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4 Sep 2013

What Machine Zone’s In-Game Universal Translator Could Mean For the Future of In-Game Communication

Machine Zone is a mobile game developer responsible for Game of War: Fire Age. It’s an RTS (real-time strategy) MMO (massive multiplayer online) game that allows players to build their own empire from the ground up, all the while defending and battling other player-controlled empires. Empires have heroes as well, to which players are given the chance to create weapons for their heroes, which will hopefully give them an “edge” in combat. Players can also build alliances with other players as well, strategize their attacks, and help one another receive unique gifts as players strive to be dominant. It certainly has an Age of Empires vibe to it, and while being able to play this type of game globally on a mobile device is impressive, what is most impressive of all is how Machine Zone allows players to communicate with one another all over the world despite the language they speak.

In an interview with Polygon, Machine Zone explained exactly how players are able to communicate with one another despite their language barriers, and it’s pretty revolutionary. First, when text is submitted in-game, it is sent through a system that translates the message from its native language into normalized speech. From there, the normalized speech is translated into the destination language, allowing the receiver to understand exactly what the sender originally intended.

And what’s most interesting of all? There is absolutely no lag in this process:

“[It happens] like ASAP,” said Gabe Leydon, Machine Zone’s co-founder and CEO, “[when you send a message] you might know what that means, but not [to] someone who speaks Arabic. We transform that to ‘as soon as possible,’ in microseconds.”

Translating into 33 languages and ‘claiming’ to translate roughly 1,000 messages within a second, Machine Zone may be paving the way for how we communicate in not only mobile gaming, but gaming in general.

“We built it to solve the single world problem [of Game of War] and it just ended up being something that could potentially solve chat,” said Leydon.  “When we showed it to social companies in San Francisco, they [said], ‘Stop making games.'”

Indie developers, imagine the possibilities of using a language and translation system similar to Machine Zone’s system: no longer would games have to be split up from server to server due to language constraints. Instead, a game could take place in one, universal world in which everyone understood each other. Any message you send to anyone could then be translated in less than one second, providing players with real-time chat regardless if one person only speaks English, another only speaks Japanese, and so on, vice-versa; any way you want to turn it, people could chat with anyone without any delay whatsoever.

Machine Zone is sitting on a system that could turn into a gold mine for them and other indie developers that decide to incorporate this technology into future games. And why wouldn’t anyone want to take advantage of this technology, anyway? Whether players wish to play a mobile MMO or another online indie title on their computer, communication is key. By using a language and translation system such as the one created by Machine Zone in future games, indie developers are going to bring their players closer together, to which everyone can play with one another (or against one another, as the case may be) regardless of their country of origin. This is the very definition of global gaming, and it could very well revolutionize how gamers communicate with players across the world.

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