Editorials/Opinion Pieces · Video Games

A Tips and Tricks Guide for Visual Novel Accessibility [And other Games]

One of the articles I get the most traction on is me talking about Visual Novel accessibility.  I’ve gotten numerous emails about people asking me how they can make their games accessible, and I think it’s fantastic.  I love seeing people make an active effort to be aware of disabled folks, and considering what it would take to make their games be playable for all sects.

 

I re-read this article recently, and realized while I made a basic outline for what I’ve had trouble with access wise, I didn’t give any solutions.  I know a decent amount about gaming access, being a blind gamer myself, so I’d like to just highlight some things that are easily doable, that I’d like to see implemented more in games for easy access.

 

These things are usable not only in other games, but I know they are doable in the Ren’py engine which is widely used for creating visual novels.  So if you’d like more info on how to do these things, I suggest looking at the documentation.  But now, onto the bulk of the article!

 

Image Tags

 

The biggest gripe I had with inaccessibility is not being able to read menu items.  This often is because the developer decided to use a fancy UI, with a nice image based interface, and didn’t add image tags to the images in question.  So you have things like a navigational map, or even the main menu screen and the self-voicing mode in Ren’py can’t read them, because image tags aren’t set in place for the menu items.  All you need to do, is make sure if you’re using a UI that is image based, that you tag each item in the menu with a description.  This description can be as basic as “Load Game” or “Inventory” or it can be as in depth as describing the image in question, and also stating the menu item.  But, especially if you’re planning to use a custom background or splash screen on the initial screen of your VN, and you want it to be accessible with self-voicing mode, be sure to use image tags to describe the item, or what the image looks like if you’re so inclined.  The main thing is the menu item being read, descriptions of images are just a bonus.

 

Easy Navigation

 

Stylizing your game is great.  It adds tons of personality and flare to a game.  But if you’re planning on making your game have drag and drop features, or things you have to click, make sure that there are alternative navigation features to this gameplay.  So many times I’ve dealt with a game being half accessible, only to have to have a sighted peer do something finicky because I can’t use the mouse and arrow properly to click.  So if you’re going to have navigation with mice, or touchpads, be sure that when moving the navigator things read as you scroll past, or there’s just keyboard access to move around with keyboard arrows.

 

Text to Speech Full Functionality

 

The self-voicing feature in Ren’py is a fantastic feature that can be well utilized.  But if you as the developer do something to make that functionality not work, you need to compensate for it.  Say you have voice actors voicing the dialogue in your VN.  That’s perfectly fine, but are the menu items still readable?  Was there somewhere in the code that somehow broke this, perhaps using images for menu choices?  It’s important to make sure if you don’t want to use self-voicing in Ren’py, that there’s some sort of text to speech alternative built into your game you can have turn on and off for players.  There are a lot of resources out there to make this possible, but I’m not well versed enough in coding to know how to do it exactly.    I’ve seen it done in games though, and it’s always a breath of fresh air when you don’t have to worry that somewhere along the road you’re playing a game, and it just is going to stop reading for some reason or another.

 

Navigation Queues

 

If you’re going to have sequences in your game where you have to take control of a character to walk around, navigational queues are key.  I’ve seen great success with a radar and beacon system, with sort of call and response noises relative to where you are, and where you’re headed.  The sound beeps louder the closer you get to it, and when you reach the location, a text to speech voice reads the sign, or tells you there’s a doorway, or something like that.  Of course, not every navigational system has to be like this, but I’m just giving a basic guideline of how something like this might work.  The big thing is making sure there is some sort of audio feedback if you need to control a character and walk around with them.  Same goes for item hunting, enemies nearby, attacking noises:  all of these need distinct sounds a blind or VI gamer can use to know their surroundings as well as a sighted player would.

 

You can do the same with the atmosphere of the surroundings.  Are you near a river?  Make a running water sound apparent.  Near trees and birds?  Make birds sound overhead walking on some leaves.  There’s so much creative sound design out there, and with the strides in binaural and stereo soundscapes, you can get majorly creative here.  I know   this probably won’t be as in depth with a visual novel, but for other games it’s definitely something to consider.

