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Five things to consider when localizing a new game: case study of Bermuda Adventures and Inlingo

In the field of localization, each project requires an individual approach. You need to immerse yourself in the story, put together a team, and consider all the project’s nuances. In the latest Inlingo and Belka Games case study, we discuss how work on the translation of Bermuda Adventures — a fun farming game for all the family — was organized. We take a peek backstage at the development department, share our method of organizing the technical system of localization from scratch, and examine five challenges that we have already learned how to deal with.

Belka Games and Bermuda Adventures: How did it all start?

The idea was first conceived in August 2020, when the team chose the direction of their next project. When it came to format, they chose farming, but the concept for the story didn’t appear immediately. The narrative team came up with several ideas: the story of a mad scientist who builds a time machine and sends his family to the Bermuda Triangle, or about a planeload of scouts that crashes, and the scouts have to test their survival skills.

In the end, they chose a family story that was familiar from one of their previous projects — Funky Bay.

Our decision was influenced by our experience developing and managing Funky Bay — the projects are similar, but each of them has unique features. It’s much easier to work with a product when the format is already familiar — from the start, we knew how to make an interesting game. We didn’t encounter any unexpected technical problems, which meant we were able to put more effort into the narrative and the visual components.

– Pavel Sudakov, head of the RnD department at Belka Games

The plot revolves around a happy family that heads off on a trip to a tropical island. There is reason behind the journey — the grandmother’s birthday. But the pilot loses control and is forced to crash land in the Bermuda Islands. The passengers bail out with parachutes and land all over the place, while the plane itself disintegrates. The characters not only have to survive on the island, but also to find their relatives.

Normally during the development process, we focus on the main mechanics, which have to produce the required metrics. But in the case of Bermuda Adventures, we immediately decided that the story was an important aspect of the game. Games with journeys that don’t have an entertaining plot won’t retain the player’s interest for long.

We wanted to create an interesting story about a large family that ends up in an unexpected situation, so we spent a lot of time developing the characters and their background.

– Alexander Zabezhinskiy, producer of Bermuda Adventures at Belka Games

The basis of the project comprises two elements: a classic farming game/city-builder and expeditions. The player develops the initial area — constructing and upgrading buildings, producing goods, and performing assignments. At the same time, they explore the world, helping the residents of the Bermuda Islands, solving mysteries, and discovering new pieces of the story. To ensure that progress remains interesting, the developers pay particular attention to the mechanics and seek out new combinations of them.

We adopted the rule that each new feature in the game has to provide a fresh gaming experience. So, for example, character customization has appeared in Bermuda Adventures. Nobody on the market has introduced a similar mechanic in a farming game before. We have a lot of plans in that respect and players can expect even more interesting features in the future.

– Alexander Zabezhinskiy, producer of Bermuda Adventures at Belka Games

Every month, major updates for Bermuda Adventures are released, with improvements and new features. Events are launched even more often, several times a week. Each event is a unique story which shows the characters in a new light and reveals the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle.

Bermuda Adventures and Inlingo

The localization of their farming game was a consideration for Belka Games at the very first stages of development. From experience with other projects, it was clear that it was best to start the process as early as possible in order to achieve impeccable quality. The company approached Inlingo in November 2020. Together, the teams compiled style guides and glossaries, then established working processes that suited both sides. Particular attention was paid to LQA — all texts and languages are tested. Work on new patches is still ongoing.

Belka Games came to us with their new project and showed us their materials. Our team had already worked on similar projects, so we were happy to agree to help. At the beginning, we translated the texts from Russian into English, but in time other European and Asian languages were added. The volume of work grew, and the number of specialists attached to the project also increased. Now the Bermuda Adventures team is a large, professional and very well-coordinated machine.

– Kseniya Kondratieva, project manager at Inlingo

The basic language framework was transferred to Bermuda Adventures from other Belka Games projects. The emphasis has been placed on the most popular language pairs in the world, which means that a vast audience of players can get to know the game.

We have no plan to stop. We’re doing research and discussing with Inlingo the possibilities of entering new markets. The traditional Chinese language seem to be the most interesting area for development: we would love for our texts to be understood in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. We are also considering the Scandinavian languages and Dutch.

Turkish looks attractive, as does Arabic, which is difficult but very popular. We’ve managed to implement it in Solitaire Cruise, and perhaps we’ll do the same in Bermuda Adventures.

– Denis Ivanov, lead localization manager at Belka Games

How have we set up the working process?

All the texts for Bermuda Adventures — the character dialogs, the interface, the loading screen tips — are written initially in Russian. Then the Inlingo team translates all the material into English. This is a vital moment, because all the other eight languages that the text will subsequently be translated into are based on the English source.

Languages in the game: Russian, English, Portuguese Brazil, German.

We pay particular attention to the translation from Russian to English, and we don’t start the other translations until it has been approved. The narrative designers at Belka Games review the English text, submit their questions and comments, and then we make corrections and confirm the material. The process takes up a lot of time, but it’s worth it in the long run.

You can imagine what it would be like if we immediately gave the English text to the translators for European, Asian and Brazilian languages, but then later found a mistake. We would have to make corrections in nine languages, and that’s much harder and more time-consuming than checking the source material in English a few times.

– Kseniya Kondratieva, project manager at Inlingo

This is what the process of finalizing the English text looks like

Translations in all languages are read by an editor, and then reviewed during the linguistic cosmetic testing phase. The text is fitted into the game interface and they check how it looks. The testers also look for functional bugs.

