Red Post Collection: /Dev: Kayn and the Showerhunter, Ask Riot: Movie? Honor Opponents? Urf? & More

Posted on at 2:06 PM by Aznbeat
Today's red post collection includes a /Dev blog on Localization, this week's Ask Riot, and more!
Continue reading for more information!

Table of Contents

/Dev: Kayn and the Showerhunter

Here's Riot Ness Piper and Riot Jaggasaurus with a dev blog on localization:
"After sixteen patches without a new assassin champion or class update, patch 7.14 was on the horizon. A lethal Darkin with a badass, sentient scythe was ready to take Summoner’s Rift by storm, and along with this menacing champion would come an equally dark and brooding skin: Soulhunter Kayn. Or, as it became known in Russia… Showerhunter Kayn
Welcome to the wonderful and strange world of localization. Our names are Tyler “Riot Jaggasaurus” Jaggers and Ness Piper, and we’re fortunate to be a part of the global team that helps League ship to over 18 regions in 24 different languages. Today we’ll be discussing the magic of localization at Riot and how the first Showerhunter was born. 
As most players know, League of Legends releases patches roughly every two weeks, including anything from new game modes, skins, champions, and entirely new systems like Runes Reforged. On top of that, Riot publishes videos, soundtracks, articles (like this one), LoL-inspired games like Blitzcrank’s Poro Roundup, and even epic esports events. This content is not just for the English-speaking player base, but meant for players around the globe. How do we ensure content lands well, no matter where it goes live? This is partially accomplished through the efforts of Rioters in the localization discipline
Localization, or L10n as it’s known in the biz (…there’s ten letters in-between the L and the N…clever I know), is the overall process of adapting a product or content to a specific locale or market. Translation, while incredibly important during the creation of loc, is only one part of the equation. Riot plays around in a lot of different mediums including audio recording, graphical asset creation, systems that interact with players through text, and even physically printed materials like board games. How each of these assets are localized will be drastically different based upon product need and requirements. 
The old-school style of localization would mean waiting for domestic market material to be finalized before adding a “coating” of localization on top, so you could then ship products to an international market (in other words, make it for you, then just translate it and ship it somewhere else). This might work for more traditional goods, like Coca-Cola soda cans, but it’s not so good for software—and especially not for gaming. In order to make a game, or update to a game, feel truly made for players throughout the world, Riot considers localization, along with Internationalization (I18n), at a project’s inception. The process of planning for a full global release from the earliest phases of concepting is known as Globalization, (G11n)…(jeesh a lot of “izations” and acronyms!)

We won’t go any deeper into Internationalization and Globalization as those practices are art forms in and of themselves. For today, we’ll focus on game localization and how we create, and sometimes mis-create, regional player experiences. 
At a more traditional publisher, localization project management would be centralized in a single development office responsible for directly managing translation, linguistic review, and/or LQA (Localization Quality Assurance) resources. For many reasons, we approach localization differently at Riot through a Decentralized Model. 
Ultimately, this is just a fancy term meaning we believe the best person to localize the game is someone located in the region that it is being localized to. We still have localization producers, like Tyler and myself, located here in Los Angeles. We even do normal “producer-y” things like manage schedules and participate in testing, but our responsibilities lie more in working with development to ensure they are following localization best practices so our co-workers in-region can focus on their core excellencies: making awesome, local player experiences. 
For the most part, our regional loc teams have a fair amount of free reign to decide how best to create and deliver their region’s localization. On top of quality considerations, these teams are responsible for timely delivery of the massive amount of work sent to them from the Central office. For reference, we can ship up to a quarter of a million words a month, both in and out of game, on top of recording hundreds of lines of new audio, and creating localized recordings and graphics in the various videos we release! During heavier patches, like Pre-Season and the Worlds patch, the amount of content we ship can skyrocket as players and Riot itself celebrate these major events. 
Because of the control that the localization teams have over their content, they get to best decide how to delight their players. This has led to some region-unique experiences that we hope players have loved, such as some of the crazy audio recording projects we’ve taken on in the past: 

Behind the scenes look at how our EU team tapped into local, Hungarian talent to truly bring Illaoi to life. 

