Many years ago when the European version of the MMORPG Mabinogi was still active, I was approached by a moderator of the official Mabinogi EU forum. Apparently Nexon was looking for people to translate an upcoming patch for MapleStory, another MMORPG of theirs, from English to their native language. This was on a Wednesday, one week before the patch was to be released, though they didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry. My first question was regarding payment, and after the moderator had consulted his contact at Nexon I was told some numbers. The translation of the entire update into one language would’ve been worth about 750€ ($900), and since I didn’t have anything better to do that week I agreed.
It took them two days to find more people, but on Friday me and a hand full of others eventually received huge Excel tables to translate, with a note that they were to be sent back on Monday, 3 days later. The first problem we encountered was a total lack of information. I was only in direct contact with one other translator, who I knew coincidentally, but apparently nobody on the “team” was actively playing MapleStory, and even if we had been, this was a whole new quest line with new items, locations, NPCs, etc.
We had no idea how to translate certain words and it was difficult to understand some dialogues without knowing the story. We also had no way to discuss how to translate things so they’d be consistent throughout the whole patch, which resulted in certain things being called X in one quest and Y in the next, because multiple people were working on one language. There wasn’t even an explanation on how the markup worked, like when an item is displayed within a dialog, or when the text is colored. There were codes for this in the text that we were to translate. The only reason me and the other translator knew what we were doing here was that I knew all the codes because I had worked on MapleStory private servers before! To top it all off it was the weekend, so the person in charge wasn’t available for questions. Our only contact was the Mabinogi forum moderator who had recruited us, who didn’t have any information or contact to the other translators.
At the end of the weekend I had translated about 120€ worth of lines, a little more than I had to, the other translator about 60€. Each of us had specific ranges that we were to translate (e.g. rows 1000~2000), but we were told we didn’t have to get it done and we could also do more if we wanted to, presumably for consistency. Monday came and they wanted the translations to proof read and fix them up before the patch on Wednesday, and presumably also to fill in holes if somebody hadn’t translated their whole section, however that worked.
On Tuesday I received a checked version of my Excel file with notes about a few mistakes. I wasn’t supposed to fix them, I guess they just wanted to show me what I had done wrong. A few spelling mistakes, but nothing serious. Then it was Wednesday, the day of the update. Excited I downloaded the patch from the FTP server and turned on my data unpacker that I still had lying around from my pserver days. Since MapleStory stores a lot of information on the client side, including NPC information and (quest) dialogues, I could easily find and read my work. Surprisingly, what I found included all of my mistakes. Why they had someone proof read and correct everything when they didn’t plan to use that improved version is beyond me, but it was done. Happy about seeing all of my work having been used I closed everything and waited for the promised contact about the payment, being amused by the other translator who actually reluctantly went and played the game for the first time, just to see his translations =P
One week later I hadn’t heard anything yet, neither had the other translator or the moderator. Carefully we started to ask when we would get paid, the person in charge only responding “be patient” via Skype and inquires via eMail being ignored completely. Even calling wouldn’t get you anywhere, because nobody felt responsible for you.
We didn’t have any contract or anything (mistake on our part), so we couldn’t really do anything but wait and hope. About a year went by during which I wrote them every other day. The person in charge had stopped responding to my messages months ago, the other translator had long given up. I didn’t expect anything at this point either, but I still continued, just for the heck of it. 14 months after we had finished the translation I received an answer to one of my inquires.
Nexon: “Translation? What? Huh? Uhu… okay, I guess we can give you some NX.” (NX = Nexon’s cash point currency)
Me: “NX… I’m only playing Mabinogi, which is going offline very soon, I don’t have any use for NX, we were promised something else…”
Nexon: “Sorry about that, blah blah blah, the only thing I can offer you is that money in NX, but if you don’t want that…” (“that money” was the sum I had given them in every mail for one year, didn’t sound like they actually had any information about the translation work that had taken place.)
Me: “Okay then, give me the NX. Not like I have a choice…”
Together with the compensation for all the money I spent on Mabinogi EU, that we got when the game was closed, minus some NX that I spent on Vindictus over the years when I was really bored, a large part of that “money” is still there to this day.