Localization case study: Cooking Diary
How has the game been localized into 11 languages? Find out in this article!

We would like to share an article we worked on with INLINGO on the localization of our culinary bestseller Cooking Diary. Enjoy!

Cooking Diary, a game centered on the world’s culinary capital, first appeared in stores at the end of 2017. It has since been downloaded by more than 21 million people and has become one of the most successful games in the time management genre.

  • 54th Top Grossing Game iPhone USA
  • 61st Top Grossing Game iPhone Korea
  • 85th Top Grossing Game Google Play USA

For this case study, the INLINGO and MYTONA teams talked about how this popular time management game was created, the challenges it provides for players, and how Cooking Diary was adapted into 11 languages. Let's dive in!

Genre and plot

Time management games are based on allocating resources in a specific order and in real time. The challenge is to use resources to fulfill a level’s requirements within the allotted time limit. This could be, for example, cooking 10 burgers and 15 pizzas within a three-minute window, and doing it fast enough to ensure that customers’ mood meters always stay positive.

Players start out by getting introduced to Tasty Hills, the culinary capital where the game’s protagonist (the player) has inherited a restaurant from their grandfather. The player is tasked with expanding their family’s restaurant business, cooking tasty dishes, serving customers efficiently, charming critics, and also opening and improving new establishments in order to make their mark on the history of Tasty Hills.

How INLINGO and MYTONA worked on localizing Cooking Diary

In 2018, MYTONA approached INLINGO with a request to translate their new project Cooking Diary into English. The project developed over the next two years, and the volume of translations grew from 10,000 words in the RU-EN language pair to over 500,000 words in each of 11 language pairs. The game has now been translated into English, Japanese, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Korean, Italian, French, German, and Spanish. And just recently we added European Portuguese and Indonesian to the game. 

Sergey Argunov, Cooking Diary producer:

"Decisions regarding languages and markets are made in conjunction with the project teams. We entrust localization to INLINGO, and the MYTONA translation department acts as an intermediary between them and our teams. 

A variety of Mytonians are responsible for the in-game texts: scriptwriters, community managers, and creative managers. The team puts a huge amount of work into creating texts. When the time comes for localization, the results of their work are handed over to the translation department, which produces a draft version. At this stage, potential pitfalls are already visible, so any necessary comments are added and changes are made. 

The finalized document is then sent to INLINGO, where the translators work closely with the authors of the text and go over all questions that arise. The results are then sent to the technical teams and integrated into the game."

Alexander Bukhonov, project lead at INLINGO:

"Good localization demands coordinated efforts from everyone involved, including the client’s team, and in that respect the guys at MYTONA are just brilliant. They have a genuine concern for quality. They always answer our questions promptly, they make it clear which characters are speaking, they send us screenshots, and they correct textual inconsistencies. Once they even sang for us—they had a song they needed translated for a video, and they wanted to make sure the translator got a feel for the melody and rhythm. Also, MYTONA always pays close attention to the corrections and suggestions our managers and translators propose. Our team then sees that their efforts are appreciated, and so they get even more involved in the project. It’s a win-win."

Putting together the team 

There are around 23 language professionals working on the translation across all 11 languages. The main team consists of 12 translators, and 11 others pitch in when needed. At INLINGO, the project was entrusted to project managers who had dozens of projects under their belts already. Julia Maydanyuk took charge of the European languages, while the Asian languages have been under the watchful eyes of Yulia Molostova and Renata Suleimanova—Yulia Molostova started out working on the project, and was then replaced by Renata. The role of managing editor is held by Evgeniya Nekrashevich, who has coordinated the corrections process at every stage of work on the project. 

Finding the right team is one of the most important steps in a project like this. You need people who understand the content of the game, who can maintain its feel and style in translation, and who are interested in working on the project long-term. For example, choosing and evaluating Indonesian translators and editors took two weeks. We tested five different people before deciding on the most suitable candidates and bringing them onboard with the project.

Alexander Bukhonov, project lead at INLINGO:

"Where communication is concerned, our goal is to make things easier for the MYTONA team. Most correspondence about the project happens by email. That’s where we exchange tasks and discuss crucial questions. We group these together to try to save our client time and energy. We discuss questions about the text in a special Google Doc. Our managers are able to answer many of them themselves, and the translators also help each other out—the MYTONA team only has to deal with the questions that we can’t answer ourselves. This helps us reduce our client’s workload."

Cooking Diary localization in figures:

11 languages500,000* words per language2 years of work23 translators3 managers330 tasks per month

* The only exceptions are European Portuguese and Indonesian: we have localized 150,000 words in each language so far.

To ensure that even the most urgent tasks are completed promptly, we made a point of finding a US native speaker who works in our time zone. That way we get an English text as quickly as possible, and can then immediately get to work on translating the other language pairs. 

It’s important for the person not only to be a native speaker and a professional translator, but also to have a good grasp of their country's cultural nuances and to understand the context of the task. Furthermore, they have to like the game they’re working on. 

