A Review Accessibility Checklist/Guide

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This is meant to be a short guide on how to look for and present information for accessibility reviews. While covering for accessibility can seem vast and incomprehensible at first to wrap your head around. (given the fact that everyone experiences their disability differently) You will find that there are common threads to look for in order to look for in order to cover the crucial information required to help people with accessibility concerns make a choice about video game.

Accessibility concerns are most commonly categorised as follows (though this is not an extensive list):

  • Deaf & Hard of Hearing
  • Vision/Blind & Hard of Sight
  • Cognition
  • Mobility/Motion
  • Colour Blindness

Each of these have their own concerns with their criteria, but all of these have ways of easily finding key information for those who don’t suffer from said disability. While this is no substitute for peoples experiences; this is meant to be an easy way to illustrate accessibility points in standard reviews.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing

  • Audio Descriptions or Closed Captioning for events and sounds that are in game. For example; *tromp* *tromp* *tromp*
Example of Audio Description
  • Subtitles – this is the ability to see the games dialogue on screen. Subtitles can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Vision/Blind & Hard of Sight

  • Increase Subtitle Size – this is the ability for the player to be able to increase the subtitles size to a point where it is comfortable to read.
Example of Large Font options, Color Blind Modes, High Contrast UI and Menu Narration
  • High Contrast UI – this gives the player the option to change the way a menu is presented to them which can give them the ability to see menu options clearer.
Example of a before and after of applying a high contrast option for the menu’s UI

Cognition

  • Highlighted Words – this gives players the visual cue to take note of important concepts or actions
  • Clear Navigation Markers – using clear and visually distinct markers to highlight different and important aspects that the player needs to be aware of.
Example of clear visual navigation markers. The red dots illustrating enemies, the stairs icon for a stairs, blue dots for objects and green x’s for tiles.
  • Toggling On/Off of Visual Effects & Motion Blur – players who suffer from triggering of visual effects (like flashing lights for epilepsy) or motion blur that could trigger motion sickness would need the ability to switch these modes on or off.
Example of a motion blur effect from Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which at launch was not to switch on or off.
  • Tutorials – players with cognition issues may need to repeat tutorials or review specific elements of gameplay.

Mobility Options

  • Key remapping – the ability to remap any action key to a preferred key defined by the player
  • No Quick Time Events / Button Mashing / Option to help with QTE – For players with limited movement Quick Time Events can be nearly impossible to complete, having the option to skip or bypass them can be very beneficial.
Example from Spider Man of an Auto Complete Mode for Quick Time Events
  • Difficulty Modes – Having different difficulties level can make levels or battles that would take a considerable amount of physical effort for that barrier, that would be reduced.
  • Options to invert axis or have left handed modes – for those who are left handed or for those who have specific controller set ups that require the inversion.

Colour Blindness

  • Colour Blindness Options – this allows the player to change colour options to a way that makes them easier to see.

While these lists could go on and on (and this guide is not meant to be extensive) – it’s important to realise that a lot of these things reviewers would come across as they are reviewing a game. They’re in things you would interact with or come across as you progress, meaning all you would have to consider in terms of time is just keeping an eye out for these options and including them where possible.

If reviewers and critics find this helpful, please feel free to share this with your editor in order to incorporate these into your style guides.

A Spec Special – Ryan Brown & Specious Coda-Bishop

Ryan Brown (@Toadsanime) & Specious Coda-Bishop (@ThisIsSpecious)

A Game Talk Radio segment interviewing the wonder Ryan Brown from NumbSkull PR / Games about the realities of the PR life.

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Secret of Mana – Why I’m excited about the remake.

In August 1993, the game was released initially as Seiken Densetsu 2 in Japan on the Super Famicom (SNES) but sold outside Japan as Secret of Mana. Now, as of 2017 Square Enix is has decided to remake the beloved series which will be released in North America on February 15, 2018.

Earlier this summer, a Mana collection containing three pillars of the Mana theme; Final Fantasy Adventure, Secret of Mana, and Seiken Densetsu 3.  This was Japanese exclusive for the Nintendo Switch. Now the second game in the series is headed to the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita as well as Steam.

According to Famitsu, this is a full remake with full voice-overs, a new musical arrangement, other new elements like upgraded gameplay and graphics. It will also have local multiplayer on all platforms. All sounds so far so good, right?

Well, with the launch of the SNES Classic launched at the end of this year I’m not too sure. If you were one of the lucky ones, who got these hands of one of these elusive mini consoles you will already have access to the legendary RPG. One of the charming things about the SNES Classic will find that, among other things, the most exciting inclusions was the inclusion of the range of JRPGS. One of the things about the SNES Classic that I love is that its entire library of games has lasted the test of time, so they’re still great today. There are very few games on the consoles roster that I wouldn’t play, which for me was a more enticing prospect than the original NES mini.

So, I’m reminded of how good Secret of Mana is with the SNES mini, but I was struck by how much it could benefit from an update. I’m, personally, not concerned about the new art direction that it’s taking. Chibi style is something that I’ve always had a soft spot for that style, and while there seem to be some odd texture choices, it’s not enough for me to be super concerned.

This is primarily because I’m so excited that there will be a new generation of players who will be able to experience this incredible game with no significant changes to its narrative other than its visual aesthetics. I have a similar feeling of optimism surrounding the remake of final fantasy 7 (although, I’m less pleased with it being episodic, but I digress). So, for now, I’m going to trust that we’re going to get the remake it so richly deserves.

