Thursday, December 18

Polyglot Games

My Belgian distributor wants to translate Carpe Astra into Dutch. Cool! I thought I'd use this as an excuse for a discussion of languages in games.

It's Alive! is a language-independent game. The only text is on the rules, player aids and the box, the game components feature nothing but numbers on the cards. As such, it's prime translation material. Numerous customers have translated the rules into their own languages: Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian and Japanese. When I did the second version, I got Michael (thanks, Michael!) to translate the rules, box and player aids into German, so I had a multi-lingual version. This was especially useful for trying to break into the large German market, but also at Essen.

Michael sent me his translation in the form of a 'translation grid', where each sentence or caption on a diagram was in a separate box with the German translation alongside. This was a really useful way of clearly showing me which bits of the German translation corresponded with which bits of the English rules - making it easy for me to layout the German text with the diagrams correctly.

When it was time to do Carpe Astra I chose to do a single language version only due to the large quantities of English text on each card. Although the text on the card wasn't really necessary (it's a combination of an English language description of the diagrams on the top half of the card and some flavour text which has no in-game effect), I figured it would detract from a German version if the only thing you got in German was the rules, everything else was in English only. As a result - mono-lingual game :-(

However, things are now moving along. The Dutch translator asked if I could provide the text in a form that was easy to edit. Since I had done the rules layout in InDesign, and he didn't have access to that package I offered to send him a translation grid. Then it struck me. Why not provide the translation grids for my games on my website? It will allow people to easily translate the rules into their own languages if they want, which only helps me. The Carpe Astra one is up now, the It's Alive! one will follow later today.

In other news, I'm in negotiations now with another publisher to do another version of It's Alive! in another language, hopefully that will bear fruit in a few months time.

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