Game development can sure take you into some interesting and often unusual places. One of the first things that I noticed once it was time to add text to my game using Unreal Engine 4(UE4) was the lack of font selection. It has one by default called Roboto and it’s quite ugly and boring. I’ve been using it for ages.
You also start to notice once you have seen Roboto just how many games out there have it. Along with websites, applications, and well it’s quite a common one. Even when you start trying to find some other fonts you see Roboto in a lot of areas being offered for free.
Heck, even big-budget games seem to use it. If I had a massive budget I could see the nerd in me wanting to spend some of it hiring someone to do custom typography work. That however at my scale and with all the resources out there is quite unneeded.
It’s time for Roboto to go. Just look at it on the player’s bank in my game. Alright, that is a bad screenshot with how the lighting and viewpoint, you can’t see it. Trust me I can’t stand seeing it on other elements of the game any longer. For the 3d elements at least for now such as on this chest, it’s still there. Everything else though off with you!
The next place to look naturally was the UE4 store. Which to my shock was rather lacking and I’m willing to say a lot of stuff in there I would not use for free let alone the prices being asked. You would think people who enjoy this kind of work would be getting on the marketplaces for game engines.
There is also the legal and very convoluted aspect of using fonts in your game from the little research as a non-lawyer who is not providing any kind of legal advice regarding this topic. Many seem to view it as some kind of legal grey area as long you’re not distributing the process or software for people to create the copyrighted font as far as what you can use. While others seem to recommend making sure you have the proper license for use in a commercial product.
There are even some crazy massive things like the SIL Open Font License dating back to 2007 or even earlier. That is not even the oldest type of copyright and agreements out there for using fonts in the digital age. It can be quite the rabbit hole to jump down. With a few links to fonts there as well.
Thankfully it's quite easier than I was expecting to find for commercial use fronts once you get over the spam in the top search results. There is an insane amount of them out there. If you wanted to go full-on nerd with this stuff you could spend weeks or longer finding that perfect font out of over 50k of them that I have seen so far.
One of the easier places for at least being sure about the copyright of a font that feels quite trustworthy is a good old google website called Fonts. That they have for web development and other uses. Every font comes with a clear layout of how all the letters look and what kind of license it has attached to it.
The biggest issue I have with the site however is the lack of categories that suit the type of font for a game. Sure you can try typing in the search bar a name of something it’s however not that great at finding a style for the game you are creating. With over 1k families of fonts to look into you could be spending some time.
Another site that came recommend to me is called DaFont. It has a wide list of theme categories and almost 60k fonts to choose from. The great thing about this site is a lot of the themes tie in perfectly to different gaming genres.
They seem to be far looser over there requiring some further research on your end regarding the copyright of a font. With they include some simple notations like “100% free,” “free for personal use,” and “public domain” notation among others. That is as far as they go and without proving the actual license details in many cases. Some of the fonts have millions of downloads and are still quite actively being downloaded right now.
Another site is called Font Squirrel which is dedicated to finding free for commercial use fonts for the most part. While they don’t have as good a category system as DaFont for finding something for a game. it’s a lot better than Google Font. They also take a much deeper approach to try to include copyright information regarding each font.
While there are a lot of other sites out there and perhaps better ones. These are at least the ones I’ve looked into for finding something better than Roboto. As a game developer, you have to watch your time as you can easily get lost for weeks or even months picking something like a font to use.
Using The Font In UE4
For the moment I ended up going with something from DaFont to try out. The process of using it in UE4 was quite easy. After you download it you just need to click and drag the file into your game. You get a pop-up regarding what you want to do with the asset after that.
If it’s the first font of that family you can click “yes” for it to create a composite font along with the font face file.
The compost font file can be used to add more files to that font face if there were any. The one I used did not so I don’t need to do that part. I also don’t need to play around with any further options in the Compost Font file for what I’m doing.
Other files would usually include additional options such as bold, or italic. You then can select that extra option as a typeface under the font family from the details panel for something like a text block.
As always there are considerations to think about when picking out a font to use. The biggest one should be readability. While some parts of your game you can go for overly fancy text. If it’s something like reading a long quest you should take readability into account. There is nothing worse for the player than trying to read a 100 words or greater quest in some hard-to-read font.
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