So many familiar names and faces! Check out how our Japan loc team crafted the voice over experience for the launch of League of Legends in Japan. 
Translation of the game, both publishing content and in-game content, gives our localization teams opportunities to really bring lore and our champions to life; it’s during this creative process that the loc teams can adapt and modify the source English copy to better resonate with local players. As one of our translators based in our Hong Kong office put it, “For translation…it’s more about manipulating the distance between the source language and the target language.” 
An example of this was translating one of Elementalist Lux’s in-game lines from English to German. Apparently, the Moody Blues are… not the most popular band in Germany. But we feel we hit the thematic target with an excerpt from a dark poem that’s quite famous in German culture—”Erlkönig” (Erlking) by Goethe. 
“Bleed the colors from their sight. Breathe deep the gathering gloom.” 
Late Lament by Moody Blues 
“Was birgst so bang du dein Gesicht?
Und bist du nicht willig, so brauch’ ich Gewalt.” 
Erlkönig by Goethe 
“Why are you hiding your face so full of fear?
If you don’t come with me out of your own will, I need violence.” 
Literal English Translation from German 
Kled was also an interesting and very challenging champion to localize. That rambunctious Yordle spits a lot of hot-headed phrases that might not be as well known outside of North America. And since a lot of the phrases he uses are onomatopoeic, they convey more of the emotions he’s feeling at any point in time, rather than fully fleshed out thoughts or ideas. Our LATAM loc team had a lot of fun coming up with equivalent gibberish that would match the tone of his eccentric animations: 
Original English Word 
Made Up Word in Spanish 
These Rioters also assist in other high-value ways too, like helping to verify that a piece of content is relevant to their region—do Northern hemisphere-centric summertime events make sense during the Southern hemisphere’s winter? Probably not. The loc teams also work with regional publishing, legal, brand, and/or player behavior teams to assess legal or regional sensitivity concerns for upcoming products. For example, in some regions like China, the display of blood and gore is pretty much off-limits. Other regions have local laws or customs that impact how champion relationships are presented, or whether they can drink or smoke. By leveraging regional subject matter experts, product teams are able to best prepare and launch their features and content globally. 
It can definitely feel a bit hectic trying to keep up with the amount of content League of Legends ships through e-mail, Slack, meetings, one-on-one conversations, etc. That’s where Tyler and my team come in. On top of maintaining relationships with game development, our team is focused on tool development that best supports the localization discipline. Some of the cooler tooling we’ve created is mostly aimed at reducing information overhead, empowering our regional loc teams to manage and prioritize their loc and testing requests, and “move” larger pieces of content online. 
As loc producers “closest” to development, we also coordinate with product teams and our regional loc teams to test the internationalization and quality of localization for every feature LoL ships. Although Tyler is a fairly competent Japanese speaker and I can mangle my way through Spanish, we haven’t yet mastered all the languages Riot supports—but fortunately we have allies who can help us! 
All of our LQA is performed by our team of international testers based in Montreal. Individuals on this team not only have a linguistic mastery of their native language, but possess strong analytical skills and a degree of professional pessimism that makes for outstanding LQA testing. This team works closely with their respective Riot counterparts in-region, as well as the functionality test team (also based in Montreal) to scope out features, create test plans, and find bugs and localization quality issues before we release content. 
Even with all the due diligence that these amazing testers put into the products they work on, there are still bugs that can slip by unnoticed for one reason or another. Sometimes a translator will choose a name for a product and label it in a way that may not make perfect sense grammatically, but works with the story they are trying to tell. It’s kind of similar to a pun…think “Pentakayle” or “Pug’Maw.” The problem arises when the translators and the testers aren’t exactly on the same page with whether or not something was “artistic license” or a legitimate error. 
Russia had a pretty exceptional example of this with the Soulhunter Kayn skin. This skin was originally planned to be named “Soulstealer Kayn.” When the name was changed from Soulstealer to Soulhunter, it had to be re-translated across all languages. Here’s where things got a little muddy. The translator for Russia saw that “hunter” had changed to “stealer,” and only changed that portion of the name. However, in Russian, the way a word is conjugated can completely change its meaning depending on the word that comes after. Our LQA testers mistakenly thought that the translators were taking creative license with the spelling of “Soul” to match the previous use of the word, and therefore didn’t raise awareness of this odd spelling. So, by only changing “Stealer” to “Hunter” and not re-conjugating “Soul,” the translator inadvertently created, Охотник на Душ, our first Showerhunter. 
It was pretty much patch time when we discovered this issue, so there really wasn’t a way for Russia to fix this naming error before it shipped to players. However, something we strive to do is make sure that players in all regions feel like they are heard. So our Russian team took this one on the chin, owned up to the mistake, and before they could officially patch out Kayn’s synergy with plumbing they featured a Showerhunter Kayn meme contest, awarding the winner both Kayn and his so-fresh-so-clean launch skin. This one was my favorite! 
We hope this experience, as well as our, erm, more well planned efforts, makes players’ days as much as working on shipping this content makes ours! Thanks for spending some time learning a little bit about our craft and, if we don’t catch you in the comments, we’ll catch you on the Rift! 
Keyifli Oyunlar!"

