Apex Legends Subtitle Bug Left Unfixed Made The Game Inaccessible
After changing the game's resolution, the subtitle size became impacted and caused a massive accessibility barrier.
I’ve been playing Apex Legends since it first launched in 2019. A first-person shooter, Battle Royale game that quickly became one of my favourites thanks to how accessible it was. As a deaf gamer, it blew me away with some of its features. An intuitive ping system, re-sizeable subtitles, and voice-to-text for your squad. I’d never felt more comfortable in playing a multiplayer game with strangers than I did while playing matches in which the squad all used the ping system proactively. But the game hasn’t always been an enjoyable experience, cue a few weeks ago.
It had been a few months since I had last played Apex Legends. The last time I’d played it was a few weeks after Horizon was added to the game. Since then I’d just found myself busy with work, a promotion, and personal struggles. I’d also randomly learned that my PC monitor supports 4K resolutions after years of using it in 1080p. This information will become relevant soon.
The developer, Respawn Entertainment announced a new Legend was joining the fray — an Australian who has a hard-on for explosives. I wanted to jump back into Apex and find my feet in the game so to speak. A new Legend welcomes new content opportunities after all, especially with major changes being made to one of the game’s map.
With the recent knowledge that I can now play games at 4K resolutions —making screenshots for illustrating my content of a higher quality— I’d switched Apex Legends from 1920x1080p to 3840x2160p. What I didn’t know is that this was going to obliterate my accessible experience massively. And in addition, the squads I teamed up with on this bad day were all lacking in the communication department.
I’d chosen my main Legend, Horizon, and as I sat browsing Twitter on my phone waiting for the preparation screens to end, one of the squad members was using voice chat. A distorted and loud voice, that sounded as if the microphone itself was in the user’s mouth, said a few words. The voice-to-text chat picked it up as simply, “And”.
Now, voice-to-text is never a feature I rely on. Any variation of it is exactly like YouTube’s auto-generated captions. It’s awful. However, if a player with decent quality voice comms speaks clearly, the feature does start getting some words right. This usually means I can listen to what is being said, and then use the generated text to try and put words together into a coherent sentence. My brain essentially unjumbling unheard speech with the help of text.
But in this case, the player sounded like a mechanical sander grinding against coarse gravel. I had contemplated muting them as I usually do, but before I got to even opening the squad screen to do so, I had noticed something far more jarring. The subtitles were laughably tiny — for me.
I may have been playing on a PC, but I prefer to set my subtitles to “huge” so that I can quickly skim the subtitles easily while still playing the game. This sizing allows me to still take in the information the game is presenting to me while not having my experience with the gameplay detracted. But suddenly, they were super tiny. While someone controlled our descent, I checked the options but they were still set to huge, and would only go smaller.
So with them set to “huge” I was now hearing all this in-game tactical chatter come through, but subtitles that required squinting and meticulously focusing on. I mumbled to myself in annoyance, I instead just had to hope that I could understand what the Legends were saying without the assistence.
Shortly after landing, I used the ping system to inform everyone I was going to loot in a specific building. The distorted teammate —who I’ll call Distorty— started crackling while talking about something. I couldn’t make out what they were saying. The other teammate —Let’s call them All-Action No-Speaky— was just running around not saying anything, not even using the ping system. This continued while we all looted in what felt like an uncomfortable silence — well, kind of silent, Distorty continued to waffle over the mic.
After noticing All-Action No-Speaky had run off to another area, without telling us, I set a ping marker to inform Distorty, who was still mumbling. Voice-to-text was telling me they were talking about peanuts and something to do with nuns, but I couldn’t figure out what that could possibly be translated to, so I was now just ignoring them while still enduring their chatter.
After looting a nearby supply bin, I began running toward the two who were looting a small building by some large portals. Their characters automatic dialogue suddenly started overlapping one another; another squad had opened fire on Distorty and All-Action No-Speaky. I only knew they were in danger because of the sound of gunfire and the visual indication on their player banners that they’re shooting. I’d not heard what their characters were saying as a warning.
No one was setting enemy markers, and no one was using the ping to throw out tactical decisions, and Distorty had started shouting commands, their voice clipping, and popping through my headset. I was a sensory mess. I was still running up the hill toward them but had no idea where the enemy was, and my ears were pounding from the shouting. Voice-to-text was reading “whales, no”, and I was forcing myself to lean toward the monitor to read the subtitles.
As I entered one of the circular buildings, everyone had just left the building on the other side, taking the fight outside. In the middle of the sound of gunfire, Distorty yelling about whales, and automatic character dialogue playing out, I had heard some footsteps above running toward me, then above, then behind. All-Action No-Speaky had been downed while I was motionless, trying to listen to the directional footsteps, aware that someone was trying to potentially outflank us. But it was at this moment that they decided to start frantically hammering the enemy ping button and the ping quip for calling for help.
Distorty shouted before they then fell to their knees. The word “fuck” several times had come through loudly and far clearer than anything uttered by them all match. I was the only one left stand…crouching behind a desk inside the building, unsure where to even start running to in order to aid my fallen squad. I stood with a lingering feeling of guilt because it felt like me not understanding my environment had let them down.
“Beginning ring countdown” blared over the entire map. I could hear 2 sets of footsteps, no, maybe 3, I couldn’t figure it out. The enemy ping marker was still being frantically pinged following wherever one enemy was, and on top of that, All-Action No-Speaky was still activating the help command continuously. I lobbed 3 thermite grenades at the doorway and remained cowered in the building.
That was when I heard the unmistakable sound of a Sentinel firing a single bullet, a bullet that had lodged itself in my head. I died and the match was over for us. Distorty continued to shout what sounded like insults at us both until I quit the match feeling as if I was the one to blame. But then after a while, I recalled all of the matches in Apex Legends of which I’ve done amazingly well with teams that use the ping system fluidly and those who speak clearly.
Sure, maybe I could have run out and just opened fire and made it look like I was making somewhat of a bigger effort to save my squad. But these players not using the universal ping system or text chat caused a barrier for me. Not providing information on what your doing is a big lack of communication. Although, over the years, thanks to games being inaccessible in general, I’ve grown used to working with players that don’t use any form of comms.
And the other issue was, of course, Distorty. One of those players that either don’t test their audio output quality or the player that just has a bad quality microphone. Either way, shouting orders or insults into the microphone at your squad that haven’t shown any effort to also use voice comms just feels like a waste of time and makes the one screaming come across more of a nuisance than helpful. Especially when there’s a ping system that can easily be adopted and is more immersed in the game.
But above all, the subtitles being tiny was the major hit. I’ve grown comfortable relying on them from players who use the ping system fluently. But having that issue on top of a squad who doesn’t communicate at all except to spam just caused more issues. The subtitles being unreadable was a game issue that made me uncomfortable and caused a horrible barrier.
Fun fact, I discovered that the subtitles being tiny at a 4K resolution has actually been an issue present in Apex Legends since it’s 2019 launch, and it still hasn’t been fixed in the latest Season 8 update in 2021.
Hopefully, Respawn Entertainment can at least fix the subtitle issues, but otherwise, this article was written to inform other players how being considerate in using game features might help other players. Especially disabled players that may rely on such methods. It was also written to let others who may be jumping into the new update know that they may have subtitle size issues.
Apex Legends has of course just entered its eighth season today and the introduction of Fuse, the latest Legend to join the game, comes with map changes and more. It’s available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S.