Back in November last year, Grinding Gear Games shared with us their plans for the future of their hit free-to-play isometric ARPG, Path of Exile. Among these plans were the recently released Ascendancy update, as well as negotiations with Chinese developers to localize the game in China. Last week, Grinding Gear Games announced that they will be releasing Path of Exile in Mainland China with the aid of one of the world’s most powerful gaming and tech companies, Tencent.
Path of Exile’s Chinese version will feature text in Simplified Chinese, as well as unique servers hosted in China itself. Existing Chinese players will be given the choice of either switching to the new Chinese servers or staying with Grinding Gear Games’ own servers once the full Tencent version releases.
Tencent recently acquired one of the gaming world’s most titanic gaming companies, Riot Games. It’s no surprise, then, that Grinding Gear Games is happy to partner with such a powerful influence in a region that is already known among gamers as one of PC gaming’s primary strongholds.
Lead Designer Chris Wilson made the following statement last week regarding the potential of Path of Exile’s China release:
China is the largest gaming market in the world and we’ve been waiting for the right time to expand into China. Tencent is incredibly powerful and has assigned a great team to work with us on the Chinese version. It is our expectation that the upcoming massive increase to the Path of Exile playerbase will help us ramp up both the quality and quantity of content we release for everyone.
Among other things, Wilson feels “confident that we [GGG] will be able to win the upcoming war against bots and gold farmers in China” with the help of Tencent. Likely a playful jab at the economies of other MMOs, since Path of Exile attempts to sidestep the issue of gold farming with its item-based currency system.
We can expect to see Path of Exile’s playerbase – which already averages around 17,000 players online at once – to swell once the Tencent version hits Chinese shores.
The road to Chinese localization was likely no easy task. During our November interview, the mention of Chinese Path of Exile segued us into a conversation about why foreign developers tend to not localize their games for Chinese players. According to Mr. Wilson, Chinese localization is nothing short of a massive headache.
For starters, Mr. Wilson told us that developers must abide by a staggering list of “don’t”s when pruning their games’ contents for Chinese audiences. Gamers might recall how the Chinese versions of World of Warcraft flesh out the visual models for Forsaken players – as well as those for various undead enemies – which typically show bits of bone and raw muscle. As it turns out, these measures were taken by Chinese WoW’s publisher, The9, before the game was submitted for review to avoid any potential hitches in the approval process. The fact stands, however, that censorship laws in Chinese games can still be considered strict by non-Chinese standards, and that they are often nebulous to foreign developers.
In Path of Exile’s case, the Ranger character proved to be quite sticky for Chinese censorship rules. The Ranger identifies as lesbian, according to the game’s lore. Wilson told us that this character quality doesn’t go over well with Chinese censors for “moral” reasons, and that the team was attempting to reconcile the Ranger’s sexual identification with Chinese legal commandments at the time.
There’s no consolidated list of just what isn’t allowed by Chinese censors, but overseas audiences do get occasional glimpses of this apparently monolithic Leviticus list. Such examples include a Shanghai government statement released in 2014 about which themes are banned in console games (with foreign gaming consoles themselves having been banned from 2000 to 2015), and a news report by the Chinese media last month on what themes are prohibited in Chinese TV programming.
Keep in mind that censorship laws do not represent the views and beliefs of an entire country. In fact, the above TV article notes that homosexuality tends to be received more openly in Chinese media than in neighboring Asian countries. That is, until Chinese censorhip bodies become involved. Perhaps the Ranger went through a similar ordeal?
It’s unknown the extent to which Tencent helped Grinding Gear Games navigate the seas of Chinese censorship rules, but it’s likely that the Chinese supergiant played a role in smoothing the approval process for Path of Exile.
Tencent’s Chinese version of Path of Exile is slated to enter Alpha testing in May. You can visit the official Chinese site here.