Ankama's Olivier Comte on the large undertaking of adapting a game to new countries and cultural tastes

The challenges of localising MMOs for new territories

As MMOs often have some of the most intensive scripts that can span from tens to hunrdeds of thousands of lines of dialogue, localising them for different regions can be a huge challenge.

Developers also need to cater for the different tastes of difference audiences, from cultural references to differing tastes in humour. Other considerations include constant updates which many of today’s games, paritcularly MMOs, demand. All of these new additions need to be translated for each territory.

One game to recently localised for the UK is turn-based tactical MMO Wakfu, created by French developer Ankama Games.

Speaking to Develop, the studio’s COO Olivier Comte discussed some of the challenges of translating the title, as well as its other MMO, Dofus, from French and into other languages, and what developers need to look out for when localising their own MMOs.

How did you go about localising games like Dofus and Wakfu? Is it a large undertaking?
Localisation is handled internally. It’s a large undertaking because we add new content each month in both our MMOs and it has to be translated quickly from French into several languages: English, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Japanese. Localisation is handled internally to a large extent, but we also work with suppliers and partners in particular cases.

What are the challenges of localising MMOs for the UK?
One of the strengths of our MMOs is the humour, but French and English people don’t have the same sense of humour. The challenge for us is to find tricks in the localisation that let us make that connection using local references.

One example would be the names for the Clan Members in Wakfu. In French they all refer to famous actors, so Geror Deuxpardeux, Geror Jugnol etcetera, but apart from the first one they aren’t that famous, so we decided to adapt the references. Now we have Jonk Ussak and Jonk Lees, for example, which have more appeal to English-speaking players as well as other communities playing the game in English.

What advice do you have for developers looking to bring their games, particularly MMOs, to another country? What do they need to consider?
There is no secret recipe when bringing an MMO to the market. Success is a mix between quality graphics, gameplay, community management, marketing, time to market, customer support and luck.

Do you find the players have different tastes internationally when it comes to MMOs? How do you cater for this?
It’s a difficult question because there are several types of MMO and the market is different from one country to another. Not every territory has the same habits and the same consumer behaviour: some territories like microtransactions for cosmetic items, some would rather have game improvement items, some like monthly subscriptions and so on. We try to tailor the offer to specific local behaviours that we’ve identified but this means a lot of data analysis.

Why is this UK push with Wakfu and Dofus happening now?
Dofus launched ten years ago, first in French, but it was quickly translated into English and other European languages. Even though the game wasn’t developed specifically for French speaking markets, it did expand mostly in those territories.

The fact is, at first, we had a mostly French speaking development team and we mainly attended conventions in France. So French speaking fans had more direct contact with the studio and comprised the first important community for us.

Wakfu is different. The game expanded really fast outside of French speaking countries. Last year we did a full simultaneous launch in several countries after several years of beta testing, and there are still some major updates planned for this year.

We are also actively supporting the Wakfu TV series in English-speaking territories with a Kickstarter campaign aimed at raising funds to voice dub the show to a high level of quality.

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