 

Conclusion

 

Those are the major things I’d consider important to me when asking for access in video games.  It doesn’t tick every box of course, I’m only one disabled demographic.  But as far as being a blind gamer is concerned, I hope this is a good launching pad for anyone who needs tips on what to get started with when considering to make your game accessible for the blind and visually impaired.  I’ve seen such amazing strides in the industry as of late, so I hope this article can help whoever stumbles across it with their game development choices!

Uncategorized · Video Games

My Experiences with Text to Speech Features on the Playstation 4, and a Basic Run Down of said Features

Hello everyone, it’s been a while!  My long absence is due to a lot of things.  Mainly, I’ve been putting a lot of work into my YouTube Channel – I always have posted video game and anime covers over there, but in the past few months I’ve also started vlogging and been enjoying that thoroughly.  It kind of took over the blogging, since that and vlogging are very similar.  I enjoy both however, and have something to talk about now, so here I am again!  Honestly no clue when I’ll post over here again, so if you like my content, probably subscribe to my YouTube channel for more frequent updates.
I’ve noticed a spike in followers over here, and would like to say thank you!  I’m honestly surprised, considering how long ago my last post has been, but I’m very happy to see you here, nevertheless.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the content here, and will continue to enjoy it, no matter how infrequent I post!

 

I talk about a lot of nerdy things over here.  In fact, my last post was about how awesome the web series RWBY is.  I also talk a lot about gaming over here, but have never actually had a modern console…until now!  Me and my brother both went in on a Playstation 4 recently, and the very first game we bought was for a very specific reason.

 

Team RWBY in a fighting game Team RWBY in a fighting game AHHH AHHH AHHHH!!!!!!
I was so pumped!!!  As soon as I heard that, I was like “We are buying that game”.  It was so funny, because my bro had told me about the BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle trailer and was like “There’s some girl named Ruby in it?” and I just figured it was a new BlazBlue character until I was recommended a RWBY reveal trailer on YouTube, because I haven’t played BlazBlue since Calamity Trigger.  So imagine my surprise when I saw my girl Ruby Rose in a trailer for a fighting game!  And my favorite character Weiss alongside her!  It was so cool!

 

So, that was the first game we got for the console, no contest.  I had been gushing about RWBY to my brother for months, but me saying we needed to get the game because they were in it got him to finally check out the series, and now he’s just as hooked on it as me woooooo.
But that tangent aside, we haven’t had a newer console for years.  Not only that, but text to speech options weren’t even a thing the last console we had.  So, it was a major learning curve setting up PS4 accounts, learning the ropes, and all in all getting back into modern gaming, and how it works.  Thankfully, my Mom is always willing to read things for us just in case we get lost, but I wanted to focus more on the text to speech features in this article, because in all honesty I see them get a lot of flak by the blind community, and as a person coming into the newer era of gaming, I’d like to share my experiences as a new blind user of the text to speech features on the PS4, and of the PS4 in general.

 

Getting Started

 

Getting text to speech up is the tricky part I feel, because there’s no way around needing a sighted person to select the text to speech feature.  You have to go into settings, accessibility, and pick text to speech, and turn it on.  After that, it’s rather smooth sailing, and you can do everything the text to speech has access to.  I will say, I think Sony should set up some sort of feature where you can turn it on at system start, maybe some sort of button command, like apple devices have, but honestly, I’m used to this sort of stuff.  When dealing with PCs, you initially need to have sighted assistance to set up your screen reader, so I don’t see it as that big of a curveball thrown at blind users:  It’s something they’re used to doing, and have probably adapted to getting done easily at this point.

 

What is a little frustrating is setting up your PSN account.  I had to have my Mom walk me through the process, because it reads out pretty much nothing but the keyboard when you’re typing in commands.  You can go do all of these things on the website, I’ve noticed from further investigation (playstation.com) but I find it a lot easier to do all of the setting up on the console.  So pretty much, you need a sighted person to sit down with you and set everything up if you are a brand new Playstation owner, but once you get past that point, you can do pretty much anything that you’d do on the Playstation store, on the web browser.

