– Discussions with people in the
Japanese media localization industry –
Can you tell us about yourself?
Hello! I’m Lucile Danilov. I’ve been working in the games industry for about 12 years now… Which I guess makes me one of those “young dinosaurs” of the industry.
I’ve done a bit of everything throughout my career; starting as Customer Support Agent for NCsoft back in 2007; followed by Localization QA at Square Enix; Community management/PR for several MMOs up until 2016; before finally going freelance full time as a Consultant/Translator.
My main language pair is English to French.
What is ‘Between the Lines’?
Between the Lines is my take on “Interviews with Localizers”, which I host on my blog: Loc’d and Loaded.
I’ve always wanted to learn more about my fellow translators and read many of the interviews published by Jennifer. But since they are mostly targeted at the E>J community, I thought I’d expand the concept to FIGS (French, Italian, German, Spanish) and beyond.
So far, only one edition of “Between the Lines” was released, Natalia Nesterova’s interview. But, I plan on publishing more interviews in the future!
How did you get into video game translation?
My first real venture in Localization happened at Square Enix. There I had the opportunity to do French localization quality assurance for some of their best titles, such as Chrono Trigger DS and Final Fantasy XI/XIV (1.0).
Unfortunately, QA positions tend to be relatively volatile and I wanted some semblance of stability. So, I steered towards Community Management for a couple of years.
There, I learned a lot about the right way to communicate with different types of players. (Obviously, you don’t talk the same way to Farmville moms and hardcore MMO enthusiasts).
I believe this still impacts my work to this day. For example, I will be more prone to use certain technical terms in patch notes since I know who’s the average reader for that type of content.
Despite all that, localization was always one of my passions. So when I finally got the opportunity to do it full-time, I jumped in with both feet!
What did you wish you knew before becoming an established translator?
Oh, so many things!
Many people, myself included, gravely underestimate the sheer amount of effort it takes to establish your own business.
Beyond your actual translation skills, you will most likely spend many (unpaid) hours networking; keeping up with follow-up emails; managing invoices; not to mention the necessary paperwork to keep up with your taxes pension, insurance, etc. Those tasks add up very quickly, so you need to manage your workload accordingly.
However, it also brings an unmatched level of independence, and I no longer worry about the constant waves of layoffs that are oh-so-common in the games industry.
What’s been the biggest challenge establishing yourself as a translator?
I have received no formal education in the field of translation. (As a matter of fact, I don’t even have the French equivalent of an A level.) So I had to learn everything very quickly, which was not always optimal. Thankfully, I had the support of some amazing colleagues who showed me the ropes as well as my good friend Google.
Beyond that, I found that while there are a lot of good resources out there, there are a few topics that are rarely talked about: How do you approach translation tests? What kind of rate can you charge in the games industry?
I’ve learned through trial and error, which is why I’m trying to answer some of those questions on my blog.
What challenges have you come across when translating from an already translated game?
I’ve translated plenty of games that were not originally in English (usually Russian, Korean or Chinese), and obviously, some context tends to get lost in translation.
Ideally, I like to be in touch with the original translator/team to ask questions on the fly. That also fosters a sort of community, where everyone is trying to be on the same page and even share anecdotes related to the project, add Wikipedia links to certain folklores related to specific quests (which seems to be a VERY common thing in Chinese games), etc.
That’s a part of the job that I love and I’ve made a lot of friends thanks to that!
In many cases, however, all I have access to is a cut-and-dried Google sheet. Since everyone’s time is precious, I try to get to the point quickly and only ask questions when necessary. That’s a challenge for sure.
What do you enjoy working on most?
My absolute favorite type of projects are MMOs. I’ve played those since the dawn of the genre (hello, fellow DAoC players!) so I’m quite familiar with these games and their many acronyms, conventions and so on.
Moreover, they tend to be quite massive both in terms of scope and word count. It allows me to collaborate with a team and split the work in a way that emphasizes everyone’s strengths.
For example, I’m good with technical texts, UI and dialogues, but some of my colleagues are way more talented when it comes to heavy narrative texts or press releases.
What have you been most proud of?
I’ve worked on over 50 games during this year alone, but the one project I’m most proud of is an adorable Korean RPG called “WitchSpring 3”, which I translated alone over the course of a month.
The story and characters spoke to me, and I loved the fact that it had multiple endings, something rather rare for a mobile title. It’s a paid app (on iOS/Android), but I highly recommend you check it out!
Did you have any misconceptions about localization that have changed over time?
I know it might sound weird, but I never realized the impact a good CAT tool makes until I started using one.
I did a lot of “unofficial” translation work during my CM days. But back in those days, there were almost no free or low-cost CAT solutions available. That means everything I translated was done the old-school way, with side-by-side Word documents or (gasp) directly in Excel.
This really drove me crazy! Especially for texts that were longer than 1.000 words and it created SO many inconsistency issues down the line, which made me briefly doubt that I would like to do this kind of job full-time…
If I had learned how to use the right tools early on, my career path might have been very different!
If you could do anything what would you love to do or try out?
One of my favorite genres out there are Visual Novels, and I have played most of the big titles on the market. My all-time favorite is The Song of Saya (沙耶の唄), and it would be an absolute dream of mine to work on that since it never got released in any FIGS language officially.
Unfortunately, 99% of the VN publishers out there don’t seem to be interested in those markets (despite my many cold-calling efforts), so it’s something I’ve put on the backburner for now.
If any of you readers happen to know a VN project that needs to be localized into French, don’t hesitate to reach out! ;)
Is there anyone or anything you draw inspiration from?
I draw my inspiration from the work of all my colleagues! But since the J>E translator community is so active on Twitter, they end up being my primary influence.
There are so many wonderful people out there that manage to transform a rather bland Japanese script into something that sounds full of flavor in English, I can’t help but be amazed! What’s more, they make it look effortless…
My Japanese is nowhere near good enough to understand the subtleties of the original script, but each line seems so carefully crafted with an English-speaking audience in mind while staying true to its very Japanese roots… This is exactly what I aspire my translations to be.
What is your vision for the future of localization?
I’m still a relative newcomer to the field, but I’ve already experienced some of the worst aspects of it: Bottom-feeding agencies, Fiverr wanabees, overworked project managers who just don’t have the time and energy to give their projects the attention they’re due, the list goes on.
It’s very easy to get demoralized at first, but I’ve tried to remain hopeful and it has worked out for me so far.
Just like everything in life, you need to move forward step by step, deliver quality work, develop meaningful relationships and the rest will come naturally.
In other words…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxGRhd_iWuE
What do you love about localization?
The one thing I love most about this job is the fact that you create real, “tangible” product that people can experience.
When I worked in communications, my days were rhythmed by endless (and sometimes pointless) meetings, forum posts, reports, trends analysis… And while I enjoyed some aspects of it, in the end, I was not fully satisfied with what I was bringing to the table.
Now, I get to define narratives that will evoke emotions, make (questionable) puns and references aimed at a French audience; collaborate with amazing translators and editors from all over the world; and most importantly, work from anywhere I want (although more often than not, I prefer the comfort of my tiny office).
I could not have asked for a better deal!
Check out Lucile Danilov here!
Also, please tell me quickly how you made your amazing website!! :O
My website was made by my amazing husband who’s a media designer. It was inspired by Robby Leonardi’s CV, but we wanted to make it a bit more interactive than just a “straight line forward”, so we used the game-making software called Construct 3 to build it from the ground up.
We had originally planned to add a lot more features (such as a Konami code Easter egg) but never got around to it. Maybe for version 2.0!