Cam Hopkinson wants everyone to be able to enjoy Wayward Strand

For Global Accessibility Awareness Day how the team at Ghost Pattern are working to make sure their game playable by as many people as possible.
ADVERTISEMENT
A picture of Cameron Hopkinson, who has long brown hair, light skin and dark eyes. They have a stuffed toy on their shoulder that resembles a wombat.
Cameron Hopkinson is the co-founder of Accessibility Unlocked an advocacy group for disabled and neurodiverse game developers

The clock in Wayward Strand is always ticking forward.

As you guide Casey Beaumaris through the floating hospital ship, life moves on around you as each character keeps to their own schedule.

It's a key part of the design of the game that the team at Ghost Pattern have crafted and it's meant to feel like each character has their own virtual life.

It's exactly that ticking clock that means some players miss out on the full experience.

Cam Hopkinson is an accessibility consultant and co-founder of Accessibility Unlocked! who is working with Ghost Pattern and they say it's important to think about those people that need more time to make decisions in games.

"The biggest ideas that we are exploring right now though is to do with the fact that everything in Wayward is on a schedule, but cognitively disabled people may need more time to read text and make decisions while players who have motor-related disabilities may need more time to input decisions that they make," said Hopkinson.

"Some hypothetical solutions include playing with how time works, including potentially pausing time when the player is selecting dialogue options or letting a player slow down time."

"We are also looking at a text log (like for instance the one in Fire Emblem: Three Houses) that contains dialogue that the player has seen, so if they potentially miss some text because of the game keeping to a schedule, it could be revisited."

A screenshot from the video game Wayward Strand. An old woman sits in a green chair knitting a pink scarf looking at a girl sitting on the bed next to her.

Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, where everyone not only game developers, are encouraged to think about how people with different levels of ability can access their work.

Big budget video games like the Last of Us Part 2 have been praised for myriad of configurable options available to players to tailor their experience, but Hopkinson says if you're on a tighter indie budget starting your accessibility plans early makes all the difference.

"If you are creating a game with accessibility in mind from the outset, then you can make design choices that result in a more accessible game," said Hopkinson.

"It is far simpler to implement accessibility features in the first place than it is to try and add them to existing features."

"Remember that a partial solution is better than no solution at all. If your text is too small, but increasing it to what is recommended results in your text system breaking, then increasing it a little is better than not increasing it at all."

A cutaway through a wall shows an old man sitting on a bed as a girl places her ear against the wall. Two women are walking out the door of the room, the one on the left is hunched over and has grey hair and the one on the right is taller and has long blonde hair.
The ability to over hear conversations in the game is a feature to unlock the story, but this might be trickier mechanic for some players.

Hopkinson who is a neurodiverse game developer, said it was conversations in the Accessibility Unlocked group that prompted them to learn more about how they could make games better for everyone.

"My work with this group meant that I was in a lot of accessibility spaces and I was getting a lot of questions about accessibility, even though what I was doing was more developer focused while game accessibility is more player focused," said Hopkinson.

"I figured that it was becoming enough of a thing that I should learn more about game accessibility so I began researching it."

"What I found was that a lot of what I thought were a lot of personal pet peeves in games were actually accessibility issues related to me being autistic, so I became more involved in accessibility."

"I had a reasonably rough and quite isolated childhood and games were both a respite and a means to connect with others for me, I know that this is the case for a lot of other disabled people, helping other disabled people have that same respite that I did is important to me."

Game Accessibility Resources

You can watch a discussion of how accessibility is being improved in Wayward Strand which was streamed on the Wayward Strand Twitch channel below or wishlist the game on Steam.