DeathRattleHead, I ask... can you keep us up to date on any responses you get?

"There's been an awakening. Have you felt it?"

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I wouldn't say Hand Of Fate is "perfectly doable" combat wise, but the card sections would be with this API.  Combat would need to be completely doable without sight, which isn't always the case (as there are enemies that just shoot at you that you can't always seem to kill, I speak from experience).

An interesting possibility might be things like Halo Wars 2  But as Aaron rightly pointed out, what might be considered as the ideal first game would be KI given that Shadow Lords is pretty much the only unplayable section of the main game.  Menus should be simple enough really and the rest of the interface should be relatively straightforward when it comes to outputting text for, say, story modes etc

Sightless Kombat.
***If you wish to refer to me in @replies, use Sightless***

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Interesting point, how would an isometric game be accessible? This is kind of intriguing.

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So, I want to chip in to the conversation and lend my voice both in support of those who are excited, and in support of those saying let's not get too excited. Here we go...

Let's not get too excited: I think it's unrealistic to expect too much retroactive accessibility in older titles, especially from major studios. I think it's far more likely to expect these opportunities to be taken advantage of in future titles. That's not to say it's not good to ask—we should definitely ask—I'm just saying that I personally don't expect a ton of developers to go back and add in text to speech for their older titles.

We also need to remember that change comes slowly. Just because text-to-speech is now an option, there is no guarantee that developers will be aware of it, or will have a good enough grasp on the needs of blind gamers to implement it in a useful manner. The more titles that come out, and the more noise the community makes about this issue, the more developers will have the necessary awareness and understanding—but as all of that builds momentum, it's possible that things will move slowly at first.

That said...

Get excited: This is a monumental milestone. It's a major console manufacturer saying, "Accessibility is important enough to us that we are going to provide developers with the tools to make their games accessible as easily as possible." Nobody made Microsoft do this; they could have just let dev figure out how to make games self-voice on their own. Instead, they are providing the tools. And where Microsoft goes, you can bet others will follow; as soon as they are able to tap into the vast market of disabled gamers, their competition will not want to be left behind. (I think I heard the phrase 'accessibility arms race' at some point this week.)

What this all means is that a fundamental shift is happening within the industry, and the way big players think about accessibility. To those who say that this will be picked up mostly by indie dev first, and not to expect it to be used by the big developers, consider who gave presentations on accessibility at GDC this year: Microsoft. Lucasfilm. EA. Sony. To name a few. And more than just that, I can tell you from conversations that I had at GDC that there are people in these companies and more who are deeply passionate and excited about game accessibility. When you have a conversation with a creative director from Microsoft (and not someone directly involved with accessibility) who tells you that they're having weekly meetings about how to make games more accessible, including things like "How do we make an object at rest have a presence in the soundscape so that players can locate it without sight?", it's clear to me that this is something that is being considered throughout the industry. Again, the machine moves very slowly, and I'm sure it's just as discouraging for those people inside these companies who are working tirelessly to advocate for game accessibility, only to see how slowly and incrementally things change. But they are changing, and it's not just at an indie level.

So I guess what I would say is: be excited. Be so excited that you make a ton of noise about this, because the more noise there is, the more developers will take note. But in your excitement, also recognize that this is just a step in a long, slow process. Not because nobody cares, and not because the big companies are just interested in profit, and not because the world is out to get us—but just because change is hard, and slow, and difficult, and that's the way it is.

To borrow a metaphor Ian used in a conversation about this very issue: the bosun of a ship has to spin the wheel frantically just to get the ship to turn, and at first it seems like it isn't turning at all. But he doesn't give up and stop—he keeps turning it, trusting that he's doing what he needs to, and eventually the ship starts to move. And the great thing is, once the ship starts turning, it's nearly impossible to stop it.

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Well put, Joseph! I think that's a well balanced viewpoint of the situation. But the fact that you heard something from Sony representatives is hopefully a good sign that accessibility efforts have not been abandoned by them... not just on the blindness front, but in general. It's been at least a year since we saw the last major improvement to the TTS enhancements, and nothing has been dealt with ever since, nor have any of the current accessibility features seen updates. Hopefully, this is a sign that there are things still being worked on...