Ask Riot: Movie? Honor Opponents? Urf? 

Here's this week's Ask Riot, recapping the top asked questions from 2017:
This year, Ask Riot responded to 140 questions—plus the ones Marc and Brandon answered in Ask Riot’s anniversary video. This week, let’s recap some of the top questions from 2k17. 
Why do we keep getting different versions of URF mode instead of regular URF?

URF launched a long time ago, way before we ever started doing RGM. It was basically a crazy April Fool’s gag that ended up becoming hugely popular. Given how popular it is, lots of players want to know why we don’t bring back regular URF more often. There’s one reason that we haven’t really talked about before now: 
URF makes some people stop playing League. 
Every time we ran regular URF, we’d see a huge spike of games being played, and then the numbers actually dropped back down to a level that’s lower than it was just before we ran URF. 
It’s normal for new players to join League and for some longtime players to leave—this happens all the time. But when we turned on regular URF, it was different. In NA, for example, whenever we ran URF we’d usually see over twice as many longtime players leave the game compared to what we would’ve normally expected. 
In other words, some people binged on URF, and then suddenly stopped playing League. And the size of the dropoff indicates that it’s not just people coming back for URF and then leaving afterwards. Despite spending a lot of time investigating the reasons, we aren’t actually sure whether URF causes some sort of “hangover” effect or if it makes regular games feel slow by comparison—maybe it’s because URF feels like playing League with cheats turned on. Regardless, after we turn on URF, total games played go down, as do overall game hours. And they don’t recover for a long time, if ever. 
We’ve been trying to wrap our heads around a way to solve this problem for a while, and that’s one of the biggest reasons you see us experimenting with variations on the mode like ARURF and Snow Battle ARURF. Although these modes still suffer a bit from the “binge-then-churn” effect that regular URF has, it’s not nearly as bad (probably because you’re not seeing the same OP champs every game). 
URF causes some people to stop playing League, but a lot of you really love it. So instead of killing URF altogether, we’re just gonna keep experimenting to find some healthier version of the mode. Tell us your thoughts about Snow Battle ARURF—we’ll listen and apply what we learn to ARURF’s next appearance. 
Will you ever make a League of Legends movie? Or maybe long cinematic episodes?

