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ALEX: Hi, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Open World. Today we’ll be talking with Miguel Sepulveda, from King. But first, let’s check out the LocFact of the day.
ALEX: Hi, everyone! Welcome to today’s LocFact. We are Alex and Lucho and on today’s LocFact, we will be talking about culturalization in one of the most famous video game sagas of all times: Assassin’s Creed.
MAN: You want it darker. We kill the flame.
LUCIO: We want to address the last 3 releases of the game, which are set in Egypt, Ancient Greece and several Nordic countries, whose distinct cultures were adapted to fit the game story.
ALEX: Now, let’s remember that these games are set prior to the templars and the assassins’ becoming the order and the creed that we all know today.
LUCIO: Also, don’t forget that this video game saga, though it takes some historic events from the past, is not 100% accurate. Assassin’s Creed is well known for mixing those boring history lessons with some action and fantasy, creating a parallel timeline.
ALEX: There are way too many historic character appearances to name them all, but just to name a few, we can see Perikles in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. The warring sons of the legendary Viking warrior Ragnar Lothbrok in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. And we shouldn’t forget Cleopatra and the Roman Republic under the command of Julius Caesar in Assassin’s Creed Origins.
LUCIO: One of the most appreciated cultural representations in Odyssey is the fact that Ubisoft worked with a cast of native Greek voice actors. And they decided to keep some go-to Hellenic swear words. For example, cries of “maláka,” which is one of the most loaded and oddly versatile swear words, so it’s the one that we hear the most.
ALEX: In Assassin’s Creed Origins, its main character Bayek cannot embody the culture of an entire civilization, but that’s where the game’s thoughtful side quests come into play. They offer opportunities for the player to learn more about ancient Egyptian civilization through intimate moments with other characters. For example, the “Bayek’s Promise” quest tasks players with finding several stone circles. These stone circles trigger flashbacks from Bayek’s past in which you can see him discussing love, family and loss, and each flashback is tied to a specific Egyptian deity represented with a constellation. Pretty cool, right?
LUCIO: Yeah! What Valhalla definitely got right was the common practice of Norse culture and mythology called “flyting,” /flʌɪtiŋ/. This tradition consisted in the exchange of insults similar to a rap battle between two rivals. And yes, the experience can vary between languages due to the loc process carried out, but players can get to experience flyting as close as it can get in the 21st century in a wide array of languages.
ALEX: All in all, you might not be able to experience Greek philosophy, Egyptian culture or Norse way of living firsthand, but playing Assassin’s Creed will surely feel like visiting a really fancy and lively theme park.
LUCIO: If you don’t have the game, you can also see what Ubisoft did with their research of the places. Check out Discovery Mode Tour!
ALEX: Well, that was the LocFact for today’s episode, everyone. I hope you enjoyed it, and see you on the next one.
FLOR: Hi, everyone! Welcome to this new episode of Open World. Today here we have Miguel Sepulveda. Hi!
FLOR: So welcome, Miguel. Miguel is a blogger, researcher, Game Global advisory board member, language geek, and a father of two lovely kids. He started his journey in this exciting localization world back in 1995 as a Spanish QA specialist for Microsoft. After many years working on the LSP side, he shifted to the gaming industry in 2007 and started working at Electronic Arts also in the QA area. In 2014, he joined King, the mobile publisher known for Candy Crush, where his role is to lead the globalization efforts of a very talented team in a very cool company. So, Miguel, welcome. We are super happy to have you here. How are you today?
MIGUEL: I’m doing very well. Thanks for having me. This is really fun.
FLOR: Yes, it is. So we prepared a couple of questions for you because we want to learn about your background. So I believe Lore… There you are.
LORE: Yeah.I’d love to start. Hi, Miguel!
LORE: And so I guess, in general, what does it mean to be a globalization manager? What does a day in the life look like, and what kind of teams do you interact with on a regular basis?
MIGUEL: Many, many things. After all, we are like in the middle of everything. The way I see a localization team is like the glue between different things, like being in the middle. And quite often I think that we are breaking the silos between all the different departments, and… that looks like breaking that silos, because it would start working with, I don’t know, game designers, trying to understand what they are going to build for the next levels and trying to get the information that we may need to do our localization activities. But then, all of the sudden, you might be talking to people in marketing, trying to understand how they are gonna do the promotion of the next event. And then you might be talking with, of course, the vendors, but also you may be talking with the finance people. So… And I do interact with many, many different stakeholders during the day, and I like that because it’s a good opportunity to know a lot about what the others are doing. And at the same time, it’s also quite challenging because, as you might imagine, not many people know the ins and outs of what we do. So it’s a continuous, like, evangelization of what we do, and sometimes it may be a little bit exhausting.
FLOR: I bet. Yeah, I bet dealing with so many people at the same time and so many different roles within the same company.
MIGUEL: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Because some of them are in a different phase in the development phase. So with some teams, you will talk more at the beginning, while with others, it’s gonna be more like at the end. So it requires to have a clear understanding, a clear road map about who does what, and then linking all these individuals.
ALEX: Yeah, it’s about being an all-court player, right? Pretty much.
MIGUEL: Yeah, it is. It is.
ALEX: Miguel, you mentioned the vendor side. I know that you have worked as a vendor manager as well, so what can you tell us about that and…? What can you tell us about that? And let’s go to the second part later.
MIGUEL: I can tell you that it’s a very stressing job.
ALEX: Okay. On that same note, do you think that vendor managers have it easier nowadays to find qualified linguists with the tools that we have?
MIGUEL: I think it mightbe easier to reach people. So on that front, nowadays we are all connected. So compared that with ten years ago, now it’s easier. Still, getting the right talent, that’s always challenging and it will be always challenging. But at least now the good thing is that, if there are good people, probably you know about them, because now with all the social media, LinkedIn and all these different sites, it’s kind of easy to know who are the good ones. But still it will be difficult to get them on board. But at least the first connection about, who should I talk to? That part I think it’s easier. But I do feel that, in a way, bringing the right people for the right game, in this case, that’s gonna be always challenging.
FLOR: Yeah, there are things that never change, right? Unfortunately.
ALEX: You might get it easier in some portions of the whole job. But yeah, you’re right.
FLOR: Yeah. And I wanted to follow up on your experience working on the LSP side, because I know that you worked with Lionbridge. And what would you say that is the best… And maybe you can also share the worst of that side of the coin of the industry. Because I know it can be challenging as well.
MIGUEL: Yeah. I think the best is that you have the opportunity to work with multiple clients, and a lot of growth and the learning opportunities there. Because every client will work… Well, they will share some kind of framework, but then there’s gonna be some parts that they are very different, not only like in the tools, but also like in the mindset or even the culture that they have in that specific company. So I learn a lot, because you are continuously putting yourself in a situation that you don’t know very well that particular thing you have to do. But in the end you just do it, so that’s good for your self-esteem and growth and everything. So I do really like that. I always say like, I don’t know, one, two years in a vendor is like five years in a client. Something like that.
ALEX: Vendor time.
MIGUEL: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
FLOR: I love that concept.
ALEX: Yes. It’s pretty accurate, too.
MIGUEL: Yeah, that’s what I felt. That’s what I felt. And the challenging part is… is the… is the margin that you have to make, is the availability, is the targets you have to do when it comes to sales and everything. And, in many cases, if you are a production team, it’s not really on you. Because I remember that myself, I was not doing the sales myself. I was supporting with my expertise the sales people, but I was not selling myself. But still, in a way, I was accountable of certain margins. And that’s very, very stressful because it’s one thing that you don’t really have control, and… Yeah, I don’t have great memories of that.
ALEX: Again, being like a glue, right? Like you’re accountable, even though you’re not in charge of it.
MIGUEL: Yeah, yeah.
FLOR: Yeah, ormaybe more like an octopus, like being like multiple arms and…
LORE: Octo-dad, ’cause he’s also a father.
ALEX: Octo-dad. Yes.
LORE: I think we all have some nightmare memories of being in a group project where you’re just praying that everybody else does things to the same level that you’re doing. Everybody’s gonna show up on that day. So another thing that has probably changed throughout the time is the experience of testing. So we know you’ve managed the Automation Testing Department back in 2007 with EA. How do you feel the testing has changed then in your experience?
MIGUEL: No, it’s much more mature. I remember back in the day that at EA, we had this console farm where we had all the consoles playing all night FIFA games and simulating all the different combinations. And it was really like a farm, like a big room with a lot of hardware there. And everything was like programmed like very manually, trying to create the scripts, simulating what you might do with the remote controls of your Play or X-Box or whatever. So… And now it’s all with artificial intelligence, and it’s so different because now it’s like you teach one bot and you create like a script that is going to run that script for you in multiple languages and then all the screenshots are going to be stored in one folder, and then you can share this with the vendors and linguistic, that they can just have a look to those screenshots, without really needing anything else. So it’s definitely nothing, nothing to do. And I do think that, with artificial intelligence when it comes to the linguistics part, we are saving a lot of time for that particular part. So it’s going well. It’s going well that part.
