Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
The new Europe

For somebody born in the west, Europe used to end at the iron curtain. Behind that lay a somewhat scary region with which one simply didn't have any contact, and knew very little about, except from history books. That also was true for "European servers", on which everybody spoke English. But playing World of Tanks on European servers today shows how much this has changed.

At the start of each battle there is a forced 30 second break to give people with slower connections or computers time to load the map and connect. And that is a good time to be polite, wish the other players "good luck and have fun" or just say "hello". Only on the European servers more often than not what you read is something like "siema", which is "hello" in Polish. Or the Hungarian, Slovakian, or other east European language version of this.

One problem with that is that not everybody understands English. So if somebody writes in chat a proposed strategy, not only does he have the problem that not everybody might agree; he also can't be sure everybody actually understood what the said. Thus strategy discussions are usually done by pinging on the mini-map, which is quite limited as form of communication.

So in the end this great multi-cultural experience divides itself into clans based on language. National border recreate themselves on the internet, because most people prefer to hang out with others who speak their language. Not so much xenophobia than xenophonia, but the end result is pretty much the same. The new Europe is closer together, but there is still a lot that separates us.
I disagree with your statment about Clans being split up tinter different 1st languages being a case of xenophobia. But rather, I believe its simply impractical for clans to have members that speak another language. the members that can't speak, for example English, will be unable to communicate with other members except for pinging on the map, which as you said, is quite limited.
I believe you are wrong although I don't know much about western European countries before the fall of the curtain. However, in my experience most of the "European servers" were divided into English, French and German ones. WoT isn't (I think it has a separate Russian server but no servers for other languages) so some people might try to make their team follow an apparently complicated strategy explained in German or another language - it's not just the new Europe that has to deal with language barriers.
Well, as a matter of fact, you'd probably be hard pressed to find any MMO servers in the early nineties :P.

Though lets not be pedantic about it. I think the point Tobold is trying to make that in Western Europe up until quite recently (WoW is, I suppose, a decent example, but any "recent" MMO) English servers meant everyone generally spoke english - German and French speakers had their own realms and thus they were predominantly one or the other - English servers became rather more multi-cultural over the time, but people tended to speak english. Though as we have seen, notably, Spanish players now get their own realms - and some realms began to be dominated by Italian speakers.

As internet availability and cost began to spread and become cheaper, lots of Eastern Europeans began to get involved. For the most part, actually, I've seen them use English which is cool. But it seems the more were pushed together, the more people seem to congregate into clans, groups, guilds, what have you of people who speak the same language.

Its interesting from a number of viewpoints but predominantly the more we seem to be put together with people, despite the fact, usually, we can communicate, we try to go out of our way to find people who can only do so in a certain way.

Generally, though, as far as it goes - F2P games do tend to have a higher majority of non fluent english speakers who are happy to not use english in general channels and such (through no fault of their own, and WoW et all have this problem to a small or large extent).

I think a portion of it is F2P games do tend to only have a few servers and thus cant really afford to diversify, aswell as East Europe and other Locales having a multitude of languages that would be difficult to cater for.

I do think its something that will lessen as English continues to dominate. Good examples are the Scandinavian Countries, sure, we all berate them - but english penetration is widespread, and despite the fact you get the occassional guy spamming swedish or what have you, and they too form into guilds or whatnot of same language speakers, they tend to get along with the majority of people and seem to go to great lengths, notably with the Benelux group, to speak english. God knows why, eh?

Hm, I note this has become a rather long rant that may not mean anything at all.. Oh well, such is the want of my addled brain.
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I agree with this clearly, especially in world of warcraft english servers i experienced realms full of, polish, danes my own language where we almost totally populated the Ravencrest realm, stormscale with alot of swedes norwegians and finnish people.

Before the Russian realm came to be the russians had populated 3-4 realms on the english servers with no contact to them just islolating themselves until Blizzard figured out theres a big majority of russian speakers in wow (ukraine, belarus and biggest Russia). Interesting increased knowledge of western europe cultures
Yugoslavia fall apart more then 20 years ago, but recently (last few years) i didnt find any game without "Balkan guild". Even when politicians tryed to heat up atmosphere, i allways find unchanged peace and harmony in those guilds.I think main reason is language and culture which is obviusly the similar/same, but also demographic of players who are very young, dont know english so well, and dont care about some silly war two decades ago.
Anyway, i went off topic - Europe is all about differnces united together, so i find different language in english servers a good sign.
To be fair, there are quite a few multiplayer games with European servers on which people will talk in German (which, while easy for me, is probably illegible for most of the rest of Europe) or French (which I should understand but really don't.) This is somewhat alleviated in some games (like WoW) through the use of language specific servers, a luxury hat not all countries get. Still, the problem is hardly limited to eastern languages.
This is an interesting post...

