English to French IT Translator Blog

IGDA LocSIG Elections 2017 – Running for a Second Term

I am happy and proud to announce I am running for a second term at the IGDA LocSIG. It took me a while to settle on a decision. Not because of lack of interest -quite the contrary actually-, but because I had the interests of the group in mind: was it worth running for a second term and possibly getting on the way of new candidates when I knew I would be contributing to the community with the same energy either way?

Ultimately, my reasoning was that although my degree of motivation isn’t dictated by my presence in the SIG, the reach of my actions pretty much is. There’s no point in organizing international events and creating useful content if nobody hears about them. With your support, let’s make sure more events (in quantity and in variety) for both young and experienced game translators can come to life and succeed. Let’s do more of what the LocJAM and related initiatives did for 5 editions: giving the community a chance to come together, learn, exchange and, most of all, have fun.

You can vote for up to 5 candidates at the following link: http://www.igda.org/surveys/default.asp?id=2017_LocSIG_Election

My candidate statement

One important thing I learned during the previous term is that small and concrete actions beat big but unrealistic ideas. We are a tiny team of busy volunteers, and the best way to move towards our greater goals is to proceed by small steps.

Since joining the SIG early last year, I managed to contribute in various ways: I’ve given our newsletter a fresh start, helped the community through different channels (workshops, webinars, presentations at conferences, various articles…), and been increasingly involved in organizing the LocJAM, probably our biggest source of growth at the moment. These may sound like small things taken separately, but put together, I believe they helped make a difference.

For the new term, my objective is to build on this foundation to help the SIG develop further. Concretely, besides a renewed push to promote good practices in localization, I plan to organize more events: a successor to the LocJAM (if not in name, at least in spirit) and a worldwide, non-competitive event where people gather offline and localize a game together within a short time frame. In my experience, such meetups are incredibly effective at getting the word out among translators and developers altogether.

No rhetoric here, as I’m already taking action: I have started building a small library of localizable games (written in English or Japanese) that could fit both concepts, and acquired the knowledge to manage the organization and coordination of such events.

The only thing I need to bring these concepts to life is a little spark, which I hope you will give me. Whatever the future holds, I will keep doing everything I can to support our amazing community.

Game Localization Link Roundup – April 2017

Besides controversy surrounding Persona 5’s localization, April has been a rather calm month in the game localization world.

June will see new elections organized for the IGDA LocSIG steering committee. It has been a great pleasure to help the SIG over the last year and half. Achievements include the resurrection of our newsletter – a repository for everything interesting happening in the industry -, 3 workshops/local study groups for the LocJAM, actual help organizing the event itself (finding/internationalizing a game, most notably), a couple of webinars, various articles and presentations…

Will I run again? I don’t know yet, but I am certainly planning to keep contributing to the community in various ways. More specifically, I am starting to build a small list of games that can easily be localized by anybody (= to gain experience and build a portfolio, to help young translators enter the industry) and thinking about new events that could encourage the global community to gather and celebrate what we do offline, regardless of background and experience.

But personal talks for now, here are the links for April!

Persona 5: How Atlus USA Localized an Instant Classic

Localize Everything – Finding Hardcore Fans Worldwide – Extra Credits

Pictures from LocJAM4 study groups – Our community in action!

“I am preparing a guide for indie game devs: How to save money on localization.” – Interesting thread on Reddit where a few devs kindly shared internationalization/localization good practices

The Legend of Heroes: Trails Series – Localization Blog #2

LocJAM4 Kyoto Study Group Presentation, Topics and Personal Notes

 

The Kyoto Study Group for LocJAM4 took place on April 22nd and was followed by a networking party. The goal was the same as usual: embody the spirit of the LocJAM by gathering game enthusiasts with various degrees of experience to discuss localization, learn from our collective experience and simply have fun.

The Presentation

For my third LocJAM presentation in just a little over a year, I decided to move away from the game localization process approach and instead went for something a little more concise and practical.

