Improving accessibility in The Walking Dead

edited January 2013 in The Walking Dead
Hi there!

I have made a post about improving accessibility in the game for disabled people.

Since 90% of the game are dialogues, the game could have been very accessible for many people, especially in terms of mobility. But there are features that make it totally inaccessible to many people: no pauses to read the dialogue, have to make choices in very short time and some action scenes with quick time events.

I hope Telltales consider this issue important and add more options in the game to make it more accessible. Meanwhile this can help a lot of people that could not play it yet.


You can read it here:

http://www.videojuegosaccesibles.es/2013/01/the-walking-dead-mejorando-la.html (in Spansih)

http://translate.google.com/translate?sl=es&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=es&ie=UTF-8&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.videojuegosaccesibles.es%2F2013%2F01%2Fthe-walking-dead-mejorando-la.html&act=url (Google translated)

Or just watch this video demonstration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4_qOAIBRKo

Comments

  • edited January 2013
    a proper translation would fix that without breaking a core game feature of timed responses
  • edited January 2013
    It's not only about the language. Even in Spanish the are the same problems there for some disabled people.

    In terms of mobility, the times of choice between different options sometimes are too short and may not allow time to select it (if you are disabled on mobility), even if you have already read it.

    I terms of cognitive, if you are disabled, although it is in your native language, you may need more time than usual to read any text.
  • edited January 2013
    unmigo wrote: »
    It's not only about the language. Even in Spanish the are the same problems there for some disabled people.

    In terms of mobility, the times of choice between different options sometimes are too short and may not allow time to select it (if you are disabled on mobility), even if you have already read it.

    I terms of cognitive, if you are disabled, although it is in your native language, you may need more time than usual to read any text.

    maybe the ability to change the controls would help disabled people, and you can pause the game, but i guess if you struggle so much to play the game there could be a disability option that would take out the timer and auto complete the QTE but i think unless you needed those options they would be a detriment to the game and just playing with someone else (they control you decide) would probably be a better idea
  • edited January 2013
    I understand what you say, but disabled people want to play. You can't force them to rely on someone else to play for them.

    They don't care if those options would be a detriment to the game if they could play by themselves.

    Just imagine you are disabled and you can't play the game, and have to choose one of these options:
    • Not play.
    • Play without some game features.

    I can assure you that the answer of a person with disabilities is the second one.
  • edited January 2013
    unmigo wrote: »
    I understand what you say, but disabled people want to play. You can't force them to rely on someone else to play for them.

    They don't care if those options would be a detriment to the game if they could play by themselves.

    Just imagine you are disabled and you can't play the game, and have to choose one of these options:
    • Not play.
    • Play without some game features.

    I can assure you that the answer of a person with disabilities is the second one.

    i don't want to force people to do anything, but i am having a hard time imagining what disabilities you are describing where you cant play the game but not need any help with anything else.

    what i mean by playing with someone else is having someone else that can read fast and can do the QTE's but they just pause it every time there is a decision, that is no different to anybody else playing the game as a group.
  • edited January 2013
    unmigo wrote: »
    Hi there!

    I have made a post about improving accessibility in the game for disabled people.


    You have a point. I was trying to "demo" the game on my phone for an acquaintance at the pub the other night who has (I believe) cerebral palsy (or a similar condition) and it was pretty tough for him. Now I'm sure a lot of that was due to the small screen and playing it on like an iPad would have been better. But I think it would still have been challenging for him in ways that could be worked around.

    For instance, an accessible version could have the dialog choices on the iPhone and iPad divide the whole screen into quadrants. Click targets on the whole could be much larger, particularly in action scenes. That sort of thing.

    This could be a great game for the physically disabled market with just a few interface tweaks.
  • edited January 2013
    Fantastic thread.

    Telltale I really hope you're paying attention, as your games are perfectly suited to being highly accessible to the huge numbers of gamers with disabilities. Popcap's research came out with the stat of 20% of casual gamers being disabled, and on top of that there's also the 8% of males who are colorblind, the 14% of the US/UK (30% in Italy!) adult population who have a fifth grade or below reading age, and so on. Lots of money to miss out on.

    As well as the great stuff in the original post there are some more possibilities for improving accessibility here:

    http://www.gameaccessibilityguidelines.com
    i don't want to force people to do anything, but i am having a hard time imagining what disabilities you are describing where you cant play the game but not need any help with anything else.

