Making games accessible to more players is not a compromise to creative vision, God of War director Cory Barlog has said, stepping into an online debate sparked by Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
From Software's latest title keeps up the studio's tradition of making games that demand repetition for players to make progress through the game. However, Sekiro is widely agreed to be the most difficult game the Japanese studio has released to date.
While Dark Souls and Bloodborne did not have difficulty settings, Sekiro also changed features that allowed players to seek assistance -- specifically the ability to summon other players through an online connection. By leaning into its own uncompromising traditions, From Software sparked a longstanding debate around difficulty and accessibility.
For his part, Sony Santa Monica's Cory Barlog had a very clear take: "Accessibility has never and will never be a compromise to my vision."
Speaking on Twitter, Barlog added: "To me, accessibility does not exist in contradistinction [sic] to anyone's creative vision, but rather it is an essential aspect of any experience you wish to be enjoyed by the greatest number of humans as possible."
"Easy is subjective. What is easy for me, might not be easy for someone else"
Steve Spohn, AbleGamers
Barlog made it clear that his comments were not a criticism of From Software, a studio he admires. However, the comments do address the notion -- fervently defended by one side of this debate -- that options to adjust the difficulty of a game like Sekiro would undermine the developer's intent.
"Accessible features do not equal easy mode," Barlog said. "Challenge, even extreme challenge, can co-exist with options to allow gamers different from you to play the same game with the same level of challenge."
Vlambeer's Rami Ismail addressed the same idea in response to Barlog, asking the question: "Who said accessibility needs to be 'easy'?"
This idea was addressed in greater detail by Steve Spohn, COO of AbleGamers, an organisation that focuses on making games more accessible for players with disabilities.
"The only time the word 'easy' keeps being mentioned is by people who don't understand what accessibility is," Spohn said on Twitter.
"Easy is subjective. What is easy for me, might not be easy for someone else. But with difficulty options, we can both enjoy an experience together."
Spohn added: "People, influential people, journalists, and media outlets are making this confusing by continuing to use the language 'easy mode' -- accessibility means options, not easy gameplay."
Spohn stated that From Software should "do the right thing" and add accessibility options to Sekiro. He also urged developers to speak out in support of Barlog's statement that such options will never be a compromise.
At the time of writing, dozens of developers had done exactly that, repeating Barlog's statement in support of making games more accessible for a greater number of players.