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Freedom to Play - at No Extra Cost

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Shadow Elusive
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Joined: 01/10/2013 - 09:38
Freedom to Play - at No Extra Cost

We’ve all heard the term ‘free-to-play’ as it relates to the cost to acquire and play a title, but lesser known is the alternative meaning – free access, as opposed to no cost. For example, a notable portion of the population is colour-blind, including key members of the production team, such as Warcabbit and Doctor Tyche (whom have both given me permission to point them out). If our assets and models were heavily dependent on the parts of the visual spectrum they are unable to distinguish, their ability to effectively enjoy City of Titans would be diminished.

In an earlier update, I stated that Missing Worlds Media is more accurately building a fully interactive virtual social networking platform that just so happens to double as an entertainment medium. We’re been designing accommodation for things like colour-blindness and other barriers into City of Titans from Day Zero because of these details. I should know, since I myself am autistic, and did much to set out the particulars of how we account for these details.

Way back in September of 2012, when I was preparing our operational plan for both the business and production, I put years’ worth of behavioural and anthropological research on the nature of play into it. According to well-known (and also autistic) animal researcher Temple Grandin and her book, Animals Make Us Human, play is a critical element in the establishment and maintenance of good mental health for any sentient creature, and that includes humans.

That is one of the key reasons why we’re focusing on building the community at the same time as we steadily work on City of Titans, as we hope to enable parents to play with their children, using it as a tool to teach them to read, as well as to help everyone form relationships with people they would otherwise never encounter. There are, after all, countless stories about people who have met their spouses through an MMO, and I myself have strong friendships that exist only because of our predecessor.

That being said, accounting for the ability to toggle for colour-blindness or to selectively mute sounds and visual effects that might cause pain or nausea is very obvious, and comparatively minor in reflection of the larger and more substantial accommodation goals we’ve set for ourselves. A completely customizable control schema enabling a person to play with a single hand or having JAWS integration with our comfortable and easy text-based chat interface is much closer to the scale of accommodation we’re aiming for.

This would have the advantage of allowing a person who is without sight being able to enjoy the title without much difficulty when combined with the control customization. Our goal is to minimize physical barriers to enjoyment of City of Titans as much as possible, to ensure that we have as broad an audience as possible.

As we are incorporating features such as this right from the design stage, as opposed to incorporating them later, we’ve learned quite a bit about ancillary benefits in their use. The XMPP system we have planned for use as the chat engine in game is our virtual office space, and as such our interactions enable me to not have to worry about my rather pronounced stutter. Likewise, it allows for a degree of anonymity for those who would much prefer it.

Despite all of this, I would strongly suggest that the single largest accommodating factor we’ve accounted for is merely in recognizing the nature of the genre. We’re building a game in which people who are unable to walk (for any reason) will be able to find themselves flying, so it goes largely without saying that there are countless individuals with extraordinary needs that we want to be able to welcome into our city.

Titan City isn’t going to be a truly safe space, as no place is. But we can, and will try to be better – and in the end, that it is all that it truly takes to be a hero (or a villain, for that matter).

Written by - David 'Terwyn' MacKay

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Interior Map Lead and UI Designer