English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, there are hundreds of different languages spoken around the world, and making a game for all of them is challenging. In AAA games, they often need to hire new voice actors, re-do cutscenes and animations, and change around assets such as street signs and bookshelves to incorporate a single new language.

Luckily, as indie game designers we often do not need to worry about most of these problems, however, that does not mean that making a great game that supports multiple of languages is easy. Over 50% of the international video game industry lies outside of the USA, so it can be imperative for you to provide multiple translations of your game. Today, we will cover three simple steps in making your indie game multilingual.

Step 1: Images

One way to ensure a multilingual game experience is to use as little text as possible. Lots of people don’t think of this solution because it might seem over-obvious or they can’t see many ways to cut text out of their game. This can easily be accomplished by using icons and symbols instead of the corresponding text, such as a play icon instead of writing out the word ‘play’.

Go through your game, and try and replace any unnecessary text with images. This makes it significantly easier to eventually translate your game when the time comes, and can also make your game more immersive if applied properly.

Step 2: Translation

If your game has limited amounts of text, and they absolutely must remain as text, don’t go to google translate for help. Doing this is one of the easiest ways to ruin the game for anyone who is not playing in the original language.

One easy way to get your game translated is just to ask around, chances are you know somebody who speaks the language fluently. Ask them if they might dedicate an hour or so to help you translate your game into a new language. Chances are high they will say yes. If you don’t know anyone personally that speaks the language, ask your friends if they know somebody. If worst comes to worst, you can hire a translator online for a few hours and get your translation from them for a cool $100 or less. (for smaller games with limited text)

Step 3: Application

You have your different translations, now how do you import them into the game? The answer is simple, just make an object called language, and another object for each language your game supports. (ie: Spanish, French, English) Give these languages a child for each phrase translated, and be sure that the variable names match for each language! When you change languages, just set your language variable equal to the selected language. Veolia! You now have a multilingual game! You can apply a similar technique with JSON files for your languages if you have larger amounts of text or require a more advanced solution.

Example (JavaScript):

// Set your language variable.
var language = {};

// Set a variable for each of your supported languages.
var english = {};
var spanish = {};
var french = {};

// Add translations.
english.sayHello = "Hello.";
spanish.sayHello = "Hola.";
french.sayHello = "Bonjour.";

// Set default language.
language = english;

// Use the language.

And that’s it! Be sure to like this post, and share it on social media so anyone struggling with translating their game can have some ideas. Tell us what the most annoying part of translating your game was in the comments section below.

Until next time!
~Andrew Stavast
Firenibbler Studios