Lost In Translation

Video game localization is the process of adapting a game to the standards of another country, and involves not only text translation, but also the cultural, hardware, software, and musical adaptations. With so many online games being imported from Asia, the need for localization has grown significantly over the past few years. A quick Google search will provide an entire list of companies that offer localization services to the video game industry.

Which begs the question: Why does it always suck so bad?

The Gates of Andaron is a recent MMO developed by the Korean company Zemi Interactive and published by GameForge, a German company. Perhaps it is this rather circuitous route to the American audience that caused this game’s localization to go so hilariously wrong. Whatever the reason, this game has quest text so pedantic, it reads as if it was written by Yoda!

Here’s another example:

I am the Kaos Monk, Rebsonsa. Beside me you see the border between life and death. It would be unwise for the living or for the residents of Horus to venture too near…

(I guess the residents of Horus don’t qualify as ‘living’?)

To add insult to injury, not only does the quest text look like it’s been fed through a Translation Party, but I’m convinced that the voice acting was purchased from the bargain bin at WalMart. Here’s one merchant’s greeting: [.wav file]. And here’s another merchant in the SAME VILLAGE: [.wav file].


Obviously, Gates of Andaron isn’t going to be setting the MMO world on fire any time soon, but if you ignore the rather bizarre localization efforts, it’s not really a bad game. The artwork is colorful and attractive. The tutorial section is surprisingly well done. And game play is your standard World of Warcraft knock-off.

Maybe I’m expecting too much from a free-to-play game. Don’t other MMO players out there actually CARE about the quest text, the storyline or the plot? Certainly I can’t be alone in my literary nerdiness.

* Actual quest text taken from the game.

8 Responses to “Lost In Translation”

  1. I WANT to care about quest text, I really do. When I started playing WoW, it was always a frustrating experience to level with friends because they’d go running off while I was still reading the quest text. But I eventually got to the point where I stopped caring about the text — not because of the time investment in reading it, but because nine times out of ten the quest text was just too banal to care about. And WoW, in my opinion, is one of the better MMOs when it comes to quest text.

  2. skeeto says:

    It doesn’t beg the question, a logical fallacy, it raises the question. 🙂

  3. Husband Unit says:

    I told her some pederast would point that out! 🙂

  4. Adam says:

    What’s sad is that this is still only a step or two below the quest text in many MMOs written by native english speakers.

  5. Michael says:

    At least it’s above a blind idiot translation. Though I do think a lot of these localization companies could benefit from hiring on, say, someone who can prove themselves literate to edit the text into something that makes more sense.

  6. Manni says:

    Speaking of free MMOs, you could give “Runes of Magic” a try. As the name suggests they didn’t reinvent the genre, but it is well executed.

  7. Glyph says:

    I’m not going to lie here. I sat here for a good five minutes cracking up after hearing that first NPC speech file.

  8. Riksa says:

    Professional translator here with an obvious comment: when you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. To get decent translations, skilled (and yes, more expensive) translators are needed. The problem is that bad localization doesn’t get as much negative attention as it should. That’s why the companies have little incentive to use professional translators.

    (Disclaimer: In case something in the above text seems clumsy or otherwise weird, let it be known that English isn’t my native language, but that’s why I don’t pretend to be able to translate into it, either.)

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