Hirake55.com Let's Project: Accessible Gaming in Japan

Video game accessibility adaptations date back to Pong and span the globe. Everyone wants to play. The video above is from Japan this month, linked to the fantastic "Let's Project" at Hirake55.com.

I can't follow all the translations, so have a look yourself if interested in robotics, 3D printing, OAK Kinect switch, electric wheelchair balloon bursting and accessible gaming: Hirake55.com and Sun Sun. For my Western feel, the room is a bit too 1960s clinical, but the work is brilliant and fully up to date. Cool to see the mix of technologies and from my side especially the Titan One and JoyToKey mix. Hope they'll consider using the Profile Shifting method and PULSE as used in many Gaming Redux methods.

Via: Eiichi Tanaka's YouTube channel.

Custom controller adapted for a Nintendo 3DS: Let's Project via Hirake55.com (Accessible Gaming)

JoyToKey and Titan One: Let's Project via Hirake55.com (Accessible Gaming)

Gran Turismo with accessible controllers being played be enabled gamers in Japan (Accessible Gaming / Game Accessibility).

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One Handed Arcade Mod

This one-off one-handed arcade modification from Ben Heck and John Jacobsen is a lovely piece of work. In essence it uses a mix of a one-handed mechanical grab-on joystick with switches, linked to weighted solenoids which remotely physically push the buttons on an arcade machine, powered by a drill battery.

Admittedly, people can use emulators and even hack cabinets to get around this particular issue, but that's not the point here. This gives someone the power to go to a gaming event and play many old-school games with as close to the original feel as is possible. Brilliant job.

Try this link for more on adapted arcade games, with much more to come.

Custom One Handed Controller for Arcade Coin-op Machines by Ben Heck and John's Arcade.


Gem Elimination (PC)

Gem Elimination by Tyler Winters is an experiment in making classic "match three" game Bejewelled one-switch accessible. There are two methods of control, being Scan and Select or better suited to this game, Rotate and Extend. Resurrected from Eelke.com with kind permission of Eelke Folmer, and hosted over at the One Switch Gaming library.



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Small Sensory Room

OneSwitch switch adapted environmental controls for a multi sensory room aka Snoezelen.

Floating over clouds in a multi-sensory room.

Comfortable bean bags (Big Boy Bean Bags) in Thurrock Lifestyle Solutions sensory room.

The top picture is of some basic environmental controls I built for Thurrock Lifestyle Solutions first multi-sensory room. The black box controls up to six basic on/off electrical devices such as fans and projectors. The Doro remote allows you to freeze the 100" projector image and also skip tracks on the MP3/CD player.

In the video below is also a glimpse of Proteus, which can be explored using just two switches via an adapted Xbox joypad through a Titan One adapter with custom scripts (look and latch walking forwards on/off).

If interested, a link to the cloud video and more can be found at the fledgling TLS PMLD (Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities) section.

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Never Ball (PC)

Never Ball is a fantastic one-switch adapted game very much like Super Monkey Ball. The time-limits are tight but this is a great game for many switch gamers. Resurrected from Eelke.com with kind permission of Eelke Folmer, and hosted over at the One Switch Gaming library.

Never Ball, a one-switch adapted Super Monkey Ball influenced game.

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Accessible Minecraft: One Switch and Eye Gaze

Minecraft played with One Switch by Colin McDonnell at William Merritt, with thanks to SpecialEffect and OneSwitch

Eye Gaze Minecraft playable with a single mouse, head-tracker or eye-gaze unit. Under construction by Bill Donegan at SpecialEffect.

Above from today on Twitter are two alternative ways of playing Minecraft. The top picture is of Colin McDonnell building a castle in Minecraft with a single switch, at the William Merritt centre. It's working better now thanks to Colin's play-testing, so thanks, Colin!

The bottom picture is a work in progress by my colleague at SpecialEffect, Bill Donegan and a tie-up with Smart Box. They've both worked on Minecraft longer than me, and are plotting to make Minecraft accessible with a single pointer device. That's eye-gaze, mouse, head-tracker and so on using The Grid 2. Very nice.