LORE: I could see how that automation would really be more efficient, I suppose, in a lot of ways.
MIGUEL: Yeah. Yeah, because, I mean, quite often, it’s always this dilemma about robots taking the job, right?
MIGUEL: But actually, I think it’s very complementary, because it gives you the opportunity to test things in time frames that otherwise is not possible.
MIGUEL: If you think about mobile phones, the games that you are working in a sprint, in a sprint you may have content every two weeks, and that will include everything, the creation of the game levels itself and the localization. And it’s very difficult to fit everything in those two weeks if you have to fit also the LQA. So doing a manual LQA in a sprint in two weeks, it’s really difficult. But if you have tools like this, then it’s totally different because you will teach the bot to get the screens of all the new key content that you are localizing, you will isolate that, and you will send that only to an LSP for the linguistic testers. And without automation, I don’t know how we might do that, because the testers would have to run these manual test cases and do this manually, and they might spend, I don’t know, a couple of days, probably. I mean, there is no that big content to test, but still a couple of days they will spend just trying to follow all the different test cases. So I think it’s a great complement, the automation, in this type of initiatives.
ALEX: Yeah. It’s not a threat to our line of work or anything. It’s an amazing tool like to automate things that otherwise would be impossible to fit, right? In the time frames that we have nowadays.
FLOR: Yeah. And I bet that you leave less room for error, right?
MIGUEL: Yeah, yeah.
ALEX: Yeah, that, too.
MIGUEL: And, and in the end, many of these tasks are like a “monkey job,” so it’s better to use the brain of the testers in something more valuable.
LORE: So don’t replace them, just give them a different job to do.
LORE: Thank you.
ALEX: So, Miguel, following up on that automation and how things change, what kind of advice would you give to a dev studio who is making their first game, in terms of localization? And what are the key elements that they need to keep in mind when they start thinking about translating their game? Right? As most people refer it to. I’m thinking localization, globalization. I mean, things that involve this overall process, right?
MIGUEL: I think it’s important that people not familiar with what we do, that they understand that localization activities is not a one single time task that you outsource and you are done. It’s an iteration, it’s a continuous process, and it’s another business process that you have to plan since the very beginning. We do still see this misconception of localization as an afterthought, that you do the English, and then, at some point, you will start thinking about the rest of the languages. We need to change that. I don’t know how, but we need to change that because it’s the wrong mindset. Because when you think of one activity like that, it’s painful, right? Because you see it like a transactional activity, and something you have to do about that it’s like, “Ugh!”
ALEX: Yeah, that’s how many people see it. And I love the fact that… I love that term, localization as an afterthought. We need to move away from that.
MIGUEL: Yeah, because it doesn’t work for many reasons. It’s perceived as a kind of transactional activity that it’s not really given any kind of value, when we know that that’s not the case. It puts the team, like, in a kind of black box that the developer, they will not know very well what they are expecting to receive. They will be continuously like chasing shadows, because I’ve seen quite often that then you have all these problems with implementation of the font, then you have all these problems with variables, placeholders, internationalization issues, with the time, with the date. All these things are happening because it’s just seen as an afterthought. But, if when you start creating the English content, you just see localization as another activity that you just need to do to create a multi-market product, then everything is different, because you are creating like the framework of your English code and you are preparing some activities to enable, in the future, to handle more languages. And it’s a requirement as any other requirements, and that’s what it needs to be done. I mean, in the same way that you will plan for the music and plan that you will need to integrate the music, and you don’t start thinking about the music like in the middle or, even worse, later, you just need to do that with the text and with the content. And I always find it kind of fascinating and weird that we see all this text in the games, and you might see game teams that they’re spending, I don’t know, many, many weeks with the concept of the mock-ups of the screens and the workflow and just the player journey, blah, blah, blah. And they tend to forget that… They tend to forget two things. The first one is that they are putting a lot of effort in English, and most of the players, they will not see that because they will see another language.
MIGUEL: And it’s missing… They pay so much effort creating the perfect English copy. And then we just get in a hurry when it comes for the rest of the languages. And I’m always thinking, why is it like that? I mean, this does not make any sense.
FLOR: Well, we’ll have to change that, then.
ALEX: It is our job, right? To change that.
MIGUEL: Yeah. That’s why I think it’s… A lot of the job of a team like us is like explaining all these things and evangelizing and explaining, “Hey, pay attention to the rest of the languages. Put the same emphasis in quality as you are putting in English.” Because non-English speakers should not be considered citizen B. They are equally important, right?
FLOR: Yeah, exactly.