 

Buying Games, Themes, and DLC

 

 

 

Another minor ding I have to give the text to speech, is that the Playstation store on the console doesn’t read at all.  It’s pretty obvious when text to speech won’t work in an area, because the console will instantly say “Text to speech not available”.  The work around for this, is to buy everything from store.playstation.com, which is so awesome and cool, and something my teenage brain would have never imagined being able to do.  When we first tried to buy BlazBlue on the browser, for some reason it didn’t work:  I have a feeling it had to do with the PS4 not being verified as ours yet to the webstore, because as soon as my Mom bought the game on the console itself, I went and  bought a theme from the PSN store and it worked just fine.  I don’t like the basic theme’s music on the PS4, it was driving me nuts!  So I did some searching for, you guessed it, a RWBY theme and am so happy I did because it changed the music to one of my favorite RWBY songs, so I always wind up humming it while I’m on the menu screen, and can’t wait to explore more avatar’s and themes.

 

Buying from the webstore is just like buying from Amazon or Ebay.  Add the game to your cart, and purchase.  I will highly recommend adding your payment options before purchasing, because it was a huge headache trying to add at checkout and I found myself just linking my paypal before purchasing to save that time, because for me putting in the info at check out wasn’t super accessible.  Some buttons weren’t registering when I clicked on them for some reason or another, but Payment options is a link you can just click at the top of any PS Store page, and add a credit card or link a paypal account easily, so I just did that.

 

Downloading a Game

 

Downloading the game was by far the easiest, and coolest part.  You can download remotely from your web browser, technology is magic!  After purchasing the game, go to your download list.  Click “Download to PS4” and in real time, you get to see your game download to your console.  You need to turn your PS4 on first for it to work, but if you click it without the PS4 on, the browser page just says “Waiting” and once the PS4 gets on, it switches to “downloading” after a bit of time.  The page doesn’t tell you how much time it will take to download, but the PS4’s text to speech does read it out.  If you keep the webpage open while downloading, and the download finishes, “Downloading” changes to “Playable” and I’m sure this is average to people but like I said new console, new hardware to me, super super cool because I  remember having to have my Mom buy eeeeeverything on the Wii Eshop back in the day, so even though this is technically a work around, because you can’t buy on the PS4 itself, I don’t care because it works super well and allows me to download games digitally.  Of course, a physical copy is still an option, but you would still have to have some sort of labeling system for the discs, when…

 

Text To Speech Features on the PlayStation 4 as a Whole

 

The text to speech reads the games in the library, so you can navigate and start them yourself!

Does the PS4 read every section on the console with text to speech?  Not by a long shot.  I’d say it probably reads about 25% of the features on the console.  There are a lot of apps, you can’t use without some work around.  Does it read the things you would need to access the console?  Yes.  For that reason, I think the text to speech suits me fine.  I know this is a topic of contention amongst blind users, but I think the PS4 reads everything you’d need to fully function the basic use of the Playstation.  I know we’re used to having multi media everything on every device nowadays, but at the end of the day, the PS4 is a gaming console.  Can I easily access my game library without sighted assistance because of the text to speech voice?  Yep, no problem.  Can I send messages to friends, and add friends?  Yep, no problem.  Can I adjust most of the settings as far as gaming goes?  Yeah.  One thing I will say is there are some odd areas where the text to speech decides to not be available on some features.  Like I added a friend who sent me a friend request, but when I clicked to see who it was “text to speech wasn’t available” so I had to have my Mom read who it was, and make sure I was on ok so I didn’t accidentally decline said request.  Now, I know there’s a friends section on the Playstation.com website, but I haven’t used it.  Generally though, the web version and console version of the site work generally the same, so I’m sure you’d have no issues just adding friends via the site, since that’s how I changed my avatar.

 

Third party apps are a whole different story, and something I’m not going to hold Sony itself accountable for.  Sony, I’m sure, has made developers aware text to speech is on the console, so they can develop accordingly and it isn’t their job to build accessibility into those apps.  For example,  I was surprised to see Netflix works with text to speech really well.  I haven’t found a way to search, but you can browse through titles, pick them, play/pause, and change the language.  This means you can change it to have audio description and watch on the PS4, which is cool.
I was also surprised to see that both Spotify and YouTube aren’t accessible through apps, though YouTube is accessible through the Internet Browser app on the console.  Spotify is a completely graphical interface, and the work around I found to use it was to sync my account through the desktop app, and that way, I can remotely control my Spotify on my computer, and hear it on the PS4.  It works super well, and I’m honestly fine with this work around because I use Spotify mainly on the computer anyways, no biggy.

