October 14, 2020

9 Min Read

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Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Bringing Accessibility to a Viking Epic

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s focus on accessibility has been revealed today, joining Watch Dogs: Legion and Immortals Fenyx Rising as part of Ubisoft’s most accessible lineup of games to date. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has many core gameplay features, as well as a bevy of customization options designed to improve both usability and accessibility for players.

We spoke with Maimouna Brownrigg, user interface team lead at Ubisoft Montreal, and Franck Murcia, user experience director at Ubisoft Montreal, about these features and options and how the team set out to improve accessibility in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.

FIRST-TIME USER EXPERIENCE FLOW

  • A core set of options is available to all when booting up the game for the first time to enable a smooth experience from the outset.

CONTROLS

"We’re pretty proud of the ‘multiple methods to navigate menus’ option,” says Brownrigg. “Even as the developers, we realize how the free cursor was frustrating in some menus. We’ve been thinking about this since Assassin’s Creed Origins, so we’re pleased that we’ve been able to achieve this. But just having several ways for users to navigate ultimately benefits everyone."

"For controller remapping, we had a good foundation with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey as well,” says Murcia. “The team has tried to improve some aspects of it, and we’ve also added things like being able to swap [the left and right] sticks, which was a community-requested feature."

Multiple Methods to Navigate Menus

In addition to the free-cursor and mouse navigation in menus, there will be an optional “Focus” mode that snaps the cursor to menu items and enables navigation with the left stick or WASD on keyboard. (Motor, Vision, Cognitive)

Control Remapping & Customization

There will be remapping for keyboard, mouse, and controllers. There are many complementary settings to customize controls (see list below). (Motor, Cognitive)

  • Invert controls for camera, movement, and raven
  • Swap sticks for both gameplay and menus on controller
  • Sensitivity for camera/movement on controller and mouse
  • Mouse acceleration
  • Left-handed mouse
  • Vibration (Off, Light, Full)
  • Auto (On Foot) movement (PC & keyboard/mouse only)

On PC, you can fully disable either controllers or keyboard and mouse.

Several Alternatives for Hold Inputs

There will be alternatives for many hold actions (Motor, Cognitive), including:

  • Aim toggle
  • Two-step confirmations in UI instead of hold
  • Weapon wheel toggle

Hold Length Adjustment for Interaction

You will be able to adjust the length of interaction holds from 100-1,000 milliseconds (0.1-1 second). (Motor, Cognitive)

Quick Time Events

You will be able to choose between one-time press, hold, or repeated presses for quick time events. (Motor, Cognitive)

Aim Assistance

There will be three levels of aim assistance for the bow. (Motor, Cognitive, Vision)

GAMEPLAY

"For an open-world game, you have a lot of components that are a part of the experience, and we thought it was natural to allow the player to really tweak those three aspects – fighting, stealth, and exploration – of the game," says Murcia. "We also added a small tweak to the gameplay for some cognitive feedback that helps you assassinate targets [with a guaranteed assassination]. It’s a small option, but it’s big for players who are struggling with stealth or are getting frustrated."

Screen Shake Toggle

You will be able to disable screen shake effects during gameplay. (Motion Sickness, Headaches, Vision)

Fight Difficulty

There will be four settings to customize the challenge of combat. (Cognitive, Motor, Vision, Hearing)

Stealth Difficulty

There will be three settings to customize the challenge of stealth. (Cognitive, Motor, Vision, Hearing)

Exploration Difficulty

There will be three settings to customize the challenge of exploration. (Cognitive, Motor, Vision)

Guaranteed Assassinate

Regardless of the difficulty setting selected, this setting enables you to always assassinate higher-level enemies. When this feature is off some higher-level enemies will only be partially damaged by assassination attempts. (Motor, Cognitive, Vision)

Full Progression and Gameplay Customization

From choosing skill tree progression and ability upgrades to putting together diverse weapons, tools, and armor loadouts, you will be able to customize your playstyle to suit your individual strengths. (Motor, Vision, Cognitive)

Odin's Sight

Odin’s Sight is a scan ability that will both identify and tag nearby loot and enemies with audio and visual cues. To enable further visual cues for Odin’s Sight, turn on Closed Captions (see Audio). (Cognitive, Vision, Motor)

Tagging Enemies

When enemies are tagged with Odin’s Sight, there will be an outline and highlight on them. (Vision, Cognitive)

Eivor’s Raven

You will be able to control Eivor’s Raven in order to plan ahead by scouting areas, finding hidden points or areas of interest, investigating outposts, and tagging enemies or waypoints. (Cognitive, Vision)

Auto Follow Road/River on Horse and in Longboat

You will be able to have Eivor follow roads and rivers when riding mounts. (Motor, Vision, Cognitive)

