Integrating Translation, Audio and Localization QA Tasks

Meeting the challenges of faster release cycles to global markets

Video games are, by nature, the integration of many different skills. They combine scenario, dialogues, cinematics, acting, graphic design, sound design, code and AI into one interactive story. The game localization process is no exception. Translation, Audio and Localization QA (LQA)—three teams, working on the same content under different forms and with different tool sets. 

In the past, Translation, Audio and LQA teams worked in relative isolation and may even have been sourced from different service providers with no direct communication between them. This approach that could be inefficient and placed the burden of scheduling, communication and asset sharing on the development studio or publisher. As games become more complex and target ever more localized markets, and as production schedules shrink with faster release cycles, our customers are looking for ways to simplify. Lionbridge Gaming sees a trend among clients towards bundling these three services with a single partner. We relish the opportunity to go beyond bundling to a full vertical integration of these key localization processes.

A Localization Production Manager’s View

No development studio wants to curtail their creative processes to find time for content localization. Game developers are usually adding refinements to stories and dialogues up to the very last minute. On the ground floor, localization (loc) production can look like this: 

The loc studio team is recording a script. The Voice Director is making modifications to the translated dialog to elicit a better performance. Simultaneously, the translation team receives an update from the game developer with changes to the original script for the scene that is being recorded. Perhaps at the same time, the LQA team spots an issue with a localized term that needs to be changed—and that might also impact the script for the current recording session.

In such a scenario, how do you manage the flow of information and assets? How do you ensure that all modifications are implemented, recorded and integrated into the final product? When translation, audio and LQA teams are isolated, the only real option is to wait until each team has completed their tasks on the current materials. Project managers then centralize the output from the different teams, generate new recording assets and push the update back to the voice studio for a re-record—often as an expensive “pickup” session, and often coming dangerously close to overstepping the deadline.

Improving Turnaround, Budget and Quality: An Experience

"She provided a shorter translation on the spot."

A better alternative is services integration delivered by integrated teams. Translators and recording studios communicate directly with one another. Translation updates can be imported directly into the studio recording script and be immediately available for recording. Changes made in the recording studio go directly to the translators for review and validation before integration into the subtitle files. Bugs that testers have opened are monitored so any fixes can be implemented directly during the studio session. 

During one recording session, we realized that the translation of a glossary term was too long for the audio duration constraints. The source audio was recorded with a very high speaking rate and, even matching for delivery pace, the translated glossary term was just too long to fit. And this was a term that appeared dozens of times in the duration-constrained files we were recording. 

Instead of reaching out to the customer, who would then contact the translation team and eventually send us back an updated script, we just got the lead translator into the studio with us. (Easy to do. She worked up one flight of stairs!) She provided a shorter translation on the spot and voila, problem solved! The translator then went on to update the project glossary and revise all the game strings that used the glossary term. 

The audio team also identified several lines from earlier recording sessions that had used the longer glossary term and arranged to re-record them. As we had resolved the issue early, all the talents needed to voice the corrected lines still had studio sessions booked for the project. We just added the corrected line to their upcoming scripts. 

Finally, as we were also performing LQA on this title, we let the LQA team know about the term we had updated. They could update their terminology and run checks on the modified strings in the build. 

We’d avoided half a dozen pickups and solved the issue in the same day!

That is just one example. There are many situations where integration drastically improves the outcome. 

Take scheduling, for example. In addition to the obvious benefits of an integrated translation and audio schedule, sharing detailed timetables with LQA teams helps them know what to expect in the build they are testing. Have the subtitles been finalized with the latest post-production scripts? No? Ok, we won’t log bugs for that section yet; instead, we will focus our efforts on a different part of the game. 

Deep Product Knowledge

But as gamers that love playing (and building) rich stories, what really excites us about integrated localization is the deeper understanding of the game that emerges when we share the accumulated knowledge of the different contributors. Test teams often perform early world testing before translation teams have received a single word. They can bring an understanding of the gameplay and the feel of the game that it is hard to get from documentation alone. 

Additionally, often the LQA teams who speak the target language can rapidly resolve context and interpretation questions from translation and audio teams. This frees up time for the game developers who would otherwise have to provide the answer, and who may not immediately grasp the localization issue at the heart of the question.  

Consider how common it is for translation teams to be deeply immersed in a project by the time the audio team is ramping up. If the Voice Director can speak with the lead translator during preparation, they can share notes, Q&A, glossaries, work on pronunciation, story…

Most of us have seen bug reports where LQA testers and loc teams have different information or interpretations. How much smoother can localization run with an integrated team sharing information, context and creative interpretation upstream? – “Watch out, Max. We gave this character a strong Marseille accent. Expect the spelling to be non-standard.”

Sharing deep product knowledge within the localization team reduces the burden on the customer and ensures that everybody’s creative energies are aligned on delivering your game to your target markets. 

Lionbridge Gaming’s Integrated Experience

Games are getting bigger with deeper and more complex stories. And the global growth of games means our customers need to recreate that complexity in more languages than ever before. At the same time, faster production and release cycles are widening the overlap between original version and localization schedules, and between the different steps in the localization process itself. 

Lionbridge Gaming knows faster, better and more cost-effective loc and production takes more than expanded communication and bundled services. It takes a vertical integration of services, teams and technology centered on the unique requirements of your game.

Our multidisciplinary teams around the world have acquired significant experience in delivering in a services integration model. The Lionbridge Games Cloud Audio platform offers a unified production platform with shared content and toolset for linguists, audio teams and LQA tasks. 

With unified schedules, workflows, project oversight, technology and creative vision, we are ready to take your game audio from original script to global gameplay.

Focus on creating the best games and leave the rest to us. Contact us to find out to see how we can support your mission with ours.

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Guillaume Capitan with April M. Crehan