Ubisoft has published a new internal interview that addresses the accessibility in the upcoming Watch Dogs Legion title. If you’re familiar with us, you’ll know that we were invited to the Ubisoft Forward event that took place last month. We were able to experience the game and I ran a Deaf/HoH review before joining Steve and Grant to have a conversation about our combined experiences. It seems as if Ubisoft took a bunch of feedback on board.
“Removing barriers for all our players, regardless of their playstyle, inspired our team to push the boundaries of customization,” says Mihai Alexandru Nuta, associate producer at Ubisoft Kyiv. Mihai talks about how the accessibility options and customizations were a love story for the team. “First, we started developing options for PC, like a multiple-slot save system, customizable controls page, input adaptation for a variety of devices, and a video options menu. Shortly after adding those, we realized that there is significantly more we could explore and improve on all platforms.”
The feedback process for Watch Dogs Legion is apparently constant, “We investigate, prototype, review, submit, test – and then we’re back at it again.” There’s also a playtest schedule that takes place both internally and externally, Mihai says that the team also learns from community members who are invited to Accessible Design Workshops with this particular one being held by Ubisoft back in 2018.
The internal interview brings up Ubisoft Forward and how influencers who tried the preview of the game had suggestions and improvements for the state of accessibility at that moment in time. These comments were noted and Mihai says that the team “will address it [the feedback] for launch.” One example brought up in the interview was one we raised, with there being a cognitive overload of audio captions. Other examples noted is auto-aiming, auto-camera preventing shooting from cover, and exhaustion from using the Esc key to exit vehicles, etc.
“We have several systems helping to reduce number of subtitles displayed at the same time.” Mihai explains when asked if the team considered cognitive accessibility when designing Watch Dogs Legion. “We enabled the option to filter the gameplay events captions to two or four lines at the same time. Puzzles are always accompanied by hints, and there is a new simplified puzzle feature that assists with cognitive barriers relating to hacking puzzles.”
“The UI was reworked many times before it reached a solid result in terms of how the information is displayed,” they continue, “taking into account the multitude of static and dynamic HUD elements appearing during gameplay, and how they can be optimized so as not to create cognitive overload for the player.”
When touching on introducing some subtle accessibility features that are baked into the gameplay, Mihai says that the team had to find a way identify accessibility barriers and remove them before launch. “we had to follow best practices, try to involve disabled players to provide feedback before release, and ultimately, think about accessibility as a tool that will benefit everyone.”
Ubisoft Forward is classed as a success for Mihai due to the inclusion of accessibility options being present so early on. “An immediate success is Ubisoft Forward, as it was our first demo baked with accessibility features.” They also state that “We’ll continue to improve, and ensure our features will provide immersion for everyone” The Ubisoft Forward event providing this level of accessibility for an early build and allowing disabled players to jump in was an industry first.
After the interview, a partial list of accessibility features is listed. When I say “partial” I mean…a fair bit. The features present range from gameplay features such as puzzles with hints, or a ping feature, to HUD and UI options such as a customizable reticle, menu narration, and HUD customization. Subtitles are also detailed to allow players to choose what number of audio captions are shown at one time, and are customizable.
You can find the full list, and the full internal interview over on the official blog page. As for the game, Watch Dogs Legion is slated to launch in October for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. It should also be heading to Google Stadia, Xbox Series X, and PS5.