The Type of Localization: Not Just Translation, but Going Further into Implementation

Active Gaming Media’s main business is localizing entertainment content. While we are a Japanese company, over 60% of our staff is from outside of Japan. We have a proud reputation of being able to localize from other languages into Japanese, and vice versa. However, in our industry, the quality of localization is on a gradual rise.

So how does Active Gaming Media set itself apart from its competitors? One answer is: implementation. At our company, we specialize in not only translation and *LQA, but also implementing the localized text. Why do we so actively promote this process? What merits does it have? We’ve had our CEO, Ibai Ameztoy, and our localization director, Masatoshi Higuchi, speak about the importance of implementation, and our enthusiasm about it.

*Linguistic Quality Assurance is the process of checking to make sure there are no mistakes in the localization, also referred to as language quality assurance.

-Today we’re doing some self promotion and speaking again about the localization department at Active Gaming Media (AGM). Mr. Higuchi, thank you for your time.

Higuchi:  Thank you.

-Please introduce yourself one more time.

Higuchi: My name is Masatoshi Higuchi, I’m the localization director of the service department. I supervise the localizations. AGM is actually my 7th place of employment. I started at a Japanese game company called Data East, where I did overseas sales. That’s where I had my first brush with localization. Back then, “localize” wasn’t even a word. First it was just people able to translate games. After I left there, I worked as a localization manager for a Japanese overseas publishing corporation. I’ve never counted, but I think I’ve supervised the localization of over 1000 game titles.

Masatoshi Higuchi

-You could say you’re a veteran of the industry.

Higuchi: You could.

Japanese into Other Languages

-AGM is known as a localization company, can you give us an overview of your portfolio of localized titles and the languages you coordinate?

Higuchi: When we were first established, we had a lot of European members, so let’s start there. We’ve been doing this for about 11 years. Ten years ago, we mostly localized console games. At that time, there was a lot of “EFIGS” localization, which is Japanese to European languages and English. Recently, the number of PC and smart phone games has increased. As far as languages go, the number of games in Asian languages like Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese Mandarin, and Simplified Chinese has really gone up.

We’re seeing more Russian and Brazilian Portuguese too. Of our recently localized titles, Level-5’s “NI NO KUNI II: Revenant Kingdom” went into a lot of different languages. There were 6 languages starting with English, and seven for LQA including English. At first we were told there would be 700,000 words to translate, but due to rewrites that climbed to 1,000,000. That’s the highest word count and the most languages we’ve had in any recent title. We were thrilled to see the Spanish media chose it as one of top 5 best Spanish localization titles. I was really happy about that.

-You’re localizing a variety of projects in a variety of languages then, small and large.

Higuchi: Yes. It’s not just translation, we also do recording for the voices used inside the game. After translating what they’re saying in English and Japanese, we coordinate voice actors who are native language speakers to record. After implementing the text and voices in the game, we’re expanding our LQA operations by playing from a user perspective to pick up any errors. When translating, there is a lot of take into consideration beyond excel files and other data, so there are a lot of times where it’s hard to understand who’s saying what, and what sort of scene they’re in. That’s another reason why I believe LQA is important. Sometimes the text gets corrupted, or doesn’t fit in the textbox. We’ve even had times when a man would be speaking with female speech patterns. If you don’t do LQA, these things don’t get found, so I think it’s a very important step.

And, what I want to emphasize is, we’re not just having the language translated by someone who understands it. As an example, there are times when even an American can’t accurately translate the “native culture,” because they’ve been in Japan so long. We’re very careful about scrutinizing the place, genre, and culture from many sides when localizing into multiple languages.

Ibai: All too often people assume that because someone can speak a language, they can do translation and localization well. If 16 people are doing LQA, that doesn’t mean they’re all at the same level. There are times when people will try to “fix” a good translation and end up ruining it.

Ibai Ameztoy

-Right now we’re in an age where you can’t just localize send it off; you have to thoroughly check the quality.

Higuchi: It’s an absolute necessity.

