So, apparently Spyro is missing any sort of accessibility options for deaf, hard of hearing, or players that don’t want to wake up their housemates. It has no subtitle options.
When asked by GamePitt, an Activision spokesperson provided the following statement:
When Toys For Bob set out to make an awesome game collection, there were certain decisions that needed to be made throughout the process. The team remained committed to keep the integrity and legacy of Spyro that fans remembered intact. The game was built from the ground up using a new engine for the team (Unreal 4) and was localized in languages that had not previously been attempted by the studio. While there’s no industry standard for subtitles, the studio and Activision care about the fans’ experience especially with respect to accessibility for people with different abilities, and will evaluate going forward.
So maybe they’ll patch them in at some point in the future, but seriously, how the hell does a studio like this think this is at all acceptable. There’s no industry standard for subtitles? The fuck?
absolute garbage! not excusable! actually worrying!
the one major advantage Big Games have is that they can put in place standards which must be met prior to release, one of which should always be around accessibility. the fact they don’t have a basic accessibility checklist in place before releasing a game tells me a lot about the internal culture of the publisher. beyond sloppy, this one.
By “industry standard” I think they mean “it’s not illegal to not have it,” which is still utterly bullshit. We live in a time where games like Spiderman and RDR2 have mash-assist for the physically impaired and I refuse to believe Activision doesn’t have a similar amount of cash to play around with as the publishers of those games do.
That was my read of that as well… The statement is problematic as fuck, and it’s also like bragging about using Unreal 4, which has subtitle support…
This is super weird considering the amount of dialogue in spyro that doesn’t have an accompanying text box is fairly small. It’s like 2-4 cutscenes per game, like it can’t have been that much more to localize the last few cutscenes considering they did the work for all the in level VO which has accompanying text boxes.
ed: upon further reflection, this is probably less true for spyro 1. I don’t think the dragon rescues have text boxes.
I turn on subtitles for every game that doesn’t have them by default, and I literally can’t remember the last time a game straight up did not give me that option. This is pathetic.
It’s basically a necessity in any open world game that has multiple characters talking at the same time, that and the “name of speaker” feature.
It’s a bit more technical than that. There’s a Twitter thread going around about this (content warning: ableist language in the tweet thread within the quote-tweet), which I’ve seen a few folks take issue with, but I do think it is informative and I’d recommend folks read.
As the thread outlines, Closed Captioning (i.e. TV/film subtitles) are a specific thing, which you see codified through technical standards like EIA-608. This defines how subtitles should be designed and implemented pretty specifically for broadcast standards.
I think that thread, which I don’t think is above criticism, does a good job of outlining why this is even an issue at all (which was as surprising to me as others).
Ultimately, I do think users should be calling out developers on this (and making clear that it should be considered a de facto requirement even if it is not a de jure one), but forcing the implementation of some kind of real standard, underpinned by the threat of levied fines, is something that needs to be considered, along with how one would go about that (because the analog-broadcast system doesn’t seem viable).
I always thought subtitles were required for console certification, but I guess not. After some googling turns out that the Crash Bandicoot remake (also by Activision) didn’t have subtitles either which makes the “we care about fans and will evaluate going forward” statement read pretty hollow.
Frankly, that Twitter thread is overblown. Yes, there are no actual “standards” for how to do subtitles, but it’s not like having subs at all isn’t “the standard”. It is, and nearly every single game manages it.
I’m not pretending it’s as easy as just “adding some text” but depending on how accessible you want to make your game, the bare minimum isn’t a major hurdle.
I would have hoped Sony and Microsoft would be the ones setting those standards. Especially Microsoft after they went and made that awesome controller.
Seconding this, it’s absolutely ridiculous to claim having readable text in a game in somehow an overreach, or something a studio has to go out of their way to accomplish - is it work? Yes! But so is having functioning controls, or an animation system, or skyboxes, or particle effects, or literally any of the million other things they decided were more important to the core functionality of their game than subtitles. If you go through the thread, every complication and difficulty associated with having subtitles is solved by the simple act of /planning for them from the beginning of development/, not treating them as some Special Optional Feature to be slapped on at the last minute if there’s time and money for it.
