Kayn – shower hunter?!.
Today it’s time for a word from Riot about localization – why was Kayn’s subtitle “shower hunter”? Check it out – quite an interesting text!
After sixteen patches without a new killer or class update, patch 7.14 was approaching. The deadly darkin with a powerful sentient scythe was ready to take Summoner’s Rift by storm. Along with this sinister champion, an equally dark and gloomy skin was to come to the game: Soul Hunter Kayn. Or as it was called in Russia… Kayn the Shower Hunter!
Welcome to the wonderful and strange world of localization. We are Tyler “Riot Jaggasaurus” Jaggers and Ness Piper. We are fortunate to be part of an international team that helps the League reach over eighteen regions in twenty-four languages. Today we’re going to talk about the magic of localization at Riot and the birth of the first Shower Hunter.
WHAT THE HELL IS A LOCATION?
As most players know, League of Legends releases patches every two weeks or so containing everything from new game modes, skins, and champions to brand new systems like Runes Reforged. Plus, Riot publishes videos, soundtracks, articles (like this one), League-inspired games like Blitzcrank’s Poro Roundup, and even epic esports events. All this is to go not only to English-speaking players, but to fans around the world. How do we make sure this content reaches all our audiences? Part of this task rests on the shoulders of Rioters specializing in localization.
Localization, also known as L10n in the industry (there are ten letters between L and N in the English word localization… I know, very ingenious), is the process of adapting a material to a specific area or market. Translation, while extremely important for localization, is only part of the equation. Riot works with many means of expression, such as audio recordings, creating graphic elements, systems that communicate with players via text, and even physically printed materials such as board games. The location of each of these ingredients will vary greatly depending on the requirements and needs of the product.
The old style of localization meant waiting for the product to hit the home market, then applying an “external layer” of localization so that the product could be shipped to other markets (in other words, we do something for ourselves, then translate and ship). This may work for traditional goods like cans of Coca-Cola, but it doesn’t work well for software—especially games. To make the game or its update truly accessible to players around the world, Riot starts localization as well as internationalization (I18n) from the very beginning of the project. The process of planning a world premiere from the earliest stages of conception is called globalization (G11n) … (Man, there are so many “izations” and abbreviations here!).
We will no longer deal with internationalization and globalization, because each of them is an art form in itself. Today we will focus on game localization and the not always successful process of creating content for players in different regions.
LOCAL VS. CENTRAL
In a more traditional publisher, the management of localization projects is usually centralized in a single department responsible for direct management of translation, proofreading and LQA (localization quality control). However, we at Riot have many reasons to manage localization using a decentralized model.
It’s actually a fancy name meaning that someone from the region we’re localizing for is best suited to localize the game. However, we still have location managers (like me and Tyler) on site in Los Angeles. We even take care of the simple “management” things like scheduling and test participation, but most of our responsibilities come down to making sure everyone sticks to our localization standards and our regional associates can focus on their specialty, which is creating great content for players.
Our local teams are usually free to create and deliver locations for their area. In addition to quality issues, the localization teams are responsible for delivering the massive amount of material they receive from the central office on schedule. For the sake of perspective, we release up to a quarter of a million words a month, in-game and out-of-game. Not to mention recording hundreds of lines and creating localized recordings and graphics for our videos! With larger patches like pre-season and Worlds, the amount of content continues to increase as players and Riot celebrate these events.
The control localization teams retain over their material allows them to decide how best to delight their players. This has led to exceptional results in certain regions, such as some wacky sound recordings. We hope players enjoyed it as well.
Illaoi magyar shinronhangja – Sena Dagadu
A behind-the-scenes look at how our team in Europe used local Hungarian talent to bring Illaoi to life.
GIVING VOICES TO CHARACTERS DURING THE JAPANESE PREMIERE
「リーグ・オブ・レジェンド」Behind the Scenesビデオ
So many familiar names and faces! Check out how our Japanese team recorded audio for the launch of League of Legends in Japan.
