Beyond assisting the player in various ways, you might also provide options that simplify the game experience. By automating certain actions you might reduce the amount of inputs required to play, which can be useful for players who find it difficult to interact with multiple inputs.
This video looks at how developers can help players to access a game, over 5 modules:
7.1 Introduction to Simplification
Beyond assisting the player in various ways, you might also provide options that simplify the game experience, and possibly reduce the amount of inputs required to play your game.
You might let the player simplify certain parts of your game so they require fewer inputs overall, or perhaps you might let them automate certain actions so they’re performed automatically without any input from the player.
Much like when deciding how you might assist the player, how you choose to simplify your game will depend greatly on the nature of your game. Here we will look at some options developers have provided that can simplify the overall experience.
7.2 Alternative Actions
Offer players alternative ways to perform actions.
There may be actions in your game that require the use of certain inputs or input interactions that some players may find challenging. Providing alternative ways to perform these actions might simplify your game and allow more people to access it.
Games that use cursor interactions, like point and click style games, sometimes require other inputs to perform certain actions, such as requiring buttons or keys to open a menu or inventory. Consider whether some of those actions could potentially be performed when the user selects a graphical element on screen with their cursor instead. This way they might no longer need to have access to some inputs.
When playing GNOG on PC with the Mouse Accessibility mode enabled, actions like rotating the puzzles and opening the menu can now be performed by selecting different elements of the interface, instead of having to use the escape key or right mouse button.
Even in games that don’t use a cursor by default, it might be possible to allow actions to be performed in this way.
When using a gamepad in Nowhere Prophet, it’s possible to switch from a style of play that requires a number of different inputs, to an entirely cursor-based interaction method where all the actions can be performed by moving the cursor and selecting different graphical elements.
Menus can sometimes be difficult for some players to interact with, especially menus that require several inputs in order to fully access them.
If the other inputs required in your menu are used to provide quick access to certain pages, consider providing alternative ways to navigate to those areas with fewer inputs. Perhaps again with selectable targets that take the player to those pages. Though a manual approach may take longer for the player, it reduces the overall number of inputs needed to play.
An option in FIFA makes it possible to navigate certain menus without the need for the bumpers and triggers if using a gamepad. Navigation within these menus can now be performed with just the left stick instead.
You may have an event in your game that requires an analog input to be moved in a series of precise ways. Consider whether it’s possible to simplify the action so that it can perhaps be performed with a digital input instead.
Fishing in Red Dead Redemption 2 would normally require you to spin the right stick to reel a fish in, but turning on Hold to Reel, will let you reel the fish in by holding a digital input instead.
And in a similar way, opening chisel doors in God of War would normally require precise analog movement, but setting Chisel Doors to Single Button, means they can be opened with a single button press instead.
Another way of providing alternative inputs for certain actions is to give control of those actions to one or more other people, either locally or online.
Games like Super Mario Odyssey and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons on Nintendo Switch both allow you to play what would typically be single player experiences with two players, each using a different controller when that mode is enabled.
And in Arise: A Simple Story, while two player mode is on, player one has access to all of the actions that control the character, whereas the second player is able to control the environment. These actions would normally all be performed by a single player.
This means the player has fewer actions they need to perform themselves. This method of play will only be suitable for some games however.
7.3 Automatic Digital Actions
Allow players to automate certain digital actions.
Even when alternative ways to perform certain actions are available, some players may find there are still too many actions overall for them to play successfully. In these cases it might be possible to reduce the number of actions the player needs to perform by partially, or fully automating them. Which could in turn reduce the total number of inputs required to play your game.
There are a number of ways you might automate digital actions, and how this is implemented will depend on the nature of each action and each game.
In Mario Kart 8 Deluxe each player can enable Auto Accelerate, so they no longer need to use an input to accelerate at the same time as using an input for other actions, such as steering or using an item.
You might decide to automate a digital action by having it be performed in response to another action. So that if the player performs one action, then another is automatically performed following that.
In Outer Wilds you can set Jetpack Boost Mode to Auto so that you will automatically boost whenever you use upward thrust. This removes the need to use two inputs simultaneously, as if it were set to manual you would need to use one input for boost and another for upward thrust.
Another way of having a digital action be performed automatically is to let the player set it to happen only when in certain contexts within the game. These contexts could take any form and so will be different for each game.
Enabling Auto Jump in Minecraft will mean the player automatically jumps when approaching a block, allowing them to climb without needing to manually jump. This setting is available for all of the supported input methods, including touch.
Likewise with Auto Switching set to Auto in FIFA, players no longer need to manually switch players, as the game will automatically switch to the nearest player to the ball at any given moment while defending.
