HOW WOULD YOU HANDLE MULTIPLE LEARNED LANGUAGES?

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If you were making a game where two opposing sides spoke entirely different languages, how would you illustrate your party learning to speak both? Would you handle it like FFX did with the Al Bhed? Differently colored or differently outlined dialogue boxes might work, but they could possibly confuse the player, too.
Good question. You could either use different colors or parentheses/brackets. I usually use parentheses to mark if something said is either a thought or said in passing. Therefor, I would choose brackets or less than/greater than symbols for translations. Here's an example of what I mean:

(Wow. That woman is beautiful!) - thought
(You could just shut up next time...) - something said in passing/under breath

<Quaid! Start the reactor!> - translation
[Your planet is very strange to me...] - translation

If you're going to use this method, one very important thing you'll have to do is establish some way for the player to know that brackets are supposed to mean translated speech. For instance, you could do this simply with an exchange of dialogue:

Hero-man: What... what are you?
Alien-thing: Q'bar vsssk ir lek zebar vos!
-Hero-man gets out some kind of translating device or something
Hero-man: Could you repeat what you just said?
Alien-thing: <We've come to destroy you and your planet!>
Ah, I've actually used this idea in my own game. What I've done is I've had a fairy / sprite type character act as a translator. Basically she is a descendant a race which speaks the language, before turning into a spirit as a fairy. But mayhap she's lost her memory with most of the language. Whenever there is dialogue, (say via npc) you get a choice at the end of the dialogue to have it translated. She takes over and translates the language (poorly). The only way to develop it is to socialize with the language speakers more. And I don't mean spamming enter at the same npc over and over.
I have a language learning mechanic in mind for a future project of mine. When the character goes into a camp/settlement where the language is spoken, all npcs will speak their native language. The character receives the service of a translator pretty quickly, but has the option to try and manually learn the language as well.

Instead of having to show every dialog box twice, one of my plans is to subtitle the dialog box someplace else on the screen when the translator is present. That way the player has the option of just skipping through on the translation (which may not always be 100%, since the character doing the translating has his/her own agenda) or trying to put together the words that the natives speak with the meaning expressed in the translation.

My idea is to have segments later that reward the player for taking a little time and figuring out some of the language for themselves. Of course, they also get the option to make things worse, if they pick an inappropriate phrase.

Alternatively, in other projects, I have used the comic book method. I just write the dialog normally, and put an * or something in there. Then at the end, or in a picture overlay at the bottom of the screen: *-Translated from _________

Now, if we're talking total pipe dream territory here: I'd opt for full voice acting with dialog box subtitles, but even with compression it wouldn't take long for the filesize to balloon out of control.
masterofmayhem
I can defiantly see where you’re coming from
2610
I’ve got multiple languages in my game as well.

How I’m handling it is when the language is spoken to write it in brackets and in a different color, like what has been suggested above.That seems like the most practical idea.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6003
Displaying the text in English is easy. Creating a system that lets the player learn the language gradually over time is the hard part, and is what's interesting to me (since I'd rather talk about gameplay than aesthetics).

I think Essenceblade's idea is both funny and realistic. To really make it gruadual though, you would need to manually write a bunch of extra copies of every conversation in the game with varying levels of accurate translations. It's very workable if the language is only used by a smallish group of people, like Al Bhed size as a maximum, and less workable if half your game is in that language (especially in a game with lots of dialogue). I wouldn't want to be the dialogue writer for World of Warcraft if they implemented this system, for example.
I would love to play an RPG where learning languages was the key to moving forward in the game. The game's setting will be high fantasy and the player will learn basic words from other languages, and in order to succeed in the game, the player must play the game where the messages are in other languages and the player must respond in multiple languages as he goes to many areas.

I think the way to handling the learning of languages would be to have the character have access to tomes on teaching other languages. The game will be very patient on teaching the player parts of the language, and give players the access to brush up on the language.(most of the time) The player will have to memorize some root words, so he can interpret new sentences in a new language. If the player is not prepared, he will be arrested or not aware that he will get in a trap, or some other interesting hazard. Being prepared in the language will reveal secrets to find what the player needs to move forward.

The game's plot will be engaging enough so the desire to learn a new language will be learned by necessity. Maybe there should be a Tower of Babel plot. We need a fun storyline so the player will remain engaged. I think video games have the ability to inspire the love towards learning about other cultures.

