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An important topic to me: Accessibility


The Vagrant Werewolf

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Hullo youse all,

 

I found myself recently pondering doing an article for my site about some of the older entries in the Avernum series. (Or mainly of my personal favourite, Blades, which is likely an unpopular opinion.) Whilst wondering this, I thought I'd stop by Spiderweb to see if anything new was cooking, I hadn't been here in a while.

 

And lo, something was.

 

Now I'd like to bring up why I haven't played the recent Avernum games. I loved the early games. I will admit that the original draw for me was that I have some furry interests, and seeing the Nephilim and the Slithzerikai piqued my interest. I was pleased with what I found and enjoyed those games.

 

Though in more recent Spiderweb games, I've found that I'm not able to play 'em. Why? The font size is too small for me to read and there's nothing I can do about that. I have a visual condition that glasses don't really help, so I tend to rely on authors providing the option to scale up text within the game.

 

Now tiny interface text doesn't bother me as I can usually guess what things are fairly well even without reading that and have done for years. But for story dialogues and the like, I end up needing to use Windows Magnifier, and that gets a bit tiresome.

 

This is why I tend to skip over some recent RPGs which don't include any form of option to scale up text sizes. Now let me digress a little as I segue off into a very related topic.

 

I find that the recent spat of console ported RPGs has actually been a blessing in disguise for me because the interface sizes have actually been readable. One great example of this was New Vegas, which was a fine example of an old school RPG done with modern ideas. Most gamers jumped on the DarN mod for that and seethed at Obsidian for not 'fixing the interface'. I was always happy that the interface was as it was.

 

A number of games I've been able to play due to the option of either scaling the interface (thank you, Guild Wars), or being able to get into the guts of the interface code due to it being openly handled by XML or similar format files. Neverwinter Nights 2 was a fantastic example of this, because it allowed me to rewrite the interface to my liking.

 

I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty with code.

 

It's just a shame that too few games actually provide accessibility. And if the cat and lizard folks are present in Avadon then that would be another game that I would likely end up lamenting not being able to play. However! Since this is still in development, I figure that I might not be too late...

 

So, let's move on to the point of this thread, then. (I'm sorry, I really can't do succinct, I have a personal lack of capability in that regard.) My question: Would it be possible to include an option to scale up the dialogue font size for reading the story stuffs in game?

 

This doesn't have to be an option in game, I can understand not wanting to spend development time on something that only a smaller number of people would be interested in, but perhaps just a raw text configuration file or somesuch?

 

I would very much like to enjoy Avadon as I did with the early Avernum games, and I figure... this is a question worth asking right now. You know? The chances are that I've caught development too late on. But just maybe...

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Both Mac and Windows have options (built-in, to the best of my knowledge) to magnify the screen in certain places. Yes, this is all mouse- and keyboard-controlled, so it is a hassle if you are doing it constantly, but that is at least a temporary solution.

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Its not an ideal solution, but in A6 you could set the resolution to the lowest possible setting. That would be the best for text size, but would probably not match the native resolution of your monitor.

 

Also, I'm assuming that you're on windows, but on the mac you can hold down control plus scroll up/down to zoom in to the window.

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I registred just to be able to reply to your post.

 

Yes, the font sizes in Jeff's games are too small. So small in fact that I find them unreadable on a 13" MacBook screen. I tried using an external 16.8" monitor, and running at a low resolution, but unfortunately this makes the text extremely fuzzy an ugly.

 

I emailed SWS customer support and they informed me that nothing can be done.

 

It is quite sad that for even the new game, Jeff simply keeps on using this tiny little font that I for one, simply cannot endure reading for more than a few minutes.

 

Maybe Avadon 2 will change this, although I won't hold my breath.

 

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If you take a look at A6 it seems like 'Avernum 6/Avernum 6 Files/Graphics Core/G290.png' contains most of the text in bitmap forum. The text color, and possibly the font could be changed, but the letters would need to stay the same size for everything to work in game.

