For Unit 10, I did some research in the form of interviewing someone that was deaf from birth (Ricky Collins), as well as play League of Legends and Bravely Second without any sound to try and get a feel for deaf gaming myself.
For some primary research, my class had an interview with a deaf person, Ricky Collins. This helped me get some direct input from someone that was deaf that helped me to design my project.
Ricky’s opinion is that older games, such as Sonic and Mario are preferable over newer games, due to their lack of reliance on sound and heavier visual impact, which made the games more immersive to him, as nothing was specifically audio-based, so no important part of the gameplay was missed. This tells me that I should have a more visual focus on my project, and only implement audio cues and effects as luxury effects, so deaf people don’t miss out on anything important.
Another point that Ricky made was that certain auditory cues were difficult to pick up if they weren’t accompanied by a visual cue. This, again, is something I should consider when I design my project, and I will need to make sure to accompany all my audio cues with visual cues. This may be easier if I reverse the process, and instead focus on the visual cues first, and accompany those with audio cues.
Ricky also stated that he found conversations in games to be somewhat condescending, and showed some distaste towards the lack of subtitles in many current generation games, as it would be very difficult to follow what the story and even objectives of a game would be without knowing what is said during conversations. It is also difficult to follow who is talking during conversations sometimes when subtitles are provided, which makes it difficult to ascertain the context and the tone of the conversation. I will need to make sure I keep dialogue to a minimum, and that I very clearly indicate the speaker and add subtitles in the instances where dialogue is needed. I will also need to make sure to visually mark important objectives.
He also gave his opinion when asked about how vibrations could affect gameplay. He said that they could be helpful, but it would be difficult to gain the correct feedback without full-body vibration, except the hands, as it would make it harder to play the game. This strikes out any plans for using vibration in my project, as I would like to avoid designing it with a reliance on any peripherals.
As another part of my research, I played a few games with the sound disabled. The first was League of Legends.
League of Legends is a 5v5 multiplayer siege game, where each player chooses 1 ‘Champion’, and the objective is to fight amongst 3 lanes and the space in between (the ‘Jungle’) and eventually reach the opposing teams base, and destroy a structure called the ‘Nexus’. The Nexus is protected by 3 ‘Inhibitors’ and 11 turrets, 3 for each lane, and 2 nearby the nexus. A very large part of the game is communication, which is made easier by in-game pings.
The first problem I ran into involved pings, as when a ping is made it has a very clear audio cue, but the visual cue only appears if the ping is already near you in the visible range of what you can see and on the minimap which only takes a small portion of your screen. This made it very hard to tell when a team member was attempting to warn me of a missing enemy or something happening on another part of the map I wasn’t looking at, if I wasn’t already looking at the minimap. This indicates that my project will need to be designed in a way where any pings are either clearly marked on the screen, or the player is reminded to glance at the minimap, although this effect should be toggle able.
The second problem involved the certain abilities. Some abilities require earlier knowledge that the ability has been used, such as long-distance, high-speed dash or charge abilities, so the player has ample time to react. These effects are usually indicated by an audio cue, but have no visual indication. This made the game very frustrating to play at times as I wasn’t always able to react to these abilities easily. This tells me that I should make sure to give a very clear visual indication when a distant powerful effect or trap is triggered, to make sure the player has ample time to react to stop, disarm or avoid it.
However, there were also a few situations where the visual information in League of Legends were very good, such as having extra bars under a champions health and mana for passive effects, or certain visual effects on a champion when they have a buff, and a text chat for communication with your team.
The second game I played was Bravely Second, which I had no issue playing with no sound. The game had plenty of ways to make up for the lack of sound.
The audio-cue when a battle starts in the game is accompanied by a screen fade-out in to the battle screen. Whereas the switch to the battle screen is indicative of the battle in itself, the fade out makes the transition a lot less jarring and makes the player more prepared for what is coming.
Dialogue in this game is also all subtitled, and the speaker is always highlighted unless it is intentionally kept a mystery. This makes it very easy to follow the plot and context of the story and text, although I found the dialogue to drag on for a while at times, almost to the point of making me lose interest, but the story I found entertaining enough for me to want to keep reading.
The game also had objectives very clearly marked on a map with symbols, which were also colour coded to show which were main story objectives and which weren’t. This helped to keep track of the objectives very easily and I never found myself lost as to what to do during the game. I should make sure to clearly mark any objectives in my project.
Other than dialogue, the only sounds I found in this game were luxury sounds, such as footsteps or a chime when selecting options in a menu, or sound effects for attacks. Everything had a much clearer visual effect which I think had much more of an impact for the game.