The Belka Games team pays particular attention to LQA in all its projects, but while in other games the testing process was not introduced straight away, in Bermuda Adventures it was adopted from the very beginning. This has allowed us to avoid a lot of problems, as the bare text doesn’t always provide the full picture.

Thanks to testing, we can immediately see if the translator has correctly understood the context and, more importantly still, how the text fits into the interface and windows. It’s important for us to check that we have observed the limits correctly, and not made mistakes with line breaks and tag formatting.

Bermuda Adventures is currently a project with one of the highest scores for quality of localization. We simply don’t give bugs and other errors a single chance of getting through — and that’s thanks to LQA.

– Denis Ivanov, lead localization manager at Belka Games

Screenshots from a bug report: French, Spanish and German.

What problems did we encounter?

1. Inconsistent terminology

The same item in the game should always have the same name. But sometimes inconsistencies creep in, and a “bicycle” becomes a “bike”. The words have the same meaning, but different forms. If we don’t change anything, the player may be confused.

People aren’t robots, and sometimes they make mistakes. For example, they don’t maintain consistent terminology in a text. Our task is to notice this in good time and make corrections in the English version, or even before that in the Russian source. In fact, inconsistencies are sometimes only picked up at the stage of subsequent translations.

We pay great attention to this area, which means that players can always understand what item they have to find.

– Artemii Meshcheriakov, project manager at Inlingo

Solution

Ideally, this type of mistake should be caught at the stage of primary translation — in our case from Russian into English. That way, inconsistent terminology doesn’t have the chance to make its way into other languages. However, we have to remain attentive throughout the process, and try to check with the source regularly.

2. Quickly changing source text

There have been times when the lockit has changed even during the process of translation, which means that come submission time some of the strings may already be different. Changes can appear in different parts of the lockit and be of different sizes, which means it’s necessary to check the translations carefully against the source text.

After the main translation process was completed, our managers re-uploaded the entire lockit to MemoQ and identified the changes to the strings by hand using the translation memory. After that, we immediately launched the process of correction and additional translation. The corrections process can take up to two days, depending on the volume.

– Artemii Meshcheriakov, project manager at Inlingo

Solution

Our work began at an early stage of the project’s development, and with scaling some of the processes changed. In our case, there was no way of avoiding making corrections to the lockit. If you have the chance to approve all texts before starting translation, that will undoubtedly speed up the process and make life easier for the team.

3. Post-factum length limits for terms

Limits ensure that the text will fit into the interface. Problems occur, however, when limits on the number of symbols appear after the text has been translated — this entails reviewing all previously completed translations.

We quite recently introduced symbol limits for quests, the compendium [a tab with tasks for temporary expeditions –Ed.], and the names of items. This caused problems as we were imposing limits on texts that had already been translated. It was immediately apparent that a lot of the completed material simply didn’t fit the limits, and it was necessary to make corrections.

– Denis Ivanov, lead localization manager at Belka Games

Solution

The Belka Games product team wrote and ran a script that created an outbreak of red underscoring in the lockit. The Inlingo and Belka Games teams identified and shortened all the problem strings at breakneck speed. The new rules for limits were immediately added to the project guidelines.

Text that doesn’t conform to the limits is marked in red

The terms that required changing due to the symbol limits led to a string of subsequent editing work — the new words were no longer consistent with the previous terms that had been used in translations. The Inlingo team set about a further cycle of corrections for each language pair separately. Now the texts from Belka Games automatically have term limits noted on them, so extra checking isn’t required.

4. Special designations for family relations in Asian languages

During the localization process for Asian languages, the Inlingo team came across the particular designations for family relations that are traditional in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. There are individual terms for paternal grandmother, maternal grandfather, paternal great aunt… The word itself is different depending on which side of the family is being referred to, and there is no way of unifying terms.

In Chinese, there are different words for relatives on your mother’s side and on your father’s side, so we had to examine the characters’ family tree carefully to work out, for example, how Steve and his daughter Sandy should refer to Aunt Mary. We found out that Mary is the sister of Steve’s father (姑姑), which means Sandy should refer to her as her paternal great aunt or father’s father’s sister (姑奶).

– Anastasia Tolshchina, Chinese language editor for the project

Solution

We discussed and established all the family relations with the Belka Games narrative designers and then monitored the choice of terms in all texts.

5. Spaces in Asian languages

There were almost no unexpected problems that occurred with Chinese, Korean and Japanese in Bermuda Adventures — the team already knew what difficulties to awaited them. However, that didn’t mean there weren’t elements that required particular attention, such as spaces.

In the aforementioned languages, you can’t just put line breaks anywhere. You have to follow the rules. If the text is broken up in the wrong place, it can change the meaning.

Solution

We had already established a technical system with Belka Games when working on previous projects, so at the beginning we immediately added support for non-breaking spaces — word joiner. This helps to avoid mistakes with line breaks in Asian languages, and ensures that the text displays correctly.

This is how the designation of correct line breaks looks in Asian languages

Results of the project

  • We set up a technical system for localization from scratch. We assembled a team, compiled style guides and glossaries, ensured observation of symbol limits and consistency of terminology, and reviewed the particular features of each language pair.
  • We translated 60 000 words into nine languages in a year.
  • We tested the game, found bugs, and fixed them in all languages.

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