Considering Naughty Dog started with two guys in a room hacking into the original PlayStation’s hardware to get it to do what it wasn’t meant to for Crash Bandicoot, The “Last of Us” series has taken game storytelling to next level and has landed Naughty Dog with the accolade of “best developer”. There is good reason for this and as with the sequel to the first game, they have yet again pushed the boundaries of computer game development with advanced accessibility features, revolutionising how such features can truly make a game accessible to all.
Accessible to all…
There has been a change within the gaming industry concerning accessibility, with Microsoft in particular doubling down on accessibility in the workplace and games. Arguably, there is a trend in the gaming industry where accessibility is a mainstay option, giving a customisable feel to a game, which we have never seen before (with the exceptions of mods.)
It’s been a year since Naughty Dog’s “Last of Us 2” was released, with a warm reception from fans of the previous game. Having won awards in innovation and accessibility, in this blog we will have a look at this ground-breaking game from the view of its accessibility options and how they are applied to the gameplay throughout.
First impressions of the game options certainly give the feeling that Naughty Dog has consulted accessibility experts. That being said, the accessibility options can be quite daunting at first due to the sheer amount of customisation that has been tied into the game. Not to worry though, as here is a quick summary of the options you’ll need for your desired gameplay experience. These are examples and can be swapped out with other accessibility options if needed.
Fig 1. Hearing Accessibility presets
For players with reduced or limited vision, the hearing options (see adjacent image Fig 1) in the game are pretty comprehensive and most things in the game such as actions or items can be accommodated by a unique sound. There does need to be some investment by the player to learn these unique sounds, however, it is worth the pay-off once learned.
To enable text (such as subtitles and player cues) to be audible, here are my top tips:
- Go through the subtitles option menu and enable the sub-options such as names and directions.
- Change the subtitles option itself to “Story and Dialogue.”
- Enable the accessibility option of text-to-speech as well as the audio cues.
- The Pick-up Notifications and the Doge prompts can be found in the HUD options and enabled amongst other options that the player may want to be enabled.
These options may be used in tandem with the other presets. Due to the level of customisability, you can swap out these preset options with others to customize the options to your preference.
The vision presets (fig 2), like the settings mentioned above and below, can be changed throughout gameplay, so swapping this in and out can be done at anytime. As you see within this preset there are similar options to the other presets but with additional features such as the high contrast display and HUD (Heads Up Display) settings that can be found in the magnification and visual aids. I would recommend taking some time with these options and seeing which work better for you/ or the player.
As an added bonus option (because Naughty Dog are legends) they have included motion sickness options. These options enable the player to turn off the full-screen effects, motion blur, and dolly zoom effect because… well, why not? I would look at doing this, if this hinders the other visual support options.
Fig 2. Vision Accessibility presets
Fig 3. Motor Accessibility presets
Particularly valuable to players with reduced motor abilities are the motor preset options available (see image fig 3.) The motor presets support the player by reducing inputs and automating most actions with the game e.g. auto-targeting (Lock-On Aim> Auto-target); reducing repeated button presses to a hold; auto weapon swaps etc. Most of these options can be found in the Alternate Controls options menu with the exception of Combat Accessibility which is an option in itself.
Here are some of my motor preset recommendations:
- Turn all the Combat Accessibility options on, and change the Invisible While Prone option to unlimited, this gives you more time to gauge your opponents.
- Take look at the Navigation and Traversal Assistance. Enable all these options, as the skip puzzle option can be invaluable. Furthermore, the scan range and scan time can be adjusted whilst the player is in the game and would need adjusting according to the player’s preference.
So there you have it, a brief exploration of some of the key accessibility features of “Last of Us 2“. Not only is this the most accessible game in the world (at the time of writing) but it’s a masterpiece. So, have fun and get immersed.