The Witcher – Script Mangle

(Thanks, Gametrailers. Thametrailers)

Someone called Martin Pagan posts on Gamefaqs, explaining that the script for The Witcher was given a decent translation, and then “butchered” to result in the garbled mess that now exists in the game (see the clip above – my favourite moment – and I stress, this is one continuous scene, no editing).

We can’t be certain Pagan is for real, but if it’s true, it certainly explains some things. Is this Atari trying to cut corners and save money on the voice recording?

Another poster says, explaning that this is his own translation from Polish to English:

The chatt with the Dwarf blacksmith, for example, in English version looks like this:

Geralt: Why do locals persecute nonhumans?

Dwarf: Humans have always hated dwarfs and elves.

While in Polish(it’s mine translation, so be charitable:P):

Geralt: Why do humans persecute nonhumans?

Dwarf: And why do prick goes into **** That is the Natural Order of the Universe. Humans have always clashed with dwarfs and elves and it’s not up to me to decide, whose fault is it.

Does anyone else have any examples?

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  1. drunkymonkey says:

    Oh dear. And here was me thinking The Witcher, coming from a series of well-established books, would have good dialogue…

    At times I wish I was Polish.

  2. Thiefsie says:

    haha so unintentionally hilarious (and a bit sad really)

  3. Kieron Gillen says:

    The difference in translation is… well, a little sad.


  4. Jeremy says:

    You’d think they could find somebody around who could do the translation better and keep all the feeling in it. It’s not like the voice actors get paid by the word, do they?

  5. Pod says:

    They should have left the rude bits in.

  6. Robert Seddon says:

    If it was done to save money—how much would actually be saved? You’ve still got to get actors in, so it becomes a question of how much studio time would be cut; on top of that there’s the added time required to take a translation and cut it down dramatically during editing.

  7. Eschatos says:

    I’ll probably buy it anyway, everything else looks fantastic, except load times.

  8. The_B says:

    Kudos for the LAY reference John. Kudalker.

    (I know, I failed. )

  9. Turin Turambar says:

    At least it’s the type of thing can be fixed in a unofficial patch by dedicated fans.

    Vampire: Bloodlines anyone?

  10. Nick says:

    This calls for a Polish version with real english subtitles mod.

    Kind of like how fox butchered the script for Day Watch, although at least it made (some) sense even if it was only about half correct.

  11. Row yer boat says:

    What’s difficult to understand about that video? It’s not that bloody subtle. Let’s go through the conversation together:
    -What do you want?
    -A beer.
    -Your kind’s not welcome here. (Trying to get rid of Geralt)
    -I wanted a beer. (Geralt doesn’t let himself be bullied)
    -We have no more. (Trying a different tactic)
    -… (Geralt knows the innkeeper is lying and just looks at him)
    -Very well, let’s see what I have. (The innkeeper realizes Geralt is going nowhere, and the fastest way of getting rid of him is to give him what he wants)
    -Good man.
    -Drink up, we’re closing. (Another lie to get rid of Geralt)
    -Innkeeper, do that again and I’ll get angry. Wouldn’t want that, would you? (Threatening the innkeeper to make him stop trying to get rid of Geralt)
    -N…no. (Of course not)
    -Very well, I’ll just tend to my business. (At last Geralt and the innkeeper have reached the understanding that Geralt is allowed at the inn like any other guest – or else.)

  12. just_finished_okami says:

    @ row yer boat: yea, but the whole scene still looks and sounds atrocious. I love the Witcher, but the texts and voice acting are just bad. Really really bad. Bader than Michael Jackson in the 80s.. And not in the so bad it’s good way, but in the so bad my lower intestines want to jump out my throat to strangle me, so I don’t have to listen to it.

    Ok, stole that last one from Douglas Adams…

    The whole point about the storytelling in Witcher is, that it could be really really good, sometimes the lines aren’t that bad, but the emotionless voice actors really keep it from beeing anything but cheesy.

  13. schizoslayer says:

    It’s not exactly suprising that the voice acting is that bad when you consider that the actors probably:

    a, Got no direction of any use whatsoever as they probably sent a producer to oversee the recording sessions.
    2, Recorded the lines out of order and in isolation from all the otehr voice actors.
    iii, Hadn’t got a clue what it was they were actually reading in the first place and were just there for the cheque.

    Voice acting in games has often ruined the writing because it gets handled so badly by people who have no idea how to work with actors.

    In this case bad voice acting has joined forces with bad writing for a double whammy.

  14. Thiefsie says:

    Bader than Michael Jackson in the 80s..

    Jackson was bad in the 80’s?

    As bad as Jackson in the naughties?

