Ubisoft has been working on improving accessibility in its games for a while now and during Global Accessibility Awareness Day, accessibility project manager David Tisserand shared details of a much larger upcoming initiative. This includes involving community experts in the development process before a game launches, training new developers with best practices, instructing developers all over the world, and ensuring that new technologies are as compatible as possible for upcoming titles.
The new initiative spearheaded by Tisserand, included an accessible design workshop that took place six months ago. Developers, disabled content creators, and accessibility advocates all came together to talk about how games can be made more accessible and how the overall experience can be improved for everyone. “The first thing was to create a framework, which was divided into three different categories,” Tisserand said. “Informing our staff, supporting developers to deliver accessible products from production, design, and programming standpoints, and listening to the community.”
The main idea is to instruct existing and upcoming developers as much as possible, while also involving accessibility advocates in early stages of development. Ubisoft has started sending out review copies to content creators with disabilities and accessibility sites so that they can inform their audiences prior to launch. In addition, there have been workshops where they invite players in for one to two days sessions to provide feedback about upcoming projects. “Getting feedback early is way more efficient than fixing later if you realize you made a mistake,” Tisserand added.
The quality assurance department is also working on accessibility, and have been doing so for almost two years, providing feedback whenever possible. Tisserand says that one of his goals is to ensure that Ubisoft is”100% committed to it by the end of 2019.”
According to the feedback, the most demanded and impactful feature is button/key remapping for both PC and consoles. This has been implemented for both Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Far Cry: New Dawn, and developers are looking to follow up on this in future titles as well.
Another aspect they actively look into is making sure Ubisoft games are colorblind friendly. This can be implemented with filters, like the ones in The Division 2 or through design like in For Honor, where the team used the colors orange and blue for each players’ team, instead of the usual red and green.
“It becomes a loop: We receive feedback, we add this to the initiative, and then we try to work on it as efficiently as possible in the different areas. Or, in the case of The Division 2, try to act on it and improve the title with updates,” Tisserand said. At the moment, there are no extra features to announce coming to The Division 2, but he ensured the developers are aware of the received feedback from players.
Tisserand is the only Ubisoft employee with an official accessibility role, but more than a hundred people are working on improving accessibility across more than 40 studios in the company. He sees this as a “spread initiative” and hopes that even more developers at Ubisoft start to make these pre-emptive efforts in accessibility “second nature.”