As someone who’s been a part of the VO recording, audio editing and subtitling process, I wanna say that the Twitter thread being passed around, however correct it is and however much they are in favor of every game having subtitles, also describes the process in the most Scary Twitter Language possible and it annoys me. The job they’re describing could still be done if someone at Activision cared.
The super weird thing about this is the way Activision is framing it as a matter “keep[ing] the integrity and legacy of Spyro […] intact,” as if they chose not to include subtitles because doing so would corrupt the pure artistic vision of… Spyro. Like, what? Are they just trying to appeal to people you get upset over trivial details being changed in remasters? I genuinely don’t understand the logic behind that statement.
keeping the legacy of spyro intact by ignoring the absolute basics of inclusivity, retaining all the mega racist stuff and making sheila the kangaroo sexy. video games baby
Right? That thread is very “hang on to your butts for this super intense deep dive into the horror of subtitles” with tone that implies that choosing the size of the font is a nearly debilitating choice.
Like, I understand that there are levels of just how accessible you make your subs, such as letting you change the size, placement, color, etc - but Activision couldn’t even be bothered to do the bare minimum here. When you’re comparing any of your options to not having subtitles at all, literally anything is better than nothing.
They’re right that there isn’t an industry-standard. The answer to that is, “there should be one”. I’m of the mind that console platform holders should be building in macro-level subtitle functionality, that all games would be required to hook into, and would allow you to fully customize how they appear on-screen.
To paraphrase Mark Brown’s point on this subject, developers are far too keen for their subtitles to hew towards Brand Recognition and aesthetic consistency over actual readability. We need clearer, more consistent fonts and line lengths. All platform holders and developers should be held to one established standard for how subtitles are presented.
By the way, I’ve worked in both the games industry and also done freelance work in subtitle timing. It is really, really not a huge effort to have someone scrub through the audio track waveform, mark the points for every line, and then have the programming team time those lines to those points.
Movies and TV have largely gotten this right for years now, it’s time for games to stop pretending they’re too exceptional to include this.
I’ve been playing Destiny 2 with Subtitles on because I sometimes play while doing other things and also I’m just… used to subtitles I guess. But I’ve been noticing a shocking amount of inconsistency in the subtitling.
Like lines will literally be completely different in the subtitles in comparison to how they’re spoken, and often the meaning of the line or context will actually change or have more impact than the written subtitle regardless of the fact it’s voice acted. A major example comes from something Ikora says in the final mission before the end of the main campaign,and it’s the big flowery speech about how they might die etc etc, but the subtitle is just the most bland shit. Like they couldn’t even be bothered to change the line in the subtitle. They just copy/pasted an early draft of the script or something and the line loses all its emotional impact to anyone who might actually need subtitles to comprehend what’s going on in that speech. Story and character development are impacted because there aren’t hard regulations or QA on subtitles and it’s bullshit.
EDIT: Thats not to mention timing issues and some issues with readability. Activision needs to get on their shit with this.
I thought this is a great moment to showcase this great video series by Mark Brown. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NGe4dzlukc It’s fantastic resource with tips on good subtitles and highlights good and bad use of subtitles in video games. A great thing is also pointing out the little quirks that are unique to making subtitles for video games. Yes there is no industry standard, but as pointed out, TV and Movies has universal standards. Hopefully with more outcry and attention will shift the industry.
I’ll also mention that, I did try to get a past studio engaged with the topic by sharing one of those good write-ups, and got a complete cold shoulder reaction.
In some cases it can be a cost difficulty, but in nearly all situations, the critical decision makers in management either didn’t bother thinking about this, or didn’t give a shit because they look at it as a vestigial “feature”