20 responses to “Subtitles in Assassin’s Creed II and Ubisoft’s Pledge”

  1. codeman38

    Oh, gah, yes, it’s so irritating when video games don’t have subtitles available. Particularly when there’s lots of background noise or loud music, the character’s got a difficult accent, or the character’s voice is distorted in any way. There are so many games out there where I didn’t understand most of a sequence of dialogue because of one of those issues.

    And yes, game designers are notorious for not thinking about accessibility. Another area where they’re often made of fail is color-blindness. I’m thankful this isn’t an issue for me, but there are way too many games where distinguishing red from green from yellow is a significant requirement.

    There’s a wonderful demo of why accessibility is important in games titled “Game Over”. It’s a fully playable game… well, it’s not playable, because every level is inaccessible in some way, but it’s an excellent demo because of that! It can be downloaded here, if you’re interested.

    Incidentally, have you played Portal yet? If not, get it immediately. Easy controls (other than turning and walking, there are only three actions you can do), and everything is subtitled (even sound effects, optionally!). I haven’t played any of the other Orange Box games, but I heartily recommend Portal.

  2. stephen

    This is pretty awesome on their part, but it doesn’t solve the problem that text in all games that I’ve seen for the PS3 and Xbox 360 is optimized for high definition screens, and so render poorly on old televisions. I’ve seen ASII on an old tv, and the subtitles were there, but they were difficult to read fast enough to keep up. I’ve never seen a game on these platforms that didn’t suffer from this problem.

  3. Sweet Machine

    Oh, I am so glad to hear this. I am currently playing ASII and really enjoying it; I hope that the subtitles improve the experience for you. AS was definitely one of my all-time favorite games, partly because the gameplay doesn’t make me motion-sick (as a lot of first-person games do) so I was thrilled when the sequel came out.

  4. K

    I am digressing when I just wanted to say that I prefer computer over console because I tend to find console controls too confusing for me – all the button combinations are too much to keep track of. I like to set up my buttons in a row and get my “Pew Pew Moar” on.
    I’m the opposite way, I can’t stand playing games on computers. You can map individual keys to commands but then I’m like, “Why does the game require 20 different commands?” I don’t like to play games that require more than 6 trigger buttons and a d-pad. All those buttons & their locations bother me.
    My other problem with PC games is that I can never keep up with the technology. The last “New” game this PC could handle was Sims 2, and that came out in what, 2005? 2006? Never need to worry about that with console hardware, just upgrade once every few years if you want and it’s good to go for the most part.

    I didn’t play the Assassin’s Creed games, but I am still familiar with the Jade webcomic scandal. It’s disturbing.

    I remember back in the day before the mid 1990s, most games couldn’t have speech, because the technology wasn’t up for it yet. So all the dialog was subtitled. But there were a few games where you still needed to be able to hear in order to progress. Illusion of Gaia, was one of them. There was some level with a sound trigger, and the sound effect wasn’t subtitled… I was just a little kid back then, and I still remember thinking that part seemed unfair if you couldn’t hear the trigger for one reason or another. Make it that far and get stuck (This was back in the days before GameFAQs.)
    .-= K´s last blog ..Interesting posts, weekend of 12/26 =-.

  5. Caitlin

    I’ve always wanted subs in my games, though not having them doesn’t make a game unplayable for me (luckily). I was plesantly surprised to have subtitles in the PS3 game I just got for Christmas, as I hadn’T expected them – even better, they’re accurate, AND the dialogue/subs don’t move forward until you make them.

  6. QoT

    @codeman: Off-topic in that it’s boardgames, not PC/console, but boardgamegeek.com has had some discussions around how inaccessible some boardgames can be (and resources to adapt them so they’re playable).

  7. Tera

    Video game accessibility! Whee!

    The group behind Game Over! (that Codeman38 linked to) also developed a universally accessible version of Space Invaders called Access Invaders and a newer version called Terrestrial Invaders

    I’m like you, K. I find using a controller much less complicated than using a keyboard and mouse. I like computer games with the “Games for Windows” sticker on them, because you can play them with an Xbox360 controller. I also like Diablo II, although I totally suck at it. (Yay pointing at stuff with a mouse and clicking it!)

  8. Norah

    My brother is also clourblind and has occasionally needed help in games that use colour-based puzzles, mostly adventure games, but in general it doesn’t matter much. Of course, there are different kinds of colourblind and games may well cause more trouble for one kind than for another, also it would probably vary per person.

    I’ve recently been noticing many different ways in which games are inaccessible, but most games I play have always had subtitles. I dread the rising popularity of ventrilo and other teamspeak/chat programmes in mainly MMO games.

    I have problems playing FPS and PvP I think because ofthe same reasons why it wouldn’t be safe for me to drive a car: too much going on on my screen that I HAVE to keeptrack of. Also enemies popping out from behind walls just freaks me out. I don’t mind games where I do the popping out though 😀 (like Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines).

    I’m a PC-game lover as well. Console controls are difficult, but mostly they really make my hands ache very badly. I would probably tolerate that, though, if cosoles had games I enjoyed, but so far, all the games I might like on console have also come out for PC, and I just don’t like most of the types of games coming out for consoles. The one or two games I might want to play for more than an hour don’t warrant me buying a console for.
    I still like adventures and RPG games best, but I play many different kinds of games. The only kind I really don’t like is the racing genre.

  9. Godless Heathen

    I’ve been really interested in the Assassin’s Creed games, I might actually have to spend money. The manbeast is also a voracious gamer, so even if I don’t like it, he probably will. They’re just so pretty!

    @Norah: Argh, Ventrilo*! I had a brief saga where I tried to find an active WoW raiding guild and every. single. fricking. one. needed me to be able to use Ventrilo. When I finally did find a guild that would work with me without sound, I washed out of raiding with them because my response time was too slow.

