PikPok apps are distributed all over the world, and are played by a large number and wide selection of people varying demographically, geographically, and culturally. Small children, adults, men and woman play, casual gamers and hardcore, from a varied range of religious and social backgrounds, and many countries. There isn’t really such a thing as a typical PikPok customer, unless your parameters are so broad as to have the footprint of a titan, i.e. a primate with a suitable device.
Localisation is the process of adapting content for different audiences, and while translation is the most obvious part of this, there is more to it, as Andy Macoy, PikPok Localisation Manager, explains.
Aside from menus and instructions in games, what else does localisation cover?
Localisation is definitely more than just translation.
Where relevant, localisation has to speak-up for the gaming tastes and cultural differences of all the regions we’re intending to release a game. Tailoring your game heavily to the tastes of one country is fine if that’s where you expect the vast majority of your customers to be, but if a game is going global things may need to be tweaked in order to please everyone. If an element would be deemed funny in one target country while highly offensive in another for example, that has to be flagged.
In addition to translating all the text within a game, translating and recording any vocals is becoming an increasingly expected feature in modern games so I’ll have to organise scripts and recording sessions.
Also, ensuring all our games are properly submitted to the various local ratings bodies around the world such as ESRB or PEGI falls under my wing.
What is your background? How did you get into localisation?
I started in the games industry straight out of uni, initially in QA for Sony, transferring over to their publisher support team after a while before moving into production at Namco. Most of their games were developed in Japan, so our primary job there was getting them ready to release in Europe and organising translations was a major part of that. As a result I became a bit of a specialist in the area while still able to serve as a more traditional producer too whenever needed.
What are the pitfalls you sometimes hit localising games like Flick Kick Football?
Screen space is usually the biggest one. A word which is 6 letters long in English may well have a German or French equivalent which is twice as long or more, so if there isn’t enough space available in a menu button to fit it’s title in all languages we have a problem.
Another common issue is translators working too literally from the English source text, which in the case of games having a lot humour or regional idioms in their wording can mean things are lost in translation.
How do you address those issues?
Automated test translations can give a rough idea of how much space will likely be needed for all supported languages nice and early, allowing the UI designers to take it into account.
Giving translators as much info on the game and context for each line is key to getting back their best work. Often they’ll not be in a position to play the game while translating, so are reliant upon descriptions, movies and screenshots. There’s no such thing as too much info, anything you can give them is helpful.
Post-release we will also listen to feedback from our community of fans and rework translations where there’s a consensus we didn’t get it quite right the first time. We want our games to be as polished as possible for everyone, so every little bit of help is appreciated.
Does our QA team look at localisation issues for you, or do you have to go through each game yourself?
It’s a bit of both. The QA team will look out for any issues in-game around text running too long for the available space, untranslated text or any other problems as far as people who don’t speak the various languages can. I’ll take care of getting the issues they find fixed, addressing any minor issues such as obvious typos myself while working with the translators to fix any problems which can’t be taken care of in-house. On top of that we’ll get everything proof-read by translators once it’s in the game, ideally by sending them a build of the game but sometimes we’re forced to use videos or screenshots instead.
Aside from the UI crew, who do you interact with most often.
The people I usually pester the most are the QA team and the producer of the game concerned, having lots of to-and-fro to get any bugs ironed-out of the translations. The producer will also often need my help with translations for things like iTunes listings and other promotional materials after the in-game work is all done.
Do you have any funny stories about mistranslation or misunderstanding?
We’ve not had a full-on Zero Wing moment of incredibad translation yet, but hopefully I’ve not just jinxed things.