Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Ongoing language support for Democracy 4

I have been doing a bunch of work on language support for Democracy 4. The game is still in Early Access, and I’ve been adding new content (mostly new countries, and some associated policies and situations for them) as well as play balancing and tweaking stuff, and fixing bugs. Out of all of these, the language support one is probably the most invisible to the majority of players.

Initially, like most games, Democracy 4 was just in English. We had gone to VAST expense and trouble to make it natively support Unicode text and rendering any text imaginable, which meant that we really did need to leverage that investment by supporting multiple languages. Right now, the completes supported language list for the game is as follows:

  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • Polish
  • Russian
  • Brazillian Portuguese

Generally speaking, in the old days of shipping stuff to retail, people used the term EFIGS, for English, French, Italian, German and Spanish. That was considered the ‘sensible’ list of languages to support. I think in 2021 its worth expanding into Polish (they love strategy games) and Brazilian Portuguese. There is a strong argument also for Japanese and Chinese, although the sales chances for a game called Democracy in China may be lower than normal.

I know a lot of devs use crowd sourced translation services like localizor, and I *started* doing that,m but basically its hellish because the work is hard to verify, can get stuck at 95% complete, and you cannot easily be sure that everyone is using the same terms. This really matters, because using president in one sentence and prime minister in another and chancellor in a third…all as translations from the same English source can be a confusing nightmare.

So we ended up getting paid translations, either from individuals, or from a professional translation service (which is more expensive, but I guess easier to manage and ultimately sue if they were to just send you a badly done mess.

As with every translation ever, done by anyone, at any point in human history… people always complain that some phrases or words are badly translated. As someone who only speaks a single language (C++) I really have no idea. I have to just read every comment and in extreme cases do a reverse google translate to see if everything looks legit.

Of course, getting text translated is just part of the battle. In most cases, the other 99% of this blog post would be about Unicode, and rendering languages that have so many characters you cant fit them in texture memory (joy!) but actually I’ve handled that before, and Jeff managed all this for me using things called pango and cairo and other magic, so actually this is a ‘solved problem’ in many cases.

So now I am down to the final part of the puzzle, which is making sure it all ‘looks’ ok. As expected, there are lots of places where things go wrong. For example here:

And also here:

I’ve already those, and a bunch of others, but its by no means exhaustive. I guess the lesson learned here is to assume that ALL text may be 100x as long as expected (or 10x as small), and code defensively at all times to accommodate this. It feels like 99% of devs currently use unity and unreal, so you are relying on the 3rd party vendors to have automatically fixed all this for you I guess. And if it isn’t fixed…well good luck?

The only problem with going through and doing this is that its hard to persuade players that this is valuable work. Someone who speaks English and bought the game in Early Access is not going to care that certain screens (that look fine to them anyway) now look better in Polish or Russian. Because EA players can be VERY DEMANDING in terms of expecting the developer to work 24/7 throughout Early Access, my only worry is that people think development slows down as I fix all this.

Thats probably unlikely as I already have a bunch of stuff listed as going into the next update:

[1.26 (in development)]
1) Removed duplicate effect from firearms laws to armed religious communities.
2) Removed duplicate impacts on luddite riots.
3) Fixed some harmless debug warnings about missing neurons.
4) Intel readouts are now inverted for situations where a policy reduces security effectiveness, such as Press Freedom.
5) Fixed error where a total ban on handguns actually reduced security, instead of boosting it. Ooops.
6) Fixed support for names for each slider setting in modded policies.
7) EU situation now renamed to EU membership, also now boosts stability and foreign investment.
8) EU countries now benefit from the Erasmus programme, which boosts youth income & happiness and also education.
9) Import tariffs can now not be implemented by EU members.
10) Made some impacts of banning low mpg cars scaled by EV transition, and introduced support for inverse variables and 6-variable equations.
11) Cyberbullying Awareness Policy now slightly reduces Internet Crime.
12) Universal Basic Income (UBI) cost now quadrupled so it reflects the correct figure.
13) The Polarization situation now explains its effects better.

I think ultimately tweaking the UI for multiple languages is very worth doing, because its a BIG world out there, and frankly the majority of humans do not speak English. At some point, (maybe we have already crossed it?) the majority of strategy gamers will not speak English either. If you want a game to be around a while (I hope to still be selling this game in 2028) then you need to plan ahead and look at who will be playing it.


One thought on

  1. I am Japanese and would like to you add Japanese to the supported languages of this game. Also, I think there is a considerable potential market in Japan.

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