Let’s talk about translations!

One of the advantages of X-Com is that it’s extraordinarily localizable. Aside from the limited font, every language is stored in an external file, so to change languages you just have to change files and you can easily replace one string with another, since every single text string is contained in those files. Well, all except…

Hardcoded font

You might’ve noticed how the Geoscape buttons are slightly different from every other button. How the button text looks different from the default font. This is not a coincidence. In fact, the Geoscape button text is hardcoded into the sidebar graphic, so different languages have to change that graphic outright. Of course I have control over the game now, so changing the buttons to use the default font would look something like this:

Default font

So what do any prospective translators think? Would you rather keep the original Geoscape look and be forced to edit the graphic yourself to translate into your language? Or would you be fine with the default font so you’d just have to edit text strings as you’re supposed to?

11 thoughts on “Let’s talk about translations!

  1. winterheart

    2nd screen looks better for me. As translator I’ll choose geoscape with default font.
    Second thing – how to replace bitmap font for non-ASCII based languages (ie. Cyrillic, CJK)?

  2. marabus

    I prefer the original look. Since translating the geoscape text labels should be a one-time job I think it’s better to meddle with hardcoded graphics than to have outright alien font out there.

  3. bramcor

    Based on the examples that can be gathered from different language versions of UFO:EU, I don’t think it would be horribly difficult to make a new bitmap font (well, 2 actually) to distribute with the game. Such fonts would enable the game to retain its look while providing the opportunity for translations. Custom fonts would also enable the addition of more special letters / signs as needed.

  4. anon

    The original looks better: in the modified version, characters overlap with button edges, they are too big and look out of place.

    I thought about algorithmically modifying the original font to remove the darker outlines, but the result would still have overly large characters.

    I’d say, for now at least, leave the original bitmaps. Later make a second font, suitable for the geoscape buttons.

    And also, I think I speak for everyone when I say: We don’t care about translations! They are something unnecessary, and as such, I wouldn’t mind seeing them being implemented as the very last feature in the game. They’re really just a waste of time, actual gameplay is way more important.

  5. winterheart

    > anon
    You are wrong. Translated game envolve more contributors and gamers to project, so i18n is very important part of game.

  6. SupSuper Post author

    winterheart: The default small font (SMALLSET.DAT) is the one I used in the second screenshot, the big one (BIGLETS.DAT, used in the clock for example) wouldn’t fit at all. The text color and strings could be tweaked to better fit the original.

    Obviously just making another custom font is an option, though if you have that kind of time you could probably just edit the Geoscape graphic. 😛

    Same for supporting more esoteric languages, someone good at making font characters would have to thoroughly extended the current one (it’s not even Unicode), but again that’s another matter entirely.

    anon: Don’t you worry, this kind of seemingly boring programmer stuff just paves the way for cooler nicer things later on. 😉

  7. Jeez

    Either hardcoded images or a new font that matches the original apearance. Since the aim of this project is to reproduce the game faithfully I don’t think that replacing the button text with SMALLSET.DAT strings works very well.

    Plus, as has already been pointed out, translating is a once-per-language thing and for some languages the translator will have to edit the fonts anyway so requiring them to edit a few images once shouldn’t be out of the question.

    By the way, while we’re on the subject: If you keep the original images, could you modify the German one? The Ufopedia button says “UFOP[rectangle]DIE” while it should say “UFOP

  8. Pierzasty

    The original font, even if it means fiddling with graphics. At least give us the option, as the objective is to replicate the original experience 🙂

  9. localhosed

    I would like it if option 2 could be kept in addition to the bitmap mode. It is more easily moddable by the average user if the format is fairly text editable, helps translators make updates or changes, and still keeps the general look of the game. Modding of the game generally might be easier too with the ability to quickly make text GUI elements. Editing many bitmaps is much more time consuming than editing text. Text in bitmaps can’t be searched for.

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