The Pentiment’s 16th Century Story Demystifies Its Fonts

Lettermatic as font. Fonts you can buy and use, fonts cover your Starbucks store coffee cup, NASCAR in-app and in-car fonts. You can find their fonts everywhere, on anything – even in video games, alike Psychonauts 2. You will find their letters next in Obsidian Entertainment’s Idea16th-century narrative role-playing game that looks like it was straight out of a medieval manuscript.

Idea played out on the pages of one of those manuscripts. Its murder mystery story is set in Bavaria, inspiring the world from late medieval manuscripts to early printing. IdeaAndreas Maler’s protagonist is an artist who works on illuminated manuscripts, writes them by hand and adds period-appropriate elements: designs, illustrations, and intricate, double contours. when in actual silver and gold.

A group of people standing in front of one person.  They are all saying 'Amen.'

Image: Obsidian Entertainment / Xbox Game Studios

Riley Cran and his small Lettermatic team built six different fonts for Ideaeach of which has a different purpose in the game. Idea not a voiceover video game, so its font instead of voice. Obsidian producer Alec Frey told Polygon. “We can show [a character’s] Education, personality and background through fonts. It allowed us to really give voice to the characters and bring the world to life. “

IdeaTheir fonts feel like they have a life of their own. They are dynamic; There were patches and scribbles, ink spilling on the parchment pages. The ink is dry and sometimes dull, with words crossed out and rewritten.

With a well-crafted past story, Obsidian wanted to make sure it got the key detail – the font – accurate, historically. That’s where Cran and his team come in: They’re font experts, and they look forward to matching Obsidian’s enthusiasm for the times. The goal was not only to perfect 16th-century European Gothic writing and flourish, but also to include more everyday writing styles – not everyone is adept at professional writing, after all. industry, or maybe even read or write. .

“We have a whole shelf of books in the library that we bought to research this game,” says Cran. “We started using fonts during the pandemic, when it became increasingly difficult to access physical repositories. But eventually we realized that a large amount of assets scanned and photographed within organizations are available digitally.”

After studying documents and other sources, Lettermatic built a large genealogy of Latin script, spanning time and geography, to be able to place Ideaof the world in a timeline, making sure its writing styles were ones that people of the time could use or see. (Obsidian Entertainment and Lettermatic have read a lot of research books on this game Idea Frey said there’s a folder in the credits.) From there, developers Lettermatic and Obsidian pulled parts of those fonts together to build Ideanew fonts, specially designed for video games. Once they figured that out, they started drawing the fonts mostly by hand, using precision writing tools with intervals, Cran said. He estimates there are about 2,700 individual glyphs in Ideaof six fonts.

Two people standing in the yard, in front of the barn door, talking.  Got an offside chicken.

Image: Obsidian Entertainment / Xbox Game Studios

However, Obsidian and Lettermatic still want the game’s fonts to be accessible to all players, so they have to take that into consideration while constructing the type. Not all fonts make the cut to a more accessible version of a legible font; the player has the option to use all fonts, or just the ones that are easier to read, right at the start of the game.

“We want to make sure that if people have trouble reading [the fonts], we have a way for them to do that,” said Frey. “We also have an in-game text-to-speech feature if you need the game to read itself to you. It’s not dubbing, it’s automatic dubbing. “

To implement fonts in Idea, Obsidian received what Cran describes as a “toolkit” from Lettermatic. These fonts are not like the ones you and I type every day. After all, this text is supposed to mimic handwriting, which is not as consistent as most digital fonts. It includes considerations about how someone who writes two E’s back-to-back would not write each E exactly the same way. There are also other “spontaneous” details, Cran says – such as flourishes or slight variations. “It is a unique quality that is the authentic feel of spontaneous writing that is not provided by digital assets and how to figure out how to create actual digital assets that captures a very similar typeface. on one’s own.”

Two pages of a book half filled with gothic script.  At the bottom of each page, there are illustrations depicting the people by the lake.

Image: Obsidian Entertainment / Xbox Game Studios

These are details that players may not notice, and Idea was designed that way. But if the details aren’t right, the game will likely feel different in some way – albeit on a small scale. A small detail like the font on the screen is just as important as any other content; they are all small pieces of a big, big world.

“The work itself, it was clear to us that we were just part of a big story,” says Cran. “The people at Obsidian are working on Idea already had a clear vision of when and where this game was going, so it was pretty easy to jump into some in-depth research. ”

Idea Released on November 15th on Xbox Series X, Xbox One and Windows PC.


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