    Interestingly it does often happen, games can be one of the few things that people can do independently. If you need an example picture someone who is almost completely paralysed, can do almost nothing by themselves, but thanks to an eye-gaze system mapped to mouse movement they're able to play some games independently.
    what i mean by playing with someone else is having someone else that can read fast and can do the QTE's but they just pause it every time there is a decision, that is no different to anybody else playing the game as a group.

    Again if you picture that above situation that bit of independence you can have with gaming would be really valuable to you.
  • edited January 2013
    kjeevah wrote: »
    Fantastic thread.

    Telltale I really hope you're paying attention, as your games are perfectly suited to being highly accessible to the huge numbers of gamers with disabilities. Popcap's research came out with the stat of 20% of casual gamers being disabled, and on top of that there's also the 8% of males who are colorblind, the 14% of the US/UK (30% in Italy!) adult population who have a fifth grade or below reading age, and so on. Lots of money to miss out on.

    As well as the great stuff in the original post there are some more possibilities for improving accessibility here:

    http://www.gameaccessibilityguidelines.com



    Interestingly it does often happen, games can be one of the few things that people can do independently. If you need an example picture someone who is almost completely paralysed, can do almost nothing by themselves, but thanks to an eye-gaze system mapped to mouse movement they're able to play some games independently.



    Again if you picture that above situation that bit of independence you can have with gaming would be really valuable to you.

    i guess i can sort of see where you are coming from, but even though TWD game is not that challenging it still requires 2 hands to play (mouse and keyboard on pc, i haven't tried any of the other platforms) but i guess if they added the ability to walk with the mouse and change the controls so "Q" could be a mouse button you could control it with just one hand with the mouse or mouse equivalent, i do think accessibility is important (the ability to change the controls can be really good for using different peripherals) but you can only go so far to add accessibility without either removing large parts of the game or ruining large parts of the game.
  • edited January 2013
    i do think accessibility is important (the ability to change the controls can be really good for using different peripherals) but you can only go so far to add accessibility without either removing large parts of the game or ruining large parts of the game.

    Yes, you're absolutely right, it's about removing unnecessary barriers, not harming gameplay. If you remove unnecessary barriers you've made the game accessible to more people, if you harm the gameplay you've made the original experience accessible to noone.

    Having a complex narrative and conversations is a barrier to some people with learning disabilities, but that's a completely necessary barrier, the narrative and conversations is what people actually buy the game for.

    However having to use two hands to play the game is a completely unnecessary barrier, allowing people to configure the controls would prevent people from being unnecessarily excluded. Would help everything from cerebral palsy all the way through to RSI or a broken arm.

    Slightly less clear cut but still a totally unnecessary barrier is the quick-time events. That needs slightly more abstract thinking applied, about precisely what they are in there for. The same goal, inferring a sense of urgency and requiring quick thinking, can easily be achieved without having to repeatedly mash the buttons. A simple preference would solve this, then option for basic or complex QTEs.

    I'd really recommend taking a look at that guidelines site, you'll see that there's a pretty huge amount from there that is applicable to Telltale's games, lots of it is already in there.
  • edited January 2013
    RobtMyers wrote: »
    This could be a great game for the physically disabled market with just a few interface tweaks.

    This :)
  • edited January 2013
    @thestalkinghead:
    We are not asking you to change the game for everyone.
    We are asking for the option to change certain aspects, which in this game would be pretty easy to change to greatly increase accessibility.

    You don't have to use those options if you don't want to, in the same way as you don't start playing other games in easy mode, and you do in normal or hard difficulty. Don't you?
  • edited January 2013
    We are not asking you to change the game for everyone.

    We are not asking Telltales to change the game for everyone.
    I meant.
  • edited January 2013
    unmigo wrote: »
    We are not asking Telltales to change the game for everyone.
    I meant.


    i know you wanted an accessibility option not to change the whole game, but you are being incredibly vague about the disabilities you are talking about so it is hard to even work out the problem you want to be solved let alone the solution, cognitive disabilities or just disabilities can mean anything, removing the timers wouldn't be enough for all disabilities.

    even for people who can read fast the decisions need to be made without thinking through each response and that is part of the game, the required quick thinking adds to the tension and is specifically directed to be like that.

    i do think the option to change the controls would be a big help for people with certain physical disabilities, but unfortunately there just isn't a solution to make this game accessible to people with some (incredibly vague) cognitive disabilities that isn't just to have help playing it.
  • edited January 2013
    i know you wanted an accessibility option not to change the whole game, but you are being incredibly vague about the disabilities you are talking about so it is hard to even work out the problem you want to be solved let alone the solution, cognitive disabilities or just disabilities can mean anything, removing the timers wouldn't be enough for all disabilities.