Both the translation of published content and in-game text is an opportunity for our localization teams to breathe life into the story and characters. It is during this creative process that our teams adapt and modify the English-language source text to make it more understandable to local players. As one of our Hong Kong translators put it, “Translation… is more of a manipulation of the distance between the source and target language.”
An example of the above is translating one of Elementalist Lux’s lines from English to German. Apparently Moody Blues are not very popular in Germany. But we managed to convey the same mood with a fragment of a dark poem known in German culture: “Erlkönig” (The Alder King) by Goethe.
LUX MASTER OF ELEMENTS
“In the dark you can’t see colors. Enjoy the approaching darkness.”
Late Lament, Moody Blues
“Was birth so bang du dein Gesicht?
Und bist du nicht willig, so brauch’ ich Gewalt’.
“Why do you hide your face full of fear?
If you don’t come willingly, I need violence.”
Literal translation from German
Kled was also a big but interesting location challenge. The impetuous yordle spews out many expressions that are not very well known outside of North America. And because many of them are onomatopoeias, they express his emotions at the moment rather than specific thoughts or concepts. Our European Spanish localization team had fun coming up with the right-sounding gibberish to go with his unusual animations.
The word in the original English
An invented word in spanish
Rioters also help in other valuable ways, such as checking if the content is relevant to their region – are events held in the northern hemisphere during the summer relevant to the southern hemisphere, where it is winter? I don’t think so. The teams also work with local publishers, lawyers, marketers, and player response specialists to assess the compatibility of upcoming products with local laws and sensitivities. In some regions, such as China, showing blood and violence is not an option. Other regions have laws and customs that affect how characters are portrayed and use tobacco or alcohol. Using the advice of local experts, teams are able to prepare and release a product available worldwide.
HOW TO COORDINATE ALL THIS?!?!
It can be overwhelming trying to keep up with the amount of material that League of Legends pushes through email, Slack, meetings, conversations, and more. This is where Tyler and my team come in. Our team not only maintains contact with game designers, but also focuses on creating tools supporting localization. Some of the best tools we’ve built are aimed at reducing running costs, allowing our local teams to manage their resources and ‘pushing’ larger content online.
As the “closest” locators to production, we also coordinate with the production and localization teams to test the internationalization and localization quality of every LoL item we release. While Tyler is good at Japanese and I can stutter out Spanish, we don’t know all the languages Riot supports – luckily we can count on help!
KAYN SHOWER REAPER
Localization quality control is carried out by an international team of testers in Montreal. The members of this team are not only fluent in their native language, but also have developed analytical skills and a professional pessimism that allows them to carry out demanding quality tests. This team works closely with their regional counterparts as well as a feature testing team (also based in Montreal) to study features, create plans, and find bugs before we release content.
Despite the constant vigilance of these wonderful testers, bugs still get through in various ways. Sometimes the translator decides on a name for the product and chooses one that makes no grammatical sense but fits the story being told. It’s similar to puns like “Pentakayle” or “Pug’Maw.” The problem arises when translators and testers do not agree on what is “artistic license” and what is a serious error.
A beautiful example of this happened in Russia with the launch of the Soul Hunter Kayn skin. The skin was originally going to be called “Kayn Stealer of Souls”. When the name was changed to Soul Hunter, it had to be re-translated into all languages. And everything got a little complicated. The Russian translator saw that the “hunter” became “thief” and changed only this part of the name. However, in Russian, the inflection of a word can completely change its meaning depending on the next word. Our localization quality reviewers thought that the translators made a creative decision to leave the spelling of “soul” as the word used previously, so they didn’t pay attention to the strange spelling. Therefore, by replacing “Thief” with “Hunter” without correcting the “Soul” conjugation, the translator inadvertently created Охотник на Душ, our first Shower Hunter.
When we discovered the problem, the patch was already ready to be released, so it was impossible to fix the bug in the Russian version before it hit the players. However, we try to make sure that players in each region feel that we are listening to them. So the Russian team admitted their mistake, and before the patch was able to fix Kayn’s synergy with bathroom equipment, a meme contest was organized. The winner got both Kayn and his fresh, clean skin. My favorite is this one!