Baldur’s Gate 3: A legendary game with Ukrainian localization

There were a lot of legendary games throughout the video game history but the Baldur’s Gate series has its own special place among them. The majority of the fan base has a strong belief that those games became some sort of a salvation for the western RPG genre. Therefore, when the well-known Larian Studio announced their work on a sequel, that brought a significant attention of both old and young DnD fans. The early access and development flow that involved the community made the love for this game three times bigger.

Classics and modernity fusion

In the fall of 2020 the world’s gaming community started to explore the first act of Baldur’s Gate 3 pretty eagerly. It continued the story of the previous two games and combined the classical RPG elements with modern graphics and game mechanics. This epic giant created by Larian Studios gained sudden world popularity.

Even though very difficult, it was really interesting to do something in Ukrainian that had never been done on such a scale before. We hope that the players will enjoy the result of that.

Yurii Bisyk

Apart from the gameplay highlights we are also pointing out on the enchanting game world. The events of the game take place in unique Dungeons & Dragons world that is multi-layered and extremely diverse. Every aspect of this world such as mythology, history, culture has been studied and recreated with a great attention to detail. The story of the game is deep and non-linear, it allows players to make key decisions that will impact not only the development of the story, its finale but also the relationships with other characters, appearance of the unique quests and hidden storylines. The players can choose for themselves, whether they wish to become noble saviors or to pick the dark path of wickedness. This incredible game has been in early access for three years and finally Ukrainian gamers are able to play it in Ukrainian. Our organization with 11 years of experience has been working day and night to make it possible.

Ukrainian localization in Baldur’s Gate 3 is an extremely significant event both for the Ukrainian community and game localization discourse. It is the first time in history when a AAA game has Ukrainian language on the release day. And the scale here is extreme! There are 170 cinematic clips in the game, the size of the dialogues is three times bigger than three books of Lord of the Rings. Besides, you are getting a library with 600 spells with variations and the same amount of skills for 12 character classes. It is only a particle from the classic DnD rulebook manual that also contains tons of additional materials and various extensions. Moreover, this game has more than 2 million words which is more than average amount for the games of this genre. We would like to emphasize that SBT continues their work on localization even after the release. If you would like to help with improvements of Baldur’s Gate localization, please report your findings in the respective Discord channel. An alternative way is to use the feedback form on the website.

Limitless dialogues, countless descriptions, endless technical notes

It is not possible to include all challenges that translators encountered while working on localization because this enormous text is incredibly diverse. Limitless dialogues, countless descriptions, endless technical notes – all this makes the vast universe of Baldur’s Gate even deeper and more beautiful. SBT team was extremely careful with Baldur’s Gate localization. We wanted to preserve the game atmosphere, unveil characters and convey all the semitones of the profound storyline. Nevertheless, we will lift the curtain a bit and share some interesting facts about the localization process.

When we started our work, it was quite easy to imagine the world, since our previous experience lies directly with previous parts of the series and D&D overall. For some translators this could be quite a challenge because it is the oldest RPG system and therefore it has the largest amount of information in it. Such knowledge greatly simplifies the understanding of the world and the basis of certain events that take place in it. Combine it with the immense difficulty of the rules because unlike the ordinary fiction you must adhere to the strict terminology and use certain words only in their relevant meanings, which means that the usage of synonyms to avoid tautology should be removed. Each spell name, skill, trait or game mechanic must be unique. The search for the better equivalent becomes tedious because there were occasions when thesaurus was missing certain synonyms and the rest was already in use. Sometimes it is impossible to find a correspondent word or it will be dubious. For example, the word Strength (the main character’s skill) and Force (type of spell damage). We had to use the word ‘сила’ in both cases because it would not be correct to change it to i.e. ‘міць’ – a good and somewhat established translation of the word ‘Strength’ for the main skill in the game that appears literally everywhere. Besides, the ‘Force’ appears pretty rarely. What is good, is that they never appear in the same sentence or section and the context allows us to distinguish the exact one. Such overlaps are inevitable for a huge rulebooks and D&D is not an exception. Some of the spell names contain notes in the source text in order to make sure that we are talking about a spell and not some obvious ‘light’.

 Here is some info that was already discussed with the community on our Discord. About Tiefling, the word is of German origin that means ‘devil’ (Teufel) plus the ending –ling (descendant), hence here are some variants: пекельник, шайтанок / шайтанюк / шайтаник, бісин (біс + ин), чорторід(ний). Personally, I like бісин (female бісинка) with the stress on И.

Yura Dragon (work dialogues)

From the beginning the process of localization was divided into two parts: character dialogues and rules alongside with the interface. The main difficulties with the first part occurred when we needed to match toponyms with the corresponding adaptation, since 80% of all D&D terms and Baldur’s Gate 3 as well have some meaning and Ukrainian players should understand it in order to be involved into the world. As for the rules, we needed to create the list of all mechanics, spells, skills, races, subraces etc. and only after that we could move with the proper equivalents of their names. We were able to use some parts of our old terminology from the previous games because the same rule system is still applicable here, albeit an old one. It made things easier but new parts (approx. 75%) required completely new terminology from scratch.

