Update: Twitter user and accessibility specialist Ian Hamilton pointed out to me that I've misunderstood what the PS4's accessibility options do. The Large Text option mentioned in this post only changes the text size in Messages, Parties and the PS4's web browsers. So I was wrong in faulting CD Projekt RED for not supporting the option; there's nothing there for them to support. I apologize to CD Projekt RED for the error, and thank Mr. Hamilton for helping to set the record state.
That said, I stand by my call for developers to do more to help people with special needs or disabilities enjoy gaming, and offering an option for larger text in games is just one way of doing that. I still think the text is too small!
Original post follows:
The much-hyped and (so far) well-reviewed game The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt released this week. I've been looking forward to this game since I finished Dragon Age: Inquisition back in December so, encouraged by the positive reviews, I pre-ordered a digital copy for the Playstation 4. It became available to play Monday night and I dove right in.
Almost immediately I ran into an issue that none of the reviews (that I read anyway) mentioned: the on-screen text was too small to read comfortably. At least some of it was. Ironically the subtitles were fine but I didn't need those (since the game is fully voiced). Clearly this is subjective. If you have great eyesight or you sit close to your TV it might not be a problem but for my tired old eyes it was a real issue, particularly the text in the inventory and loot screens. I do know I'm not alone; I've seen others complaining about text size in the official forums and on sites like GameFaqs.
I'm including a few screenshots but since you're probably reading this article on a PC or mobile device, and not on a TV 10 feet away, you might not see text size as an issue.
Anyway, then I remembered that back in Software Update 2.50 Sony had added a bunch of accessibility options, and one of them seemed like a perfect solution: Large Text. Exactly what I needed but....it didn't work. It turns out that at least some of these accessibility options need to be supported by game developers, and CD Projekt RED (CDPR), the developers of The Witcher, hadn't bothered.
I'm not software developer but I assume that CDPR used a custom font rather than use whatever fonts Sony provides in its SDK. (If you're an actual developer feel free to mock me if I've got this totally wrong.)
I praised Sony when they started offering these features but if developers aren't going to support them, they aren't doing people with disabilities or special needs any good.
The good news is that Sony offered one other feature that can help with The Witcher III: a zoom option. Once enabled (in Settings->Accessibility) you can hit the Playstation button and the Square button at the same time to zoom in and read the text you can't make out. It's not ideal since you're essentially turning your attention away from what is happening in the game while you do this, but I can at least use it when titular character Geralt is someplace safe and rummaging through his inventory or when I want to read some of the extensive lore included in the game.
(Apparently text size is an issue on Xbox One as well and to the best of my knowledge that system doesn't have any kind of a zoom option.)
I've only put a few hours into The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt so far but aside from this text issue it seems like it's going to be a great game. I reached out to the firm handling PR for the game to inquire as to whether the developers are considering a patch to let us increase the size of on-screen text, but got no response.
Until we get such a patch I'd suggest anyone with eyesight issues think twice about getting the game on console. If you're sitting in front of a PC monitor (which I'm sure both developers and reviewers were doing) it's probably not an issue, but trying to read this text on a TV screen 10 feet away is a challenge if your eyes aren't in tip-top shape. I should add that I play a lot of console games and this is the first time I've had this problem.
It's just very disappointing to be having issues reading small text on a system that includes support for enlarging text, and having a developer not think that system is worth supporting. As the gaming audience ages, developers are going to have to do more to support failing eyes, ears, and even arthritic fingers.