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One Switch Minecraft

Minecraft: Blocky Steve with pick-axe in a small wooded area surrounded by a wolf, sheep and pig.

Minecraft: Flying high over a tropical forest.

A way to play Minecraft was requested by Colin and Maxine McDonnell and Nathan Popple. Through SpecialEffect I added this feature to the free One Switch Pulse system (requires a Titan One adapter). It was not a small feat, as this is a massively complex control set for a game.

Below is the current profile system (I've used Photoshop to make it a little clearer as to the divisions of control). You start off towards the bottom of the list with a choice of game control modes. First is the Menu Navigation mode (to get you started and change options). Next is access to Attack, Creative, Exploration (including flying) and Special Modes.

The Special Modes give access to taming horses and setting off fireworks presently. As a note, for horse taming, you have to repeatedly try to ride the horse once you find one (empty handed) until it stops throwing you off. You then need to get on it, equip yourself with a saddle, then use the horse inventory to place the saddle on the horse (top slot). Quite a faff, but fun once you've done it.

For less able one-switch users, this can work well with two switches, where a helper navigates the menu, then gives the main control (e.g. walk forwards) to the one-switch player. Just remember to move the Pulsing control to an unused button (e.g. 32). To see more on Gaming Redux click here.

Gaming Redux: One Switch method of playing Minecraft.

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Wii-U Adapters and Titan One Update

XCM Maxfire Converter for Wii U and PS3: Image of a Maxfire Wii U adapter with keyboard, mouse and Xbox 360 joypad in photo too.

Nintendo are still making the most physically inaccessible game consoles for a lot of disabled people in my opinion. XCM are the key-player in trying to get around this with off the shelf solutions.

So far there's the Maxfire above and Maxgear Cross Fight adapter below to choose from should you wish to use alternative controls. The Maxfire above is the more versatile allowing for keyboards, mice and joypads to connect. The Cross Fight below is for Xbox 360 wired joypads only. I had hoped that the Titan One adapter would work with this, enabling speech, head-tracker, one-switch control and more. It didn't sadly last time I tested, but I've heard that there's been upgrades since, so I'm hoping to try this again over at SpecialEffect when I get a chance as I don't own a Wii-U yet.

For Xbox and Playstation, linked to SpecialEffect, I've also uploaded a range of scripts for the Titan One which give extra powers you can upload to this fantastic little device. Stuff like latching, toggling, alternating controls, reducing or amplifying the strength of analogue controls and so on.  See the Console Tuner GPC library and search on "SpecialEffect" or "Accessibility" for more.

Maxgear cross fight adapter for Xbox 360 to Wii U.

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Slow Motion Accessibility Lucky Dip

There's been some great news I've discovered since the start of the year in assistive technology slanted towards games and other leisure pursuits. Here's some that I would have posted at the time had I had more time...

Sony's PS4 and Vita Accessibility operating system updates.  Update 2.50 on the 26th of March 2015 brought a raft of accessibility features to the PS4. These included contrast, zoom and basic controller remapping. More of this please!

Music Search update: My short list of fantastic web-sites offering free music to listen to.

SAM Labs: Electronics construction kit in the modern age with no wires and no coding needed.

Ian Hamilton: Two brilliant posts, one Ways to Further Accessibility in the Games Industry and also How to do Subtitles Well: Basics and Good Practices.

Eye Tracking experiences as a Game Dev Teacher.

One Button Games film from Germany. Actually from 2013 but too good not to post. Linked to a teaching project in Potsdam.

Cognitive Accessibility 101 Part 1: What is cognitive accessibility? A personal take by Jamie Knight "a slightly autistic web developer".


Top Web Sites for Accessible Gaming - 2015

Mario Kart Podium finish. Linked to 7-128.com and OneSwitch award for 2015 Web-sites supporting mobility disabilities.

7-128.com have released their annual awards for Web Sites promoting Game Accessibility across the world. I never take it for granted, and am really very happy to have been awarded the top slot for Mobility Disabilities for 2015.

