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A great game can spawn countless imitators — look at Breath of the Wild or Stardew Valley — and it’s all but unheard of for a company to tell its competitors the magic formula. But accessibility is increasingly becoming a notable exception to that rule.

God of War Ragnarok — a continuation of the 2018 adventures of the grizzled warrior Kratos and his tween son Atreus, and the ninth installment of a venerable PlayStation franchise — is the most accessible game in the series yet. To help make that vision a reality, the team at Santa Monica Studio turned to the folks at Naughty Dog, known for its boundary-breaking innovations for players with auditory, visual, and motor differences.

In keeping with that spirit of open collaboration, Lead UX Designer Mila Pavlin says the team at Santa Monica Studio isn’t interested in keeping the 70+ accessibility innovations in God of War Ragnarok a secret.

“Accessibility has a very unique place when it comes to cross-collaboration because it is the one set of features where we want that innovation to spread. We don’t want to contain that just to one franchise,” Pavlin tells Inverse.

“If we can develop a feature and then someone else were to implement a very similar feature based on our work, that would be a bonus to the player overall. That’s something that we want to encourage, that the community for accessibility is sharing that information,” she adds. “Accessibility is for everyone. It’s not a race. Regardless of who comes out with a feature first, the player is really the winner at the end.”

Like the rest of the gaming world, Pavlin and the team at Santa Monica Studio were impressed by Naughty Dog’s groundbreaking innovations for 2020’s The Last of Us Part II, which includes a broad suite of tools to customize the experience to an individual’s preferences and needs. Ragnarok was already well into development at that point. Still, the team was eager to incorporate some of those innovations into the next God of War game. Naughty Dog was happy to oblige.

“They shared information about consultants they had brought in and players they had consulted with. We were fortunate enough to have one of their team members join our team as an accessibility designer, which especially helped us with some of the motor functions and many of the combat accessibility items. It gave us a direct connection into the accessibility community,” Pavlin says.

God of War Ragnarok’s accessibility features encompass four main areas: hearing, motor, cognitive, and vision. Notably, the game builds upon the high-contrast visual mode pioneered in TLOU 2, allowing players to assign more than a dozen brightly-colored filters to more easily distinguish between enemies, treasure chests, NPCs, and bosses. Pavlin says the depth and breadth of those options in Ragnarok were directly inspired by player feedback.

“Players were telling us what they wanted, as opposed to us deciding on these things,” she explains. “There’s a statement in the accessibility community, ‘never about us without us.’ We really took that to heart.” 바카라사이트


The goal wasn’t simply to make Ragnarok easier, but to make it more enjoyable for more players — whether this is their first God of War game or they’re seasoned veterans of grueling battles with Valkyries and trolls.

“We’ve had some of our low-vision players say that they wanted to play on Give Me God of War [the series’ highest difficulty], but they just had trouble understanding what was happening on screen,” Pavlin explains. “Adding features like high contrast made it approachable in a way that didn’t significantly change the experience.”

Ragnarok’s suite of accessibility options also includes a host of quality-of-life tweaks many players could benefit from, like automated item pickups and customizable subtitles. This philosophy of helping players have the best experience possible is baked into the game in more subtle ways, too.

For instance, if you spend a bit of time bumbling to find a solution to a puzzle, one of your companion characters will offer a clue, like “maybe you should try your axe.” Better still, if you notice a conspicuous object that’s just begging to be tinkered with, those same companions will flat-out tell you “we should come back later” rather than let you bang your head against the wall for half an hour.

These kinds of additions aren’t settings that can be turned on or off. Each situation needs to be individually produced and scripted, which is a massive undertaking for something that may be a boon to series newcomers, but longtime fans might never notice.


“What we’re trying to do is create an experience where you can organically learn things and experience that world, so as you become more confident, we can step back a little bit and let you go wild,” Pavlin says. “That is a hand-done, hand-written, hand-tailored kind of experience. That’s one of the things that makes the game so great, the love and care that has gone into this.”

Making Ragnarok approachable to more players also demanded a dramatic rethinking of some core mechanics from the 2018 game. The team scrapped and rebuilt the entire user interface to accommodate larger text sizes, and reworked the control scheme to allow for button remapping. The team also built in more flexibility for “flavor moments” like quicktime events and traversal, adding options for fewer button inputs where the team felt it didn’t detract from the experience.

Pavlin hopes all of those changes will add up to a game more players can love.