So all in all, the text to speech does the basics.  Let’s you open up games, add friends, join parties and communities, check notifications and trophies earned.  Could it do more?  Sure, but we’ll see what comes later down the road now that this feature is on the console and can be worked upon.  Anything can be made better, and I’d rather praise Sony for what it is doing right, then go on a crusade over what they are doing wrong lol.

 

Final Thoughts

 

I’ve only had my Playstation 4 for about a week, so I’m sure I’m no expert on using the console.  There are probably more work arounds, more features I just haven’t used, more hiccups as far as accessibility goes.  But as I said before, does text to speech allow you to play video games easily?  It does, and although watching Netflix, playing YouTube  and Spotify are cool features to have on the thing, I have other devices I can do that more easily on, and would prefer to do it on.  Gotta say it was fun rocking out to some RWBY songs I thought should be in Cross Tag Battle via Spotify while playing, but I was able to do that via remote access.  Anything you’d want to do on the console is doable, with an easy work around, or with the text to speech itself, which honestly I’m impressed Sony had the forethought to make things workable via using the web browser.    Honestly, living my entire life by doing visual things alternatively to be able to experience them, this is a huge step up from what I used to have to do to access console features, and I’m happy to see a huge break through, no matter how big or small.

 

So, if you want to pick up a console and are blind, I’d highly recommend the Playstation 4!  I will say I have no experience with the Xbox 1 and do know they have text to speech features as well, but if I’m being real with you guys, I really don’t care for the exclusives on there and prefer the PS4 ones, and anything I’d want to play on Xbox 1 is on PS4.  Playing games blind is always going to be a hurdle, and I think it’s important to show developers and hardware makers that we are willing to work with them, because just telling them to fix things when they are fixing things gradually just puts an air of negativity out there and doesn’t make them want to collaborate, or help the blind community.
I really hope this very long article helps someone, or interests someone haha.  I hope I made up for my long absence with this article!  Now if you excuse me, I’m off to use my girls against some Blazblue characters, can’t escape from crossing fate, Fight!

 

Editorials/Opinion Pieces · Video Games

Let’s Talk About Visual Novel Accessibility, Shall We? An Update

You may remember a while ago I talked about getting into playing visual novels, and how easy it was to tell when one was accessible or not.  Time for an update, because I’ve been trying to play more commercial VNs (think Doki Doki Literature Club, Long Live the Queen) and we’re running into a lot of problems here.

 

When I first got into VNs, I was only playing free ones. Well, I’ve been looking at ones now that are more commercial, have more to them coding wise than the free ones do, and are longer.  They have the same structure as the free ones – text, pictures, choices to make.  Some of them have an RPG element to them, picking a party and doing battles/making a battle formation, which seems really fun…if it were playable.

 

Almost every commercial quality VN I’ve played is inaccessible in some way.  The self-voicing feature can’t be activated at all, or if it is able to be activated, there’s something in the game that it can’t read.  The battle system in one comes to mind in particular, which definitely was a hope dashing experience when I thought I could play a really cool looking game, only to get to the point in the demo where you make your battle formation, choose items, and have absolutely nothing read because you had to drag and drop, or click with the mouse.  Even when navigating with the keyboard, it would make a clicky noise like it was moving to something, but not say what.  If the text is readable when the actual visual novel part of the game is going, then why is it so hard to make the text to speech work when you’re playing with the actual game mechanics?

 

Some VNs read, but the load and save features do not.  I noticed that while playing Blind Love, a visual novel I’m let’s playing on my YouTube Channel.  A visual novel that says on it’s itch.io page that it’s accessible to the blind, where if you didn’t read that on the page, and didn’t know how to activate self-voicing, you’d be out of luck:  it tells you when to activate self-voicing, and how to, after you’ve gone through the naming the character screen.  I’m glad they made a point to have it be accessible to the blind, but seriously?  Just a little more forethought should go into that sequence of events:  Have a narrator, or one of your voice actors say “Press V to activate self-voicing mode” before the title screen even loads up.  In that game, the main menu where it says “Start New Game” “Load Game”, “Quit Game” doesn’t read at all, so you have to just guesstimate where menu items are and hope you picked the right one.  I just decided to save on different files in that to avoid the possibility of not saving, or loading before saving, because saving and loading in it isn’t reading with self-voicing activated either, and it’s frustrating to see a game saying it’s accessible when the menus aren’t.

