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Game Maker's Toolkit explores how devs can design for colorblindness

Game Maker's Toolkit explores how devs can design for colorblindness

August 23, 2018 | By Emma Kidwell

"Designers should try to use shapes, symbols, shading, animation, and other visual tricks to make critical parts of the game stand out from one another." 

- Game Maker's Toolkit's Mark Brown on designing for colorblindness. 

Game Maker's Toolkit's Mark Brown published a new video to his designing for disability series yesterday, which explores the best practices developers can utilize when making games for players with colorblindness and low vision. 

Part one covers colorblindness by examining Cuphead, where Brown explains how it's easy to tell the differences between pink punches thrown by enemies as opposed to blue ones. This visual information is crucial for the player because the different colors denote which punch can be blocked, and which one cannot.

Players with colorblindness aren't able to distinguish cues that rely on colors as one or more of the receptors in their eyes are defective, hindering their ability to see a particular chunk of the color spectrum or making it difficult to tell the difference between some hues.

Brown discusses the three major types of colorblindness, which all affect the perception of different tones, depending on what form a player has. Deuteranopia, which affects green tones, is the most common.

He notes that contrary to what some people may think, colorblindness does not mean seeing in black and white-- that's actually achromatopsia, which is incredibly rare. 

"Developers can check to see if their games are readable by those who are colorblind by checking with colorblind gamers, or using free filter tools to simulate what their game might look like to people with the three major vision deficiencies," says Brown. 

"A tool like Color Oracle allows you to see static images in a simulated colorblind mode, while the program Sim Dotulism can show you the world through colorblind eyes in real time," he adds. Game engines like Unity and Unreal also have filters to help as well. 

Once the filters are applied, devs should see if important information like HUD elements, alerts, enemy differences, loot rarity or damage indicators are lost or difficult to distinguish. 

"And so if you've run the filter and realized that colorblind gamers won't be able to see their red laser sight against different backgrounds, or tell the difference between the red team and the green team, what do you do?"

The best solution is to design around the issue and simply avoid relying on color alone when communicating information or distinguishing between two different things. 

"Designers should try to use shapes, symbols, shading, animation, and other visual tricks to make critical parts of the game stand out from one another."

He lists Recore as a good example, because even though the game has color-coded enemies and weapons developer Armature Studio decided to not just use colors, but also high contrast white arrows on the enemy's health bar to relay information. Left for blue, up for yellow, and right for red-- all corresponding with d-pad direction. 

Brown was just speaking about one of the many ways developers can design for colorblindness and low vision, so be sure to watch the entire video over at Game Maker's Toolkit.

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