Was the New World beta accessible?
Note 1: For a more pleasant reading because of the images, I advise you to read this article on a PC or a tablet.
Note 2: This article is a translation. For the original article, click on Français in the menu.
The study I am conducting with Parasports Quebec has opened my eyes to how accessibility in video games is often taken for granted, when it is far from it. While there is much to learn and discover, I would like to refine my knowledge in the field, and contribute in a tangible way. To that end, I would like to gradually develop an expertise that would allow me to help players with any kind of disability who are left to their own devices at the moment. This is a first test article of this kind. Therefore, I would like to have as many retrospectives as possible, whether it be on format, content, style or otherwise.
For this article, I’ll do a quick overview of the elements following the list of recommendations from the “Pew Pew Pew! We Wanna Play Too! Making Video Games Accessible” from Level Access (2017 est.). Several other resources were consulted, such as the Game accessibility guidelines (2021), Ability Powered Gaming (2013), or Accessible Games, which is the primary source for the first guide mentioned (AbleGamers Charity, 2021). However, we will not use them this time.
About the game
New World (Amazon, 2021a) is a new massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) made by Amazon. The article analyzes the 165 CL: 1377626 closed beta version of the game. Currently, the game is available only on PC.
Legend (Level Access, 2017 est.) :
• Tier 1 (Good): These are the bare-minimum features that a game should have to bemore accessible. Many of the features in this tier are already common in video games.
• Tier 2 (Better): These are easy-to-implement features that will enhance the experiencefor people with disabilities.
• Tier 3 (Best): This is an ideal list of features for people with disabilities, without regardfor cost or time required to implement the features.
Access for players with reduced mobility
Level 1 (good): Re-applicable keys, alternative configurations, and controls on the camera.
As we can see in the previous screenshot, it is possible to modify all the keyboard actions. Therefore, alternative configurations are not necessary here. As for the camera controls, more options, such as camera inversion and sensitivity, are available via the gameplay tab.
Level 2 (better): Third party access, mobile user interface, macros, difficulty settings, fail safes, save points, sensitivity settings, click-to-move / mouse-to-move, keyboard movement, and assistants.
Besides my keyboard-mouse, I only have a Microsoft Xbox 360 controller (link) and a Tobii Eye Tracker 5 (link) for testing. Surprisingly, nothing works in the beta. New World’s Twitter account is a bit contradictory as to what will be supported by the game at release. Initially, the controllers were supposed to be fully usable at launch. Now it seems that the peripherals will be usable at the release of the game with the help of third-party programs. In any case, this remains disappointing for all those who would have liked to play the beta, but need adapted hardware (New World, 2021a; 2021b; 2021c).
The user interface is not mobile and there are only a few modification options.
In the next screenshot taken today, you see all the information a player sees on his screen. In my case, for example, I would like to move the number 8, or even make it disappear completely. Knowing how many bullets I have left for my musket is relevant, but I don’t need to have it permanently in the middle of my screen. Even worse, the image of the shell casing, which quickly looks like a mouse cursor, sometimes confused me with the actual sight which is number 7. Screenshot explanation: compasses with markers and fields of interest (1), written channels (2), experience bar (3), life, mana and/or stamina bars (4), temporary asset bonuses and malus (5), player avatar (6), sight (7), ammunition (8), PvP or PvE mode indicator (9), character weight (10), skills available for the weapon in hand (11), location for items usable outside the menu (12), and current quests (13).
As for macros, this response from a community manager on the official New World forum indicates that they are currently prohibited (New World, 2021d). Virtually, this would greatly reduce the opportunity to use a mechanic that many light armor users currently use: at the same time as rolling to the ground, you must draw/holster your weapon. This cancels the animation after the roll, so you can do almost three rolls in a row.
Difficulty settings, fail safes and save points are special in an MMORPG. In PvE, the player can go and fight monsters lower than him, ask for help from friends, or do quests and job-related tasks. These mechanics don’t really apply to PvP.
The sensitivity settings are limited. The only one is for the camera in general. Having talked to a player with benign fasciculation syndrome, this makes playing with a musket extremely difficult.