    Quite right, you can't make a game that's accessible to all disabilities.
    even for people who can read fast the decisions need to be made without thinking through each response and that is part of the game, the required quick thinking adds to the tension and is specifically directed to be like that.

    i do think the option to change the controls would be a big help for people with certain physical disabilities, but unfortunately there just isn't a solution to make this game accessible to people with some (incredibly vague) cognitive disabilities that isn't just to have help playing it.

    What he originally mentioned was impaired reading ability. The solutions he's talking about though are helpful for other cognitive impairments too.

    You're absolutely right about the pressured decision making. But abstract that out a little - what's important is having restricted time available so that you have just enough time to read it and make a quick decision without being able to think it through too much.

    What constitutes 'just enough time' will be different for different people. So why not just offer a choice? Allow people who can't read as quickly, can't make decisions as quickly or can't handle as much pressure to just adjust the time to a level that gives them an equivalent experience?

    That way they're able to enjoy the narrative and the pressured decision making, the core things that make the game enjoyable, instead of just being excluded. More happy gamers, more money for Telltale (particularly as their business model is based on repeat purchases), everyone's a winner.
  • edited January 2013
    kjeevah wrote: »
    What constitutes 'just enough time' will be different for different people. So why not just offer a choice? Allow people who can't read as quickly, can't make decisions as quickly or can't handle as much pressure to just adjust the time to a level that gives them an equivalent experience?

    That way they're able to enjoy the narrative and the pressured decision making, the core things that make the game enjoyable, instead of just being excluded.

    i think that is the big problem, because the timers could either still be to fast or be to long, maybe you could have a timer adjustment slider in the options but considering the timers are not all the same length how would you know until you play it if you have the setting correct?

    I'm not saying things like this shouldn't be done, i am just saying how hard it would be to please everybody

    Edit: also most of the timers are linked to the timing of the conversation so that would be an extra problem to overcome
  • edited January 2013
    i think that is the big problem, because the timers could either still be to fast or be to long, maybe you could have a timer adjustment slider in the options but considering the timers are not all the same length how would you know until you play it if you have the setting correct?

    I'm not saying things like this shouldn't be done, i am just saying how hard it would be to please everybody

    Edit: also most of the timers are linked to the timing of the conversation so that would be an extra problem to overcome

    Have a wide range, say for example three presets of easy medium and hard, with significant difference between each one.. and allow the setting to be adjusted at any point during the game.

    The wide range of control options in Bayonetta is a great example, allowing anything from extremely difficult combos all the way down to all moves being executed with a single button press. Even though it's catering for motor ability it's still the same principle.

    The dialogue doesn't give any problems as each chunk of dialogue is already a separate sound, triggered after the choice, that's why the hack in the original post works.

    It's not a dark art at all, and overcoming barriers to fun is what Telltale's designers do every day. They're extremely well equipped to come up with good solutions.. once they know what the problem is that needs solving.
  • edited January 2013
    kjeevah wrote: »
    Have a wide range, say for example three presets of easy medium and hard, with significant difference between each one.. and allow the setting to be adjusted at any point during the game.

    The wide range of control options in Bayonetta is a great example, allowing anything from extremely difficult combos all the way down to all moves being executed with a single button press. Even though it's catering for motor ability it's still the same principle.

    The dialogue doesn't give any problems as each chunk of dialogue is already a separate sound, triggered after the choice, that's why the hack in the original post works.

    It's not a dark art at all, and overcoming barriers to fun is what Telltale's designers do every day. They're extremely well equipped to come up with good solutions.. once they know what the problem is that needs solving.

    i guess if it was planned from the beginning you could have the slower timers and Lee (or a narator voice) could read out the highlighted dialogue options in an internal dialogue type way( it would need to pause the other people talking while that hapened though), so that you wouldn't even need to be able to read at all
  • edited January 2013
    What do you reckon then telltale? Any devs watching?
  • edited January 2013
    I think it would take a massive amount of effort, a huge undertaking, for a very small group of people. I'm not saying they don't deserve to play the game, but Telltale can't just say "Oh, let's double the length of all given time for choices if somebody needs that option!" The game and choices were probably all looked at very carefully and timed to work with what is going on on-screen. I really don't see how they could easily give you more time in decisions without completely altering and butchering the game... They would have to go back from the beginning and rework everything...
  • edited January 2013
    Dildor wrote: »
    I think it would take a massive amount of effort, a huge undertaking, for a very small group of people. I'm not saying they don't deserve to play the game, but Telltale can't just say "Oh, let's double the length of all given time for choices if somebody needs that option!" The game and choices were probably all looked at very carefully and timed to work with what is going on on-screen. I really don't see how they could easily give you more time in decisions without completely altering and butchering the game... They would have to go back from the beginning and rework everything...