 

Doki Doki Literature Club doesn’t even allow self-voicing to activate, and that’s the case with all of the commercial, or commercial quality games I’ve played.  I’m enjoying the free ones, but those are usually short test novels for people who are starting ren’py coding and it just doesn’t satisfy my VN itch.

 

 

So I ask:  Why is it so hard to make a text, picture, music medium accessible, especially when ren’py has self-voicing as an option built into the engine?  Is it really so difficult?  Or do developers seriously not know that blind people would want to read their stories.  I’ve contacted a VN developer before, and they were open to adding accessible features to their VN, so I feel like they just don’t know it’s something they can utilize.  In which, it’s up to blind people to contact said developers if they want a change, and see what they can do.  I plan to do this, and I want to branch out into making my own visual novels that are accessible, with cool stuff in it like the commercial ones have, but that’s very far off in the future I feel.  I’d love to see developers put in the effort to do a bit of research, and integrate the self-voicing feature as an option, so blind players can enjoying the story telling of the genre.  I feel like it wouldn’t take much, but it does take making developers aware of the situation, which is something I plan to do in the near future!

 

And that’s an update on VN accessibility.  If you know of some good accessible VN’s, or some good developers to get in contact with, let me know!  I’d love to start a discussion with some devs, and see what we can do.  The only way we’re going to move things in the right direction is by starting a dialogue with game developers!

Uncategorized · Video Games

A Hero’s Call Impressions After 2 Weeks of Playing

I’ve been playing A Hero’s Call on and off for the past two weeks, and I realized something.

 

I don’t like open world games.

 

I went into this RPG expecting it to be something else:  The impression I got from the advertisement of it was a linear, story based RPG, much like a Final Fantasy, Tales of, or any other JRPG series that is heavily based on plot. While there is a plot, it isn’t a heavy one.  It’s one that gets the purpose of the game across:  Explore a ton, find quests, have fun just experiencing the open world format of the game.  It bothered me that the game wasn’t a more story based game, even though there are story points sprinkled in here and there, full blown lore, and interesting enough characters.  Is the writing in the game perfect?  I don’t think so.  I think the story and characters could have been fleshed out a lot more.  Right now they’re rather generic fantasy characters, and although they’re likeable enough, it leaves something to be desired
There are points where you can talk to characters and get more information about them.  I think maybe once, in a specific area?  I’ve tried talking to them at different points of the game and haven’t gotten anything new to speak to them about, other than one character, after I finished one of the major plot centric quests, so perhaps that’s how you get new dialogue.  I got this super cute scene with all of the characters after having every party member which was nice, but once again, the characters aren’t as fleshed out as they could be, and don’t talk to each other much so it fell a little flat.

 

After realizing it was an open world game, I sort of just started to deal with it, embrace it, and explore.  Instead of trying to get the plot centric quests done, I’ve decided to do a lot of smaller quests while doing things to further along the main line quest.  So I’ve done that, and I’m enjoying the game a lot more.  It still has a lot of the flaws in it I mentioned in my first impressions post, but playing this game as an open world game instead of as a linear storytelling RPG is a lot more enjoyable.
That being said, going off of this as an open world RPG, I feel like there needs to be a lot more to explore.  I understand, it was  a new developer, doing an awesome new audio RPG, but why not do a story based game with more linear gameplay, so you don’t have to make huge areas and the like?  There are a lot of maps, but comparing it to mainstream, open world RPGs, it just leaves something to be desired.  There’s a lot of dead space in the maps, as well, and a lot of empty space in town areas that could have been filled with sound effects of people being active there.  Some good examples of this are the tavern, general store, and temple:  all three of them only have the head priest, the store owner, and the tavern and inn owner in them (plus a mercenary for hire in one of the rooms) but why not add some people walking in and out?  Or even just some crowd ambience, so it sounds like you’re walking into a busy tavern at certain times of the day.  Why not have people whispering to themselves about the priests preachings, or the general store owner conversing with a townsperson, or client when entering sometimes.  Just little bits of polish I think could have taken this game over the top, with a little more development time.

 

As I said earlier, sometimes it feels like you’re just wandering somewhere and the character is going no where because of how big the maps are.  With audio only, the footsteps sound like they’re walking in place at times, especially in echoey cavern areas.  If there were some sort of indicator as to whether or not you were moving that wasn’t just footsteps, for derpy people like me who can’t always tell if they’re moving, that would be great.