-Can clients choose to have just translation or just LQA done?

Higuchi: Of course. There are times where we perform LQA on translated texts already implemented by other companies, and vice versa.

Native Language Speakers Supervise Implementation

-What would you say is the biggest reason to choose AGM over its competitors?

Higuchi: We have a lot of translators with very high Japanese language ability.

-Yes, you mentioned AGM has a lot of non-Japanese staff.

Higuchi: Yes. At your average translation company, they’ll translate the Japanese text into English, and then the English into various European languages, but, as our European translators speak Japanese, the time required for delivery is cut in half. When you translate into first English, then other languages, there’s an “English filter,” and usually, the nuance from the original Japanese is lost. If you can translate from Japanese into the target language directly, it stays more natural and the nuance is transferred to the European language. I believe that’s our biggest strength.

-Thank you very much. All right, let’s get to our main topic. You’re putting a lot of effort into the implementation of localized languages into games. Please tell us a bit about that. What processes in game development are included in implementation? What is the end result?

Higuchi: Implementing localized content into games is my and the localizing staff’s dream. It’s very efficient to do translation and LQA together, and I believe it raises the quality as well. Production-wise, it comes in between translation and LQA. They happen one right after the other. Once the translation is done, it’s handed to the programmer handling implementation, then that’s sent to LQA. That’s the cycle.

Until now, once translation was done, it was sent to the client, who put it in the game then sent a build back, and then we started LQA. That has a tendency to really stretch out the schedule, no matter what. However, if, as I said before, we implement the translation and send it straight to LQA, the man hours go down, the deliverable can be sent sooner, and overall cost goes down, so I feel there’s a lot of merit in it for our clients as well.

And, since it’s impossible to check what the final product looks like without implementation, it’s a lot easier to test and fix if we do it ourselves. That’s one more reason LQA is so necessary. If we’re not sure where the text is used in the game, we can implement it to test it out. That way we can see whether it’s too long, or too short. We update the translation, implement it again, and quickly check the results. It raises both the quality and the efficiency of the LQA.  

-So by getting translation, LQA, and implementation all in one place, your clients can rely on you for just about everything.

Higuchi: We do need a couple of things from the client first. We need to get the source code, properly analyzed, and information on how the text should be implemented in the programming. But since they can leave everything after that to us, I still think it’s a lot easier for them.

Ibai: That was what drove us to add a development department to AGM. We wanted to be able to create higher quality localizations through implementation. Of course, we do have language experts; I think any place that offers localization does. But we take that one step farther at our company, and offer implementation. Doing implementation not only raises the quality, but it also reduces the amount of work needed. Since you’re cutting out all the sending back and forth, the process goes faster. Investment in LQA might not be cut in half, but I’d say it goes down by at least 20 or 30%. And, our language experts are fully involved in the implementation process.

 -I see, they’re able to supervise the localization process all the way to implementation.

Ibai: That’s right. Right now in the development department we have staff from 8 different countries. And it’s not really supervision; they can check the implementation while doing it themselves. This sort of system is completely normal in North American or European countries. Japan and China are the only countries who, in game development use natives (Japanese and Chinese) who implement and check text even though they don’t understand the language. I really think it’s important to have people who are knowledgeable in that language supervising implementation.

-And that’s what AGM is putting their efforts into (at this stage)?

Higuchi: We’ve wanted to do this for a long time, but it’s finally become a reality.

-Many companies want to reduce localization costs, but what are the merits of choosing a package that includes implementation?

Higuchi: Outsourcing implementation together with localization frees up the development side for other things, like preparing for the next project. That’s one merit. However, there are many companies who still don’t know a lot about localization as a work process, so we want to help with educating our clients as well, if we can.

-This will really make it possible to do more comprehensive localizations. Thank you very much.

Active Gaming Media’s localization service

Localization portfolio

This is a reposting of the interview of Active Gaming Media’s Ibai Ameztoy and Masatoshi Higuchi, published on AUTOMATON on February 8, 2019. Read the original here.

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