Subtitles / Closed-Captions: 1985, 1997, 1998 and any excuses for 2018?


Screen show of corridor scene with a large skull painting with floating pointer. At the bottom of the screen reads "an annoying tone" subtitle in brackets, captioning the sound playing at that moment.

A couple of years back, Ian Hamilton collated an excellent guide, How to do Subtitles Well at Gamasutra. Although I don't agree with his definition of the difference between captions and subtitles (doesn't tally with my UK "888" Teletext experience where subtitles would commonly describe music, sounds, colour code speakers and denote if someone was off screen), that's not important...

...what is important is for people to have the option to have speech, sounds and music described in easy to digest text.

There are some interesting examples in gaming dating back to Atari's Gauntlet in 1985. Perhaps before. Activision added a patch to their game Zork Nemesis in 1997 for players unable to play through for lack of subtitles (see this news piece and grab the subtitles patch here).

In 1998 Zork: The Grand Inquisitor (pictured above) came supplied with closed captions / subtitles, although frustratingly, this wasn't announced on the box.

There doesn't seem to be too many excuses for not doing this well in gaming in 2018 where needed.




Overhead view of a pixelated dungeon, with a Warrior above the text "Treasure: 100 Points".

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3 Responses to 'Subtitles / Closed-Captions: 1985, 1997, 1998 and any excuses for 2018?'

  1. # Blogger OneSwitch.org.uk

    Cheeky copy and paste from Wired:

    MIKE TANNER
    CULTURE
    07.28.97

    ZORK ADDS SUBTITLES

    IN A NOD to the hearing-impaired gamers who adopted the game during the seven years it was published in a text-only version, Activision has released a subtitling patch for the latest sound-and-graphics incarnation of its interactive fantasy game Zork. The current patch for Zork Nemesis is available on the Activision Web site, and subtitles will be standard equipment for this fall's new Grand Inquisitor.

    The game has a substantial deaf audience, says Activision spokesman Jamey Gottlieb, "but we didn't entirely know that until we started making the graphic version without the text. Then hearing-impaired players started asking, 'What can you do for us?'"

    Compared to the work involved in building full-motion video and graphical interfaces, Activision's solution was a fairly remedial task, a matter of "a few weeks of programming." Since Nemesis is so plot- and dialog-driven, Gottlieb adds, the soundtrack is much more integral to game-play than the bangs and screams of a shooter game would be.

    LucasArts has included a similar option in its graphic adventure games since they started featuring sound in 1987. Originally included to make the games - which also had formerly been text-based - playable by users without sufficient audio hardware, the scripting utility has been included in subsequent games. Last year's children's title, Mortimer and the Riddles of the Medallion used the scripting option as a learn-to-read tool.

    "It's definitely altruistic," says Forrester gaming analyst Seema Chowdury of Activision's addition. And since it appeals to a potentially core group of users, it's probably a smart business move as well.

     

  2. # Blogger OneSwitch.org.uk

    Help here for getting it running on a modern computer: http://forums.scummvm.org/viewtopic.php?p=84063&sid=9040d5d68ee5e505e02150c12699b950  

  3. # Blogger OneSwitch.org.uk

    Useful Reddit thread here on Closed Captions / Subtitles in games:

    https://www.reddit.com/r/Games/comments/7mywuh/what_video_game_subtitling_got_wrong_in_2017/  

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