Levsha Blog

Localization of Cobalt Core

One fine day, we were asked to localize a cute card-based roguelike about space critters. What could’ve gone wrong?

Well, nothing :) Everything went really smoothly!

In September 2023, a new project by Brace Yourself Games, Cobalt Core, set off on its journey through time and space. The studio was already known among fans of retro-style pixelated graphics thanks to its earlier project, Crypt of the NecroDancer.

Cobalt Core is a beautiful mix of lively sci-fi aesthetic, charismatic characters that offer unique role-playing opportunities, clever jokes, and memorable catchphrases. But the best part was the developers’ open-mindedness and trust in us, which helped make the game into a truly vibrant and engrossing space journey!
Cobalt Core image
What’s up in space?

Cobalt Core is a sci-fi roguelike card game with a nuanced combat system. You dodge missiles and lasers as you take part in a story about friends who travel the cosmos. Your heroes can fight their enemies with standard moves, such as dodges and attacks, and also unique artifacts and effects. All of this is accompanied by the music of Aaron Cherof, the composer behind the Minecraft soundtrack!

A single run requires beating three maps. At the end of a run, you can unlock parts of the memories of one of your crew members, presented through numerous conversations and small cutscenes.
Our main focus in localizing Cobalt Core was conveying the quaint and light-hearted feel of exploring the universe with your friends. The crew’s various in-jokes and asides to the player are a big part of the story and help to truly immerse you into the adventure.
Assembling the localization crew

Working on a fun project filled with situational jokes can either turn out to be a cool adventure, or go down in flames through misunderstanding between the developers and the localization team. Jokes are a delicate subject, and not something that can always be conveyed through direct translation. So, we needed to not only find a good translator and reviewer, but also make sure they were all on the same wavelength.
With that in mind, a team ready to tackle a 90s-cartoon-inspired space journey was assembled: Yulia Ignatova (translator), Anna Grigoryeva (reviewer), and Ekaterina Yamenskova (project manager).

The game’s developers made sure to provide us with all the reference materials needed for efficient and fruitful work. They even made a small test engine where we could see how translated cards would look in the game! All of this was a big help in our work, because one of the toughest challenges when translating card games is the simple lack of space for the descriptions of various mechanics. The main challenge is that Russian text usually ends up using about 30% more characters than English. By being able to see how these cards look with our text, we could make sure that every relevant detail was conveyed properly and was in the right place.
We received the source files in a convenient format exported from another Computer-Assisted Translation tool, which made it easy for us to keep the original structures and tags intact. It’s always nice to see developers caring about the comfort of everyone involved in the process, from the authors of the original concept to the players.
Having acquainted ourselves with the characters, we started working on the most involved part: conveying their personalities through humor. The hardest part was having to repeatedly ask ourselves: “Is this actually funny?” But, inspired by the charming setting and neon pastel graphics, we managed to find common ground and create something that we can now look back on fondly: a fun and cozy localization of a card-based roguelike about adorable animals in space. The project ended up so near and dear to our hearts that Yulia even made some fan art depicting the characters from the game :)

Here’s what the team members had to say about their experience working on this project:
Anna, reviewer: “I can honestly say that Cobalt Core is one of my favorite localization projects ever, that’s how special it ended up being for me. Sci-fi music, an engaging storyline, humor, exceptional dialogue with superb use of language... I hope we’ve managed to convey all of that in our translation.

Since this is a card game, the hardest part was to make sure all of the information fit, while not ruining the player’s eyesight. Thankfully, the developers were very communicative: they answered all of our questions and provided tools to check how the text would look, so this involved process was fairly pain-free in the end.”
Yulia, translator: “I enjoyed working on Cobalt Core, and I really liked the characters (I have a soft spot for colorful anthropomorphic animals). The synergy between them is very good, especially for a relatively small-scale game. I found a lot of fun references, too. Some that stuck with me are the names of the drones (named after the koopalings from Mario), and Darcula’s speeches. The challenging part was adapting card descriptions so they fit and remained readable. But overall, it was fun to come up with adapted names, and in general getting to feel at home in this little world. I don’t usually go for games like this, but I really enjoyed this one. I’d say this is my favorite project I’ve worked on so far. The work went fairly smoothly (huge thanks to the devs, who promptly answered all of my questions) and I’m proud to see my name in the credits for such a lovely game. (It’s been getting some nice reviews and accolades, too!) For a relatively young translator like me, it was a stroke of luck, for sure.”
Not all diamonds have to be made under pressure

This project was a great example of how productive cooperation and communication between the client and the localization team, open-mindedness, teamwork, and reasonable deadlines help create quality localization that both the linguists and the players can enjoy.

We’ve worked on an amazing project that we can now get absorbed into as well, after hours :)