Over the month of April, I took advantage of my spare time to translate a little indie game called Peace, Death ! in collaboration with Mate Lichtle. I discovered it on the Steam video game platform.
What I liked about this game was its concept, simple yet effective, the humor and the many cultural references. You play as a Reaper in training at Apocalypse, Inc working for Death itself. Your mission, should you accept it, is to guide freshly deceased clients to either Heaven, Purgatory or Hell. Tons of various features will hinder your final judgment : devil horns hidden under a hat, bloodstained clothes, weapons….Don’t forget to check your timer too, and beware the rats and the snatching ghosts.
The game has more than a dozen events and numerous characters from pop culture, cinema, video games and History with a capital H. Every character has something to say when they step into your office, it can be a reference, an anecdote, or just a funny line.
Beside the game phase, four characters interact with you directly, the Horsemen of the Apocalyspe. Your boss is Death, and its competitiors are War, Famine and Pestilence. Each one will try to convince you to work for them to increase their influence over the world of the living. Their dialogues are more often than not surreal and that is precisly the appeal of the game. It’s entertaining, crazy and fun to play, but also challenging as the difficulty increases as you progress.
Our challenge here was to adapt the original humorous tone in french. Originally made in russian, we based our work on a first english translation. The game has hundreds of characters with over 1500 lines of dialog. It took a little over a week to translate and check everything, with a total of more than 17.000 words.
We obviously had to do some research to make sure we were faithful to all the references in the game. We went through many french dubbed movies to look for specific lines. You just can not improvise a line from a Quentin Tarantino character, or deceive an Overwatch fan by approximatly translating famous lines from the original game. A big part of the appeal of Peace, Death ! comes from the player’s recognition of the references, because there are many of them. We also translated the promotional texts on the game’s Steam page, along with the « rewards ». We took some liberties and renamed them with movies and book titles with the word « death » in them.
The game developer did really well, technically speaking. He put all the .txt files in a specific folder dedicated to translations. Meaning we had an easy access to all the lines of dialog without having to mine the game data.
Mate and I both use different computers. He works on MacOS and I on Windows. We agreed to work on OmegaT, which is a free CAT (computer-assisted translation) software for both operating systems. We liked its fonctionalities and its simplicty.
We were also lucky enough to have the game with us, that allowed us to test our translations easily and quickly. We kept contact with the developer via instant messaging, he was very available and provided us with all the informations we needed. For exemple we needed him to integrate accents to the game, the french language uses them a lot, or give us some precision about certain references.
Testing the game directly was a real advantage, it allowed us the check the relevance of our translations, the lengh of the texts ingame, the menus. Luckily, the game was flexible and adapted itself to the number of letters we were using. It gave us some creative freedom without resticting us which was both pleasant and convinient.