Dear developers: Learn how to do subtitles, because you obviously have no clue!

#1
This is an offshoot from this recent thread about foreign languages video games, but I figured it's about time I made one complaining about this.

I'm so tired of seeing small-sized subtitles, sometimes tiny-ass subtitles. Almost no developers AT ALL do properly-sized subtitles, even the allegedly cinematic games fail at this. The only exception is Kojima Productions and the Metal Gear games.

This is about the minimum font size you should be using:



or



You know, something that is easily readable from a distance, like, say, a couch.

NOT this:



Or worse, this:



Look at this wall of text. What the hell is this! Learn about line breaks, good lord. It's not that hard. In fact, it's not hard at all. Now this is an example of whoever was in charge of subtitling the game being a lazy slob.

Then there's the inexplicable:



Dear developers, pop in a blu-ray, turn on subtitles, and learn how it's suppposed to be done.
 
#2
Also, learn to put in proper freaking dramatic pauses in subtitles. I hate accidentally reading too far and "spoiling" the next line because a 5 second pause is totally ignored by the subtitles.

Not sure I want subtitles as big as the examples though honestly. TLOU were fine by me, but options would be nice. I have them on at all times in most games but don't want them super obtrusive either.
 

Yoshichan

And they made him a Lord of Cinder. Not for virtue, but for might. Such is a lord, I suppose. But here I ask. Do we have a sodding chance?
#4
FFXIII, FFXIII-2 and Lightning Returns has the best subtitles in any game ever.
 
#13
Also, learn to put in proper freaking dramatic pauses in subtitles. I hate accidentally reading too far and "spoiling" the next line because a 5 second pause is totally ignored by the subtitles.

Not sure I want subtitles as big as the examples though honestly. TLOU were fine by me, but options would be nice. I have them on at all times in most games but don't want them super obtrusive either.
TLOU and the Uncharted games are still too small for me. Options, like you said, would be nice.
 
#16
As someone who frequently turns on subtitles in games due to mumbled dialogue I can honestly say that most of it can be solved with a decent size of font, and also learning that white text with a black outline is visible on basically anything.

Good subtitles are a must.
 

Cindres

Vied for a tag related to cocks, so here it is.
#17
I thought the TLOU ones were fine, but some of those others are pretty poor yeah.

God, Nuts and Bolts was horrible, I originally played 360 on a CRT and it was literally unreadable. I always play with subtitles on also so very distracting.
 
#20
Final Fantasy XIII have some good subtitles (I remember that XIII-2 subtitles were little but they give the option to make the font bigger, Game of the Forever!) also the Borderlands series are good with the size of their fonts.

In the other hand you got some cases like Deus Ex and Dead Rising with the tiniest subtitles ever with no option to make them bigger... my suspicion is that the developers kind of forgot to make the font bigger since they make games in monitors and at close distance (It's the only explanation for the atrocious subtitles of Dead Rising)
 
#23
Small subtitles was one of the things I was worried about when switching to comfy couch TV PC gaming, but somehow it is not an issue at all for me. With the distance I am sitting or lying at and with my 55" plasma, I can read anything even in Windows itself without enlarging stuff.
For smaller TVs or large living rooms it would be nice if devs included option to select subtitle size.
 
#24
Yellow subtitles are the devils own invention.

Just why would you make your subtitles yellow?
ive found they have better contrast. i can read them without feeling like im just reading subtitles and not paying attention to the film, or game, itself
 
#25
Yuck. This was probably the first time I've ever played without subtitles turned on. Who thought this was a good idea?
This seems like a good idea, actually, since you can track who's speaking by the colour and their character name.

Is it good looking? Maybe not, no. But it certainly values function/utility.
 
#27
I agree that there needs to be a standardization industry-wide when it comes to font, size and placement on screen for subtitles. Moreover, we also need two subtitle settings standard for all games: one for dialog-only and another for full audio subtitles for the deaf or hearing impaired. Valve does it right, though I disagree with the visual formatting of the text itself.
 
#28
The worst part about some subtitles is the time between the subtitle apearing and the content actually being said. Bad timing just ruins the experience sometimes.
 
#29
As a professional subtitler... I must say they are awful.

Lots of subtitles have insuficient reading time, many others stay on the screen for far too long, the line division tends to be awful, as people just said, we get "spoiled" by subtitles that begin before dramatic pauses...

