  2. Click on “Select Project” and select “index.html” in the “nwXXXXX_XXXXX” folder you copied previously
  3. Check “Developer Tools”. More options should display.
  4. Click on “CSV Export as Single File”. A file named “transrator.csv” will be generated in Tyrano Translator’s “trans_data” subfolder.
  5. The file generated won’t have the proper encoding, which should be UCS-2 Little Endian (also called UTF-16 LE, or even simply Unicode in some software). This is a current limitation of the tool.
    There are different ways to convert the format. For example, you can open the file in the free code/text editor Notepad++ and use Encoding > Convert to UCS-2 Little Endian and Edit > EOL Conversion > Windows Format, then save the file.

Translate and implement

From there, things the instructions we shared for LocJAM Japan apply:

  • If you have Microsoft Excel installed in your system, simply double click on the transrator.csv file (located inside the \trans_data folder) in order to access the game text.
  • If you don’t have MS Excel on your system, download the free alternative LibreOffice.
  • Column A contains the original strings. Use them for reference while translating and revising but do not edit them. Column B will contain your translation.
  • When you want to check your work, launch the translator.exe application (located inside the root folder).
    Click on the “Select Project” button and select the index.html file (located inside the nwXXXXX_XXXXX folder). Press the “Preview localized game” button to run your translation.
  • If you changed some lines but the game still shows older ones, delete the content of the \trans folder and the rider_config.json and nwXXXXX_XXXXX\trans.json in order to clear the cache.
  • Translation strings are separated by lines like “ScenarioName XXX.ks”. Do not edit and do not
    remove such lines, as they are needed for the game to work correctly
  • Please use smart quotes “” instead of straight quotes and do not use HTML entities in Excel. Excel encodes these elements in specific ways that aren’t supported by the game. If you need advanced features like these, you will have to edit the file as plain text.
  • Do not rename the transrator.csv file or move it into another folder or the game will no longer be able to load it.
  • When saving, Excel will ask you if you want to replace the current file format. Always maintain the original format or the text might become corrupt and unreadable.

Going further…

Tyrano Translator is an unfinished tool that was almost exclusively tested on いきなり魔王. Depending on the game you are trying to localize, there might be some bugs.

The tool will only take care of plain text strings. To localize anything hard-coded, you will need to directly edit the .ks files in “nwXXXXX_XXXXX/data/scenario” (the “Find in Files” feature of Notepad++ works wonders here).

You will also need to edit character names either in the “Characters” tab of Tyrano Translator (untested feature) or in the .ks files (lines containing character names look like “#CharacterNameHere”).

As for images and sounds, you will need to replace them directly in the game folder. You can use Tyrano Translator’s Assets tab for a list of resources the game is using and their file names.

LocJAM Japan Unofficial FAQ and Notes

This year I had the chance to be closely involved with LocJAM Japan‘s (Japanese to English game localization contest) organization. Anticipating some of the questions and comments that are likely to arise, I decided to put together a quick, unofficial FAQ. I will do my best to update it during the contest, but once again please note that this is a personal initiative and I can’t guarantee all questions will be answered.

Known issue: Under certain circumstances, the text can overflow a bit in the main message window

The frame width is set to a slightly too small value in the .css file of the game. Depending on the text used, it might overflow a bit as on the picture below shared by Thomas Bruckert.

15369016_1204549326299024_3192057755960753697_oSince the issue is on the game side, it is absolutely fine if it happens with your translation. More generally, minor display issues won’t be taken into consideration by the jury. If you are still worried, you may use non-breakable spaces to force a line return – for example, that would be between “big” and “threat” in the example above.

Known issue (typo): “ファイラ” >  “ファイア”

There is a small typo in the list of “じゅもん”: “ファイラ” should read  “ファイア”, as spelled in other parts of the game. The jury has been informed and won’t penalize the brave translators who tried to translate this exotic name.


Known issue: unlocalizable brackets

15304544_10154122201018193_5287771767486086972_oThe Japanese brackets on the screen above can’t be localized – this one is on us, sincere apologies! Technically the issue can be fixed within the .csv file, but it won’t be taken into account by the jury.

The game won’t start when I click on “Preview localized game”

This is a known issue with the first package we shared. To fix it, you can either:


  • Download the latest package on locjam.org
  • Open transrator.csv in Excel and save it as it is

So what is this CSV file? How do I open it?

The translatable file is using the CSV (tab-delimited) format, with UCS-2 Little Endian encoding. It needs to be strictly preserved for the translation to be correctly updated.

You can use spreadsheet software (Excel, OpenOffice Calc, etc.), text editors (I personally recommend Notepad++) or your favorite CAT tool to open and translate it. Specific instructions for Trados/MemoQ, and Excel are available here.

My text isn’t aligned properly, am I going to be penalized for it?

