If you use runes…

… please do it right.

Don’t just write “ASDFGHJKL” in some Windows rune font onto stuff in your game.


Runes are a historical alphabet. You might be writing “I suck dick” in runes without noticing it, if you don’t pay a minimal amount of attention. So go the extra mile, look at the runic alphabets on Wikipedia, make a cheat sheet for yourself, and be sure what you write. Don’t be a cheapskate.

It is a shame that Western game developers don’t respect history. What’s more, they treat it like a candy store they can freely rob from and just arrange the stuff until it looks good.

That is a horrible approach. Every time I see random runes or Vikings with horned helmets in some game, I get pissed. They are trying to sell me a shoddy product. They didn’t even do their basic research. They apparently assume I am some stupid twelve year old who just wants to lob some heads off. Dammit, I am 40. I have broad interests. I have an education. I want these game devs to do their damn research or I won’t feel incited to buy those games. There is not a single Viking game that is actually GOOD and has done its research. Just like with movies.

Anyway, both the runic lines above say “hello world”. The upper is in dotted Danish or medieval runes (the dots were added to denote that a U should be understood to mean a V or a W, for instance.) The lower one is in the older common germanic runes. Those have no dots and no weird dual meanings. They also look sharp, so they are well suited to use by artists in games. “Elder Futhark” is what you probably want to google.

I hope you can read the Latin ones (you did know that they are called Latin script, right.)

This is one of my pet peeves with games. The other, as you will one day find out if you keep reading, is rigging and general construction of ships in games. Oh. My. Gods. Those things would never swim.


4 responses to “If you use runes…

  • stickadtroja

    ha i cant belive you got this into gamasutra! no disrespect intended, it just seem fairly random, just to publish a blog post about something so vaguely game related.

    i think you are pushing this WAY to far. its not really neccesary for the quality of the game in the end. and thus it becomes trivial to game developers.
    why would this just concern runes though? maybe i worked all my life in starbucks, and will get super upset when i see one of those in a game; “THAT is NOT how we stack plastic cups in real life, do your research properly!”
    again, it wouldnt matter to the vast majority so why should the developers care?

    i do however agree when it comes to modern day languages, or cultural stuff, since that can be really offending, and is part of a bigger problem; the constant focus on the western audience. but in this case with runes, there are no ancient vikings who will get offended.

    • kneedeepinthedoomed


      Proper research, attention to detail and diligent execution increase believability and sense of place and period in games. It can also be a sales argument with certain audiences and help your game reach more and different people.

      If your game is set in modern LA and there is a starbucks, then yes, the coffee cups should be stacked believably. Tags and graffities should be realistic. Slang should be realistic. Weapons should look like they could actually function. Just because the setting is medieval, doesn’t really change a thing about this.

      If you don’t care about period correct, eg you’re making a fantasy game, why use real runes in the first place? You could use fantasy letters. If you make the choice of using a real alphabet from a real cultural background, then you do open yourself to criticism if you can’t be arsed to do it correctly.

      Just my opinion.

  • onetruepurple

    You may enjoy these a lot:

    • kneedeepinthedoomed

      That looks pretty cool.

      The runes, though, are not historical ones. Sock says on twitter that he created his own “runic” font, so I assume it is really more of a code where (english?) text is written with a (non-historical) code alphabet. Fitting for a game like Quake.

      I’m all for using fantasy runes (that look like fantasy runes) in games.

      The confusing thing here is that some of Sock’s runes actually are real runes, while others are not. I’ll chalk that up to artistic liberty. It’s not like Quake is trying to be a game about Vikings.

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