Developers need more professional subtitlers *hint hint*
 
#31
Most gaming subtitles are ass because of the complete lack of pacing and pausing. It's horrible when it's one character talking for a good while. It's just paragraphs upon paragraphs of text dumped into the screen. Zero thought goes into preserving the timing of the character's speaking

And yeah, way too many games today have tiny ass subtitles that you can't read unless you have supervision or a 70 inch TV. Devs REALLY need to plug their game into a damn TV when debugging ffs.
 
#32
The worst is where there are none at all, F.E.A.R. on the 360 had none, apparently the PC version does.

Yuck. This was probably the first time I've ever played without subtitles turned on. Who thought this was a good idea?
Don't just write it off, it helps to identify who is saying what. Imagine if you just got lines of dialogue scrolling at the bottom of your screen and had no idea of who is saying what, like the Last of Us image in the original post. Colour coding and including character names is helpful, especially to those with reduced senses such as deaf people.
 
#35
Subtitles in games and movies aren't implemented the same way because, in-game, subtitles must compete with other UI/HUD elements for space on the screen. And if that's the system designed for subtitles in-game, you're most likely going to get that one for cinematics too.

You can't really compare them. Another thing is that games themselves, and their use of spoken dialogue, vary wildly from game to game.

One game might have lots of dialogue in-game, leading to lots of subtitles. Maybe the developers don't have time to do a timing pass. Maybe their subtitle system doesn't support (systemic) interruptions as a result of a player getting spotted by guards that were having a conversation, for example.

One game might appear to be better than another because it has very little spoken dialogue per scene, meaning it appears that the timing or the word density on-screen isn't so bad.

It's so easy to cherry pick examples from games and say they're shitty compared to film, but again, film doesn't work in the same constraints that games do.

EDIT: Nevermind, what you want it just bigger/clear. I still stand by my first point about having to compete with other HUD elements.
 
#37
Dragon Age: Inquisition has horrible subtitles. It doesn't subtitle conversations between party members on the field and, when they do appear, the captions are tiny at the top of the screen. If I was deaf, I would be furious that a huge chunk of story content was unavailable to me when it very easily could have been. I miss the content anyway because there's no way I'm playing such a repetitive game without listening to a podcast, but I can at least turn the podcast off when I see the dialogue icon.
 
#38
The size on the last of us is fine, but Bioshock is too small. The option should be there to completely control the size and font. My biggest gripe is when the subtitles read differently than what's actually said. I find myself getting off track because I read something andhear something else drawing me out of the experience.
 

RurouniZel

Asks questions so Ezalc doesn't have to
#39
I hate when games have microscopic subtitles. It's really annoying.

To make matters worse half the time I need subtitles because the audio engineering is so fucked that the dialogue can become a garbled mess of either

1) I can't hear what the character is saying, despite putting the Voice slider all the way up
2) Characters practically talking over each other in gameplay segments 'cause they all gotta get their quip on

Fucking annoying as shit. >>;
 
#40
You can't really compare them. Another thing is that games themselves, and their use of spoken dialogue, vary wildly from game to game.

One game might appear to be better than another because it has very little spoken dialogue per scene, meaning it appears that the timing or the word density on-screen isn't so bad.

It's so easy to cherry pick examples from games and say they're shitty compared to film, but again, film doesn't work in the same constraints that games do.
Variations between games and type of speech aren't a justification. TV shows have all sorts of different speech density and other factors. Many of the problems mentioned here would be very easily solved by a competent subtitler.

Plus, from my experience, animation is FAR easier to subtitle than live action. It's much easier to time the subtitles, people speaking at the same time is much rarer and they tend to speed at a much slower pace too (making it easier to have subtitles with adequate reading speed).
 

cjp

Junior Member
#42
You know what really fucking blows? When a game starts straight into a cutscene or whatever and you can't access the options menu to turn on subtitles until it's finished which means you have to sit through it all then pause the game, enable subtitles, and restart the whole thing from scratch.

What the fuck? I'm not even deaf or hard of hearing so I can only imagine how terrible this must be for the people that rely on them.
 
#44
Variations between games and type of speech aren't a justification. TV shows have all sorts of different speech density and other factors. Many of the problems mentioned here would be very easily solved by a competent subtitler.

Plus, from my experience, animation is FAR easier to subtitle than live action. It's much easier to time the subtitles, people speaking at the same time is much rarer and they tend to speed at a much slower pace too (making it easier to have subtitles with adequate reading speed).
Professional subtitlers unite! :p

You know what really fucking blows? When a game starts straight into a cutscene or whatever and you can't access the options menu to turn on subtitles until it's finished which means you have to sit through it all then pause the game, enable subtitles, and restart the whole thing from scratch.

