Press X to Squint

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Press X to Squint

Sometimes our favorite games can be a little hard to read.

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I've never really got why this was such a hard thing for them to grasp. And as opposed to basically everyone else on the planet.

I mean, with the power of an eReader, my grandmother and I can read the same book from the same source and have the same experience due to font changes, but developers of games are all "screw you, you should have a better TV."

Nadia Oxford:
Press X to Squint

Sometimes our favorite games can be a little hard to read.

Read Full Article

I love it!

This is a huge issue in schools, as well, where a lot of apparent learning difficulties kids have come back to problems seeing or hearing the content. We worry so much about the content itself that we're not ensuring the mechanical method by which we deliver it is sound.

There are similar concerns that are often raised (and often overlooked) about other art assets -- Is your game relying a lot on reds and greens? Do characters and objects have distinct silhouettes for quick differentiation? How's the balance between dialogue volume and explosion volume (and are half of our sound effects pitched right within your character's vocal ranges)?

Accessibility isn't just about the handicapped, or those without high-end equipment. It's about remember that the audience is already "meeting you halfway" by spending money on your game, so you shouldn't also expect them to compromise on being able to clearly see/hear the content.

Yeah it's like they expect everyone in the world to have hd tvs nowadays.
I almost can't read anything of almost all my 360 games on my non-hd tv. Very annoying especially if the game is heavily text based.

Fascinating that we're able to read an entire article on what seems at first like such an esoteric subject. This proves that it isn't.

Interesting to call out Bethesda on this, as this as been a problem with them for a while; witness their use of the Magic:the Gathering font back in Morrowind, which always had issues with things like differentiating "c" and "e" (some names I'm still not certain of to this day). Oblivion seemed to have an opposite problem, with UI mods needed to reduce the font size as well as swap it with something more sans-serif and readable. Not surprised that Skyrim (which I haven't played yet) has a similar issue.

Good article!

Nice to see an article on this, even though it's sad that there needs to be an article written on this.

I just purchased a HDTV not that long ago though I still keep my CRT convenient for games that require lagless play (like fighting games, for example). Also, somewhat conveniently, I was actually in the middle of playing Skyrim when I made the jump to HD. Sure the text, particularly on loading screens, suddenly became readable but it really just made it even more obvious how poor the decision was to do the text that way was in the first place. Even in HD, the text really is so small and tightly spaced that I could see someone with eyesight issues being unable to read it regardless of having an HDTV.

This is basically the reason I have trouble with skyrim and why I pretty much quit DA2.

In DA2, I couldn't read the dialog sometimes and (with how I usually multitask between tv and game) I usually rely on subtitles to catch something I don't hear right away. On top of that, I couldn't even read what my powers and stuff were supposed to do leaving me to to level up blind.

I've got no way of getting an HDTV right now, so I'm really hoping that developers don't forget about the people still playing on SDTV and at least try to help us out by making our games readable.

TL:DR- Great article, really hit the nail on the head.

Really, all games should be required to use Transport
image
Or,
image

I missed out a lot on MGS4 because the text was unreadable on a small TV. I couldn't even read the names of the items I was quick selecting

You know its funny, I actually had the 'reverse' problem.
Smaller screens, closer I was, the easier the text was to read. It seemed, in every game, the text was always the same pixel hieght.

So if the Pixel hieght was alwasy '15', 15 pixels high is a lot LARGER on a 480p screen, then '15 pixels' on a 1080p screen! (if both screens are 36" diagnol, this holds true)

So I actually found myself, playing video games, on smaller screens, that I 'had' to sit closer to, becuase the screens are smaller, simply because on the bigger screens, the fonts were already, far, far to smalll to make out. (And I've got 20/20!)

Course, most of the games I play, that have text, are RPGs, and they generally focus pretty well on the subtitles.

Never had a problem with MGS4's subs at all, Now FPS shooters? My god those almost always have horrible subbing! (why do I use subs? Sometimes its easier to 'read' what they are saying then trying to understand exactly what they are saying through there highpitched squeling voices, over the sounds of a billion Sheeple being butchered... Kinda like in a movie theater. They set the volume to 11, you can barely hear the audio dialogue, and then the action scenes come and you go.. DEAF!)

The irony is that they probably chose Futura over some fancy font that looks like medieval script for Skyrim because they figured it would be more readable. I can't imagine any other reason for it.

Speaking of which, BioShock 2 had a problem with this too: Even on an HD monitor, the font it (and its predecessor) used for the radio caption made "Prentice Mill" look like "Prentice MIII". Sloppy.

I've been playing the Counter Strike: Global Offensive beta lately, and the text strikes me as ungodly small (if still plenty readable on my monitor; the font is something very similar to Klavika), but there's a setting for whether you're playing on a TV or a monitor that I bet adjusts the text size appropriately. I'll need to try it out next time I go in.

