Skull and Bones, launching on February 16, will transport players to the Indian Ocean during the Golden Age of Piracy, where they’ll battle ships in fast-paced naval combat, plunder ports, and take on contracts to grow their Infamy and eventually rise to the top as a pirate kingpin. It’s a co-op open world pirate action RPG, where players can do everything from hunting crocodiles and harvesting jute fiber to battling ghost ships and sea monsters. In a multiplayer game of this size and scope, it's especially important to make sure that it can be experienced by as many players as possible.
To find out more about Skull and Bones’ accessibility, we spoke with Project Manager Samuel Soh at Ubisoft Singapore and Production Manager Yurii Martynchyk at Ubisoft Kyiv.
Skull and Bones is a huge PvE open world with PvP activities and lots to do. What kinds of considerations go into ensuring that it’s accessible to a broad spectrum of players? Has it presented any specific challenges?
Yurii Martynchyk: In addition to “classic” accessibility features – remapping, colorblind options, subtitles, etc. – Skull and Bones also includes gameplay-related accessibility options, like the ability to disable camera shakes when you’re sailing, and to automate the harvesting minigames and QTE sequences. In my opinion, it is very important to keep an eye on possible balancing issues when introducing accessibility features, and our team is working closely with colleagues from Singapore to ensure an equitable playing field for all players.
Samuel Soh: I think for accessibility, there are lots of challenges compared to a single-player game. For an online game, you have to consider how players interact with each other. On top of their own personal needs for playing the game, you need to also cater to when players interact with each other through text chat, voice chat, and being able to see the details of other players. For example, although we do not support text scaling everywhere, we did ensure that it was supported in certain crucial features, such as text chat. We also ensure that the font sizes for key information hit a certain level at all other locations where we don't support text scaling.
You mentioned that it's important to keep an eye on possible balancing issues when introducing accessibility features into multiplayer. Have there been any notable junctures where accessibility issues and balancing issues came into conflict?
SS: From my time working on accessibility-related issues, I don't think there has been anything too big in terms of balancing. I think it comes more when they surface as bugs. For example, we had one bug where, if you had the text-to-speech and menu narration turned on before you completed spyglassing an enemy ship, it would already be reading all the details. So players could potentially turn it on and then see the details without the need to spyglass them.
How do the directional indicators for sounds and chat work? What will players who turn it on see onscreen?
SS: If you turn on the closed captions and the directional indicator, you would see a line on the right side of the screen, which shows you the direction the sound is coming from and the cause of the sound. It could be something like a cannon boom, or it could be a ship explosion. There are some audio cues that will turn into these visual cues for players who face hearing challenges.
Is there something you’re particularly proud of when it comes to accessibility in Skull and Bones?
SS: I think one of the things in which we invested quite a lot, and will continue to work on even post-launch, is menu narration in general. There’s a lot of effort being put into that. We chose to prioritize menu narration as a whole so that players who need it could understand all the elements on the screen. In every circumstance, where possible, whenever there's a menu presented, all UI elements are read out, and the controls that you can press are also read out. We also needed to have some considerations when menu narration conflicted with other gameplay elements. For example: If an NPC talks, do we choose to prioritize menu narration, or to prioritize what the vendor says? And we concluded that if players turned on menu narration, that would be more important for them, so we prioritized that over the NPC talking in those particular scenarios.
YM: Controls customization is one thing we are very proud of here in Kyiv. Narration for in-game interfaces is another feature we’re proud of; it covers all crucial in-game interfaces. Customization for subtitles and gameplay closed captions is fantastic – players can adjust anything from background opacity to speaker name color!
Skull and Bones is a live game that will be continually updated. What is the team’s approach to keeping the game accessible as it grows and changes?
SS: Within our development teams, when we develop new features and new content, accessibility requirements are always a consideration – how we can support menu narration for new content, new systems, as well as, say, colorblind support for new images, new icons, new textures. It’s an essential part of what we do when developing new features and UI for future content as well. We’re always on the lookout for feedback – lurking on social media platforms and seeing what we can do to improve in future releases.
