How can you make sure that the localized version of your game will be just as awesome as the original and appeal to gamers from different countries? How do you ensure that the final localization is of the highest quality and detect any and all bugs and shortcomings? This is where localization quality assurance specialists come in.
Let us fill you in on what localization quality assurance (LQA) is, how the process unfolds, and how it can affect the way your game is perceived abroad.
What is localization testing?
Localization quality assurance (LQA) is the complex testing of a video game that has already been translated into another language. This is normally the final stage of the localization process.
First and foremost, LQA is centered around additional quality checks of the translation itself but also includes testing of the interface, consistency of the content, adaptation to the local culture, functionality tests, and much more.
To put it simply, linguists who are well-versed in video games and the target culture play the localized version in their native language and check it for linguistic, visual, and other issues. It can be divided into two major groups: linguistic and cosmetic testing.
Linguistic testing is a general check of the text. First and foremost, it’s important to make sure there are no semantic, stylistic, factual, or other errors. In this stage, the translation is also checked for how natural or native it feels and how appropriate it is to the game itself. For instance, it’s important to make sure that “championship cup” wasn’t mistranslated as just “cup,” or a harmless decorative bow as “bow and arrow.” Such mistakes are quite common when the translator lacks context in the translation process, i.e. doesn’t have access to item images or descriptions while working.
Cosmetic testing assesses how harmoniously the text is integrated into the game. It checks line breaks, the placement of text on textures, font uniformity, and text displays in dialog windows. It’s important for cosmetic testing to not only reveal errors but also suggest an appropriate solution. For example, using a shortened version of interface text or a font that supports diacritical marks.
- Conveying meaning
- Natural, native translation
- Cultural adaptation
- Placement of text on textures
- Font uniformity
- Correct display of text
Linguistic and cosmetic testing improve the quality of the final product. A game’s localization should be unnoticeable, but it becomes obvious as soon as the first problems appear. Such problems can ruin a game’s chances to enter the global market, so spending extra time checking a game’s text and appearance is absolutely critical.
Performing LQA is also important because it increases a game’s chances of becoming featured or recommended in Google Play or the App Store. With a little luck, you’ll be able to exponentially increase the number of downloads. Now that’s a persuasive argument.
What’s the difference between localization quality assurance and proofreading?
As opposed to simply proofreading text, localization quality assurance (LQA):
- is carried out by natives of the target language, not just linguists;
- includes not only checking for typos but also nuances in the meaning of the translation, consistency with the style of the original;
- always involves game testing — checking the localization in the context of the video game;
- takes into account the integration of the text into the interface and other technical concerns;
- is carried out iteratively, in multiple rounds — errors are first identified, and then the corrected version is checked;
Based on the results of the LQA, a detailed report with specific feedback is compiled.
LQA enables your project to achieve an overall high quality of translation and adaptation.
Why it’s important to test your localization: 6 key reasons
- Testing allows you to avoid mistakes and inaccuracies in the translation that could ruin players’ impression of the product.
- LQA guarantees that the humor and references to the local culture will be understood and appreciated by the target audience.
- Testing ensures that native speakers will perceive the text as if the game was originally created in their mother tongue.
- Testing helps avoid negative reviews and a lowered rating of your product due to localization issues.
- LQA identifies and corrects problems with text display, fonts, and line layout.
- And finally, testing guarantees the functionality of the localized version of your project on all devices and platforms.
When can LQA come in handy?
Localization quality assurance is necessary for all stages of a project’s life cycle:
- When launching a game in new languages — in order to guarantee the quality of the translation.
- When updating an already localized product — to ensure that the new texts blend with the overarching style.
- When expanding the reach of a localization — in order to adapt the translation to new countries.
- When changing or expanding a team of translators — to support a unified style of translation.
- After a machine translation — to fix the errors made by neural algorithms.
- Before the final release — to eliminate the remaining problems with the adaptation of a project.
- When faced with low ratings from players — to find and fix the shortcomings.
What materials do you need for testing?
Game testers should at least have access to the game build to perform testing. In theory that should be enough, but ideally developers also send additional materials to increase the effectiveness of LQA. Here is a general list of materials that help testers fully evaluate a game.
Ideally, the build should include cheats or provide in-game currency. That way testers can fully concentrate on the task and cover a large volume of game material in minimal time.
Checklist or test plan
A list of things that need to be checked. For example:
- item collections
Lockit or file with game texts
This is necessary to compare revealed discrepancies against other texts in the game.
At the end of testing, final corrections are made to the lockit.
Below is the sample checklist that we find most comfortable to work with. It describes which areas in the game look good and where testers discovered bugs.
Part of a lockit is also provided below. It was assembled in Google Sheets, but you can make the same kind of table in Excel, Strings, or any other format.
Some developers send screenshots from the game or video of gameplay to be checked. This significantly reduces time required for LQA, but it can be quite labor-intensive for the client, as taking lots of screenshots can be very time-consuming.
