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The Modder Slowly Translating 'Stardew Valley' into a Language Most Games Ignore

Most games are released in English in Indonesia, leaving players to struggle through with their second language.

by Patrick Klepek
May 11 2017, 6:00pm

Image courtesy of Dragonregure

These days, I rarely have to worry if a game I'm interested in will be translated into English. That's not the case for people living in Indonesia, a dense island country in Southeast Asia. If you speak Indonesian, you're relying on fans to translate—or learning another language. Modder dragonregure was waiting on an Indonesian translation mod for the popular farming and life sim Stardew Valley when the developer gave up. Dragonregure picked up where they left off.

Despite being a series of islands, Indonesia has a massive population, estimated to be roughly 265 million, as of 2017. But a sizable part of the country speaks both the native tongue, Indonesian, and English. Some games, especially those on mobile phones, are ultimately translated into Indonesian, but otherwise, it's considered to be a country where releasing the English version is enough.

(When I was in Iceland years back, residents told me they largely pirated their media, including games, because little was natively released in Iceland. It helped them speak fluent English. Iceland is a lot smaller than Indonesia, but still.)

Dragonregure wanted to play Stardew Valley because he spent his youth playing the Harvest Moon games, several of which actually were translated into Indonesian. Because this is his first modding project, it's a little overwhelming. He actually took the project over from someone who gave up. Translation isn't easy.

Even still, he took the time to answer my questions. English isn't his first language, so keep that in mind as you read his answers, which I've tweaked for clarity.

Waypoint: Are you located in Indonesia? What it's like to live there?

Dragonregure: Yep, staying in West Java right now. With [the] high living cost, life isn't easy sometimes, but I'm in Bandung [the region's capital] right now, since Bandung is a "border" between city and nature. I hope I can buy a little farm someday. That's my dream [from] when I was a kid after playing Harvest Moon: Back to Nature. Thanks to Eric [Barone, designer of Stardew Valley], I want to try to fulfill it again.

How'd you learn English?

Dragonregure: Games like Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town made my learning progress really fast. I played that game when I was 10 years old.

English is my second language. My English isn't perfect yet. I have problems with sentence rules, such [as] past, present, future—haha. Sometimes I don't really care, because for me, the key for learning english is vocabulary.

Does most media—games or otherwise—get translated to Indonesian? Or does it just happen later?

Dragonregure: I don't know why most software developer make a game without Indonesian language. [Because of that] you have to wait if someone want to make a patch or mod to translate it. Maybe it because Indonesia's lack of modders with patience, since translating a game takes a lots of time and efforts.

What attracted you to building upon this existing mod to translate Stardew Valley into Indonesian? How did you find the original mod?

Dragonregure: Well, everyone knows Harvest Moon: Back to Nature. Thanks to Palapa for translating [it], so I could enjoy it when I was a kid! I want to make kids these days can enjoy amazing game such Stardew Valley just like me and especially for my little brother. I found the original [Indonesian translation mod] about one month after Stardew Valley released. [A] modder named bangafat started this project. At first I wasn't interested to take part, but when bangafat stop working, I took the lead of this project.

What goes into a translation mod? Can you describe your translation process?

Dragonregure: Everything: objects, dialogues, places, equipment, etc. BACKUPS! Keep doing backups! Bangafat stop the project because he lost the data.

"I hope I can buy a little farm someday. That's my dream [from] when I was a kid after playing Harvest Moon: Back to Nature."

There's a lot of debate over how to handle translating a game. Some people prefer a straight translation, others prefer taking context into account. What's your approach?

Dragonregure: I prefer straight, so it won't change the original meaning of [the] translation file.

What's the response been from Indonesian gamers? It seems like they must appreciate someone paying attention to them.

Dragonregure: They love it! My lil bro loves it! They keep supporting me. That's why I can keep working on this mod. For me, if they love it, then I'll be happy.

It seems like one of the problems with a localization mod is that, eventually, an official translation might come along. Does that worry you?

Dragonregure: Nah. I will be happy if Eric officially translates to Indonesian, so finally [there's] a game with official Indonesian language! Besides, I didn't monetize this mod, so no problem.

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