How indie studios are pushing accessible game design

1 year ago

The creation of No Fail Mode did not detract from the central mechanics Tunic: study. Players are actively encouraged to seek out the unknown and regularly return to visited areas with new items. Finding alternative paths and finding every nook and cranny of the zone is what makes Tunic so tempting to play. Despite the success of No Fail Mode, this feature still needed fine tuning and proved that availability is an ongoing process that doesn’t stop when a game is released.

“We created Discord a few months before launch so members of the press could collaborate on puzzles before launch,” says Shouldice. “One reviewer received recognition by defeating the final boss in No Fail Mode. It didn’t take long for them to realize that they missed most of the game – you have to fail this fight to unlock the next act of the game. As a result, we’ve added a special case where even if you’re using the “No Crash” mode, you can still die in this fight. Our explanation was that if someone turned this option on because they preferred the more arcane aspects of the game, it didn’t make sense to penalize them and block some of them. Tunic more intriguing late-game mysteries.”

Player feedback is critical to the development of accessibility and inclusive design practices. Without input from real users, developers can struggle to tweak settings or even miss bugs and bugs, such as No Fail Mode, which severely blocks story progression in Tunic. Behind Koromonmonster tamer with puzzle sequences similar to titles such as golden sun, public tests were needed, especially when creating affordable options. TRAGsoft CEOs Marcel van der Made and Jochem Pauwels discuss the importance of direct involvement of people with disabilities in game development despite the size of the development team.

“Being a small team working on a huge game, we first focused on getting people to try it out as a demo,” they say. “We decided that player feedback would be very valuable and effective in finding out in which cases people might have problems using our mechanics. We have never regretted this decision because it allowed us to find many more accessibility issues than we could solve on our own.”

The results of this decision are evident in Koromonsettings and design. Regardless of your preferred platform, players can enable flicker-reducing features and color-blind modes to make their gaming experience more accessible. But beyond simply learning what people with disabilities need, testing provides developers with several opportunities to refine potentially difficult choices.

“The hardest part for us was not to force the player to use any particular control scheme,” Van der Made and Powels say. “We wanted our game to be playable with a touch screen, keyboard, mouse, controller, or a combination of both. Thus, players always have an alternative way to play if they have difficulty with a certain type of control. The reason this is so difficult is because all menus need to be comfortable and work freely with any of the control methods. We had a lot of iteration and brainstorming on each screen to make them perfect.”

Even at large independent studios like Rebellion Developments Limited, understanding the importance of accessible design is an ongoing process. Senior Accessibility Designer Kari Watterton explains the need for guidance and community feedback. While they are important to studios across the industry, they are also important to teams developing games in their own engine.

“In terms of tools, we have our own engine in Rebellion, so we need to build all of our tools from scratch,” Watterton says. “When I joined, we were able to use some of the things that were readily available, like our colorblind settings. We already had options open for these colors and it took minimal coding to create a few presets. More specialized areas such as controller remapping or narration have to be created from scratch by our in-house development team. These tools and resources grow with us. The team tells me where they need support to fill gaps in their knowledge and when we are planning future features with the engine team. We’re trying to implement accessibility features with the idea that they can be ported to new games so that we have access to what we’ve done before.”

Without official resources or disabled users guiding teams, independent studios can feel overwhelmed when asked to make their games available. The job of creating options to allow as many people as possible to play can seem daunting when you consider the fact that there are many people with disabilities combined with the unique nature of the experience for the disabled. However, as Watterton and others state, the available features and design techniques create entirely new experiences for people with disabilities, and the goal of each is to allow as many people as possible to play.

“Accessibility can be intimidating, especially if you’re a non-disabled developer,” Watterton says. “When I first started, I was scared because I was worried about developing a feature that didn’t help people. Through user testing, I found that I did just that. It wasn’t scary or embarrassing. It was an opportunity to learn.”

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