Anyone who enjoys localized games, especially older games, has encountered awkward grammar that tends to stem from shoddy variable internationalization. For example:
This could’ve arisen from the string, “%s are sick,” where %s is replaced by various characters. Out of context, a translator might assume this to best translate as “they are sick,” but when a singular character, such as “this guy” is plugged in, suddenly the sentence is grammatically incorrect. Poor localization can jar the player and ruin their gaming experience, so proper string internationalization is essential in the gaming localization process.
When it comes to variables, you have two options: add new strings, or find a creative solution. Adding new strings to account for grammatic differences between two languages is almost always the preferred solution, but if you don’t have time, there is a fantastic il8n secret: the humble colon.
Take, for example, this simple string often found in dungeon crawler games:
You got a %s!
Here, %s can stand for three things; an arrow, arrows, or a bow. Each of these have different articles, so if you don’t add new strings to make up for this issue, you could end up with, “You got a arrows!” Time saving trick? Change the string to “You got: %s.” With this single new string, you can simply plug in each variable and there will be no grammatical fuss.
Looking for more gaming localization tips? Check out our Guide to Video Game Localization.