An interview with Zynga’s Galina Kramer and VMC’s Alvi Islamaj
We recently caught up with two localizations managers and picked their brains on how they overcome challenges in their work. We also asked them about what they’re looking for when scouting for localization talent.
Galina Kramer is the Senior QA Manager of Localization at Zynga games, which reaches nearly 300 million monthly. Zynga is perhaps best known for its FarmVille 2, Texas HoldEm Poker, CityVille 2, CastleVille and Empires & Allies games. Galina has 14 years of software testing experience and joined Zynga in 2010. She is originally from Russia.
Alvi Islamaj is a Localization Project Manager at VMC Game Labs, a leading partner for games quality assurance and support. Alvi has more than 16 years of experience in QA and is fluent in 7 languages (and currently learning Hindi). He is originally from Albania.
VMC: Zynga develops really popular social games for mobile devices—what are the challenges in maintaining quality and efficiency when it comes to games QA?
GALINA: We at Zynga have a very high quality bar for our games and we constantly work on elevating it. International team is under the same expectation – to make our games seem natural for every supported language/culture because we know that playing games in your native language [results in] a more meaningful experience.
VMC: Alvi, is the kind of work you do is complementary to the kind of work that Galina does at Zynga?
ALVI: Yes, we work with our clients to ensure that their titles meet rigid standards when it comes to localization through QA testing. As Galina mentioned, it’s very important for players from different geographical locations and cultures to have the same experience as the players in the game’s original language.
VMC: There’s a faster turnaround with social games, right? How fast?
GALINA: Zynga’s [daily] game [release] cadence is the fastest I have ever seen and fitting localization testing into this short timeframe can be a fun challenge. However, we have great internal and external partners who help us make it happen.
ALVI: The key — and I think my team is very good at this — is building flexibility into the process and the people, so that the team can ramp up and down with very short notice. Some companies may need to know about any increases at least 48 hours in advance. There have been instances when my team has ramped up in only a few hours.
GALINA: Scaling rapidly and scaling with quality must come together to achieve good results. We never stop when the process works — we constantly try to optimize it and push the limits. Well-built partnerships are essential in order to make this work.
VMC: You’re saying that people are very important in game localization. So, what advice do you have for people who want to get into games localization?
GALINA: My advice is, “Do it!” Game localization is a lot of fun, and you get to really affect millions of players that will play your game. It feels so good to prevent a disappointment, whether it’s a culturally offensive picture or a poor translation.
ALVI: Localizing well is so more than just supplying a good translation. Similarly, finding qualified people for this work is more than just finding really good translators. It’s important for people to be an expert within a niche. We don’t just look for people with video game experience, but those who have specific genre experience.
Believe it or not, a person who works on first-person shooter games most of the time cannot switch over easily to a children’s game! :)
VMC: Finally, what’s your secret to managing people in QA and localization?
ALVI: For me, it’s about having a dedicated team model and a strict project manager who is accountable to both the client and his or her team members. And — having lots of fun! We laugh a lot at Game Labs. When people are happy, they do better work.
GALINA: Get a good trusting team of people and motivate them. That is your key to success and really applies to any team, testing or not. I believe in knowing what is important to your people and letting them know that you care. That goes such a long way.
I believe that every team plays a vital role in making our games a success, no matter if it’s internal or external. It’s just as important to set external team’s expectations, tell them what’s working and what’s not working, and especially praise them for a job well done. (end)
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