Localization Considerations for Game and Mobile App Glossaries

person holding a smartphone and playing a videogame

Many developers and game publishers create glossaries for their projects. This task often causes difficulties because it can sometimes be hard to understand which words can be classified as terms and how to correctly enter them into the glossary with due consideration for form.

You can find answers to these questions in a practical guide prepared by All Correct's editors. This document will be useful to anyone who works on glossaries for games or mobile applications.

What Should Be Included in Your Glossary?

Rule of thumb: your glossary should include any term that appears in the game two or more times. The glossary should also include all titles and proper names regardless of how often they are used (it is essential to take into account the fact that they might appear in future game updates/expansions even if they only appear once in the current text).

Terms can be divided into the following categories:

  • Names and nicknames of characters. Examples: Moon Elder, Krueger, Tottie, Gemaka, the Dark Lord
  • Names of locations (locations on the map or places where action takes place), as well as names of hidden-object scenes. Examples: Swampy Lowlands, Hazeera, Quiet Sea, Princess’s Bedroom, Shower Stalls
  • Names of achievements, medals, titles, etc. Examples: Nerves of Steel, Metrosexual
  • Names of quests/missions. Examples: In Search of Treasure, Saving Private Brian, Fox Plague
  • Names of item collections. Examples: Remedy for a Teddy Bear, Chef’s Tools, Autumn
  • Names of interface elements such as names of tabs, screens, etc. Examples: Store, Backpack, Skills Panel, My Estate, Feedback
  • Names of races. Examples: Humans, Elves, Orcs, Goblins, Murlocs
  • Names of monsters. Examples: Cadaver, Werewolf
  • Names of classes and professions. Examples: Assassin, Shaman, Paladin, Alchemist, Thief, Merchant
  • Names of unique items. Names of quest items and other items stored in the player's inventory (including weapons and armor) if they appear in the game more than once. Items from hidden-object scenes are note unique ones. Quest items are items that a player must find and bring to an NPC in order to complete the quest. Examples: Bat Meat, Old Shoe, Love Letter, Kylin's Horn
  • Names of in-game currency. Examples: Gold, Crystals, Diamonds, Buttons, Cookies
  • Names of spells, skills, character stats, materials, etc. Examples: Petrification, Accurate Shot, Dexterity, Magic attack, ore, wood
  • Names of world-building elements such as historical events that took place within the game’s world, religious holidays, and historical periods and epochs. Examples: Ancestors’ Day, Age of Tribulation, Taurin Insurrection
  • Names of structures and combat units (in strategy games). Examples: Woodman’s Hut, Church, Infantry, Spy
  • Adjectives that are part of compound names, including names of item categories (these are usually used in the text several times). Examples: first-class, agile, special

What SHOULD NOT be included in the glossary:

  • entries that are longer than a few words (entire sentences, paragraphs, etc.)
  • tags 
  • auxiliary words: prepositions, conjunctions, articles

Glossary Formatting Rules

  1. There should only be one translation for each term. Duplicates and alternative versions of translations (whether in parentheses, separated by "/", etc.) are not permitted in the glossary. However, there are instances when the same word might be used for different purposes in a game. For example, the Russian words "serebryany" (an adjective that might refer to rank) and "serebro" (a noun that might refer to in-game currency) are both translated as "silver." In this case, both terms should be added to the glossary with each one having a comment left about what it corresponds to.
  2. The translation field should only contain the translation of the term. Any extra information should be added in the appropriate section.
  3. Terms should be added in dictionary form, i.e. nouns should be in the nominative singular (where applicable) and verbs should be in the infinitive.
  4. If you work in a CAT tool when adding names and nicknames of characters, enter their first name, last name, nickname, and profession separately to speed up the translation process.
    • Example: let’s say we have a character named Tottie the Saleswoman. We should add separate glossary entries for "Tottie" and "Saleswoman."
    • For Albert Zemeckis, we add an entry for "Albert" and an entry for "Zemeckis."
    • For Griego "Stinky" Morris, we add entries for "Griego," "Morris," and "Stinky."
  5. The capitalization of terms should follow the rules of the source and target languages, as well as the client’s requirements. It should also correspond to the capitalization of existing terms in the translation memory. 

Working with terms can be challenging, but it is also very important. Glossaries are essential for producing high-quality game localizations. We hope that these rules will come in handy for localizers who are just getting their foot in the door.