According to my observations and tests, it is not possible to click-to-move / mouse-to-move or use the keyboard for 100% of your movements. For assistance, the game will help you easily find what you need for your missions with various distinct visual elements. There are no skill assist mechanics, such as the aim-assit in some shooter games.
Level 3 (best): control devices and speed parameters
We have discussed the control devices previously. For the beta, there’s nothing possible there. As far as speed settings go, that’s not really possible in a real-time world with 999 other players at the same time. There should be a possibility to play the PvE world in “private instance”.
Level 1 (good): changeable text colors, changeable font size, color-blind options, high-contrast aiming reticule, and enemy marking.
Although the text color does not seem to be changeable, the font size is. Here are the options for colorblindness: protanopia, protanomaly, deuteranopia, deuteranomaly, tritanopia, tritanomaly, achromatopsia, achromatomaly. The following image has the protanopia filter activated.
Besides making it always visible or not, there doesn’t seem to be an option to change the aiming reticule in any way. As for marking the enemy, it’s not necessarily obvious. As you can see in the next screenshot, even using the basic musket sight and from a distance, the enemy in PvP is identified only by a red square above his head. In PvE, the following screenshot, it is easier to identify the enemies.
Level 2 (better): customizable fonts, customizable HUD, and alternative views for maps.
None of this is possible in the beta.
Level 3 (best): speed settings and speech synthesis
We discussed the speed settings earlier in the article. For text-to-speech, there are even several options that are available for this feature.
Level 1 (good): closed captioning
No, there are no tone-of-voice or emotional elements in the subtitles.
Level 2 (better): editable fonts and text colors
As mentioned above, this is not possible in the beta.
Level 3 (best): ambient noise as text, and alternative feedback input
None of this is configurable. For the alternative reaction input, the majority of sound cues are also accompanied by visual cues. In the scenarios tested, it is only when the enemy is outside the field of vision, so the visual cue is not perceptible, that the sound really becomes essential.
Many of the elements have already been mentioned. So we will only focus on the new ones. At level 1 (good), the presence of a mini-tutorial at the beginning of the game helps the new player to take those first steps. However, there are so many mechanics and things to learn, that I myself felt lost at one point. Especially when I was trying to figure out how to make balls, or just use them. There is no Sandbox mode, but I’m sure it could be done under a private instance model if Amazon ever wanted it.
At level 2 (better), we could say that there are training levels, and that it is PvE in general. The menus are intuitive enough that it is not, in my experience, difficult to navigate through them.
The New World beta could have been much more accessible than it was. I hope that this will really be fixed when the game is released in a month.
Thanks for making it this far! This article was much longer than what I usually post, but I loved the exercise. Your comments are welcome.
- Ability Powered Gaming (2021). Website: http://www.abilitypowered.com (accessed July 31, 2021).
- AbleGamers Charity (2021). Accessible Games website : https://accessible.games/ (accessed July 31, 2021).
- Amazon (2021a). New World website : https://www.newworld.com/ (accessed July 31, 2021).
- Game accessibility guidelines (2021). Website : http://gameaccessibilityguidelines.com/ (accessed July 31, 2021).
- Level Access (2017 est.) Pew Pew Pew! We Wanna Play Too! Making Video Games Accessible, downloadable at : https://www.levelaccess.com/resources/pew-pew-pew-wanna-play-making-video-games-accessible/ (uploaded 2017 (estimated), accessed July 31, 2021).
- New World (2021a), publication on Twitter : https://twitter.com/playnewworld/status/1374550659949854724 (posted on March 23, 2021, accessed July 31, 2021).
- New World (2021b), publication on Twitter : https://twitter.com/playnewworld/status/1403232967116328960 (online June 11, 2021, accessed July 31, 2021).
- New World (2021c), publication on Twitter : https://twitter.com/playnewworld/status/1416222593103929345 (online July 16, 2021, accessed July 31, 2021).
- New World (2021d), answer from a community manager on the official New World forum: https://forums.newworld.com/t/macros-allowed-or-not/190310/16 (online July 29, 2021, accessed July 31, 2021)
Original text available in French.