Here is how we approached this year’s event:

  • Quick introduction of the LocJAM: Because a quick reminder of what the LocJAM is and isn’t always helps. The slide is pretty self-explanatory
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  • Introduction of Ikinari Maou and playthrough: To understand where the LocJAM4 game is coming from, we introduced and played the original version of Ikinari Maou. Most importantly, we analyzed what is going on in the game (who is who at what time) and how to beat it. Getting that part right is essential to produce a good translation – more on this later
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  • Comparison of LocJAM Japan winning translations: The reason I chose this approach for this presentation is that, although the Amateur and Pro winning translations were ultimately picked up by the same group of jurors, they came up with two radically different submissions in terms of style:The Amateur translation is a very creative one, with a well-crafted glossary and a bit of extra humor. It occasionally gets in the over-localization warning zone, but gets away with it thanks to the very solid writing and natural integration of the spiced up bits. And well, it’s a localization contest, so can’t blame people for trying to show off their talent in that area.The Pro translation, on the other hand, is a more faithful one, funny when the original is, neutral when it should be. Clean and accurate, to the point it sometimes gets close to be a little too literal – the perfect opposite of the Amateur translation.You can check the slides for a few examples opposing those two styles, or download the whole text here for Original/Amateur/Pro/LocJAM4 versions of Ikinari Maou.
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  • Takeaways: So why did the jury went for two submissions that don’t seem to have much in common? The answer is simple: because above all, those two localizations were executed with talent.People keep asking us if jurors would prefer such or such style. But the truth is that, more than a specific style, jurors will be mainly looking for entries that grasp the spirit of the original game and offer the player a solid experience.Ikinari Maou is a puzzle game. Conveying hints and explanations properly is critical here. Only a few participants really understood what was happening in the game and transcribed that in English. Some other entries had great writing but lost tips in translation, effectively making the game harder than it is supposed to be. So my first advice here for LocJAM4 participants is to really understand how to beat the game and how to ensure the player experience isn’t altered by their translation.The second point is that there are lots of valid styles between over- or under-localization. You shouldn’t focus on what style the jury may or may not like, because 1. there’s no way to know that and 2. it’s not a critical factor in determining winners. More than anything, you should find your voice and stick to it consistently throughout your work. LocJAM Japan winning entries both got that part right, and it’s what truly made them stand out. Reading through their submissions, it was obvious they enjoyed translating the game and were in absolute control of their writing. Just focus on what you do best, and translate the way YOU think is right.
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  • Introduction of LocJAM4’s version and quick playthrough: Here, we focused on how characterization and dialogs were purposely exaggerated for the main LocJAM event. We also mentioned the special set of instructions for Japanese translators, who are asked to find their own unique style for this “back-localization”.For the other languages, although we’ve got a spicier version here, the challenge is exactly the same as it was for LocJAM Japan: ensure your localized version preserves the original puzzle-solving experience, find your tone and don’t be afraid to exhibit your craft when the source text calls out for creativity.
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  • A bit of fun with the machine-translated version: To end up on a lighter note, we checked a few parts of the original game translated with Google Translate. The result was… interesting, shall we say. Silly fun, but a good way for everybody to relax at the end of the presentation and get in the mood for a chat.

Topics Raised by Participants

Before and after the presentation, the study group gave us all an opportunity to chat about various game localization-related topics:

  • How to get started in the industry: a classic for aspiring translators. We quickly discussed of common job-hunting tactics: contacting localization agencies with a carefully crafted CV, networking, participation to industry events…
  • How to gain experience: the LocJAM, of course! Past edition texts are freely available for translation, regardless of your language pair. Something you can show potential clients, and thus solid marketing materials. Also mentioned the Manga Translation Battle contests for those with a broader interest
  • “A good localizer should also be a spontaneous consultant”: A non-translator participant noted that the game’s font was hard to read and that, if he was a dev, he would appreciate if translators mentioned that issue. It was the starting point of a fascinating discussion about the role of translators and communication with developers. How far we translators should get involved? Are we responsible for offering a similar experience in our native language by making recommendations for font/interface changes? If you’re working with direct clients, you may want to keep in mind that they may desperately need your advice on such issues. Time to polish our consulting skills?
  • How to handle translations for languages heavily depending on context and for which gender/numbers can be ambiguous, like Japanese: in short, experience, careful text analysis and queries when all else fails. If you need context for a large number of strings, try to go for general queries (“can you mention who is talking for each line?”)

