16 March 2013

My career in 24 games

You know what is the worst situation to be in? It’s not being surrounded by nasty, mischievous people. I mean, it’s not great, but at least you can shout and fight back. No, being surrounded by good people with the best intentions, whose good rights hole you down in a messy, uncomfortable position - THAT’S much worse.

Case in point: one of the most common requests about this blog is that I add a portfolio.


And it makes perfect sense, after all, what have I done to be here pontificating all day about game localization? (Well, that specific question would actually remain, but a portfolio would make it slightly less tragic)

On the other hand, I'm a freelancer, a goon for hire taken off the internets, and most clients simply don’t want me to share project titles - simple as that. Developers don’t want to see their multi-million franchises attached to someone they haven’t even chosen. Fair enough. Agencies have to stay in business and, like it or not, the sheer information that I did project X and I didn't suck at it is a business asset. Fair enough.

So here I am, surrounded by good smiling folks, and deep deep in trouble.

So, we could potentially have a “shock and awe” kind of portfolio - we churn at least 50 main titles each year, multiplied by four years of business, it’s sheer law of probability that we net some good ones.

Instead, I’m stuck with this:

My games

Which is the list of games that have my name in the credits and thus can be mentioned without ruffling anyone’s feathers.

As most of them start to be kinda old, I must explain and contextualize them a bit, and thus I must write a personal post - something I am pretty uncomfortable about. So, here’s the deal: I will write this long post about my career, doing my best not to make it devastatingly boring, and then we move on and never mention it again. Deal? Deal.


My parents had a toy shop, and from the early days of Atari VCS down to the Super NES era, me and my brother played pretty much every title they sold. The shop even hosted the first videogame tournament in my city (Genova).

For my geek creds, I can say I used to cut out cheat codes from magazines and glue them on a massive notebook for future use. I liked how some of them allowed to peek “behind the scenes”.

At least now I have the excuse of being paid for this kind of things. At least now I have the excuse of being paid for this kind of things.

As for my studies, I have a Master degree in French and Spanish plus an ESOL Certificate of Proficiency in English and an IOL Diploma in translation. My final thesis was on the humour and language of the comic book “Astérix and Cleopatra”. (Which proved oddly useful for a JRPG adaptation a couple of years ago).


I was hired by Take2 interactive/Rockstar Games in 2003. The entrance test required a review of a recent game and, as I came from three months of complete unemployment, I had no console nor cash. So I bought a new PS2 with Max Payne, played non-stop on a flatmate's TV, then returned the lot one week later just in time to get a refund.

Undeterred by my application letter (which ended with the embarrassing line “I want to go to the other side of the screen, I want to meet you”), they asked me to come for the interview. At the end of which my future boss asked me if I was really interested in the job, or if I was just trying to keep unemployment benefits.

But I didn’t sound like Spud, I swear ## State of Emergency PC (2003), Global Star Software Inc. ## ![State of Emergency PC](assets/image12-210x300.jpg) This was my first real project for the company, which at the time still went by the hip name of "Take 2 Interactive Europe Quality Assurance office" and was located in the brownest office the East Midlands town of Lincoln could offer, haunted by the ghost of the game developer Tarantula studio, shut down in the very same premises. ![Former office of Rockstar Lincoln/ Take 2 interactive europe](assets/image26-300x183.jpg) Very brown indeed There I joined the rest of the localization staff: one (1) Frenchman by the name of Antoine Cabrol. For most of the first year he reviewed all the French and German games, while I took all the Italian and Spanish ones. Our main tasks were proofing the translations coming from agencies (usually Babel or Synthesis for Italian) and then checking them again inside the game (mostly for spacing or context issues). The level of freedom changed with time (and faith in our actions). Initially, we had none. Text files were edited by the developers only, and all changes had to be confirmed by the original translators. This taught me two precious lessons about editing:

(cover credits)