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Mobilising Games to Go Global: Internationalisation and Localisation

Friday, September 8th, 2017

The days of the Cold War are long past and have been replaced by the hotter topic of global warming. ‘Colonisation’ and ‘Super-power’ may actually have become dirty words in these days when global harmony and fair play are the mantras for our planet’s survival.

However, in the last few years, there has been a new power entity slowly but steadily rising on the horizon: Enter the APP Store Super Power!

In 2014, Japan and South Korea made huge strides and surpassed the USA by revenue on Google Play. Reports put China at #3 by revenue on the Apple App store. South East Asia is a HUGE emerging market- Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam account for almost all the game revenue in this area of the planet.

What is the takeaway from all this?
1. Language is no barrier.
2. The appeal of gaming and mobile gaming is a worldwide phenomenon.
3. Big bucks are involved and this means cutthroat competition and planning in minute detail to drive successful apps and games.
4. Game and app internationalization and localisation drive mobility in apps and games.
5. Not least of all, the quest of humans for easy entertainment is now quite literally in the palms of the hands- holding the mobile phone. Never has the opposable thumb been put to such vigorous use.

The game must go on!

A stationary stone gathers moss

The driving force behind any business is profit. The gaming world is no different. This is a highly competitive world and the gaming market is killer. To survive, evolve, and bring home the bacon, apps and games need not just to be entertaining to the boy-next-door: they need to capture new platforms and markets. And they need to be fast and furious about it or fall by the wayside.

How can they do this?

Internationalistion and localisation
This two-step process is what enables a game to adapt to different regional and linguistic cultures. It must include:
Reviewing the language and regional settings which will determine which localisation is used as well as the date, time, and number formats.
Adapting the user interface
The code must handle multi-language text
Locale (not the language) settings must drive data formatting as multiple countries might use the same language, as also the same individual travelling across different countries.
User interface must be ‘mirrored’ while using right to left languages; the only exception here would probably be phone numbers.
It is also necessary to test the internationalized app or game to detect auto-layout problems and strings that are not part of the internationalization-localisation process.

Enjoyment MUST be stress-free
Gaming is for enjoyment; the gamer cannot be subjected to a confusing, frustrating experience. There is no place, either, for being culturally and politically improper or downright offensive. Game localisation must also ensure that the translated, internationalized, localized version be faithful to the original.

Many gamers take their gaming very seriously. Game localisation, including those on mobile platforms (iOS localisation or Android), should enable players to immerse themselves completely. The whole enjoyment in gaming is to transport the player to a world of fantasy more appealing than reality, where lives can be replenished in battles with strange creatures in exotic lands unknown! Nothing should interrupt this ‘willing suspension of disbelief.’

Localisation must be from the word GO
Game localisation cannot be an afterthought and game developers would benefit from shedding the ‘let’s see’ attitude. Successful developers have understood that video game localisation is an integral part of the development cycle along with coding, designing, or writing. In the very early stages when games were designed and played on limited and limiting platforms, this ‘afterthought status’ might have been acceptable. But with the proliferation of mobile technology, and the increasing demand for games across linguistic, cultural and geographical borders, video game localisation has come into its own.

Localisation- NOT translation
It must be amply clear by now that game internationalisation and localisation is not just about language. It encompasses cultural symbols, costumes, ethos, environment… everything that goes up to make civilisations, in fact!

There are many pitfalls to be avoided:

Concerns of piracy and the importance of timely capturing of markets may drive translations on incomplete games. Context must be clear while translating text whatever the stage of game development. The complete picture should be kept in mind.

Localisation must be a consideration early in game development as cultural concepts must be clear from Day 1. For example: scantily clad female characters may be an issue in some countries. If this is not considered early in the design cycle, it could turn into a costly, untreatable headache when the game has to move to more socially conservative markets.

Games must evolve with current events. Consider the example of how a spate of pedophilia cases in Belgium discouraged the use of the word ‘pedometer’ in a game on weight-loss because of the negative connotation such a prefix had.

Separate text files make the game moddable and the translated versions can be pasted on the localized version.

A text-freeze or cut-off date for text changes is a very good idea to control translation costs and keep game development on schedule.

Be aware of cultural issues, taboos and sensitivities from the very beginning.

Accents are important for voice overs. A cowboy with a Texan twang is ludicrous in a video game meant for the Chinese market.

Who does the localisation?
Game developers pour millions into game development. So, it makes no sense to cut corners when it comes to video game localisation to make inroads into new markets.

Cheap translations aimed at cost control may result in a complete flop show and make the developer an international laughing stock.

Whether it is artwork, translation, marketing, packaging, or bridging the cultural gap, it is very skilled work which is the domain of trained and talented professionals.

Time is of the absolute essence to capture the mood of markets.

Discretion and trust are absolutely necessary to combat the evil threat of piracy which looms large on intellectual property.

