Tokyo Game Localization Roundtable

Let's just hope they like us as much as we like them, because the place is great. - Alain

Location location location

I organized a few localization meetups in the past. They were called "Loctalk" and, while we put a lot of effort into them (we even had a logo!) and had some success, we always bumped into a big problem: the location.

A meeting room would have worked fine and -if we kept expectations low- we could probably rent it for cheap. But it would have felt cold and sad.

So we went for bars, twice in a foreign-friendly hostel and then in a gamer-centric micro-bar in Kichijoji. And while we always had a great time, the owners were never thrilled to see dozens of foreigners ordering one cup of coffee and then nursing it for four hours, all the while talking in animated (and loud) fashion.

We really tried

The last straw for me was when we organized our LocJAM meeting in said gamer-centric micro-bar. Far from welcoming us as part of the community, they made us rent the whole place in advance (despite it being closed for holidays at the time), they showed up late for opening (forcing us to prepare things while people were already showing up) and forgot their own projector cables (meaning we had to lend them those from our video camera, which then ran out of batteries mid-way through).

It's nice to do things with the community, but there's a limit to the effort and pain I'm ready to endure.

So when the (characteristically brilliant) Nagao-san discovered the Red Bull Gaming Sphere, it seemed like the perfect solution.

It's a space that the well known energy drink provides for free to anyone organizing a gaming event. They mostly do e-sports gatherings and competitions, but they were happy to host Ryosuke's Localization Jam and -to our delight- to host us.

A large clean space, fully available from 1pm to 6pm, completely free provided that we sit on the very cool-looking, somewhat uncomfortable back-less chair and we refrain from eating or drinking anything but Red Bull or water on the premises. A very fair deal, I might say.

It's still gaming, not as you know it

Opening act

For those who somehow have escaped my torrent of spam until now, I wrote a detailed post-mortem about our -still unpublished- translation of Cuphead, and that was adapted into a video feature by Multiplayer.it -which we dubbed in English-, and that was expanded into a presentation I held at Localization World.

And that same presentation I've finally reused here, as a warm-up act of sorts.

Because it had some nice production values to it (with video inserts and more dubbing) and I was keen to use it a bit more before putting it to rest.

And because this our first event in a while and I knew it might take time for everyone to arrive, and then even more time for them to relax, so having me clowning around for 30 minute seemed like a good solution.

There's no point in retelling the whole story again here, you can read it in the links above. The only real addition, which especially caught the attention of the audience, was the Analysis/Synthesis/Creativity process Daco's Confetti went through in order to vet their naming choices (page 40 in the pdf below -original here-

I would say it went reasonably well. At this point, I know this material very thoroughly and -since we were a smaller group of colleagues- I could add many more geeky details than with the rather more business-oriented audience at Localization World.

I might do it again in the future (or try and push someone else to do it). It really does work as a stimulating introduction to...

Game Localization Round Table

The GLRT, as we call it to save ourselves some carpal tunnel syndrome, is a format Seb Ohsan Berthelsen and Simone Crosignani introduced with good success at the IGDA Localization SIG.

We collect topic ideas from the audience, put them in macro-areas, ask people to vote their favorite, and then apply a strict 10 minutes limit to each.

This solves two of the biggest issues in this kind of meetings. First of all, it motivates everyone to participate. If you do like a topic you should get talking because it will be gone soon and, if you don't like it, it will be gone soon.

Everyone can get involved, but no-one gets to hog the conversation

Then it adds a sense of urgency. Given the time, everyone will ruminate things until they sound very, very smart. No such chance here, so just give it your shot and be a well-meaning idiot like everybody else.

Drawbacks of the formula? It takes some time to explain the "rules" and it's quite exhausting to manage, since you have to keep the conversation running and bounce observations on those who can develop them better all the while you are looking at the clock and planning for the next topics.

We had about a dozen participants, and all but two brought a pure translator perspective, and that colored most of the discussion.

Therefore, the debate on "Measuring quality" quickly turned to handling editor's feedback, "Tools" to the help the can provide to the single translator and so on.

While I was really too busy to take notes, one participant kindly provided me theirs to cover the meta-topics -original here-

Measuring Quality

  • For larger titles, one can use press review for feedback, but -disasters aside- it's rare for the translation to be commented upon. In those cases, you can at least look if the reviewers are using the chosen terminology or not. If they do, it's a sign that the script took.
  • Fan reviews may be the only resource available for niche games, but don't necessarily make a great judge of script quality.
  • Heavily localized jokes and references, while they should be used in moderation, have the potential of going viral and spread the word about a game (and its translation).

Tools

  • MemoQ is a comfortable translation platform with useful features, but most attendants mostly work in Excel.
  • Some also mentioned text-to-speech tools as helpful in making editing faster and more effective
  • One of the attendants raised the question of machine translation, but the general response was skeptical about their effectiveness, and the quality offered by companies using them.

Asian language barrier

  • Quality expectations for translations into Japan are said to be higher than elsewhere, possibly due to the large number of games on the market created by native Japanese writers.
  • The bar for the quality of Indie localizations has similarly risen.

Fan Translations

  • It might not be wise to add fan translations to your resume when contacting large, corporate companies.
  • On the other hand, fan translations can increase one's profile in more creative fields. But again, some creators are happy for it, others are wary of it.
  • Humility is paramount if you're trying to make the leap from the small pond of fan translation to the endless ocean of pro localization.

Staying updated

  • Most attendants struggle to find substantial play-time for staying current on trends. Game shows, podcasts and Let's Plays have been mentioned as effective alternatives.

Tokyo Game Show

  • TGS rarely results in work, and only occasionally leads to a new contact. The primary benefit of attending is networking and professional update, as mentioned above.

The discussion part lasted about two hours and a half, with two 15 minutes breaks. At each break people gathered in smaller groups to continue the discussion and swap meishi.That was purely accidental, but it's a natural networking element that it would be great to maintain and develop.

What's next?

At the time of writing we had no feedback from Red Bull Gaming Sphere Tokyo, but participants seem happy with the event and they wouldn't mind a couple of roundtables each year, possibly (but not necessarily) with a Japanese section.

Thanks for reading. For any comment, feel free to reach me on Twitter and please follow the IGDA Localization SIG and the ゲーム翻訳 group for updates on coming events. Ciao!

PS: Yep, the website is a bit of a mess right now, but hopefully I should get my pace back, both in terms of tone and format. Thanks again for reading