I guess Standard Definition isn't the standard anymore?
There isn't a worldwide conspiracy of game developers working to force everyone to purchase expensive new televisions and thus create an ever-increasing dependency on high-technology, but sometimes it feels that way. Programmers and game studios are usually outfitted with top-of-the-line equipment to make sure they make the best quality games as possible, but it's funny to see them forget that other people can hardly afford to buy their goddamn game, much less a 56 inch plasma screen.
Most recently I had to abandon Way of the Samurai 3 due to the fact that when playing on my standard definition TV, all text turns into vertical black lines. And I have an undying love for that series (I don't know why) that just about broke my heart that I wouldn't be able to enjoy the latest version.
Good thing I got a free copy thanks to my bank's reward program. I would have been wicked pissed off if I had shelled out sixty bucks just to return it two days later for thirty five at best.

I remember the (thankfully rather short) time when I played PS3 games on a SDTV - such a horrible experience, I couldn't read anything from my usual playing distance.

Dastardly:

How's the balance between dialogue volume and explosion volume (and are half of our sound effects pitched right within your character's vocal ranges)?

This has always been bugging me greatly. I encounter this issues especially often in PS2 games - I played so many games where the voice volume is just far too low; in Viewtiful Joe I couldn't understand a thing, for instance. Not to forget heavily distorted voices, like, say, Balmer's voice in Bayonetta. Stuff like this should be really easy to test, no? How do these issues get overlooked?

Smertnik:
I remember the (thankfully rather short) time when I played PS3 games on a SDTV - such a horrible experience, I couldn't read anything from my usual playing distance.

Dastardly:

How's the balance between dialogue volume and explosion volume (and are half of our sound effects pitched right within your character's vocal ranges)?

This has always been bugging me greatly. I encounter this issues especially often in PS2 games - I played so many games where the voice volume is just far too low; in Viewtiful Joe I couldn't understand a thing, for instance. Not to forget heavily distorted voices, like, say, Balmer's voice in Bayonetta. Stuff like this should be really easy to test, no? How do these issues get overlooked?

The people testing it often know what to listen for, which subconsciously makes it all seem clearer. Also, there just isn't nearly enough focus on sound engineering overall.

Do you know why you go to the movie theater? It's not the "big screen." Sure, we don't have 60-foot screens at home, but we also don't sit 100 feet away from them. It's not really all that much bigger. We go to movie theaters for the sound.

No matter how big the screen is, or how clear the picture is, or how neat the 3D might be, the fact is that it's a two-dimensional image that only takes up a fraction of your field of view.

Sound is omnidirectional. It is three-dimensional by its very nature, so it is infinitely better at creating space and depth than any visual trickery. That is, if folks pay attention enough to make that happen...

This problem isn't unique to HD games and unpredictable resolution like the article implies. Even in the NES days, developers would often use excessively fancy fonts, particularly medieval and newspaper style fonts, which are more suited to large headers and artwork than to walls of text with 8x8 characters.

In any creative industry, you're going to have the occasional creator who values style over substance and releases an inferior product as a result. It's unfortunate, but largely unavoidable.

P.S. Thanks

When I used to play GTA:SA on my PS2 with an old curve screened telly I significantly remember that I could never actually tell where I was in the game, because I couldn't read the place names that popped up... and I also never knew how much ammo I had in my weapons... because that part of the screen was blurry too! :S

Other than that, now I have HD I have never had a problem, but I can see where people might! I expect things could change if more attention is put on the table...

Nice article. I can't say it's one of my most pressing concerns to make text in games more legible (Dead Rising aside). In fact, less text, less reading and more "play" are my main concerns, but then I am a PC gamer, which means I have my screen closer to me than most typical gamers. So I guess it might make a difference to some people. Fixing the industry baby steps at a time I guess. ;)

Elementary - Dear Watson:
And I also never knew how much ammo I had in my weapons... because that part of the screen was blurry too! :S

Ha! It's actually a pretty great luxury to know how much ammo is left in your gun during a firefight. Did you know that in real life some assault rifle magazines use tracer rounds at the end of the magazine? That's so that soldiers in the field can tell when their guns are getting low on ammo and need to take cover to reload. I sometimes wonder what modern "realistic" shooters would be like if they used a similar mechanism. After all, the HUD isn't a very realistic phenomenon as it stands.

Farther than stars:

Elementary - Dear Watson:
And I also never knew how much ammo I had in my weapons... because that part of the screen was blurry too! :S

Ha! It's actually a pretty great luxury to know how much ammo is left in your gun during a firefight. Did you know that in real life some assault rifle magazines use tracer rounds at the end of the magazine? That's so that soldiers in the field can tell when their guns are getting low on ammo and need to take cover to reload. I sometimes wonder what modern "realistic" shooters would be like if they used a similar mechanism. After all, the HUD isn't a very realistic phenomenon as it stands.

I tell you, it would suck... although in the field you get a pretty good idea just by flicking the side of the mag, or by unclipping it and feeling the weight... I, myself would have a pretty good idea through firefights in training, and always gave a good estimate in the ammo counts after... but I would lose count after a couple of smaller engagements without rebombing in between!

