I am making this post because Blizzard has asked for feedback on Camera Shakes in Overwatch 2.0. I explain below why I think there should be an option to turn it off completely, as well as why there should be more accessibility options.
Original Post Asking For Feedback On Screen Shake
We’ve seen and heard feedback that the camera shake functionality introduced in OW2 can be either too aggressive or jarring (often due to multiple/layered effects that cause camera shake). As a result, we’ll be looking to adjust and tone down that experience.
What we need from you: share short videos (YouTube clips are fine) of examples of the camera shake functionality being overly egregious.
Thanks in advance for sharing your experiences. Let’s make a great game
Impassioned Plea for Accessibility; Main Points
“Every Voice Matters” -Blizzard Slogan
”Inclusive design matters. Accessible design is good design” –Gautham Appaya (Blizzard Executive)
When we think about accessibility, we tend to imagine a person with an observable disability but this is often not the case. There are over one billion people worldwide with disabilities, including visual, aural, motor, cognitive, and other impairments. These disabilities are often non-observable in everyday life, these people are our friends, teammates, and fellow Gamers. Video games are an activity that everyone should be able to enjoy, accessibility is important today more then ever, and Overwatch needs to catch up to the industry standard.
We Are All Gamers
- “I realized that there was so much more we could be doing” - Nikki Crenshaw (Blizzared Researcher) after finding out her friend could not complete a color puzzle in World of Warcraft because they are colorblind.
Accessibility is for your friends, your teammates, and maybe even you. A sprained wrist, a temporary change in your vision or hearing, a change in cognitive ability as you age, 97.9% of us will have some sort of temporary or permanent disability in our lifetime. Accessibility options literally make games better for everyone. Accessibility features also provide benefits to Gamers that might not suffer from a disability, but still have trouble enjoying the game without options to make a game approachable, like disabling screen shake, disabling bloom, or adjusting the size of the user interface. These options visually make games easier to watch, for example when a Streamer is starting a new game usually the first thing they do in a games options is disable bloom and screen shake, simply because it makes watching a Stream much more enjoyable for their viewers. Simple accessibility options creates a better experience for all Gamers, allowing us to easily perceive and understand the information the game provides us, letting us focus on playing the game rather then fighting unwelcoming game design. These should be options for enabling enjoyment, for some people bloom and the visual feedback of their screen shaking are welcome, for some they cause a mild sense of discomfort, for others eye strain, headaches, sweating, and even neck and shoulder pain, but everyone benefits from options.
Video Games Are Important Part of Life
- “Games have become a social phenomenon connecting billions of players around the world. At Activision Blizzard and King, we embrace our responsibility to ensure that our games reflect society – accurately, accessibly and aspirationally.” -Gautham Appaya (Blizzard Executive)
Recent studies have shown that children playing video games can help boost a child’s intelligence. For adults, playing video games can boost your creativity, improve problem solving skills, and create social bonds for even isolated individuals. With the Covid-19 pandemic video games have allowed us to stay connected with friends, family members, and our communities. Believe it or not but video games have also been shown to improve social skills, create better social relationships, and help us be more collaborative in our day to day activities. Limiting the ability of someone from playing your game based on a disability or impairment is not only inferior game design but bad business. Studies in the UK has shown disabled Gamers are more likely to buy in-game items, watch esports, and engage with various platforms. In other words spending the time to include accessibility options not only is good game design, it increases your market to a group of people who on average play more, spend more, and engage more with your community. As stated before everyone benefits from accessible game design, and the number of people who use accessibility features far exceeds the proportion of players who have disabilities. Video games have become a major part of everyone’s lives, accessibility matters because of how important gaming has become, accessibility needs to be more then an afterthought by developers in today’s world.
Blizzard Should Aspire To Eliminate Barriers As An Industry Leader
”Inclusion is a road that is never done being paved.” - Adrian Ledda (Activision Senior Designer)
”The bottom line for us is that Blizzard is heavily focused on making epic, polished games that are accessible and approachable to the widest possible audiences.” -Lydia Bottegoni (Blizzard Executive Vice President)
”Accessibility is about enabling users to access and successfully use a product. For us, that means removing as many access and usability barriers as possible in our games, so everyone can play.” -Gautham Appaya (Blizzard Executive)
Some of this stuff I was not sure if I should include, but it feels dishonest not to include it because it is something we are all aware of and think about. Blizzard has an image problem, from the gut wrenching stories surrounding the Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Lawsuit, to the recent Diversity Space Tool used by King employees, Bobby’s tone deaf responses, Blizzards positions against free speech, and numerous Employee Walk-outs, it is all too depressing too go into great detail about. We have seen some change, AndyB and Jodie have been great additions, the Overwatch team seems to be switching gears and modernizing, Blizzard seems to be learning and growing while pushing to be a more diverse and progressive company, and there could be some good changes at the top with the future Microsoft deal. We have some reason for the Hopium. With how far accessibility has come in other games, and how Blizzard is making statements like the ones I’ve quoted about accessibility, it would seem strange that Overwatch 2.0 did not come with some modern accessibility features. Take for example screen shake which was the original reason Blizzard was asking for feedback, this is just some of the games that have the options to disable it completely (not ‘tone down’ like the Blizzard post was worded, but completely disabled)
Games With Option To Disable Screen Shake Completely
Rocket League| Stardew Valley|Ark| Lego Star Wars| Kingdom Hearts|Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order| Satisfactory| Valheim| World of Warcraft| Diablo 3 (you have to edit an .ini file though)| Apex Legends| Red Dead 2| God of War| Watch Dogs Legion| Resident Evil Village| Bioshock| Limbo| Counter Strike| Monster Hunter| Slay the Spire| Doom Eternal| Far Cry 6| Black Desert| Gears 5| Back 4 Blood| Hearthstone: Battlegrounds| Diablo 2 Resurrected| Dvinity: Original Sin 2| GTA 5 (mod)| League of Legends| Cyberpunk (Accessibility>Additive Camera Motions>Off)| Rust (Mod)| Dota 2| Halo Infinite| The Last of Us| Uncharted 4.| EA has recently announced a patent pledge to share innovative accessibility technology with the wider video game industry. Ubisoft has aggressively worked to increase accessibility across all of it’s studios setting basic accessibility standards for all their games. Naughty Dog has taken accessibility as a challenge, fitting over 60 accessibility features, presets, assists, and controls into their latest games.
