[games_access] MMOG Topics for Terra Nova?

Barrie Ellis barrie.ellis at oneswitch.org.uk
Sun May 20 06:01:54 EDT 2007

Excellent post, Tim. I think you've covered most of it there.

I think it's worth posting up some information on
http://www.ablegamers.com/ - as they are particullarly into Massively
Multiplayer On-line Role Playing Games (MMORPG's). They aren't huge, but
they seem a good bunch.

Bit more on them here: http://ablegamers.com/content/view/16/66/

I think that the partitioning idea may be essential for some gamers where
they can play according to ability. I remember going to MegaZone
(http://www.rayleighmegazone.co.uk/index.php?page=gallery&sub=picsub) where
you wear a special flak jacket and carry a laser gun in a warehouse full of
dry ice. My friends and I were obiliterated by 'hard-core gamers'. I.e. some
pathetic geeky kids that probably spent all their spare time playing this
game. We'd have had much more fun if they'd had their seperate gaming
arena - and us - less-able - gamers our own. Can't see any problem at all in
that for MMORPGs either.

Anyway, my witterings done - keep chipping away. Perhaps we really do need
to reassure the insecure hard-core gamers with 12-year-old-boy mentality
that they can still keep their zen-master settings and gameplay alongside
others being able to play their game too.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Tim Chase" <agdev at thechases.com>
To: "IGDA Games Accessibility SIG Mailing List" <games_access at igda.org>
Sent: Sunday, May 20, 2007 1:36 AM
Subject: Re: [games_access] MMOG Topics for Terra Nova?

>> I have LOTS of ideas for posts but I don't think that they

>> will be received well by the Terra Nova crowd -- if anyone

>> can help me think through how to post about a particular

>> topic, even if it's only very narrowly related, I'd

>> appreciate it!


> In these forums (forae?) at TN and on other popular gaming

> boards, I repeatedly see a couple issues thrown in the face

> of efforts here:


> 1) adding accessibility features "dumbs down" the game

> removing the fun/challenge for the hard-core gamers;


> 2) equating the accomodation of all disabilities with

> accomodating even *some* disabilities; and


> 3) the difficulty of adding certain accessibility features

> to MMOG worlds


> Yes, it's hard to be all things to all people without it

> dominating the design of the game--an aspect that may churn

> the stomach of even the most socially-minded game designer.

> However, even small advances on any of these fronts may make

> significant headway for accessibility in gaming.


> For #1, there are repeated themes of how *certain* features

> added for accessibility benefit all gamers. Things like

> remappable controls or [CC] are often mentioned. Also, a

> variety of difficulty levels, though not mentioned quite as

> much, offer entry points for the casual gamer, but allow for

> deeper challenges for the "industrial-strength" gamer.


> Just because a game offers remappable controls doesn't mean

> hard-core gamers are going to be impared by it. Just

> because someone can turn on [CC] and play with the audio off

> while their wife/kids are sleeping, doesn't mean they have

> some advantage over other folks. And if a hard-core gamer

> finds the "easy" level too easy, well, that's their own dumb

> fault and they should crank up the difficulty.


> Requiring less complex controls (whether as drastic as

> one-switch or simply cutting back on the 20-buttons, 2

> D-pads, 2 analog sticks, and 6 DoF gyro controls) makes the

> game more accessibile not just to folks with mobility

> problems, but to casual gamers in general. Cell-phone games

> and one-switch games seem to be made for each other and for

> marketing to the casual gamer.


> With #2, I think it would be helpful to enhance our

> suggestions/top-10 list with annotations regarding the

> difficulty to implement such a feature, how it impacts game

> design, and how it helps reach a larger demographic (and how

> large that market-increase is). The idea of creating a game

> for the Who's _Tommy_ scares a lot of folks. When we

> mention the word "accessibility", folks see a

> black-and-white world in which a game is either

> inaccessibile, or the "deaf, dumb, and blind kid [that] sure

> plays a mean pinball" can play it. Perhaps clarifying that

> there's a gradient of accessibility would soften our

> message. While, yes, it would be great to make games that

> Tommy can play against the hard-core gamer where they're

> both on an equal footing, there's also a range of less

> drastic measures that game designers can incorporate that

> allow them to retain freedom of design while still

> increasing their audience.


> The third item is one of the hardest and something that's

> not been discussed quite so much on the list. A number of

> features for accessibility come at odds with these worlds,

> often because they mirror the same barriers that the real

> world presents. Some of the items in our top-10 are

> difficult if not impossible to implement in such a world:


> - slowing the game down like bullet-time impacts the whole

> world, or

> - giving everybody access to auto-aiming reduces the

> challenge for those crazy hard-core gamers, and unlevels

> some of the playing field

> - adding [CC] becomes more difficult because there's not

> just a pre-scripted set of lines that the audio department

> records, but you have live voice-chat that doesn't [CC]

> easily

> - a broad range of difficulties is hard to implement when

> the hard-core gamers are in the same world as those that

> need easier challenges


> Theoretically, one could use voice recognition software to

> do dynamic [CC] of voice-chat, but voice recognition

> software still has a long way to go, and sucks up a lot of

> processor time/power from games that may want it.


> I understand that some MMOGs have a partitioned world in

> which the newbies (and those that need the "easy" setting)

> can gain their footing. This is an elegant solution to the

> problem, that players can stay in such a world as long as

> they want/need, and venture into harder partitions as their

> skills grow or as they need more difficulty.


> Perhaps a way to address some of the disparity in the world

> is to make it publicly known which settings a person is

> using and perhaps partition players by assistive

> technologies; or reduce assistance as the player levels-up.

> Or newbie players in the sandbox world may have very sloppy

> aiming where auto-assist helps them. However, as they level

> up, or adventure into more challenging sectors of the

> universe, the auto-assist features start dialing back. This

> could allow a player that needs assistive features to still

> play, but also allow the hard-core gamers to get their fix

> of difficulty.


> Anyways, if you've read this far and haven't written me off

> as a loonie yet, thanks for playing the audience to my

> long-winded ramblings. Michelle, I don't know if any of

> this is helpful fodder for future postings, but it's mostly

> a brain-dump of my reactions to some of these myths and

> mis-impressions I see on such gaming boards when the topic

> of accessibility comes up.


> -tim


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