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Reader Comments (17)

Posted: Jul 7th 2009 8:52AM (Unverified) said

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Blizzard recently added the colourblind option to the game, which I say is to their credit.

Plus I'm sure there are some mods out there that could help your friend by completely customising the interface for them. You could move around the buttons to better spots and change the font of everything into a clearer/larger font.

Plus I'm sure your friend will acknowledge.. the sound effects for WoW and the ambient sounds are amazing

Posted: Jul 7th 2009 8:53AM (Unverified) said

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It is not viable for a MMO to cater to people with disabilities. Who is going to pay for it?

Posted: Jul 7th 2009 8:57AM (Unverified) said

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I really empathize with your friends disability, the loss of sight would be one of the hardest sensory hurdles to overcome. Now, if your visually impaired friend is of the partial sight variety, there is still hope. I have a friend that is 'legally blind' yet still can drive a car with corrective lenses. Several of the Microsoft & Logitech mice have a software feature that creates a 'zoomed' in window, effectively giving the user a magnifying lens at the mouse pointer. I've used this in game to see better detail in some of the graphics and it works rather well. As far as in-game disability support I think we are a long way off from seeing this implemented as the norm in games. Most persons with life long disabilities have found ways to work around them by using some form of outside assistance. Specifically with WoW, there is a veritable cornucopia of interface mods available on the internet. Most of these will allow you to completely customize the interface to your liking. Enlarge and relocate icons, change colors (colorblind support), etc. The biggest hurdle I see for game developers is where do they draw the line, which disabilities do they provide support, and which do they not. Sight disabilities would be easy enough, allowing for larger or clearer interfaces, changes of colors for colorblind, etc. Hearing disabilities could be supported with the use of text (subtitles). The question comes to mind how do you support someone who has lost a limb, an arm/hand/fingers or what about someone that is paralyzed? I think it would be nice to support our fellow gamers that are not operating at 100%, but it would take a much more concerted effort on the part of the developers to deliver a solid game and provide additional support for our friends in need.

Posted: Jul 7th 2009 9:27AM (Unverified) said

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are you talking about changing the UI or the gameplay?

I wouldn't mind companies making "alternate User Interfaces" for visually impaired people, or adding subtitles for audio impaired people.
I WOULD mind if it was altering gameplay... Your ability to control your avatar or crosshair is part of the fun of games to me. If we slowed down FPS to the point that anybody should be able to play it, it wouldn't really be much of a FPS anymore... next they'd remove stage complexity so that those unable to memorize the stage can compete on the same as the level as those who can.

But yes to UI and Subtitles, definitely.
No to anything that would alter the core gameplay.

PS: Yes it's extreme circumstances, but once you head down that road you don't seem to turn back.

Posted: Jul 7th 2009 9:28AM JohnD212 said

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I think we'll see more and more MMO's doing things to help the disabled. WoW is showing its age lately...just finished the beta for Aion and going back to WoW reminds me how nice it is to resize all the windows and move them around. Even that feature would help those who have trouble moving their hangs much cause you could put the windows under the pointer and not have to swing the mouse too much. I think these companies will find it easier and easier to incorporate features for the disabled as they build the games from the ground up...WoW for example might be too hard to change at this point...but we always have WoW 2 which we've all seen the pictures of....

Posted: Jul 7th 2009 9:36AM LuxAurumque said

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I know a lot of players may not understand it but the colorblind option was a big deal to me. It was not until I was able to use that feature in game that I truly understood how nice it is to not worry about sussing out whether something is in gold or bronze, or something as simple as what trade skill will still gain me a point. Yes I understand there will be people who for some unknown reason seem to resent me for this fact. Yes I know I can "figure it out". Yes I know because I had to do it til the feature came out. To be quite truthful I think the greatest obstacle to changes needed for disabled support is the normal prejudiced reaction of those who have not felt what it is like to have a disablement. For many they will ignore the problem unless it is right under their nose. And many times the first reaction is to rationalize the problem away. I once heard a person ask why a store needed a ramp for only three stairs! I would like to hear them say that after a day or two in a wheelchair.

Posted: Jul 7th 2009 10:01AM Tanek said

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Agreed on the colorblind mode. I never had anyone react negatively when I asked whether an item was blue or purple and explained the issue, though. Every once in a while I'd just get those silly questions like, "So...what does green look like to you?" :)

When it comes to support in general, I do think progress is being made even if that progress seems slow at times. An extra option on the user interface here, a new type of hardware there. And I do think we will see more as companies learn how to provide that kind of support without impacting the gameplay as a whole.
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Posted: Jul 7th 2009 10:00AM (Unverified) said

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I myself am physically disabled. I've never had any problem playing an MMO though. I usually prefer action based or strategy based games, I never have problems with them either. Things like Natal though are going to be a problem for me, especially in games where the lower half is used.

I too have a colorblind friend, he used to play WoW and had some trouble with the color systems, I would always help him out though. As long as changes are in the form of UI, I don't see any problem. I wouldn't want a developer to completely overhaul or change a game to suit the disabled though, it would just cause severe hate mongering.

Posted: Jul 7th 2009 11:56AM (Unverified) said

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Growing up I had a bad stutter... bad to the point where I was close to being mute, I could maybe get out one word in twenty. After school ended it got better over time as I worked with different techniques to control it but it was mostly luck that it went away.