Who performs testing?
Usually experienced specialists with extensive industry knowledge perform LQA. They should be more than just dedicated gamers – they also need to understand linguistics and know the features and nuances of the language. There are two options here: testing by a native or non-native speaker.
LQA by a native speaker has the following advantages, but it isn’t cheap:
- A more thorough check of the translation’s quality
- The native speaker is quite familiar with the conventions of their country and can find problem areas in the translation, pictures, music, or video
- Their rates are higher than those of non-native testers
LQA by a non-native speaker has the following pluses and minuses:
- Their rates are lower than those of native speakers
- Their knowledge of key features in the target language is often on par with a native speaker’s
- They could miss certain errors due to insufficient knowledge of the target language
- They aren’t always familiar with the conventions of the target country or audience
Our recommendation is to have native speakers check everything. Your choice depends on your budget, of course, but being stingy on testing isn’t worth it.
What specifically should be tested?
It all depends on your capabilities, the request, and the game’s format. The following options are available:
Testing the first three to five hours of a game
If a game is quite large, full testing will be expensive and time-consuming. In this case, the client may request testing of only the first three to five hours of gameplay — that’s the most important stage for getting players hooked and keeping them engaged.
Players also usually review a game after the first few hours of gameplay and tend to be less concerned about errors and omissions later in the game.
Testing for a set number of hours
This depends on the client’s budget. If it only allows for 15 hours of testing, that’s exactly how much time will be spent on LQA.
Testing a required volume
For example, if a client requires a game to be tested up to level 30, the number of hours and time frame will be determined based on that requirement.
Testing new updates
When an update is released it must also be fully tested.
We always recommend LQA by native speakers for at least the first three to five hours of gameplay. This will eliminate errors that could have slipped into the translation due to lack of context and which you might have missed because of insufficient knowledge of the target language.
What is included in localization quality insurance?
The LQA process consists of three types of testing.
Testing the game from a linguistic viewpoint helps to identify inaccuracies in its texts and voice acting.
Here are the most common linguistic shortcomings found in localized video games:
- Grammatical, orthographic, and punctuation errors: incorrect conjugation, missing elements, or duplicated words.
- Problems related to date formats, currency symbols, or calendars (such as differences between standard date formats in different countries).
- Incorrect usage of metric systems and units of measurement (for example, the differences between measurement systems in the USA and Europe).
- Mistakes related to geographical data, such as indexes, addresses, or names.
- Problems displaying language-specific symbols, particularly diacritics in different languages, such as “á”.
- Contextual discrepancies or literal translations of phrases.
- The unnatural speech style.
- Mutually exclusive translations of the same words or phrases.
- Audio and subtitling issues — when they don’t match up or are incorrectly translated.
- Cultural nuances and references that could be misconstrued or cause offense.
Upon detecting errors, our linguists either share their recommendations on how to put them right or offer alternative translation options.
Visual quality testing
This stage is dedicated to evaluating how well the localized text has been integrated into the product’s visual elements:
- Character display
For example, Unicode symbols may be displayed as question marks or boxes.
Sometimes, the font is too big for its allotted space or, conversely, too small, making it uncomfortable to read. In such cases, it may be necessary to adjust the text, change the font size, or adapt certain elements of the design.
- Long lines of text
This is particularly relevant for translations into Russian, German, or Vietnamese, where the texts may be longer than their English counterparts. Or for translations into Chinese and Japanese, where the characters are much “wider” than Latin letters which may lead to some awkward line breaks.
- Cross-platform adaptation
Whether the game meets visual expectations on a variety of devices: PC, Android, and iOS.
Game function testing
This stage serves to identify and correct artistic, graphic, and technical errors that require changes to the project’s code.
Here’s what is checked during the functional testing stage:
- International keyboards. Do the hotkeys and keyboard commands work correctly?
- Links. Does the text on the buttons correspond to their actual functions? Is the user directed to the correct page?
- Performance. Does the game freeze or crash unexpectedly?
- Graphics. Are any textures missing? Are there any collision bugs? Are there any issues with the camera?
- Text. Are the fonts displayed correctly everywhere? Does the text overlap with any other fragments or images?
- Audio. Are the audio files played in the right places? Do the subtitles lag?
As a result of this multi-layered check, we can identify almost all of the potential issues with the localization and ensure a high-quality final product.
The stages of the quality assurance process
Here at INLINGO, we’ve developed a systematic, six-stage approach to localization testing. Here’s how it unfolds:
- We receive a TOR for testing
During this stage, the client provides the necessary information about their project, specifications, requirements, and expectations. This allows the team to tailor the process and determine the main control points.
- We put together a team
We select a team of experienced localizers and testers. Our choice of team members depends on the specifics of the project, language pairs, and technical requirements.
- We test the game
According to the previously developed plan, our specialists go through the game and identify any linguistic, technical, or other errors. They record all of their comments in a bug report, which the developers can utilize to quickly make edits to their game.
