DEVGAME: How to Check 2000 Lines in 7 Languages and Keep Your Sanity

Localizer at DEVGAME Maria Chikirova has told us how they localize games into more than 17 languages, talked about common blunders the localizers make, and discussed the start-up requirements for aspiring translators.


It’s always difficult to talk about your job in a way nobody falls asleep. Unless you’re a wizard at Hogwarts and all you do is make never-ending pizzas and sushi for a living. So let’s say I do some magic, too.

It all happens in DEVGAME, a full-cycle kids’ mobile game developer. Translated into simple English, we find good brands, contract them, and make whole games based off of them (concept to promotion). This way, the brand’s audience extends and we get a lot of players.

My role is pure magic (that is, no one understands exactly what I do when they hear about it for the first time). I’ll soon get into more details about what exactly happens at my workplace, but from the outside, it looks something like this: in project folders appear new Excel sheets with voiceover lines, so do audio files with unpronounceable names and contents in unknown languages. Then it all disappears into nowhere from which came, and access is only granted to chosen ones via magical links.

Although it’s me who uploads all these documents into folders, and audio files do not come in Harry Potter’s secret snake language but in a bunch of most human ones, and the link is not a magical one but that of Google Docs – still, this job develops rather curious abilities. 

Start-Up Requirements

It’s actually great if one gets into the localization field with some basic knowledge in various languages: it helps you see and correct basic mistakes to avoid bigger corrections later. In my case, these languages are English (my workhorse), Spanish (can-watch-Netflix level), Italian (to be able to say “mamma mia” because it’s so cool), and very basic German (no jokes here, sorry). Thanks to this, I spotted a few incorrect translations and pronunciations in our most recent project – yep, the one with 2000 lines.

For example, glasses in English can mean “a tool to see better” and “a container for liquid”, and we meant the former for our game. The Spanish translator, however, understood it otherwise so we had to redo some of the lines. Our Italian translator, for example, translated verb forms in consecutive lines in a way that they wouldn’t go together as in “this is how drums…” + “soundS” instead of “this is how drums…” + “sound”.

Going back to curious abilities: even if your interest in linguistics is nowhere to be found and English is your only resort, continuous work with texts in different languages will still teach you to tell apart all the Asian scripts (including Traditional and Simplified Chinese), as well as identify pronunciation mistakes in all the main European languages with Latin alphabet (save for, maybe, Scandinavian languages).

Provided that you have voiceover (VO) text in front of you, of course. Once we even managed to listen through a Korean VO and find mistakes in the main characters’ names. One cold sweat and lots of swearing later we had to redo the whole thing and thank God our Korean rightsholders didn’t hear the mistakes. That would be awkward.

So, how does it all happen, and what do I have to listen through? Long story short, my colleagues write source texts for me in Russian, I translate them into English and pass them on to my native translators and/or voice artists, they return them a few days later if I find mistakes they correct them, and I check it again. Done. 

Our Partners

We are on Upwork where we have our own list of translators and voice artists. Used to be on Voices too but in 2020 they introduced new terms that required sharing way too much documentation so we switched completely to Upwork.

Why not use an LSP (Localization Service Provider)? In short: it’s costly and time-consuming. The localization process would extend from, say, 2 weeks to over a month with all corrections and casting for voiceover. More than that, VO and in-game texts in our games are mostly instructive or cheering since DEVGAME focuses on learning in the form of play. 

Speaking of voiceover: I check it for mistakes in a special piece of software made by our programmers specifically for the needs of the localization department (a big shout out to you, guys). It displays all the VO lines, their names, contents in the target language, and contents in English, just in case. All this information comes in different columns. I can also listen to each line, rename or delete it right there. Thanks to this, it takes no more than 20 minutes to check any VO in any language.

It wasn’t always like that, though. When I was just starting, it was all checked manually. Like, really manually: one just sat there, listened to some Chinese lines, and prayed that they matched with original ones. Which was a rare occasion. Moreover, checking if a line:

  • was correct and rename/delete it if necessary;
  • contents and its name were a match (it was the case sometimes that neighboring file names got swapped).

That’s why my advice to any developer localizing their product in-house is: consider spending some of your programmer’s time and automate and simplify voiceover checking process as much as you can. It’s going to save you many hours in the future while almost eradicating technical mistakes.

Colleagues All Around the World

I should actually tell you something about my no less magical department. If we all gathered in our office there would be 4 times more people. The thing is that in DEVGAME we localize our games into 21 languages, so we’d need 21 people to just do the VO. And if you need kid’s VO, then multiply it by 2. And another 21 people if it’s a male voice – you got me. Translators often work as voice artists, and it’s much easier for us this way. But sometimes we have to do everything separately: translation or voiceover quality may be poor, or the price for either of the services may be too high.

Overall, my whole department is just adorable and professional, they know what they do. They’re always ready to help out with a project under tight deadlines; they care about their work, ask project-related questions, and use glossaries; they sometimes even correct typos and mark inconsistencies in our texts. Many of them say they enjoy working with us, and considering that in our recent project they had to record about 300 lines in one file then cut it into separate lines and name them accordingly – I’m afraid to ask what else they have there. Just to clarify: our voice artists cut the big file into separate files BEFORE they submit the ready work for revision. Thanks to this system we economize on our team members’ time who will have more of it to dedicate to tasks in their field.

Still, there were people who had to go. In the beginning, those were voice artists with really poor sound quality. Then, there were others who didn’t want to try and do a better job with fewer mistakes: in my experience, there was a voice artist who did 6 projects with us, and only 2 of them had no mistakes, and they didn’t accept any criticisms of their work either.

Nobody is Perfect

There were blunders on my side, too: sometimes I would hastily send a project to the wrong translators only to apologize later. Thank God I always made it before they got to do it. Once, I couldn’t explain a task to a voice artist, and she blocked me. Things happen. Whenever I remember my first project, I cringe: I couldn’t find the right voice artist for the project until the very last day. As a result, there I was, sitting in front of my computer at 4 AM before the day of the deadline and cutting lines that my newly found VO artist was sending me in batches as she recorded them. It’s funny now but two years ago I thought I would get fired and die. Or vice versa, not sure.

When I joined DEVGAME I never expected that anyone would trust me with managing anything other than my desk and a coffee machine. And all of a sudden I, a 23-year-old university graduate, get to supervise a team of grown-ups, with whom we’re about to create something cool. It all seems very scary and complicated at first but then everything will somehow fall into place.

Whatever man has done, the man may do. And this is awesome.

Maria Chikirova, Localizer at DEVGAME

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