Indie Game Development - "Having fun, making fun"

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dev Log - Lessons from Localization

Here are some lessons I learned about localizing a XBLIG, while trying to help Ultimate Dodgeball navigate through the peer review process.

Localized Games take a long time to get through peer review:
Although Ultimate Dodgeball received many pass votes during review it got stuck in the review process.  New pass votes simply didn't seem to count at all.  I looked into this, and discovered that I needed two pass votes from every language group that I localized into.  Since I also put a game description in French, this meant I needed to find developers who spoke French, German, Spanish and Japanese.  I checked the developer profiles of other games in peer review and actively searched out these developers.  After an additional week and a half I had received all the votes I needed except for one French vote.  If I didn't get that vote before 30 days had passed, I would have automatically failed review.  The lesson here is not to translate the game into too many languages or you may never pass review.  Also, you will need to actively court developers from the languages you are localizing into.

You will probably need to go through review more than once:
During review, a French developers pointed out that I had spelling errors in my French description that I would have never let through in English.  I recieved similar feedback from German developers.  However, since the process was taking so long, and I wanted to make Christmas, I was hesitant to pull it from review.  In the end, the extra time in review enabled reviewers to find a problem that I needed to fix, so I had to resubmit the game anyway.  When localizing a game however, both the game and your translation are being reviewed.  It is quite likely that errors will be found in your translation that you are better off fixing.

A poor translation is worse than no translation at all:
During review two German developers told me that while they could understand my German translation, it was difficulty to read.  In fact, they said it was easier for them to play the game in English than it was in German.  Ouch!!  At the same time a Japanese developer told me that the Japanese translation was better than some XBLA games he has played.  The lesson I learned here is that if you cannot afford a professional translator, then make sure that the friends who are doing your translation are translating the game into their primary language.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Dev Log - My Next Project

While I continue to review other developer's games and wait for Ultimate Dodgeball to move through the peer review process, I am also laying the groundwork for my next project.

Today marks the start of the new project - an FPS (first-person shooter) with a twist.  While I've been dreaming of this project for the last few months while I slogged through multiplayer issues with Ultimate Dodgeball, all I had was a few pages of design notes.  Today I made the first code build for the new game, as well as built a first person camera and an asset viewer for my modeler (which is something that was sorely needed last project). 

The biggest unknowns for this new project will be collision, lighting and AI pathing in a complex 3d environment.  I've found many good resources but have also discovered that there is a lot I need to learn.  I've also discovered an XNA engine called Sunburn, which is specifically designed to handle lighting and collision for 3d games.  While I was initially reluctant to get tied to an engine, I am coming to realise this is exactly what I need.

With my first indie game Kick'n It! there was a certain pride in doing everything myself, until I realized that my art skills just wouldn't cut if for the box cover and my friend Chris came to my aid.  For Ultimate Dodgeball I realized I would need to spend months learning how to model a 3d environment until my friend Raphael stepped in and offered to do it.  Now, as I continue to step up the complexity and production quality of my indie titles, its time to allow the programmers who made Sunburn come along side me and do some of the technical heavy lifting so I can be a designer again.