Localisation projects can go smoothly only if the very process of game or software development meets the requirements of the international audience. There is nothing more annoying than lengthy and costly re-engineering to meet the localisation needs once the product is fully developed. To prepare an international version of your game and help achieve language independence consider the following steps:
1. Use Unicode instead of ASCII
Your game shouldn’t be limited to ASCII with merely 256 characters, but rather allow to display the text in nearly every language. That is where Unicode with over 65,000 characters comes in handy. Supporting Unicode will not only allow to localise your game into languages such as Arabic, Japanese, German or Polish, but will also ensure consistent encoding.
2. Provide enough space for translation
To avoid overlapping or misaligned text in the localised version, you need to ensure that menus and buttons are appropriately resized. Translation is usually 20-30% larger than the original text, so this difference needs to be included in the user interface. Another solution is to use icons, such as an arrow for “Exit” or question mark for “Help”, which are clear in all languages. However, some less popular icons may have double meanings or may not be obvious for international users, so extra research will be necessary.
3. Think about regional standards
Properly internationalised games should support different number, date, time and calendar formats, as these items vary from country to country. A possibility to adapt measurement systems and currency formats is equally important to maintain true gameplay experience.
4. Limit culturally specific references
If it is not essential for the gameplay, try to limit the use of cultural references, such as names of celebrities, politicians, TV-shows or events known only in the source language culture. Also, be wary of colours that are supposed to refer to national flags or political movements of a specific country, as they may not call up the same associations in other cultures.
5. Use comments with code to provide context for translators
Finally, it is a great idea to add comments to the code, if the context may be ambiguous, e.g. in case of single word strings or abbreviations. This will ensure more precise game localisation and save the time needed for clarifications of certain phrases. Thus, translators as well as international players will be more than happy to receive a product that is developed with an eye to their needs and expectations.