We Have Giant Screens. Make Games With Giant Fonts

We Have Giant Screens. Make Games With Giant Fonts
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In this episode of Speak Up on Kotaku, commenter Nevest wants developers to know they can use bigger fonts already, dammit.

OK, I’ve gotta ask… what the hell is up with developers still using the tiniest text possible in their games? Even with an HDTV, connected through an HDMI port and everything set up properly, there are still games that are hard to read if you’re sitting more than three feet away from your TV.

Case in point: Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. My ONLY complaint with the game is the text in the menus. I don’t have perfect eyesight (even corrected w/ glasses) and it’s tough to read the text in the store or when customising a character. It makes no sense. There’s a TON of screen real estate that can be used but they just cram it into a small box. It hasn’t stopped me from playing the game, I just get up and get closer to the TV when I need to make changes, but it’s slightly annoying.

Another game that I pretty much stopped playing for this reason was Syndicate. It has a LOT of stuff that you need to read for a lot of the backstory on each mission/item/person, and the box that the text is in is the full size of the screen, but the text itself only takes up the top 1/10th of it. Why? What’s the point? Are they just so desperate for it to look “super clean” that they feel they can’t use a font that’s two or three sizes larger?

Another example is Deus Ex: Human Revolution. LOVE the game, but it too suffers from a lot of space being used for text boxes but only a very small part of those boxes is used to show the text.

I know it may be a minor complaint to those that have perfect eyesight, but I can’t be the only one that gets irritated to load up a new game and see so much screen space that goes completely unused just for the sake of it.

About Speak Up on Kotaku: Our readers have a lot to say, and sometimes what they have to say has nothing to do with the stories we run.


    • i find that staying within leg-rest distance of the TV table/stand is best, i started this when i used to play Nintendo 64 games and have my mother walk through the cords thus pulling the controller and system out causing a massive loss of both tempers and save data.
      while that may not be a problem anymore i have recently found myself getting closer to the screen then even then, just to read the damn text, Lost planet 2 falls for Tiny Text Troubles (probably to allow you to see all the alien bugs) and always ends with me going into a game with nothing but a small pistol and gum grenades for the final boss that needs rockets and a robot.
      in conclusion, use bigger text

    • IIRC the optimal distance to sit from a TV screen is 3-5x the height of the screen. So my 40″ TV has a screen height of 50cm (I just checked!) so I should sit 1.5-2.5 metres away from it. I know for a fact I get a headache if I sit closer for long periods of time, same with my monitor.

      • I just measured that too, I’m about 2.5-3x away from my 46″ TV, usually for long periods of time and to me it feels about right, no headaches or anything like that.

  • Oh god this is so true. At the beginning of the year, I started playing Resistance 3, and at no point could I read anything on screen. The only way I knew I’d run out of ammo is when I’d, you know, actually run out.

  • I wonder how much of this comes from still developing for standard definition and not using a scalable UI system. Anyone else remember running FEAR on PC at 1920×1200 and squinting to read the UI and mission briefs designed to work at 640×480?
    This is why I always appreciated forward thinking developers; Rollcage 2 and the original Serious Sam games will both scale to whatever resolutions you like (regardless of limitations of their own eras when ‘HD’ meant 1024×768), interface-inclusive since UI elements were treated like projected textures instead of fixed pixels.
    Nowadays we have middleware systems like ScaleForm, so it’s silly (if not outright irresponsible) when devs don’t bother to use it or something similar!

  • A simple solution is to employ a series of mechanical gears and levers that manipulate a giant magnifying glass. With a little experimentation it is easy to adjust the distance between yourself and the television to optimise the magnification of the text. My wife and I have used this pulley and arm system for many years. In fact we just played through Zork on an emulator on our giant BRAVIA.. No problems.

  • I’d expect this comes from developers and testers running the game on a desktop monitor. Then there’s prior knowledge of all the dialogue and menu text so, when played on a TV, they perhaps don’t even notice the readability issues.
    Or, just lazy UX testing.

  • It’s funny how developers handle the awkward balance between usability and aesthetics… Seems like they’re often more focused on how sweet it’ll look in screenshots over how much of a pain it may be for actual gameplay.

  • This is the biggest problem I’ve had playing PC games on my 32″ TV (no room for PC table) while sitting about 1.3 meters away and the thing i hated most about D3 after the horrible lag was the text was that small and always seemed to blend in with the back ground

  • Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts. Went back to it for a whole three minutes before I realized I couldn’t read a damn thing.

  • It’s funny that this is a complaint, because any time I see a console game ported to PC, the font is usually way too large.

  • AMEN.
    …The amount of PC games with borked UI.
    TV’s and console’s aren’t the real problems people, it’s trying to read 8pt font on a screen that’s running at resolutions well above 1920×1080.

  • Finally someone brings this up

    I remember the EA Cricket game on the PS2 (and the crop of AFL games on PS2 and the one on Ps3) having these tiny illegible fonts – the PS2 ones are worse when you consider that a vast majority ran them on CRT and not flat screens

    And think about it – sports game promote TV style presentation – we sorry sports game developers, no TV channels I’ve seen who are serious about sports broadcasts display tiny ass fonts that you cant read

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