Game designer at Naughty Dog, software engineer, Canadian abroad
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Accessibility for The Last of Us Part II

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Naughty Dog developers and accessibility consultants

Earlier this year we wrapped up four years of development and shipped The Last of Us Part II. While most of my work was on systems, combat, and AI, I also co-headed our effort to push the boundaries of accessibility.

We established our goals early in preproduction. We wanted to build on the motor accessibility features from Uncharted 4, offering more options for players to customize controls and simplify inputs. We wanted to have scale, colour, and contrast options for our HUD and subtitles. Most ambitiously, we wanted to create a suite of features that would allow a blind player to complete the game without sighted assistance. By the time the game shipped, we had developed over 60 accessibility features.

To hear a full breakdown of our development process, check the talk that Emilia Schatz and I recently presented at GAConf. We discuss how we planned our production, worked with terrific consultants, iterated on our features, and integrated accessibility into our regular playtesting. Many thanks to Ian Hamilton and Tara Voelker for inviting us to speak.

After years of development, it’s been so exciting to see the reactions from fans about how these features have benefited them. Some have called The Last of Us Part II “the most accessible game ever”. The story also got picked up outside of the video game press, with coverage from CNN, BBC, and USA Today; Emilia and I even had a radio interview with NPR Morning Edition.

Our dearest hope is that our push for accessibility helps advance the state of the art in the games industry and inspires other developers to make it a priority. Many thanks to our accessibility consultants and testers, our collaborators at SIE Worldwide Studios, and everyone at Naughty Dog who helped make these features possible.

Photo credit: Misty Rayburn

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Gangles
22 days ago
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Santa Monica, California
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Golden Age

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
That poor little box-shaped robot really really wants to make lunch.


Today's News:
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Gangles
468 days ago
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Santa Monica, California
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1 public comment
llucax
472 days ago
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The Jetsons had a housekeeping-cleaning android, but of course it was a lady android.
Berlin
412 days ago
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Combat Design & AI in Uncharted 4

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Matthew Gallant speaking at GDC 2017

Back in 2017, I gave my first talk at GDC about combat design and AI in Uncharted 4. A recording of this talk is now free and publicly available in the GDC Vault.

The title of the talk comes from the biggest quandary we faced through development: how to decide what to handle systemically (using generic combat AI systems) and what to author (hand-placed markup and scripting). Previous games in the Uncharted series were highly authored, but we had some new design goals for Uncharted 4. As we pursued much larger wide-linear spaces and deeper stealth gameplay, we knew our familiar scripted approach would struggle to account for all the ways the player could engage in combat.

This led us to explore a more systemic approach to combat design. For instance, we developed the concept of “vantage” in an attempt to programmatically analyze combat spaces and find the strong positions to hold. We tried a similar technique for getting enemies to search, generating “heat” at the player’s last known location that would realistically disseminate through the layout. Unfortunately, both of these approaches failed to generate consistent results. We had oversteered away from authored combat design, and needed to find a balance.

We eventually developed the concept of “hard points”, which allow level designers to mark up strong positions and important places to defend. However, the choice of whether to use these hard points and which NPCs to assign to them is left entirely up to the systemic combat logic. This hybrid approach let us leverage the designer’s holistic knowledge of a space without requiring bespoke scripting to account for every possible scenario. We felt like this was the middle ground between “authored” and “systemic” approaches, and that it gave us the best of both extremes.

The full talk goes into much greater detail on the development process and implementation details, so check it out if you’re interested. As a bonus, you’ll also discover what Uncharted has in common with Pac-Man.

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Gangles
562 days ago
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My 2017 talk is free on the GDC Vault!
Santa Monica, California
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Why Do Some Asian Accents Swap Ls and Rs in English?

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Asian speakers switching their Rs and Ls is an old Hollywood trope that you may have seen in movies like A Christmas Story, Lethal Weapon 4, and even Lost in Translation. In this video, Joss Fong explains where that linguistic stereotype comes from and how it does and doesn’t apply to speakers of different Asian languages.

A foreign accent is when someone speaks a second language with the rules of their first language, and one of the most persistent and well-studied foreign-accent features is a lack of L/R contrast among native Japanese speakers learning English.

It’s so well-known that American soldiers in World War II reportedly used codewords like “lallapalooza” to distinguish Japanese spies from Chinese allies. But American movies and TV shows have applied this linguistic stereotype to Korean and Chinese characters too, like Kim Jong Il in Team America: World Police, or Chinese restaurant employees singing “fa ra ra ra ra” in A Christmas Story.

However, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese are completely different languages that each handle L-sound and R-sounds differently. In this episode of Vox Observatory, we take a look at each language and how it affects pronunciation for English-language learners.

See also A Phonetic Map of the Human Mouth.

Tags: Joss Fong   language   video
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Gangles
567 days ago
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Santa Monica, California
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How BioWare's Anthem Went Wrong

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It wasn’t even supposed to be called Anthem. Just days before the annual E3 convention in June of 2017, when the storied studio BioWare would reveal its newest game, the plan had been to go with a different title: Beyond. They’d even printed out Beyond T-shirts for the staff.

Read more...

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Gangles
568 days ago
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Fascinating account. I truly believe it's a minor miracle that any game gets made.
Santa Monica, California
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Internet Archive

7 Comments and 16 Shares
The fact that things like the npm left-pad incident are so rare is oddly reassuring.
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Gangles
643 days ago
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Santa Monica, California
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6 public comments
tante
643 days ago
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Xkcd on the invisibility of maintenance.
Berlin/Germany
skorgu
644 days ago
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my favorite is tzdata. It just kind of kept happening for decades.
rraszews
644 days ago
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So... Jason Scott is basically my pancreas?
Columbia, MD
sulrich
644 days ago
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at the same time, the fragility of this stuff is totally terrifying.
alt_text_bot
644 days ago
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The fact that things like the npm left-pad incident are so rare is oddly reassuring.
alt_text_at_your_service
644 days ago
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The fact that things like the npm left-pad incident are so rare is oddly reassuring.
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