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Harsin

Tiny Text in Games

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Yeah, God of War is weird for this. There are a load of accessibility options but then the text size slider doesn't seem to do anything for most of the menus. 

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There's a discussion about this going on at Resetera and someone posted a link to a professional subtitling studio discussing how godawful the practice generally is in games. Interesting read and some things I hadn't considered , which I realise had been  annoying me for a long time.

 

https://www.md-subs.com/what-game-subs-got-wrong-in-2017

 

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In film subtitling, we usually don't go beyond 42 characters per line. This is for a number of reasons, one of which is to keep the text at a comfortable font size without running over the screen's edges. Many game developers, though, have a different idea:

 

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When a sub is paragraph-sized, the player has to keep bouncing between the text and the image, lest they miss out on important visuals while reading. This, of course, is not ideal, but many games teem with subtitles like that:

 

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4. Poor contrast

This is another issue that you'll see everywhere. Also done for the aesthetics and also bad for the player. Want examples? I've got some:

 

EDIT: Bugger, can't seem to upload images from there, but there's some good examples of the horrible accessibility practice you routinely see in AAA games.

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That's interesting. 

 

The contrast one is definitely an issue, I would say just about all games use these thin little fonts that are pretty but blend into the scene and don't do the job required. 

 

Games are really bad at accessibility in general. Why do so few consoles even let you reassign buttons? 

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I work in UI design and I’m very sensitive to text sizes. Personally, I enjoy the smallest type and icon size settings on my own display, but I fine tune everything between “sofa” (2+ metres) and PC (nose against the screen) and will always push my devs to include text size sliders in the options menu and allow a good amount of space for my UI to scale without breaking design.

 

The guys I’m working with currently love huge, bold typefaces even though they’re all PC gamers, so striking that balance is obvious to me. There is a lot of poor typography out there, and I’ve worked in print for a long time so understand how colour, letter spacing, word spacing, typeface, style and line length all affect legibility. I wish more devs would use traditional print design principles to avoid such simple typographic problems. 

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On 08/11/2017 at 13:25, Nick R said:

I remember when the Xbox 360 first came out and people first started getting HDTVs, there were lots of complaints on this forum about the size of the text in the first Dead Rising. Although I can't remember if that was only from people playing the game in SD TVs, or from certain combinations of hardware and settings?

 

I remember that situation, but with a different game - an American JRPG-style-game if I remember rightly. The text was illegible in SD so I stopped playing almost immediately.

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On 08/11/2017 at 14:59, TehStu said:

I had to stop playing Mass Effect 2 on my 360 until I switched from CRT to LCD, as I couldn't read the text. And then it was fine for a while, but I fancy text has become smaller again, perhaps as a result of design styles du jour, and it's pretty annoying. What's more annoying is that games don't seem to pay any attention to accessibility needs, although it's good to hear the PS4 has something built in. But yeah, small, crappy fonts, often in washed out colours are a pain. I'm playing ME:A on a 32 inch TV, sat maybe 3 feet away. I have to stand up to read the UI when looking at messages on found datapads, using the whole R&D thing, etc.

 

I could buy a bigger TV for the bedroom, but still. Just like when we crossed the threshold from CRT to HD screens, it's like there's an assumption that you're on a massive, easy to read screen these days.

 

Yeah, I think screen size has to be part of the issue. We have a 32 inch screen in our lounge, and are unlikely to get a larger TV, as it's the ideal size for the distance from the sofa (our lounge is long but narrow, and we pretty much have to put the TV on one of the longer walls). That said, I haven't been bothered by too-small text on the XBOX One yet, but I have noticed fonts getting smaller, and my eyes are getting worse so it's only a matter of time...

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Ye gods, Hitman 2 is absolutely awful for this. Half the time I can't tell what the contextual commands are because the text that appears above objects is so tiny, which is a bit of a problem as it could be the difference between starting a conversation with someone or stabbing them in the neck. It extends to the menus as well, pull up the bio of a target an it appears in a small window in the same tiny text size whilst great swathes of the screen go unused.

 

qEvHdb4.jpg

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17 minutes ago, TehStu said:

This should be implemented at the OS level, as with Fire TV and Roku, etc.

 

No, it shouldn't as it could/would have catastrophic effects on so many things: basic legibility, formatting, menus, lists, line breaks, subtitles, tool tips, pop-ups, column widths, letter and line spacing, text shimmer amongst a hundred others. Scaling options and typography just need more attention and consideration from the UI designers, though in a world with so many different-sized screens and set-ups, you really just have to pick a standard/recommended target and stick to it or the task would never end.

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I have a hard time with the Switch screen at the best of times but Monster Hunter has horrific red bold highlighting of certain key phrases which I absolutely cannot read at all even with my best specs on.

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Since getting my xbox one I'm having trouble with this that I never had with the earlier consoles.

 

I get the feeling everything is designed to be played on massive TVs (we've got a 40" set, so not tiny but probably smaller than a lot of set ups) or sat in front of a monitor. For a lot of games I can't shake the feeling that the PC and console UIs are probably identical.

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1 hour ago, shirubagan said:

 

No, it shouldn't as it could/would have catastrophic effects on so many things: basic legibility, formatting, menus, lists, line breaks, subtitles, tool tips, pop-ups, column widths, letter and line spacing, text shimmer amongst a hundred others. Scaling options and typography just need more attention and consideration from the UI designers, though in a world with so many different-sized screens and set-ups, you really just have to pick a standard/recommended target and stick to it or the task would never end.