    It simply becomes an option, the people that want to play the game at the regular speed can, and the disabled people can play at the doubled length. Similar to the easier to find hotspots for items, it is an option for those that want it, but those that don't can shut it off.
  • edited January 2013
    Dildor wrote: »
    I think it would take a massive amount of effort, a huge undertaking, for a very small group of people. I'm not saying they don't deserve to play the game, but Telltale can't just say "Oh, let's double the length of all given time for choices if somebody needs that option!" The game and choices were probably all looked at very carefully and timed to work with what is going on on-screen. I really don't see how they could easily give you more time in decisions without completely altering and butchering the game... They would have to go back from the beginning and rework everything...

    You're right, and I understand that updating season 1 with these options would be very expensive.

    But they are now working on season 2 and they have time to take all these things into account.
  • edited January 2013
    Dildor wrote: »
    I think it would take a massive amount of effort, a huge undertaking, for a very small group of people.
    unmigo wrote: »
    You're right, and I understand that updating season 1 with these options would be very expensive.

    Honestly you couldn't be more wrong. Just take a look at what's linked to in the original post, it was a really trivial job to make the changes, just tweaking a couple of variables.

    Secondly, about it being a very small group of people. That's one of the most common misconceptions, I hear stuff like that all the time.. 'disabled gamers are less than 1%' - that's completely completely wrong.

    The stats are pretty surprising, but they are actually true. 14% of the adult population of the UK and the USA (higher in some other countries, over 30% in Italy) have significant difficulty reading.

    Add in the motor and other cognitive issues that these things affect and you're looking at probably around 20% of the potential audience for the game.

    That is not, by any measure at all, a very small group. Imagine how much marketing spend would be needed to attract those kinds of numbers!
  • edited January 2013
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  • edited January 2013
    kjeevah wrote: »
    14% of the adult population of the UK and the USA (higher in some other countries, over 30% in Italy) have significant difficulty reading.

    Add in the motor and other cognitive issues that these things affect and you're looking at probably around 20% of the potential audience for the game.
    But this would only be relevant, if ALL of these people were gamers. Given their disability, do you really think, all of these people got into gaming in the first place?
  • edited January 2013
    But this would only be relevant, if ALL of these people were gamers. Given their disability, do you really think, all of these people got into gaming in the first place?

    Well, not quite - whether or not all people with disabilities are gamers is only relevant if all people without disabilities are gamers, which obviously isn't the case.

    What you're really asking is whether people with disabilities are less likely to be gamers than anyone else.

    Again this might be surprising - they're actually more likely to be gamers. The percentage of casual gamers who are disabled is 5% higher than the percentage of people in the general population who are disabled. And that figure only takes into account the people who admit to it, most people with low literacy claim they can actually read perfectly, because of the huge stigma attached.

    If you have some kind of impairment you have exactly the same reasons as anyone else to want to play games, plus more on top of that. Sometimes things specific to a condition, such as being told to play games as physio by your doctor (happens alot believe it or not), sometimes as a distraction to avoid needing to take pain relief medication, or even sometimes just because you've got less types of recreation available to you and more spare time to fill.

    PopCap wondered exactly the same question as you, so they commissioned some large scale research into it, and the above is what they got back.

    Quite an eye opener eh?
  • edited January 2013
    @kjeevah
    it was a really trivial job to make the changes, just tweaking a couple of variables.

    Well, it may take a little more work. Meetings between designers, programmers making changes, and a lot of testing after all.

    Maybe Telltales have sold a lot of copies to do it, that would be perfect. But at least I like Talltale take it into account for the second season. It is much cheaper to do if you have it in mind from the beginning.


    @Laserschwert
    Accessibility is also useful for all of us, although we are not disabled. In other media people also use accessibility options even if they do not really need them.
  • edited January 2013
    Although "only" 20% of people are disabled, actually all of us are disabled in some way at some point in our lives.

    We can all have some missing functionality temporarily by some accident or temporary illness. Times when maybe one of the things you want to do is play games.

