Dec 5, 2019

How Localization Helps Make Games More Accessible

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Localizing a game is much more than translating. It’s also about voice recording, testing and tools. But the Localization department can also have a hand in making games accessible to more players. We sat down with Localization Project Manager Patrick Görtjes to talk about what it’s like to work with localization in games, and the features implemented in Tom Clancy’s The Division 2.

“The work we do is very diverse,” explains Patrick Görtjes, Localization Project Manager, as we sit down in Massive’s kitchen for a coffee. “Broadly speaking, as a Localization Project Manager, it’s my job to make sure that the game is localized in all the languages we support, and coordinate that work with all stakeholders, from vendors to other Ubisoft studios.”

Important aspects of Patrick’s work are deciding which languages to support, overseeing the text pipeline, casting voice actors in different languages, recording the voice-overs, and testing the localizations in the different languages.

“One of the most exciting things about working in Localization at Massive is that we are embedded in the development team and therefore part of the entire development cycle of the game, from pre-production to the live phase. For example, on The Division 2 I was able to sit in on feature design meetings from an early stage, so by the time we started localizing, I knew the game inside out. That’s incredibly helpful for someone in my job,” he says.

From linguistics to games

Patrick has a background in linguistics with a focus on English-to-Dutch translation and interpreting, but he has always known that he wanted to work in the game industry. The first game he ever worked on was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and after some freelancing, he got the chance to try out project management.

“About three years ago, I started to look for a change in surroundings and ended up here at Massive. But that’s just one way to get into localization in the games industry – I know many people who come from a more technical background, and many have started out in game testing and quality assurance.”

In the early stages of development on The Division 2, Patrick took ownership of the subtitles feature and started working on ways to improve the subtitles from The Division. One of these improvements was closed captions, which are text descriptions of certain sounds in the game.

“We also added a directional marker to show which direction sounds are coming from, as well as adjustable font sizes and different text colors indicating different characters speaking.”

We also added a directional marker to show which direction sounds are coming from, as well as adjustable font sizes and different text colors indicating different characters speaking

In total, The Division 2 is localized in 17 different languages. Of these, nine are fully voiced, while the rest has localized menus and/or subtitles.

“One of the most interesting things we do that players never see is working with the Snowdrop team on improving our localization tools and the text pipeline – all with the aim of making localization as efficient as possible, while at the same time staying true to the Snowdrop philosophy of empowering developers,” says Patrick.

Subtitle accessibility – for everyone

Earlier this year, The Division 2 team was invited to speak about the game’s accessibility features at GAconf EU in London by the IGDA Game Accessibility Special Interest Group.

“My part of the talk centered around subtitle accessibility, while Matte Wagner from Red Storm spoke about text chat and text-to-speech, among other things,” says Patrick.

In his presentation, Patrick chronicled the research and design journey of The Division 2’s subtitles, outlined plans for future improvements, explained how closed captions work, and shared usage statistics.

“We see that almost 1 in 5 players use an ‘accessible’ subtitle mode, which is evidence that these features are used by all types of players – hence the title of the talk, ‘Designing better subtitles for everyone’”.

We see that almost 1 in 5 players use an ‘accessible’ subtitle mode, which is evidence that these features are used by all types of players

“It’s about accessibility, but at the same time I think accessibility is also just advanced user customization: giving players as many options as we can to allow them to play the way they want to play, because in the end, we want as many people as possible to enjoy our game, no matter who they are.”

  • If you want to watch Patrick’s presentation from GAconf EU, you can do it here (starts at around 2h30m).
  • Want to know more about our game engine Snowdrop? Click here!

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