 

I must say that text readability has been an issue for me at times, even on a 24" monitor. Once i lowered my resolution down to 1600x1000, i was ok though.

 

P.S. All this talk about font sizes and such reminds me of the widescreen/resolution mods for Planescape Torment. I loved how you could multiply the text size to pretty much whatever you wanted.

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Yes, the Planescape Torment larger font mod is amazing. Large and crisp, lovely to read - almost feels indulgent.

 

Sorry to sound ungrateful, but Spiderweb games really reminds me of drudging through the fine-print of a short-term insurance policy.

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@Chris & @Ociporus

 

I can use Windows Magnifier. Windows and Mac are fairly even matched in nearly every category, elitism aside. It's just that I don't find that an ideal solution. I wouldn't find it ideal whether I was using Mac OS X, Windows, or Linux.

 

Constantly zooming in to read and out to play is a pain in the arse. That's why I try to get developers to see the need for accessibility. As someone who's worked with open source projects in the past, I can say that it isn't at all hard to have a raw text file that a setting could be included in to handle the font size of important (mission/story) dialogues.

 

It's just that not many developers actually realise the necessity of this for a lot of people. The attitude 'too bad for you' (and I'll come back to this) will do nothing other than absolutely convince people beyond the shadow of a doubt that their money is better spent elsewhere. And considering that Jeff's games tend to be expensive for indie games, I don't think it's out of the question for him to consider accessibility concerns.

 

There's a silent minority of gamers out there who just play games which are accessible and would support games like this more frequently if the attitude wasn't 'too bad for you'.

 

The thing is is that the easier solution is simply to save one's money and buy games which are accessible. To give some examples: Neverwinter Nights 2, Magicka, and Torchlight all had their font settings in configuration files which could be edited by the player. This made those games something that I could play and recommend to disabled friends. Torchlight even more in its favour had a large font at any resolution to begin with, thus making it an exceedingly easy game for me to play.

 

This has put Runic Games (the developer of Torchlight) in my good books, and I'll be buying whatever games they release in the future.

 

I have a choice as to whether I buy a game, and if the attitude of the developer is going to be 'eh, screw the disabled', then the attitude of disabled people to that game is going to be 'eh, screw that game.' Look at the recent furor over Dead Space 2 and what came of that. People with accessibility needs do exist, and they want to enjoy games just as much as healthy people.

 

Now, what I will say is that I don't think Jeff would be the sort to think 'eh, screw the disabled.' I think it's more that he's unaware that this is even a concern. So my thread is an attempt to reach Jeff and say that yes, this is a concern. If he considers accessibility concerns in Avadon, then he's got a sale from me.

 

It's really that simple. It's about appealing to demographics. And you either want the disabled demographic or you don't. But there are more of us out there than you might realise.

 

@CapnKaroo

 

Exactly my point. I'm an old school RPG fan (and I'll get back to this later, too). And New Vegas was a joy for me recently because not only was it an old school RPG in almost every sense of the word (even to the point where I could talk my way out of most fights), it was also easily playable by someone with accessibility concerns. I'm sure it sold more because of that.

 

The thing is is that there are people like you and I who likely just aren't buying current Spiderweb Software games for this very reason. In fact, were accessibility concerns to be taken into account, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a 20% overall increase in sales. I miss oldschool RPGs, but I don't want to go blind in order to play one.

 

Also, the larger font mod for Planescape Torment is another great example. Yeah.

 

Anyway, I've said my piece. Hopefully Jeff is listening and will consider this for Avadon, but if not... what can you do, eh? It's a lost sale in that case, though. A lost sale with me, and I wonder how many others who've tried the recent demos and simply found them unplayable?

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The Vagrant Werewolf: Generally, Jeff doesn't check these forums. The best way to make sure he sees this thread is to e-mail him the link. As for whether he'd listen... well, sometimes Jeff makes changes if he gets complaints, and sometimes he doesn't.

 

Dikiyoba.

