Let's get back to your blog. One of the things you've mentioned and you've covered the importance of style guides and glossaries. But could you maybe give us some other ways game companies could prepare their projects for freelancers or in-house localization departments? How can game developers make localizers' lives easier and get a better end product?
When you mention the style guide, one of the important things to mention there is to change the mindset and understand that it's a living document and that it requires continuous updates. Because quite often what I've seen is that you create one at the beginning and that's it. And then it's there for as long as the project lasts. And that's a problem because you need to update it with what you learn, especially if you are working in an agile environment. If we ship content every two weeks, and we are monitoring relations with the players, we need to update the style guide based on what we learn. So, that's something that I don't see done very often. Many people create a style guide and it stays the same almost forever.
So, we need to ensure that the style guide is regularly updated, cleaned, and maintained. It is crucial. It's also very important to give the translators or the language partners the opportunity to have builds or betas or access to play the games. Because otherwise, they are blind. Even when we have a very detailed, good context, the reality is it's not enough. So finding a way to give them access to the builds in the early phases so they can touch the game is very important.
Something that we do that I think is a good practice is we invite the translators to the office for one day for a workshop. While we are there all together, we show what we have at the moment. The beta, the playtest (version). Whatever we have, we share. But we also have a conversation about the expectations from the client side, and we ensure that everyone in the room understands those expectations. And that's super important when it comes to the tone of voice that we use in the game, cause it needs to change from game to game. And ensuring that everyone in the room understands "Okay this is how this character will speak" we want that the personality and the attributes and the adjectives used are this, this, and that.
Everything that is related to giving translators the opportunity to be a little bit more involved, having the ability to ask questions, having the ability to play the build on early phases, having the ability to use one document that they know is fresh and up-to-date, I think those steps are crucial to guarantee that the translators can do a good job, because the reality is that they are far away and they need this kind of engagement, otherwise they don't produce the nice, stylistic approach we want. Yeah, it's probably even more important when it comes to voiceover. Inviting people in, giving context, and explaining your expectations.
Yeah, that alignment needs to happen at the beginning of each project. Which brings me to the importance of having a checklist of things we need to have in place before starting game development. So obviously, each company and each vendor or client will have different ones. But it's very important to say "Okay, at this phase, we need to discuss internationalization; here we need to discuss platform support; we need to discuss this, this, this, and that." And include those requirements in one localization kit at the very beginning. That way, everyone understands each other's expectations. Quite often, I've seen that not done, and it always became a problem at some point. Because if we are not taking the time to understand each party's meaning of "good" then it's going to be very difficult to actually agree on anything. I think, in one of your posts, I also read that game developers should keep in mind game localization even when writing the game. For example, if narrative designers are writing the game, they should keep in mind that the game will be localized in different languages. And I agree with that part, but do you think it could hinder the quality of the project? Let's say some movie director like Quentin Tarantino had to think about all the languages his movies are about to be translated into before writing the scripts. I think it would hinder the source. Do you think that happens in video games? Ideally, it should happen, but is there a solution to this?
I think there is a risk of going over the top and doing too much culturalization, to the point where we might lose the flavor. So, obviously, it's wise to strike a balance, because otherwise, we play to all the clichés in specific cultures, and we need to avoid that. And in order to prevent that we need true professionals and content creators that know when it's too much and when it's too little.
I think we can use, as mirror, Dreamworks or Pixar. They find a way of doing it: Their movies are culturalized to some level, but they are not over culturalized. And one of my favorite examples is actually one of my favorite movies—Inside Out, I don't know if you've seen it. I've seen it, yeah.
I really like that movie. I don't know if you remember, but there is one situation with the feeling of disgust toward broccoli. They have broccoli and pizza… And they have the little girl and her father is trying to feed her broccoli, but she doesn't want it. That we got that version in Spain, and I don't know if it was the same in Russia, but in that one, the association was crystal clear: Broccoli is bad. And what's interesting is how they approached it in Japan. Because in Japan it's the other way around. Broccoli is every kid's favorite food. They love broccoli—they don't hate it. So, when you think about it, and you can google it, to see both images, because you'll get the European and Asian versions. You can see that in Japan what they did is said: "What is the equivalent to broccoli for Japanese kids, because if they love broccoli, what don't they like?"