Game Development Reference
lines. Sometimes you will even need to re-write the whole exchange to make
it work, but when doing this, the characters' lines must remain in the same
order and are usually required to be of the same length as the original. Be
wary, though, that you do not lose information that is important to the plot
or to the success of completing the game.
Sometimes, if a joke is translated literally it makes no sense or just fails to
be funny and the joke must be re-written or another substituted. If the joke
refers to an object in the location, then however you re-write it, it must still
be about that object. It could be that the joke has been triggered by the
player interacting with that object in some way. The same applies to any
dialogue which references specific objects - any editing must retain the
A note on timing
While there have been many poorly-translated games in the past, now that
there are dedicated game translators this is something that is becoming less
common and the overall standard is very good. However, there are still games
that can give the impression they are poorly translated or badly voiced.
I recently played a couple of best-selling games that had been translated
into English from the original Japanese. Although the games were excellent
to play, the dialogue scenes came over very badly. When I studied them
closely I realised that it had nothing to do with the translation directly or the
voice acting, but the timing of the exchanges. It was clear that the timing of
the scene still matched that of the original version and had not taken into
account the length of the English dialogue lines.
Some games have their dialogue engines constructed so that as soon as
one line sample finishes the next one in the scene is triggered. So if the
length of the lines is different in each of the localised versions this does not
matter as the engine accommodates this. Increasingly, though, cinematog-
raphy, facial expression and body language are being used in games to give
the player a richer experience and allows the writer more scope to add
emotion and subtlety to the scenes. In most examples where this occurs, the
timing is something that is fixed throughout the scene, along with the playing
of each dialogue line.
In the games I played, the translator and/or script editor probably thought
that the scenes would be improved if the dialogue was tightly written.
Unfortunately, because the timing did not accommodate this approach to the
dialogue, the actual effect created was the opposite. The scenes were filled