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What is the best for role-playing game: bad translation or no translation at all?

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Hello. I wanted to discuss a question that is very important for me with the people who are really loving role-playing games, and i could not think about better place to find them then forum of one of the best rpg developers that ever existed. What i want for you - is to carefully listen to my question and give me any kind of advice, tell me what you think about it...


If you want to read my story, here is my reddit post with a bit more detailed explanaton of the situation: https://www.reddit.com/r/Assistance/comments/47ouom/advice_i_do_not_know_what_to_do_with_my_life_and/


But here i would like to skip the unnesesary details and keep it short, so...


Short story: I am a writer. Writing stories for the games are my only interest in life and not long ago i was able to finish my first role-playing game, that probably will also be my last. it is free to play, but to share it with the community i need and english translation, but seems like i could not find anyone who could help me with that. Many people are suggesting me to do translation on my own.


Here comes my question: people saying that my english skill is enough to make a translation, and then just give people to edit and fix the mistakes. But i think that my skills are not even close to being enough to make a proper literature translation, because i don't know half of the words in english, and even worse - i have no idea how to make sentences that will sound good and will be enjoyable to read. I am afraid to destory my whole story because of that. If you do not understand what i am trying to say, let me give you an example - many of you should know the prologue to the Darkest Dungeon, right? 



Ruin has come to our family. You remember our venerable house, opulent and imperial, gazing proudly from its stoic perch above the moor? I lived all my years in that ancient, rumor shadowed manor, fattened by decadence and luxury - and yet I began to tire of conventional extravagance.

But i didn't know most of that words and possible sentences before i heared this. How would i write it if i would translating this from russian?


Our family was destroyed. You remember our respectable house, luxorious and imperial, looking proudly from the stoic nest above the swamp? I spent my entire life in that ancient mansions that you heard about, drowning in decadence and luxury - but i began to tire from my usual extravagance.


That how i would write it if i would translate it straight from the russian, without reading english version first. In means almost the same, right? But can you really say that you enjoyed reading my version? Or that it is somehow better then original? Or that it can be "fixed" by any editors?


I think that you can't fix something that is not just a mistake, but a mistranslation because of very poor english knowledge.And i think that if i will try to translate my game, the text that i has being carefully editing for the last 5 years into that kind of abomination - i will ruin all the enjoyment from reading it for the english-speaking players.


But that's only what i think. Maybe i am wrong? Maybe, as those people saying, my translations is not so bad and they sound good at english? I can't say because i am not native english speaker, but you are. Please, could you tell me, what would be the best - make this kind of translation or just forget about translating?

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Its an interesting and curious question.  If we were strictly talking literature I'd argue that a professional-style translation would be the only way to go.  In that medium language is the only important thing.


When we start looking at visual narrative media (film, television) you can get by on powerful images and a so-so translation.


With games I think a lot of it boils down to a similar thing, although substitute "gameplay" for powerful images.  The history of video games is littered with poor translations (I've played a few games translated to English so poorly, I'm still not 100% sure I understand what happened in those games).  But the gameplay was so fun so I still played it.  I'm sure most of us have similar stories where it didn't matter so much what was said as long as there was loose understanding and some fun gameplay. With that said the make or break will end up being based on how strong the narrative is to the gameplay.  I can't imagine Planescape: Torment working well in a non-English language without a strong translation - too much of what makes the game work could be lost.


Skimming the reddit post you link to, I see you're not really in a position to pay for a translation.  I also notice you're concerned with reaching an audience, but I don't see why you think you can't reach an audience with a Russian language release - would no one in Russian-speaking areas be interested in the game?  It may not lead to world-wide acclaim, but you would be putting something back into the world, as you say to release it in Russian only.


Baring getting some free collaboration (perhaps you could entice participation with discrete screenshots of the game?  In my experience lurking around the edges of modding communities, people seem more willing to pitch in on a project they can "see" then one that they can't) or doing some form of crowdfunding to pay for a translation, I think releasing in Russian is your best bet provided there is an audience there - you're still getting the results of your hard work in front of people, its just not an international audience.


That's my 2¢ as someone not involved in making games in any way, shape or form.

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But the gameplay was so fun so I still played it.


That is why i bother about the translation. My game is more an adventure and rpg, then something else, of there is lots of fighting, bosses (some of them optional) - but most of the gameplay are the story. Without it it will be just a bunch of battles in ff 5-6 style, and a bit of exploration. Story is the main dish here, and that is why i am bothered with securing it.



Russian language release


Already done. There is several problems with it - and first will be no clear way to reaching the audience. Most of the players today looking into Steam when searching new games. I did release it in some torrent trackers, and buch of people played it - some even leaved a good reviews. But there is also other who didn't like the "old" 2d graphics, turn-based combat, random enemy encounters, and "lots of talking". Russian rpg community is not so big as you may think, even less of them are enjoying old school rpg's, and even less of them visiting torrents to search for new games.

Steam is the only way to properly announce game to the world, and also give it to the english-speaking community that are the biggest anyway, but i cannot imagine game without english translation goes trough greenlight.



perhaps you could entice participation with discrete screenshots of the game?


Sure, why not.








You could even try the game, but... like i told, it's more about story and the history of this world, and you will not understand russian(


And the problems with searching translating communities is that i can't find any. I know several russian ones, but not a single english. Can it be that there is not a single group who would do fan-made english video game translations?

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  • 4 weeks later...

The best way to do this [iMO] is to read a lot of novels, in English). Learn the unfamiliar words in their context, (and in more than one context). See how different (and varied) authors employ them.  It will only come with experience.


As a side project, it might be insightful to read a couple famous novels in English and Russian versions; having a chance to compare them.  Something like The Hobbit, Shogun, Worm Ouroboros, etc...   (Works where ~presumably, the translations will be extra careful.)


*Poems too.



Kubla Khan

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment.


In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
   Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
   The shadow of the dome of pleasure
   Floated midway on the waves;
   Where was heard the mingled measure
   From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

   A damsel with a dulcimer
   In a vision once I saw:
   It was an Abyssinian maid
   And on her dulcimer she played,
   Singing of Mount Abora.
   Could I revive within me
   Her symphony and song,
   To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.




** Also https://librivox.org/ might have many free audio books in both Russian and English to study.

Edited by Gizmo
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  • 3 weeks later...

It's the answer of localization vs. translation. The quality of a localization is often not just in getting something that makes sense to a player (or reader), but in making something that is culturally appropriate and maintains, or comes up with its own, tone and style. Each time I've seen people discuss their favorite localizations, they almost inevitably mention examples that aren't 1:1 perfect translations, but adapt the game to a particular region with jokes, references or themes that work better for that audience.


If I could suggest something for you I'd say maybe look to that - try to instill a sense of personality into the game that's fitting. Even if you aren't an amazing writer, consistency and "flair" is more important than being 100% faithful to the original. The goal is for the audience to enjoy the game, after all, and that applies no matter what the language is.

Edited by sea
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