I would love to play a game where I had to learn the basics of, say 9 languages just to survive in an ambitious RPG. It would be hard, but imagine what the players would get out of this game. They would learn languages in a high fantasy setting and then walk away from the game to have knowledge of multiple languages. I would play that game.
I remember one game but I don't remember its name that has this kind of mechanic. The whole game is in another language, but the grammar is still English, I think. As you progress in the game, you'll learn new words, and those words will replace the gibberish talk automatically. So as you progress more in the game, what NPC talk to you or what do the signs say will finally make sense.

Anyway, I think you're talking about how to represent different languages in the game without confusing the player. I'd go with PepsiOtaku's method. I've seen it done like that in many games, and it didn't confuse me.
How are you planning on coming up with these languages? Some real-world but niche language like Lojban? Or some sort of cypher-speak like Al Bhed?
author=LockeZ
Displaying the text in English is easy. Creating a system that lets the player learn the language gradually over time is the hard part, and is what's interesting to me (since I'd rather talk about gameplay than aesthetics).

I remember the movie 13th Warrior which had a scene of Antonio Banderas learning a language which I really liked. Of course as LockeZ says the hard part is emulating this in a game where you don't know when a character will earn a language.

Sometimes I suppose you could make a minigame out of it. The indie game Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble has a hangman-type minigame where you figure out a sentence from a couple of fragments and the number of guesses you have depends on a character's skill. Basically you could replace words with dots and essentially just show fragments of a sentence when speaking to a character.

Of course making every single interaction into a minigame would get annoying fast. But still you could just use the setup. Where you basically know a couple of "letters" in a sentence. So like when you talk to a character you only get all the As and Rs. And from that you can either figure out what he's saying or not.

Alternatively you could just show a random number of letters in a sentence (and the number of letters depends on the player skill). So you might get a complete word here and there and some other might be nonsense. You probably should use some kind of static calculating method though unless you want to have different random letters show up when you talk to a character multiple times.

Another way completely (that can be combined) is if you have dialogue choices you can show the player's ignorance by the choices given. In this case you could even translate whatever people are saying completely but the only way the player character can respond is by "huh what?" instead of inquiring further for information. And as the language skills evolve you can ask for more things until you get the complete dialogue tree.
author=Skip_Sandwich
How are you planning on coming up with these languages? Some real-world but niche language like Lojban? Or some sort of cypher-speak like Al Bhed?

Well really I just took the whole English alphabet, and then under each letter I placed a different one.

So it's pretty much like;

English: A, B, C, D, E
Native: I, L, P, F, B,O

ect.

...Of course with separating vowels from consonants and making sure they're valid.

English:A, E, I, O, U
Native: I, O, E, U, A

author=Shinan
I remember the movie 13th Warrior which had a scene of Antonio Banderas learning a language which I really liked. Of course as LockeZ says the hard part is emulating this in a game where you don't know when a character will earn a language.


That Antonio Banderas scene was amazing. When I was watching Antonio's character looking at the mouths of the other men speaking the germanic language, I got excited when English words started coming out of their mouths. What a powerful scene. An RPG could easily implement that idea. In the game, there would be a cutscene that will act as a scene of transition for the hero to level up in the language to have some words translated. When the player passes another story event, another cutscene will occur to show the player's character getting stronger and the process will continue until the hero learns the language and all dialogue from the language will be comprehensive.

author=Shinan
Another way completely (that can be combined) is if you have dialogue choices you can show the player's ignorance by the choices given. In this case you could even translate whatever people are saying completely but the only way the player character can respond is by "huh what?" instead of inquiring further for information. And as the language skills evolve you can ask for more things until you get the complete dialogue tree.


That is a promising choice to use if the player is more responsible for using the language in the game. If the language RPG has dialogue choices, have "huh what" as the fourth choice, so the player can retreat or be offered a hint on how to respond. When the player gets better at the language, the messages and choices get more complex and the "huh what" choice will be replaced with a statement in the language.

Oh man, 13th Warrior. Classic. Lo there do I see my...

I mean... I would use colored text for language. I can't remember exactly, but I recall FFX used pinkish text. The idea is to EXPLICITLY tell the gamer that that particular color is for that particular language. Without voice acting, there's really not an easier way that I can think of.

And learning the language, that's rough. The Al Bhed language was incredibly lame, pretty much set up exactly with an inverted identical alphabet so you could learn it one letter at a time. While it's a more entertaining process picking up the letters one at a time, learning the language over story time would come across much cooler.
Really interesting topic.

I didn't play FFx so not sure how it was implemented there.

