About the game
The Tales of Bayun is the debut game from young indie studio Flyin Dogs. It’s a narrative-driven adventure in a Slavic and Eastern European dark fantasy setting. Storona (“land”) is a flat world that stands on the backs of three demonic bears, inspired by fairy tales and legends, Russian fantasy, books by Afanasyev and Bazhov, and the work of various Russian artists. This world is the home of devils, the Malachite Maid, Poloz, Stoyan, Raven, Leshen, and the man-eating cat Bayun. The gameplay is centered around dialogue choices and taking actions that affect the story. It’s very similar to a visual novel, but there are some differences: the game features point-and-click and RPG elements (such as character stats and an inventory).
The game consists of two tales of Bayun the Cat, united by a common world but differing in characters, plot and game mechanics. You can achieve your goals by being daring or cunning, choosing the kindest option or the cruelest, following Bayun’s advice or heeding only your own intuition. As a result, the game offers a lot of replay value, with ten main endings and several hidden ones.
Everyone working on the game is a native Russian speaker, and since the game was based on Slavic folklore, all the texts were originally written in Russian.
“The creators of the game are close to its themes, it’s our cultural code.Our team is international but Russian-speaking,”says Ilya Maksimenko, creative director of the game.
We at Levsha helped with the adaptation of The Tales of Bayun for a western audience.
Our Localization Work
We were initially approached to simply perform proofreading: eight chapters had already been translated by another provider, and proofreading by a native speaker was required. We proofread the text, but found the overall quality of the original translation was lacking: we observed some questionable translation choices and examples of unnatural wording. Eventually, we found some factual errors, straight-up inaccurate translations, and some plainly bad word choices. Therefore, we decided to perform a deeper proofreading of the existing translation. We did it free of charge, because we really wanted the game to be the best it could be.
All the remaining texts were translated by us, from start to finish.
Our dedicated team consisted of just three people: project manager Nadezhda Tarek, translator Polina Inozemtseva and native editor Jake Hansen. Together, they translated and localized around 50,000 words. The localization process consisted of both typical tasks, like translating UI elements, and more challenging ones, such as the adaptation of cultural norms, idioms and meaningful names. At times, it required a lot of work.
Fortunately, we had enough time for localization, so we could work with care. When the player has so many options, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of text, miss important context and translate something in such a way that the player will get hopelessly confused.
Many thanks to Flyin Dogs, who were prepared to discuss both the fundamental aspects, and the little details.
Long before the release of the game, a free demo version (fully localized) was released on Steam. A streamer from Romania complained that many words were obscure, and that she stumbled over multiple Slavicisms. The developers asked us to find a balance between retaining the Slavic flavor and making the text readable for western players.
Together with the client, we separated all the terms into those that were to be translated into English, and those that had to be transliterated. The formula was set by the client: 70% neutral words, 30% Slavic words.
For example, we’ve transliterated almost all the names. That’s how Radmila, Miryana, Zhdan, Dobromil, Boleslav, Lutobor, Marya, Gorazd, Mlad, Goluba, Stoyan, and Lyubava appeared in the game. While these names carry a clear meaning for a native Russian speaker, they don’t affect the gameplay, yet help to create a Slavic vibe.
In contrast, nicknames had to be adapted, so Mokrous (literally “wet whisker”) became Slimewhisker. Some names required a more creative approach: Gorynych (a hard-to-pronounce name, which could also be confused with Gorinya) became Zmey.
We approached the names of locations in a similar manner: Storona and Kamnegrad remained transliterated, while Smuroles (literally “gloomy/sad forest”) was adapted to Gloomcopse.
Common nouns were a little more difficult. We had to discuss each word with the localization team and the client in terms of how clear it was to non-Russian speakers. As a result, ‘boyar’, ‘bogatyr’, and ‘kvass’ made it into the game, but ‘veche’ became ‘council’, and ‘basurman’ became ‘hordeling’.
Fortunately, some mythological entities have already entered the general cultural milieu. For example, we could safely rename the vodyanoy (a Slavic water spirit) to merfolk, which is recognizable through fantasy works and D&D.
Dialogues are the main game mechanic in The Tales of Bayun. We definitely couldn’t allow any mistakes in their translation: you never know where this may lead the player. It’s important to remember that it’s the dialogue that establishes the bulk of the atmosphere. In this game, conversations are stylized after fairy tales and epics, so our linguists had to get creative. There are archaisms, peculiarly structured sentences, inversion, unique speech patterns of characters, the cat’s dubious jokes, and even some poetry (a rhyming spell).
We typically trust a native speaker of the source language to perform the translation, then task a native speaker of the target language with the editing and proofreading steps. This guarantees that, not only will no subtleties or puns get lost in the translation, but the translation will also feel natural. This system is efficient and less time-consuming than if we did it the other way around.
In this case, we had only one target language, and we completely trusted Polina (who found a lot of errors in the previous translations, not done by us) and Jake. We think the final result is pretty great!
Translation? Localization? Creative adaptation?
Why choose one? We had a lot of fun working on this project. We’ve honed our skills, from teamwork to adapting meaningful names, and had ample opportunities to get creative. We really enjoyed it, and we’d love to work on more Flyin Dogs projects.