Resident Evil 6: Surviving Blind

Resident Evil 6 is an interesting beast. It is an example I have used in multiple conversations when discussing the phenomenon I call accidental accessibility. The reason for this is that its accessibility is very clearly so accidental as to almost be hilarious. In fact, in presentations, I have even made jokes about it. Still, the fact that it’s there is awesome, and since this blog exclusively covers awesome things, we’re going to talk about it.

First up, I should mention its menus. While they will require memorization or a menu guide, they do not wrap. Or more accurately, they do wrap, but in the perfect way for a blind person. I equate them to the menus of the Xbox360, which don’t wrap if you’re holding the arrow key up or down and reach the top or bottom, but do wrap if you then release the arrow and press it again. This is the perfect way to do something like this, because it means that we can always locate the top or bottom of a menu, but can still get to an option we know is in the opposite area quickly if we need to. It’s a nice touch.

Second, we need to cover an option in the game’s settings, which causes the game to automatically perform some of the mor simplistic Quicktime events automatically. There are keywords here, those being some, and simplistic. This means that there are a plethora of the game’s quicktime sequences that are not covered here. Those will have to be learned, and in some cases struggled through, but this helps.

Now we get to the game itself. This is where things get crazy. The primary reason Resident Evil 6 is accessible is an interesting design choice the developers made. There is a button you can press to bring up a view of the area map, with an arrow pointing you toward your objective. That in itself doesn’t sound very useful. The thing is, as the arrow points toward your objective, it also snaps the camera in that direction. And as it turns out, movement in this game is dependent on where the camera is pointing. Therefore, if you hold down the map button, and press the thumbstick forward, you will casually saunter toward your objective.

I say that you casually saunter because of the drawback of playing the game this way. This is the part that makes it clear the fact that this works is an accident. You see, visually on screen when you press the map button, the character looks down at their PDA as if the map were located there. While they are doing this, they cannot move quickly. You the player are not meant to hold the button constantly. You are meant to take a look at where the arrow and camera are pointing, and move on. Not us blind gamers, though. Also, there is no actual pathfinding in place for movement like this, so we tend to get stuck on tables and stairs and protruding objects of any kind, but a quick back up, move off to the side, try again tactic usually fixes this.

Now here’s an accidental accessibility feature that’s kind of going to suck if you don’t have access to a handy sighted person. The game is a bit more fast-paced if you are doing co-op with a sighted individual, and here’s why. During the game, whether or not you’re playing Co-op, pressing the circle or B button orients the camera, and thus you, onto your co-op partner. When playing alone, the partner doesn’t do anything without you, so they’ll never be ahead of where you are. But if you bring in a sighted friend to lead the charge, you can hold circle as you would hold the map button, and your character will follow theirs step for step. It’s pretty awesome.

Now as I’m sure you know, Resident Evil is about zombies. Resident Evil 6 in particular, having strayed from the franchise’s survival horror roots, is more about killing them in all sorts of fun ways. The good news here, though, is that shooting zombies in this game is not only possible for the blind, but very, very fun. Firstly, the surround sound in RE6 is good enough that, if you’re wearing a surround sound headset or have a good system, you can orient pretty well on zombies nearby, and take them out. Even if you don’t have a setup like that, though, every character has a move called a quickshot, which is an autoaimed shot at your nearest target. It does take some of your stamina meter to use, but it’s a good way to start when a hoard is coming at you.

Even executing awesome melee attacks is possible. You can use surround sound to orient and then charge your enemies, dealing some quick damage with a melee combo, and you can even execute counter attacks if you’re fast enough. Every enemy has a well-defined attack sound, which includes a setup for their swing at you. Some are quicker than others of course, but they’ve all got one, and if you can press the melee button just as the attack is coming, you’ll execute an awesome counter. If you become amazing at this, it will actually serve you if you try out the game’s mercenaries mode, which adds 5 seconds to your remaining time for every counter you execute.

