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Accessibility in VR game design: The  Fantastic Contraption  approach

Accessibility in VR game design: The Fantastic Contraption approach

April 7, 2016 | By Alex Wawro

April 7, 2016 | By Alex Wawro
More: VR, Design

"Not everyone has an entire room for VR, and we want to make sure you can play our game."

- Fantastic Contraption developer Andy Moore.

Fantastic Contraption from Northway Games and Radial Games is one of the standout examples of contemporary VR game design and marketing. 

The game's developers have been both inventive and aggressive in showcasing the room-scale construction game to potential players and making it available to them on both the newly-launched Oculus Rift and HTC Vive storefronts.

But releasing it on two different VR platforms with different play space expectations (the Vive is billed as "room-scale VR" and the Rift is not [yet]) means Fantastic Contraption is designed to be accessible to people playing on everything from a tabletop to a living room floor.

In an editorial over on Polygon, Radial Games' Andy Moore sheds a bit of light on why the Fantastic Contraption devs are experimenting with variable scales in the game, and how the suddean death of one of the Vive's two hand controllers during playtesting led to an epiphany about the importance of making VR games (and games in general) accessible to a broad audience.

"I believe it was Lindsay Jorgensen (V-Rtist at Radial Games) who changed how we thought of the game. 'Well, this is how a one-armed person would have to play,' he said. 'Let's fix it,'" writes Moore, referencing an early playtesting session in which one of the Vive controllers ran out of juice, rendering the game's tutorial impossible to complete.

"This quote is about a year old and we haven't really discussed it since, but it resonated with me," he continues. "It can be so hard to remember the privileges we have being able-bodied, and ever since that day we've been trying to make sure that the game is not just functional but fun for as many people as possible."

Part of that encompasses making it playable for people who don't have a lot of room by augmenting its default "room scale" mode with experimental (for now) modes like "floor scale" or "desk scale."

"Due to technical reasons (blah blah fidelity of the physics engine blah) we decided to scale the whole play area up by 10 times fairly early in development," writes Moore. "This produces no perceivable difference to the player themselves, but it had a happy side effect: bugs! We weren't always scaling the player correctly on boot and sometimes you'd be a giant and sometimes you'd be an ant in the world. We realized that these were fantastic experiences as well and we started playing with scale."

For more on what the Fantastic Contraption team discovered, and how they're fine-tuning their game to be enjoyable and accessible to a broad audience of players, check out Moore's full editorial over on Polygon.

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