A story about how an Uncharted 2 player who was stuck during a quick time event prompted Naughty Dog to do right by their fans, and has resulted in making their upcoming offering in The Last of Us 2 their most accessible game yet.
How accessible, you ask? The Last of Us 2 has over 60 accessibility options to choose from, ranging from visual aids, audio cues, and much more.
Game accessibility is basically allowing players with impairments (blind, color blind, deaf, etc) to play and enjoy the game. Some games have it, most games don’t, but Naughty Dog planned to include this into The Last of Us 2 from the very start of development.
In an interview with The Verge, game designer Matthew Gallant said that they “absolutely had to plan these features early in production”, speaking about text to speech, fully remappable controls, and high contrast mode. It was one of those things that they took into account during the earliest parts of planning, and they “couldn’t have done this if we [they] hadn’t.”, since these features took a huge amount of resources to implement.
The accessibility options range from standard options like larger UI but others are advanced enough like text to speech or even audio cues to indicate nearby items or changes in topography like ledges. There’s even a high contrast mode that was inspired by the Uncharted Thief Vision filter, turning enemies into a solid red block of color.
Lead designer Emilia Schatz admitted that during the development of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, “our accessibility options were actually pretty sparse, but we got a lot of community praise for it, and felt like we had a huge success with a very small amount of things that we did.”
Schatz stressed that “Accessibility for us is about removing barriers that are keeping players from completing a game, it’s not about dumbing down a game or making a game easy. What do our players need in order to play the game in parity with everyone else?”
Dumbing down, or making the game easier due to these options, is an actual concern, one that the team had to think about as well. In our interview with co-director Anthony Newman, he admits that “Some of our accessibility options do definitely make the game, you might say, easier but at the same time for a lot of our audience, they make the game playable in the first place.”
In fact, Newman is particularly proud of their new ‘blind accessibility mode’ can allow visually impaired players to “play through the entire game completely blind and not only play the entire game you can actually get the Platinum trophy, you can explore all the optional content.“
Gallant closes by saying that “It feels like a failing on our part if a player reaches a part of the game that’s inaccessible to them in any way, it’s incumbent on us to be the ones to find the solutions. Accessibility just makes these games better.”
While not all developers have embraced the inclusion of accessibility options in their games possibly due to the fact that the disparity in number of players with impairments is rather significant, and internal development budget constraints may be a factor as well, maybe it’s about time that this started being a standard in games, or gaming in general? More visually or mechanically impaired individuals may be encouraged to play more if these options were available to start with.
Everybody deserves a chance to play and experience all these wonderful games that are being offered to us, and it’s about time that they do.