We dream of films set in League’s universe and seeing our favorite champions come to life in movie theaters, but the track record on video game movies is a humbling lesson. For the most part, they aren’t great. And while the geek in us would love to rush into moviemaking, it’s definitely not something we should rush into. 
That’s not to say that we aren’t exploring. Cinematic storytelling just requires different muscles than storytelling for games, so we’re working on building those muscles and learning as we go. We have a ton of talented folks actively experimenting with different storytelling formats, and it’s definitely a hope that someday we’ll see the fruits of that experimentation on the big screen (or the small screen, or wherever it makes the most sense). We’re also looking at ways to better share all of the stories we’ve already told and will continue to tell, like with the newly-launched Universe. 
What’s most important to us is that any extension of League into other mediums feels authentic to the source and respectful of the passion we all share for the game and its universe. It’s a big challenge, but we think we can get there if we invest the time in learning how to do it right. 
Co-Founder, Riot Games  
I do prefer the new honor system, it’s great. that being said I miss being able to honor an opponent, it’s a respect thing. if you can bring it back to the game at one point I think people would like it. have a good day.

We agree! Showing respect for your opponent is an important part of sportsmanship and we spent time playtesting several versions that included honoring your opponents. In the end, there were a few reasons why combining team recognition with opponent recognition wasn’t working. 
For example, we spent a lot of time on the categories and what matters when it comes to sportsmanship in League. In general, you have a very different picture of your fellow teammates compared to your opponents, so we’d need to have categories that were meaningful for both. For instance, getting outplayed 1v1 feels different than a teammate helping the team stay cool and focused on winning. If we solve that by collapsing to more generic categories for teammates and opponents, they wouldn’t mean as much since they could stand for anything. But if we had a bunch of really specific categories you wouldn’t have time to choose between them (assuming you could even find the right one). 
Also, honoring your opponent and honoring your teammate just felt like two separate things. Testers not only felt the vote screen was crowded, but due to the incomplete information you have, it was hard to have the confidence to pick an opponent that really stood out. We tried a few iterations, including having the system choose for you some “finalists,” but ultimately it felt best when it was wholly a player decision. 
So in the end we made the call to focus on teamwork right now, including improving the system for 2018, and revisit honoring your opponent in the future. 
Senior Systems Designer, Player Behavior Team  
Riot talks a lot about prioritization and resources when answering questions about features people want — if there aren’t enough people there to fix things like Death Recap or the old, out of date website, why not hire more? Are you really that limited on people?

Hiring is a powerful tool in the developer toolbox, but it isn’t the best tool for every problem that comes along. 
For starters, hiring takes a very long time, especially for somewhere like Riot where we want to make really sure that any new Rioters are aligned to our company missions and values. If you want to spin up a new team to tackle a problem, and then you need to hire a lot to staff that team, my rule of thumb is to expect it to take 6-12 months (and sometimes much more) before that team is staffed. 
Second, just because you can hire more people doesn’t mean you should. Having more developers requires more overhead. It requires a larger office space. It means changing your company processes and developing a deeper (and typically slower) hierarchy. Growing too quickly can put a huge strain on a company’s culture as you struggle to get all the newcomers to understand the way you think about things. For example, Riot strives to measure what we work on in terms of gamer impact. But what that means can be really open to interpretation — it’s not something that is easily summed up in an employee handbook. Instead, it has to be learned by working alongside folks who already get it. The faster you grow, the more that ratio of folks who already get it gets diluted. 
More bodies just means that it requires more conversations to make sure all questions get answered. If you hire more junior folks, it means also hiring more senior folks who can manage them. I am a big believer that Dunbar’s Number is a thing, especially in an organization that eschews a conveyer-belt style development methodology and instead thrives when people collaborate quite a bit on gnarly problems with ambiguous solutions. You will almost never, in this business, find developers who love working on really large teams. Instead, they will all pine for the day when their dev team was 15 people because it’s just so much easier to stay in sync and to get shit done quickly when you’re small. I’m not offering some huge insight here — it’s the subject of tons of research into businesses and why they grow and how that often causes them to slow down. 
Third, just because you have more people doesn’t mean that the priorities of what you would work on would change. If we had six competent engineers magically appear, that doesn’t mean that the best allocation of those folks would be on some neglected feature of potentially marginal value. It may make more sense to bite off a larger project or to make sure some big problem got solved faster. How we prioritize features or work is a larger question (and this is a long answer already), but suffice to say that we greatly value player impact, and we do try to make room for smaller quality-of-life requests and meme-killing things alongside major reworks, such as Runes Reforged. 
Fourth, I should invoke the “mythical person month.” Throwing bodies at a problem isn’t a proven solution to make things happen faster. This gets into some of the points I already made above, but I just wanted to point out that business often acknowledge that more people isn’t the answer to everything. Related, you wouldn’t want to hire someone just for a three-month project and then fire them again. Some companies are fine with that approach (a lot of Hollywood still works that way), but Riot really wants to be a place staffed by lifers who want a long-term career here, not hired guns who jam out a project and then move on to the next gig. 
Design Director, League of Legends  
Do people eat poros?