If you had to pick a "few" languages to get a strategy across for a Europe server. Which would you use?

The 3 I would pick would be

English, German and potentially Polish. ( I would go with any Slavic language especially Czech since I am more familiar with Czech).

This touches on Europe's language dynamics in the 21st century.

For example: Norway made English a required language in the 1970s as did many others. Changes like Norway's, English centric Techno-talk and English language popularity make English an obvious first language.

Also for most of the Eastern end of Europe you "can" switch to Russian. (most of you know about the forced Russian language lessons prior to 1989). But, most people in the former warsaw pact don't want to admit how much Russian they know.

Then we come to the littlest cultural time capsule called France... can't possibly use "Google" as a word now that it is not in the French dictionary you know... sigh it's like 1980s all over again en Francais...

Neat observational post Tobold
The game does have a few built in messages (Attack, Retreat and so on).
I imagine you could get quite creative combining these few basic verbs with pings on the map but I have yet to see it done well.

My current localisation gripe about the game is why do they split the US and EU forums and why do the US forums always come up first in searches?
My experience of European gaming has been quite different.

I've observed people from different countries around Europe forming guilds together, chatting on general chat and Vent together, both in English and their native languages.

I've never seen a guild application asking "Which country are you from?" but rather "Have you read the rules?" and "What build do you use?"

In cases where there is no common language, I see it as a good thing that non-verbal communication (pinging, emotes etc) can be used.
Oh how wonderful it would be if the world could adopt a language or two to use so that any human being could easily communicate to any other human being. Can you imagine how much easier it would be for humans in different cultures to accept each other since they can actually speak with the people directly?
Tobold - you play this game almost exclusively now, and write all the positive quasi-reviews in your posts, because the game is GOOD. And like it or not other people here in Poland also like it. And when they do they use Facebook and other fancy apps to SHARE their opinion and pull RL friends and cooworkers (like myself) to also play it. And guess who do they form platoons with then? Not the Greeks, not guys from Sweden and not guys from UK, but their very own friends who accidently share their language and country. Sixteen guys from my own office play WOT in a clan. It's fun to play with people who you don't know, but it's awesome to share battle and game experiences with people you actually know and can speak to.

So not get off. Yeah, people do group, but for crying out loud the very use of the word xenophobia and the lengthy allusion to the iron curtain, the way you group of of the 'easterns' in one basket, all of that is xenophobia on your freakin' side man. Not cool at all.

The fact, that Polish guys play with you is a good thing, grouping has nothing to do with history, communism or other junk - it's normal.

What is obviously wrong there is that my lazy bros who in most part know english (it's in basic education now, starting kindergarten) are to lazy to use it when they're in a group beacause it's dso much easier to type in Polish... And that, while not a symptom of xenophobia, is extremely rude and should be punished severely.
In case you are curious the US servers do have clans based on language and nationality. I estimate about 30 total clans hold land in the US sever clan wars map. Here are 3 that hold a number of provinces and I know are language based:



Vietnamese and English

I know is a Chinese clan that has had a lot of land but forget who. I think is a Korean also but that gets confusing because the Goons were calling themselves Western Korea for a while. I know the Chinese guild had problems with a young player insulting Koreans in a clan wars match once and then followed it up on the boards.
I guess my "Not xenophobia but xenophonia" remark was too high for many readers and got widely misunderstood.
Well this is definitely not a World of Tanks phenomenon. Anyone that played WoW on European servers before there were servers for every nation most likely had alot to say about the Greeks, Swedes and Russians rambling on in the Battlegrounds in their languages.

Hell imagine if WoW didn't have Spanish, French and German exclusive servers.

Age of Conan back in the day, actually "devolved" into a Russians vs. "The Rest" faction split....and if you saw a guild with "Red" in their title, you knew they were russian and you attacked questions asked....and then Funcom made Russian servers ;)

In most online games the Germans tend to get their own language server , but the second they don't, like with Need for Speed: World , trust me it's german chattery all over the place.

So yea, there's massive language barriers online, especially in European games. I am actually so used to seeing guild recruitment specifically state "Norwegian guild looking for members" or "Dutch guild looking for members" that i hardly stop and actually think about it a little.....
1) But we are close if not there yet that machine translation would help for battles (but not social).

Not practical but this could be advertising's "camel nose under the tent." I expect the anti-RMT will not be thrilled with advertising. But if there were an optional panel that had Google translate at top and GoogleAd at the bottom ...

