Friday, September 15

Language Level In Games

I'm aiming to make Jorvik completely language independent - i.e. the only use of the English language will be in the rules, all the components will feature no English language explanation or naming on themselves.

Why? Some people like language-independent games as it allows them to buy a game from anywhere in the world, which can sometimes be cheaper than buying it in their own country. Once you've got the game all you need to do is get a translation of the rules (often available on The Geek for free) and you're away. It also will potentially increase my market, as customers in non-English speaking countries will be able to buy and play the game. I've quite a few gaming friends whose first language is German or Dutch, so it would be good for them too. We've tried to play word games with them before (such as Cranium), but this is very difficult if English is your second (or possibly third) language. The same friends are keen to play the Cities and Knights of Catan expansion for Settlers. However the only copy we have between us is in German and since my German is bad and The Wife doesn't know any, we're understandably keen to avoid it.

There are a whole bunch of games that cannot have the language component removed from them (word games and games with complicated mechanics which need describing to a player during the game are two examples). However, I think it's good to aim for as little language on the components as possible. Numbers are alright as they are shared between a large number (although not all) languages, symbols are fine too. But once you start getting into explanations and names on components then you are looking at multiple language versions of the game if you want to sell it world-wide, which is also going to hit production costs, since you (or another publisher) will have to redo artwork and print new versions for other languages - leading to an increase in costs.

I'm looking forward to trying to make a language-independent game after Border Reivers, which featured an explanation of the cards functionality on the cards themselves. It'll be an interesting new challenge. I think however that language independence will mesh well with the simple, quick game that I'm aiming for with Jorvik.


andyb said...

A subject that is dear to the heart of many of us UK gamers... primarily because of the high prices in this country, and the comparatively cheap prices of the German editions...
A strong pound also helps in this respect, but in your case that's actually a problem, if you're trying to export your games.

Identifying language independant games is the one thing on BGG that I've probably put the most work into... I tagged hundreds of games with levels from 0 to 4 depending on how much in-game text there was (where 0 is "no text"). I gave Border Reivers a 1 , because while there is text on the action cards, a simple crib-sheet would work for the 10 different types.

Jack said...

I noticed your tagging of Border Reivers. I tried to reduce the language duplication, hence repeating the full text of the cards in the rulebook with extra explanation. That way a translation of the rulebook would include a translation of the cards.

Jack said...

I meant language importance above, not language duplication. :-(