MMO fonts: The good, the bad, and the ugly

In my effort to start clearing out my drafts folder here at Bio Break, I’m digging out this topic that I started (checks) back in 2017. Anyway, fonts are most likely a part of online games that you never think about. Once you’ve been in a game for a while, you get used to its user interface and don’t really notice or acknowledge it.

Yet fonts are important, because a game usually just licenses (or creates) one and uses it everywhere — and if chosen poorly, that font can slowly and surely drag down on the user experience. So let’s take a look at eight MMO fonts today — chosen semi-randomly — and see if they’re easy on the eyes or not.

We’ll start with Warhammer Online (above), which prompted the writing of this piece. The font itself gives off a Ye Olde English fantasy vibe, which is good, but it’s not that easy to read in large chunks, especially when italicized. There isn’t enough spacing between the lines, either, so it comes off as crammed. Sometimes getting a little fancy with your font works against you.

We’ll move on to RIFT, which I always thought had a very clean and modern-looking font. Maybe a little too modern. It’s easy to read, which is a plus, but doesn’t do a lot to convey personality of the game, which is one of the jobs that fonts have to handle. Generally, though, I like it.

You know I had to include the itty bitty, smooshed-together font of EVE Online on this list. It gets points for a futuristic, minimalistic look, but dang is it always hard to read. It’s gotten better over the years, but my eyes have never leaked tears of joy to behold it.

And we’ll go with a classic — World of Warcraft — with this one. Blizzard did a great job all around with this font. It’s oozing personality (especially on the header fonts), has good kerning, and is easy to consume quickly without eye strain.

WildStar… sigh. WildStar had SUCH great art and interface style, but its font was terrible. From the color choices (blue-greens on blue-greens) to the thin, small style, it was too difficult to read without really focusing on it.

I’ll be fair and include Lord of the Rings Online here. It gets middling reviews for me. I think it does lend an appropriate personality to the game and is readable (especially if you increase the font size), but it’s not the quickest read. And considering just HOW MUCH text you go through, it could be better. I do adore the header font, though. That’s spot on.

Fallen Earth always struck me as a game that purchased its font at lowest bidder. It’s like a default Windows font that did nothing for the personality angle and wasn’t as eye-catching as it could’ve been.

I could keep going on, but I’ll end with a look at Star Wars: The Old Republic’s font. It definitely has that thick, bolded Star Wars look about it, and the spacing makes it easy to read. I think it does a pretty good job, all things considered, even if I feel like the text is yelling at me much of the time.

7 thoughts on “MMO fonts: The good, the bad, and the ugly

  1. bhagpuss June 23, 2020 / 10:31 am

    I do think about fonts in the games I play. What’s more, if I dislike the font there’s a reasonable chance that single factor will be enough to make decide to play something else.

    WoW has one of the worst fonts of any game I’ve stuck with for any length of time. I realy loathe it. The color palette (not really the font but intimately tied to it) is just vile. The header font looks like a fourteen year old metal fan doodled it on his schoolbooks. The whole thing also has a muddy, unfocused texture that makes it eyestraining to read. Just horrible. I don’t like mods but I have to use one to change that font when I visit Azeroth.

    LotRO is prettier but possibly even less functional. I can barely read it some of the time.

    Wildstar and Rift both have that same weird blue-green palette that doesn’t do the font any favors but I like the actual fonts themselves. Wildstar could do with being a couple of point sizes larger but maybe that was adjustable in game? I can’t remember. Rift’s is about right and very comfortable to read.

    I’ve been meaning to do a post on fonts for years. Maybe this will prompt me to get on with it.

  2. Syp June 23, 2020 / 10:35 am

    I’d be interested in reading your perspective. I suspect that this topic may straddle the line of subjective and objective judgment.

  3. Jeromai June 23, 2020 / 11:19 am

    TIL that even fonts are subject to individual preferences. To take your first two examples, I find Warhammer’s font very clean and high contrast, dark text on lighter background, while the RIFT font makes me go cross-eyed. Something about the lower contrasting gradient in the background with light text and the thinness of each letter makes it harder to parse for me. Dark text on light is better than light on dark for moi.

  4. Minimalistway June 23, 2020 / 11:58 am

    Is there any MMO that offer a choice of fonts? because all of them should also all of them should provide themes for the interface, this maybe a good topic for Daily grind in MoP 😅

  5. Yeebo June 23, 2020 / 6:15 pm

    I would have to agree with you that SWTOR and WoW have great fonts to my taste. Now I want to fie up a bunch of MMOs and do font comparisons . . .

  6. Chordian June 24, 2020 / 6:45 am

    Never been font of the fond, uh, fond of the font in LOTRO. It’s way too generic Times New Roman to me.

    No EverQuest II? Never played that one?

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