Hi all, as you all know by now, Beamdog, publisher of Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition, decided to follow the "free" crowdsourcing road regarding the translation of BG2EE. Some days ago it became known that the translation of new material for Italian sums up to approx. 400.000 words.
All translated for free. Or should I say: "not" translated "yet".
In any case, I feel it's important to give everyone a professional translator point of view on the matter at hand.
I've been working in the industry for over 15 years, so I know what I'm talking about.
On a side note, it would be great if translators from the different languages could provide us with a words breakdown of every language involved and how far they are from completion. I won't always keep this post updated, but I will if I have the time. Completion percentage should match the last edited date for this post.
Italian: About 25%
German: Less than 10%
Spanish: approx 50%
Ok, lets go!
- A professional translator averages about 2,500 words in 8 hours of work.
- 394.241 words, divided by 2,500, is 158. So it's 158 days of work for a single translator working full-time.
More than 1260 hours of work. And here we are, of course, considering a professional translator speed, not the probably slower amateur one.
These are big numbers. We're not talking about translating a indie game in a week: this is a -huge- effort.
Was the community alerted of the number of WORDS that had to be translated? Did the community know it would've been a very time consuming task, spanning over many months, if not years?
Do you know how much a translator gets paid for 400.000 words? About 20.000 Euros.
Do you know how much a publisher pays for such a translation, delivered and reviewed by a professional agency? About 35k-38k Euros, maybe more.
Do you know how much every translator out there gets damaged, when there's people willing to translate for free something that normally gets paid 40k Euros? Of course there's not a precise answer to this question, but I'll go with an approximate one: A LOT.
3) PERSONAL CONSIDERATIONS
I consider really absurd that there's people willing to work for free on this project, especially considering the staggering amount of words. 10k, maybe even 20k words to translate would've been still a quite large amount, but a fan translation would've felt... somewhat sensible or at the very least fairer to the translators community. But 400k words?
Furthermore Beamdog itself (in the person of Andrea Colombo) announced on a forum that: "Beamdog is committed to offer the community the best possible translation quality for both chapters of the saga, and intends to complete the task." This sounds "weird". "Beamdog" is committed? But then are we talking about a "fan translation" or is this maybe a "zero cost" official translation? Very hard to say, at this point.
Usually, I'm the first to salute with enthusiasm fan translations of old games. They generally cover games that already ended their market life-span, so a community effort is very much appreciated in these cases. But here we're talking about a fan-made translation which will generate additional sales thanks to its existence. Honestly, I don't feel like endorsing who decides to work free on these premises. Those who accept to work on this task for free (absolutely in good faith I'm sure), owe lots to all the people who studied and trained hard to become professional translators. Please let me add that this is not a crusade "against Beamdog", but against the overall crowdsourcing approach, which is being followed by other companies as well (inxile's Wasteland 2 comes to mind).
The low completion percentage for Italian (only about 23%) is the only ray of light in the whole story: it helps understanding that this approach is hardly sustainable and that relying on fans on such huge volumes, only means risking that the translation never gets done at all.
All of the above said with the due respect for everyone's work. You know, that something that helps people feed themselves and their children.
Furthermore, these are Trent Oster's words (dated 2012), co-founder of Beamdog:http://www.pcgamer.com/2012/11/16/baldurs-gate-contains-close-to-a-million-words-of-dialog-and-how-fan-translations-helped-the-enhanced-edition/
"The thing that gets me the most is that—I mean, you can get translations done, and it’s not crazy expensive to do, but these are passionate fans of the series, they know the ins-and-outs, they know the little details, and they’re doing it because they love it. The end result is just— the quality is so much higher. The attention to detail is so much higher. They know the terms, they know what THAC0 means and how it should be framed in their language to be understandable to someone who don’t know the rules necessarily.
I just think an engaged community can do so much better of a job than just a paid contractor in this case."
Is Trent still of the same opinion? I sincerely hope not.
A professional service, for starters, would've translated the additional content already, and -breaking news- a lot of game translators are gamers, and a very large percentage of it plays CRPGs regularly. As a gaming translator, I think Trent's words were a bit disrespectful of our job.
What happened so far with BG2:EE is, actually, the opposite of what Trent said.
What happened demonstrated that a community can -only do so much when there's 400k words to translate- and it's -absolutely unreliable- as far as completion time and quality are concerned.
I hope developers and publishers can learn from this story that, apart from being ethically arguable on commercial products, crowdsourcing translations is an extremely risky affair. A lot of people bought the game on the premise that there "would've been" a translation. I can't blame them for being angry, now that it's obvious that the translation (at least from some languages) could not finish at all.
I hope this post can raise awareness and stimulate an honest and fair discussion about how the BG2:EE translation has been handled and how the community perceives crowdsourcing on commercial products.