Synthesis discusses the how it took on the daunting localisation process for one of the biggest RPGs ever made

QA and localisation case study: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Company: Synthesis
Game: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

What stage of development were you brought in?
Davide Solbiati, executive localisation director: We came in at a later stage of development, as is common in localisation. It makes perfect sense to forewarn your localisation provider that a project of this size is drawing near so you can staff up the team if needed and see how it could fit in your production schedule. This was done in time so we could prepare ourselves.

What services did you provide for the game?
For Skyrim, we provided the translation, the audio recordings and the localisation QA for French, Italian, German and Spanish.

Is there a particular element of the QA and localisation process for the game you were especially proud of?
There is no particular element I am proud of other than the fact the localisation process was carried
out successfully. It was a major milestone for our client and for us as it was the first project of this size we did for Bethesda.

The game’s predecessors had received very bad reviews in terms of localisation quality. The titles were very well-known for their bad localisation and our challenge was to show we could do it better which is not easy considering the sheer size and complexity of Skyrim itself and the Elder Scrolls universe in general.

How long and in-depth was the QA and localisation process?
Though we had preparation time upfront the actual production took us about six months, which is tough for a game like Skyrim, but doable. ­

First we started with the translation that needed to be ‘married’ with the game. You go into every single detail and think about how to transfer it best into your language and how your decision might affect later stages of the production. Due to the complexity of The Elder Scrolls we had external consultation by some experts who knew every single detail since the very start of the franchise.

Then audio recordings started. First it’s mainly about finding the best casting match – which actor do you think can transport the quality of a character best and so on. Later, during recordings, you again go very deep into the story and although you can get a lot from the English audios and the reference materials, being able to contact the translation guys about something you are not quite sure of is an advantage.

Why is it important developers use QA and localisation services for a game like this?
You need an experienced team when localising an RPG with 600,000-plus audio words and 1m-plus text for several languages.

But when talking to small or medium sized companies that are developing games for mobile platforms or online, they are often much less familiar with localisation and its implications. Although there are aspects a casual mobile game has in common with a triple-A RPG, as a developer you want people from all over the world play your game and have fun.

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