Izzy Wheels

Lots of natty wheelchair spoke guard/cover designs at Izzy Wheels in Ireland. Some really nice ideas. Will add to OneSwitch links here on Wheelchair and mobility products. Be good to add some darker mood stuff too like Kevin Cox used to do.

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Nintendo and Positive Game Accessibility

Nintendo's Mario looking pensively at a Game Accessibility symbol.

Nintendo have been making waves in the fields of game accessibility for decades. I want this post to focus on some of the very positive recent things Nintendo have been involved in to improve the accessibility of their games to disabled people.

Box icons detailing (a little) accessibility info: Boxed Wii games indicate compatible Nintendo controllers for each game. Simply presented info like this can help some players work out if they'll be able to play the game. With Wii Mario Kart, for instance, if they could manage most Gamecube games, but really struggled with the Wii remote, the picture below gives confidence that they should be fine.

Wii indictation of game controllers.

Demo Play (aka Super Guide or Cosmic Guide): Seen in Wii New Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Donkey Kong Country Returns. If part of the game gets too tough, activating this mode will see the game take over and play automatically. Once demo-play has seen you through the tough bit you were stuck on you can deactivate it and resume manual play. Wonderful (patented) idea, that I don't recall seeing elsewhere.

Easy Mode: Super Mario Run featured one-handed play, and a one-handed tap to play mechanic for Nintendo's first phone game. Upon requests from users struggling with the difficulty, a much appreciated "Easy Mode" was added. All of this, alongside iOS accessibility features, made the game possible to complete using a single head switch (see pictures below). Wonderful stuff.

Super Mario Run, Easy Mode added to improve accessibility.

Colin McDonnell completed Super Mario Run using a single head switch.

DS XL and Nintendo Switch: The enlarged XL version of the DS offered a slightly bigger screen and bigger buttons. As I understand, this was to take into account some elderly players who complained that the standard DS was too difficult to use. The Nintendo Switch expanded upon this by allowing for the games to be played on as big a screen as needed.

Smart Steering and Auto Accelerate: Two fantastic driving assist options in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Switch. These enable easier driving for all. This includes visually impaired players struggling to see tight corners and those struggling with the game's difficulty in general. With these modes one handed and even one button play becomes a possibility. In fact, with some extra hard-ware, one-switch access is possible!

More Flexible Control: In 2006 the Wii brought some simpler methods of play to the fore. One handed gamers found a games machine they could typically use out of the box. Many new people found the method of bowling intuitive and fun in Wii Sports who struggled with the complexity of a Dual Shock like controller. Undoubtedly things were opened up for many more with this design, and it was a massive success.

However, not all players could manage swooshing an arm about, nor precise manipulation of the Wii remote. Perhaps as a concession to this (as well as wanting to please more conventional players), Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros Brawl both allowed for four methods of control, including a GameCube controller. As a side note, EA Sports "Family Play" play option in 2008 Wii Madden, FIFA and NBA Live offered assist modes and simpler controller requirements. If only more games offered this combined versatility, what a difference it would make.

Post N64 (pre Switch), for those unable to use Nintendo branded controllers on the Wii and Wii-U, a small number of 3rd party controller adapters enabled far greater options. Pictured second below is a photo of accessible gaming advocate Colin McDonnell, able to navigate the menu systems (Wii-U and just recently the Switch) and race using a single head mounted switch and a single sound activated control (via a Titan One connected PC).

EA Madden NFL 08 Wii: Family Play accessible gaming option.

Colin McDonnell using a single head switch to navigate menus and play Wii-U Mario Kart 8.

Symbolic Menu Systems: Hugely beneficial to a range of people struggling with text alone and I would say was another reason for the huge success of the Wii. The Wii-U improved upon this by allowing for navigation using the d-pad, which can also be of benefit to completely blind players (with a help sheet read from a computer) and of course those unable to use motion controls.

Accessibility Support: A recent on-line accessibility support ticket system offers a fairly direct route through to Nintendo. They also publish yearly upon some of their efforts around Corporate Social Responsibility and Accessibility (also see this message from Mr Shibata). From this I was reminded of their long standing support of the fantastic Starlight Fun Centre project. This gets Nintendo hardware and games to children in hospitals around the world who might very well need a distraction from what is keeping them there. It has been running since 1990 I believe.

Starlight fun centre.

Haptics: 1-2 Switch has attracted some really positive press coverage due to its gameplay being based solely on a combination of motion controls, audio and high definition haptics, making the gameplay being fully accessible to people who are completely blind. It’s a great example of how new technologies can create new opportunities, and the more that can be offered up as alternative options within a single game the more people are able to take part as a result.

It has been great to see accessibility efforts like these making their presence felt with the Switch. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next to make Nintendo products more inclusive for all.

"I am most concerned with what we think of as a gamer. As we spend more time and money chasing exactly the same players, who are we leaving behind? Are we creating games just for each other? Do you have friends and family members who do not play video games? Well, why don't they? And, I would ask this: how often have you challenged yourself to create a game that you might not play?" - Satoru Iwata, GDC 2005 keynote.

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Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on a Switch with a Switch

The videos above are of Mario Kart 8 on the Switch and Wii-U. Colin McDonnell is demoing the Wii-U version which works as follows for the moderately complex method...

