Mass Effect 2 SDTV text size a 'design choice'

BioWare admits Mass Effect 2 some design choice are in response to user complaints

If you've been playing Mass Effect 2 on a standard definition TV, chances are you've been squinting to decipher the game's neon orange and green text. That's according to a 15-page thread on the game's official forums and noticed by Ars, anyway, claiming "the text is REALLY small" on even reasonably large SDTVs.

Standard definition TVs in the US run at 480i, or 720 horizontal x 480 vertical lines of resolution. If your SDTV supports 480p or what's sometimes called EDTV ('E' for 'Enhanced') that drops to 704 x 480 while benefitting from every scan line rendering consecutively in a single pass--the upside being a clearer picture during motion-intensive sequences, though it's of no benefit to static images like screens with lots of text.

High definition TVs run at much higher resolutions, starting at 1280 x 720 and running up to 1920 x 1080. While not always the case, it's generally true that text on HDTVs, which tend to be 30-inches or larger, is much more legible than on SDTVs. What's more, games designed for HDTVs often squeeze more text on-screen as well--drop them back to SDTV resolutions and the text can seem microscopic.

The original post on BioWare's Mass Effect forums reads as follows:

"I have a fairly big TV, and though it's not HD, the text should not be as small as it is...will there be a patch for bigger text in the near future? I can just barely read some of the text, and it's worse when there's a blue background..."

That's echoed in hundreds of replies (these next snipped from the first page alone):

"100% agree. I can barely make out what some of the words are, even on my friends HD TV it's nearly microscopic, very annoying. On ME1 I enjoyed reading about planets and so forth, now i nearly go blind from trying to read blurry small text on ME2. Not being able to read some of the choices during conversations is annoying too.... they got blue and yellow text (when highlighted) with a bright white or blue backgrounds on some angles. I would hate to imagine people with bad eyesight trying to read that stuff...."


"I had to move my 360 into my room to play it on my computer monitor. I could barely read the mission information, the subtitles, anything."


"I'm having the same issue! Ugh. I CANNOT STAND TINY TEXT. If BioWare had just put a dark grey box/whatever behind your conversation wheel, then it would be a hell of a lot easier on the eyes."

Question is, should BioWare do anything about it?

According to a November 2009 Knowledge Networks survey, 43 percent of people "watch HD programs every day," up from just 26 percent in 2007. That's a 65 percent increase in two years, significant enough to lead Knowledge Networks' president to note "This sends a message to advertisers that HD is becoming the new norm for those with HD access across all program types."

It's why I typed up that last part in a recent article critical of Nintendo's stance on HD with regard to Netflix's splashy arrival on the Wii.

As a user on the Mass Effect thread correctly pointed out, a recent report by Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) suggests HDTVs are in more than half of all US homes, and that seven in ten receive HD programming. The report claims the 'percent who own' an HDTV set leapt from 35 percent in 2008 to 53 percent in 2009. What's more, ownership of large screen TVs (32-inches or more) sits at 59 percent in 2009, up from 52 percent in 2007 and 44 percent in 2007.

BioWare forum moderator Michael Gamble eventually weighed in, writing:

"I've gotten a number of PMs about this. Messaging me more will not speed up the process. We are looking at the threads, but unless we necessarily have traction on it - we can't post information we dont have. I'll have to talk to Casey about this (as any way to address it would have far reaching changes in the game), but please don't expect any decisions or a fix in the near future (as we are supporting a number of issues at this time). This was a design choice, not a bug."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Mass effect 2

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Matt Peckham

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?