What the fuck? I'm not even deaf or hard of hearing so I can only imagine how terrible this must be for the people that rely on them.
I think the only developer that lets you turn on/off subtitles int he middle of a cut-scene is Naughty Dog. Props to them for that. Honestly the way they handle subtitling is fine, just wish the font size was a bit bigger.
 
#48
Variations between games and type of speech aren't a justification. TV shows have all sorts of different speech density and other factors. Many of the problems mentioned here would be very easily solved by a competent subtitler.

Plus, from my experience, animation is FAR easier to subtitle than live action. It's much easier to time the subtitles, people speaking at the same time is much rarer and they tend to speed at a much slower pace too (making it easier to have subtitles with adequate reading speed).
I think variations in density matters because the script for a game that's very wordy is probably heavier than that of a TV show, or even a movie, for that matter.

As I mentioned, the time and other resources the developers have (a game I worked on only had 1 localization programmer for all the languages we shipped) is probably short to work on the localizations and the subtitles to match. You depend on a lot of things.

Presentation must have the UI/HUD lined up and locked. Then you can set your sizing on the area available for subtitles. Then you deal with whatever other limitations you have in that regard, in terms of design.

For the subtitles themselves, you need the script and all localizations to be locked. Maybe that's done at a date before the lines for every localization you're shipping with are recorded and locked. If that happens, maybe you don't have time for a really nice timing pass for certain (or all) of your languages/localizations.

Then you need to test all of this. You need to make sure there's no crazy overlapping or cut-off on certain languages that have bigger character sets. Your system that you designed for subtitles earlier? It ideally has to be robust enough to account for languages that don't use the "English" alphabet and still look OK.

Then you need to fix all of the bugs that occur. Often times bugs include really egregious timing errors, so that will get fixed as best it can, if that's something the QC/QA localization testers are tasked with bugging that or the programmers don't mark them Will Not Fix because they need to handle all of the other Must Have issues first.

Just some stuff to chew on. This is all stuff that, if most developers were able to start thinking about really early (and not have to depend on so many other deliverables and tight shipping deadlines), it'd probably be much better. Can it be improved? Certainly. I'm not trying to say that the situation, on the whole, is perfect.
 
#50
I think variations in density matters because the script for a game that's very wordy is probably heavier than that of a TV show, or even a movie, for that matter.

As I mentioned, the time the developers have (a game I worked on only had 1 localization programmer for all the languages we shipped) is probably short to work on the localizations and the subtitles to match. You depend on a lot of things.

Presentation must have the UI/HUD lined up and locked. Then you can set your sizing on the area available for subtitles. Then you deal with whatever other limitations you have in that regard, in terms of design.

For the subtitles themselves, you need the script and all localizations to be locked. Maybe that's done at a date before the lines for every localization you're shipping with are recorded and locked. If that happens, maybe you don't have time for a really nice timing pass for certain (or all) of your languages/localizations.

Then you need to test all of this. You need to make sure there's no crazy overlapping or cut-off on certain languages that have bigger character sets. Your system that you designed for subtitles earlier? It ideally has to be robust enough to account for languages that don't use the "English" alphabet and still look OK.

Then you need to fix all of the bugs that occur. Often times bugs include really egregious timing errors, so that will get fixed as best it can, if that's something the QC/QA localization testers are tasked with bugging that or the programmers don't mark them Will Not Fix because they need to handle all of the other Must Have issues first.

Just some stuff to chew on. This is all stuff that, if most developers were able to start thinking about really early (and not have to depend on so many other deliverables and tight shipping deadlines), it'd probably be much better. Can it be improved? Certainly. I'm not trying to say that the situation, on the whole, is perfect.
If it's too wordy, then they should resort to subtitling's nr 1 rule: summarizing.
Subtitling seldom uses all the text that is being said due to limitations concerning reading speed.

I'm afraid I should have been clear on this since the beginning: I'm speaking mostly about cutscenes. I can't really speak for dynamic speech like NPC and the alike, which, as you said so yourself, does have a fair amount of variables I am not familiar with. However, if reality matches what you just described, then we have developers doing something they shouldn't be doing in the first place. I think you're right, though, many of these issues could probably be solved witout much hassle with a mixture of competent subtitlers and more time.