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On World Of WarCraft's Color Blindness Patch
by Reid Kimball on 03/31/09 04:27:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Ablegamers.com has info on WoW's upcoming 3.1 patch, which adds features that help those who are color blind. However, more work remains. As detailed in the linked article, the patch isn't exhaustive and doesn't allow players to custom tailor the colors and modifications to their specific needs.

For any developer looking to include game accessibility features, this is an important point to keep in mind. No solution you implement works for all disabled people of a particular type. An analogy are corrective lenses for glasses. You can't apply the same prescription of corrective lenses for everyone, each person's eye sight is different. 

Since it's impossible for a developer to create so many variants of accessibility features the solution is to include customizable options. 

For the Doom3[CC] mod I designed that added closed-captioning for dialog, sound effects and music, it has several useful options, but it could have featured even more customizable options. For instance, we included the ability for players to choose to have sound effects captioned or not and dialog to be captioned or not. Separating out the categories of sound between dialog and sound effects allows players with fairly good, but not perfect hearing to only enable captioning of dialog, but not sound effects. This is no different than subtitles, which the retail version of Doom3 lacked. Another player can decide not to use any captioning, another to caption only the sound effects and another to caption both. 

Contrast this with Valve Software's implementation of closed-captioning where you get choices for

  • Off
  • Subtitles
  • Full Closed-Captioning

Players cannot custom tailor the captioning like they can in our Doom3[CC] mod.

Something we didn't do but should have, is provide an option for toggling the Visual Sound Radar, as I call it. This is a radar in the lower left corner of the screen that shows blips of sound events positioned around the player. It's only vague information of direction and distance so players can't use this to know exactly where enemies are. Yet, the number one request from players was to turn this feature off. 

I had always planned on implementing that, but each time id Software released a new patch, our mod had to be updated. This grew tiresome and impossible after awhile because our team disbanded. Unfortauntely, this means that our mod no longer works with the most recent version of Doom3. 

Tom Chilton, a lead developer on WoW stated in the AbleGamers interview that one of the reasons they developed their own color blind feature was because it became tough for the community to continually update their mods after patches were released. 

This is a serious problem and in the future I hope developers who decide to implement accessibility features on their own begin by asking their community what they like and don't like about the community driven solutions. Or better yet, consider the community developers as subject matter experts and contract them to ensure the features are satisfactory the first time around.

Also posted on my personal blog Reiding...


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