Behind the scenes of The Sinking City Ukrainian localization

We are happy to finally present another finished Ukrainian localization SBT Team has been working on last year! The Sinking City, an open-world adventure and investigation game developed by the Ukrainian studio Frogwares, was released on June 27th. Inspired by the universe of H. P. Lovecraft, it follows private investigator Charles Reed, who comes to a half-submerged city of Oakmont searching for the source of his visions and ends up in the center of mysterious supernatural events.

Like previous Frogwares games, The Sinking City has a full Ukrainian text localization on release. We are utterly grateful to the developers for making more universes available in Ukrainian and choosing us for this project. To make good on that trust we have put considerable effort into it. Each word was checked four times: by a translator, an editor, a proofread, and a tester. We’ve read Lovecraft again and again and sometimes spent hours arguing about the right wording, but now we can say that the result was worth it.

PARTICULARITIES OF THE SINKING CITY

Each project we work on has some specifics to it that make the work more interesting and hard, to the extent of editors having dreams about it. For example, the endless variables of The Curious Expedition, or the archaic language of Baldur’s Gate. And The Sinking City was not an exception.

CTHULHU AND CO

Despite the game having an original story, its world is based on the Cthulhu mythos. In Oakmont one can meet people from Innsmouth, cross paths with the Esoteric Order of Dagon and find references to Lovecraft’s numerous novels and short stories. Since there is a popular Ukrainian translation of Lovecraft’s works, we wanted to get all the names, allusions and quotes right, so that the game would feel as a part of the same universe to the readers who have already read the books. To ensure consistency we studied the books carefully and consulted the team that translated them into Ukrainian.

SON OF A CODFISH

To make Oakmont feel like a real place, the developers have created a unique local dialect that includes words from different existing languages and some neologisms. Adapting it to Ukrainian was no simple task, but we hope we succeeded. For example, “son of a codfish”, an insult used against the Innsomouthers due to their physiology, was translated by using existing Ukrainian insults and fishy wordplay, while “wylebeasts”, how the otherworldly monsters plaguing Oakmont are called, was recreated using Ukrainian word roots meaning “terrifying” and “abomination”.

TIGHT DEADLINES!

Probably, the most important feature of this project was that it was still being developed while we were working on the Ukrainian localization. In the past most of the games we have localized were already released, so there were no hard deadlines, source text did not change, and we could translate parts of the game in any order that was most suitable for us. With The Sinking City things were more complicated.

We were receiving the source text from the developers in batches that were not necessarily structured according to the game’s storyline. Each batch and the project itself had to be completed under strict time constraints. That led to periods of peak load, when we got more people onto the team and worked day and night. The source text was liable to change due to voiceover recording, game design decisions or editorial input, so sometimes we had to come back to the string we have already translated several times. In one case we came up with almost a dozen different translations for a poem and had countless arguments about which was one was better, only to learn later that it was removed from the game.

But all of these complications did not stop us from producing an excellent localization and taught us several valuable lessons that will surely come in handy in the future. We can say with confidence that this is one of our best works and sincerely hope Ukrainian players will like it as much as we had fun working on it.

CLOSING WORD

As of today The Sinking City is available on PC and XBox One. Later this year it is also releasing on Switch and, as far as we’re aware, will be the first game on the platform with Ukrainian localization. There is also a PlayStation 4 version but it does not support the Ukrainian localization, although we hope that changes in the future.

The Ukrainization of the universes continues. Welcome to Oakmont and let Kay have mercy on your soul!

June 27, 2019

Behind the scenes of The Sinking City Ukrainian localization

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