 

Like I said, open world games just aren’t my thing.  I’m enjoying the game, but given the choice between a game like this, and a game like say, Tales of Symphonia or Final Fantasy VI, I’ll pick up the linear story based game every time.  I like world building, character development, and stories being told that have a clear beginning and end, and I just don’t get that in open world RPGs.  Still fun, but not my cup of tea.

 

I feel it’s important to hold audio game developers to the same standards as other mainstream, or indi developers.  We’ll say indi developers, because they’ll be on the same playing field with the resources available to them.  Audio games will never get the recognition they deserve if they’re just given a pat on the back for existing, and that’s why I’m critiqueing this, just like I would any other RPG I’ve played.  My major critique about the game in general is that it could have had a bit more polish before release, but I get wanting to get the game out for people to play and fixing it with patches later.  A Hero’s Call was only 20 USD, and for the price I think it’s definitely worth buying it, even if it’s just to support the advancement of audio games made to this quality of standard:  it’s amazing what the developers have done with the game, and I’m excited to see what they do next.  Fingers crossed they do an RPG that’s more my style!

 

If you’re playing A Hero’s Call, would love to hear your thoughts on the game!  Do you open world RPG fans find it very enjoyable?

Video Games

A Hero’s Call First Impressions

The time has come, my friends!  A Hero’s Call, the first fully blind accessible RPG is out!  It cam out December 29th, and you better believe I picked it up as soon as it was available.  I’d like to give my first impressions of the game after playing it all weekend.  I’m going to do this in a pros and cons format, because I feel like my initial thoughts would be easier to sort that way.  But I’d like to just preface this by saying overall, I’m loving the game.  It’s great to be able to immerse myself in an RPG adventure after years of not being able to do so because of lack of vision.  The navigation is great, and the lore and characters are great.  It’s fully voice acted, and I’m happy to say the voice acting is well done.  If you like a high fantasy, Skyrim style game then definitely pick this thing up!

 

But now, onto the review!

 

PROS

 

  • I love the battle system.  It took a while to get the hang of, but being able to choose your character class, and fight in a traditional turn-based style RPG.  I am always the mage class, so I decided to go with that on my first playthrough and have been having loads of fun.
  • The immersion that is given to the player is fantastic,  It feels like you’re living in the town the story takes place in, and it’s such a nice touch being able to find items and artifacts that build on the lore of the world you’re playing in.  I love finding books and reading them, and figuring out different aspects of the world.
  • The characters are so fun! And as I said in my opening statement, the voice acting is superb.  Really great job there.
  • It took a while to get used to, but I really like the navigation system. The maps aren’t without their flaws, but after figuring out that the RPG is a tile/grid system and how everything is situated, it’s pretty easy to navigate.
  • I love how on top of things the game devs are.  Already there’s a patch to fix some minor bugs, and they’re still working on things and keeping the players in the know.

 

CONS

 

  • As easy as it was to figure out the navigation system, at the same time it was a really frustrating learning curve.  That, in major part, is because the tutorials aren’t thorough enough in my opinion.  It took me dying a ton of times to a particular boss, backtracking a ton, and retracing my steps all the while dying too many times to remember to realize, oh hey, I can buy skills!  And really I just stumbled upon that because I was noodling around in the level up screen.  When I first tried to buy skills, it said I needed more points to do so – and I thought that meant it was more like a Final Fantasy V system where you had to buy tombs to unlock spells.  But no, you can buy everything in the skills list, and the first option is what you can upgrade to.  But the prompt when I upped the level didn’t sound like that’s what it meant at all, and I was really confused.
  • Along with that, the reason I had such a hard time with the navigation system was because the tutorial wasn’t as explanatory as it could have been. There’s a brief tutorial, but I kept on getting stuck trying to do it because I didn’t understand that switching directions and walking straight = walking into doors.  Overall, I just think the tutorials can be a lot more explanatory, so we’re not left in the dark with a lot of things.
  • Speaking of vagueness, the quest log could help you along a bit more with what to do? I feel like this is more a matter of preference, but sometimes I’m just stuck somewhere and there’s no surefire indication of what I should do next.  I’d just like a teeny bit more prompting on what to do in some aspects of the quests, to avoid confusion.
  • I’m really not a big fan of how many obstacles are in the maps. I feel like even with a sighted RPG, there wouldn’t be as many, but sometimes it’s just such a headache to get around and I want to progress in the game instead of wandering around aimlessly.
  • Major nit pick, but I would have really liked to have voice acting for the player character. It’s a little confusing to me why every other character is voiced, and the player character isn’t.  Just something that pulls the emersion  of the game away form me a bit, but not a deal breaker.

