During my time at PAX Australia I got to speak to a lot of interesting people in the gaming industry across all different fields and they’re conversations I’m incredibly grateful to have had. One person I sat down with that really stuck with me though was Brian Fairbanks from Daisy Ale Soundworks, a game developer and audio designer who for the last year and a half has been specialising in accessibility for blind gamers.
Brian is currently developing two games, both of which are completely accessible for the blind gaming community. The first is Lost and Hound, a game that has the player control a rescue dog that sniffs around a park in search for lost items. The scent trails that the player follows are indicated by a humming sound and that sound will fade if you stray too far from the path, so audio is a pretty strong component of the games core mechanics.
There are options within the game that allow players to experience the game with no visuals at all and have them rely solely on their hearing. Brian mentioned that sighted people who played Lost and Hound actually had a more difficult time completing the objectives than non-sighted people which I found really interesting.
Brian is currently working in collaboration with Ebon Sky Studios, who are developing a custom engine for blind people to make their own games entirely code free! The engine will allow people to develop turn-based RPG games entirely through menu based navigation and it’s going to be the first engine of its kind to ever be developed. In my opinion that is a massive feat for the gaming industry.
Ebon Sky Studios will be developing a free game, then a paid game and then releasing the engine, which is called Sable in the future. The game is going to be a dark medieval RPG and its entirely audio based. A full demo of the engine can be seen on Youtube and is also pinned on the studios twitter account. The demo showcases how the engine works and how players can navigate it to build their own games.
Whilst there aren’t any visuals in the games that are created, the sounds and details that are implemented add to the overall experience. The engine allows the user to set the measurements of their maps and buildings, choose what materials will be inside different rooms and hear ambient noise in the background, giving players the ability to add more life into the worlds that they create.
Accessibility is an issue in the industry that I believe should be given a lot more attention and it’s incredibly exciting that an engine like this is being built. This will allow non sighted people to have more autonomy over the games that they play by actually being the ones who create them. I’m very excited to see what the engine will look like in its final state.
These projects are incredibly personal to the developers and there is so much pressure involved with representing a large group of people that want to feel seen in the gaming industry. I personally think Brian and Ebon Sky are doing fantastic work and making great strides in their field.
Ebon Sky Studios stays pretty active on their twitter account, so for more updates on the engine and what the company is up to, go give them a follow. Also if you’d like to check out more of Brian’s work, go to Daisy Ale Soundwork’s website or Brian’s personal twitter account for more information.