ALEX: Yeah, exactly.
FLOR: Yeah. And it talks about how you care about your own content, because if you’re developing a game and you’re proud of what you’re doing, you want everyone to actually have the same experience. So why wouldn’t you think about other players in the same way?
MIGUEL: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
FLOR: Sorry, Lore, I interrupted you.
LORE: Oh, no, not at all. I completely agree.
ALEX: Yeah, I know. And it’s amazing how you worded, how well you explained it because… I mean, it is true. I see a lot of devs that pay so much attention to English, and then they just go, “Okay, I will just translate it at a later date.” But no, it’s a constant process. I totally agree, Miguel, with your explanation. Thank you so, so much.
FLOR: And I have another question for you related to your blog, because, of course, we know that you are very active with your blog Yolocalizo. And I was reading…
LORE: I love it.
FLOR: Yes, we are great fans of your content. And we know how important quality source material is in determining the quality of the job of localization. But we wanted to know, have you ever found yourself in a situation in which you didn’t feel that the source material was quite where it needed to be?
MIGUEL: Yeah. I mean, actually, at King, one of the phases that I am really emphasizing and promoting is the copy edit phase. And this is something that we have one person in my team that the main focus is copy edit of the content. And we change the copy quite often because, I mean, there are different layers there. First, it’s that… Which is another irony. You have people writing copy that they are not writers. They are developers, they are game designers. Their expertise, their craft… They are not words people. They are very good coding or they are very good drawing, but they don’t really know how to write. So that’s one thing. And the other is that maybe they are… or quite often, that’s the case, they are not native English speakers, and you could see that maybe the copy is okay, but it’s not engaging, right? It’s just normal English grammatically…
FLOR: Yeah, plain text.
MIGUEL: Exactly. So we like reviewing everything that we receive before starting localizing. We like spending a couple of hours just reviewing the English copy and just ensuring that the right terminology is used, that the right style is used, that the glossary is in place. I do think that that phase is super, super important. And, yeah, that’s something that you would be surprised of how many times we are making tweaks and corrections in the copy we receive. Very, very often.
FLOR: Yeah. It’s remarkable the work that you do at King. And, on that note, I wanted to know, because not everyone is doing that. And on the side of the linguists and the people who are actually working on the localization side of the game, in case that they encounter with a not so great source material, what would you recommend them to do?
MIGUEL: You need to just partnership with experts. Nowadays, there are experts for everything. And you cannot pretend that you are gonna do great in all the different disciplines, because making a video game is complex, and everyone needs to be mastering their little craft and expertise and just embracing the mindset of together is better. That’s how I see it.
LORE: Right person for the right job.
FLOR: It’s a team effort.
FLOR: Thank you, Miguel.
LORE: So I have one more. It might be our last question, unless anybody else comes up with something else. But I would love to hear a little bit more about your time working with the Sulake Habbo Hotel, which I understand is, or at least was at the time, the world’s largest social game and online community for teenagers. Having an online community has become so foundational to teen life at this point, and I see that some 10 million teenagers visit the different communities from 150 countries each and every month. And that’s a lot of teens, like a crazy amount of teens. Is there something that ties together the human experience for all of us at that age group, regardless of our culture and language?
Miguel: For Habbo Hotel, it was an interesting experience because they could explore what’s the real meaning of being a tribe and finding your tribe. And that’s what people do there. And you could find your tribe at different levels. It might be in your country or it might be in the way that you decorate your rooms. Or it could be the furniture you buy. I don’t know. It could be… It could be very, very different things. But in the end, you will find your community. And then, you were someone. And I guess that that’s what we need as human beings, right? You need to feel part of something. And if we are just alone by ourselves, we feel we are maybe incomplete, maybe, in a way. And with this type of community, it’s all about belonging and it’s all about sharing experiences. So, yeah, it was interesting. And actually, during these months, because of the Covid and everything, it’s going very well again, Sulake and Habbo, because people are going back there to have their virtual parties and do their virtual lives.
LORE: Love it.
MIGUEL: So it’s living a second life of success.
FLOR: Wow, that’s amazing.
LORE: Yeah. It’s a really beautiful concept that, finding your tribe, that everybody, you know, we all need somewhere to belong. I mean, so at that point, you’re not just localizing for a certain region or language, you’re localizing for people at, like, a really angsty and transformational time in their lives. I think we all know all the emotions that we have as teenagers.
LORE: Does that emotion make it easier or harder when it comes to localizing?
