After it was flagged in the credits for Pentiment, the latest RPG game from Fallout: New Vegas developer Obsidian, that no localisation staff appear credited within the game itself, director Josh Sawyer has said that proper attribution will be coming. Sadly however, this is just another example of how the games industry as a whole, not just the developers that outsource work, is failing to lift up those who need it the most.
This all started when game designer Hayden Scott-Baron highlighted how Pentiment makes no mention of localisers, the developers that handle translating a game’s text, themes, assets, and cultural and legal differences to fit another language. It’s hard, important work, and the teams of localisers and translators deserve credit.
“We did not forget them,” Pentiment director Josh Sawyer responded, “but thank you for noticing that they aren’t there. We asked for lists of translator names for all languages through our partners and did not receive those lists prior to launch. We have asked again and will patch them in as soon as we have them.”
Following Sawyer’s reply, we’ve reached out to Obsidian for a full response and shall update this article if we receive one.
The related thread is full of frustrated videogame localisers and translators grateful for Josh’s response – which “almost never happens” according to one – but also sharing anecdotes that reveal a recurring problem in this area of game development.
To further understand how a lack of proper accreditation can impact individual developers in the long term, we spoke to native Spanish speaker and English-to-Spanish videogame translator Tamara Morales. Morales didn’t work on Pentiment, but its problems aren’t unique or new.
“If you’re not credited, you have no portfolio and no way of showing what games you’ve translated or proofread,” Morales says. “It is as if you have no proof you worked on the game … Unfortunately, developers and agencies only seem to react to bad press.”
These agencies often partner with developers like Obsidian, who require external expertise to make sure the translation and localisation is done to a high standard. But they can also have some strange and limiting policies for their workers.
“There are some agencies whose policy is to not credit us,” Morales claims. “And there are times where only the agency [itself] is accredited: Tunic, Artful Escape, Stray, The Gunk.”
Some localisers and translators do get named in these credits above, like if they work for a first-party developer, but any that work within the agencies that localised these games don’t have their names in the credits.
It isn’t always just a case of a particular studio deciding to not credit individual localisers on purpose. Perhaps it’s down to an agency contract, or in Pentiment’s case, what appears to be very bad timing and a lack of urgency from the partners.
If what Sawyer has tweeted about “partners” is to be taken at face value, he’s saying multiple partners didn’t send his studio their lists of localisers that worked on Pentiment in time for launch. It goes without saying that this should be common practice. You want to see your name on a game, film, or TV show on the day it releases, not as an afterthought.
“It’s pressure from both sides now (translators/devs),” Morales tells us. “But the same happened with [another Obsidian release], Grounded. I don’t know if they used the same agency, but no credits either.”
Grounded – which recently had its full launch after some time in early access – highlights a further issue with not giving proper accreditation to localisers: excluding workers from MobyGames.
A site dedicated to being a database for video games, MobyGames has full credits lists for thousands of titles, making it an easy way for the industry to check who worked on specific games, and the lifetime work of specific developers. As you’d imagine this is much easier than having to watch credits on YouTube every time you want to check who worked on what.
Problem is, it appears MobyGames doesn’t always update its credits when a game’s credits itself are updated, as was the case with Grounded and potentially, Pentiment.
“Unfortunately excluding amounts is the same as forgetting,” Scott-Baron responds to Sawyer on Twitter. “Patching credits excludes workers from MobyGames. For example, no translators listed here for Grounded.”
So while adding localisers and translators after the fact is better than never at all, it typically amounts to too little, too late. Instead, both developers and agencies need to work together to have a full list of credits on launch day, not just to lift up their workers appropriately for their efforts, but to make sure hard work and talent are more easily recognised, which helps make better games in the long run.