Indies call for accessibility options from engine firms and platform holders

Devs suggest remappable controls, customisable gameplay speed and more would help broaden audience if made available by default

Independent developers have suggested that engine providers such as Unity and Unreal could be instrumental in making video games more accessible to every possible audience.

Speaking at the Games Accessibility Conference, which ran alongside GDC in San Francisco yesterday, a panel of micro-studios and their representatives discussed the various options that would enable them to make their games available to players with disabilities or specific needs.

The ability to allow gamers to remap controls to suit them, alter gameplay speed, improved subtitling and variable or infinite health were all high on the wishlist of features these studios would want to implement.

However, being such small studios makes it difficult to dedicate the time and resource into introducing such features. If they were available through game engines, more developers would be able to ensure their titles were accessible.

"I would just love it if they could take a template from AbleGamers or something similar and make it default to have all those options exposed inside an engine," said Nathan Fouts of MommysBestGames. "It would just be incredible to add in those 20 or 30 options - and then everyone would take notice of it when building their games. If the engines took over, it would really push [accessibility] forward for everybody."

AbleGamers' AJ Ryan added: "If they can't add it to the engine itself, I think tutorials from some of the firms on how to do control rebinding or add accessibility features to your game with their engine - just like they teach you the basics of their engine in general - would really help out a lot of new developers, who will be crucial in future as we push accessibility forward."

Henry Hoffman of Hue dev Fiddlesticks said his team had to manually introduce a system that would help colourblind players enjoy the puzzle platformer. Her also suggested the likes of PlayStation and Xbox could be in a better position to help.

"Instead of engines, I'd like to see more accessibility options from platforms," he explained. "We've gone through the certification process on Xbox One, PS4 and PS Vita - they're long and arduous but there seems to be no minimum accessibility baseline. It would be really great if there were. There needs to be rewritable controls on console, there needs to be all this other stuff. That would then set a complete standard that everyone would have to adhere to.

"People making cross-platform games will be able to carry those features across to PC, and suddenly there will be a baseline that the mid-tier and even lower-tier games will adhere to."

Disparity Games' Nicole Stark agreed, adding: "Even if it wasn't something you needed to do, if it was something you could and you got a special tick or something, that would make a difference."

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Latest comments (2)

Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 3 months ago
Can someone please explain what is stopping devs from making buttons customizeable in the game?

I know both Sony and Microsoft allow remapping on the system level, insanely the universal invert Y setting is still missing from the 360 though.
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Ian Hamilton Accessibility consultant and UX designer 3 months ago
@Jeff Kleist: sure. Sometimes it is because of misconceptions, e.g. incorrectly thinking that it will make a game fail platform certification, or incorrectly thinking that console gamers aren't interested in remapping.

Other times it's due to the work involved. That was something discussed at some length in the panel; difficulties of emapping between analogue and digital, between different devices, etc.

Hence the mention about that they would like to see it handled at engine level, so the heavy lifting is already done for them, instead of having to reinvent the wheel every time.

Unity are working on doing just that, but it'll be a while yet until the functionality is properly released.
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