I just listed some of the bigger games that I have heard of, there are a lot of games I did not list, and if you find a game without the option to disable screen shake a simple google search will show many people asking for it to be disabled in those games. You will also notice a few Blizzard titles listed as well, I was really impressed reading about Diablo 2: Resurrected and how Nikki Crenshaw and her team invited players with disabilities to test the alpha and took value in their feedback. Recently in World of Warcraft the option to disable screen shake was added, I was a Warcraft player at the time and I was surprised by just how many people thanked Blizzard for adding the option. For myself I finally got to level up my warrior who’s abilities and heroic leap screen shake had kept him at lv60 for years. Something also to note is our future corporate overlords at Microsoft have made several accessibility guidelines and resources available for developers in a push to make all games more accessible. These resources come specifically from engagement with the Gaming and Disability Communities, meaning that some simple things like accessible fonts that a developer might never consider or know about are all part of a step by step guide for evaluating known barriers and their solutions for your game in development. Blizzard has talented individuals working on other games that are providing accessibility features, they have made statements that they want their games to be inclusive, they have made changes in Overwatch 2.0 like adding a ping system, audio alerts for text feedback like the sound we now hear when a teammate or enemy is killed which increases in pitch as more are killed, as well as the colorblind options we already have. This is an example of what Basic Accessibility could look like for Overwatch 2.0
Volume controls for sound effects critical to game play should have separate volume controls, All important text like killfeed or scoreboard should be scaleable, Bright flashing UI feedback should be adjustable, Any camera shaking or bobbing behaviors must have an option to turn off (this applies to both gameplay and cinematics), Subtitles with adjustible size, Subtitles should distinguish speakers or events with different colors, Subtitles should be in sans serif font or have the option, There must be an option to enable a solid background behind any subtitles, Bloom and Motion blur effects must have an option to be disabled, with pve the list can include difficulty settings, auto saving, or button/key mapping, more advanced options can be text to speech and speech to text for all chat channels and game menu’s
Something I think Blizzard might look into because they are our future corporate overlords is the Microsoft Accessibility Tag. This is actually a really cool system encouraging developers to meet a minimum of Accessibility options that are then listed in the store. I personally know how hard to find out if a game I want to play has the option to disable screen shake. Accessibility options, even the basic ones like subtitles, are often not listed anywhere on a publishers website. Gamers looking for specific Accessibility options often miss out on new game hype because they are instead just hoping they will be able to play a game. There are also many options that require a more in depth explanation, a really cool one is the accessiblity controller modding community. I also have not included much about voice chat, voice chat is toxic as a norm, it gets positively horrific when people with disabilities or even being female join it. This was not a option I saw listed on any of the accessibility features websites I looked at, but I would love a hotkey to mute the person that is currently speaking. This way we do not have to go through two menu’s, right click mute (hopefully the right person), in the middle of a fight while listening to someone yell the n-word repeatedly. I am sure there are many options that I have missed, but I understand not everyone is comfortable discussing their disabilities on a public forum, this is why websites like Microsofts disability accessibilities guidelines are being made for developers.
”Let’s make a great game” -AndyB (Overwatch Community Manager)
Now is the time to add accessibility options to Overwatch 2.0 while the game is still in the design phase. It can be significantly easier to implement accessibility now since guidelines can be met with simple design decisions instead of needing to retrofit later. The number of accessibility options available does not mean a game is accessible, you need direct feedback from people playing your game, which means having them tested during your beta. Video games are an activity that everyone should be able to enjoy, accessibility is important today more then ever, and Overwatch needs to catch up to the industry standard.
This is the longest forum post I have ever written and there is a chance like other posts asking for basic accessibility options it will be ignored or forgotten. If you have made it this far I thank you! Please enjoy this picture of my Cat Rin on her Overwatch 2.0 Cat Tree