Oct 22, 2015
The artificial scripts of The Legend of Zelda, all known under the umbrella term “Hylian,” always fascinated me In particular, I’ve become interested in what fans call “Twilight Hylian”, the Hylian used in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which is based on the Latin alphabet (as opposed to Katakana.) I discovered that it was quite awful to write and thus spend months designing a Hylian script based on the Carolingian Minuscule script and the modern Roman type. I’ve started to refine and document the script over the period of two years. This documents the typographic standards of this artificial script in detail. Note that my calligraphy skills aren’t the greatest.
Hylian Roman is a backward-compatible modified version of “Twilight Hylian” with adjustments for legibility, easier writing, and potential for variation and extensibility for ligatures and diacritics. This artificial script is also much more flexible for different typographic styles and languages besides English.
the standard alphabet
Many minor modifications were made which mainly consisted of: removing unnecessary serifs, merging some letter components together, redrawing letters which suffer major legibility issues, and adapting some letters to be more similar to their Latin counterparts which allowed inheriting their rules. One feature which I felt needed to remain were the triangles located on the letters “A,” “E,” “L,” “M,” “R,” and “X”. In my opinion, they seem like an integral part of the script, even if they can be inconvenient at times. Although if one chooses to, one may want to substitute the triangles for rounded triangles, dots, dashes, tildes, carets, diamonds, or any other type of ornament. These triangles are referred to as arrowheads.
On the right is Hylian Roman, on the left is Twilight Hylian
In order to standardize this script and create a foundation for typefaces, new terms had to be invented. In additional to the following, the standard typographic terms for the Latin alphabet are used.
- Floating hook: the disconnected part of the F which floats on top of the stem.
- Arrowhead: the triangles and dots in a letter which may be substituted with other typographic ornaments.
- Functional Diacritic: A diacritic which serves a function, also known simply as a “diacritic”.
- Ornamental Diacritic: A diacritic in a letter which serves no function. They should be removed when writing languages that primarily include functional diacritics.
The complex height variants of the different letters meant that the vertical aspects had to be redefined in order to have an optical correct standardized system.
- Z-height: the height of the letter Z, excluding the ornamental diacritic. This is the equivalent of the Latin x-height (note the lower case “x”).
- C-height: the height of the letter C
- O-height: the height of the letter O
- Mid-height: the imaginary line between the baseline and the Z-height. Not to be confused with the midline.
- X-height: The height of the letter X. This is the equivalent of the Latin X-height (note the upper case “X”).
Note: all these “heights” refer to their respective capital letters since Hylian Roman is a unicase alphabet.
While the standard Hylian Roman alphabet does not include any letters which descend below the baseline, some diacritical versions of those letters do. To accommodate text with many descenders, the linespacing may need to be increased. Shown below are: Hooktail F, African Gamma, Ezh, and Eng
It’s not possible to capitalize any words in Hylian Roman since it’s a unicase alphabet. If any contrast is required between words or letters, other methods have to be used. Using ornamental initials is one method. The lack of capitalization could be an issue in languages such as German, although some members of the Bauhaus got along fine without it.
To support diacritics, some characters need to have their default ornamental diacritics removed. Stacking diacritics are possible but may get ugly when using a language such as Vietnamese, which can result in stacking up to four diacritics on top of each other. If one chooses to, because their native language includes few diacritics (e.g. English), it’s possible to keep the original Hylian diacritics for aesthetic reasons. In this case, when diacritics are required, they have to be stacked. However, it’s best to have an all or nothing approach when deciding to keep the ornamental diacritics or not. Hylian Roman also supports afflicted Latin characters. A few are shown below.
Unlike Twilight Hylian, in which Nintendo hasn’t ever used any typographic mark, Hylian Roman inherits the punctuation of the language it’s written in. Use the same punctuation marks and rules as one would normally use. The same typographic rules also apply.
The basic letters, their inflicted forms, and related additional letters are shown below.
The heavy serifs of both stems were removed and made optional. They’re only required for serif typefaces.
Diacritics Note: Diacritics that float on top of the A should be positioned in between the left stem and the arrowhead.
The joint of the bowl includes more contrast with the bracket removed. The open counter of the B does not need to have a taper of a Latin “e”, it may also curve back and resemble an open O instead, which can help optically balance the weight.
There are two variants on the C: one variant has a flat stroke which connects the arm and the stem (in other words, a backwards “5”) while the other has a sloped stroke connecting the arm and the stem . The first variant can be much easier to draw.
Diacritics Note: The open O character uses a flipped C instead of an O with an opening on the left. When writing out the open O, it may be difficult to draw it in the second C variant.
The arm of the D has been removed. Serifs can be added, although they have to be consistent on both sides. The spacing between the outer bowl and the terminal has been increased. The terminal does not need to be a thin stroke which circles around the bowl, many different terminal variations are possible.
