‘Deathloop’s journey to accessibility is one of redemption

The third major update for Deathloop – “Killer Caught in a Time Loop Game” of 2021 – introduces a flashy photo mode, but more importantly, it finally gives the PlayStation exclusive a solid suite of much-needed accessibility options.

“Empathy was the catalyst for this update”, Deathloop Yoann Bazoge, UI / UX Lead Designer says so Reverse. “When we design a game, we do it for the players and we want as many players as possible to have fun.”

It was not necessarily the case a DeathloopLaunched in September 2021. It has received praise from numerous skilled reviewers for its approach to combat scenarios and troubleshooting. However, disabled gamers have criticized the title for its lack of options, inaccessible design practices, and insurmountable barriers such as a limited number of lives. Without the proper tools to play, many disabled people had no choice but to avoid playing it altogether.

For those who haven’t been able to play Deathloop, this update is a welcome addition. Arkane Studios

“As development progressed, we realized that the game’s accessibility features were insufficient and it wasn’t as open as it could have been,” says Bazoge. “We struggled to make changes in time before release, but we were well underway with planning for potential accessibility additions.”

Time constraints prevented the team from realizing their initial vision of accessibility. Bazoge reveals that after elaborating on the game’s critique after launch, the developers have formed “a strike team of designers, artists and programmers” to address accessibility in the game’s Update 3.

“We went through every review, every video, and gathered feedback from players and those who wanted to play,” says Bazoge. “We had some ideas before launch and we combined all of this information to compile the most comprehensive backlog possible and prioritized the needs based on the number of occurrences we had seen.”

Developer Arkane Lyon worked with several accessibility consultants to ensure that the options and features would benefit a range of disabled people. These included contacts from DAGERSystem, a game journalism site focused on accessibility, and CapGame, a French website dedicated to facilitating access to video games in general.

“They were very excited about the idea of ​​working with us and when we presented them with the list of features we were planning to add, they couldn’t believe their eyes,” says Bazoge. “Adding post-launch options is already very complicated, so adding so many was already great for the player.”

Through this talk of accessibility, the most notable new features include the ability to choose the number of lives, one-hit kills, and the option to slow game speed by up to 50 or 75 percent. The update also adds new ways to navigate menus with controllers and keyboards. Rather than relying on precise joystick and mouse movements, Game Update 3 allows players to use multiple login methods when browsing menus, which Bazoge says took several months for a developer to rework.

“We also had to add shortcuts that didn’t exist before because everything was accessible with the cursor, so we had to find a solution for these elements to remain accessible when the player couldn’t reach them with directional crosses,” says Bazoge. “It was more of a technology challenge, it was a UX challenge and we were pulling our hair out trying to find the best solution.”

Rather than addressing post-launch accessibility settings, Bazoge notes that developers are already building ways to ensure that options like color blind support, subtitle readability, and scaling of UI elements will all be “standard at launch. future”.

“Improving the accessibility of a game is beneficial for all players.”

DeathloopThe company’s initial launch was the product of an industry still struggling to meet the needs of disabled people.

Deathloop it’s definitely elegant, but how accessible is it?Bethesda

“Some accessibility options can have a low development cost, even more so if they are thought of during initial feature development,” said Bazoge. “And it’s been interesting to see a lot of people in the studio starting to use these options because they can add a different style of fun to their play sessions. Slowing down the speed of the game, for example, has been very successful during gaming sessions. Improving the accessibility of a game is beneficial for all players. “

While it’s important to incorporate inclusive design practices into all stages of a game’s development cycle, we’re in a game era where every game comes with a Day One patch and continues to evolve over time. Bazoge hopes so DeathloopThe example of can change the accessibility narrative. No game will ever be perfect, especially in terms of accessibility, but every studio has a responsibility to try.

“I think that’s an important aspect, not just for us but for other developers – it’s okay to make the mistake, you can set things up right after the fact,” said Bazoge. “Sometimes it is assumed that it is not possible to improve the accessibility of a game after the fact, and we hope that we have shown that it is possible.”

If something, by Deathloop The accessibility fiasco indicates that not just a single studio, but an entire industry is actively willing to learn. And with the highly personal aspect of living with a disability, implementing effective and fun features requires a deeper understanding of the disability experience.

“In Arkane, we have the mantra to always say yes to the player and accessibility is just another way to achieve this,” said Bazoge. “When we think of a system, a design, an interface we say ‘Ok, that’s a great idea, but some players risk being sidelined, so maybe we could add an option to make it more accessible in one way or another’ other .’ Accessibility doesn’t make us less creative, quite the contrary. “

With the help of the community and several accessibility consultants, Game Update 3 has transformed one of the most inaccessible games of 2021 into a title that can be enjoyed by players of all disabilities. And it will be a powerful reminder that focusing on accessibility is beneficial to both developers and gamers.

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