“Video Games are art,” says the opening line of the foreword to the art book ‘The Art of God of War’. You can’t help but agree with it since whenever you lay your hands on a book about a game’s development, you wonder at a great deal of effort someone has put in to release the new awesome game.
Mythical Fusion of Worlds
Just as writers create the image of their characters or as filmmakers carefully choose the background for a scene, video game developers put a lot of thought into the personality and appearance of their characters as well. Furthermore, they pay attention to almost every detail in building architecture and landscapes.
Norse culture is very poorly documented, so when the artists would dig for reference, they found relatively little to work with.
From the Introduction to ‘The Art of God of War’
God of War has a pretty rich game world. Or should we say it’s a multi-world? After all, the events of the game don’t only unfold in the earthly world of people but also in the world of gods, as well as other worlds of Norse myths, such as Muspelheim, Niflheim, and Alfheim… Each of them has its own features, and each had its creators looking for a special approach and rethinking the concepts of when and how sadness must be displayed, when the beauty should have the player’s heart leaping, or when a bit of a fairy tale atmosphere should be created…
A huge amount of creative work has been put into the characters. As they were worked on, a lot of concepts were changed or even got rejected and re-created from scratch. What appearance would most suit little Atreus, especially taking into account his shooting skills? Should his hair be black or blonde..? And how can the long-familiar image of Kratos be refreshed? How would his behavior change in this game and why..?
Besides, there are creatures like the Draugr, Nightmares, Revenants, Broods and others. Their looks also had made someone scratch their head, like about what the undead should look like to be different from normal zombies, or how the uniqueness of elves — the light and the dark — can be displayed, or how the idea with the animate hut of the Witch of the Woods must be conveyed without ruining it…
On the whole, the art book really catches your eye with both its artwork and the brief yet meaningful comments from the creators.
We’ll start with blowing our own horns. The art book ‘The Art of God of War’ became the first book to list all those of us who took part in the translation. We were incredibly pleased to see our names there, so we sincerely thank MAL’OPUS publishing house! ?
Terms of Norse Origin
Translating ‘The Art of God of War’ was an interesting challenge to SBT Localization Team. Let’s start with the fact that we had to dig a lot into Norse mythology and names because some terms already have a certain spelling tradition, and others do not. We came across such terms that have different spelling in different sources, such as “Тір” and “Тюр” for Tyr. To make it the same everywhere, we used the first variant with the letter “I,” guided by the example with the name Ymir, where the letter “Y” in all sources translates to the Ukrainian “I,” and also because this variant corresponds to the Ukrainian spelling rules (Chapter 129).
In addition, there was a small dilemma regarding the translation of terms of Norse origin that contain the sounds “Ö” and “Ø”. According to our spelling rules, these are rendered with the letter “E” (Chapter 132). However, our source language was English, and there was mostly just “O” in such cases. Obviously, we had to look for the original spelling of each term and, based on the original version, put the Ukrainian letters “E” or “Є” in those places, for instance, “М’єльнір” for Mjǫllnir, “єтун” for jǫtunn, “Раґнарек” for Ragnarǫk, etc. Later, we discussed the issue with the publishing house for a long time, and, given the current trend under the influence of English, it was decided to use the letter “O” (“Мйольнір,” “йотун,” “Раґнарок,” etc.).
Another amusement we had is related to the letter “F,” which due to the subtleties of the source language and/or traditions is sometimes rendered as “B” [v]: “Альвгейм” for Alfheim, “Лаувея” for Laufey, and so on.
Broods of Otherworldly Nightmares
Since the God of War game world is quite diverse, the team had to devote some time to the names of creatures. We had to both carefully read all sorts of descriptions, like what some things are and the reason they’re called like that, and do some serious branstorming about possible accurate translations. This is particularly how “поріддя” (brood), “потойбічниця” (revenant), “вовкун” (wulver), “кошмар” (nightmare) and others came to be. The Ukrainian name for the nightmare creature was changed several times because it first sounded too simple, then too literal, then did not fit the context. However, the one that won was the traditional variant “кошмар,” as it best corresponds to the description of the creature’s behavior (inspiring scary dreams in those who are asleep) and contained the syllable “мар,” which is consonant with Mare, from which “nightmare” seems to have originated according to the developers.
Other Stumbling Blocks
To translate the text, we first had to decipher it. Yes, to decipher. Part of it were work-style handwritten inscriptions, which were a part of the image as well, so it was impossible to copy them and convert to readable text. Zooming in also did not always help to figure out those scribbles…
But, through our joint efforts, we still managed to deal with those issues and translate everything nicely.
Game developers are also humans, so they sometimes make mistakes too. For example, the description of the scene with the corpse of giant Thamur, who was killed by Thor, said “slain by Thor’s own chisel.” Obviously, the chisel actually belonged to stone mason Thamur rather than warrior Thor (confirmed by information from other parts of the art book, as well as the reference material from the world of God of War), so we put the correct name in the translation.
That’s all about our breathtaking book adventure with gods, giants, and Norsemen. We hope you had a good time eyeing and reading this art book, and if you haven’t purchased it yet, hurry up — it’s worth it!
Once again, we would like to thank MAL`OPUS publishing house for the great chance we had to work on this project.
(translated by Anastasiia Rantiuk)