For this year into 2016, I hope to share more "gaming redux" methods making main-stream and more obscure games one-switch accessible. I will plough on with the One Switch 100 book. I hope too to have some more custom items in the OneSwitch shop given time.


Three Boring Boxes: Lots of Exciting Access Potential

USB-UIRT Universal Infrared Receiver Transmitter for a PC. Control TV and other devices from a PC.

Endurance RC PCTx: Allows for a PC to connect to and control high-end radio control vehicles.

Compusult's USBox

These three pictures above aren't very exciting are they? The possibilities are though. The top box is a USB-UIRT Universal Infrared Receiver/Transmitter. The middle box is an Endurace RC PCTx for remote control vehicles. The bottom box is a Compusult USBox relay box that can control switch adapted equipment.

All three boxes allow for PC control over a wide range of equipment. As I understand the USB-UIRT will learn infrared signals from a TV remote and other similar devices (such as a LEGO train-set, remote control for a fan and so on) and allow all of them to be triggered by a PC interface. In principle this means one-switch control, head-tracker control, eye-gaze control and so on.

The Endurance RC PCTx needs a fairly high-end RC Transmitter, with a "Trainer Port [for a Buddy Box] capable of accepting a PPM signal". Likewise all kinds of accessible interfaces in theory could work this system. Liked their list of ideas:

  • Wireless robot controller
  • Pan and Tilt system for a video camera
  • Telepresence robot
  • Bomb disposal robot
  • Control system for a UAV
  • Steering wheel and foot pedal interface to R/C car
  • Industrial automation
  • Animatronics - puppets and effects

The Compusult USBox can control four (or more if you connect extra USBoxes) switch adapted items, one at a time presently. They've just recently improved the Java based software so that you can momentarily turn a device on/off making control much easier than this.

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SpecialEffect: Wish List for Accessible Game Design

SpecialEffect: Wish List for Accessible Game Design.

This is a straight-copy of the SpecialEffect Wish List for Accessible Game Design features, published on the 4th of May 2011, as I realise it's not always easy to get at now.

There are 20 wishes spread evenly across four different categories of accessibility. That's a lot we admit, but please don't worry! No one expects all of these to make it into any one game, and many overlap. For a game designer to include even just one item from each list would be a wonderful start.

Read on to view our wishes...

Cognitive Related Accessibility: Symbol depicts the side view of a head with the brain inside on a green background.
Cognitive Related Accessibility

1. Openly describe accessibility features: Supply easy access to help file that can be read out loud by a PC screen-reader. This file should open with: A brief synopsis of your game; an indication of the degree of comprehension and reaction speed needed to play; a break-down of the cognitive related accessibility features that have been included, as you best understand. Make this information publicly and clearly available in advance of purchasing or down-loading your game, either on-line or by request. People who often face barriers in gaming need to know how likely they are to be able to play your game. Let them know.

2. Game menu accessibility: Can menus be easily navigated with a simple control scheme? Is there a quick-start method? Is there consideration for those who cannot read English?

3. Broad difficulty level adjustment: Offer a way to meaningfully adjust the difficulty level of a game to suit the player. Consider extending time, increasing powers, reducing obstacles and so on as appropriate. Consider making what might be considered “cheats” to some, available as accessibility options. Consider gamer assist modes, such as auto-targeting in a first person shooter and steering correction in a driving game to help you recover from a spin.

4. Speed control: Give consideration to people with slower reactions. Could extra or unlimited time be offered in the likes of quiz game Buzz!? For a game with Quick Time Events such as Shenmue, could these be slowed, automated or removed if required? Could the entire game play environment be slowed, as is possible with The Pyramid and Shoot 1UP? Offering speed control options not only benefits those with slower reaction times due to physical and/or cognitive reasons, but many visually impaired players too who may need more time to scan the screen in front of them.

5. Training, Playground/Sandbox and Experimental modes: Trainer levels can help people become more proficient at areas they are struggling in, as well as giving easier access to favourite areas of a game. Sandbox, Freeplay and “Doodle-City” areas can free players from the constraints of game missions and rule-sets, giving them a much less pressured way to get used to the game controls and/or environment. And they’re normally a lot of fun whatever your ability.

