Adventures in Font Hell

by Holly on March 01, 2019

Holly here again to talk about fonts. More specifically, our journey to Font Hell and back.

Most UI artists and indie devs know about Font Hell. It’s the one to a billion hours a developer spends looking at slightly different fonts to find THE ONE that is the perfect balance of mood, legibility, style range, licensing cost, and localization support. Font Hell is where teams are broken and game visions go to die. Alright, maybe that’s an over-exaggeration, but choosing fonts is incredibly important, especially for small productions with small budgets and big dreams.

For Signs of the Sojourner, I spent the better part of 3 days looking through fonts online. Lucky for me, we put localization on the backseat for now, so if we ever need support that’s a bridge we’ll cross when we get there (see this Hearthstone GDC talk and learn about the transformative concept "design for now" no this is not an ad). Even with this advantage, I ended up narrowing our potential font pools by a large margin because I wanted a hand-drawn look to match the rest of our aesthetics. The main issue with that is many handwriting fonts are lacking in the support and legibility departments.

The Many Layers of Rejected Fonts
Do you understand how deep Font Hell goes?
Most handwritten fonts that were legible were too bubbly or geared too young. Some were missing a double-storied “a” or they were too slanted. Finally, we found what we thought was the perfect fit - MOON FLOWER. MOON FLOWER will forever be our white buffalo. The font was created with only uppercase letters, so it wasn’t really viable as a copy font, but we were hoping to get in contact with the designer and commission/license an expansion. The only contact information we could find was years old, so we e-mailed them with slim hope.

Cover Image for MOON FLOWER
I'll always love you, MOON FLOWER.
About one month and three e-mail addresses later, we finally got a response. The designer was not interested in expanding the font, so we sadly packed our bags and moved back to Font Hell.

Just kidding, I REFUSED TO MOVE BACK TO FONT HELL. I jumped on one of those websites for making your own handwriting into a font and spent a day or so creating test fonts. Eventually, we paid the $8 to expand our font and did a few passes to support math symbols and extended punctuation. Looking back, maybe this was just a different kind of hell?

Image of template files
Oh yeah, our game used to be called Hekate for a hot minute.
Closer to launch, we’ll need to do a legibility pass, and if we ever localize FIGS I’ll have to add the characters in myself, but I’m beyond happy with how our own font has turned out. I'm happy we have uppercase and lowercase letters. I'm happy to have the visual cohesion. And I am most happy that our journey to Font Hell is OVER. Mostly.