Like the C, there are two variants on the E: one variant has a flat stroke which connects the arm and the stem while the other has a sloped stroke connecting the arm and the stem. The first variant can be much easier to draw. The E is taller than the C to accommodate the additional arrowhead and to better distinguish it from the C when set in lower sizes.
The space between the terminal and the floating hook has been increased for legibility and aesthetics. The floating hook has been placed more to the center. The terminal of the F may be curved, slanted or removed.
Ligurature Note: It’s possible to add a swash and turn the F into a discretionary ligature.
The G has been redrawn with an empty bowl for aesthetic and legibility purposes. The bowl rests off-center to the left to balance the ear. The ear resembles the tail of a Humanist Q instead of a Latin double-storey G.
Kerning Note: The long ear of the G means that some characters will need to be kerned closer together with the G.
The terminal has been turned into a conventional crossbar which connects the two stems together. The joint has been removed and the arrowhead has been made smaller. The arrowhead is positioned two-thirds of the spacing between the end of the left stem and the end of the right stem, it shouldn’t extend over the end of the right stem.
The I consists of a traditional slanted stem. To avoid confusion with the backslash character, the I always contains an arm on the top and bottom.
Diacritics Note: The IJ diagraph may be merged as a single letter. If any diacritics are added on top of the I, the stem should be slightly below the X-height. The IJ diagraph does not include an arm on the top and bottom.
The top and bottom stems were merged. To balance the letter, the arm remains.
The design of the K remains mostly the same. The spacing between the arm and leg has been increased for better legibility.
The arrowhead is placed in between the X-height and the mid-height.
The beak of the M resembles the beak of the Arabic number 1. The same rules regarding diacritics from the letter A apply to the letter M.
The N uses a shoulder and joint from the Latin N for better weight distribution. The spur on the left has been removed.
Diacritics Note: The ornamental diacritic needs to be removed when writing in a language which utilize many N based diacritics. Although not shown, the ornamental diacritic is basically a widened bowl similar to an “O”.
The O has been modeled from a Latin O combined with the stem and spur of a Latin double-storey A. The O has an open counter unlike the Latin O. The O’s has a different height called the “O-height”
Diacritics Note: Like the N, The ornamental diacritic needs to be removed when writing in a language which utilize many O based diacritics. The ornamental diacritic is a swash.
The P has been redrawn, like the G, to remove the arm inside the bowl. If the bowl is to be drawn at an angled axis, it is necessary to place it off-center towards the left. Otherwise the stem would have to be centered. The neck has been removed for legibility and aesthetic reasons.
The general strokes have been made more rigid. The stem has been made more consistent with the rest of the alphabet with the joint removed. The aperture resembles a Latin C with a flat terminal joint to the top.
The design of the letter remains largely the same. The terminal is kept. The aperture is more square.
Arrowhead Note: The arrowhead may be removed for aesthetic or legibility purposes.
The two strokes have been merged. The spine is more flat and has been given more weight. The arrowhead has been made smaller and is positioned in the center.
The spur of the T is optional.
Ligature Note: The letter T may be turned into a ligature with the letters H, I, R, A, and D. However, the Ti ligature cannot be used when writing languages which use a dotless “i” such as Turkish.
Kerning Note: The arm of the T means that it may be necessary to kern some T letter combinations closer together.
The U remains largely the same. The serifs have been removed, and the aperture has been increased. It’s not necessary to add a spur as shown below.
The V remains largely the same. In non-calligraphic typefaces and scripts the second stem is a slanted regular stem.
The heavy serifs have been removed. The W is a flexible glyph. It’s possible to slant the stems on both sides to mildly resemble a Latin W, or to position the arrowhead to either face the top or bottom.
The arrowhead has been moved up and sits on the baseline rather than slightly below the descender. The center of the arrowhead is positioned at the mid-height with a height equal to the type’s Z-height. The crossbar has been made more thicker.
The sharp joint has been replaced by a smoother stroke for aesthetic and legibility purposes.
The stem of the Z is more heavier and less glyphic. The ornamental diacritic is modeled after the C’s for consistency. The arm of the Z extends further than the arm on the bottom to balance the bowl on the lower right. The bowl has a height equal to the mid-height.
It’s possible to use the same ampersands from Latin alphabet based typefaces and scripts. An ampersand based on the Hylian C and William Caslon’s ampersand is shown above.
Hylian Roman inherits three-quarters Arabic numerals for numbers. This means that the numbers have a height which is three-quarters of the Z-height.
I played around with various styles.
Foundational/Carolinian Calligraphy Script
This is the original script.
This is just my hand writing so it’s technically a script.
Here’s a quick neo-grotesque version:
A quickly drawn Didone serif typeface is shown below, although it’s possible to do any serif style.
I designed a low-quality bitmap Hylian Roman typeface.
Here’s a partial cursive version that currently takes longer to write than the regular script one.
I don’t trust my typographic skills to be good enough to produce a high quality typeface, especially since I don’t have the attention to detail, patience, nor have the time required for such task. However, if anyone wants to do so, feel free to do so.
Hylian Roman by Linus Bobcat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.