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Hades dev responds to translation criticism, says it paid pros and community members alike

Hades
(Image credit: Supergiant Games)

Hades studio Supergiant Games has responded to complaints about the game's non-English translations and questions about the use of unpaid community members as translators, saying that it did in fact use a "professional translation service" in the game's development, as well has "hand-picked members of our community" to revise the translations based on player feedback.

Complaints about the game's translation appeared on Twitter on January 12, when a player posted a screen of poorly-translated text and wrote, "Stop ruining your games with machine or non-professional translation." Other fans, some of whom are translators themselves, weighed in with similar complaints: This tweet, for instance, pointed out a confusing message about saving, while the quality of the translation led at least one player to play the game in English, despite being a Spanish-speaker. The French and Chinese translation also came under fire—although, interestingly, the German version actually drew a compliment, indicating the unevenness of the work.

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In response to the initial complaint, Supergiant said in a since-deleted tweet, "Thank you for the feedback, and we're sorry to hear you feel this way. Our community translators bolstered the efforts of the professional translators we worked with. This reflects how our community bolstered all our efforts throughout our Early Access, and made Hades what it is."

For some fans, Supergiant's follow-up tweet confused the matter further. It led to suggestions from some that the use of community translations was simply a way to avoid paying for work

In an email, however, Supergiant creative director Greg Kasavin explained that the studio did in fact use a paid translation service for Hades, and that community members who were brought onto the project were paid as well. 

"Hades is the first game we've developed in Early Access. Throughout development, we employed a professional translation service we've worked with ever since Transistor to translate the content we generated, and continued generating, into a number of languages," he wrote.

"When we first added localized content to our Early Access build back in 2019, members of our international community started providing a lot of good feedback about those translations. We ended up working with some of them more closely to help process the feedback and improve the translations, and offered to credit and pay those who made meaningful contributions to this effort. Our goal was to improve the quality of the result, and be receptive to player feedback, and we worked with some amazing and experienced translators with whom I would love to work again if there ever came a time."

Kasavin declined to reveal specifics of the contracts involved but said that once community collaborators reached a defined threshold of contributions based on the number of words translated or added and a "willingness to collaborate with our team and a peer group of translators," payment was offered based on the amount of work completed.

"Our community translators provided labor that directly contributed to the content and quality of the game (plus their efforts helped turn around feedback we were getting about our translations in many languages); thus we felt it was necessary to offer to compensate and credit them for their work."

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The studio worked with "a couple of dozen" community translators across different languages during Hades' early access period, "while we were still adding and iterating on content," Kasavin said. "We hadn't previously experienced the challenges of translating a game that had an active vibrant community, while still in the midst of iterating on and creating a lot of the content for that game."

"We worked closely with our community translators to improve our process as much as possible, incorporating their feedback where we could«we chose our community translators based on a combination of their ability to offer such feedback, demonstrated translation experience, and knowledge of our game. We collected more of their feedback after our v1.0 launch. Listening to community feedback was fundamentally important to the development of Hades."

Kasavin has since apologized for his initial response to the complaint about Hades' translation. "I love our community but should not have been defensive. We learned a lot working on Hades, and clearly have a lot to learn still. We sincerely appreciate the feedback and are reading all of it," he wrote. "Please know we're actively committed to improving our translations on Hades, as well as improving our process moving forward."

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Andy covers the day-to-day happenings in the big, wide world of PC gaming—the stuff we call "news." In his off hours, he wishes he had time to play the 80-hour RPGs and immersive sims he used to love so much.