[TRENCHES] Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - Forbes.tv

GethGeth LegionPerseus VeilRegistered User, Moderator, Penny Arcade Staff, Vanilla Staff vanilla
edited April 2015 in The Penny Arcade Hub


Lost in Translation


I worked for a very small developer that worked on “edutainment” titles for a super-sized scholastic company. Initially, my job was to create the concepts and the art of the games, and then to ship the resources off to the code team…in the Philippines.

I was having a blast coming up with ideas for these games, and then spending my time creating the artwork in any style I wished. I was blissfully unaware—perhaps willfully ignorant—of the troubles that can come from working with a code team in another country than one’s own.

The first builds began coming back after a few weeks ready for QA. Supposedly, they had already gone through a QA process to eliminate bugs. My production manager handed the builds to me without so much as a glance at them, and now I was supposed to make sure that everything fit together from a visual perspective.

The first game featured an animation of a child performing jumping jacks—a standard P.E. class activity (in the U.S.). They had no idea what a jumping jack looked like in the Philippines, though. Rather than asking us to clarify the action for them, they took it upon themselves to invent an action, which they thought might be a suitable alternative. We called and tried to explain to them how it would look. We sent them links to YouTube videos, but they did not get it. Their English was impeccable, but there were still too many subtleties to explain.

We were on a tight timeline, and my production manager decided it was time to move on. So, “Jumping Jack Math” became “Jazzercise Math.”  A small difference, I supposed.

It was the beginning of a pattern, though. “Thwack-a-Mole” became “Thwack-a-Rat.” “The Cloud Machine” kept it’s name, but wound up looking more like “Gassy Calculator.” The kid in “Slip & Slide” was granted superpowers, and levitated his way across the yard. It went on like this for about five months before I’d had enough.

I told my production manager we could probably save time and money by dropping the code team in the Philippines for someone we could sit next to everyday. I explained the troubles I was having communicating my vision to coders who were not native English speakers. Her took this into consideration, and quickly decided on a solution.

They fired me, and hired an artist in the Philippines.

Geth on
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