Defender’s Quest calls for fan translators

I don’t normally post general interest news stories about games like this, but I think this is legitimately interesting. Level Up Labs has created a method to crowd source the localization of its game, Defender’s Quest, setting up a dedicated webpage devoted to that task. I can’t think of any other occasion where I’ve seen a developer do this, and I have mixed feelings about it.

On one hand, it’s awfully clever as a business maneuver, and functionally speaking, it isn’t all that different from offering mod support that users are free to take advantage of. On the other hand, translators are professionals providing a valuable service, and this seems rather narrowly targeted to specifically cut them out of the loop; it reminds me a bit of the Wasteland 2 asset design contest, or Amanda Palmer’s request for people to play instruments for free at her concerts. On the other hand: wouldn’t it be better if gamers of all languages and nationalities from all over the world could play every game without huge cost barriers getting in the way? As a developer myself, I can say that I find the thought of people voluntarily translating my games into dozens of languages awfully appealing.

I contacted Lars Doucet, the main force behind LevelUp Labs, to see what he had to say about it. He wrote:

I just got an email from a professional translator asking me about the ethics of crowd-sourcing translations from amateurs, in light of our recent success. That was an interesting discussion and I’m thinking of turning our exchange into a full article (with his permission).

I used to work as an (amateur) translator myself, and so I’m definitely sensitive to undermining the work of professionals by soliciting amateurs.

As for what would happen if he didn’t use crowd sourced translations, Lars had this to say:

We’re hiring one professional right now (german), which is the largest market. If that turns out well, I can get my business partners to agree to risk some money/time on the next largest markets, French/Spanish, etc. For all the little countries, though, we either open them up to fans or they don’t ever get translated at all.

What do you think, folks? Voice your opinions in the comments below!

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  • Xaenor says:

    I’m a professional translator myself, and while I work for a company that translates software, one of my biggest hobbies is translating games. I played computer and console games for over 17 years now, and the last 6 years of my life I dedicated purely to translating. During that time I had a pleasure to work with many amateur translators who wanted to see their favourite games in their native tongue. And to be completely honest, the vast majority of those people did a very poor job in this endeavour. Sure, they were enthusiasthic, but most of them didn’t even have enough determination to stay with the project till it’s done.

    There were also many dedicated people who put their heart into translation, but such an effort still goes in vain if you lack knowledge of translation methods and never studied to be a professional in that field. And among all my companions maybe only 1% did a really good and qualitative work. It was usually people who closely worked with foreigners and had huge experience in speaking this or that language.

    Considering all this, I highly doubt that amateur translation will be even close in quality to that of professionals, but seeing people all over the world work with the games they like is still great, because, sad as it is, huge translation companies usually make agreements with more prominent game developers, like those who create AAA titles. And it is a shame, because so many outstanding indie games never appear on the market of this or that country simply due to the language barrier.

    I don’t think that Level Up Labs’ move can be considered unethical towards professionals – simply put, the quality of the resulting product will never be as good. But it’s a very reasonable way out for all the people who don’t know foreign languages and still want to understand the plot. So, good luck to all the volunteers, and I hope you’ll do your best to give the game what it truly deserves.

    Best regards,

  • Adam Wilson says:

    While I consider myself a translator/interepreter, and it’s what I went to University to do, I came out of Carson Newman University in Jefferson City, TN, with a B.A. in Spanish, with a mind geared toward the afforementioned translation.
    I also started writing an album of original music in 2003, and in the midst of recording, in 2009, the piano/synth I used was stolen. I’m now down a Yamaha S08, have a piano to replace the main *piano* I used, a smaller Yamaha PSR keyboard that absolutely sucks… but I digress.

    The point is this: While I’ve not had any opportunities, it sure as hell is not for lack of trying. In the midst of writing this, I am scrounging for opportunities whereby I might just be able to have someone take a chance on using an original piece (mostly instrumental) in a video game.

    I simply have not been given a chance. While I’m sure it sounds like whining to those who have not been there, here’s what my days consisted of before getting a “job” substitute teaching: go out in town, get online, send of resume after resume and plug my music while I’m at it, and then expect to hear nothing back from ANYONE.

    I eventually just got fed up. Honestly, this is probably the longest thing I’ve typed since I gave up the hunt, as it were.

    Shameless get-my-name-out-there whore that I am, if you’re interested in using my music in games, you may visit my soundcloud:

    There should be a link to my other tune I’ve got up there, The Crystal Coast.

    I don’t have a sample of anything I translated for the class because my Professor doesn’t work there anymore & apparently my work got lost in the shuffle. Story of my life.

    I don’t work for free. I don’t know anyone who does. Period. End of Story. Fin.


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