How Did it Go?

  • We had a total of 20 people, mostly localizers (good mix of hopefuls/established ones), but also a small number of designers/devs, which encouraged constructive discussions, beyond the sole topic of translation
  • What really pleased me is that everybody blended in naturally. People just started exchanging naturally, and the atmosphere was very friendly. I sort of felt sorry to interrupt the audience to start my presentation
  • Getting a bit personal here: I’m a shy French guy with 0 public speaking skills. I’m not a native speaker of English nor Japanese. Of all the participants, I was probably one of the least qualified to make a presentation. And still, just because I took the initiative, we were able to have a fun event during which everybody learned something and made important connections. It doesn’t take much to organize a LocJAM event, and it doesn’t need to be perfect. Just do it and great things will happen, because we have an amazing community

Game Localization Link Roundup – March 2017

Another month gone in the small world of game localization! In case you missed it, LocJAM4 is now live, with a creative English version of Ikinari Maou as source material. We could have had another Tyrano Builder game for contest, had we wanted to, but we liked that retro-looking RPG-puzzle game so much we thought it would be a shame not to see it localized in more languages by some of our industry’s finest. We’re serving you a spicy, heavily westernized version of the game, but the winning entries of LocJAM Japan -more faithful to the source- are also available online.

We’re already seeing great content from participants popping up here and there, which pleases us immensely. I will myself present at Kyoto’s local study group on April 22nd, after which I will share my presentation and notes.

But for now, here’s the link roundup for March! Interviews and excellent content from the GDC are waiting for you.

Nintendo Treehouse Log – Nintendo’s secretive Treehouse (which handles the localization for many of Nintendo’s games) now has their own blog

Localization talks at GDC 2017 – Final Fantasy, advanced localization tools and Chinese shenanigans in this quick summary of the localization-themed talks at GDC

‘Witcher’ Studio Boss Marcin Iwinski: ‘We Had No Clue How To Make Games’ – Nice long interview with CD Projekt Red’s Marcin Iwinski, from Polish localization to the Witcher

Localization Shenanigans in the Chinese Speaking World – Straight from the GDC vault

Learning Japanese board game culture from Yakuza 0

Localization Roundtable 2017 – Summary – A summary of the topics discussed during the localization round table organized by the SIG during the GDC

Final Fantasy XV Localization Director Talks “Fantasy Based in Reality” and Much More

6 Ways Good Translation Agencies Can Be Better Than Direct Clients

Translation Agencies vs. Direct Clients - Which is best?

Direct translation clients seem to be the Holy Grail to many of my freelancer colleagues. Better rates, more direct communication, increased likeliness to be credited… There are many apparent advantages in working without a middleman. In reality, there are all sorts of direct clients, just like there are all sorts of agencies, and in some cases the latter may be your best option.

What makes a good agency?

Very good question, one that would deserve an article of its own. To keep things simple for the needs of this one, we will consider here that a good agency is one that:

  • Generally sends you projects related to your specialization fields
  • Accepts to pay rates one judges decent
  • Pays on time
  • Sends file ready for translation (or is willing to pay extra for the conversion)
  • Has your translation checked
  • Handles basic end client requests
  • Offers manageable deadlines
  • Lets you work with the tools of your choice
  • Ideally uses your services on a regular basis (let’s say once a month or more on average)

You could add more I guess, but that doesn’t sound too bad for a start, right?

The majority of LSPs for whom all the above apply generally fall into one the following two categories:

  • “Boutique” agencies, relatively small but very focused on a specialization or a language pair
  • Very large agencies, receiving enough work to have specialization-based departments, or just large-enough volumes to keep you busy

The greater part of my income comes from translation companies meeting the criteria above, so nothing unrealistic here.