  15. Craig says:

    The voice acting is not really that bad but the way its presented could use some work I agree. Otherwise its a fantastic game so far and I hope they will get some more patches rolling and make this RPG of the year!

  16. Spacegirl says:

    O Man that is one killer script! The lightning fast quips and brilliant, unforced characterization create an Air-tight scene dripping with so much tension you’d have to get a whole Cutco Set to slice through it!

    Did Joss Whedon write this or something? It’s really first rate if he did, better then his work on Firefly OR Astonishing X-Men…

  17. Bobsy says:

    I don’t think the problem with that scene is the dodgy script or the voice acting. It’s abundantly clear that when the actors went into the booth to do their lines they did so without a director on hand.

    You can’t do that. You CANNOT have actors acting without a director directing. Even the smartest, most talented actor won’t know how a scene’s supposed to go, and since VA’s usually record their lines individually, the Albino dude and the bartender actors wouldn’t be able to riff off each other.

    Of course, it doesn’t help that the in-game characters barely animate at all so that they seem entirely indifferent about what’s going on.

  18. Iain says:

    I’m playing Witcher now and I think it’s a tad unfair to call the script “garbled mess”. Sure, it’s not perfect, but you’re always going to get that with a script that’s been translated. I do recall that scene well, and thought it was a little odd, but I still understood what was going on. It’s definitely one of my favourite games this year, mainly because it’s an RPG that doesn’t suffer from Forgotten Realms fatigue – I can put up with the slightly clunky script because the setting is fresh.

    If you want to see a badly translated script, try Metalheart: Replicants Rampage. I’m sure that was translated by someone who didn’t speak English or the original language…

  19. Alec Meer says:

    I actually felt most of the voice actors were generally of a much higher calibre than those in, say, Oblivion (I’m worried I won’t be able to play Fallout 3 if the dude who voiced Brother Jauffre – amongst a thousand other NPCs – is in it). But yeah, they had to struggle with either lost-in-translation drivel or, as in this video, that sense of undirected disconnect, and it robs most any line of intended gravitas, comedy or whatever.

  20. JJ says:

    Yes, compared to the mess that was Oblivion’s voice acting, The Witcher holds up OK. Most of the time, anyway
    What I really dislike is the facial animations in The Witcher. Why cant they all be like Valve’s. That’s 3 year old tech now, right?

  21. schizoslayer says:

    It may start out life autogenerated to get the mouth shapes and maybe some basic facial expressions but the whole thing that you see in the end game? That’s going to be relying heavily upon the actual character animation playing at the time. You put the faces on idle bodies then you won’t get anything near as good.

    Anybody remember the guy who did the end scene of A Few Good Men in the source engine? Remember how it took him weeks to get about 3-4 minutes of dialogue looking anywhere near good?

    You just can’t autogenerate facial animation that good quickly. Somebody has to mark it up at some point and that takes time.

  22. Bobsy says:


    [Yes / No]

  23. Evan says:

    The article summary is unfair. The dialogue throughout the game is as good as any other RPG… anything can be taken out of context.

    Honestly, The Witcher is the best RPG I have played in years, despite the technical flaws and the fact that the dialogue is awkward at times. It is the first RPG since KOTOR that has really made me feel like I am a part of the game world. The town really feels alive, and each of the characters seems real.

    Also, the story is amazing. Even if some of the dialogue is weak, it has the best story in any RPG ever. Seriously, play it.

  24. Andrew B says:

    I think there seems to be some confusion between the casting for the voices and the voice acting itself. The casting seems wonderful; the voices sound like they really belong to the characters we’re looking at. But the acting is atrocious; I’m nthing the supposition that the lines were recorded with no direction or context given.

  25. Charles says:

    I think there seems to be some confusion between the casting for the voices and the voice acting itself. The casting seems wonderful; the voices sound like they really belong to the characters we’re looking at. But the acting is atrocious; I’m nthing the supposition that the lines were recorded with no direction or context given.

    Welcome to the games industry. Almost all voice recording happens offsite with no one around to make sure it’s even remotely quality.

  26. alex says:

    this is exactly like FREELANCER

  27. Krupo says:

    Being blessed with the ability to speak Polish fluently (yay Canadian multiculturalism!) I’m sorely tempted to get the original version of the game now. Awesome.

    So John, where did *you* learn your Polish from? I’m curious.

  28. Maz says:

    Heh im polish, got pl and eng version so far PL is as it should eng seems censored. I wonder if they will censor so much Sapkowski’s books as well, i loved them when i read them like 8 years ago ^^

  29. ben says:

    yah im polish and there is a pretty big difference between polish and english