Gameplay Tutorials

There will be a list of tutorials and gameplay tips in the main menu. (Cognitive)

Gameplay Tips

There are tips and tutorials for gameplay and menus throughout. You will be able to adjust how often these display in HUD settings. (Cognitive)

Menu Tutorials

You will be able to replay onboarding tutorials from the menu. (Cognitive)

Control Reminders

There are both contextual and persistent control prompts in-game that can be turned off in the HUD settings. (Cognitive)

Multiple Save Slots

You will be able to have multiple saves in separate save slots as well as regular auto-saves. (Motor, Cognitive, Vision)

Gore and Blood Content

There will be a toggle to disable gore and blood content and animations. (Cognitive)

HUD and UI

"A big topic for us was menu font size. One of our frustrations with Assassin’s Creed Origins was that we realized way too late that our font size was too small" says Brownrigg. "We ended up talking about this and addressing it very early on [for Valhalla], and Stadia, as a platform on mobile, helped give us an extra push us in that direction to [increase font size]. It’s very challenging to design all menus with a large font in mind, because when I say font size, it also means the icon size, too."

Menu font size

There will be three settings to increase text size in the HUD and Menus. (Vision, Cognitive)

Icon size

There will be three settings to increase icon size in the HUD and Menus. (Vision, Cognitive)

HUD Configuration

You will be able to customize which modules are displayed at all times for each HUD element. (Cognitive)

HUD Background

You will be able to enable a background for HUD elements to enhance contrast and legibility, as well as adjust the opacity percentage. (Cognitive, Vision)

Compass Icon Distance

You will be able to turn the distance markers in the compass on or off. (Cognitive, Vision, Motor)

Colorblind Mode

You will be able to select from the main types of colorblindness, and some UI elements will adapt to improve perception. (Vision, Cognitive)

Text to speech

Menu Narration will be available in English across all settings menus and most elements of in-game menus. There are small functionality gaps in some in-game menu items. There is no narration for HUD. (Vision, Cognitive)

Text to Speech Pace and Volume

You will be able to individually adjust both the pace and volume of menu narration by percentage. (Vision, Cognitive)

Advanced image calibration

You'll be able to adjust the image brightness, contrast, and HDR settings. (Vision, Cognitive, Headaches)

AUDIO

"Closed-captioning is super important," says Murcia. "[Captions] can pop onscreen and point out objects that are interactive, or quest objectives that are around you. We’ve also tried to work on the volume and deliver a way to balance it. We’ve added a new way to adjust the master volume and the ambient volume so players can fade out some specific sounds. The audio team also did a lot of work to add audio beacons or notifications."

"We’ve also added a new option that is pretty cool," Murcia explains. "When your character is not able to move in a direction, we play a small audio cue to notify you that the character is stuck. We asked the programmers if we could do it, and we explained that it’s a request from blind players. It’s in the game, so we’re interested to see how it’s received."

Closed captions

You will be able to turn on visual notifications for various in-game sound elements – this also includes audio pings for the Odin’s Sight scan ability, which increases the visibility of Odin’s Sight. (Hearing, Cognitive, Vision)

Subtitle size

There will be three settings to increase subtitle size. (Hearing, Cognitive, Vision)

Subtitle background

You will be able to enable a background for subtitles to enhance contrast and legibility, as well as adjust the opacity percentage. (Hearing, Cognitive, Vision)

Speaker Name

You will be able to display the names of the characters speaking before their lines, with improved legibility. (Hearing, Cognitive)

Turn Subtitles Off

You will be able to turn subtitles off completely to reduce how much is on screen at once. (Cognitive)

Master Volume

You will be able to set the master volume of the game. (Hearing, Cognitive, Vision)

Audio Dynamic Range

There will be multiple pre-sets that will enable a reduction in the difference between the quietest and loudest sounds. (Cognitive, Hearing)

Dialogue Boost

You will be able to boost the audio levels of dialogue. (Cognitive, Hearing, Vision)

Obstacle Collision SFX

You will be able to enable Sound Effects to enhance feedback for collisions with Eivor. (Vision, Cognitive)

Music Frequency

You will be able to reduce the frequency with which music plays throughout the game or turn it off. (Cognitive, Hearing, Vision)

Ambient Volume (planned for post-launch)

You will be able to set the ambient sounds volume of the game. (Hearing, Cognitive, Vision)

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla launches on November 10 on Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PS4, PC (including UPLAY+), and Stadia, and on November 12 for PlayStation 5, as well as Luna when the Ubisoft channel launches. For all the latest news on the game, be sure to visit our Assassin’s Creed Valhalla news hub.

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