The number of direct clients I translate for is slowly increasing every year, but I don’t feel any need to rush things. There’s a lot I love about the providers I work with:

1. Negotiations are much simpler

One reality of our industry is that many of the prospects you will meet have no idea about how translation works. I receive a lot of inquiries for projects that don’t even cover my language pairs or that are definitely not a match for my specializations.

When their requests are relevant, they won’t always be sure of what they want exactly. You get a lot of “We’re pondering…”, “We haven’t defined the scope yet”, “We just want to know”, “At some point we may send you…”. Sometimes they will decide they don’t need translation services after all, for all sorts of reasons – price naturally being the most common pain point, as your average prospect also doesn’t know how much translation can possibly cost.

Once I exchanged a long series of e-mails with a prospect for about 2 hours until she finally sent me a quotable file. I had told her my per-word rates in my first message, but it’s only when I applied it to the document that she realized that… well, let me quote “Im sorry its just too expensive. I have another 3 batches like that.” To whom shall I bill my time?

Don’t get me wrong, rejected quotes are part of the game. But with agencies, you get a final answer much quicker. They know what they want and the profile they’re looking for. Which means the rejection rate also tends to be significantly lower, at least in my case. In the end, even if you get a lot of quote requests, it takes a lot of time to find a good end client.

2. The files you get are ready to go

A good agency knows that PDFs aren’t an ideal format to work with. If both of you are using a common CAT tool, they will prepare and send you a file you can start working on right away. If they can’t, they will be open to price negotiation.

On the other hand, direct clients will rather send what is convenient to them. It can take time for them to understand you’re not overly excited about working with their exotic file format, and they may me surprised when you suddenly start talking about changing your rates. I’m an IT guy, I can work around most file types, but it still occasionally takes me an awful lot of time to have something workable. I can imagine the pain for non-technical people when they suddenly have to translate a website directly from random PHP or JSON files.

3. You don’t get (too many) unnecessary queries

A serious agency will act as a buffer or filter between you and the end client. They will be able to answer basic questions and queries for you, so that you don’t have to explain why your translation doesn’t look like Google Translation’s, or why it says your text back-translates to something nasty. They’ll often have someone in-house to handle small edit requests. And they will kindly let their customer know that “my cousin who studied French in high school and says your translation sucks” is most likely not in a position to judge your work.

More seriously, people who think they know about languages better than they really do can quickly give you headaches. I’m happy for agencies to take their cut if they handle such persons for me.

4. The work stream is more consistent

Very large and boutique agencies will, in most cases, have several clients in your field, which helps maintain a healthy stream of work. In contrast, things tend to be more sporadic and unpredictable with end customers.

Another thing is volatility. Cost reductions, people moving to another company, creation of an internal translation team… there are many ways a client can stop working without any further notice. While this also applies to agencies to an extent -I can only speak from personal experience here-, my average relationship time is definitely higher with agencies.

5. Think about customer acquisition cost

When we talk about direct clients, the focus is always on how much we earn. Yet, I rarely hear about how much it costs to get a direct client.

How one finds direct clients? Conferences, associations? They’re rarely free and they can eat up quite a bit of your time. A well-optimized website? Hours and hours of SEO and content writing to get any results. Direct e-mails? You’ll spend a lot of time writing them if you want to do it right, for a low response rate. Social networks? Another time-consuming method.

It takes time, money, efforts and probably a bit of talent too. That’s why agencies have their own sales/marketing people, sometimes dedicated departments for the big players.

Agencies typically find me on translation portals or social networks, and it costs me virtually nothing, time and money-wise. I pay a small subscription fee for such websites, but I haven’t made any significant edits to my profiles in years. Compare that to the time spent maintaining a website + blog…

6. You can focus on what you like/are good at, and work faster as a result

If you start working on a large project for a direct customer, chances are that it won’t be 100% focused on your specialization. In the IT/software industry, for example, marketing texts, EULAs, etc. often get thrown in the mix besides purely technical content. A good agency will assign files to experts of their respective fields and keep a central TM/glossary.

