Moving Out’s accessibility options and inclusivity set a new standard
I recently had the chance to go hands-on with Moving Out and speak to SMG Studio Head Ash Ringrose and UI Designer Dan Camilleri. Before I’d even had a chance to play, I’d been struck by the fact that Moving Out gives players a range of customisation options for their player characters. Characters can choose from a wide variety of skin tones as well as choosing to wear a hijab and/or have their character make use of a wheelchair.
Inclusivity of this type is quite rare in videogames with most simply opting to allow players to choose a white male or female (if we’re lucky). So seeing it in Moving Out is a breath of fresh air.
The inclusivity options go hand-in-hand with Moving Out’s dedication to provide accessibility options for players of all abilities.
In speaking with Ringrose and Camilleri I learned that there aren’t any actual colourblind options or modes in the game. As a colourblind person, I was initially worried as I’ve been unable to play a lot of games properly in the past. However, the team worked to ensure that colour wasn’t a predominant visual identifier.
Camilleri told me, “A rule we followed was that if the game had to communicate something important with colour, we’d make sure it was backed up by another visual element, like an icon or text.
“One example is with fragile items which are different from normal in-game items, they can’t be dropped otherwise they’ll break, so rather than just marking them with a red tag, we mark them with a red tag and a fragile icon.”
Camilleri explains that this concept also helps to convey ideas to other people with visual and hearing impairments. “If you’re communicating something is important, always try to communicate it in more than one way, use colour with icons, sound with text, sound cues with vibrations, etc.”
During development, SMG Studio got feedback from publisher Team 17 saying that the animal characters and the weird objects were people’s favourite. So, Ringrose and his team decided to only include one human; Sydney. She’s the girl you can see on Moving Out’s key art, however, SMG Studio wanted players to be able to customise her (and the other characters) however they choose.
That’s why you can choose skin tone, wear a hijab, wear hats and really make the character your own.
As for putting characters in wheelchairs, Ringrose told me that was, again, something that came from Team 17. When testing Moving Out, Team 17 said that the most popular character was a raccoon riding a wheelchair.
“We didn’t want to replicate that and just have one or two characters in wheelchairs. So, we made all of our characters able to use wheelchairs,” he explained. Ringrose added that Jan Rigerl at DEVM Games, who’s working on Moving Out, has also previously released a game called Extreme Wheelchairing.
“He had a lot of great feedback from people in wheelchairs saying that the game is really fun and it’s great that they get to look like the hero and thanking him for giving them that opportunity.”
Another way that Moving Out attempts to be more accessible is through its use of dyslexic friendly font. According to Camilleri;
By weighting characters differently to standard fonts and generally making them asymmetrical. Often if someone is dyslexic, their brain will look at uniform letters and flip them in 3D space, making a p look like a q for example.
A way Dyslexic Font combats this by making one half of the letter thicker than the other, so they can be more easily identified from similar characters, so imagine for the letter p the curved loop being thicker than the stem, while for q the stem is thicker than the loop
In addition to everything above, Moving Out also includes a dedicated Assist Mode which features a la carte options players can turn on and off.
Assist Mode options include;
- Longer Time Limits
- Objects Disappear on Delivery
- Reduced Difficulty
- Skip Level on Fail
- Light two-player items
The idea behind Assist Mode is to ensure that none of the content in Moving Out is gated off. Ringrose envisions players of all ages and skill levels playing this game and doesn’t want anyone to be unfairly punished because they might not be as good at the game as designed for.
We didn’t want to restrict the game. We allow our extended time, remove dangers, when you put stuff in the truck of disappears, which allows you to, not worry about the metagame of stack.
Two player items become lighter. That was really important so anyone can play. There’s also no blocking you. Playing in assist mode doesn’t lock you out of the the full story.
You can play to the end and we just flagged that you played in Assist Mode. There’ll be people that want to play but maybe don’t have the skill level.
Why do we need to gatekeep for them? The game is more about having fun.
I asked Camilleri if he looked to other games and other developers when developing accessibility options in Moving Out. He told me that Celeste was an inspiration. “They took the concept so much further than just colour blind filters and subtitles, actually giving players the freedom to choose how they wanted to play depending on their ability level,” he said. “The newer Mario games were also a great reference, as they still work to keep their core game challenging, but understand that people of all skill levels will want to play together.”
He also told me that he spoke with Mark Barlet from Able Gamers and Ian Hamilton and they opened his eyes to the importance of designing for accessibility.
“I want to be a part of that effort to make sure games can continue to get better by opening them up to everybody instead of keeping them out,” he explained.
Moving Out will be available for PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One on April 28, 2020.
Dan Camilleri has previously written for PowerUp! and is a personal friend to staff members.