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Teaching the Pathfinder new languages

How Mass Effect: Andromeda and other titles are localized for international markets – part one

Going Local:

Marcel Elsner is one of the Multilanguage Localization Specialists in the EA Germany office, working on Mass Effect: Andromeda, in addition to other titles.

Thanks to his work, Mass Effect fans around the globe can explore new cultures in the Andromeda galaxy without getting frustrated by language barriers. We met Marcel and asked him to show us the localization journey of a sequence in the latest BioWare title. 

How did you become a Senior Multilingual Loc Specialist?

I started out as a software tester at EA Vancouver in Canada. After one year, I got offered the job as Localization Project Manager in England. Another year later I moved back to Germany to work as Localization Specialist.

Let’s talk about how localization works: Where does your job start? What is the first step in localizing a game?

The kick-off meetings with the studios start our localization process. In these meetings, we get to see a very early version of the game and the development director explains the features and the scope that we can expect. Story writers then present the individual characters and story to us.

After this, we define the ground rules for translation setup, like the maximum number of words that can be translated per week. Then it’s about finding translators that fit the requirements of the game. Once found, we’ll arrange introduction calls with the studio to let them ask questions to the story writers and understand the vision of the game. This is important as it helps to explain the setting and avoid uncertainties.

Localization: The adaption of content to the languages and cultural characteristics in the destination markets.

How do you start translating text?

I receive the copy as predefined sets or files that contain the strings requiring translation. In order to avoid surprises, we create a translation calendar that contains deadlines and the expected count of translated words. We collect translator questions about the context or characters, consolidate them and send them back to the studio.

How does Mass Effect: Andromeda convey the same feeling in a localized version as in the original, and is consistent throughout all titles?

The meetings and calls that I mentioned before help a lot. There is also a character bible, in which all characters are explained in detail. For BioWare titles like Mass Effect: Andromeda, I always book the same translators to guarantee consistency throughout the different titles of the franchise. Additionally, there are regular checks by reviewers and localization testers.

What are the main challenges of the job? How do you deal with translations that are running very long? Is there anything special about localizing Mass Effect games?

Story-driven BioWare titles come with a lot of words that need to be translated in a short amount of time. This requires us to work fast and precise. A specific challenge in the Mass Effect franchise is that users can choose the gender of their character. Due to that, all texts needs to be translated for both genders and be supported by the game engine when NPCs talk to the player directly or about him or her.

Which language is the most difficult to translate?

One of the most complicated is probably Polish, with seven different grammatical cases. If you talk about the past of the Pathfinder, for instance, it’s not possible to do that without including gender and the correct case.

At what point does your localization work end?

My work ends when there is nothing left to translate for a title. For some games, this can be years after their release.



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