Naughty Dog and Insomniac devs talk accessibility in the games industry

“Challenge and accessibility can coexist in harmony with the right design choices”

Developers from two first-party Sony studios, Naughty Dog and Insomniac Games, have talked about why accessibility in video games is so important. 

When speaking to Eurogamer, lead systems designer at Naughty Dog Matthew Gallant said: “Accessibility is orthogonal to difficulty. Providing a “very light” difficulty option may remove barriers for some players, but others want to play on “grounded” or with permadeath enabled. Challenge and accessibility can coexist in harmony with the right design choices.”

Gallant added that accessibility is all about “good design”, and laid out some core tenants Naughty Dog follows to make sure its titles are accessible as possible:

  • Second Channel: Having any information available through one channel (like audio, visual, physical) also available through other channels as well.
  • Control remapping: Allow players to change button inputs to benefit them, and change things like button mashes and more.
  • Clear Text: allow size, colour, contrast and more to be applied to text to make it more legible.

The Last of Us Part 2
The Last of Us Part 2. Credit: Naughty Dog.

Questions then arose about what could happen with accessibility over the next decade or so, to which Gallant said that it’s “a true frontier of game design. We had almost zero precedents to work from while designing complex action/shooter game features for blind players. However, this gave us a completely blank canvas to try anything we could imagine.”

Eurogamer also spoke to Insomniac Games’ senior user experience researcher Michele Zorrilla, who went into detail about how accessibility design provides a unique form of problem solving that never truly ends:

“That’s really the heart of it – what barriers do players face and how can we remove them so they can experience our game? Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart has a huge variety of weapons, hectic combat encounters, and quick traversal areas – it’s big and colourful and awesome,” Zorrilla said.

“In one of our accessibility reviews, Mike Daly (game director) suggested game speed – we already slowed the game down for tutorials, so why not use it elsewhere?” Zorrilla continued. “It was a breakthrough for us! It couldn’t solve everything, but it put control in players’ hands of when to use it and how much it slowed down, and it was useful in so many places across the game.”


In other news, it’s looking like the tentatively titled Mass Effect 4 will run on Unreal Engine 5 after Andromeda ran on the Frostbite engine.

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