If you work directly with the end client, you’ll either have to a. handle those parts yourself, which will take extra time if you want to translate properly, or b. spend time informing them about the situation, possibly recommending a colleague and helping them reorganize the content.

So what is really better? Is there an ideal direct client/agency ratio?

If you put all of these points together, you may start asking yourself: When all is said and done, will I really earn more with direct clients? Is it really worth spending so much time looking for them?

Spending time and money to get a deal done, explaining the process to your new customer, preparing the files, getting them to pay you, answering questions a good agency would not ask, dealing with parts that are out of your sphere of expertise… All these things will lower your average net hourly income.

Working directly with the actual customers offers other benefits than rates alone, of course, but the possibility of a better income is often what motivates people to chase them. As I wrote before, though, raw rates are not nearly as relevant as your income per time unit. Sometimes a good agency can be your best bet.

So what should you really be after? 100% direct clients, 100% agencies, 50/50, 75/25? Difficult to say. You will find extremely successful translators spread all the way between the two extremes.

In a perfect world, you would only work directly with awesome end customers who perfectly understand your job and have a ton of work for you. In the real world, translators will often find it easier to build an agency clientele and progressively try to replace them with quality end clients. Easier said than done.

In any case, and whatever path you choose to follow, try to keep these two points in mind: there’s nothing wrong working mostly with agencies if you are happy with them and direct client doesn’t equal quality client. If you build a clientele that gives you satisfaction, the rest shouldn’t matter. You shouldn’t overlook LSPs only because they get in the middle.

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.

7 Points you MUST Check Before Accepting Translation Projects

Accepting translation projects

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

We freelance translators all know at least one 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. As professional translators, it is very much our job to clear ambiguities. 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. Again, as a professional, it is your duty to make sure you are in control.

 

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.

 

Wordfast Pro 4 Review: A Huge Step Backward

Although CAT tools love making us upset in various ways, you have to admit they’re generally getting better with time. Take Trados, it’s far less buggy than it used to be, much faster at processing files and its plugins add tons of useful features.

So when news broke that Wordfast Pro 4 was out, I was curious to see where improvements were made. How disappointed was I to find out that the software had completely changed, in a terrible, terrible way.

It’s painfully unresponsive

When you open a piece of software and see a bunch of Java threads show up in your task manager, you know you’re in for a bad day. 2002 all over again. You know, those web apps that took forever to load with the coffee cup icon – and barely faster after that? It’s exactly the same thing. Really, Wordfast Pro 4 actually uses a browser plugin to render its interface, so the combination is the same, and the experience is very comparable. Slow as hell.

I understand they’re trying to push their online version of the tool, but it doesn’t excuse the unresponsiveness. Some web-based solutions like Memcloud Cloud have shown that’s it’s possible to have a fast and clean-looking app online, and not something that reminds me of the cheap and buggy shareware of the early 00’s. The thing just feels heavy. It lags all the time, again and again.

File processing is even slower

Now, what about processing speed? I ran a small experiment on a 20k project I was working on. The original files were in Wordfast’s txlf format, but I’ve been using them in Trados thanks to the xliff filter.

So, numbers.

File opening is where Wordfast seemed to suffer the least. It took it 27 seconds to chain the files and present me with the result. The same process took only 12 seconds in Trados. So that’s more than twice the time for WFP4, but it’s nothing compared to some of the other features.

The next thing I tried to do was to run a file analysis with an empty TM. Shouldn’t take very long, right? Trados needed 6 seconds to do that. Wordfast 6… minutes! OK, not quite, 5 minutes and 54 seconds (yes, I timed it). That’s 59 times slower than SDL’s product.

Even such a thing as the “Find” feature seems to take ages. Still in the 20k word project mentioned above, I compared how fast Trados and WFP4 could find a string located towards the end of the chained file, with the cursor placed in the first segment. No regular expressions or anything complex, just a good old plain text search. The result was almost instant with Trados (as in too fast to be timed), while Wordfast needed a full 6 seconds.

