Last week, Team Xbox rolled out a new update for Xbox One that included a host of new and exciting accessibility features that the team at AbleGamers was honored to be a part of. Team Xbox has been a leader in the push for game accessibility this generation with their Ease of Access settings, pushing multiple updates to the Xbox One in an effort to make the system more accessible. An innovative feature of this update is Copilot, a setting that allows two controllers to act as one.
Copilot is useful for people who need two controllers positioned differently to effectively press buttons. This also allows various components of a game (such as moving and attacking) to be split between two players to more easily conquer challenging sections in games. Copilot also opens up new possibilities for developers to create unique experiences around the idea of splitting one player’s controls across two controllers.
There’s also been a few improvements to the Xbox One’s Magnifier and Narrator features. Both features can now be operated entirely with a standard controller, such as zooming with Magnifier and Scanning with Narrator. Zooming can allow the player to more easily see one part of the screen and could be useful in games like Fallout 4, where you hack into computers by looking at small monitors that only take up a portion of the screen. Also with a standard controller, you can now adjust intensity of vibration on the controller, a feature previously exclusive to Elite Controllers.
Team Xbox also made a landmark reveal with accessibility API for Xbox. API typically refers to a set of code that developers can use for their software. In this context, Xbox now has accessibility API that any Xbox developer can access!The most impressive API has to be Voice to Text Chat.
With Voice to Text Chat, games have the ability to display a chat box (typically seen in PC gaming) that players can type into with a chatpad, or by talking! This feature is great for hearing impaired players, especially in team-based games. The standardization of this feature in Xbox gaming would also benefit those who are not comfortable getting on a mic when they game. Conversely, there’s also Text to Speech API. This would allow developers to more easily make their game menus accessible to blind players by allowing Narrator to read out menu text. The best part? This API also works on PC!
Team Xbox put together a great set of accessibility features. I like the balance of consumer-focused features such as Copilot with developer-API such as Voice to Text Chat. Putting these features directly on the console and in the API allow developers to easily make their games more accessible. If you want more information on Xbox’s accessibility features, I highly recommend giving Evelyn Thomas’ GDC 2017 talk on their accessibility features on Xbox One and PC. I attended her talk and I’m glad as I did as it was full of useful accessibility information! If you’re a game developer and are looking for ways to make your games more accessible that comes straight from AbleGamers, check out Includification.com.