- We consult translators on the recommended changes
This stage is where the issues identified are discussed, taking into account the context and specifics of the target language. The translators suggest corrections that preserve the author’s style and reflect the cultural features of the target audience.
- The client implements the necessary changes to the game
Based on the report provided and the input from the team, the client revises the game, eliminating the identified errors and shortcomings.
- We conduct regression testing
After the changes have been implemented, the team conducts regression testing. The aim of this stage is to make sure that all of the recommendations have been implemented correctly, no new errors have appeared, and that the product is ready to be launched.
How many rounds of testing will the game be put through?
There is a widespread belief that game testers are simply players who complete the game over and over again. In actual fact, developers assign specific tasks to testers.
The amount of rounds of testing required is individual to each project. It depends on the scale, volume of linguistic resources in the game, and quality requirements.
The crucial elements for localization quality assurance
Although LQA is normally undertaken closer to the finish line, we advise including quality assurance throughout the development of your project.
Here’s what will help integrate quality control into your localization and streamline the process:
- Creating a style guide and glossary of terms. This allows translators to use the correct terms and style from the very beginning.
- Adding native speakers and experts in the relevant field to the team. They’re the best judges of the quality and accuracy of your translation.
- Checking the translation during the process, not at the end. This allows mistakes to be corrected more quickly.
- Using modern localization tools to automate routine checks. CAT tools such as Memsource or memoQ can find incorrect translations automatically. This helps localizers rectify mistakes before they reach the testers.
This approach will help to simplify the LQA process.
How much LQA costs
The cost of the LQA process depends on multiple factors:
- The volume of translation — the more text present, the higher the cost of testing.
- The language of the localization — rare and complicated languages increase the price.
- Quality requirements — the higher the requirements, the longer testing will take.
- The difficulty of the project — the more complex the interface and gameplay, the more testing will cost.
- The tools being used — manual or automated testing.
The studio conducting your LQA will provide the exact sum. The company’s managers will ask a few questions and determine the most accurate estimate for your project.
Why is it worth considering LQA testing for your game?
The answer is simple: to reduce costs, prevent bad reviews, and please the players. It’s better to identify and fix any bugs pre-release than to fix them in a hurry afterward.
Imagine that you’ve spent years creating a game — such as Star Trek (2013), which made its debut a month before the premiere of the movie Star Trek: Nemesis. Even after three years of development, the game wasn’t a success.
This was all down to the numerous mistakes and technical problems. A measly 140,000 copies were sold in the first three weeks. The game received a lot of negative feedback.
Naturally, some translations have become memes. Such as: “All your base are belong to us” (Zero Wing) or “Welcome to Die!” (the X-Men arcade game). They bring smirks to gamers’ faces for years on end, spawning new memes and jokes. But do you want your game to be remembered for its translation blunders?
If not, then entrust the INLINGO team to carry out localization quality assurance for your project. We’ll test the adaptation of your game and prepare it for its debut to the global gaming community.
What is the localization testing process?
- We receive a task for testing.
- We assemble a team.
- We test the game based on the test plan and compose a bug report.
- We consult with the translators on the recommended corrections.
- The client makes the necessary changes to the game.
- We conduct regression testing.
What is regression testing?
Regression testing is performed to make sure that the changes from initial testing were implemented and that all errors were in fact eliminated and will not appear in the release version. The ideal testing process is as follows:
- First stage of testing.
- Making corrections to the game.
- Checking changes in regression.
Regression testing allows us to finalize the outcome of the first round of testing and be sure that all game texts are correct. This stage can be repeated if necessary, but in most cases one round of regression testing is sufficient.
We can conduct testing on emulators of various devices (such as an iPad emulator running on a PC), as well as on the devices themselves: PCs, tablets, and both Android and iOS smartphones.
What should the final product look like?
The bug report is the final product of testing. It is a report that guides developers in making subsequent changes to the game. It usually has a standardized form that describes each bug that was found. The report indicates the following basic information:
- The type of revealed bug, for example: cosmetic or linguistic
- The bug’s location in the game (or just the text ID from the lockit)
- A description of the bug
- Current status — how the sentence looks with the bug
- Expected result — how the sentence should look
- A screenshot with the bug or a link to one.
Localization testing is a very important process. It helps you refine a project’s text content and merge it appropriately with the interface. Skipping LQA only increases your chances of getting negative reviews from players. After your game is released, they will find all the bugs for you, lowering the game’s rating in stores and the total number of downloads.
So, if you decide to have your game tested:
- Prepare additional materials to help testers in the LQA process—the game build with cheats and in-game currency, a testing checklist, and lockit.
- Have the project tested by native speakers—it may be more expensive, but you get what you pay for.
- Check at least the first three to five hours of gameplay. They should captivate players and keep them engaged.
- Take advantage of regression testing to get the best outcome possible.
We wish you every success!