If there is no centralized mechanism for subtitles, then this problem will never be solved. It's just as bad a problem today as it was when I bought Mass Effect 2. Some devs will do a better job than others.

 

Until Hulu stopped generating their own subtitles and deferred to what the system (e.g., Fire TV) provided, I literally couldn't read the subtitles on certain anime, because it was thin white text on a largely colorful, light background. At least DVDs and subtitles hardcoded into anime had that chunky drop shadow. But now I can set Fire TV (or, well, I've moved to Roku) to have a half transparent black border behind the subtitles, the font is a specific size (per TV), and it's yellow instead of white. 

 

Why are we requiring developers to a) provide those options and b) need people to set them up in each game?

 

I appreciate this isn't going to work for specific in-game text, like labels on things to pickup or whatever, but I'm struggling to see why it wouldn't work for subtitles. 

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I think the systems should absolutely have some form of standardised subtitling as, although there’s the odd good one, all too may devs have proved they have no idea what they should be doing in this area. Bad enough for us who just have to squint a bit to get around poor design, but there are people with visual impairments that rely on accessibility features to be able to even enjoy a game in the first place. Anything to avoid stupid shit like this.

 

94eb77_e2bcd462047040b9a6c4c188b708311e~

 

Oh the guy who does subtitling for a living (which I linked to earlier) addresses why you should be able to allow users to adjust size as well.

 

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Ideally, the font size should be adjustable in the settings. If it looks like you can’t implement it due to the overlap with the in-game interface elements, that’s a good sign that the subs are not segmented right. With the line count and length in check, there shouldn’t be any overlap problems.

 

As that link says, far too may games just spew paragraphs worth of text onto the screen at once. Besides legibility problems, I've seen subtitles manage to spoil upcoming events because they've put so much up in advance.

 

It,s not just subtitles though. Rockstar games are absolutely awful for putting a load of tutorial text in pop-up boxes in the corner of the screen during the middle of an action sequence and expect you to be able to take it all in properly.

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@TehStu Not so much a problem for cut-scenes (that example from @Harsin above is ridiculously poor design), but you may not want forced, system generated subtitles covering up your UI, important screen area or doubling up in-game text. I think games are too varied for a one-stop solution. 

 

 

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Just now, shirubagan said:

@TehStu Not so much a problem for cut-scenes (that example from @Harsin above is ridiculously poor design), but you may not want forced, system generated subtitles covering up your UI, important screen area or doubling up in-game text. I think games are too varied for a one-stop solution. 

 

 

Yeah, appreciate that. At least if there was a known solution, with X parameters, you'd know what to test against. I guess the problem is that good UX, on games or anything else, is easy to skim over, or even cut, if budgets are tight. It's not something to put on the back of the box, per se. I think that's why, in part, it has to come from the platform holders. Microsoft have done great things recently, with their accessible controller, and tonnes of accessibility options in Windows 10 and Edge. I'm just playing armchair developer though, and I don't know how any middleware would account for it.

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My strongest memories of unreadable text were a few PC to Dreamcast conversions, and also Dead Rising on an SD CRT. They didn’t bother adjusting the font sizes so they were actually unreadable.

 

I think TV films and series are getting just as bad when you’ve got a scene of someone typing on a computer or phone, or reading a letter. I’m always squinting or getting close to the TV so I can actually read it. It’s like they’ve designed everything for people with massive 4K tellies and fuck you if you haven’t got one.

 

Also, modern subtitles aren’t colour coded anymore like the old Teletext/Ceefax ones. As ugly and intrusive as they were, they were a lot more functional.

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The subtitles are hard coded on the Marie Kondo tidying up series on Netflix. I get it, people probably don't leave in captions, so if the subtitles weren't embedded name people probably wouldn't know to enable them.

 

Be nice if the video stream could toggle a device's captions on, so you could have them in the desired format. I could barely read the ones on this Netflix series at times, poor contrast and small font.

 

A bit off topic, but similar to games tapping into console APIs for rendering captions, I guess.

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This thread is worth a read in general, but the last sentence here caught my eye:

 

 

So if they're required by law, at least in the US, perhaps we'll see a captioning finding baked into a console's OS eventually.

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In the YouTube channel thread I posted a link to technology connections.

 

i just watched his CC video 

 

 

interesting stuff

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No so much the subtitle thing, but the tiny text in the UI generally...


It is fixable, and should never have been allowed to get this way.  Console manufacturers should have specified a minimum text size as part of their TRCs.  All text appearing on screen must be displayed at at least xx pixels high, or xx mm high on a certain sized tv.  Something that's humanly readable on a smallish tv in living room conditions.

 

There's no problem allowing the option for text to be even smaller, to make games look like they typically do (tiny text in acres of empty space, only readable up close on a 50" screen), but that should be a selectable option only, with readable sized text being required, and probably the default option.


I suspect both Sony and MS were so keen to promote the 'high definition' of their last couple of consoles (and in Sony's case, sell big TVs too), so that tiny text kind of helped with the narrative they were trying to promote.

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I was quite pleased that when I booted up The Division 2, one of the first things it does is get you to go through various accessibility options. You better believe that I immediately chose the option for the  largest text size. Publishers/developers are finally getting it I thought.

 

Imagine my dismay when I then found out it only applies to sodding subtitled dialogue. The actual UI is one of the worst I’ve encountered for tiny text syndrome. Tutorial pop up boxes have stupidly tiny text and actually had to a Google how to join a match and found out that the option is in the corner of the map screen in letters so small they look like the small print on a mortgage application.

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