Accessibility update: Some news that I think you should all hear

incoming wall of text
A couple of years ago, back in Season 2, I made my first post on the Season 2 forums. That post discussed my frustration with the game as it stood then, more specifically with my issues with ranked at the time as I couldn’t keep a combo together. It wasn’t for lack of trying either, it was just because, without sight, I had no way of seeing the KV to tell if it would blow out or not.

As most of you reading this are probably aware, this was then fixed via the introduction of what is now the HUD volume slider first included without toggles as part of the Rash beta in September of that year.

Now though, news has broken that will, if acted on by the developers of KI, potentially make the game almost, if not fully, playable without sight. (I only say almost as sometimes there are visual elements that make the game more difficult to work with in places in terms of the mechanics etc, as you are no doubt aware).

Yes, that would include ShadowLords too.

The news comes from a microsoft session at GDC, which wasn’t recorded but this is the info page. When I first heard about this, though I knew I couldn’t be in attendence, I understood that the idea of off-the-shelf APIs for game developers to work with would, if executed correctly, make everything so much easier for them and for those of us without sight like @Blindgamer102, @Jukesy1992 and myself to name just 3 KI players.

The session took place yesterday and… here’s the news as it stands. I’ll quote from a tweet that was sent out after the talk:

“As of now Xbox has a text to speech API, allowing #gamedev to easily implement #blind-accessible in-game UIs #gdc17”.

If you don’t know what this means, basically Narrator, the screen reader for the Xbox One operating system, would be able to read all of Killer Instinct’s menus, command lists, frame data, stage selections, story mode text, tutorials, ranked screens, gamertags (not sure about that last one but think it could be doable) and I’d argue most importantly, the text and menus etc for Shadow Lords.

All we need to do, essentially, is get the developers to take a look at this and agree to put it in, acting on it once they do so that everyone can have even more value out of the game.

Shadow Lords has long held me back from recommending Killer Instinct as wholeheartedly as I did before it was added. With this new development, however, were it to be integrated into the entire game, I would certainly be willing to retract my reservations and possibly even do an entire SL playthrough. I could finally get my Astral Plane unlock and not have to worry about whether I’d managed it etc, as Narrator would announce it.

Apologies for the wall of text but I think it’s prudent to ask. What do you all think of this?

Feel free to tag developers in this thread so that they can see the discussions unfold and feel free to ask any relevant questions and I’ll answer what I can.



1 Like

This needs to be a thing like yesterday!

Considering KI is very well designed from a sound perspective which already gives it it’s own pretty unique form of accessibility, I don’t see there should be a problem with pushing it one step further.

I really hope this happens so that KI can be fully inclusive of everyone. :smiley:



It is straightforward to implement, just send a text string to the API and the Xbox system will render it out as audio.

You obviously don’t want it on for 100% of players, so include a toggle in the settings to turn it on/off.

There’s already focus management functionality in the game, i.e. the interface works by a single UI element having focus and moving that focus around the screen to reach the item you want. So whenever an item recieves focus, pass out the label of that item (the existing label might already be appropriate, or you many need to add in a new more descriptive label) to the API.

That’s enough to get all of the menus working. for the non-interactive elements, sometimes it might just be appropriate to send text string on load or on text update; or for when accessibility option is turned on, expand the focus management out to include non-interactive text elements. So you could use the controller to move across to a bit of instructional text to hear that read out.

It’s all pretty straightforward stuff. And if jumped on quickly enough, could result in KI being the first big game to implement this kind of tech on a console. The first ever AAA XB1 game to be 100% blind accessible through design. The PR value alone from that would be pretty huge.

It was only announced on Thursday, so there’s time to get in there quickly, and it sounded like Xbox wanted to work with developers to help make it happen.



Thankfor your simple, but possibly effective 1 word reply. :slight_smile:

Thanks for an interesting insight into how it works. Shame Microsoft themselves don’t appear to have released any full on documentation at the current time

Thanks for the vote of support for KI being a good idea for the first game to receive an update of this magnitude. It’d be good to be able to finally play Shadow Lords, without sighted assistance. :slight_smile: