Today I speak as a herald of a coming apocalypse—the Fontocalypse, in fact—and I come to you with a tale of woe and a plea for help.
A Colophon for the Postscript World
If you’ve read our colophons, you’ve seen the software, hardware and fonts we use to create our books—Bauer Bodoni, Caliban, Post Antiqua and Post Medieval in Burning Wheel, for example. You may have noticed that we switched from Quark Xpress to Adobe InDesign back in 2004, and since then all of our books have been laid out in the InDesign environment using Postscript fonts. 17 years ago, I worked in the printing industry and Postscript fonts were seen as the industry standard. The safest, most reliable and highest quality fonts, they were designed by Adobe itself. Even printers insisted that all documents be submitted to them using Postscript fonts. So the choice to use them seemed trivial, perhaps even smart.
TBH, Fonts Suck
In the intervening two decades since we first published Burning Wheel, a new font type has emerged known as Open Type. And, ngl, OTF fonts are nice. But I never saw the point in converting our BW texts to OTFs because we were using the Adobe industry standard and, as those of you in the print industry know, switching font types is always a huge headache. There are dozens of variants of font faces in Postscript alone. Switching out a font, even only from one foundry to another, causes the most dreaded of problems in the text: re-rag. Meaning, words shift position from line to line. And if just one word from one page flows onto the next page, the effect can fuck up the whole layout and cause poor me and Dro a massive, collective headache as we try to keep our beautiful pages intact.
The BWHQ Method
By the time BWHQ ships a book to the press, the interior is a delicate balance of readability, information density, art and page count. The smallest change to the text—like when we correct errata—must be carefully undertaken so as not to destabilize the layout and cause re-rag and overflow.
The Font Horseman of the Apocalypse
Why am I going on about fonts and layout? What is this Fontocalypse of which I speak? Well my friend, in 2023 Adobe shall deprecate all Postscript fonts. Postscript fonts simply will not load into InDesign (it’s already happening in Photoshop). We will not be able to open our docs to look at the layout—let alone make edits—without buying (ugh) and remapping (uuughhh) all of the fonts in each of our press-ready layout files.
Essentially, our books will be forever trapped—uneditable—in the last version of the PDFs we created in 2022 or earlier.
FML (Font My Life)
Which brings me to say to you (as I lean on your shoulder and look into your soul with my Thousand-Yard Stare): Fuck. My. Life.
I had to change some fonts in the last printing of Mouse Guard—the book, the cards, the screen, etc.—and it was a massive headache, amounting to months of work. So I’m looking at a future where, in order to do a reprint with errata, work stops on new projects for months while I beat my head bloody re-laying out hundreds of pages of text…to make changes only to a dozen pages or so. Because it’s not just a matter of clicking a button to switch a font. If the font doesn’t match the exact character spacing of the current version (and I can’t imagine they will), I have to rejigger all of the art in each book to make the text flow properly.
Again: F…M…L. I do not want to spend my days doing this…I want to make new games, damn it. Please don’t send me back to the font mines, Adobe Who Bears the Lash…
There are a couple of low effort solutions:
- Essentially, do nothing. We can reprint Torchbearer, Burning Wheel and Mouse Guard in their current iterations like most publishers do and make no changes. But this becomes untenable once we need to change manufacturer, origin, printing or copyright information.
- Or let TB2E, BW and MG go out of print after their final 2022 print runs sell out.
Neither of these solutions seem satisfying to me.
So what can we do? you might ask. Well, I have a plan: Have all reprint files set up as press-ready PDFs before the stroke of midnight on December 31st, 2022 (because at 00:00 January 1st, 2023, all my InDesign docs turn to Times New Roman-shaped pumpkins).
Your Kind Assistance
Can you help? YES. Yes, you can. In the next five months (August to December 2022), you can help by submitting errata to us:
By submitting, you help us future-proof PDFs of Burning Wheel, Mouse Guard and Torchbearer (M&M and DW are mostly fine), so if we reprint we’ll have up-to-date material in there, not just last year’s PDF. And if we do this update, it should at least buy us some time to assess how bad the Fontocaplyse really is.
You can also spread the word to the community and let them know that the Font Horseman bears down on us. And if you’re a publisher or a print-industry professional, I’d love to hear about your own solutions to the upcoming Fontocalypse.
The End Is Nigh
To paraphrase Nick Cave: When all your fonts have vanished and you must typeset them again, just remember, that death is not the end. Not the end…you’ll spend eternity, typesetting them again.
Thank you for reading.