Listen, Google Translate isn’t terrible in a pinch. If you need to quickly work out how to say “sandwich” in German, it’ll do. Unfortunately, Tabletop Simulator developer Berserk discovered the hard way that you can’t replace a full localisation team with Google’s web tool.
Last week’s update claimed to bump the number of supported languages in the table-flipper up to 29. But non-anglophone players quickly discovered this claim came with a massive caveat—namely, that the new translations seemed to have been hastily thrown together using Google Translate, with disastrous results.
Words, shockingly, often have several meanings. Without wider context, Google Translate turns the game of Go into “Aller” (to go) in French, while lead designer credits suddenly suggest a man made out of Lead.
The rushed job doesn’t just apply to the words, either—in some cases, the game’s UI doesn’t accommodatetw for the change in wordcount that comes with direct translation.
Wow, this looks so cool. I love your new user interface. Totally radical! pic.twitter.com/CUzeBDcXRuJanuary 30, 2021
Responding to the backlash, Berserk explained that using Google Translate to localise the game was the “only feasible solution” for a team of its size. Rather than only supporting a handful of the more popular languages, the studio felt some jank was a worthwhile trade-off to bring the game to more regions. Unfortunately, fans report that some translations, such as Polish, are practically unusable.
“No one can understand what’s happening on screen,” wrote one response. “No translation would be better than this. This is so disrespectful towards your players.”
Granted, the update also included support for Steam Workshop localisations, and Berserk stressed that “great progress” has been made in improving translations this way. Community translations are a fairly common solution for teams that don’t have the manpower to localise, but this practice has increasingly come under scrutiny for offloading labour onto unpaid fans.
Even indie darling Hades was criticised for its community translation efforts. Supergiant head Greg Kasavin did eventually clarify that contributors were paid for their work, writing: “Our community translators provided labor that directly contributed to the content and quality of the game (plus their efforts helped turn around feedback we were getting about our translations in many languages); thus we felt it was necessary to offer to compensate and credit them for their work.”