First off, we wanted to thank you, Dirtypawz, for your continued feedback and suggestions. Your perspective in the Community Council represents an important part of our player community, and your vocalness on blind accessibility opportunities in WoW is much appreciated.
We wanted to give you some insight on how development goes in these areas. The first step is always trying to figure out what issues there are that we can try to improve. This can involve emails from players to our accessibility inbox, feedback from areas like forums and social media, surveys, playtests, and more. Right now, our team has a number of feature requests from players like you on where we can improve on accessibility, and we’ve been making our way through that list, all while finding new things to address.
For features that focus on accessibility or include options for more accessible play, we discuss what kinds of players this feature or setting is designed to help and what barriers we’re trying to break down so folks can successfully play the game. A large part of this process is collaborations between multiple sub-groups across the WoW Team. For many of our accessibility initiatives, the User Interface team plays a role, for example, our UI Revamp including new options for players to independently resize and move different aspects of the user interface. For others, the Sound team gets involved, for example, the recent update to Dragon Races to include positional audio on rings located around the course. Some initiatives require fundamental changes to how our current gameplay works, and require assistance from our Engineering teams, such as the recent hold to cast update. Generally, we also want to involve our User Research team to test these features with real players and make sure that needs are being addressed, and if not, that the feature can be iterated on before going live for the general public.
Some features can be pretty focused where a particular need is identified and one developer is able to work on potential solutions and even put together a very preliminary version of something as a “proof of concept” to demonstrate the new feature for leadership approval before more testing gets done. Other times new accessibility features can involve multiple teams which takes a longer time to get aligned on the different deliverables before it can be implemented in a content update. Because WoW is such a large game with a very diverse audience, there are a lot of opportunities for us to improve accessibility for a number of our players, and it’s been a major focus of ours as we go into Dragonflight. As an example, the Action Targeting option that is coming in Dragonflight took a lot of playtesting and feedback to feel smooth, natural, and polished before it even got to the point of being announced and introduced in the beta. We wanted to make sure it made sense what was being targeted and why, and it led to discussions about additional development, some of which you’ve seen some online since on the beta, for example the sound cue when a player is in range of something interactable.
As for these suggestions specifically - Having TTS read out other elements of the game, such as name plates, is something that has been on our team’s radar for a while, but comes with a number of technical complications that we are still working through. The z-axis inclusion is a bit more tricky due to other impacts it can have on the existing systems in the game, but as with all of the things you’ve mentioned, they will be discussed. We can’t make any promises, but want you to know that you continue to be heard and we look forward to sharing some of our upcoming projects with you soon.
Until then, we are excited to release a variety of new accessibility features in Dragonflight and look forward to seeing how they help the community experience the game.