January 25, 2021

12 Min Read

assassins creedassassins creed valhallaaccessibility

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)
  • (NEW) Addressed an issue where Layla's laptop couldn't be navigated with Focused navigation. (Motor, Cognitive)
  • (NEW) Sliders in menus may be controlled with left/right arrows on keyboard or the left stick on controllers. (Motor, Vision, Cognitive)
  • (NEW) In PhotoMode effect values may now be adjusted with arrow keys 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.

Vibration

  • (NEW) Vibration on controllers has been adjusted and balanced post launch to address issues where it was too sustained or strong. (Motor, Cognitive)

Force Trigger Feedback for Weapons

  • (NEW) Force trigger feedback for combat (Xbox Series X|S or PS5 Only), and specific feedback for bow shooting mechanics was added. (Vision, Cognitive, Hearing, Motor)

Several Alternatives for Hold Inputs

  • There will be alternatives for many hold actions (Motor, Cognitive)
  • Aim toggle
  • Two-step confirmations in UI instead of hold
  • Weapon wheel toggle

Hold Alternative for Menu Interactions

  • There is an option to enable pop ups instead of holds in menu controls. (Motor, Vision, Cognitive)
  • (NEW) This was updated to address an issue where the memory stream couldn't be slected when starting a New Game. (Motor, Vision, Cognitive)

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)
  • (NEW) An option was added to bypass QTEs entirely in some boss encounters - the additional setting is OFF in the options menu. (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)

Secrets are Revealed when Syncronizing Viewpoints

  • (NEW) Secrets won't have to be manually found if a viewpoint is synchronized for an area for all difficulties except Pathfinder. (Cognitive)

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)

Automatically Assign Unspent Skill Points

  • (NEW) An option is available from the center of the skill tree/fate. (Cognitive, Vision)

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)
  • (NEW) Odin's Sight radius increased and enemies will remain highlighted for longer. (Cognitive, Vision)

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 up-to three enemies or waypoints. (Cognitive, Vision)
  • (NEW) Increased distance to view materials and radius to reveal keys. (Vision, Cognitive)

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)

Improved Clarity in Save Menus

  • (NEW) Clarity between manual and cloud saves has been improved in several ways to make them more distinguishable. Cloud saves have also been removed from the Save menu to avoid accidental overwrites. (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)

Objective Beam

  • (NEW) Improvements have been made to the objective beam behaviour and settlement building beams can now be seen using Odin's Sight. (Vision, Cognitive)

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)
  • (NEW) Colorblind mode is now applied to mini-quest logs and the raid tutorial. (Vision, Cognitive)
  • (NEW) Previews have been added for colorblind mode to bring clarity to what elements will change. (Vision, Cognitive)
  • (NEW) Addressed issues where colorblind mode wasn't applied correctly or previews weren't displaying. (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)
  • (NEW) Desktop entries and content on Layla's laptop are narrated when Menu Narration is ON. (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)

In-Game Letters are Narrated

  • (NEW) When text to speech is ON letters found during gameplay and throughout the world will be narrated when picked up. (Vision, Cognitive)

Warning for Unsupported Languages

  • (NEW) When switching to a language that doesn't support TTS from a language that does there will be a warning. (Vision, Cognitive)

Advanced image calibration

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

Quality/Performance Mode Introduction

  • (NEW) Added an option to the game that allows players to choose between Performance or Visual Quality - Xbox Series X|S and PS5. (Vision, Cognitive, Vestibular)
  • Performance: adapts resolution and graphics settings to maintain 60FPS
  • Quality: enables maximum resolution and graphics settings while maintaining 30FPS
  • Default: Xbox Series X/PS5: Performance. Xbox Series S: Quality

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)

Subtitles Preview

  • (NEW) The subtitle option in the menus will now display a preview for clarity on sizes and display. (Hearing, Cognitive, Vision)

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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