How a Simple Conversation Puts Your Clients at Risk for Identity Theft

Friday, September 8th, 2017

Are you taking as much care in protecting the privacy of verbal communication as you are in securing your data? Sensitive information is often conveyed in every day conversations with the exchange of customer telephone numbers, account information, and appointment dates and times. Speech privacy is becoming increasingly important in the workplace. In a business setting, overhearing sensitive conversations can lead to a breach of privacy that can decrease a client’s trust and cost money for the company. Some institutions such as the healthcare industry, financial firms, law offices, and educational institutes, have put laws in place to make sure speech is private. Noncompliance with these laws can lead to exposure of sensitive information resulting in identity theft, and in turn cost the company hefty fines and a damaged reputation.

HIPAA Law

In August of 2002, HIPAA amended their privacy rule to include oral communication. The new rule states that incidental disclosure of protected health records that occur during authorized activity do not violate the privacy rule as long as they are limited in nature and reasonable safe guard measures to prevent a breach of privacy are in place. Although there are no strict guidelines for these safe guard measures to comply with HIPAA, PHI and HHS will be looking at other professionals for guidance as well as looking to the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) for industry standards on oral speech privacy. The ASTM uses an articulation index to prove acceptable levels of speech privacy for business and healthcare.

Although HIPAA is the most known law to protect client’s privacy, other institutions have adopted this practice to make sure the privacy of their own clients against identity theft. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) states that post-secondary educational institutions make a reasonable effort to safeguard student information including finances, grades, housing, and personal health. Financial institutions hold a wealth of valuable and sensitive information on all their clients. It is vital to keep information private. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) states that nonpublic personal information such as name, address, income, social security number, or any other information collected for transactions should be reasonably protected from the public. On average victims of personal financial information theft or identity theft, lose $13,160, and much of this responsibility falls on the firm’s negligence increasing the company’s need for speech privacy.

Speech Privacy Rules

These laws force specific institutions to abide by these privacy rules to keep sensitive information about their clients secure but these kind of security measure are not limited to these fields. Speech privacy, also known as sound masking, is a significant tool for this purpose in office and retail environments.

Speech privacy does not only relate to the health care industry or to financial institutions, as it is also necessary when trying to sell to a customer in retail environments. Many retailers have something they push to their customers and without speech privacy every potential client in line, in the waiting room, or just passing through can overhear these conversations and make a quick decision on the product before hearing all of its benefits. Privacy is important for the customers as well, in some cases, clients share sensitive information, such as their health, finance, or sizes; speech privacy allows clients to open up without fear of other clients overhearing this information and using it against them to pursue identity theft.

By abiding by this privacy rule, financial institutions, health care locations, personal care facilities and more not only meet the standards put forth by HIPAA in protecting their customers’ information verbally, but also increase the trust and sense of security from their customers as well.

Speech Privacy Using Sound Masking

How do you create speech privacy in your workplace to protect sensitive information? HIPAA, GLBA, and FERPA requirements are flexible and allow each workplace to find the best solution to fit their needs. This can be as simple as being aware of these laws and making an effort to take private or sensitive conversations to a more secluded area and talk in hushed tones. Health care offices will often ask that people form a line several feet away from the oral transaction. Financial institutions may pull the customer into a separate cubicle or office situation for increased privacy for longer discussions, however these financial institutions may also use the same distances line formation as the healthcare industry when doing quick counter transactions with their clients. Private offices and conference rooms make a secure place and sound proofing the rooms proves the company is putting up safe guards for their customer’s privacy when possible. It is also important to get quality-ceiling tiles; these will absorb the sound to keep conversations private. Sound masking is another way to increase privacy by masking conversations. Although effective, some of these methods are costly and sometimes cannot fit into the budget or floor plan.

Speech privacy can give a budget-friendly tool to aid businesses in following the privacy laws. It also allows for less distraction, which increases productivity of employees. Speech privacy adds a sound masking element by adding a soft white noise much like the air blowing from an air conditioner. To help explain sound masking protects conversations, imagine someone turning on a flashlight in the dark. The beam of light is so clear and everything in its path bright and visible. This is what it is like without sound masking. Everyone can hear each other’s conversations and private information is at risk. Turning on Sound Masking in these types of environments is like turning on a flashlight in a well-lit room. The beam of light is there but is much more diluted and difficult to see. The ear is tricked the same way. By adding more sound, the conversations seem to disappear or be less noticeable. This increases privacy and reduces distractions. Sound masking involves a couple of components: the hardware (often installed near or on your telephone backboard), and sound emitters (strategically located throughout the space working like a speaker to distribute the sound).

Sound masking ensures speech privacy and proves that your company has put up reasonable safeguards for speech privacy to comply with the HIPAA, GLBA, and FERPA standards. Sound masking can help reduce distractions, improve productivity, increase privacy, and improve the workplace ambiance. Learn the laws related to your field and make sure your using the right solution for your company.