I am glad I did not have anything pressing to do this weekend, because I spent most of it wasting away taking the SimCity Beta through its accessibility paces. What is the verdict? I am not going to make any promises because this is beta, but all in all, I think we may have a very accessible game.
The game has all the things I look for in accessibility. Can I play the game with just a mouse? You bet I can. What about using just a keyboard? No, you have to use the mouse to play this game.
Like the SimCities of the past, there is a speed setting that allows you to go from a total stop to a break-neck speed. The good thing here is you can still build while you are in stop mode, so if you need a little more time to lay out your dream street path for that new ‘hood you want, your town won’t fall apart while you’re not looking.
The color blind gamer should have no issue with this game, one of the QA engineers on the team was colorblind, so he asked for overlays, and the developers gave him what he asked for.
For the hearing impaired gamer out there, the close captioning is solid, and there are some very good visuals that go along with any sound effects, so to be honest there is no real need to even have the sound on, which is good because then you don’t hear the ongoing whining that your people do in the very locked down beta. What “Mike Smith” you really want me to open a university in the city? Too bad! EA said that is locked for beta!
While I am not willing to give this the AbleGamers Foundation accessible seal of approval, because this is beta. I am sure that the final product is going to be another great title that most people will find is very accessible.
When we were asked to give our opinion of the new SimCity to EA Maxis I was incredibly excited. However, once actually starting the game I realized that there wasn’t much to improve. The game could be controlled by the mouse, nothing was timed, everything was very intuitive and well explained, they already had colorblind options and it could be windowed.
The really just wasn’t much to focus on. #FirstWorldAccessibilityProblems
After comparing notes with some of the staff, we came up with a few things they could improve. There was no full-screen windowed mode, which is very good for those who need to use an on-screen keyboard or other assistive technology. The colorblind mode needs a little more visual cue to it; changing the color of the circles from blue to green is good, but we recommended flashing and other visual devices be added for those with difficulties. There is also no way to change the font size or what type of font was used in the bubbles over the sim’s head – that maybe the biggest issue.
And then of course there are the two things we complained about that I know will not be changed. Micro-transactions and online only play. Both of these are nightmares for the disability community, but I don’t think if AbleGamers and every other gaming charity combined forces would we be able to stop these movements.
Micro-transactions are nightmares for the disability community. The gaming industry found out people are more likely to spend as much as 200% of the subscription model in small one dollar or two dollar increments over the course of a month. For those living on SSDI budgets, having the ability to continually purchase more gaming items is comparable to handing a gambling addict a line of credit at his favorite casino. Not to mention, once you pay for the game you shouldn’t have to continue to pump money into it. Give me a subscription to pay so that I can decide whether or not the game is worthwhile; don’t make me police myself on how much money to spend on the game every month depending on if I want 24-slots bags or to not buy a mount.
Online-only play is equally if not worse for the disabled gaming community. For those who are in facilities or at home without Internet, stationed overseas protecting our freedom or pay for your Internet by how much you use it, online-only play is simply ridiculous. I’m not going to turn this into a DRM debate. I’m simply not. But I will say that the problem with this kind of DRM and others is that the hackers who download the game illegally will simply find a way to loop the connection or some other means of fooling it into thinking the game is online while those who purchased the game legally and find themselves in one of the situations listed above will suffer.
Aside from those 2 issues, speaking from a gaming perspective, if they listen to the advice in our report, we should be able to give them a perfect score.