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Without Iwata-san what now for Nintendo?

http://m.ie.ign.com/articles/2015/07/13/nintendo-ceo-satoru-iwata-has-passed-away

I’m devastated by the news that Mr Satoru Iwata has passed away at the age of 55 due to a bile duct growth.
Being someone who grew up with the original Gameboy, Nintendo has been a part of my life. Nintendo products have accompanied me through all states of my development – even well into my adulthood. I’ve always been very fond of Mr Iwata as a developer before he became president of Nintendo. I knew deep down that Iwata would have a lasting legacy that would continue well into the mid 2020’s. It’s such a tragedy that his life was cut so short.
Mr Iwata was known for his friendly attitude to fans along with his openness. As one of the first major corporations to peel back the curtain into the inner workings of the gaming industry, he became a much respected and loved figure of modern gaming.
Being such a force of good for Nintendo, bringing around new consoles and the revival of handhelds. Questions now appear as to what’s next for Nintendo at such a precarious time.
Nintendo have recently had a bit of controversy over their new partnership with Japanese mobile developers DNA, sparking debate and concern that the much loved franchises might in someway be diluted for the smartphone market.
It comes at a time where Wii U sales are still low & with the announcement of the NX and a new ecosystem of products that all connect – it’s hard to think of who is going to lead Nintendo through this transition.
I’ve no doubt that Nintendo have had some preparations in place, and some plans for the future. All eyes will be on Nintendo to see what is next. For us fans, it is now time to mourn the loss of a great leader in Video Gaming.
This world would be a much more lonely place without Nintendo, I hope that for a company over 100 years old that they will be able to maintain the course set for being around for another 100 years.

Fallen London

Fallen London

It’s been a very long time since I’ve played any sort of free point and click/narrative game. I’d say its been as long as my Newgrounds & I Am Bored days. It’s a game thats very hard to explain, but I’ll give it a good go. 
 
First thing to know about Fallen London, and the very first thing that happened to me was that I died. Immediately. My gut reaction to this was “F this then.” But a friend of mine kept encouraging to persist with it, and its a game I fall very much in and out of love with. I ended up coming back from the dead and running around a very beautifully created world. 
 
Which is high praise for a soley text driven narrative. The writing in any game can often dictate involvement and engagement within the game. A game like this has to strike a balance between engagement and not being too text heavy. Which is a balance that 90% of the time the game gets right. 
 
Its a game you play the way you want to, in the missions you get, you choose how you want to play it. Watchful, Shadowy, Dangerous, Persuasive; these are the main points that you gain from completing missions certain ways. There is always choice in Fallen London for how you want to play the game, and at the minute I haven’t gotten myself into too much of a box.  
 

 

Traveling around Fallen London is easy with its intuitive fast travel opens, you will get notified where you can or cannot go in a certain story line or if you just want to go off exploring. There are certain places you can’t go at the very start of the game, as there are certain quests you have to complete, or you need to become a person of note to gain access to these levels.
How you interact with the game is a minamilistic screen and the icons for each task and deck has been revamped lately which gives a needed breath of fresh air to the stylistic challenges games like these face.
 
The games mechanics are fairly simple to explain. You have 20 actions that get refreshed every 10 minutes. There are some micro transactions, but they aren’t essential to playing the game and more importantly they’re not pushed in your face. They’re something there as an option to unlock something called Fates. Fates unlock items or specific story quests or options within a specific story line. You do get some at the start (or at least I did when I first started playing) which I’d advise keeping until you feel you really need it. There is also options in game to earn Fate without the expense. In my playing of the game I have only come across these a rare few times but I guess that is by design.
 
Please keep in mind this isn’t something you’re going to be sitting down and spending hours straight playing, the narrative is engaging and interesting enough for you to play in 10 minute stints and be able to walk away from the game without feeling like you’re missing anything. Its a great compromise for gamers on the move who want a fully engaging RPG like adventure but don’t have the time to sit down. The experience on mobile devices (I can only talk about iPad and iPhone 6) translate very well, and with the new edition of the Fallen London app that is due out this year it will make a very welcome addition to my gaming family.
 
I fully recommend this game if someone wants a casual gaming experience while they’re meant to be doing other things! 
 
 
 

Yoshi’s Wooly World

Without a Doubt Too Excited for this

This is going to be a game journal to tell you what I’ve been playing and how i’m getting on with it. What I like about the game play, design and what I don’t. I won’t be giving any scores or anything like that, this will just be a running update of my thoughts while playing the game and to see if it was worth the €59 I spent with the amiibo plushy! (Which is super cute, although I am sad I didn’t manage to get a blue one!)
 
Full coverage will probably start tomorrow so keep an eye on the blog!
Update 4pm on the 7th:

 

 
I have come to the conclusion that if you don’t like Yoshi’s Woolly World you don’t have a soul. 
 
In all seriousness, the game is beautifully crafted and stunning to play. The only gripe I’d have about it is the fact that I didn’t expect the amount of loading screens. While these aren’t very long, they are enough to take you out of the world in which they are trying to create for you. 
 
Otherwise, the level design I find challenges both the little ones who this product is aimed towards and veteran platformers. It reminds me of the old Kirby games from the SNES how there are multiple ways of progressing through a level and the more skills you master the different ways become available to get to things and explore the levels.
 
 I feel right now after playing up to 1-5 the pacing of the levels are well done. I don’t feel like they’re too long or too short and I don’t feel at the minute that the levels are too repetitive. That may change however, as the case with Super Mario World 3D, it became difficult late game to keep things fresh. I get bored easily.