According to a conference talk at this year’s Game Accessibility Conference 2021, Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs Legion had around 8900 sounds during alpha and could have had 200 audio captions to describe the surrounding sounds happening around the player in the game’s fictional and futuristic London.
Maksym Horban, senior game designer at Ubisoft Kyiv hosted a “Driving Accessibility Advancements in Watch Dogs Legion” presentation looking into a select few accessibility features of the game that launched back in 2020. When discussing visualised sound effects, Maksym talks about how the studio made a list of sounds and created captions for each one. During the alpha stages of production, there were “around 8900 sounds” available in the database.
Ubisoft split the sounds into logical groups (Ambience, drones, etc), smaller sub-elements (Car tyres, motors, crashes), and then filtered through sounds that weren’t that important. When Ubisoft held an accessible design workshop, the developers sat down with disabled content creators and found there were still too many captions and reduced the number down from 200 unique subtitles to 110.
Most of the sounds that were removed are apparently ambient sounds such as fridges, servers, ventilation and more. Maksym clarifies, “this feature is not intended to show subtitles for every sound, but rather to assist players who play with no sound at all.”
In Watch Dogs Legion, the visualized sound effects are presented on the right-hand side of the screen and can be adjusted in the settings. They also come with an arrow to highlight the direction the sound is coming from. This directional audio visualisation was first present in Far Cry: New Dawn, and was also present in the recent Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
The talk from Maksym also goes into remapping for both keyboard and gamepads, and aim lock-on and is a great video to watch for more understanding of how the studio works on features. The associate producer also detailed more features back in August 2020 through an internal interview.
Watch Dogs Legion is available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5, Stadia, and PC.