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How to approach accessibility in progression-driven games

May 24, 2017 | By Bryant Francis

Let’s say you’ve made a game whose story, characters, and other gameplay elements are so compelling players want to come back again and again. Congratulations! But what happens when some of your players approach you and say it’s hard to see those story elements because the game’s combat or other central challenge is too difficult, even on the easiest settings?

There are a myriad of reasons why players might feel this way, but among them are the fact that some players have physical or mental disabilities that make game combat a more difficult task. But if you still want those players to enjoy your game world, you should check out a conversation (seen above) we had with game developers Tara Voelker and James Portnow, and Ablegamers COO Steven Spohn, where we examined the physical and technical ways to make single-player games more accessible to a variety of players. 

If you’re looking for some quick takeaways from our conversation, here are a few key lessons that Voelker, Spohn, and Portnow were able to share from their work making games accessible to a broader audience. 

“Skipping combat” doesn’t have to mean breaking your game

Though Voelker, Spohn, and Portnow all talked about alternatives to just letting players blow through a game’s central combat challenges, they all also agreed that it’s worth looking into whether there’s a way to tweak your game’s AI and systems to help players overcome encounters that act more as barriers than challenges. 

The accessibility conversation goes beyond gameplay and physical hardware

As our conversation progressed, Portnow took a moment to talk about what it means when game developers lock certain players out of accessing their games’ stories and communities due to pricing, especially compared to other media. This led to a conversation about what cheaper copies of games and YouTube playthroughs can do to alleviate this situation, as well as how game developers can still benefit from people who access their games this way. 

Some practical takeaways for responding to this kind of feedback

Toward the end of our conversation, we asked each of our guests what their first reaction would be if their players gave them consistent feedback about game combat being inaccessible, and their responses may help you out when you get such feedback yourself. 

If this conversation was helpful for you, be sure to follow the Gamasutra Twitch channel for more developer interviews, editor roundtables and gameplay commentary. 

(thumbnail via Ablegamers)

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