2) re "Not xenophobia but xenophonia" - I have been know to retreat to my biblical "pearls before swine" quote.

3) I saw Peter Ustinov's show in SF:
Two peasants from Bosnia-Herzegovina, before it became unfortuantely known for more than being isolated, who spoke their local dialect saw a professor's car break down. The professor hailed people in English, German, French, Russian, Greek and Latin. One peasant said "you know, we probably should learn another language." The other responded "Why? It did not seem to help him."

One of Final fantasy's few 'cool' features was that it auto-translated Japanese and English for the end users so that they could play together. I'd like to see more MMO's do that but of course its a lot of work.
It's a shame that more games don't have an auto-translate feature like those that were in games like Phantasy Star Online and Final Fantasy XI. They weren't perfect but being able to converse with people from an entirely different culture speaking different languages was a gaming experience that I think made both of those games better for it.
I think in-game translation would be a wonderful thing if it were clearly signified that the incoming text was, in fact, a translation.

I've been playing APB: Reloaded a lot lately, and I've noticed that a great many players who are on at my peak time are Russian-speakers. (Though not always Russian - Ukrainian and so forth.) The same is true of Wurm Online.

There have been some really top folks playing this way, but every time I see the cyrillic, I have no idea what they're saying. And as much as I love that English is the new 'lingua Franca', it does seem unfair not to at least make an effort to reach out...

Fortunately, there is google translate. It's not perfect, but it’s fast, free, clean, and absolutely helps bridge the gap when I have NO knowledge of Russian, and the Russian players' grasp on English might not be good enough to communicate complex concepts.

You can copy-paste all chat in Wurm, which is great. APB, however, only allows you to paste. So if someone says something you don't understand, you can't translate it - you have to ask them to use the translator and paste it for you, and vice-versa. Fortunately, alt-tabbing is fast enough in APB if you’re stationary, to not be a huge problem. But it’s no good in combat.

I don’t know how complex/laggy/expensive it would be to interface with google translator directly through the client, or how expensive it is to purchase/integrate your own translation engine, but I’d love to see the facility to try and communicate to these guys in their own language. I’m all in favour of the global village and helping people feel more at home in their own homes. I know I’ve seen a lot of public chat with intolerant/impatient dismissal of folks speaking other languages, and it’s disappointing. I can’t help but think we’d all get along better if we had a chance to actually say a few words each understands.
N1ck says: "Can you imagine how much easier it would be for humans in different cultures to accept each other since they can actually speak with the people directly?"

It might have the opposite effect IMO. How many wars are between peoples who cannot understand each other well? Of course there are some, but in most cases wars are between peoples who are similar enough to want the same things.
@Gerry Quinn: "It might have the opposite effect IMO. How many wars are between peoples who cannot understand each other well? Of course there are some, but in most cases wars are between peoples who are similar enough to want the same things."

Yes, I know Americans are renowned for having an intimate understanding of the language, culture, and basic geography of the myriad nations they've invaded in the name of peace-keeping/pro-active defence, every decade or two.

I'm sure all the Crusaders spoke great Arabic, too. The 'Great War' and its sequel don't really count because there were so many European nations, right, and they all learn multiple languages, right? So surely some of them would've understood each other...


Wars typically involve disparate parties. Otherwise we're inclined to call them Civil Wars. Even if the folks involved might argue that point. But from a very general viewpoint as far as the conflicts in the middle east, south-east asia, africa and the balkans go, whilst they might seem more numerous by virtue of number of conflicts, this really is more of a case of thousand-year brawls with brief breathers to regain energy, rather than individual wars as such. How many do you think the parties involved are prepared to accept have definitively 'ended'? Especially if they're on the losing side?
@Tobold, the iron curtain fell at the end of 1980s, so chances are that what you describe is caused by the fact that early adopters of the Internet were more willing to learn English.

@Cam, civil wars are not civilized so I don't see any reason why would they not be counted as true wars.
Every game that does not offer a server with a community in the the local language leaves money on the table. There are people unable or not willing to play in a foreign language, and there will always be.

And that's not really a bad thing. There's nothing wrong with preferring your native language over English.
It can work the other way round too, though. Im German, but I steadfastly refuse to play MMOs on German servers. That's for two reasons. (1) I see enough Germans every day. One thing that intrigues me is being able to play with people from at least slightly different cultures that don't live next door to me. (2) A foreign language, even if you are proficient enough to use it without thinking about it too much, still has a certain filter effect: the plain cheesiness of some names just doesn't sink in as much. Picking up "Das Schword of Extremely Uber-Long-Cheesy-Name" actually breaks my immersion more than the same name in English.
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