Accessibility is fast becoming synonymous with the PlayStation studios and their different titles. The recent launch of The Last of Us Remake Part 1 includes all the accessibility features of Part II, as well as a new option for AAA titles: descriptive audio cutscenes. But Naughty Dog isn’t the only PlayStation developer to prioritize and include accessibility in its games. this November, god of war ragnarokfrom Santa Monica Studio, will be the latest addition to a beloved franchise that demonstrates its own commitment to accessibility.
god of war ragnarok continues the story of Kratos and his son Atreus as they fight for survival against the Norse pantheon. And as the ancient Greek god of war will no doubt grow and develop as a character, ragnarok it is also a story of growth and progress for the studio. Mila Pavlin, Lead UX Designer at Santa Monica Studio, discusses the process of creating an accessible sequel, as well as working with the disability community to ensure current and future titles include as few unintentional barriers as possible.
“One of the first steps we had in developing our feature set for god of war ragnarok was to facilitate a deep dive with accessibility consultants into the concerns and roadblocks that arose after the release of God of WarPavlin says. “We also reached out to numerous members of the community to gather qualitative feedback on key accessibility areas to develop an initial time and scope strategy. Our team committed to regular playtesting with members of the accessibility community and consultants during development to ensure we met our goals. We also have internal staff representatives from the accessibility community in various departments.”
These interactions with the disability community were crucial in discovering what was working and, more importantly, what was missing. Accessibility reviews and impressions, as well as discussions on social media platforms like Twitter, provided insight for the team to properly understand how they could make future games accessible and enjoyable.
“In response, the team did an internal autopsy on the feature set we had at launch and realized there were many areas where we could improve in the future. After the autopsy, we brought in accessibility consultants to do a deep dive and recommend feature improvements. We also felt it was important to meet with other Sony Interactive Entertainment teams who were in the process of developing accessible content at the time to get their perspectives.”
The 2018 release of God of War provided some accessibility features such as customizable controls, speaker indicators for closed captions, and the option to skip quick-time events. However, he lacked other crucial options. As a result, the team set out to focus on what Pavlin describes as four main areas of accessibility: motor, visual, auditory, and incorporation. Shortly after god of wars In the 2018 release, the team began work on developing a comprehensive set of accessibility tools for disabled players. Still, the console version wasn’t the only time Pavlin and others received feedback.
In January, PlayStation re-released the original. God of War on PC, bringing with it new accessibility options previously unavailable on the console version. Now certain settings that had been requested for a long time for the original game were available. And the PC iteration not only created opportunities for gamers with physical disabilities to play, but also allowed people to try out those new options and features, and then voice their concerns.