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I don't recall if Sony themselves made any noise about accessibility, but one of their proprietary titles (Uncharted 4) is definitely making waves in the accessibility world, and I know there were people from Sony at the inaugural Game Accessibility Conference. But again, once Microsoft's accessibility features start stealing away their customers, you had better believe Sony will get in gear too.

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32 (edited by Chris 2017-03-06 04:48:57)

This is fantastic! I never thought I'd live to see the day when the almighty Microsoft corporation would take the time and effort to discuss and build tools for accessible games. Microsoft has done a complete 180 on their stance regarding inclusion for all disabilities in a matter of a couple years. I'm incredibly excited for the Windows 10 Creator update and anything else that may come in the future. I'll be watching this space to see if any good and accessible titles come out. I'm not sold on the whole Xbox and gaming consoles thing just yet.

Grab my Adventure at C: stages Right here.

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if sony bothers improving anything it'll be confined to the US, business as usual. Based on their current track record. This is a complete and utter disgrace imo.

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Joseph, regards to uncharted 4, it does look to be making waves... nothing on the vision front though, unfortunately. would love yo get my hands on that one and play through it!


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Chris they are now just branches of the same platform, so it's the win10/Xbox creators update

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Assault: Correct, but a win for accessibility is a win for accessibility, and should be celebrated. Because of the multifaceted nature of accessibility for the blind, it's probably one of the more difficult types of accessibility to pull off as there's no simple, consistent solution. But the more accessibility is taken into account in general, the more the culture in the game industry surrounding accessibility will change, and the better our chances will be of seeing people take blind gamers' needs into consideration.

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Absolutely. I haven't heard anything yet, but I will continue to follow up. I've just been busy with other projects outside gaming as of late.

I will make contact sometime this week for sure.

On the topic at hand, I understand both points of view. It's hard to get excited when the accessibility issue was not mentioned for such a long time that people become very skeptical.

However, it's still definitely exciting because accessibility is slowly but surely becoming more mainstream.

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Alright. I have some news, but I don't really know the best way of doing this.
I actually live around 20 minutes away from a game dev, called staneless games I think. They are the creators of the carmageddon series. I don't know if they still make this next game or not, but I think they were also involved with the magic the gathering series. I'm trying to convince my Dad to take me into the reception to see if we can arrange a meeting, as he knows the area where they are a bit more than me and also he's worked as a sales manager for a business, not a game business but a business, none the less. He's up for it, but he's also a bit sceptic, worried about them just wanting money. If I get to end up having a meeting with these guys, what should I do? I can mention the API, yes, but that will just be a minute or so. What else can I do? Do I provide examples, for instance, top speed 3 for racing audiogames pans the car from left to right depending where it is on the road, and an audiogame called Crazy Party has a card battling mode, explaining what info is said? Or, do I just go in, mention I'm a blind gamer, mention the API, and then, and only then, see what happens, and not jump in?

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aaron you're IOW? hah, for some reason i thought you were in mainland europe somewhere.

I wouldn't go in on the basis of carmageddon, go in asking about magic the gathering instead. that's a way easier ask (and a more popular profitable game too).

I'm not too sure about cold-calling reception, I'd research names of individual UI developers on twitter and speak to them there first, but that's just me.

either way I'd suggest a half-day hack session just to have an experiment and see what might be possible with the API, with you there to test stuff out as they go.

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Hang on, aren't the MTG devs Stainless Steel games, a totally different company though? I swear I remember that from somewhere...like a review of the newest MTG games.

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41 (edited by magurp244 2017-03-07 04:28:06)

Your referring to [Stainless Games], yes? They are indeed working on a Magic Duels card game based on MTG and Carmageddon Max Damage. I'm not sure how one would approach a company for such things, perhaps shooting the company an email, or providing a petition/survey showing interesting in accessibility presented by the new API? Their site lists the names of current management, with Patrick Buckland as CEO, and Shaun Smith as Creative Director.