1. Accelerator is latched on as you enter the driving mode.
2. A timer ticks down whenever you don't press anything. At time-out (about 30 seconds) it will jump out of the mode.
3. The switch gives you left/right alternate steering. Double-tap throws a weapon.
4. Doing nothing for a short-time (about 4 seconds) steps down to two alternative profiles, Reverse and Drift (then it loops back to drive).
5. Holding your switch for 10 seconds in Drift will also exit the game mode.

Sounds a lot, but in reality, it's quite manageable. Especially if you can't manage the standard controller choices on offer. On the Nintendo Switch, if you press +/- just as the race starts/in race, you can use "L" and "R" to enable/disable auto-steer and auto-accelerate as seen in the picture below. Auto-steer is absolutely fantastic. You can see it in the video above kicking in when the little ariel starts to spark electricity, and it tries to straighten you up. It is brilliantly done.

I plan to add a simpler method soon on Colin's request. Next looking into team play modes for more complex games. Colin completed Wii-U Hyrule Warriors today working as a team (in Xbox Co-Pilot style). Looking to make Zelda far more accessible with him and for others too. Fuller instructions and details on how to replicate this soon. Huge thanks to Clive Galway and SpecialEffect for enabling this to happen.

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Chopper Rescue

Chopper Rescue sets the following challenge for one-switch players: Avoid the blowing gales, rocky cliffs and high tides and rescue six people and animals stuck in precarious situations.

This game can be played on iOS or Android devices as an App to download. Alternatively it can also be played on a PC or Mac via the HelpKidzLearn subscription web-site. It seems to require Flash so won't work in Chrome, but should be fine in Firefox or Chrome.

The subscription is currently 1 User for £66 a year. However, you can sign up for 10 free activities (not a free choice) to try some of this stuff out up front. Martin Littler (of Inclusive Technology) recently posted that these games have had 5 million plays since they started.

Cartoon graphics of an Rescue Helicopter swooping in with ladder and paramedic ready to save a stranded person standing on an up turned boat in water.

Mouse, Touchscreen, Eye gaze or Switch access options.

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Nintendo Switch - Switch Access

Fledgling work to make the Nintendo Switch and Wii-U more accessible is well underway. All kinds of controllers can now be attached and used to play games that don't require motion control.

Above, Colin McDonnell uses a single switch to play Hyrule Warriors (Wii-U). I've recently tested this at SpecialEffect and found that the system also works on a Nintendo Switch.

Equipment used are two daisy-chained adapters: The Brook PS3/PS4 to Wii-U adapter with Nintendo Switch firmware update (via their web-site using a PC/Mac). Also the fantastic Titan One adapter. The One Switch Pulse system uses Universal Controller Remapper, vJoy and JoyToKey.

Colin McDonnell playing a Nintendo Wii-U (also Nintendo Switch compatible) with a single head-switch.

Blue and White USB plug in narrow adapter.

Black silver and green game controller adapter. The Titan One.

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SpecialEffect: Game Accessibility DIY Help Videos

Some fine new videos are being uploaded to the SpecialEffect YouTube channel. These are aimed at supporting people internationally to find game accessibility solutions. Well worth delving in.


One Switch Holiday

A tiny selection of the buttons pressed (or squeezed) whilst on holiday last week. Top is a 1930s love tester at the Merrivale Old Penny arcade. Next was one-switch Witch dunking at Merrivale's Model Village. They also had press to start a mini Nun choir. Later I didn't "press to test" the ground to air missile launcher at the RAF Neatishead Radar museum


Some Games of Accessibility Interest

4 Ever Transit Authority: I'm a massive fan of mellow or unusual games. 4 Ever Transit Authority fits both bills. It's simply a simulation of travelling freely around a city on a bus. It's relaxed and beautiful as something to have running in the background, or for a gentle journey. The great thing is that it's fully keyboard accessible, making it ideal for adaptation for single switch use. It's pay what you want. Love it.

Racing Apex: Stunning looking "low-poly" (think SEGA's Virtua Racer) race game. Hoping to make this one-switch accessible if possible. Some fantastic short animations on their Twitter page. The team have links to Burnout Paradise, which is a very good thing in my book.

Old Time Hockey: Not quite sure what to make of this (video here), as I love the accessibility modes, but not a big fan of punching people in the face. Anyway, out now for PS4, Steam (PC) and due for Xbox One and Switch soon so they say.

Megadrive Chill editions: AJ Ryan recently created a batch of modified "Chill Edition" games for improved access on Steam. I'm not sure if you can still play these, but a great thing. Cheats and mods are probably as old as video games. They remain so important for games that didn't originally give much thought to broader accessibility. The video below is of AJ playing arcade games with his feet (link to Chill Editions via Ian Hamilton and Bryce Johnson).

I'm making a game! Well, my friend William Pilgrim and I (with help of others) are making a game. It's a remake of possibly the world's first one-switch playable video game from 1975 and it's follow up from 1976. It's also said to be the first to feature a peace mode. :)

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White switch interface box with 15 sockets, external stick and an adapted red PS4 controller with velcro.

Great to discover TADQ. A charity based in New South Wales, Australia, modifying equipment to make stuff more accessible. Their ControlAble sideline seeks to make gaming much easier for all. All power to them.

Via: Joe Morgan at SpecialEffect. Also see the Tailor Made Controls section at OneSwitch.




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