Text Speed Discussion

Questions, skill improvement, and respectful critique involving game writing.
Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 118
Joined: Mon Jun 19, 2017 4:43 pm
Projects: Dangan Ren'Py
Location: United States

Text Speed Discussion

#1 Post by Westeford » Sun Mar 11, 2018 1:01 pm

One thing that I've always wondered about is text speed in games. Most mainstream games utilize scrolling text. (The text appears from left to right.) You can see this in Zelda, Mario, Ace Attorney, Danganronpa, etc. The biggest problem with this is when the text is too slow. (Many Zelda games are among the worst offenders.) Many games remedy this by having an option for text speed.

But I think it begs the question, Why does the text need to scroll?

Most people I know tend to skip the scrolling or try to speed it up by pressing buttons.
The only game I can think of that uses the scrolling text effectively is Ace Attorney. The text beeps in place of voice acting. The beeps also change depending on who's talking (Usually female characters have a higher pitched beeping compared to the male characters.). In the more recent games the text beeps in rhythm and tune with a song.
But that's one example. Most games still use scrolling text even when it's not entirely necessary. (In my opinion at least.)
I've played games that do away with the scrolling text and just have the text appear. Long Live the Queen, Ace Academy, Sunrider Academy, and Sunrider Liberation Day are some of them. (They're all games made with Ren'py too.) Now the games I listed aren't exactly mainstream, but they are commercial games. They're far from perfect games, but I don't think they're worse game because they don't use scrolling text. (It might be worth noting that Ace Academy and Sunrider Liberation Day are voice acted.)

I want to hear your opinions. Do you agree, disagree? Is scrolling text necessary? If so, why? Or even why do you think scrolling text is used so much? Enlighten us.
I hope I didn't come across as bashing the use of scrolling text. I'm more curious as to why it's used.

I posted this here because I think this is very relevant to writing. Because when writing you have to consider how much is said on a single screen or when you need to break up the text.
Hope you guys have a good day. :D

User avatar
Posts: 46
Joined: Sat Jan 13, 2018 12:18 am
Projects: The Miller's Daughter

Re: Text Speed Discussion

#2 Post by Preseva » Sun Mar 11, 2018 1:51 pm

Yesterday, I decided to revisit an old cartoon, Dr. Katz, and ended up reading about Squigglevision. Dr. Katz was very low budget animation, so what they did was create static backgrounds and then used a digital program to make the characters and animated objects warp and vibrate in place. The end result mimicked old-time cartoons where each frame was drawn entirely from scratch on top of the last one, creating a hand-drawn look that created the illusion of movement for characters that didn't actually move except for their pupils and mouths. The point is that it added vibrancy and movement to a static image.

I think the effect of scrolling text is something like that. It's meant to add dynamism to what is essentially a static format. It creates the illusion that something is happening because there is movement on the screen. Scrolling text isn't the only way to do this. Any kind of feedback that happens when you press a button to advance the text can create the impression of action.

Butterfly Soup does this better than any game I've played, visual novel or otherwise. It utilizes scrolling text with differently pitched beeps for the characters, the pitch indicating both age and gender. The text slows, speeds up, or pauses depending on how excitedly the character is talking. Sounds effects are also added when a character speaks: passionate speech or witty repartee gets the sound of a sword slice, insults that land get a punch sound effect and sometimes the screen shakes. The result is that the game comes across as highly animated, despite being comprised of text and static sprites, and appears action-oriented even though it revolves around the conversations of high school students. The entire result is that you click the button and stuff happens, which makes you want to keep clicking because you feel like you're getting stuff done. If you were to turn off scrolling text in Butterfly Soup, you'd be losing a lot.

The majority of games don't use scrolling text this thoughtfully. The dynamism value it adds is little, which is why I usually turn text speed up to max so that it appears instantaneously. I think scrolling text is one tool in the creator's tool box when it comes to breathing life into dialogue, but if you're going to use it, really use it.

User avatar
Lemma-Class Veteran
Posts: 2258
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2015 5:05 am
Location: Your monitor

Re: Text Speed Discussion

#3 Post by Imperf3kt » Sun Mar 11, 2018 4:01 pm

I like to use scrolling text myself and like it in games.

The reason is because it breaks up the monotonous BAM chunk of text BAM chunk of text BAM chunk of text.

Of course, slow moving text pisses me off (I'm a very fast reader) but as long as the option to adjust it is there, there is no problem.

I don't think I have much else to add here that hasn't been said (more elegantly than I would have) already.

I find that a scrolling speed of 60 is a nice balance of pacing and speed.
Warning: May contain trace amounts of gratuitous plot.
pro·gram·mer (noun) An organism capable of converting caffeine into code.

User avatar
Posts: 43
Joined: Thu Dec 21, 2017 9:23 am
Projects: 11th Hour [Working Title]
Soundcloud: Ezmar

Re: Text Speed Discussion

#4 Post by Ezmar » Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:40 am

Yeah, this is kind of a matter of taste. I prefer my text to scroll, just to give it a bit of motion and activity, but I prefer it to scroll slightly faster than I read. I will still take a scrolling speed that's too slow over instant text, since if it's too slow, I can just manually display the whole thing if I don't feel like waiting. Again, this is just a personal thing, many people (and developers) prefer instant text, which is fine too.

Personally, my favorite VN as far as text scrolling has been Steins;Gate. In addition to a widely adjustable text speed, it also has the option of synchronizing the text speed with voiced lines, which I felt helped encourage me to listen to the entire line more frequently. I also appreciated the visual effect where the text faded in, rather than appearing as though it were being typed out. Not that I dislike scrolling text without effects, I just appreciated it.

Personally, I think as long as there's an acceptable adjustment range, you can't really go wrong. It's down to player preference, really, and some people really dislike having text boxes appear in full instantly, particularly when it's meant to represent someone speaking. The scroll is meant to at least simulate the idea of progressive speech, and portray dialogue more like "hearing" than like "reading". We read text in large chunks all at once, but that's not how we process spoken word. It doesn't really change much, but having text display progressively is at least a gentle push towards that (shudder) "immersion". Basically, I think having the option there is important. I know I was a little upset that there's no option for scrolling text in Muv-Luv and Alternative, though I did get over it pretty quickly.

User avatar
Miko-Class Veteran
Posts: 764
Joined: Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:15 pm
Projects: Tempestus Sum
Organization: Xenokos Interactive
IRC Nick: Gear
Skype: Skye.Gear
Location: Grand Prairie, TX

Re: Text Speed Discussion

#5 Post by Gear » Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:24 pm

There's more to the Ace Attorney example, actually.

In AA, the scrolling text does two other things. First, it denotes the characters' speaking speed. When character are thinking deeply, the text moves a bit slower, but when they have their lightbulb moment, there's a screen shake effect with a sound effect, and the text flies across the scream, usually some kind of shout. Characters like Wendy Oldbag have very fast text scrolls to indicate that she's talking way too much and way too quickly, getting across that she's not very self-aware and highly annoying.

Secondly, having the text scroll allows sprites to change mid-sentence. If you have the phrase, "I feel like I'm forgetting something... oh my god we left Jimmy in the car!" you can have a sprite thinking rather calmly before the ellipsis, but then switch to shock after. If the text all appears at once, then that's an effect that's completely lost, which is why I prefer in my games to have that scrolling text over the objections of some of the testers.
The best reason to get up in the morning is to outdo yourself: to do it better than you've ever done it before. But if you haven't done it better by nightfall... look at your globe and pick a spot: it's always morning somewhere.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users