Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End included accessibility options that were not available in the series’ previous games. Their inclusion in the latest game was in part thanks to Josh Straub, a disabled gamer who contacted developer Naughty Dog about accessibility in video games.
Straub got in touch with UI designer Alexandria Neonakis, whom he told about his love for the Uncharted series and his inability to complete Uncharted 2 because of several doors you have to button-mash to get through near the end.
“I was faced with the reality that I had played this entire game, I had spent $60 on it, and I could not get any further without the help of an able-bodied person,” Straub said in the video embedded above.
Neonakis brought Straub’s story to directors Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley. She also talked to lead game designer Emilia Schatz, whom she discussed The Last of Us‘s accessibility options with and how to expand them for a much wider audience.
One of Uncharted 4’s solutions was to allow the player to toggle the ability to hold the button instead of mashing it when those prompts appear in game. The same thing works for melee, where if you hold the correct button, you’ll continue to punch.
Another challenge Naughty Dog overcame was trying to make the game playable without relying so much on the right stick. There’s an option where, when you’re in cover or combat, the camera can help players out and focus on nearby enemies. Additionally, a lock-on feature was added to help with aiming weapons.
“Growing up, my options for entertainment were limited. What developers need to realize is that these games do more than just entertain the disabled,” Straub said. “First of all, they provide an escape from sort of the doldrums of being disabled. And second of all, they provide a social space where, instead of being judged by physical appearance, we’re purely judged by the actions that we do and the things that we produce in the game.
“When I turn on a game like Uncharted, I’m not, you know, confined to a wheelchair. I’m a swashbuckler, ne’er-do-well treasure hunter like Nathan Drake. That brief period of escape is why accessibility is so crucial because the more games that offer that, the more people with disabilities will be able to escape and have better lives.”
Neonakis said that after hearing Straub’s story, she realized that accessibility in video games is important and wanted to make sure everyone could experience Uncharted 4.
You can watch the full video here or in the embed above.