Rocket Panda Games Share Thoughts on Using Machine Translation in Video Games and Anime

During The Art of Localization and Interpretation panel at Anime Expo 2023, Rocket Panda Games shared their workflow and approach to translating games. Aside from being developers, they also localize games and anime such as Guilt Gear Strive, Phantom Breaker: Omnia, and Belle.

One of the topics that came up during the discussion was the use of machine and AI translation. More and more developers from Eastern regions have been utilizing these tools to release their games in other areas in recent years. However, the final product often comes off as plain and unreadable due to the direct translation style of these tools. This hurts the consumer experience and causes a disconnect if the creator is trying to deliver a specific emotion to players.

During the panel, Senior Localization Coordinator Yuji Moriya addressed how their team uses AI when approaching localization. To be clear, the team seems to know where the industry is heading when it comes to using AI more in the future, but right now, he finds it easier to do it himself over using an AI tool that requires him to re-edit most of the text because it got so much wrong.

Still, it was mentioned that using the tool for terms works surprisingly well, but machine translation is not where it should be to correctly convey creative writing.

Localization and Interpretation Manager Kana Hotta shared that the job requires them to stare at spreadsheets all day. When it comes to Computer Assist Translation (CAT), the tool can be helpful for translating contracts, emails, or legal documents because the words are already straightforward without specific tone and nuance, but this isn’t currently used in their everyday workflow when approaching projects. Still, she likes how there are options to store terms, but this would get in the way of translation because of all the menus you have to go through.

Rocket Panda Games
A look at a typical localization spreadsheet.

Regarding their approach to a project, there’s back and forth between the translator and editor because the text isn’t always finalized when it hits their desks. Sometimes they have to deal with hundreds of files. In a perfect world, Yuji mentions that he would get to play the game or watch the anime first to understand the characters and world better. Further, meeting the creator is also helpful, but most of the time, that’s just not possible, and he has to do that while he’s working on the project. This is primarily due to contracts and expectations from the client.

It seems like machine translation will eventually make its way into larger projects, but as of right now, teams like Rocket Panda Games feel like a human touch is still needed. Although the thought of a tool to make these jobs easier is excellent in concept, the end product is not where it needs to be for consumers.

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.

Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.