Towards the end of last week, Sony aired a brand new State of Play Livestream, which largely focused on the upcoming release of Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, for the PS5. The game, which is due out early next month, is a third person platformer where players can travel through rifts to warp around levels, making use of the PS5’s fancy SSD hard drive.
While most of the presentation was focused on showcasing gameplay footage and new traversal features, towards the end of the presentation a very fast paced footage sizzle reel showed off a series of accessibility settings menus for the game. The footage ran too fast to make out details in real time, but by analysing the footage one frame at a time, it was possible to get a pretty good idea of the accessibility features we’re likely to see in the final game.
So, this week on Access-Ability, we’re going to talk about the accessibility features that we know are likely to be in Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart at launch. We’re going to talk about the importance of the features that are present, how this fits into Sony’s first party accessibility push, and my concerns with how this information was delivered to players.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart features in its settings menu a dedicated accessibility menu, but some of the game’s accessibility settings are also placed into more generalised settings sub menus, likely as a way to get them in front of players who may not feel uncomfortable with the fact these settings are labelled as accessibility.
In the Heads up Display settings menu, players can decide if waypoints appear when a button is pressed or at all times, change whether the game displays on screen prompts when rift tethers are possible, alter icon and button prompt sizes, turn off UI parallax effects, turn on a centre screen dot that’s always visible outside of cutscenes, as well as change the colour of UI elements, such as what colour important words in text are highlighted.
For players who may have trouble engaging with excessive rumble or adaptive trigger usage, the Haptic Settings menu allows vibration, and adaptive triggers, to have their prominence altered. For vibration, the default is called experiential, and features vibrations for everything from footsteps to rain falling. You can change this to a setting called functional, which will instead only include vibrations which are useful for gameplay, such as vibrating when you have taken damage, or picked up ammo successfully. The adaptive triggers also feature experiential and functional modes, but exactly what that changes was not made clear. You can also in game turn down the overall strength of those rumble effects, independently of altering how many rumble effects happen.
Moving over to the game’s dedicated accessibility menu, options are split into three sub menus; Gameplay and Camera, Toggles and Assists, and Visual and Contrast Options.
Gameplay and Camera includes options for simplified traversal, where all traversal types are mapped to the same single button, as well as sliders for camera sensitivity and camera shake levels.
The Toggles and Assists menu includes a bunch of settings designed to turn button holds into toggles, as well as aim assist intensity and auto aim intensity settings. There’s also flight assist options, the ability to set off screen ledge guarding, hoverboot auto pump, and the ability to change swing mode from a held button to a toggle.
In the Visual and Contrast menu, players can set the previously mentioned centre screen dot, as well as altering a motion blur slider, tweaking depth of field, turning off chromatic aberration, decreasing film grain, turning off fullscreen effects, and turning off camera shake.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, High Contrast mode is back. Previously seen in The Last of Us 2 and Spider-Man: Miles Morales, this mode allows players to highlight the player character, enemies, boss enemies, hazards, collectables and more in bright colours which are easier to pick out and identify for players with various degrees of blindness. This has become somewhat of a staple of Sony first party studio design, and is a great feature to see return in Rift Apart.
All of the settings on show in Ratchet and Clank: Rift apart go a long way to making the game more accessible, and it’s great to see Sony make an effort to push their first party studios to include many of these features as standards. Additionally, it was wonderful to see accessibility settings given a mention and some visibility during this recent State of Play presentation. However, I want to take a minute to highlight the way we learned about these settings, and draw some attention to the fact that this really should have been handled a little better than it was.
As I briefly mentioned at the top of this video, these accessibility settings were revealed toward the end of a 15 minute gameplay reveal for Rift Apart, in a very short sizzle reel. Where non accessibility gameplay features such as the new wall run and dash mechanics were given time and space to be properly shown off, all of the game’s accessibility settings were rushed through so fast that I had to freeze frame to learn what options the game would have for disabled players.
The state of play video features an announcer stating that more information on accessibility would come at a later date, but I really don’t see why accessibility was handled that way. Disabled players should not have had to do frame by frame analysis to learn if they were going to be able to play this game or not.
Last week, on Access-Ability, we talked in detail about the importance of not treating accessibility features as secrets, held needlessly until closer to launch, or hidden from easy player discovery. If this presentation had instead had the announcer say something like “If you visit the PlayStation Twitter Account following this presentation you can find a link to an article detailing our accessibility settings”, that would have made this information a lot easier to access.
Sony has done this before, they released an in depth article prior to the release of The Last of Us 2 detailing the game’s accessibility settings, and I wish that we had seen the same happen here, rather than the only information given being incomplete, and pieced together from paused frames. The information was there, it just could have been more transparently communicated.
Overall, looking over these accessibility settings, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart seems to have a pretty good degree of accessibility setting coverage for partially sighted players, or those with motor control related disabilities. Settings to help motion sick players, players who cannot hold buttons while playing, and settings to make enemies more visible all go a long way to increasing the accessibility of this kind of game.
There may be more accessibility settings in the final game which were not visible in this sizzle reel, but if this list is complete, it suggests that Rift Apart should be comparable accessible to Spider-Man: Miles Morales when it launched last year. It’s not quite up on the level of The Last of Us 2, but few things are, and this game is still looking to be leaps and bounds ahead of most first party software released by Microsoft and Nintendo.
While I wish accessibility information for Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart had been easier to access for disabled players, the settings that are there look very promising, and suggest a decent number of disabled players should be able to play the game without too much trouble.