Old PlayStation games on PC are a win for accessibility – Eurogamer.net
With the launch of the PlayStation PC label for Sony’s PC ports, more gamers can enjoy titles such as Horizon: Zero Dawn, Days Gone, and God of War. Since these are ports, accessibility improvements are usually only minor parts of the package, such as keyboard and mouse remapping. But with PC, the existence of third-party mods can open up areas of games that could allow gamers with disabilities to enjoy them better.
I wanted to talk with a few people with disabilities about how these mods are good for making older PlayStation games more accessible. I wanted to hear about the restrictions, but also wanted to highlight how, in the future, studios can allow players with disabilities to not have to rely on third-party mods in future ports.
But first, it’s just an interesting time for accessibility mods in general. “Before the mod, I wouldn’t have been able to play Hearthstone at all,” disabled streamer and accessibility consultant SightlessKombat tells me of Heartstone Access, a mod released in 2021 that makes 2014’s collectible card game digital. accessible to the blind. However, only certain parts of the game are updated with custom mod code which is injected to enable screen reader support. (Further updates are planned.) Sightless explains that it felt like a world of possibilities had opened up, “even if that world was severely limited by the amount of work required to implement new features. in said mod.”
But this is just one example of accessibility-focused mods. There was a Cuphead assist mod that increased health, weapon damage, and parts. There is also a Stardew Valley screen reader mod while Hades has a blind and visually impaired mod. These types of mods open up video game playability to a wider audience by adding mechanics and functionality in areas where the original game did not thrive. This is often partly due to the fact that games were developed before accessibility was as mainstream a topic as it has become in recent years.
With the hit PlayStation games from years ago on PC, we see similar mods surfacing.
Days Gone has many mods ranging from super accuracy, infinite ammo, and unbreakable items, to name a few. These are all mods that could make the game less taxing for people with cognitive impairments, or even people with limited mobility who find it easier to just play rather than constantly collecting ammo. Horizon: Zero Dawn also offers mods in the form of New Game+ saves that allow for higher level stuff, so players can wade through the story and engage with the narrative aspect of the game.
Disabled Accessibility Consultant Paul Amadeus Lane told me about existing mods. “Everyone should have the opportunity to experience the gameplay in its entirety,” they tell me. “These accessibility mods will allow more and more gamers with disabilities to enjoy some of these amazing games.” Lane explains that there’s a segment of the population that prefers PC gaming over console gaming, and “anything that will make our tent bigger in terms of gain is a huge plus.”
While mods can make a game more accessible, it’s important that studios don’t rely on third-party mods. It is important that they ensure that games are developed with accessibility in mind. “Modders should never be relied upon as a way to make your game accessible,” says Sightless, adding that “Accessibility should be a key part of a game’s structure, not something that’s added later.”
This sentiment is also shared by Lane who states: “Software design is key. If accessibility features are built into the software, it allows for new updates to current accessibility features or even new accessibility features that weren’t known at the time the game was created.”
2018’s God of War launched on PC in January 2022, so it’s probably too early to see many accessibility-focused mods. Although the game’s launch on PC did not see any fixes to previous accessibility issues that had been present since its initial launch, such as small text and prompts, fixing them with mods is not a solution. simple.
“Mods won’t be able to fill the feature void that PlayStation ports on PC have missed,” says Sightless. “Things like navigation/traverse assistance, menu and UI narration, combat assistance, etc., because they weren’t planned when the game was developed and connect to games to add these features is sometimes not only difficult but impossible depending on how the game was built.”
The mods happen to be discussed in a GameInformer interview with Sony Santa Monica Creative Director Cory Barlog and Senior Technical Production Manager Matt DeWald. (The mods they were talking about were likely character and weapon models rather than mechanical changes.) DeWald explains that the studio hasn’t built modding support into the game. “Everything we have is custom, so it’s very difficult to build some of these things,” he says. Barlog also doesn’t see modding support as something that will happen in the future, explaining, “Our tools are tough. That’s how we ride. We like to have tough tools. Our engine doesn’t have really was designed to support that. Our tools are super-customized and inherently complicated.”
Despite accessibility issues, Santa Monica Studio implemented minor accessibility improvements for mobility to the PC port. Speaking to disabled video game journalist Grant Stoner, he tells me: “[God of War] is probably one of the most accessible ports I’ve played in years.”
Stoner points out that just being able to use a mouse and keyboard or the adaptive controller “is one of the most beneficial aspects of PC gaming.” Likewise, “because PlayStation does not offer any form of accessible hardware, gamers with disabilities should invest in controls that are not only functional for them, but also compatible with the PS5.”
Lane also points out how software integration benefits the cost of the user: “Software integration helps keep the cost under control so that players with disabilities don’t get hit with the hidden disability tax, where we have to pay more to enjoy what others without disabilities are able to enjoy.”
An example of this hidden disability tax could come from having to buy third-party equipment in order to play. As Stoner says, “I have a custom PS5 controller, but it costs over $300. Few people with disabilities can afford something like that.”
So while mods, whether for accessibility or not, can improve the experience of gamers with disabilities playing PlayStation games, there are still areas that probably cannot be improved with mods. But on that note, smaller mods such as improved aiming, New Game+ saves, health and stamina changes can all be helpful for accessibility and could improve the gaming experience.
Additionally, the existence of mods and the benefits mentioned above should not deter studios from implementing software-level features and integrating accessibility into their game design. Having accessibility in mind from the start will help reduce development costs, but including features that allow for greater freedom of play will reduce the cost of the disability levy.