The Daunting Localization of Dragon’s Dogma

Apr 19, 2012
2012 Apr 19
GregaMan

Time for a another dev blog, this time from Erin Ellis of Dragon’s Dogma’s localization crew! That’s right  – this blog was actually written in English to begin with, for a change.

Dragon’s Dogma is a game with not only a heavy combat emphasis, but a heavy story emphasis as well. It makes for a different mix than a lot of Capcom games, and action games in general, but we hope it will be a nice change of pace for today’s gamers. The game is fully voiced, with something like 20 hours of voiced dialogue in the game, across almost 400 different characters. It was important to the development team and the localization team to get several different voices and voice actors to really get that immersive feel of a living, breathing world as you play through the game and meet different characters. As you travel through the world, you’ll meet farmers, merchants, and nobles, all living their lives, sometimes affected by what you the Arisen are doing, othertimes not. And just like in the real world, they’ve always got something to say — between NPCs and your pawn companions, there are over 42,000 lines of dialogue in the game.

One of the biggest challenges with that much dialogue is making characters sound unique and interesting to the player. From early on in the development process, we’d decided that we wanted to go high fantasy with Dragon’s Dogma, not just with the world and character designs, but also with the speaking patterns. There are a lot of games out there, especially Japanese fantasy-style games, that have more of a modern style of dialogue. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that; it scans easily to native and non-native speakers, and it’s certainly a lot less work to translate into and out of. However, we really felt that with DD’s game world looking as it does, and the overall plot being suitably dramatic, it was important that the dialogue only added to that feel. George R.R. Martin was a strong influence on the English text, as I hope will be obvious, and the localizers have brought their own flavor to the original text as well. We’re really excited that this will be able to bring something a little different to your playing experience. We actually did run into some resistance at first — were today’s English-speaking gamers ready for this type of “high fantasy” speech? But we trusted that it would work…I’ll be looking forward to all of your reactions!

Something exciting about DD from a localization point of view, is that this game is being simultaneously developed into six different languages. This is different from the average Japanese game, in which the Japanese text is completed, then it’s translated into English, and from there into European languages. All of this takes place with a few months of time lag inbetween, and with even fewer changes that can be made to each subsequent version. This is especially difficult for European languages, which in general are about twice as long as English, which is twice as long as the Japanese. A lot of style and sometimes content has to be cut out for Western languages to fit into the same on-screen real estate, or oddly unnatural phrasings must be used so that Western language dialogue can match the same lip flaps as previously recorded Japanese text.

However, for DD, since the team is still active on the game while we’re working on the localizations, we’re able to work with the team to cut down on impossible line limits and unnatural or imparsable abbreviations within written text, and since English is the base and only language for dialogue, we don’t have to worry about adapting the script to match lip movements or phrasings that are only natural to a different language. This is something not only satisfying as a localizer, but something that should affect players as well–in that it should not be noticeable at all.

Localization is one of the few parts of the production process where you know you’ve done a good job when no one ever mentions it. A good localization isn’t intrusive and should make the player feel that no matter what language they’re playing the game in, that is the original. The Dragon’s Dogma localization team and the development team have worked hard to provide that experience for our fans worldwide, but when it comes down to it, you’ll have to be the judge. Pick up the game and make sure to let us know how we did.