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Nadia Oxford | 29 Mar 2012 09:00
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Your Fault, Not Theirs

Videogame technology is evolving at a stunning rate, and nobody expects developers to get everything right the first time. However, it's been six years since gamers made their first loud cry over readability issues, and there's still little effort being expended on making in-game text as easy to read as possible. Worse, when developers and publishers are confronted about poor font-related decisions, the response is typically a shrug coupled with, "It's your problem, not ours."

Providing readable (and preferably adjustable) fonts in games should never be a joking matter.

When Xbox 360 owners played Capcom's Dead Rising in 2006, they discovered a gory but humorous take on the zombie-slaying genre. They also discovered that the game's tiny text made it nearly impossible to read menus or follow the story if they were playing on a standard definition set.

It was a disappointing oversight to begin with, and it was made infuriating when Capcom said the problem was not going to be patched. EGM magazine confronted Dead Rising director Yoshinori Kawano about the matter in its September 2006 issue, and Kawano laughingly said, "People should definitely have an HDTV before buying an Xbox 360." Few players were in the mood for laughing after paying money to squint at their television screens, however.

Derksen says, "Really, what it comes down to is eight engineers and developers around a 52-inch hi-def television screen with their perfect vision going, 'Looks great to me, man, I can see it. I have the money for this big set. I am young and my eyesight is good.'"

And that's why providing readable (and preferably adjustable) fonts in games should never be a joking matter. Not everyone can afford a high definition set. Even if everyone could afford one, there are still hundreds of thousands of game lovers who have poor eyesight, or who are hard of hearing and rely on clear subtitles to follow a story, or who simply don't want to lean forward and strain every time they open a game menu.

To be fair, there have been instances wherein developers and publishers have acknowledged and fixed in-game font issues. When the demo for Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts hit the Xbox 360 in 2008 and people complained that much of the text was unreadable on standard definition sets, Rare patched the issue.

Commendable, but it shouldn't have been a problem to begin with. What's more, poor typesetting is still a major problem in games. Legibility should be a priority; it's disappointing that developers are not taking simple steps to make their titles as accessible as possible to their increasingly diverse audience. Why spend all the time, money, imagination and effort necessary to make a tremendous world of dragons and sorcery if you're just going to lock out audience members who don't have 20/20 vision?

Skyrim's Shame

Like the rest of planet Earth, Derksen fell in love with Bethesda's massive RPG, Skyrim during the Holiday 2011 season. Though he thoroughly enjoyed playing the game, his experience was marred by Bethesda's choice of font (Futura Condensed), which, Derksen recalls, made reading important information in the game difficult at times.

"The thing about Futura is that in its natural incarnation, it's a very round font," Derksen says. "It's basically very stout and wide. So this idea of 'Futura Condensed' actually goes against the nature of what Futura was conceived to be.

"Futura Condensed is an OK font overall, but when it's applied to Skyrim, you see its bad side."

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