The Secrets Behind World of Warcraft’s Italian Localization
Since patch 5.0.4, World of Warcraft players have had yet another European language option. What better time for Italian-speaking players to rediscover Azeroth, and this time in their native language!
But what went into creating the fully localized Italian version of World of Warcraft? We thought you might be interested in knowing a little more about the localization process that we’ve previously been through for all our other languages – so read on to find out.
Playing a game in your native language can be a very rewarding experience – particularly for a game as detailed and rich as World of Warcraft. From the major quest chains to the sometimes heated dialogues between key characters; from the dusty tomes found in the capitals’ libraries to the rare items dropped by lone elite mobs: each element represents a piece of the Warcraft story. We want as many of our players as possible around the world to be able to delve deeply into this fantastic universe in their native language.
We’re sure that this is one of the biggest projects ever in Italian video game localization. The main translation work took a year and involved five million words. Before that part, though, the first and most delicate step was to create a main glossary including locations, characters, spells, and item names. This in itself took a few months until we were happy with those key words and phrases. Everything gets its own Italian name: leaving even just a few key words in English risks a chain reaction of un-translated phrases, creating a mixed localization solution that is far from ideal.
A Whole New Language
The full localization of proper nouns is never easy, and the Italian language is much less flexible than English when it comes to coining new terms and creating fantasy names. Verbs, nouns, and adjectives can be combined in many different ways in English, almost always producing a nice result. This is not the case with Italian, mainly for length and grammar reasons. In the process of creating a "new language," we set a few rules: for instance, we limited most of the fantasy names to four syllables, and we tried to use certain words for each race in order to make last names as specific as possible. We tried to keep the flavor of the original names, but decided to reinterpret some of them in Italian.
World of Warcraft is packed with pop culture references, which can be challenging to localize! When we felt the references wouldn’t be understandable for the majority of our Italian audience, we didn’t blindly translate: we replaced them with similar references to Italian popular culture.
The Naples Connection
This is also true when localizing the game’s races. For most – for example, the humans of Gilneas, with their melancholic 19th Century inspiration, and the noble elves – we focused closely on their speech patterns in the English version of the game and adapted them to Italian voices. However, we took a different approach with the trolls. In case you’re not familiar with the city of Naples, you should know that it has a very distinctive and proud identity. The Neapolitan culture values ancestors and has certain superstitions, and its populace is typically street-smart. We felt there were so many parallels to Warcraft’s troll culture that this would be a fun and interesting fit, so we used the Neapolitan dialect as the basis for the creation of the Italian troll language. We hope that Italian speakers enjoy the flavor we believe it adds to the whole game!
After more than seven years playing the English version of the game, some Italian speakers may be reluctant to make the leap across to the Italian client, which launched with patch 5.0.4. Hopefully we’ve managed to grab your interest with this little insight into the localization process, and you’ll at least give it a try. There’s a lot to discover in Italian Azeroth that we think you’ll enjoy!