As a player, I'd be excited to see a foreign language implemented as an overarching theme in the game - could be either a game-long series of sidequests or part of the main quest line. Couple different ways you could do it, but there could be a plausible plot point for you to try and gain social acceptance with the society.

Could be implemented as 'proficiency level' of the language and the quests advance your skill level; high members of the society won't speak with you until you've gained X proficiency value.

Thanks for the feedback, everyone. I brought this up, because in the game that I'm trying to work on, there are two languages. The majority of your party speaks one language. Another party member that joins speaks the "enemy" language, and yet another party member speaks both fluently.

Once you have all members, your "translator" character that speaks both languages begins teaching all the other party members how to speak both languages. I'm not really doing a system where the player gets to learn the other language (by experience, mini-games, or otherwise); the entire thing will probably just be re-writing dialogue.

If your party initially speaks English, then I'll write all of their stuff in English (obviously). But if the enemy were to speak something like Italian (purely for this example), rather than write in Italian, I was thinking of representing it like, "RAAAWR RAAAAAAWR UGH GRUUUUUF RAWR!"

But in doing so, I can't really give any insight as to what the other side is actually ever thinking, and it makes the female party member that joins and speaks "Italian" very unappealing and guttural-sounding.
Nightowl
Remember when I actually used to make games? Me neither.
1577
If there was a dude who spoke another language which the party doesn't know, text like "(Undecipherable gibberish.)" would show up until at least someone in your party knows the language.
If only one person speaks this other language, and you don't have the translator yet, perhaps you should focus on non-verbal communication.

The foreign female might initially try her language, and then see that nobody understands her. She might try repeating one word at a time, and then point. The text box could say something like "Gradkah. |She points to _thing_|" Where the party member actually tries to teach you a little bit.

Language doesn't exist in a vacuum. If she's trying to warn the party about something, you could have her repeat the same phrase a couple of times, with varying "Sorry, I just don't get it." responses, then when the group of monsters or whatever attack, she repeats the word for them again when she's fighting them, as if to say, "See, these are the things I was talking about."

Also, I think if you have a second language in the game, you should be able to write in it, instead of just doing a Tasmanian Devil translation of it!

LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6003
Actually inventing a language for your amateur video game is extremely ridiculous, but the aptly named "tasmanian devil translation" isn't a satisfactory solution to me and looks really stupid. I mean, at least write gibberish that sounds like it might be a foreign language, even if you're not actually worrying about what any of the words mean or about any kind of linguistic consistency.

If you're not creative enough to make it sound like a realistic language... write it in English, use Google Translate to translate it to another language, and then use an al bhed translator or a simple caesar cypher to swap around all the letters. End result will look totally legit but won't actually be readable to anyone.

Example of the above post translated to Irish and then cyphered to Al Bhed:

Eynprín lrisytr dayhky tu tu lrmielra vícaáh ysyedéynylr dryn y netelimuic, ylr yh ybdmo yehshedra "Dycsyheyh teyprym yecdneúlráh" hylr prviem yn néedaylr cácúem lrih tus ykic dá cé e htáenína tún. Leymmyíuhh sé, Keppanecr clníupr yn y mykryt, ku viyesayhhy lucúem ma t'vréytvytr cé y praedr ehy dayhky eycylrdy, veú ysráeh sác nit é hylr prviem dú piyndry vyue e htáenína lyt ec leymm yn pedr ta hy vulyem hó vyue lrehaám yn pedr lusrcraycsrylrd dayhky.

Siny prviem dú lnidryedraylr ku maun lrih é y tréyhysr viyesa syn dayhky néymyíulr ... clníupr cé e sPéynmy, y úcáet Kuukma Dnyhcmyda é y yecdneú ku dayhky aema, ykic yhceh ehy yecdnedrauen ym prat hó cesbmí lryacyn lobran úcáet y ydrnú ku méen hy mednaylry. Paetr dunytr taenetr pnaydrhú ku reusmáh maked ylr hí praetr eynprín ehméeda tu trieha yn pedr.
author=LockeZ
Actually inventing a language for your amateur video game is extremely ridiculous

Ergateh fo vantekana. (err-gah-tay foe van-tay-kah-na)

EDIT: This is as close to "No offense taken" as I can get with my made-up language right now.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6003
Heh, yeah, I think I already O_Oed at your language in the whatchu workin on thread. If you really want to do it then cool; it's ridiculous in a good way. It is certainly above and beyond any expectations I have for even the highest budgeted commercial games.
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