A few months ago, back in the summer of 2022, we here at Access-Ability took a trip to Capcom’s offices in London, to go hands on with Street Fighter 6’s new, more accessible, modern control scheme, which reduces the series traditional input complexity and allows most of the game’s core functions to be mapped to something much more in line with titles such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, using a single button and a directional modifier to execute super moves during combat.
This past weekend, Street Fighter 6 experienced its first closed public beta.
The build, distributed to lucky fans, included a whole series of new settings options for players to dig through and experiment with, some of which are really exciting to see from an accessibility perspective.
So today, on Access-Ability, we’re going to be talking about the new audio cue accessibility settings options found in the most recent Street Fighter 6 Beta.
We’re going to discuss which new settings exist, how they’re helpful to sightless fighting game fans, and how blind fighting game players were able to engage with the Street Fighter series’ previous entries prior to these new accomodations.
To set the stage for what makes Street Fighter 6’s new accessibility settings so interesting and exciting, we first need to talk a little bit about Street Fighter 5, and the existing ways that game enabled sightless blind players to engage with the series.
Back in March 2021, we made a video here on Access-Ability about the importance of stereo audio in Street Fighter 5, after a patch for the game briefly turned all game audio to mono for a couple of weeks.
A huge amount of credit for that video, as well as todays video, needs to go to Blind Warrior Sven, a sightless blind Street Fighter player, whose Twitch livestreams and YouTube videos regarding Street Fighter 5, and the beta for 6, were incredibly informative resources to learn from, both for that past video and todays.
Blind Street Fighter 5 players typically make use of screen readers, playing on PC, to navigate game menus until they’ve memorised locations enough to navigate into matches. Then, they use stereo audio to tell where their character, and their opponent, are positioned relative to each other during a match.
In a 2D fighting game series like Street Fighter, players using a stereo headset can hear the position of their character, as well as an opponent, by following along as audio pans from left to right, getting louder or quieter depending on distances.
Street Fighter 5 in particular has been credited by blind players as having really solid audio design, which allowed the game’s existing audio to do a reasonable job of making the game playable.
By listening to where characters are panned in the audio mix, the volume of sounds, as well as things like footstep volume, players can tell not just which side of the map a character is on, and where they’re moving relative to each other, but also their distance apart, with enough accuracy to time incoming blocks, or to keep just at the edge of combat range in order to capitalise on openings.
Again, I highly recommend checking out Blind Warrior Sven on Twitch and Youtube, as his content goes into a lot more depth on how these audio cues work in practice.
He’s great at the game, and a delight to watch play.
So, moving onto Street Fighter 6, the game’s newest beta features a whole host of ways to alter audio, including several audio options designed explicitly to help blind players more easily engage with the game.
In the general “Detailed Sound Effects” menu, players can alter the volume of Distance to Opponent sound effects, Hit Sound Volume, and Footstep sound volume, all of which can help to make existing audio cues for blind players easier to pick out of the overall sound mix.
Additionally, there’s a lengthy list of other types of sounds which can be altered in volume, meaning that any sounds not gameplay critical can be made more quiet, to increase the ease with which important cues are heard.
From there, we can move on to the “In-Battle Accessibility Settings” menu, which has a number of new audio options for blind players.
“Distance to Opponent Sound” is a new optional accessibility setting, which works separately from the existing audio cues that were found in Street Fighter 5.
Those old audio cues aren’t gone, blind players who prefer to play using the existing system won’t need to change how they play, but this exists as a new alternative some players may find more easy to utilise.
When activated, this “Distance to Opponent Sound” option will add a persistent pinging sound during matches, which gets higher in pitch as you and the opponent get closer together, and lower in pitch as you put distance between each other.
This new system may not be necessary for players who already have experience picking up on the audio cue types seen in Street Fighter 5, but they may be an easier entry point for new players who want a more immediately understandable metric for the distance between themselves and their opponent.
Beyond that, Street Fighter 6 features several options designed to ensure that blind players are correctly informed about their location, and that of their opponent, when attacks connect.
Cross Up Attack Hit Sound, and High/Mid/Low Attack Hit Sound are a pair of settings that, when turned on, give each of those types of attacks a distinct audio cue.
This ensures that, for blind players, it is as clear as possible where they and their opponent were when an attack connects, and if necessary informs the player on where to block, or where to attack to exploit an open block opportunity.
The game also contains notification sound options for Vitality Status, as well as the status of the Super Art Gauge, and Drive Gauge usage, to help manage and keep track of those meters during combat.
Lastly, stage and character select narration can be altered, from a default of narrating once a character or stage is selected, to instead narrating when a character or stage is highlighted, but not yet locked in.
Street Fighter 5’s level of blind player accessibility support was, at the time, somewhat of a pleasant surprise.
Seeing Capcom pick up on that fact, and lean into trying to implement additional support tools, to open the game up to more blind players, is really wonderful to see.
I’ve not had a chance personally to go hands on with Street Fighter 6’s new audio cues but, even if I had, I would not be the best person to review them in depth.
I know I’ve said it a few times already in this video, but please do go and check out Blind Warrior Sven on Twitch and YouTube, particularly his recent stream of the Street Fighter 6 beta, which I will link below.
During that stream he goes into a lot more depth about which settings from this new beta he personally finds useful, which he’d like to see improved before release, and his insights are invaluable.