Localization or Creative Adaptation — Localization Case Study — Game Streets of Rogue
About the game Streets of Rogue
In 2017 tinyBuild released Streets of Rogue, a unique visual successor to the hit game Punch Club. Streets of Rogue is remarkable for the variety of its game features and genre elements. The developers combined an intense top-down roguelike, a retro pixel art style, an atmosphere of irrepressible excitement, classic character leveling, and questing. The game revolves around playing through a series of randomly generated cities. This can be accomplished via brute force, stealth, or hacking — it’s up to you!
How and why the game needed to be localized
Streets of Rogue quickly garnered a warm reception from gamers and the press alike, so tinyBuild naturally decided to bring the game to a wider international audience.
Streets of Rogue was originally written in English. And Alconost’s job was to localize the game into seven languages: Korean, simplified Chinese, German, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, and French. In the end, we managed to localize about 13,000 words (84,000 characters) into all seven languages in 14 days.
What was localizing Streets of Rogue like?
TinyBuild’s games all feature striking pixel art, dynamic gameplay, and a humorous atmosphere. As such, the texts of these games are full of “special treats” for the translator, and Streets of Rogue is no exception.
The localization process thus entailed typical tasks such as translating UI elements and item names as well as more challenging issues including adapting jokes, steady expressions, and wacky dialogues, all of which took some real thought.
Translating the game’s humor
Translating humor is a tricky business. For instance, a joke might be funny to Europeans, but incomprehensible to people from Asian cultures. What’s worse: a joke could end up being offensive and even inappropriate in certain countries if improperly translated. So, we had to adapt the game while factoring in the unique mentality and cultural milieu of a given region.
In order to translate the jokes in the game, it wasn’t enough for the linguist to have basic translation skills and a full understanding of the target locale’s cultural features. They also had to be a native speaker of the target language with a good sense of humor and be able to appreciate the game’s style and atmosphere. The translator had to understand how humor is etched into the mentality of a given region and be ready to sand off any rough edges that might crop up.
We understood that for this job we were going to need to enlist the help of translators with specific skills and personal characteristics. And our personality test was a godsend here. It allowed us to identify creative translators in a game-playing context, so we could bring them in for Streets of Rogue and a number of other projects.
And here’s another unique feature that had an influence on the localization process as a whole: the names of items, effects, and characters in Streets of Rogue are typically made up of short phrases. In these cases, in order to translate the text correctly, it was essential to take the context into account. So, our translators asked the client questions about certain strings and requested screenshots in real-time within the localization platform.
The game’s sense of humor made this job even more challenging, but it also kept things interesting. In general, our approach went like this: for funny names, our translators used the English version as a jumping-off point and, where necessary, transformed the text grammatically and lexically in order to preserve the humor of the source material without distorting its meaning. The results were pretty funny. See for yourself:
Translations of funny item names
Translations of statuses and effects
Translations of character names
Localizing dialogue in Streets of Rogue
You can’t have humor without dialogue, right? Unlike short, funny items and character names, the dialogue in Streets of Rogue is a “living” text full of slang, exclamations, and interjections. All in all, it offers tons of space for creativity.
As a rule, we entrust these kinds of issues to our linguists’ taste while also factoring in the client’s preferences as provided in the statement of work. According to this workflow, the translator offers their version, and, if the client has chosen the “translation and editing” option, our editor then evaluates the translator’s suggestion and polishes it up if need be.
In the case of Streets of Rogue, one translator was assigned to each language, so we worked closely with the guys and gals from tinyBuild to ensure the best possible results. And it came out great!
Translations of humorous dialogue elements
Localization or creative adaptation?
We should really replace the conjunction “or” with “and” here. Translating Streets of Rogue didn’t just hone skills our team already had; it also gave our creativity a workout. And we loved it!
We had a blast working on Streets of Rogue. And we plan to continue localizing content for tinyBuild on a regular basis.
This article is contributed by Alconost, a global provider of product localization services for applications, games, videos, and websites into 70+ languages.