[games_access] Top 3 for indie games

Tim Chase agdev at thechases.com
Sun Apr 2 12:08:08 EDT 2006


 > which features have the biggest impact (hopefully limiting
 > to 3, maybe 4). Where is the top 10 list online? I would
 > love to see that, maybe it will be do-able for our titles
 > to cover your top 10.

I've got two drafts of it...I don't know which Michelle et.
al. decided to use for the handout at GDC'06, but the
content is pretty much the same:

http://tim.thechases.com/top10.pdf
http://tim.thechases.com/top10_2.pdf

It was originally drafted at
http://www.igda.org/wiki/index.php/Top_Ten

where there are lots of other ideas as well, that over time
were whittled down to a top-10 list.  Some may have some
practical implementation ideas in there too.

 > I think the main thing I was hoping to talk about was that
 > the articles and lists I've read in the past have all been
 > very comprehensive (many ideas too expensive for us to
 > realistically tackle all at once) or very focused on one
 > accessibility issue or another (such as audio
 > accessibility). Having a "top anything" list would help
 > sort that out (for me anyways).

While it's disappointing that developers never have infinite
time or money, there seem to be some "best effort" features
that are modestly simple to add, don't intrude any/much on
the gameplay, yet broaden the market considerably.  I think
the "top 4" mentioned previously go a long way to addressing
many of these needs...at least to a degree.

 > full featured PC title vs a small casual game- say an
 > mmorpg or an fps title- I'm curious which accessibility
 > features are must-haves

Well, as previously mentioned, "accessibility" depends
entirely on the game/genre.  For "must-haves", I'd say that
if the lack of an accessibility feature makes the game
unplayable by a sizeable portion of your market, then
there's some falling-down-on-the-job that has happened.

If critical mission goals are only communicated orally, then
[CC] is a "must-have".  If I'm not deaf, I may be playing
the game with audio off while my wife is sleeping in the
next room.  If I don't understand my mission objectives
because the only way to get them was by hearing them, I'm
unnecessarily set up for failure.

I may only be mobility-impared for a couple months until I
get the cast off my arm, but if I can remap all the controls
to my spiffy mouse with 10 buttons on it, I can still play
your game.  Or if I'm playing your game on a laptop, I may
not have a real mouse attached, and using the touchpad for a
FPS is a royal pain, so I might remap the game to be played
just on the keyboard.  Or I may be left-handed and prefer to
mouse with my left hand and use I/J/K/L instead of the
standard W/A/S/D keys.  As long as you present the ability
to remap various game actions to my choice of controller and
my choice of action with that controller.

I may be making a presentation for a university class, using
your game on a projected screen, and thus want to magnify
the interface or show it at a non-optimal resolution so that
the folks in the back row can see it.

 >>1) Reconfigurable controls
 >>2) Difficulty/speed options
 >>3) Closed Captioning
 >>4) Scalable fonts/UI
 >
 > Thanks, Tim. It occurs to me that reconfigurable controls
 > could mean a number of things- can someone suggest an
 > article for more information?

While I don't know of any articles addressing it, I suspect
that most issues regarding reconfigurable controls can be
broadly lumped together.  Perhaps examples of games that
have done it rather well would be helpful.

For FPS games, pretty much anything by Id has offered
reasonable configurability.  The trick is to assume that not
everybody will want the same configuration as the developer
did.  The paragraph above about remapping controls gives a
number of examples.  I enjoy gaming on my laptop.  Using
standard FPS controls becomes unwieldy with a touchpad
rather than a real mouse.  Id's games often allow me to play
entirely with just the keyboard.  I can map movement
commands, action commands, inventory-control commands, and
"look" commands to the keyboard.  A friend has a funky mouse
with a whole mess of buttons.  He often reconfigures games
(when he can) to make use of them all.  For some games,
everything he needs is mapped to the mouse.

Done broadly enough this can even accomodate non-traditional
controllers that simply present themselves as a more
traditional controller.  If you support
mouse/keyboard/joystick interrelated mappings, and someone
comes along with a sip/puff-stick that presents itself as a
joystick or mouse, your game wouldn't blink at it.  Required
controls can be remapped to this new device.

 > Also, is anyone working on a game designer's checklist so
 > someone like me could go through my game using a WS and
 > really understand which features would cause accessibility
 > problems for particular players and what options there are
 > to remedy those problems?

Well, there are a number of papers with such checklists...
some are domain-specific, but they often have elements that
can be applied across the board.  I'm thinking particularly
of the WAI (web accessibility initiative), and Section 508
government checklist for web accessibility guidelines.  They
don't mean that just by doing them your game/site is
automatically accessible, but you increase your odds.  It's
possible to make an inaccessible game/site and still meet
all the checkboxes on your list.  But those are some places
I'd start in addition to the wiki page the SIG-Access group
has put together while forming the top-10 list.

 > It feels like we almost need to hire a contractor who
 > specializes in this stuff to sort out what issues would be
 > in our game because I know I'm not familiar with the full
 > range of accessibility problems in games and the range of
 > options we have for fixing them. For instance, I've heard
 > about color-blindness and issues with contrast but am not
 > certain how people go about fixing these problems in a 3D
 > world.

While the checklist ideas can be helpful, as I mentioned
before, there's nothing like a warm body doing play-testing
to let you know where your game stands.  I've read several
books on how to set up a usability lab, much of which would
be the same for setting up an "accessibility lab"...it's
basically "usability" for people with accessibility needs.
Sometimes you'll find playtesters with accessibility needs
that just want to help make the game better and will
volunteer an afternoon, though it would be kind to offer
some sort of stipend for their time.  Or you can go hunting
for some sort of (accredited?) consultant that will offer a
hand.  For the price of a few hours of a consultant's time,
you could likely buy pizza, chips, drinks, etc. for a bunch
of college-students with accessibility needs, and give 'em
each $50 for their afternoon's time.  I've been in college
and free pizza will get you far... :)

 > If not, I will do as suggested and recruit on lists and
 > forums for individuals.

This is likely your best bet.  Folks with similar
accessibility needs tend to congregate together, so while
you likely won't find one place for the whole spectrum of
needs, I know there are at least lists for
blind/visually-impared gamers and for deaf-gamers.  I would
expect that there are similar mailing lists for folks with
mobility needs and perhaps cognitive needs.

Sorry if this email was a bit rambling, but hopefully it
addressed some of your questions.

-tim









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