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Default Russian Game Development Interview @ Cosmos Gaming

August 2nd, 2007, 02:38
A bit of a tangential newsbit but we see quite a few Russian projects here and they rarely reach their potential, so I thought it might be of interest. Cosmos Gaming has an interview with 1C and other Russian game producers on the difficulty of breaking into the western market:
Some Russian titles have been criticized for having somewhat poor English translations. What do you feel can be done to improve this aspect in the future, and what comments do you have on this criticism?
1C: It is true. Some of them do, but as Russian developers and publishers gain more experience, I'm sure that the situation will improve. Mutual cooperation with our foreign partners should also help us to improve quality. One of the tasks we are placing on our friends at Atari - is delivering this polishing touch, they will make sure that all games are translated at the highest possible standard.
IT Territory: I think that unfortunately it's true that most of the translations of the Russian titles are quite poor. In my opinion Russian-speaking American translators would be an ideal solution to this problem. The other option is to have American editors not only correct the translations but adapt them in order to make them look (or sound) more natural. I think it's a good idea to work on translations with your American publishing partners because it's a very important issue that has to be discussed when signing an agreement.
Lesta: I can agree with this criticism but the majority of Russian game developers are mending their ways such as our company spending more on professional editing and proofreading. We do speak poor English in our mother Russia (read this sentence with strong Russian accent).
Step Creative Group: Terrible translations to English - this is the problem of communications between Russian interpreters and native speakers. More interaction is a must and it also needs extensive checking and correction from publisher's side too. Therefore, I blame western publishers - language checking should be their part of the job.
It's good to see they recognise this as an issue but I'd say they still don't understand just how critical it is. I'd also suggest they take ownership of the issue, because 2nd tier publishers are rarely going to do a good job.
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August 2nd, 2007, 02:38
I couldn't agree more Dhruiny. It goes without saying the problem also lies with voice acting.

For example the only thing I have against Roger Rabbit is the guy who did his horrible voice. We probably would have a seen a few more movies if it wasn't for that guy.

There's a number of games, including Spellforce, I wouldn't pick up because of these problems. If we could contact them to share that information that would be very good. I could sit through some of these games myself and just start correcting bunches o' problems.

Rumour has it that ToEE had a limited amount of text because of translation restraints placed on them by Atari. The more words, the higher the cost in localization.

Bioware does a smart thing by hiring Arts majors to take care of little problems like these.

I know the problems go both ways but its as some may or may not know native English speakers are very uptight non-native English speakers try to pass themselves off as good enough when they are not. It can be terribly obvious.

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August 2nd, 2007, 10:11
In principle I agree. However, having stayed in the CIS for a quite a while, I understand that this isn't as easy as it sounds. To be a good translator, you need to be a good writer with perfect command of your target language *and* have a good grasp of your source language. People who are reasonably fluent in Russian, have native-level command of English, and are good writers are a scarce resource, and most of them already have jobs. What's more, game developer types aren't even likely to "naturally" network with them.

Basically, this can be a quite a tough challenge for a small team already up to its eyebrows in design, writing, and coding. Especially if it's located in Kostroma. It would be much easier for the Western publisher to find the people needed to do this.

What the developer could do, though, is get it written into the contract and have some sort of third-party QA on it, even if it's the publisher's responsibility to get the translations done.
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August 2nd, 2007, 12:39
They should take a leaf from CD Projekt's book - they are really pushing for good English translation, and importantly voice acting, for The Witcher. They do certainly seem to be taking relationships with western publishers (and the gaming market in general) very seriously.
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August 2nd, 2007, 12:59
I agree with PJ that this is not trivial, but it is critical as Dhruin says. I tend to be rather more forgiving of bad translations (I note them in my reviews but don't let them stop me) but there are some that are just so bad that they actually impede you figuring out what needs to be done! (Day Watch is the latest of these … )

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August 2nd, 2007, 13:18
I don't care at all. I wish games would put the money they would've put in voice acting into the game in a more constructive and meaningful way. But if a game must have it, then spend as little as possible on it and put the money you saved into added content. I know English games are often translated badly in other regions. And it just doesn't bother me. I think bad voice acting gives the game character and an amusement factor that increases enjoyability, whereas good voice acting doesn't do much. If I wanted good voice acting I'd watch a Disney cartoon; if I want to play a good game, I don't even consider voice acting in the merits of what makes one one.

