Hearing impaired gamers asked the publisher to add subtitles to the cut-scenes of the game, but experts explained why this is more difficult than it seems at first glance.
November 13, Spyro Reignited Trilogy was released – a remake of a classic platformer adventure. In the very first days, the players noticed that there were no subtitles in the cut scenes of the first part, only the voice acting. The problem is first of all paid attention to gamers with hearing impairment.
On November 16, Activision and Toys For Bob Studio explained that they were striving to fully preserve the legacy of the original game – in the first part there were no subtitles in the cut scenes either. The publisher explained that the company respects its players, especially people with disabilities, but separately stressed that the gaming “industry has no standards for subtitles.”
This statement launched a discussion in social networks. Activision responded to many users, as if the company was simply trying to justify itself.
“There are no subtitle standards in the industry?” Being a deaf gamer, I find the fact that in the modern world there are no subtitles in the game, just a manifestation of laziness. A dubious statement of Activision – a disgusting attempt to exclude people with disabilities.
Some users urged developers to pay attention to this problem and address the standards for subtitles.
This is unacceptable and needs to be changed. Let’s set the standards for subtitles in the gaming industry.
Experts who recognized the problem joined the discussion and noted that it is more complicated than it seems at first glance. For example, Ian Hamilton, accessibility specialist (software and hardware development for people with disabilities) recalled his article on Gamasutra , where he talked about subtitles in video games.
Hamilton outlined several points that developers should pay attention to. He advised to avoid low-contrast text, too small a font or too many lines. Hamilton also noted that when introducing subtitles it is necessary to remember about the different sizes of monitors for users and the likely translation of replicas into another language. He accompanied his material with several examples.
The situation was also expressed in detail by the Twitter user under the nickname Patera Quetzal. In his thread, he explained why it is sometimes so difficult to create subtitles in a game, especially based on voiced cues.
First, Quetzal cited the example of subtitles for TV and movies, where they are much easier to implement.
Creating subtitles for film and television is very, very simple, even very simple. The subtitle standard in the USA was created in 1968 (The Mod Squad was the first TV series with subtitles). The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) was formed in 1972. These standards are used to this day.
Subtitles for film and television – in terms of creation – are simple and incredibly clumsy. You have a string (possibly a binary, because these standards anticipated ASCII and Unicode). And you have a timecode indicating the hour: minute: second, or the frame duration is specified
Quetzal stressed that game developers in introducing subtitles have to face several important problems that are not present when adding subtitles to movies or TV. For example, using fonts, keywords and special markers (“Hello, @playerName”). Game creators also need to consider situations in which the player may miss the subtitles.
Quetzal called subtitle editing with SubStation Alpha / AegisSub the closest industry standard that would solve all these problems. This method is widely used by anime translators who translate subtitles from Japanese using the romaji system and decorate each replica with the color of the corresponding character.
Quetzal noted that the Spyro remake was created on the Unreal Engine 4 technology, which has a fairly simple but not very flexible tool for introducing subtitles into the game.
In addition, the user gave a vivid illustration of the complexity of introducing text using the example of a typical sound designer, if he does not have a script, but only an excel file with more than a thousand replicas. It is difficult to fit any text cues into the game because for each dialogue it is necessary to register gaps – gaps with which the text will appear. And this task is complicated at times if the text needs to be translated into different languages.
At the end of the explanation, Quetzal did agree that there should be subtitles in modern games, but he understands the reasons why they were not added.
Spyro is the second case when Activision does not add subtitles when creating remakes. In 2017, the publisher did not implement the text in Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy – as in the original game.