 

 

Overall, great game for the first game made by Out of Sight Games.  If you’d like to pick up a copy, you can do so here!  I’m looking forward to going back to Farhaven, have a fun time exploring heroes!

Editorials/Opinion Pieces · Video Games

What An Accessible Video Game to the Blind Means to Me

Disclaimer:  This is an opinion piece, I am by no means an expert and am just voicing my viewpoint on the subject.

 

I see it often, as news on Twitter and Facebook.  “A game fully accessible for the blind!” and I go check it out, and it’s a game that’s just a completely black screen, with auditory feedback only.  Perhaps some tactile feedback as well, but to me, those games don’t quite cut it.  I won’t say it’s not accessible, because it is, but at the same time it feels like it’s still limiting the amount that the blind can play with their sighted peers.    Before I get fully into this post though, I’d like to say I’m super happy with the headway accessibility has gotten in the past ten years.  The fact that it’s something game developers are even thinking about, and implementing in their games is amazing, and makes me want to get back into gaming again.  I saw that even big companies, like Microsoft and Sony are putting text to speech controls in their consoles, and I’m hoping that the Switch will follow suit (though the HD Rumble is a step in the right direction).  Indi developers that think about how to adapt their games, and create games specifically for the blind isn’t something that I would see when I was a teenager and pre-teen, and it warms my heart to see that people are even thinking of how to make things easily available for everyone to play.
With that out of the way, I feel like making games without graphics isn’t exactly the right way to go with making games accessible.  I know being legally blind is a rather blanket term, but being legally blind, or visually impaired, doesn’t always mean someone is 100 percent blind.  There are people who have full sight out of one eye, have light perception, tunnel vision, peripheral vision, and so many other visual spectrums, that developers should account for.  Sure, a legally blind gamer who has sight in one eye but none in the other may like to play a game that doesn’t have any visuals, but they also may not care for that sort of game and want to play something that has graphics they can see to the best of their ability, to immerse them further in the gaming experience also available to their sighted peers.

 

Blindness is a term a lot of us use because it’s easiest to say instead of something like “I’m actually visually impaired, I can see colors and light perception” because to a lot of people, that’s hard for them to grasp.  I know I’ve seen a lot of blind gamers just say, give me good sound design in a Triple A title I’ll do the rest with my other senses.  For some, being able to magnify things is enough, while for others, the text to speech menu options are all they’d need.  Others would just need inverted color schemes, while others may prefer a fully audio, fully tactile game.

 

What I prefer in a game, is just to have the entire experience, like any normal game.  Sound design is fantastic nowadays:  I watch videos of games on YouTube, and can tell what’s going on just by the placement of the sound.  I don’t have any new gen consoles, but I can only imagine how easy it is to play and how immersive it is for a blind gamer.  I memorize where things are, or get sighted help from friends and family when something is too difficult, but overall that’s usually my gaming experience.  That being said, I love fighting games for how easy they are to just pick up and play.  Pick a mode, pick a fighter, and you’re good to go XD

 

Like I said, I’m super impressed, and happy to see the strides that developers, both big and small are taking towards gaming being doable for everyone.  But when I see a game that says it’s fully accessible, but is lacking in features, I’m always so conflicted.  I love that people are doing it, but at the same time, why not do it so it’s literally accessible to everyone?  Games like 1, 2, Switch are doing a good job of being playable for everyone, while not looking like it’s excluding anyone from being able to play, and I think that’s more what developers need to stride for as far as making a game fully accessible goes.  A no graphics, audio only game may be interesting, and a good game to have out there but at the end of the day it’s very niche and won’t be as interesting a game to play as say, a Final Fantasy game and I’d overall just like to see more access to games that are more mainstream.  Good steps in the right direction on all fronts though, very interested to see where game development for the blind and visually impaired will be going in the next few years.

 

Have any thought’s on the subject?  Would love to hear in the comments!