Tech

‘Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart’ Ups the Ante on Accessibility

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“Instead, the team approached it from a game perspective to see which situations or controls would benefit from a shortcut,” says Zorrilla. Some situations can be faced by offering toggles (such as opening the Weapon Wheel or aiming), but subsequent pressures such as jumping and slamming your weapon or holding it as an ally were good candidates to offer a single print. “

Part of the challenge of implementing exchange versus holding on specific actions, developers were faced with the task of meeting the specific needs of each disabled individual. While more studies have adopted accessibility practices, features and settings may differ only slightly. Each disability is unique, and people with the same disability can have large differences in strength, vision, or hearing. As a result, Insomniac Games has conceived a new function specific to Ratchet & Clank which could help alleviate physical and cognitive exhaustion.

“We initially discussed how to handle each individual situation, which eventually turned into a Global Game Speed ​​option that could be used in any situation, and shortcuts seemed the best way to allow players control over speed and speed. in timing, ”says Zorrilla. “This created a new challenge, since the addition of three different game speeds meant they all had to be tested, and both our Development Support team and PlayStation Studios QA were instrumental in achieving this.”

These accessibility initiatives are not exclusive to PlayStation. Both Microsoft and Nintendo have hardware, software, or documentation to help foster inclusiveness between internal studies. For example, in 2020, Xbox launched the Xbox Accessibility Guidelines (XAG) to promote consistency across all platforms. While it is not necessarily a rigid checklist that must be followed closely, this list allows developers to continuously track the accessibility features of a game through each stage of development, ensuring that their games do not lack crucial features. For the PlayStation, studios and developers have their own iteration of the guidelines, with the first version created in 2015. Mark Friend, lead user researcher at SIE, acknowledges that guidelines like these not only raise awareness. but allow consistent accessibility.

“The original document was an important moment, as it helped put accessibility in front of people at a time when it was a much less common topic of conversation in game development, and provided a great resource for developers who they wanted to know more about the subject, ”says Friend. “It was also important for us to work with the developers at PlayStation Studios to inform them of the latest iterations of the accessibility guidelines, to ensure that what we describe is achievable.”

And with Ratchet & Clank as proof, the accessibility features can be incredibly unique for a specific game, even though they come from the same studio.

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“There’s more to accessibility in game development than just following the suggested guidelines,” says Friend. “While there are general best practices that can shift between games, every game released by PlayStation Studios is different, so our goal is always to make sure we tailor our support to our studios and their games. Our proposed guidelines they provide a large knowledge base, but we also want to ensure that our studios are free to discover new and innovative ways to make their games more accessible. ”

The addition of accessibility features in a game does not require an AAA studio with hundreds of employees. And regardless of the size of development, accessibility is best addressed at the beginning of projects. Friend also advises developers to include disabled readers as testers, to ensure that those features and options work for them.

Aside from the logistical aspect of designing a game, the inclusion of accessibility features and options comes from a commitment to let everyone play. No one should be excluded because of their capabilities, and as Sam Thompson argues, hearing directly from people with disabilities how beneficial and important accessibility can be is not only rewarding but reassuring as a developer.

“Empathy is the most powerful tool in your arsenal.” With it you can achieve more than you ever thought possible. It’s absolutely amazing how effective and motivating it can be when members of the A11Y community move through the studio to share their perspectives and inspire your team to see things differently. You’ll be amazed at how important it will be for your team. ”


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