    My “love letters” to Blizzard about their game being hard on the visually impaired could fill an entire novel. You know what’s hard to do when you can’t see tiny little clickable things? Playing “Simon”, finding and avoiding land mines, mixing potions in 30 seconds! I had to have my husband do some of the quests for me. Thanks for the feeling of personal failure and defeat, Blizzard.

    I’ve been wondering, while I noob my way around Team Fortress 2: is it just me, or is it really hard to tell the spies apart? I know that their suits are supposed to be gray tinted with either red or blue, but I have a hard time seeing that. I’m enjoying my Christmas gift very much, but my fellow team mates are a little frustrated at my inability to see enemy spies.

    *Some of my problems with Ventrilo were solved by our guild moving to the Dolby Axon standalone beta. A lot less background noise, feedback, and muffling, though I still find focusing on people’s speech to be exhausting at best. I can move myself in the “room” when I need to hear a person better, too bad Axon can’t help with thick accents.

  10. Brooke

    Yay for subtitles! Actually, in my 2 decades of gaming (although obviously voice acting is a more recent thing), I think the only 2 games I’ve come across that didn’t have subtitles were Koudelka (which I could still manage, with the volume way up and by concentrating, although I know I didn’t catch everything) and Fatal Frame (which I couldn’t hear AT ALL, and stopped playing pretty quickly because of it). I was really disappointed about Fatal Frame, because it seemed like it promised to be a kick-ass ghost story, but what was the point if I couldn’t hear it? The gameplay wasn’t fun enough to stand on its own without understanding what was going on.

    What other games have people come across that weren’t subtitled? I’d be interested to know if any of them are in my collection of games-I-bought-for-a-great-price-but-haven’t-played-yet.

    I even tend to play video games with the sound off because I like to listen to my own music instead of the in-game music (although I love the Final Fantasy soundtracks), and I read way, way faster than the voice actors speak, so even if I wasn’t hearing impaired, I’d prefer reading the subtitles to listening to the voices.

  11. codeman38

    The penultimate King’s Quest game (#7, I think?) wasn’t subtitled… which is particularly shocking given that all the previous games in the series were either entirely textual or had a text option. Thankfully, most of the dialogue was well enough enunciated and un-distorted that I could make it out, but there were a couple characters who gave important clues that were half-unintelligible to me (yay for FAQs!).

  12. cathy

    I always turn on the subtitles. Sometimes (but not always) the repetitive background music that games us really grates at me, so I mute them and play the radio instead. I found a used copy of Jak and Daxter: the Lost Frontier and it has subtitles, but they are terrible. First, they are only on the cut-scenes, so critical instructions and tips during gameplay are missed. Second, they are timed wrong. I am not great at reading facial expressions or body language, so for me to notice something like that means they are really off. Sometimes, the subtitles will pop up and be gone before the character even speaks. I finally figured out that I could use the options to mute the music and lower the special effects while making the voices loud, but it was still annoying.

  13. Norah

    I also dislike games where you cannot cut animations, cutscenes, conversations and such in game either by clicking or pressing ESC or whatever, it’s especially bad when you’ve already played the game several times. But I can’t always sit through all that, sometimes I need to just do stuff in the game for relaxation or whatever and if there was any info in the cuscenes/conversation I want to be able to look it up in a log of some sort later on.

  14. codeman38

    @cathy: Still better than the first Jak & Daxter game, which didn’t even have subs on the cutscenes. How’d I forget about that one, seriously?

  15. codeman38

    @Norah: One of the coolest games I’ve seen in that respect was a rather obscure Sierra adventure game titled “Torin’s Passage”. Not only did it have subtitles for everything (and even mentioned this on the back of the box!), but it saved a running transcript of the dialogue that you could then scroll back through if you missed anything. I haven’t really seen anything like that since.

  16. codeman38

    Oh, gah, I know I’m spamming this post with comments, but I forgot the most facepalm-worthy thing about of the lack of subtitles in the first Jak & Daxter game.

    When the game first came out, I played it, and I struggled to understand what some of the characters were saying. So naturally, I looked online to see if anyone else had commented on the lack of subtitles. And lo and behold, I found a FAQ from the developers themselves (now no longer on the site, but still accessible via the Internet Archive) with an answer to just why they had left such a basic feature out:

    We didn’t want subtitles to get in the way of the “movie” experience that the game provided. Afterwards, we realized that some hearing impaired gamers would have difficulty with the tasks, even though all of the tasks appear as items in the inventory menu. We are looking into adding subtitles, as an option, in the future to aid these gamers.

    From someone who watches movies with the subtitles turned on… yeah, that ain’t a movie experience. :-p

  17. Jayn

    The worst game for colour-blindness that I’ve seen (my husband has this issue) is Bust-A-Move Bash. Even with normal eyesight, I have trouble with telling some of the colours apart. The worst part? Previous games WERE accessible to my husband, because the different coloured balls also had different designs. They REMOVED that aspect in the Wii installment.

    Oh, and the multi-player blows.

  18. codeman38

    …Gahhh, I loved Bust-A-Move in the arcade. They removed the patterns inside the balls in the WiiWare version? Really? ::headdesk::

  19. Norah

    Codeman38: That’s one of the worst excuses from game devs ever. Like they couldn’t make them optional like in the thousands of other games (even way back when). I actually understand the reason, when I can understand the words the subtitles need to go for me too, or they keep sucking my attention to them and I miss other stuff. But their reasoning makes no sense at all, so I have a hard time believing they really thought this way and really didn’t think of optional subs. So then I’m more inclined to believe they couldn’t be arsed.