When the first Xbox came out I started to think about how heavy it relied on voice chat. Some games were very difficult to play without it. I was happy that it didn't affect my MMOs. As newer games came out though people started to use teamspeak and vent more and it has gotten to where if you want to be in a good guild it is a requirement to use it. :( I don't have a problem speaking anymore but I think a lot about the people who do and my heart really goes out to them. It is easy to say "well just go do something else with your time then" but if you have a socially crippling disability, games provide a great escape and the internet allows you to interact with people when you aren't able to in real life.

I met a guy who is both blind AND stutters. (was not born blind) he said if he could either have his sight back or stop stuttering, he would choose to stop stuttering. It really is a horrible disability. If you are blind or in a wheelchair people are in general kind and helpful to you. However there is no social etiquette for stuttering and you usually just end up getting laughed at to your face.

There are still plenty of ways to play multiplayer games without using your voice but I feel that it will become less and less over time. I don't think there is anything that can be done about it. It is just unfortunate. :(
Back on topic though, I certainly think anything the game developers can do to help out people with disabilities is wonderful! They already have enough to worry about having a disability, cut them some slack. :D

Posted: Jul 7th 2009 4:45PM (Unverified) said

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I think that what MMO developers should do is offer UI addons, similar to those made by players, that can be downloaded separately to enhance the experience for disabled players or allow closer interfacing with alternative input methods. Having such resources available on the home page of the game and referenced in the manuals, perhaps with a sticker on the box, would let those players know that there are options readily available to them, without necessarily encumbering the game with extra features eating up memory or disk space for other players.

Posted: Jul 7th 2009 5:38PM (Unverified) said

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if I think they need to? no, but I do think they should

things like alternative ways of rendering the 3d stuff for different disabilities/systems (like somthing for using with the vOICe http://www.seeingwithsound.com/ clear color differences and brightness differences etc , customizable color spectrum, special shaders so certain things like different materials would be rendered with different patterns (stripey, dotted, wavy etc), spoken icons (or perhaps simply sound icons), compatibility with screen readers, open plugin system for alternate input devices, for the things with voice communication, text to speech for user typed stuff, personalizable and scriptable user interface etc

Posted: Jul 7th 2009 5:55PM (Unverified) said

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Is it any great surprise MMOs aren't the most accessible things in the world? Getting people to take accessibility seriously even when its much simpler to achieve and has a much greater impact on business is difficult at best, especially when online. Look up any accessibility study of popular websites and you'll find some horrifying results.

I'll pick on Massively since we're here:
1) The sections under "featured games" and "massively featured" lack any text alternative.
2) The vote and reports link under each post are implemented in such a way that it triggers known bugs in early user assistance technology. (For the affected users, they're presented as a single link)
3) There's numerous issues with keyboard navigation, particularly at the header. Parts aren't accessible by keyboard, other parts have screwed up tab orders, and none of them have any styling to indicate where the focus is.

Despite these issues that are easy to find (Honestly, I didn't spend much time at all to find holes), Massively is a shining example compared to the vast majority of websites out there.

Posted: Jul 7th 2009 10:07PM (Unverified) said

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Yeah, disabilities do make things difficult. My little brother who's fifteen has autism and a mental handicap, but still loves games; basically, anything that's third-person and fantasy, or that's got space(ships) he enjoys, so, both WoW and EVE appeal to him when he sees me playing. However, games like WoW and EVE are sadly a bit above him, and really, any

The rub is that his disability is communicative and WoW and EVE are very heavy on the text/voicework--all MMOs are, really--and it's hard for him to understand directions when presented that way.

I do think there is a solution, and it's a solution that helps all people playing these games--not just autistic people--and it's to make direction more visual. He's never had any trouble getting near endgame in most of the recent Zeldas, albeit, with a tad bit of help once in a while, but all in all, with visual direction, he can complete even some pretty difficult tasks in games.

Anyway, I don't think many people in the industry realize that it's not just the physically handicapped people that play games, but, if they break through some though barriers, those with mental disabilities, like everyone else, enjoy games.

Posted: Jul 8th 2009 4:19AM (Unverified) said

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Well there are always text MUDs...

Richard

Posted: Jul 8th 2009 1:26PM MMOAvatar said

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I myself am disabled, vision impaired and have nerve damage do to other medical conditions... most of my difficulties seem to be with OTHER players, not the game.

If you can't heal in a 3 second window, use multiple hot keys as fast a a court typist, or cant immediatly see an quest item on the ground... other players can be merciless. And don't even think of telling them that your disabled, that actually pisses them off more.

There is a limit to what a developer can do really. You can make a game as handicapped friendly as possible, but in the end it comes down to the players. And in my experience, players feel put upon and that you should not be playing if you can't always keep up with everyone else at all times.

Posted: Jul 9th 2009 3:27AM Pigeonko said

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Yeah, I find it's often the other players. In EQ2 some people mocked a raid guild's main tank because he was deaf and mute and obviously couldn't use any form of voicechat. Fortunately the mockers were in the minority.
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Posted: Jul 9th 2009 5:42AM cray said

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A game that is extremely customizable with the user interface and controls is beneficial for all gamers. In fact its been shown that games that have a vast amount of customization have a longer playable life. Which would be an extremely important aspect of MMOs.

The question shouldn't be whether games should cater to the disabled or any other sector of the population, such as female gamers or racial minority. Instead the question should be....Shouldn't games be vastly more customizable than they are now? I'm willing to bet a whole lot of non-disabled players would be all for more customization in their games.

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