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March 6, 2001

OSI: Localization and Ultima Online

The following was just posted to What's New on the UO.com website:

Localization and Ultima Online

As Ultima Online moves closer to the official release of Third Dawn, many players may have noticed the word "localization" popping up everywhere lately. From client patches with localization files to changes in the way shopkeepers react and items are displayed, localization has had � and will have � a significant effect on the appearance of Ultima Online to players around the world.

So what is localization? Simply put, it's creating a game that is as easily accessible for our customers around the world as it is for our English-speaking players. As one of the first massively multiplayer games to actively embrace a global audience, we've been working on this for a while now; and you can see evidence throughout Ultima Online Renaissance and the UO community. Within the game, certain parts of the client have already been translated to our five official languages: Japanese, Korean, Traditional Chinese, French, and German. Outside the game, we have a full Japanese website mirroring www.uo.com, as well as fully translated New Player Center, and soon-to-come translated versions of our PlayGuide documentation.

However, with the release of Ultima Online: Third Dawn, we're greatly increasing the amount of in-game localization. In addition to completing the localization of all of the in-game menus � such as the paperdoll, the options menu, shopkeeper menus, etc. � non-English speaking players will at last be able to fully interact textually within the game in their own language. For example, currently on shards that have not received the latest publish, players must say the English word "bank" � in English � to open their bank-box. To non-English speaking players, this means memorizing a list of words and commands that in many cases make no sense whatsoever. It would be similar to asking a native English speaker to remember the words "Je voudrais poser une poubelle" for use in placing a trash barrel inside their house. It isn't easy, it isn't fun, and it accounted for roughly 60% of the phrases necessary to play the game � making it something we absolutely needed to change.

Of course, this update would be easier if Ultima Online had been designed as a multi-language game in the first place � it wasn't. We simply didn't anticipate the global appeal of the Ultima Online world, and thus it was designed to rely on textual commands. Certain words and phrases that have been added to the game over the last few years simply don't translate well to one or more of our official languages simply because of the way that languages work. Some languages use different grammatical structures from English, others require nouns to have masculine or feminine genders, and some such as kanji, the Japanese system of writing used in Ultima Online, simply describe concepts in ways completely different than English. To provide for these language differences, we've had to change the way some NPCs respond to text commands, or changed the way that certain items appear textually because there is no equivalent translation available.

We are pleased to have created a game that has appealed to players from different countries and vastly different cultures around the world. It is our hope that with these changes, Ultima Online: Third Dawn will continue to foster and support a global community and allow all our players to enjoy their time in the world of Britannia.

Posted by Keith at March 6, 2001 5:16 PM

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