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Accessibility of the type that the OP posted is pretty important and seriously under-recognized in game design work, IMO.

 

There are other accessibility issues that are scarcely attended to by some game designers. One is colorblindness. Considering the substantially male demographic of games, colorblind agnostic, or managed, games should be more often considered. (I've not looked at Spiderweb games from this perspective.) In the board game world, having red and green pieces to represent different players is nearly universal. For red-green color blind people (the most common version), the game effectively can only be played with one fewer person because they cannot distinguish the two colors.

 

I think possibly the OP might start evangelizing generally about this issue on other forums, find like-minded and like-needed gamers to work with, and eventually make this a regularly discussed issue at game designer meetings. Communicate with designers, educate them and raise their consciousness on the issue (arguably, what he is trying to do here) is where a real impact can be made. Additionally, if there was a game accessibility organization, it could rate games on their degree of accessibility. Or, it could educate reviewers on the things to look for in a game to give games an accessibility rating along with their other quality ratings.

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There really is no reason for the dialogue and special encounter text to be as small as it is. I will look very hard at making this larger in future games.

 

Sadly, it is too late to make this change for Mac Avadon v1.0, as it would require retesting all of the text in the game. However, I might make this switch for Windows Avadon v1.0 and if it works, put it in the Mac version in a later update.

 

I will very strongly consider making dialogue and special encounter text bigger in all future games. As for the rest of the text in the game, I'll have to evaluate this case by case, but I should be able to pretty easily fix the worst offender (dialogue text).

 

As for color-blindedness, I am pretty sure at this point that all of our newer games don't require color recognition, or, when they do, also give text prompts that enable the color-blind to know what's going on. I think we're safe here.

 

- Jeff Vogel

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Originally Posted By: Enraged Slith
As a blind and deaf person with no functional extremities, I would like to know what your plans are for making your games more accessible for people with special needs like myself.
What, only blind, deaf, and with no functional extremities? Why not throw in cancer, diabetes, and being mute, as well as schizophrenic? Oh, and a pyromaniac.
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Originally Posted By: Enraged Slith
As a blind and deaf person with no functional extremities, I would like to know what your plans are for making your games more accessible for people with special needs like myself.

Don't worry. Jeff will make an extra special version just for you, Enraged Slith. Of course, there is always the possibility that the vlish telepathically beaming the game directly into your brain will go rogue and simply take over your mind instead, but that's the risk you sometimes just have to take, you know?

Say, how'd you manage to read and respond to this topic, anyway?

Dikiyoba.
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Originally Posted By: Randomizer
Originally Posted By: Camarasaurus
Say, how'd you manage to read and respond to this topic, anyway?

Dikiyoba.


He's going to go to the Richard White forum and got his implants last year.
Richard White forum = Time Machine = answer to everything.
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  • 2 weeks later...
Originally Posted By: CapnKaroo
I think the bottom line is... A lot of Jeff's audience is getting old. Our eyesight isn't what it used to be.


It's not just a matter of getting older for many of us. I spent a couple of years in my early 20's where I could only see for as long as I could tolerate special hard contacts - about 4 hours per day. After that, I was legally blind. There were some games I could play, but not ones that relied heavily on small text.

My eyes are much better these days (after cornea transplants), but still not good enough to get me a driver's license - and definitely not good enough to enjoy reading the small fonts.

Since the story and dialogue is part of what makes the game enjoyable, I hate having to choose between suffering through it or skimming through it.
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Just downloaded the demo, and the first thing I noticed was that the typeface was way too small for me to read comfortably. I can read it, but I have to lean into the screen to do it, and that will absolutely limit my gaming time.

 

Setting the resolution to the second choice seemed to help a bit, but perhaps that's just wishful thinking.

 

I'll try playing the demo and if it's too much of a problem for me, I'll wait for the next version. If Jeff can fix it, that will be a great thing for me.

 

Fortunately I'm still playing the Romans in Nethergate Resurrection, so I have something to do!

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