A lot of the time, when we talk about a video game’s level of accessibility here on this show, we focus on the level of accessibility in the base game, provided by the official developers. But often, the conversation about accessibility stretches beyond that, into unofficial fan support.
Stardew Valley is a top down pixel art RPG about living on a rural farm. Players can grow crops, tend to livestock, develop tools, and build social relationships with other characters. The game on PC requires the use of WASD keyboard controls, which are not accessible to all players, so a recently released fan mod sought to fix that.
So today, on Access-Ability, we’re going to take a look at Stardew Speak, a mod that allows players to control Stardew Valley entirely using voice commands. We’re going to take a look at how the game’s commands work, and some important aspects of making this mod accessible.
A big thank you to Steven Spohn over at AbleGamers for bringing this mod to my attention, via a twitter thread where he confirmed the mod had finally allowed him to play Stardew Valley for the first time.
Posted to Reddit by EVFredriksen, Stardew Speak allows for full voice control of playing Stardew Valley. The voice detection involved in the mod works offline, and seems to have a pretty high level of voice detection accuracy. The mod does require around 2.5GB of RAM in order to manage voice detection, so it can be a bit resource intensive for older machines, and probably isn’t suitable to run alongside any other resource heavy applications.
What makes Stardew Speak so interesting to me is the high level of thought put into context related interactions. Sure, you can tell your farmer to walk south, and tell them to stop, but you can also use the command “Go to Farm” to walk your character toward their farm, regardless of their current location. The same works for a variety of other in game locations, you can tell your character to walk somewhere, and they will plot a route to that location.
Players working their farms can use voice commands to have their farmer automatically clear set materials in their nearby vicinity with commands including Clear Debris or Clear Grass, with the stop command being useful if you’re about to clear up an instance of an item you don’t want to disrupt at that time.
While managing your farm, there are commands for watering crops, and harvesting any that are fully grown, while there are also commands to pet all animals in your current location, and milk all animals in the current location.
When fishing, there’s a voice command available which can automatically complete the fishing minigame for you, if you find that easier.
When it comes to combat, attack and defend commands set your default behaviour, either moving towards enemies swinging, or waiting for openings to counter attack, and will continue until all enemies on screen or nearby are defeated.
I’m skipping over a lot of the specific settings options available in this mod, but if you want to look at the complete list I’ve included a link in the video description below. The main thing to understand is that these commands are not just simple replacements for button presses, several of them are contextual, and will actively automate complex tasks based on simple commands, which really helps with the game’s playability.
I am certainly not the target audience for this mod, but I trust Steven’s perspective having used it to play the game. He notes that the voice controls are occasionally finicky, and you will have to talk fairly constantly while you play, but that the mod made the game very much more playable, and should offer a viable solution for quadraplegic gamers, or those without comfortable use of their hands.
It’s a real shame that a fan had to step in to create this support, but it’s great that it now exists. It’s always wonderful seeing games open up to new audiences, and Stardew Speak seems like a really well thought out accessibility tool that should really help a lot of players.