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Otávio Banffy

When localization fails: owning up

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"How a Major JRPG Wound Up Getting Totally Re-Written Months After Release"

That was a post  written by Patrick Kiepek on Waypoint. NIS America, a video game publisher and responsible for the JRPG game Ys release, made some faults on the localization of the game from Japanese into English and the feedback they received from the players community was intense. Owning up to their mistakes, their president wrote a apology letter that admitted their mistakes and promised to make it right.


“It has come to my attention that the quality of the Ys VIII localization has not reached an acceptable level by our own standards, but most importantly by yours,” (...)

Though admirable NIS America would admit such a catastrophic failure and try to do right by fans, how did it happen in the first place? How does a game ship like that?

“As soon as a game comes out, you are just hitting refresh on OpenCritic and Metacritic and seeing what everybody has to say,” said NIS America senior associate producer Alan Costa, who’s heading up the game’s re-translation, during an interview recently. “Initially, when we'd hit sites and see the scores, we'd go ‘Oh, that's an eight. That's a nine! That's fantastic!’ But consistently, we saw reviewers saying ‘Great game, shame about that translation.’”


According to the fellow over here, this is one of the game's opening lines. 


Alan Costa continued...

“It became apparent pretty quickly that there was some major issues with the tone,” said Costa, “with the language used. From what I could tell, there was nothing that was translated incorrectly, it was just extremely dry.” (...)

“It's very important to us that we deliver on our promises and we deliver a high-product. It wasn't an ideal situation at all, but it did, at least, give us an opportunity to show our sincerity and our belief in a quality piece of work.”

Of course, that still doesn’t answer the core question: how’d it happen?

“Honestly speaking,” he said. “I don't know why.”

The re-translation has lead to a re-examination of the company’s internal processes, specifically addressing how nobody spoke up about problems with script along the way.

“I don't know if certain individuals didn't really understand their role within all of it," he said. "I don't even know if if the QA people thought ‘Maybe it's not my place. These guys translate, my job is to look for bugs and inconsistency and grammar and the grammar looks good. I'm not entirely sure. I don't think we can pinpoint one thing. If anything, it's all of those things.”

That goes to showing that even big companies with experience on their backs can grave mistakes. Mistakes that happen often when people don't take responsibility for what is being made.

More importantly, they had the guts to openly own their mistakes and, even better, to correct them. It's not something you see every day, and it definitely demonstrates the company's attitude, no matter their motivation.

I figured this was a good example for us freelancers to be able to recognize our faults and act on them. And also as a reminder that big companies are not that apart from everybody else. 

Also, having understandable responsibilities that people are aware of during the workflow. :P

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