Imagine a realistic shooter as well, where you only had your issued rounds/ rounds from a resupply... and it took you a good minute or so to refil a mag, and when you reload and you wern't out of ammo, you lose a round! Imagine an fps where you have to run around looking though all the empty cases on the ground for that one live round, just because you reloaded too early! :S

Without actually having the magazine though, it would be hard to judge ammo in any way without having a counter...!

Edit: Also, which doctrine do that trick with the tracers? I know they do it in MGS, but most doctrines tend to use a 4:1 5:1 ratio on tracers, and tracers are used to draw attention to squad mates where you are firing!

Moreover, aside from a few encoding differences between some countries and continents, developers could safely assume that their audience was playing on a standard color television set. Sure, some sets were small, others were large, and still others were decked out in fabulous wood paneling, but everybody across North America, Japan, and the UK was getting a consistent picture.

Nitpick: 'back in the day' we didn't all see the same picture in standard def: NTSC (US) is 480 lines of resolution, PAL (UK/AUS) is 576.

Poor font choices always bother me. Why settle for pretty but unreadable, when you can have both?

I'm waiting for the day when an 'edgy' rpg uses Papyrus as a subtitle font and I have an excuse to go rampaging through the city. (Protip: Almost nobody uses Egyptian fonts properly. Papryus makes me swear out loud nearly every time I see it.)

As someone who isn't looking forward to getting around to playing Mass Effect 3 due to the horrid font size used by every EA game which is only exacerbated by my dying SDTV, I like this article.

You think that was bad, you've never played Dead Rising on a small screen. You couldn't read any of it barring the main title.

It's an interesting topic, but I'm surprised at the use of Skyrim as an example. One of the things I particularly liked about Skyrim was that its text and subtitles were all a decent size in an easily readable font. If that's an example of bad text, I can only assume that no game has ever had good text.

In any case, hopefully developers will all soon see the light and make everything using Comic Sans.

It's interesting to see an article like this on The Escapist, which has some of the tiniest copy and most inaccessible markup on the Internet. Even the browser's chrome uses a larger font size...

Mind you, I agree with the message. I just find the choice of medium ironic. And yes, I have seen the font size control, which takes it from illegible to a little below legible.*

* Obviously not entirely illegible, since I can still read it. Unnecessarily hard-to-read, rather.

Kahani:
In any case, hopefully developers will all soon see the light and make everything using Comic Sans.

That will be the day their own graphics departments rise against them in an orgy of blood and mayhem.

The only proper revenge on someone who wants to use Comic Sans in any professional work is to teach them what constitutes 'bad kerning' in typography, something they will never be able to unlearn or unsee... although if you're rushed for time punching them in the face will suffice.

OT: I get things from the other way around... the GUIs on many ports to PC are unaltered and come across as aggressively large.

The only thing that bothered me about the Skyrim font was that it looked too sleek and modern. I want a fantasy themed font for my fantasy games.

The only game I really had a problem with was Grand Theft Auto 4. I could hardly see most of the text on my old tv. I never had a problem with Dead Rising with my old tv so I don't see where that is coming from.

Hah, I was just thinking about this when playing RAGE on the Xbox not too long ago. I played it on an HDTV, and the subtitles are STILL too small to read!

Trying to hack the computers in Fallout 3 was a damn nightmare on standard def, or even a smaller hi-def screen.

Skyrim was literally unreadable on my SD TV.

The messages that pop up in the top left of the screen would be completely cut off and the actual text used was kinda crappy.

Anyone else play the first Mass Effect on a SDTV? It was so amazingly hard to read. I remember that when I first played it, I had to keep switching between an SDTV and HDTV, and the difference always astounded me.

I have the biggest problem with the NHL games with his.

I can't tell if it wants me to press square or circle for calling for a line change.

Trying to read player statistics is nigh impossible. Why they'd do this for a game that's pretty heavily text based, to make it almost unreadable on an SDTV seems nonsensical.

Oh, good I thought it was just me. I'm badly nearsighted so I was beginning to think this was something I had to live with as I couldn't tell what weapon I was equiping in MGS4 or who I was dialing in GTA4.

The solution is very simple: stop playing huge resolution games on small tvs. if you got a small screen, use small resolution. if you got a large screen, use large resolution. no more problems. i doubt many would argue that there is no choice in the game to use different resolution nowadays, that may have been a problem 10 years ago, not now.

Finally, someone acknowledges this! I was beginning to think it was just me.

It's always bothered me to no end that the text ends up being barely legible on my standard def screen, especially in games like Dragon Age that actually want you to do a fair amount of reading. I've made little noise over it because I assumed that somewhere there had to be a good reason for it, some kind of technical issue that made it impossible to make the text work on both high and standard def screens and that was impossible to work around. But reading this I get the impression that it just comes down to arrogance on the developers part, which is just insane!

Is that really it? The reason they don't do something as simple as increase the text size isn't because there are technical difficulties associated with it, but because they simply don't see it as a problem?! That's infuriating on so many levels >,<

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