The Last of Us Part II provides a way to automate a number of digital actions in specific contexts. Turning on Traversal Assistance will mean the player will now automatically perform certain actions in specific contexts. Like automatically climbing up when near a ledge, or jumping from a rope at the right time, or even automatically vaulting obstacles while riding a horse.
If your game has actions that require particularly complex input interactions to be performed successfully, automating these actions might be a way to allow some players to access your game who otherwise couldn’t.
In Spider-Man enabling QTE Auto Complete will mean quick time events are automatically carried out, allowing players to avoid input interactions which they might otherwise find too difficult. This setting includes repeated button press events that need to be performed quickly.
7.4 Automatic Analog Actions
Allow players to automate certain analog actions in a specific or optimal way.
In a similar way to automating digital actions, analog actions can also be automated.
Analog actions however can take any number of values, so you will need to decide how best to automate them given the current actions available in your game. You might decide to let players configure how analog actions are performed in a specific way, or you might have them be performed in an optimal way instead.
For example you might let the player move on a set or predetermined path to reach a particular destination. Once activated the game will adjust the player’s movements to keep them on the path.
In Red Dead Redemption 2 you can set a waypoint on the map and hold a button to have the character automatically follow roads and paths to get there, while in Cinematic Camera mode.
In Forza Motorsport 7 the highest level of steering assist will guide the driver’s steering to keep them near the optimal driving line. Though it won’t alter the path in response to other vehicles, it can allow for races to be completed without the player having to manually steer.
In a similar way to this you could also have an option to alter the path of the player to avoid obstacles or areas that might slow them down. If the player is going to collide with something, and might not be able to move an analog input quickly enough to avoid it, have the player automatically steer around it.
In Mario Kart 8 Deluxe enabling Smart Steering will mean that when the player nears the edge of the track or an area that will slow them down, the Smart Steering will activate and alter the path of the player to keep them on the track.
Some games, third-person games in particular, have an action that automatically recentres the camera with the press of a button, which usually adjusts it to face the direction the player’s character is facing. This might make handling the camera easier in some situations as the camera can now be partially controlled without the need for an analog input.
But as with digital actions, you could also automate analog actions in response to other actions. So as an alternative to resetting the camera manually, you could include the option to have the camera automatically adjust itself when the character attacks for example, like God of War allows you to do.
Or perhaps you might continuously update the direction of the camera to point in the direction that the character is moving.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy has the option to change the camera from Passive, to Active, which means the camera will continually readjust itself to face the direction Spyro is moving.
Including this option in third-person games can be especially beneficial for players who have difficulty using two analog sticks at the same time.
The Last of Us Part II’s Camera Assist option will reorient the camera in the direction of the player’s movement, and also allows you to limit the assistance to a single axis if preferred.
Though less common, you could also automatically move the camera in a first-person game. Sea of Thieves for instance has an Auto Center Camera option that automatically returns the camera to the horizon after a specified delay, minimising the amount that the player needs to manually move the camera.
As with automating digital actions, another benefit of automating analog actions might be to prevent the player from having to perform otherwise complex input interactions.
In Outer Wilds if you enable the Autopilot feature, it can then be used to travel to a planet in an optimal direction and at an optimal speed throughout the journey. The player locks onto the planet they want to travel to, activates the autopilot, and the ship then automatically adjusts various aspects of its motion to arrive at the planet. This replaces what might be a set of complex analog movements with a single press of an input.
7.5 Action Predictions
If possible, predict and then automate actions the player would like to perform.
Another way of potentially simplifying your game for the player, would be to try and predict what action the player would like to perform at certain moments.
Obviously this might be a complex feature to implement as you would need to ensure actions were not performed when unwanted by the player, so predictions might be based on a number of factors.
When making these predictions you could consider the current context of the player, or other actions they’ve just performed.
For instance in FIFA’s Two Button mode, when an input is pressed, the game will decide whether the player would like to play a ground pass, a through pass, or a lob pass. How it decides is based on a number of factors. The direction the analog stick is pointing at the time, and how long the input is held for, both have an effect, but the current position of other players will also be considered. And the One Button mode will do the same but will also consider if the player would like to shoot as well when pressing the Action button.
In Devil May Cry using the Auto Assist mode will let you perform intricate combos with only a single input, where normally multiple different inputs would be required. When the input is pressed in combat situations, the game will try to determine what the best action is at any moment, and automatically perform it for you.
As with many of the ways of simplifying your game, the main benefit of this is that now fewer inputs will be needed to play, as a single input can perform multiple actions, with the game deciding which action the player would like to perform each time.
If you do implement predictions into your game, how you handle them, and what effect they have, will depend on the nature of your game.
This video looked at Simplification. Review the different modules in this topic, and discover other topics, on the SpecialEffect DevKit website at specialeffectdevkit.info.