The upcoming Road 96 is a procedurally-generated adventure from Digixart. The game finds players hitchhiking across Petria, an authoritarian nation currently in turmoil, to get away to freedom. The gameplay boasts a heavy story with events that are all randomly generated, allowing multiple plays with branching dialogues with different situations. It’s certainly an interesting concept with stylistic graphics as teased in the latest trailer, and Can I Play That wanted to know more about Road 96 and its accessibility.
Creative director Yoan Fanise, and technical game designer Tristan Hilaire, from DigixArt opened up about what players can expect from the game in terms of accessibility in a joint email conversation with us. “From the start of development we did our maximum to make the game accessible to everyone, including disabled people,” they said, “we added a subtitle size option, rotation sensitivity, and many audio sliders so that voices can be heard correctly for anyone.”
“Most importantly, we believe most of the accessibility depends on the choices in game design.” they added, explaining that when they designed the puzzles and activities in Road 96, they ensured that they were using a small number “of inputs, symbols additionally to colors, [and] visual hints additionally to sound hints”. They also reveal that they tried to make a positive design where “losing” doesn’t have much impact on the game’s narrative, “For example, there are no important timed choices, and you mostly always have a second chance to get out of a bad situation thanks to the resources and abilities you gathered while playing if something went wrong along the road.”
Fanise and Hilaire went through some individual categories with us, revealing a number of Road 96 accessibility features we can expect to see when it launches. From the hearing side of things, they reveal that every character in the game has subtitles, and while there are no captions for sounds and actions not related to dialogue, “we tried to always make sure the player can notice something has changed and doesn’t miss it if that’s important. If an action is really important to understand something, the player camera will smoothly look at the target for some time.”
They told us that they wanted to avoid using only 1 sense to solve a puzzle, explaining that “if we use repeated audio beeping as information to find something hidden in the map, we also added vibrations (that you can also activate or deactivate in the options menu) to the controller” and they also said there would be visual information to indicate something happening from where the beeping is coming from.
“There is a menu to change every input for your controller,” they tell us as we move to mobility. They confirm that from what they know, most controllers are supported in Road 96, and that there are only a few sequences in the game where players can shoot dynamic elements, but that this comes with a “bit of auto-aim if the player misses the targets too much.”
Road 96 also has accessibility features to ensure text is legible as DigixArt has added text scaling options that are “separated for dialogue subtitles and interactions that are displayed in the game.” There is “almost no HUD” they explain, but that they “made sure it had clear feedback when it’s changing by adding multiple visual information and sounds.” They add, “There is also a zoom input you can use anytime to look around while controlling your character.”
There are no color blind options in Road 96, but the two reiterate that “we tried to design the game to work without needing these options. Instead of thinking with colors, we tried to think with contrasts to make sure important elements could be distinguished. For the same matter, symbols and/or moving visual patterns were used in every sequence where contrasts were not sufficient.”
“The inventory cannot really be sorted,” they explain when talking about the cognitive portions of Road 96’s accessibility. Instead, items are displayed in a line with other items at the top of the screen. Players will apparently not have more than 4-5 items on them throughout the game, and the items they do have are only needed to unlock other interactions in the world.
As for objectives, each playable area of the journey throughout Petria is “relatively small” and Fanise and Hilaire tell us it should be fairly easy to get back to what the task at hand is should you lose track. Essentially, tasks are straightforward, putting players in a situation and requiring them to find a solution. NPCs are also available to help inform about missing information again as many times as the player needs. They add that “a big part of the game happens in cars where you cannot move but just look around,”
While Fanise and Hilaire explained earlier that accessibility was available from the start of dev, we followed up to find out more. Hilaire told us, “Personally it was as soon as I started working on the project, as I think accessible design choices are part of the things we have to learn to do more in games. I also have a few game devs friends who helped me think about these solutions, one of them being colour blind for example. I think it’s important to make sure the game is accessible as soon as possible in production, so it will be easier to work on solutions if we have thought of it beforehand.”
Road 96 will be available on August 16 for PC and Nintendo Switch and we will be looking into running an accessibility review