Accessibility has been quite the topic of discussion when it comes to games, however whilst many developers have implemented features to make their game experiences enjoyable by all, the staff at Turn 10 Studios, the team behind the award-winning and critically-acclaimed Forza Motorsport franchise, have pushed accessibility to new heights with their latest entry in the series, Forza Motorsport 7.
Whilst most people would look at Forza Motorsport 7 as being a hardcore racing game, especially since the rise of the Forza Racing
Championship esports series, there's also the aspect of making the game accessible to players of all-types, including those with disabilities. It’s something that perhaps not all of the Forza player-base may think about, however Turn 10 has gone above and beyond to make Forza Motorsport 7 not just the most accessible racing game to date, but in fact what I believe is one of the most accessible games to date overall for players with limited mobility.
Back in September of last year, I was fortunate enough to be invited to Silverstone, to celebrate the launch of Forza Motorsport 7 and the Xbox
One X at the Porsche Experience Centre. During my time there, I was fortunate enough to have a small presentation and a quick interview with the Creative Director of the Forza franchise, Dan Greenawalt, and whilst we spoke about many interesting topics, there was one thing that I remember sticking with me for a while. And it was just how passionately Greenawalt spoke about how Forza Motorsport 7 embraces players with disabilities.
Recently I had the opportunity to talk to Dan again, to go a little deeper into the new features that Forza Motorsport has implemented into their latest title. These include features such as multi-USB support for new controllers for people with disabilities, colour-blind racing line, and text-to-speech and speech-to-text. In addition, Forza Motorsport 7 has introduced a series of new assist options to help players of all skill-levels and abilities to experience racing at its best yet. These include additional braking support and steering assist, as well as increased traction and stability control – and these have been dubbed as ‘Super Easy’ Assists in the game. There’s also a new Friction Assist, which helps prevents your car from slowing down when it hits the grass or a wet track surface. When combined, these assists can even be configured to play Forza Motorsport 7 at just the push of a singular button.
“Our approach to accessibility in options has also been successful for us,” Greenawalt says. “Giving race options like button mapping, braking assists and automatic steering options gives players of all abilities a way to set the game to their play style.”
To expand the level of interaction disabled players can have with Forza Motorsport 7, Turn 10 have introduced two new features to the game with Text-to-Speech and Speech-to-Text, which have been designed for those hard of hearing or mute. These features were added to Forza Motorsport 7 as part of its December Content Update last year, and they work by allowing players who are speaking into their microphone to have their voice transcribed to text, whilst those who are non-verbal or who prefer not to speak the ability to have their text messages synthesized into audio for all players to hear.
Greenawalt says that accessibility has been a focus for the Forza franchise for many years, and most of the studio's drive comes from their own personal experience with friends and family, as well as a desire to build a more diverse community. Recently, the team started working with the British charity organization Special Effect. “Their passion and expertise in the accessibility space as well as the personal stories of their network has opened up new thinking in the studio – the team is energized,” he explained.
However, it is not just Forza that has doubled down on accessibility, as Greenawalt believes there is a shift across the wider industry as developers begin to prioritize these features in their titles. “If you look at recent games, you can see a shift in how options are expanding for all players,” he says. “HUD toggles and color-blindness settings are looking to be more common. I look forward to seeing how this is expanded to all aspects of the gameplay.”
Microsoft isn’t done just yet with making their games more accessible for everyone, however. To celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day, the company has announced its new Xbox Accessible Controller. This nifty device has been crafted for gamers with limited mobility in mind and aims to address the challenges they face when trying to enjoy games today. It removes barriers faced by disabled gamers by being adaptable to their needs and has been designed to be plug-and-play, extensible, and affordable. Head of Xbox Phil Spencer believes this is the company’s first step along “a journey of inclusive design,” but he did mention that there’s more work to be done in the future.
In addition to the Xbox Accessible Controller, which can be used on all Xbox One consoles and Windows 10 PCs, the Xbox One also features a Co-pilot mode, which allows two controllers to be used as one input. This feature allows a disabled player to receive help from another family member or friend as they enjoy games on their console. For example, one could use the feature to accelerate a car in Forza, whilst the other manages steering and braking. These open more unique gameplay scenarios and can allow disabled gamers to become more involved in the action.
Both the Xbox Accessible Controller and the Xbox One Co-pilot feature can be enjoyed in all Forza titles available on Xbox One and Windows 10 PC. Co-pilot has been available for all Xbox One console owners for some time now, whilst the Xbox Accessible Controller will be launching later this year at $99. Combined with the accessibility features already present in Forza Motorsport 7 and the Xbox One console, it shows that Microsoft and Turn 10 Studios are committed to gaming for everyone.
Whether you have a disability and require special assistance to help you play, or you want to introduce yourself to the world of competitive motorsport regardless of skill levels, Forza Motorsport 7 is by far one of the most accessible games out there. It’s a racing game that has been designed to be inclusive and accessible. It’s one that has kept disabled gamers in mind, as well as the competitive player, and combined with the accessibility features on Xbox One, it means more and more people can finally immerse themselves into the automotive playset that is Forza Motorsport 7 – and based on Greenawalt’s comments, it only appears the team at Turn 10 Studios has plans to expand this even further in the future.
Tom is the co-founder and co-owner of FullThrottle Media. He's the face behind the iconic Gear Knobs series, which is recorded and edited in Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V. When it comes to Tom Matthews, two things come to mind – cars and Jeremy Clarkson, and you can expect to hear a lot of that amongst his various ramblings and rants in his weekly Sunday column.