As you slip the squishy, pastel meat into your mouth, your mind floods with every imaginable color: magenta, indigo, seafoam, chartreuse! With each juicy gnash of your teeth, a different flavor overwhelms your palate: cotton candy, chokecherry, salted sea bass, toasted coconut! You swallow the tender morsel and your throat tickles as it slides down your gullet. You get the feeling like you have to sneeze, but can’t. As you pinch another bite from the plate, eager in anticipation of all the colors and flavors it will unlock, you feel a tiny itch ripple in your stomach. You can’t help but cough—a little at first, then A LOT. Sprays of fluff and fur erupt from your mouth like confetti. The itch in your stomach grows into a sharp, stabbing pain, like something tiny is trying to beat down the door of your innards with fists made of knives. Your guts swell and stretch as you cry out to your gods for mercy, for death, for anything that could bring an end to the blinding pain. Through your tears, you watch as two pointed horns rip through your skin’s membrane, thrashing and mighty like a bull through a matador’s cape. A basketball-shaped creature struts from your gaping stomach, slick and sticky with your blood, then plumes its fur in one swift PUFF. Blood splatters across your face. Your shaking eyes finally behold the creature in all its splendor—standing soft and sweet as a sunlit dandelion atop your retching, soon-to-be corpse. It unfurls its big pink tongue and licks your pallid cheek. That’s the last thing you see. 
Or so the story goes. So yeah, not a lot of people try it anymore. 
Editor, R&D

Thanks for reading this week’s Ask Riot. Have a question? 
Head over to Ask Riot and sign into your League account. Check out the Pro Tips, then ask away. 
We promise to read every question, but we can’t guarantee they’ll all get answers. Some questions may already be answered elsewhere, and some won’t be right for Ask Riot. This isn’t the best place to announce new features, for example, and we might skip conversations on issues we’ve talked about in depth before (though we can clarify individual points). 
We are listening, though, so keep asking. We’ll make sure your questions are heard by the Rioters working on the stuff you’re curious about."

Quick Hits

"Thank you for a year of memorable events, new runes, long-awaited reworks and most importantly, meme-slaying. Here’s 2017 in review."
  • KateyKhaos noted some small info on the Battlecast Illaoi skin; notably, that Battlecast Illaoi as the skin's name is still subject to change, and more:
[1] "I've had a couple people ask what Illaoi's purpose is in the Battlecast world because Battlecast has historically been full-on machines. "Part machine, part human, Battlecast Illaoi fights for the survival of all organics against Creator Viktor’s 'Evolution.'"" 
[2] "Battlecast Illaoi" as a skin name is also WIP - like all aspects of the skin itself - and is subject to change. :)


To round out this red post collection, here are a few reminders on current promotions or limited time events!
  • Snowdown is here through January 8th, including new DravenJinx, and Poppy skins, returning legacy skins, missions & rewards, summoner icons, emotes, Poro King and + Snow Battle ARURF, and more!
  • Just in time for Snowdown, the Riot Games Merch store has been updated with a variety of new items including a preorder for an XL BRAUM unlocked statue, new shirts and plush, a free holiday ornament with purchase, and more!

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