The interface is a disaster

Besides the general slowness of its functionalities,  Wordfast also suffers from a catastrophic interface. Every single action is tedious and far more complicated than it should be. You want to switch from a project to another? You’ll need to close the former one first (which does… nothing at all besides wasting your time). Need to run an analysis on a file? Make sure it’s closed first. If it’s not, you’ll need to close the error message, click the Wordfast tab, go back to the editor interface, close the file, then go back to the project interface and finally be able to run your analysis. Trados does that automatically for you and even offers to reopen files afterwards.

Time to export your finished project! You’ll need to manually choose an export path. Each and every time. Can’t just the software offer some default option, like the path you’ve used the previous time?

Oh, and the ribbon, wonderful. If you fold it, you’ll still see the tabs. But if you click on one of them, the ribbon won’t unfold automatically. What’s the point? Why do you need two steps for that? Even that good old Office 2007 is able to handle that for you.

You may say all these are fairly minor inconveniences, which is true. The problem is that they add up to the point anything you try to do ends up in frustration. You keep clicking around, hoping that you didn’t forget to do something the software expects you to – because it won’t do it for you, and it won’t let you know until the very last moment.

The editor is a pain to work with. It apparently needs to load something for each of your actions. For example, let’s say you want to get back to a previous string to make a correction. You try to scroll, but the editor won’t show any text while you do it, so you just hope to get lucky and find the piece of text in question by trial and error. When you’re done scrolling, you have to wait a couple of seconds until the text actually loads and displays (this is a desktop app, just keep the text in memory!). Then, when you click the cell you want to edit, wait again! The editor will need a moment to load whatever it needs until it lets you edit anything.

Didn’t someone test the software and realized how absurdly user-unfriendly it was?

Is this even a finished product?

Wordfast Pro 4 feels very amateurish overall. The interface is not only difficult to use, but also filled with buttons that do nothing or that are enabled when they shouldn’t be. Just an example: when you click an online TM in the Project TM tab, the Export button is enabled. You can’t export an online TM, but it makes it look so. But if you press the button, a window opens and offers you to select a TM… from an empty list, because you can’t export online TMs. Don’t you think an error message would be less confusing? Or even better, can’t you just disable the button in the first place?

Again, that’s just one example among others. You’ll often find yourself puzzled by such dead ends.

Above all, it has lost its direction

I used to recommend Wordfast to beginners for its relative simplicity. Up to version 3, it had a simple, clean and reactive interface, and all the basic features you would expect from a CAT tool. No fancy productivity hacks or project management features (that we translators don’t need anyway), but more than enough to work efficiently on most projects.

Whether that was intentional, I don’t know, but Wordfast had its place on the market as an easy-to-learn tool.

In contrast, Wordfast Pro 4 doesn’t seem to have a clear positioning. It tries to mimic both rival desktop and cloud solutions, but fails spectacularly by only offering the worst of both worlds. It doesn’t have the features and processing speed of Trados, nor the simplicity and reactivity of Memcloud. Instead of focusing on its strengths, it is vainly trying to chase competitors, years later. And still, I don’t remember Trados Studio 2009 being that bad.

Conclusion

I’m baffled by how much of a step backward Wordfast Pro 4 is compared to its predecessor. I don’t see much to save there. Some of the interface flaws can be fixed fairly easily, but it will still be slow and awkward. And in terms of features and processing speed, it’s so far behind its rivals that I just can’t see it getting its head out of the water anytime soon.

By trying to mimic the competition, Wordfast lost its soul, the speed and ease of use that made it an interesting entry point into the CAT world. And it gained nothing in the process. It’s become a slow, buggy, incoherent software headed nowhere.

I have stopped accepting projects involving WFP4. In theory, you can only use Wordfast to check TMs/TBs and edit .txlf files in Trados or MemoQ, but some of the custom fields won’t get updated, which apparently causes issues with some of Wordfast features. Yet another area where WFP3 was better, and a fatal flaw for me. Goodbye, Wordfast.

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.

Anthony Teixeira

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

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