Microsoft Game Dev Blog
Making sure everyone gets to kick it to the Swarm in Gears 5
When it came to making Gears 5, The Coalition challenged themselves to make the game as accessible as possible. "If you don't intentionally include [people], you will unintentionally exclude people," said Zoe Curnoe, Senior Producer at The Coalition.
The Coalition learned a valuable lesson from one feature added near the end of Gears of War 4's development cycle. Face Controls allowed players to fire guns in the game with tracked movements of their face. This was massive for players who had difficulties using the trigger buttons. The intentional design was an invitation for people with prosthetic and missing limbs to enter the world of Sera.
When designing Gears 5, The Coalition made gameplay faster and smoother. They modernized the player experience with spatial audio, intense new game modes, enhanced visuals, and a compelling story. But they never forgot the impact of Face Controls in bringing Gears to more players.
"If you don't intentionally include [people], you will unintentionally exclude people." - Zoe Curnoe, Senior Producer, The Coalition
When developing Gears 5, The Coalition doubled down on inclusive design. Following Xbox accessibility guidelines, the team added a robust suite of features to make the game more welcoming: features like extensive control scheme configurations, improved subtitles, and expanded audio. It paid off, big time—Gears 5 became the first AAA game to get a perfect 6/6 from CanIPlayThat.com.
Accessibility is a win for everyone
As Curnoe put it, "design for one … solve for many." Specific accessibility improvements often make games better for the audience at large. One of these features in Gears 5 was text-to-speech.
"We wanted to implement a feature that would let you decide how you're communicated to," explained Mike Rayner, Technical Director at The Coalition. "So, we enabled speech-to-text and text-to-speech as an option. If you want to hear a voice when someone's typing a message to you, [the game] will translate in real time and give it to you as speech and vice versa."
The new options meant everyone could participate in team chat. The Coalition used Azure PlayFab Party to make translated text more realistic and natural without compromising performance since text-based chat was translated quickly in the cloud.
Accessibility was the secret sauce that allowed Gears 5 to be enjoyed by more people than ever. The Coalition discovered that when you consider and act on the needs of individual players, you pass that goodness on to everyone. Hell yeah!
Want to embrace inclusive design like The Coalition did and make your game more accessible?
Find out how you can implement text-to-speech and other accessibility features using Azure PlayFab.
Explore best design practices in Microsoft's Accessibility Guidelines.
See how Microsoft can level up your stack.
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