YM: Ubisoft’s customer support site and Discord are the main points of contact when it comes to player feedback. Accessibility features will be supported and improved equally with other gameplay features based on player feedback. You can also get in touch with us on X (formerly Twitter) @UbisoftSupport, or use our contact form online to submit your feedback.
ACCESSIBILITY FEATURES LIST
Remap keys and controls (Motor, Cognitive)
Remap gameplay inputs on Gamepad and Mouse and Keyboard.
Swap Left and Right Stick actions.
Invert X and Y axis for all game camera modes.
Swap trigger and bumper functions.
Button holds and toggles (Motor, Cognitive)
- Option to change holds to toggles for selected actions: Interact, open item wheel, Spyglass Mode, aim, brace
Control Presets (Motor, Cognitive)
Preset control schemes are available for Gamepad, which can be edited further to create custom presets.
Interactive Control Scheme for controller (Motor, Cognitive): View and interact with the current control mapping. Actions are highlighted when selected, and a list can be expanded where there are multiple actions assigned to a button.
Vibration (Motor, Cognitive)
- Option to adjust vibration intensity on gamepad, or disable entirely.
Adaptive Trigger intensity (Motor, Cognitive)
- Option to adjust the intensity of the Adaptive Trigger effects for DualSense controller.
Sensitivity (Motor, Motion Sickness)
Option to adjust the sensitivity of movement and camera.
Camera sensitivity can be fine-tuned for each axis.
Dead Zones (Motor, Cognitive)
- Option to customize dead zone for movement stick; the smaller the value, the more sensitive the stick is to input.
Support for multiple input sources (Motor, Cognitive)
- Input from both mouse and controller, or keyboard and controller is supported.
Mouse and Keyboard support for PS5 and Xbox Series (Motor, Cognitive)
Option to automate Harvesting quick time event (minigame) (Motor, Vision)
Color Customization (Vision, Cognitive)
- Color presets are available for each type of colorblindness, affecting Visual Effects, Map and HUD elements.
Letter Spacing customization (Vision, Cognitive)
- Select Default, Wide or Extra Wide letter spacing.
Text Scaling for Subtitles and Text Chat (Vision, Cognitive)
- Players have the option to change the size of the text in subtitles or in the text chat.
Camera Shake (Motion Sickness, Headaches, Vision)
- Option to enable/disable Camera Shake in gameplay.
Incoming Speech-to-Text (Hearing, Cognitive)
- Option to have other players’ voice transcribed from voice chat into text chat messages.
Outgoing Speech-to-Text (Hearing, Cognitive)
- Option to have player’s voice transcribed into a text chat message.
Incoming Text-to-Speech (Hearing, Cognitive)
- Option to have other players’ text message received as voice into the voice chat.
Outgoing Text-to-Speech (Hearing, Cognitive)
- Option to have text message sent as voice into the voice chat.
Subtitles (Hearing, Cognitive, Vision)
Players can choose subtitle types to be displayed (My Ship, Other Ships, Activities, World Life), and customize text size, speaker name, text color, background color and background opacity.
Speaker name is on by default but can be disabled.
Direction indicator is also on by default but can be disabled.
Sound Effect Closed Captions widget
- Widget for displaying name, direction and distance to in-game sound events during gameplay. (Hearing, Cognitive)
Closed Captions in Subtitles enable/disable (Hearing, Cognitive, Vision)
Narration for crucial in-game interfaces (Hearing, Cognitive)
Customizable narration pace, volume, narrator’s voice type.
Option to narrate messages sent to Text Chat. (Hearing, Cognitive)
Skull and Bones sets sail on February 16 for Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, Amazon Luna, and PC (via Ubisoft Connect and the Epic Games Store), and can be played with three-day early access by preordering the Premium Edition or with a Ubisoft+ Premium subscription. For more on the game, be sure to sign up today for the Open Beta running from February 8-11, check out our endgame hands-on, and preorder from the Ubisoft Store.