Breakpoint Developers Discuss Accessibility

Grant Stoner3 minute read

On October 4, the successor to Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands launched, introducing the 11th title into the established series. Ghost Recon Breakpoint encourages players to utilize tactical skills and movements to eliminate increasingly difficult enemies, whilst simultaneously attempting to survive within the island landscape of Aurora. While incorporating mechanics from previous iterations, Breakpoint fully embraced the inclusion of numerous accessibility features, marking a first for the series.

In order to advertise Breakpoint as an accessible game, several Ubisoft social media posts highlighted the varying accessibility options that were included. With the potential to reach an estimated audience of 7.5 million followers on Twitter alone, Ubisoft hoped to advertise to anyone that would benefit from assistance.

“Historically, disabled gamers have been buying games without knowing if they would be accessible for them or not, which has the potential to lead to a lot of frustration,” stated Adrien Morisse and Maksym Gerun, the lead UX designer and game designer at Ubisoft Paris. “At Ubisoft, we’re using all the communication channels we have in order to properly inform our audience so they can make an informed purchase decision. The reception of this type of information has been very good so far.”

Tweets directed individuals toward a comprehensive list detailing every accessible option. According to Ubisoft’s post, disabled players can look forward to utilizing accessibility options such as Auto-Run, Auto-Throttle, and even take advantage of the newly added Tobii eye-tracking software. With roughly 18 accessibility settings, each with their own subsections, the developers of Breakpoint were committed to include features that would benefit an array of disabilities. However, some proved difficult to implement.

“The Text-to-Speech/Speech-to-Text was particularly time consuming and required a significant amount of developer work for plugging SDK in, tweaking, refactoring, etc.,” mentioned Morisse and Gerun.

“The Customize Controls functionality was also challenging as there were many teams involved in its development, which led to more discussions and iterations, followed by extensive debugging. It is an “ongoing” feature that we have not stopped developing; we keep on improving it to cover more actions and combinations.”

While these features directly benefit the physically and hearing impaired, Breakpoint also incorporates settings that positively impact the blind and cognitively disabled. For example, Morisse and Gerun discussed the capability to change the in-game volume, coupled with HUD customization choices.

With a bevy of accessibility selections, Breakpoint developers applied suggestions and requests to cater toward a wide array of disabilities. Morisse and Gerun noted that while Ubisoft did not directly consult with disabled testers for this entry, previous work with advocates provided enough context to apply each option.

Currently, Ubisoft boasts a library of approximately 197 games, not counting new releases or upcoming titles. With such a large sample size, Breakpoint developers had the capability to pull accessibility data from past console generations and series. Morisse and Gerun are excited for Breakpoint’s features and hope that the accessibility trend continues.

“We are very proud of the work our team did on the accessibility of Breakpoint and plan to evangelize the best practices from Breakpoint within Ubisoft so they can be applied in other games in the future.”

Thankfully, Ubisoft is not alone. As more studios adopt accessible practices, disabled individuals have more choices to play their favorite series on the system of their choice. While some publishers and developers continue to forgo the inclusion of accessible features, Ubisoft is certain that the future of gaming will be open to everyone.

“As one of the biggest videogame[s] publishers, we recognize our responsibility to include as many players as we can, so that everyone can enjoy our games. We are encouraged to see others in the videogame industry introduce advancements to help make games more accessible for players with disabilities.”

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Grant Stoner enjoys running in video game worlds because his legs won't let him do so in real life. You can follow his accessible thoughts and ramblings on Twitter @Super_Crip1994

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