Recommended further research: Gaming with a Learning Disability at Game-Accessibility.com; PugFugly’s The Pyramid; Mommy’s Best Games’  Shoot 1UP; Atari’s I, Robot linked to “Doodle-City” modes; HelpKidzLearn on-line games aimed at learning disabled children; and a growing list of coding resources from Game Accessibility Code.

Hearing Related Accessibility: Symbol depicts an ear on a pink background.
Hearing Related Accessibility

1. Openly describe accessibility features: Supply easy access to a help file that can be read out loud by a PC screen-reader. This file should open with: A brief synopsis of your game; an explanation of what degree of hearing is needed to play it; a break-down of what hearing related accessibility features have been included as you best understand. Make this information publicly and clearly available in advance of purchasing or down-loading your game, either on-line or by request.

2. Include individual volume controls if beneficial: If your game plays music and sound effects simultaneously, offer a way to adjust the volume of each separately, down to silence. Give thought to making essential sounds and spoken dialogue as clear as you can. Otherwise parts of a story, rules or events may be lost on hearing impaired players. This option can also be considered a cognitive related accessibility feature as it can help improve players comprehend what is going on.

3. Include Subtitles/Closed-Captions for all spoken dialogue: Use coloured text to help denote different speakers, and ideally include captions for essential and mood setting sounds and music.

4. Synesthesia (Sound Alternatives): Use alternative sensory feedback such as visual effects, text or force feedback linked to, your sound. Think about what is lost game experience wise with the sound muted or turned off, then try to put it back via alternative output.

5. Make playable with no sound and no microphone: Ensure your game can be played through with the sound off, through good design choices. Make use of visual or tactile alternatives to sounds that are essential to the game, and impossible or unfair to do without. Include all of the above to a high standard. If appropriate, offer an alternative method of communication for players unable to make use of a head-phones and microphone set-up as detailed in Controller/Physical Related Accessibility, step 4, “Alternative Controller Access”.

Recommended further research:The Sound Alternative” by Richard van Tol and Deaf-Gamers.com classification system; Closed-Captioned Heavy-Rain mock-up by Reid Kimball; Leon Calvely’s “Game Accessibility for the Hard of Hearing”. Gamasutra article on Subtitling standards. Coding resources from Game Accessibility Code.

Input Related Accessibility: Symbol depicts a game controller on a grey background.
Input Related Accessibility

1. Openly describe accessibility features: Supply easy access to a help file that can be read out loud by a PC screen-reader. This file should open with: A brief synopsis of your game; an explanation of what degree of physical ability is needed to play it; a break-down of what input related accessibility features have been included such as what type of controllers can be used and what degree of mobility/movement is needed as you best understand. Make this information publicly and clearly available in advance of purchasing or down-loading your game, either on-line or by request. Even one accessibility feature from this list is a good thing to be sharing.

2. Allow players to reconfigure their own controls: This takes into account players who are uncomfortable with the standard preset control scheme/s, such as people finding it impossible to reach shoulder buttons, amputees and so on. For those using custom built and alternative controllers, reconfigurable controls can make play possible and comfortable. Seek to make control remapping options as versatile as you can.

3. Simplify controls. Seek to offer a control scheme for both menus and game play that does not over complicate things, and ideally uses as few controls as is necessary. Consider assist modes to further simplify things. Contact us for a list of what we consider a simple control method.

4. Provide alternative controller access: Give gamers a way to play using something completely different from the default controls. A real world example can be found in Wii Mario Kart, which allows users to race using the Wii Remote or via the Wii classic joypad controller. Many people are disabled by the constraints of standard controls, but offering an alternative way in can make the unplayable playable. Consider that: Some people cannot cope with motion sensor games, but could given access to the same game with a joypad; Some cannot make themselves understood when forced to use a microphone, but could if offered a text, icon and/or emoticon based system of communication; Some might be unable to use a touch-screen but could manage a physical joystick; Some may struggle with a keyboard but could get on well with a pure mouse based system. Seek to offer at least one alternative method of access. [Technical info for PC game design: Avoid shutting out potential gaming utilties such as Microsoft's On Screen Keyboard and JoyToKey. Allow compatibility with "Scan Codes and Virtual Keycodes". Avoid pure "DirectInput RAW input"].