The goal of the tool is to give you a preview of your localized game, rather than to generate a final product. Accordingly, you will not be penalized for cosmetic issues you have no control over, such as text alignment. You should however try to avoid overflows and text encoding issues.

transrator.csv, seriously?

Yes, the translatable file is named “transrator.csv”, not “translator.csv”. This is an innocent mistake from the tool’s developer. He is not an English native speaker (nor a language professional) and unfortunately didn’t have time to fix this small typo. In no way is this meant to make fun of our profession/non-native speakers.

I want to add spaces to my translation but I can only display one at a time

If necessary, you may use HTML entities in your translation (for example, “ ” for a non-breakable space)

What should I do with lines starting with ScenarioName?

Do not edit “ScenarioName    XXXX.ks” lines, or your translation won’t be read properly. If you’re using a CAT tool, it could be a good idea to lock these segments at the beginning of the project

I translated the file, but the old strings are displayed when I run the game

– If the translated strings are not updated after you edited the file:
1. Make sure the file was saved at the right location with the original name and encoding (UCS-2 Little Endian). Also make sure you didn’t add tabulations as plain text (if necessary you can add extra spaces with “ ”)
2. Delete the following:
– “maou/trans.json” file
– “trans/IkinariMaou” folder
Restart the app. Select the project again (maoh/index.html), and the tool should read everything from zero again.

I played the original version of Ikinari Maou and the graphics/text/layout are different

Yes they are. The game was edited in different ways and for different reasons to make it more easily localizable. For LocJAM Japan, the version shared on locjam.org is the only one that matters. But you are very welcome to try the game in its original format and enjoy the better visuals.

Some text is missing from the translatable file/I can’t seem to find a string of the translatable file in the game itself

While we did our best to include only relevant strings without forgetting any, we’re not excluding the possibility  we missed or added some by mistake. Please feel free to report such issues, but don’t worry, the official file shared on the LocJAM website is the only one that counts. You do not need to fix it and we will not edit the official file during the contest.

Ikinari Maou Walkthrough: How to Beat the Game (LocJAM JP)

1) After the introduction, don’t answer “こうさんしますか?” and click on どうぐ > エーテル > ゆうしゃ instead
2) Click on じゅもん > チェンジ(MP30) > まおう(1ぴき)
3) Click on どうぐ > エーテル > まおう
4) Click on じゅもん > チェンジ(MP30)
5) Click on じゅもん >エーテル > (White arrow) > ゆうしゃ(1り)
6) Don’t answer “こうさんしますか?” and click on どうぐ > エーテル > ゆうしゃ instead
7) Click on じゅもん > チェンジ(MP30) > まおう(1ぴき)
8) Click on じゅもん >エーテル > (White arrow) > ゆうしゃ(1り)
9) Let the magic work!

[LocJAM Japan] How to Translate Ikinari Maou in Trados, MemoQ, Excel, LibreOffice

Ikinari Maou is the game offered for translation for LocJAM Japan, a Japanese to English game localization contest. This article offers pointers to translate its localizable strings in different CAT and non-CAT tools, and may be updated as questions arise. Please also note that this is an unofficial guide, with no guarantees whatsoever.

The localizable file was successfully tested in both SDL Trados Studio and MemoQ. You can create a project as you normally would, with the following settings:

SDL Trados Studio (2014 or later)

To translate in Trados, please use the following options for the .csv file type in your project options:

How to localize Ikinari Maou (LocJAM Japan game) in Trados

MemoQ (tested on version 2015)

When importing the file in MemoQ, please use the following configuration:
Localization of Ikinari Maou in MemoQ

In both cases, your CAT tool should be able to export the .csv file in the right format and encoding, without any further modification.


If you are working with Excel or similar spreadsheet software, you will be able to open/save the .csv file directly, but you may have trouble exporting files in the right format if you add certain characters (quotation marks, etc.). In that case, I would recommend the use of the free code and text editor Notepad++. Once installed, copy the source and target columns from Excel (or similar software), open the original (untranslated) file in Notepad++, select all the text (Ctrl + A) and replace it with the content of your spreadsheet content. Save the file, and everything should work smoothly.

Of course, you can translate directly in Notepad++, but you will most likely find Excel more comfortable to do so.


A member of the IGDA LocSIG Group on Facebook, Anish Krishnamurthy, kindly shared the following settings to open the file in LibreOffice:


Anthony Teixeira

Anthony Teixeira - English to French IT/Software/Video game translator
Contact: contact@at-it-translator.com

As an IT professional and an experienced independent translator, I can help you with any IT-related localization project, from software UI to printer user manuals.

Quality, reliability, punctuality and experience are my values. I make the most of them to ensure your projects succeed in French-speaking territories.

You can ask me for a free quote or send me your questions anytime: you will get a reply within a day in most cases.

Sign Up For Free Localization Tips

No spam, no address sharing - only useful tips for your localization needs.
* indicates required