Friday, December 13, 2013

Games accessibility


I just noticed a post on the blog of the Voxel Agents, authors of the excellent Puzzle Retreat, talking about what they did in the game interface to ensure that the game was playable by the largest possible audience. This earned them the GDAA's Accessibility Award.

Incidentally, I totally love how the GDAA press release that talks about the importance of accessibility is written in black over a very dark grey background, making it almost unreadable even for a normal-sighted person.

Anyway, I found interesting that many of the things mentioned in the post also apply to Zen Garden Puzzle. The lack of timers and penalties is the most obvious one, of course.

Less noticeable is the forgiveness of the detection radius. It's practically impossible to miss a stone in Zen Garden Puzzle, even playing with big thumbs on an iPhone, because the sensitive area around them is huge.

Another accessibility improvement which actually doesn't apply to Puzzle Retreat is support for multitouch. In Zen Garden Puzzle, you can drag up to five stones at the same time. Try it, you will create polyphonic music!

It wasn't really necessary to support multitouch in Zen Garden, because the game mechanics are strictly sequential. The decision to implement it came after watching my (at the time) 10-month old daughter attempting to interact with a prototype of the game. She would grab the iPod with her left hand, with the thumb sticking in front of the screen, so the thumb was stealing all input and anything she tried to do with the right hand would be ignored. Supporting multitouch avoided the problem so she could still move the blocks even if she couldn't hold the device properly.

That still wasn't enough to keep her interested in my game for more than one nanosecond, but hey, at least I tried.



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