There are a lot more people who are able to play Ragnarok now than were able to play the 2018 game,” she says. “I think the expansion of accessibility is really going to surprise people.” 온라인카지노


‘I saw the possibility of what could be done – so I did it’: revolutionary video game The Hobbit turns 40

As a teenager, Veronika Megler was intent on becoming a statistician. She signed up for a computer science course at Melbourne University, reasoning it would assist her chosen career. “I think there were four women in a class of about 220 people, and it was pretty misogynistic,” she recalls. Megler had already built her own PC, buying the motherboard, chips, capacitors and diodes from an electronics shop in Melbourne. “In the store they’d say ‘tell your boyfriend we don’t have these’,” she recalls.카지노사이트

Realising that statistics wasn’t for her, Megler answered a newspaper advert for a part-time programming job at a local software company called Melbourne House. It was 1980, and she was halfway through a course that focused on designing operating systems and developing programming languages. “The day I was hired, the first thing my boss said to me was, ‘write the best adventure game ever,’” she remembers. The eventual result of this instruction was The Hobbit, a landmark 1982 text adventure game that’s still fondly remembered today.

Though the 20-year-old didn’t have a lot of experience with video games, she’d enjoyed one in particular. “I had found Colossal Cave Adventure addictive until the point where I had mapped out the game and solved it. Then it instantly became boring, and I never played it again. So I thought about what it was that made that game stop being interesting, and designed a game that didn’t have any of those issues.”

Megler enlisted fellow student Phillip Mitchell to assist with the game’s parser – the code that helps the game and the player to understand each other, turning words into commands and vice versa. The story was originally a generic fantasy adventure. However, as fans of Tolkien’s work, Megler and Mitchell suggested using one of his works as a base for the game. The sprawling and epic The Lord of the Rings stories were the most famous; the programmers suggested that the less complex and tighter plot of The Hobbit would be a better fit.

Melbourne House boss Fred Milgrom loved the idea, and Megler began adapting the book. “I went through it and identified key locations, characters, puzzles and events,” she says. “Then I tried to map that into the game. It seemed doable. But it was a stretch. And probably a little too ambitious.” By the time Melbourne House secured the Hobbit licence, Megler had already designed much of the game’s engine.

In most text adventures of the time, the player typed commands – examine sword, go north – and the program reacted accordingly with a set of preset replies. But writing code on a TRS-80 knock-off computer from Australian manufacturer Dick Smith Electronics, Megler created an innovative system that allowed the player to experiment with different commands and objects. “The classic example was ‘turn on lamp’. It turns on the lamp, right? But turn on the angry dwarf, and you turn him into a randy dwarf that continually propositions you,” laughs Megler. (Sadly, this particular interaction was removed from the final game.)

In an era where most text adventures could be boiled down to a game of “guess the correct verb”, The Hobbit allowed for adverbs and using items, eliminating the issues that had bugged her in Colossal Cave Adventure. The game also allowed for the passage of time: if you dawdled for too long in the wrong place, Bilbo soon became a juicy snack for a troll.바카라사이트

“I saw it as a super-interesting puzzle to solve – and I saw the possibility of what could be done – so I just did it,” says Megler. “There were essentially message templates and a dictionary of words, and a lot of the power of the game comes from the fact that there are just three or four basic ideas that interact with a fair amount of randomness to create what can be called emergent behaviour.” At a time when most home computer video games were still coded in Basic language, this was remarkably progressive work.

Megler had the foresight to structure her system so it could be scrubbed clean and used as the basis for more games. “I designed [The Hobbit] so that it would have pluggable parts: you could take the same basis for the game and then just change the character lists and map and sell it as a different game.” Sadly, apart from a followup based around Sherlock Holmes, Melbourne House failed to take advantage. It seemed the world was not ready for an adaptable game engine.

About halfway through writing The Hobbit, Megler and Mitchell were called away to work on another game called Penetrator – Melbourne House’s transparent knock-off of Konami’s seminal scrolling shoot-’em-up Scramble. They created an excellent clone with an innovative feature: a level designer. “After we’d written Penetrator, the idea came up of adding a graphical element to the Hobbit,” remembers Megler. Artist Kent Rees drew the famous images, which Mitchell expertly rendered into the game using a minimal amount of precious memory.

If there’s one thing that anybody who played The Hobbit in the 80s remembers with a smile – or a grimace – it’s that annoying dwarf-king in exile, and his enthusiastic singing. “One of the iconic things about Thorin in the book was that he frequently sat down and sang about gold,” grins Megler. “So, I picked that up as something that was quintessentially him … The problem with Thorin was that the sequence was too short! So he ended up sitting down and singing about gold much more than he did in the book.”

Released in the UK and Australia in 1982, The Hobbit accrued glowing reviews and awards in the press. The ambition, skill and determination of these two part-time students, charged with making the “best adventure game ever”, has influenced a whole generation of gamers and coders. “I think solving a problem within tight constraints – which is the space we were in – unleashes a very different type of creativity,” concludes Megler. “And that in itself can be very powerful.”

Why is it that The Hobbit made such an impression? Forty years on, why is it still talked about? “I think it’s because it was revolutionary compared to the other games available at the time,” muses Megler. “I mean, I’ve had letters from people who talked about how it’s changed their life; others who became interested in relationships and people rather than just shooting games. And people who have done PhDs in linguistics because they found the parser so fascinating.”온라인카지노