MIGUEL: It’s… It’s more challenging. And the key here is to have a stable team providing and producing the localization, because at the beginning, is gonna be very difficult for the translator to get the right tone and transfer this personality. But, eventually, she or he will get it, and they will know all of the different humor and the fun and the way of speaking of the teenagers. So definitely something that it’s… you get it. You just need to have a very stable team. So I remember back in my days there, that the main criteria, we were working with kind of a small vendor because what we want, it was a very dedicated team and to have always the same translators. So the continuous onboarding and continuous sharing the material with them, in the end, they get it. And in the end, it was like an extension of my team, and I felt very comfortable working with them. So it took them a few weeks at the beginning, but in the end, they were producing very good quality of localized content.
LORE: Nice. Once you get it, you got it.
LORE: That’s beautiful.
FLOR: Well, thank you so much, Miguel. We know that we asked you for some homework. So we always like to end our sessions in a high note, so that’s why we always ask our guests to bring their favorite memes. So I’m gonna… Yes. That’s our favorite part.
LORE: Everyone’s favorite part.
FLOR: Yeah. So I’m gonna share my screen here, and we are gonna go over what Miguel brought for us today.
ALEX: We’re gonna see what makes you laugh, Miguel.
MIGUEL: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Indeed. Yeah, yeah. This one is very related with localization, right?
FLOR: Yes, it is.
FLOR: It made me laugh so hard because there’s always someone willing to do it cheaper, but the result is going to be, like,very different from what you’re expecting, right?
ALEX: As a person who likes tattoos, this is pretty, pretty accurate as well.
FLOR: Yeah, same here.
LORE: There are some things that you just don’t skimp on your budget.
ALEX: No, no, no. Pay full price.
FLOR: Tattoos and localization, right?
ALEX: Tattoos and localization.
LORE: Definitely worth it.
FLOR: Well, this one… How active are you on social media?
ALEX: Well, yeah.
FLOR: I mean everyone is… Yeah. Sorry, Go ahead.
MIGUEL: Yeah. Yeah. In Instagram… I like Instagram, but I am more like a viewer than posting myself. I really like… People are really creative with their pictures and everything. It’s really amazing. I don’t have that eye for the photos. And maybe that’s why I feel a little bit intimidated when it comes to sharing material in Instagram. I feel more comfortable in LinkedIn or Twitter.
FLOR: Yeah, you get way too self-conscious for social media, right?
MIGUEL: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
FLOR: Well, and this one.
LORE: That’s so true.
ALEX: Another thing that you don’t need to have it as an afterthought, right?
MIGUEL: Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah. This one is a classic, but it’s still very, very valid.
FLOR: Oh, yes, yes. And this one really cracked me up.
LORE: Oh, this one.
FLOR: Do you often play games or are you currently playing anything in particular? Do you have time to play games?
Miguel: I do. I do. I… I like playing… I like sports, so we’re still playing FIFA with my kids. That’s my favorite one. Actually, just today we were playing. We like playing… I like Real Madrid, so just today, it was the Champions League, Real Madrid versus Inter de Milán. And we were simulating the match before the real match.
ALEX: How did that turn out, by the way?
MIGUEL: Real Madrid won 3-2.
FLOR: Wow! Congratulations.
LORE: In real life or in the game?
ALEX: In the game.
MIGUEL: In the game, it was 4-3. So almost.
ALEX: Almost. That was close, then.
MIGUEL: Yeah. Almost. Almost there. So yeah, I like playing. And of course, I play mobile games, because with the consoles, I have to sit down and put together a couple of hours and play. But with my phone, ten minutes here, there, and you just play. So yeah, I keep playing.
ALEX: Yeah. Mobile gaming is…
MIGUEL: It’s very convenient.
FLOR: Yeah. Especially when you’re super busy. You have like a ten-minute gap and you can turn your device…
ALEX: You get your fix.
FLOR: Yeah, exactly.
ALEX: And then you just continue. But I hope that you’re not like fighting bosses in this way, Miguel. For your sake.
MIGUEL: No, no, no. I’m lucky. I’m lucky. We have good bosses. I can’t complain.
FLOR: Yeah. You have a wonderful team.
ALEX: Yes. Yes, you do.
FLOR: Well, this meeting, this session has come to an end, because that was the end of the meme section. Thank you so much. Muchísimas gracias, Miguel.
ALEX: Gracias, Miguel.
FLOR: We really, really enjoyed having you today and to learn so much about you, and we always enjoy hearing you share your knowledge. So thank you very much. Thank you, everyone, for joining us today. Stay tuned for our next episode. and we will share the links somewhere around there for you to access YouTube and all the social networks. So stay tuned for more. See you around.