That is from the book, and I did not find it in the game yet. But we should always consider the book rules, so that we could finally create the universal terminology that also would come in handy for the tabletop D&D translation.

Yura Dragon (work dialogues)

The main challenge was to overcome 2 million words. Such amount could hardly be seen even in some large RPGs. Usually the average word count for the standard RPG game fluctuates within 1 million words. Below you could see a one-day statistical example from Crowdin. It will help you to understand the overall team workload.

The complex dialogue system was troublesome because the dialogue branches are vast: depending on the characteristics, race, attitude towards the player and their own decisions. And something could happen out of nowhere due to the dice roll. Luckily, Larian Studio provided tremendous support for a better understanding of the context.

Non-linearity became one of the main challenges. Your decisions affect almost everything: your origin, friends, enemies, strangers’ attitude and location availability. As an example the player could be a man, woman or a non-binary character (so the localization is made in three genders). Also you need to understand the order of events and what was preceding your response. It is getting even more complicated by the fact that some responses in one huge dialogue could be scattered between different character files.

Oleksandr Lukianov

Stylistic adaptations and non-binary characters

We also tried to make a lot of stylistic adaptations based on the speaker’s characteristics. For example, Gale has a very elegant and scientific language, which is not surprising because he is a wizard after all. As for the rogues, goblins or ogres we used simplified language with the addition of swallowed sounds at the end of the word, shortened words and colloquialisms that are usual for colloquial Ukrainian language. We added real archaic Ukrainian lexemes to adapt the corresponding English language.

Baldur’s Gate 3 allows you to become whoever you like: there is a possibility to play as a non-binary character. This feature required a special approach during localization because we needed to build a sentence in order to make it fit the gender. Additionally, we had to remember the word limit in dialogues, since the player should be able to read the subtitles in time. Sometimes we had to sacrifice the eloquence of the language.

As a person who adores stylistics, I was pleased to see scrupulous work on it: old expressions, the way Withers speaks, pretentious Astarion’s speech or speech with certain defects. I would also like to thank editors big time because I cannot imagine the amount of work that comes with three genders.

Natalia Kompaniiets

There were also many poems and songs. Here are some examples.

Yesterday I struggled with that translation because I wanted to make it good with the same music. The second column of the original and chorus both have something similar to rhymes (not so important for the song, since the rhymes will be hidden behind the melody). I made a version of translation but had to change some parts in order to fit the number of syllables and add some rhyme.

Taras Korzhyk

З зорями вночі танцюй,
Усміхнися — й біль мине.
Стануть попелом слова,
Коли згасне промінь твій.Місяць нагадає знов
Твою ніжність і любов.
Спи і знай: молюся я,
Мила подруго моя.

Місяць, сонце — все нагадує мені
Віру, ніжність, сповнені любові дні.
Місяць, сонце — все нагадує мені
Віру, ніжність, сповнені любові дні.

(Taras Korzhyk)

Dance upon the stars tonight
Smile and pain will fade away
Words of mine will turn to ash
When you call the last light down

Moon reminds me of your grace
All the love I can’t repay
Rest and know that I will pray
Farewell my dear old friend

Moon, sun, all remind me of your grace
Faith. Care. All the love I can’t repay
Moon, sun, all remind me of your grace
Faith. Care. All the love I can’t repay

One of the poems contained some play on words with ‘butter’, ‘fly’, and ‘butterfly’:

Yondalla and Garl
Shared twixt them a farl
All covered in butter
And they liked each other.

Along came a fly
Who flew in with a cry
to the buttery farl
of Yondalla and Garl.

When Garl took a bite,
Yondalla shrieked with fright!
‘Don’t eat that, oh my!
That’s a butterfly!’

Our version has homonyms: бабка – dragonfly (insect) and бабка – granny:

Ґарл і Йондалла
над ставом гуляли,
Від бабуні тістечко
разом смакували.

Над тим ставом бабка
Маленька летіла,
На кремове тістечко
Тихесенько сіла.

Ой не їж ти, Ґарле,
Тістечко від бабки.
Бо стирчать із нього
Крильця й ніжки бабки. (Sofiia Shul)

SBT Localization Team is eternally grateful to the Larian Studio for such an amazing opportunity to work on the Ukrainian localization. Also big thanks to the Crowdin team for years of reliable support. We also want to that our patrons. We hope that Ukrainian localization will continue to trend even more and hopefully we are going to see more localized games in future.

Yura Pavlyuk, project team leader

Tetiana Cherednychok, localization project manager

translated by Olia Khmelnytska

August 4, 2023

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