How fans translated "close to a million words of dialog" in new Baldur's Gate localizations

Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition Creative Director Trent Oster talked to us recently about Overhaul Games' remastering of the classic BioWare RPGs, as well as the notable possibility of a new Baldur's Gate game . Another highlight from the interview was Oster's comments about the volume of writing in Baldur's Gate, an Atari localization meltdown over Neverwinter Nights' 1.2 million words, and how some fan translations made it into Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition, beating out professional contractors.

The full interview transcript will be posted next week.

PC Gamer: I'm curious to know if, going through all those source files, you know just how much writing is in Baldur's Gate. It must be tens of thousands of lines.

Trent Oster: I'm not sure the exact number of lines, but if I remember correctly, I think there's close to a million words of dialog.

PCG: Wow, a million? I ask because the other day the Dishonored guys were talking about the number of dialog lines in their game . I thought it was an interesting statistic, because we don't always think of it in that sense—that these are novel sized or bigger works.

TO: Yeah, the most hilarious example I can think of is when we [BioWare] signed Neverwinter with the Atari guys. So they sent us their localization form and it had three boxes on the form, and it said: “Number of words of dialog: Less than 100; 100 to 1,000; 1,000-plus.”

I made a fourth box on there, checked it off, and wrote “1.2 million words.” I sent the e-mail back to them, and got a call the next morning from the translator saying, “You're kidding, right?”

And I'm like, “No, I'm dead serious. There's 1.2 million words of dialog in Neverwinter Nights.”

And they're like, “Oh my God, oh my God.”

And they hung up on me and I didn't hear from them for a week. Apparently they had a big meltdown in their localization department as they realized the volume of what they committed to.

PCG: That's a great story. So, are big localization efforts happening for Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition?

TO: Yes, actually. We're using—a lot of the original fans of the series in different countries have done translations since the original launched. The original game launched in 11 languages, and I think currently there's 19 in progress. So we've hooked up with a lot of these communities and in some cases they've kind of thrown their translation at us, saying, “Hey, this is the best we could do. We'll do anything we can to get it into the game.”

And that's kind of the story with the Turkish version. There was no Turkish version originally, these fans built it and they really want to make a commercial version of the Turkish version, and we're like, “Well, sure, we'll be happy to support you guys if we can. Let's figure out how we get your stuff into the game and what we can do to solve that. We'll put you guys into the credits for doing the translation.”

And it's been just a pretty impressive result. You've got these volunteer groups able to go in, and in some cases you can self-organize around, here's our main editor, our secondary editor, and our translators and they plow through the data and come up with a translated version of all the content.

PCG: It's always interesting when creators and community come together over a mutual love.

TO: The thing that gets me the most is that—I mean, you can get translations done, and it's not crazy expensive to do, but these are passionate fans of the series, they know the ins-and-outs, they know the little details, and they're doing it because they love it. The end result is just— the quality is so much higher. The attention to detail is so much higher. They know the terms, they know what THAC0 means and how it should be framed in their language to be understandable to someone who don't know the rules necessarily.

I just think an engaged community can do so much better of a job than just a paid contractor in this case. But we're just, “Hey, anything we can do to support you guys in your translation, we're happy to bend over backward to make it happen.”

PCG: I imagine some of the lore, and the humor is especially tough to translate. But fans want to get it correct?

TO: Exactly, and they're willing to put in that effort to make sure the joke carries across and carries across properly. And they'll understand it within the context of the rules and mechanics of the game so that their translation of it just makes so much more sense.

Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition is scheduled to release on November 28th.

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.