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August 2nd, 2007, 13:37
Bad translations are sometimes fun. I just want to kill the monsters. crpg.ru is pretty interesteing, they have some really nice screenshots, even though I can't read a thing. There are a lot of games which never make it to the western market. One of them that I wish would make it to the western market is the next installment of evil islands which is only available in Russian, Evil Islands: Lost In Astral.
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August 2nd, 2007, 21:55
Originally Posted by Lucky Day View Post
There's a number of games, including Spellforce, I wouldn't pick up because of these problems.
On the contrary, there are a quite high number of games released in English language ONLY.

No-one thinks about natives who don't know the English language and therefore can't play these games,

because everyone assumes that the omnipotient, all-devouring mega-language of English is known by nearly everyone.
(And with "all-devouring" I mean the constant number of languages dying out because of the dominance of the English language).

If let's say a Puerto-Rican or a person from France would drop a game because he doesn't understand the English texts in the game, then we are fast to say "you don't know what you miss" or "you miss the best games ever !"

On the other hand, English native speakers could be said the same about let's say games in Italian language.

But - I guess they wouldn't care, because their market is already so full with English-language games the companies wopuld have to seek other countries to sell them there - or translate them into native languages to sell them there.

The high number of native English speakers have a whole lot of games in their language to chose from, whereas let's say Germany doesn't have such a high number; FPS, RTS and RPG games were rather non-existent or at least in very few numbers until a few years ago.

So, to me, this is two sides of the same medal : The one side is English-language games NOT translated but nevertheless sold in foreign, not native English-spaking countries,
on the other side there is the number of companies having to translate their games into the "lingua franca", that is English today, in order to gain entrance into markets dominated by native English-speaking people & companies.

To me, this appears like a pair of scales where the English-language side is dominating.
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August 3rd, 2007, 00:58
@Alrik, I can see you have an issue with the cultural effect of universal English but I'm not sure what that has to do with games that are already Russian, trying to break into the English market.

@Billy, I can agree somewhat on voice acting but I couldn't disagree more on the overall importance of good translations. PS:T is a classic because of the langauge, for example - removing that from an RPG diminishes the quests, NPC interaction and story - important elements. I've been a fan of many Russian and East Euro projects - I was one of the first people to evangelise Space Rangers in the English market - but language is important to an RPG and often an integral part of getting the best out of the gameplay.

@Prime Junta, I'm not suggesting it is easy - just essential. Russian games are mostly licensed to 2nd and 3rd tier publishers. EA, Activision et al are rarely interested and 2nd tier publishers just want a cheap, already finished (or mostly finished) game to shove on the shelf with little investment.

So, if Russian developers want to keep getting signed by Meridian (or whoever) and then disappear into ignominy without any sales, that's their problem. If they make good English translations* part of their basic development process, they might get signed by better pubs in the first place and they will certainly have a better stab at surviving the retail market. It's as simple as that. 2nd tier publishers just won't do it properly.

*It needs to be done by native English speakers, not Russian translators.

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August 3rd, 2007, 08:58
I agree with all that Dhruin said. The bottom line is that the English speaking market is probably the largest language market for games, so any sensible company want to break into it. Language conversions from English tend to be expensive, especially if for a small market; sad, but true!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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August 3rd, 2007, 22:19
What might be a good idea is translate and voice over in English with the accent of the developer's country. So Space Ranger's 2 has a reason for dialgue or grammar errors. I like when dubbed movies have accents. For instance, the English in a Chinese Dubbed movie usually have British accents, sometimes the Chinese do. It makes it more credible.

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August 4th, 2007, 20:25
You're all forgetting that even if the translation is perfect, it doesn't matter if the game sucks.

Personally, I think they could focus on games that are set in Russia - that way, you've got an excuse for the "bad" translations, and the accent in the voiceover. STALKER does it very well, IMO.
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August 4th, 2007, 23:10
In Soviet Russia, translation fumbles you!
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August 5th, 2007, 21:37
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
@Alrik, I can see you have an issue with the cultural effect of universal English
Correction : I've got an issue with everything that's dominating somehow.
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August 6th, 2007, 00:09
So…the solution for Russian developers is not to bother? You wouldn't want to contribute to the domination of English, so just stay home in Russia?

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