    And even more importantly: we will grow old.
    I think one of the reason that accessibility is not yet really taken into account is that the average age of the player has not become old. But surely when all of us in this forum become old we will still want to play. I think it is fair considering accessibility now and not have to wait for that moment.
  • edited January 2013
    i personally don't have problems reading (thought i know people who do) but i suck at spelling, especially if i have to type fast, if this game was like façade where you have to type in your responses (and they don't understand spelling mistakes) i would have had a hard time playing and probably made loads of mistakes and just got frustrated by it and i would have wanted some kind option to make it more accessible to me, so when i look at the accessibility problem like that i can imagine how frustrating a simple thing like reading your responses quickly could be and i understand how just a few small changes could make a big difference.
  • edited January 2013
    Javier, have you tried bringing it to the attention of any of the devs on twitter? Not sure if any are reading this thread. They're listed here: http://www.telltalegames.com/company/ourteam/
  • edited January 2013
    kjeevah wrote: »
    Javier, have you tried bringing it to the attention of any of the devs on twitter? Not sure if any are reading this thread. They're listed here: http://www.telltalegames.com/company/ourteam/

    Good idea, I'll do it on twitter and e-mail.
  • I stumbled across this thread when I was doing a Google search about accessibility in Telltale Games. With The Wolf Among Us now out I wanted to revisit this topic in hopes that Telltale Games has made some improvements in this regard. I actually originally did a review of The Walking Dead for a website called "Assistive Gaming". In a nutshell TWD is a great game but it's also unfortunately one of the worst examples of accessibility I've ever seen in a computer game, at least for physically challenged players like myself (I'm a quadriplegic). The review is actually reasonably kind towards the game in this regard however it does mention all the important problems. The bottom line is I never did manage to finish even the first episode because it was just way too difficult for me to play. The worst part is there is absolutely no reason it had to be this way. This is an adventure game for Pete's sake not a 1st person shooter. Just allowing customizable key binding would have helped somewhat. In any case you can read my review here:

    http://www.assistivegaming.com/spip.php?article91

    Hopefully The Wolf Among Us has improved in this regard. I haven't yet found enough information to say one way or another and I'm not going to drop $25 on this until I'm 100% certain. if you are lucky enough to have an iPad you should be able to play TWD (and The Wolf Among Us when it becomes available on IOS) even if you can only use a mouth stick stylus. But not everybody has an iOS device or like me may not want to play these games that way.

    I really do want to give Telltale my money but I will not ever again until this problem is solved.

    -PN

  • Hi!

    They did a little improvement on The Wolf Among Us.
    It is just one little improvement, but I think is really significant: you can pause the game and still have the text on screen.

    On TWD when you pause the game all text was hidden, so if your problem is that you don't have the enough speed reading in english because english is not your native language, or because you can't read quickly, or you have dyslexia, or can not see properly and need to read the phrase slowly, or... (infinite reasons). Now you can stop the game and read it.

    The game get a little dark, but you can read it:
    https://twitter.com/VideojuegosAcc/statuses/389458356743573504

    But the other accessibility issues are still there.
    I have tried to use Cheat Engine to slow down the game, and it works perfect :)
    But the script for infinite decision time that I had used on TWD isn't working on The Wolf Among Us.

    Hope this information helps you.

    Regards,
    Javi.

    Paulyboy posted: »

    I stumbled across this thread when I was doing a Google search about accessibility in Telltale Games. With The Wolf Among Us now out

  • edited October 2013

    I'm game developer, and I'm currently working also on a episodic horror adventure called "The Last Door" (www.TheLastDoor.com).

    3 months ago I posted an article about accessibility in our game, we are doing a big effort to add accessibility on The Last Door. It isn't peferect but I'm proud of our work and maybe this article could help other developers:

    Reducing accessibility barriers on an adventure game

  • This is actually great for anyone who would need it, hope Telltale sees this.

  • I was a HUGE fan of TWD season 1 on PC. I've been poor lately, so I only picked up season 2 (and The Wolf Among us) during the Steam Sale. Sadly, I find that I am no longer able to play these games, due to disability issues. The required button-mashing causes me extreme pain. I'm still able to use standard input methods, but only slowly, and with frequent rest/stretching breaks. I'd be SO happy if there were a no-button-mashing option. I want to enjoy these games without feeling as if a zombie was gnawing on my actual thumb.

  • The dialogue one kind of breaks the immersion in my opinion. I remember when Hershel was patching Lee's leg up that some of the dialogue options were really, really quick and at the time. I wasn't sure what to say to him. Was frustrating to say nothing but it does feel more immersive since you have to respond to characters after a certain amount of time and it makes you feel like you're actually playing a part of this.

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