5. Speed control: Give consideration to people with slower reactions, as detailed in Cognitive Related Accessibility, step 4.

Recommended further research: Chuck Bittner’s “Custom Button Remapping” Petition; Gaming with a Physical Disability at Game-Accessibility.com; EA’s “Family Play” option in Wii Madden and for the ultimate in reduced controls see One Switch Design Tips and Nintendo’s “Demo Play”; Coding resources from Game Accessibility Code.

Sight Related Accessibility: Symbol depicts an eye on a purple background.
Sight Related Accessibility

1. Openly describe accessibility features: Supply easy access to a help file that can be read out loud by a PC screen-reader. This file should open with: A brief synopsis of your game; an explanation of what degree of sight is needed to play it; a break-down of what sight related accessibility features have been included as you best understand; any further essential information that may assist play. Make this information publicly and clearly available in advance of purchasing or down-loading your game, either on-line or by request. Be proud of your game’s accessibility, and let people know about it!

2. Offer broad difficulty level adjustment: Offer ways to adjust the difficulty level of your game. A visually impaired player may need more time to track and take in what is going on, so offering a way to slow the game down can make things much fairer and more enjoyable. Likewise, visually impaired players might reasonably be expected to make more mistakes in some games, so offering a way to increase lives, time, energy, or whatever is most appropriate, will again hopefully even things out and make playing a more fair and enjoyable experience.

3. Improve menu access for visually impaired players: Many visually impaired and blind players do not get along with the likes of analogue pointer based user interfaces, finding them unintuitive.  Offering stepped navigation of menus via digital controls can make things much easier. Imagine how typical SEGA Megadrive game menus work (if you’re old enough), with them being accessed via the likes of a d-pad and push button/s or a keyboard. Ideally, supplement this with an explanatory help guide on how to navigate the menus, for example: “From the start-up screen, press down twice then press X to enter the options screen.” This provision takes into account people struggling to make out your menu system, such as those able to read Braille but not written English, Dyslexics and so on. Bolstering the digital control method with linked in sounds, vibration and/or bold visual indicators will help further still. Control method wise, it’s also all nice stuff for the majority of gamers.

4. Offer High contrast and high visibility graphics: Ideally offer these as optional features, or integrate them into your game design by default. Take into account colour-blindness and the barriers it can pose. Consider how difficult it would be to play many sports games, if both teams look the same. Would accessibility be improved by dimming non-essential graphics or switching them off completely? Is there a way of magnifying/highlighting elements of the game with it remaining playable? Is it possible to avoid tiny or hard to read fonts?

5. Use Speech and Audio to aid comprehension: Provide text-to-speech and clear sound effects for menu navigation. Attach unique identifying speech or sounds to essential game objects, elements and occurrences. Imagine a first person shooter where a gateway to the next level opens in the distance. Without something indicating that this has happened using a sense other that sight, a visually impaired player may never be aware of it. Consider going as far as adding audio description for scene and context setting. Ultimately, seek to make your game playable without the need for a screen.

Recommended further research: Addressing colour blindness in game design by Josh Tynjala; BBC Article on colour-blindness in games; Colour-blindness "ColorOracle" image checker; Fonts advice from the RNIB; The Accessible GameBase Podcast on Low-Vision Gaming by Dark and Barrie Ellis;  Peggle by Popcap (PC); Shoot 1UP by Mommy’s Best Games (Xbox 360); NanoGames by Dennis Asher (on-line); To Hell with Johnny by Michi.nu (PC); And for Audio-Game design see BlindComputerGames.com and AudioGames.net; Coding resources from Game Accessibility Code. 10-11-2015 UPDATE: SimViz VR Android app simulates various visual impairments in real-time).

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