I was not a formal accessibility consultant on Wayward Strand, but I was still able to help improve the game’s accessibility settings all the same.
In Wayward Strand, an indie game which just released at the time of posting this article, players take on the role of a 14 year old girl, having conversations with the elderly residents of a combination air ship / retirement home / hospital.
I recieved a review copy of the game a little prior to release, an very much enjoyed my time with the game, which manages to weave a really engaging story purely driven by who you choose to observe and chat with at any given moment.
However, during my review playthrough, I caught a pretty notable error with regards to the game’s accessibility settings, and how one of them was named.
So, for context, when playing the game a few days prior to release, I decided to check the game’s accessibility settings, to see if there was anything on offer which would be useful to me as a player, or worth discussing on an episode of Access-Ability.
My eyes were immidiately drawn to a setting labelled Audio Descriptions.
We recently discussed the idea of Audio Descriptions here on Access-Ability, because of their groundbreaking inclusion in The Last of Us: Part 1 on PS5, one of the first examples ever of the feature existing in a video game.
Audio Description is a method by which media, such as movies or video games, are made more accessible to sightless and partially sighted blind players, by describing on screen visuals via audio narration. It’s basically unheard of in video games outside of The Last of Us: Part 1, so I was incredibly excited to see it there, particularly in an indie game, and so soon after our industry’s first major example.
However, after turning the setting on, the game did not use audio narration to describe visuals, and for quite a while I could not work out what it had actually done.
In reality, the setting had switched on text based subtitles for audio information that wasn’t dialodue, such as the sound of a door closing or footsteps approaching, to help support deaf or hard of hearing players.
The setting was useful, but it was not the advertised setting, for the advertised group of disabled users.
And so I contacted the game’s developers, and explained the situation. What they had implemented was non-dialogue subtitles or captions, and renaming the setting was important to clarifying its function, and avoiding confusion.
The developers were really receptive to my message, and within 24 hours the game had been updated on Steam. The setting had been renamed from Audio Description to Non-Dialogue Captions.
While the update was able to be pushed live on Steam in time for the game’s launch, the console versions of the game launched with the original Audio Description text still present in the menu, as certification for patches on consoles often takes several days. However, I did let them know early enough for at least one platform to launch with the setting renamed.
So yeah, Version 1.0.1 of Wayward Strand was described by the game’s developers as “The Laura Update”. I may not have worked on the game as a formal accessibility consultant, but I still managed to help improve the game in a tangible way ahead of its release.