The cultural adaptation process

From the very beginning, it was clear that this project required particular care and attention because of the large number of languages, regular updates of 5000 words, and numerous small urgent tasks—texts for stores and social networks, and associated marketing materials like push notifications and email newsletters. Additionally, the client decided to release the game on Asian markets, which meant that adapting text, marketing, and events for specific cultures was a must. So the INLINGO team had to find out which holidays and promotions would resonate with users in one market and be unfamiliar in others. 

Natalya Aprosimova, lead writer for Cooking Diary:

"A good localization is one where the texts have not just been accurately translated, but have also kept their structure and/or their jokes. This is particularly important for Cooking Diary, because it’s a game with a sense of humor. It’s important for us to put players in a great mood in any language. The most important criterion for us is good reviews from players, and we can say with confidence that, thanks to the skillful localization, people all over the world are laughing at the jokes in CD.

Original text in Russian:

Мифтел Глей, поплобуйфте мой %_ягодный_% фоуф... Ой-ой-ой! Я сделяль фоуф. Ягодный фоуф.

English localization:

Mishter Gwey, twy my %_bewwy_% shaush... Oh, aargh! I made a shaush. A bewwy shaush."

To make sure the whole team of translators keeps each character’s speech style consistent, we have a document like this for every language pair. It details mannerisms, verbal quirks, and all the nuances that are important to retain in localization so that the player gets to experience the game as if it were originally written in their own language.

 Teriyaki mussels VS hamochiri in plum sauce 

Renata Suleimanova, project manager at INLINGO:

"Our translators often end up becoming big fans of the game. Our Japanese translator, for example, loves Cooking Diary so much that he got his whole family into it. So they all play together, have a great time, and do a little free testing while they’re at it. If they notice any mistakes or bugs, they always let us know what we can improve in the text."

There’s a character in the game named Vivien, who is a blogger and actively helps the protagonist from the very first levels. Vivien has a blog on Instagram and Twitter in English and Japanese.

In one of her posts, where Vivien recounts her visit to the city of Osaka, our Japanese translator noticed a problem. What had happened was that the authors had mentioned a dish called “teriyaki mussels”, but in Japan they don’t eat seafood with teriyaki sauce. It would be like the equivalent of putting ketchup on watermelon. They think teriyaki sauce is too aggressive, that it would drown the delicate flavors of the seafood. Also, Osaka is not famous for its mussels. As an alternative, the translator sent a whole list of dishes that are popular in Osaka.

  • Takoyaki
  • Okonomiyaki
  • Kushikatsu
  • Oden

For a wealthier audience, he suggested using: 

  • Tecchiri
  • Hamo Suchi
  • Hamochiri
  • Yakiniku

In the end, we decided to go with hamochiri in plum sauce.

Japanese translator: "My opinion? I’d definitely recommend going with hamochiri. In our culture, hamo is a fish that’s always associated with the beginning of summer... What’s more, the fish is very bony and needs to be sliced in a very specific way."

The same translator also advised us to avoid using the phrase “culinary empire”, as the Japanese associate the word empire with a military empire, which has nothing to do with Cooking Diary.


The main summer festival 

We received a text with a news update about an event for the Japanese festival Tanabata that included the line:

It's time for the main summer festival Tanabata!

The translator noted that the main summer festival in Japan is Obon, the day when they honor the dead, so this grand claim was not quite correct.

Japanese translator: "Sorry, but the main summer festival is Obon."

We passed this correction on, and MYTONA changed Tanabata to Obon in the game event.

Julia Maydanyuk, project manager at INLINGO

"One thing we discussed with MYTONA was an event for International Men’s Day. When we received the task to translate, some European translators told us that it would be better not to promote the event, as there was too great a risk of offending feminist sensibilities and provoking an avoidable wave of negative feelings toward the game on social media. In the end, the decision was made to only translate the event into Asian languages."

The International Women's Day event, on the other hand, made the cut in every language.


Renata Suleimanova, project manager at INLINGO:

"On the subject of events, in 2019 we did a post about the 1st of September. While this is Knowledge Day in Eastern Europe, there is no such holiday to mark the beginning of the school year in Japan and Korea. In fact, their academic year starts in the spring, so instead of Knowledge Day we decided to just celebrate the start of the new academic term in those languages."

Kitchenware for an ex-wife

Our translators know the plot of the game really well and immediately notice if something in an update doesn’t match previous text from the game. For example, our Italian translator noticed right away that Dave, one of the characters, mentions his ex-wife, even though before that he had only talked about his wife and children:

“I once bought some similar kitchenware for my ex-wife, and it made her really happy. I’m sure your assistant will be crazy about it! ☺️”

Italian translator: "In other restaurants, Dave constantly talks about his wife (not his ex-wife) and his children. The comment about his ex-wife is a bit strange if you consider that the player can speed up the delivery of different orders, and could come across a monologue where Dave talks about his wife after he’s mentioned his ex-wife. "

Natalya Aprosimova, lead writer for Cooking Diary:

"That was when we decided it would be better if Dave was divorced, and we were amazed how quickly the localizers noticed the discrepancies in his marital status. Thank you, INLINGO, for changing all the texts about his wife so quickly."