-BrushTone v1.3.1: Accessible Paint Tool
-AudiMesh3D v1.0.0: Accessible 3D Model Viewer

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@Ian: Yep, that's exactly the game I wanted to mention, magic the gathering, I just mentioned carmageddon as a game that other people might know, and not necessarily one ofr the API as of yet. Also, [wow], someone who actually knows what the IOW is! This is kind of cool.
I'll have to see what I can do. If I spoke/contacted someone, will the also know who you are if I mentioned your name, or will I have to just go in myself?

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Well, this is going to be tricky. While it's true that Stainless do, indeed, develop Magic, according to the person I was on the phone to (I did not ask a name, as it was a receptionist), they might not be able to add the API without Wizard of The Coast's consent.
The email address on their page is their corporate address, so I don't know about using that address to contact them.
Now, I did say I'm a blind gamer. I mentioned recent events at gdc, such as the xbox game pass. I then said that the next announcement was the one that interested the blind community, the API, I said that this could be used to read the menus and text. I said one of the projects could benefit from it.
She asked which project. So, I said magic. The trouble with magic, is we are only developers, you'd have to speak to someone from wizards of the coast. We just make what we're told, was the answer that I got.
I don't know what to do next. The thing is, I was in contact with a receptionist, and as Ian says, this was more of a cold call, and perhaps, not a good idea. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to proceed?

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I'd get in twitter and find some stainless MTG producers, and ask them for advice.. if they seem receptive online, tell them you're local and ask if you can buy them a coffee for a chat in person.

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Have we got any other updates, here?

"There's been an awakening. Have you felt it?"

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Regarding Stainless, not at the moment. I haven't contacted them since. I also ahven't touch twitter in a while but I'll probably consider it again. Am weighing up my options as well. I'm probably going to try to approach the Hand of Fait developers as well. I might even tell Stainless this, if I end up getting a response, because that might mean they could feel less pressured. I don't want them to think that this is a race or end up making them feel bad. Also, if they really are stuck with having to approach Wizards of The Coast to get Magic Duels to become accessible, I don't know if they'd be willing to. What you all have to remember is this, sure, it'll be awesome to get a game to be accessible, but with something like magic, there are more thigns than accessibility. Remember we're not talkigna bout people just coding here, we're talking about people with jobs. Mike Z from Skullgirls coded it because he was head coder and wasn't restricted by companies, it seems. Hand of Fate is also self published so we might be in with a better chance than Magic at this stage. However, I've yet to approach those devs.

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The problem with Stainless is MtG is a licensed game and that carries a complex agreement with it.

In extremely simple terms, a  licensing agreement may be something like this:

You can use my book setting in your game but you can't use my characters or my plotlines.

Of course, this being videogames.....it's a lot more complex than that, and licensing agreements are for the most part, usually legal fights between companies, and pretty much everyone involved has an NDA on them so they can't explain the specifics.

In short....even if Stainless wanted to add in TTS they do have to go through WotC first and then wait on their response. Which takes time.

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Oh my gosh. No wonder they asked me to do this. I'm wondering if they might be able to help me as well though, as I don't currently have any wizards of the coast contacts.

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Short version:

Contact Stainless's legal team and let them take it from there.

Longer version:

Start by talking to Stainless's legal team and see where that gets you, ask if they can contact WotC's legal team and send as much proof of why TTS would be useful and why blind gamers should be included as well, and also cite the GDC talks in your arguments too to provide proof this is something WotC need to consider for their games*

Even if WotC say no, they aren't including TTS, it's something and you'll have at least gone through the proper channels and got a response from the right people. Also, legal teams re a hell of alot more powerful than one single person who is going to a dev and saying hey, this is needed because X and Y and Z, whereas if you make a compelling argument to a legal team that's working with either Stainless or MtG....you'll at least put the idea there that the TTS is needed.

*Assuming they make any more MtG games that is

* #2: That being said don't expect a quick or cheap reply. You might have to start shelling out cash for dealing with legal teams.

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I'm not too sure if they have a legal team. All I can find on their website is a corporate inbox, I also have their phone number as well which works for me as I'm local.
So there's now a few avenues I can persue, I could try Ian's twitter method but I don't really know who I'm looking for. WHatever happens here I might have to go back to either phoning, or contacting the corporate inbox.

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