The Basics of Geocooking and Gourmet Studies 

The whole INLINGO team has managed to show creativity in their approach to translating the names of restaurants and dishes. The MYTONA team comes up with creative and amusing names, and our task is to convey their puns, cultural references, and humor in other languages. That’s how we ended up with a romantic poet who goes by the pseudonym Don Zhevan/Don Chew-On. But can you imagine having to translate names like Spaghettitown or Schnitzeldorf into Japanese? In languages that use the Latin alphabet, the client asked us to transliterate these names, but transliteration doesn’t always work in Chinese and Japanese. The names end up being long and difficult to pronounce, so in those languages we try to reflect the play on words. 

For example, we translated Schnitzeldorf (the dish schnitzel and the German toponymic suffix -dorf) into Chinese as 香腸克福 (the word for sausage and the second part of the Chinese name for Frankfurt).

Chinese translator: "Frankfurt is better known in China, and 克福 is easier to fit into Chinese. I changed schnitzel to sausage because it’s quite a popular food here. Besides, schnitzel is actually Austrian, not German."

Natalya Aprosimova, lead writer for Cooking Diary: "Over time, we have started to put greater effort into simplifying the character and place names that feature in the game. We try to find collocations that can be understood without additional explanation. For example, we are increasingly replacing complicated names of incidental characters with made-up names with a culinary theme, such as:

- Mrs. Croquembouche

- the author Wasabiyaki

Or, to take another example, the names of the “chefly disciplines”:

- The Basics of Geocooking

- Gourmet Studies

- And I have some spare muffinomics, cream science, and cake making textbooks lying around... Here, they’re yours now!

Of course, we try to retain cultural nuances so that all players get the same great experience and positive emotions from the game.

The title “Daily Rewards” always fits into graphics in the Asian languages. In European languages, where words tend to have more characters, we have to find compromises.


The non-existent perch 

Here’s a good example of geographical adaptation. Did you know that there is no general understanding of the word “perch” in Indonesian? There are lots of different subspecies, each with its own name, but there’s no way of referring to them collectively. We had no idea until we started translating Cooking Diary for Indonesian players. Then we started looking for equivalents. Originally, the name of the fish was translated as kakap putih (Asian sea bass or barramundi). But barramundi was not the same as the pictures in the game and had already been mentioned in texts about another restaurant. 

This is what barramundi looks like


The fish in the game looked like this


This is what the Indonesian translators wrote: "It’s definitely not white, but it really should be according to the name kakap putih (putih = white).” The translators also suggested ikan betok, bader, ikan perca, and ikan perch.


After lengthy discussions, research, and finalization, ikan perca won out. This is what it looks like.



  • We have structured the process of localization to make it non-stop—it takes us less than 30 minutes to accept and process a task. Small urgent files are translated into all languages in two to three hours, with speed as the priority. Less urgent tasks are assigned deadlines with priority given to quality—we set enough time for the full process.
  • Over the past two years, we have completed 8606 localization and adaptation tasks, thus freeing up time for the client to deal with other priorities.
  • We help improve the text and plot of the game before release: We note logical errors and discrepancies, we correct inaccuracies, we adapt the game to the target market, and we maintain consistent style and terminology.
  • We ensure constant support for the game, with no risk of missed deadlines or loss of quality, thanks to our full-time employees and the best freelance native-speaker translators.

Pavel Tokarev, CEO INLINGO:

 "Our work with MYTONA began gradually—we started with small projects to demonstrate our capabilities. In time, they began to entrust us with new language pairs: first European languages, and then Asian ones. During the first year, we received a lot of corrective feedback, but the longer we worked together the better we understood each other—the number of corrections decreased considerably, and we began to concentrate on development work.

The early days of working with MYTONA were an anxious time. Every morning I got up and went through the project correspondence several times to ensure everything was under control. When the process settled down, the anxiety disappeared, and now I feel only optimism and pride in what we have achieved together. 

I personally monitor how the project is developing. The management and the whole team at MYTONA are able to write to me directly or arrange a call in order to discuss any important aspects of our collaboration. Furthermore, we regularly meet up at conferences, discuss the projects we’re working on together, and get feedback that’s useful for both sides. 

Localization is one of my favorite types of outsourcing. It’s a product that we understand and consider ourselves experts in. It’s always a joy to work with MYTONA, and I would be delighted to have the opportunity to team up on other similar projects in the future."

Sergey Argunov, Cooking Diary producer:

"We’re very grateful to INLINGO for the rapid and professional way they respond to our requests, and for the way that the whole INLINGO team and their translators have supported our project over the years and helped share our much-loved creation with players all over the world.

It’s great when the people working on the project love the game. You can really sense the difference. Thank you for the attention and care you give our game, and all the effort you put into localizing it! We have earned the success of Cooking Diary together!"

Download the game: 

App Store


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