Now let’s be clear on this. There are still accessibility issues with this game. Some of the quicktime events not covered by that feature I mentioned earlier are quite tough, relying on precisely pressing a button when a meter is full, or a cursor is in the right spot. No items in the game make any kind of ambient noise, so while we might be able to get to our objective, we miss a million things along the way, including ammo which is of course quite valuable. Finally, there are entire sequences in that game that are nearly impossible if you’re blind, such as a moment where you have to shoot churchbells which of course don’t make a noise until you shoot them, or a moment where you have to line up your gun’s laser site with a reflective disc so the beam reflects the correct way. These are obvious problems which you will likely need assistance to pass, but in spite of them I still have to recommend this game. The playable parts of it outweigh the nonplayable ones, it’s fun and fast-paced at times even though you’re stuck walking slow, and at least on the PS4, you can recruit any willing sighted individual that also has a PS4 to help, as they can take control with Shareplay.

Resident Evil 6 remains a prime example of accidental accessibility. It was not loved by critics, it was not loved by classic Resident Evil fans, but I can honestly say that it remains one of my favorite console games today. If you can look past its deviation from traditional Resident Evil, it has a solid story, excellent voice acting and production values, amazing audio design, and yes, we can basically play it. As always, feel free to contact me with any additional questions you might have after reading this, and thanks for being awesome!

Diablo 3: An Accessible Little Devil

Diablo 3, as you may or may not know, has been out for a long time. I mean a long, long time. Many, many years. Its PS4 release is more recent, but even that has existed for several years now. Nevertheless, for most of its existence, I never once tried to play it. Usually I am willing to try anything once, but I made the foolish mistake of dismissing it as an impossibility. “There’s nothing here that will help us,” I thought. “There’s no way we could get through this game. It’s all about the gear, and improving the gear, and leveling up, and the grind, there’s just no way.” I’m ultimately very happy to say that I was wrong.

It was my fiance’s idea, actually. She’s the one who suggested, after having played the game quite a lot herself, that I give Diablo 3 a try. We’ve lived together for some time, and she’s gotten used to my talk about accessibility, why certain games are and are not accessible to us, and what kinds of things we blind gamers are looking for. She was convinced that she had spotted things which definitely made Diablo 3 accessible. I was skeptical, but I gave it a shot, and boy was I surprised.

She had picked out a number of things. First, the movement was simplistic. You never have to jump in Diablo 3. There is 0 platforming. That’s actually an important issue. When we blind gamers are trying to figure out where to go, where and when we have to jump can really hinder our efforts. Keep in mind that we can’t actually see any platforms if they are there, so if one is required to progress, we may be stuck there until the end of time. Not so with Diablo 3.

Secondly, when you are walking along and run into a wall, the footstep sounds cease. This is also important, as many games keep that animation playing even as the character runs into a wall. We may not be able to see obstacles, but using this method, we know when we encounter one and thus need to change direction.

Third, monsters mean progress. Monsters in Diablo 3 don’t automatically respawn unless you reload the game. When they’re dead, they stay dead. So for the most part, if you’re encountering enemies, you’re probably going the right way.

Fourth, positional audio. Not only do the monsters themselves make noise in the appropriate surround sound channels, but so do dropped objects. If an item drops nearby, it actually isn’t too difficult to track the area where it dropped, and go pick it up. There can be some confusion when many, many items drop at once, which happens when you slay a rift guardian, but overall these things are extremely helpful to us.

Fifth, exits. This is something I noticed myself when I listened to her play the game, but didn’t think it was enough. Alone, it wouldn’t be, but with all these other things, the fact that entrances and exits to different areas make noise when you approach them is just another helpful addition. When you hear that hissing sound, you know that pressing X will take you somewhere else.

With these basic discoveries, I began playing Diablo 3 for PS4. Once I did, I made even more discoveries. For instance, certain world objects and items make their own ambient noise. This I found very strange, as I couldn’t really see a reason for it from a sighted gamer’s perspective. That’s not a complaint by any means, it just struck me as strange because I know Blizard didn’t consider the blind when making the game. There is a crafting component called Death’s Breath which, after it is dropped, has an ambient sound, making it easy for us to collect. The waypoint markers in each area also make a sound. If a demon Hunter class drops a century turret, that makes a sound too while it’s active, even when it’s not shooting at anything. These are really interesting sound design choices that, while nonessential for sighted gamers, are actually wonderful for us.

Next, shortcuts. Diablo 3’s story mode does an interesting thing. For context, you can use waypoints to teleport to different major map areas. In adventure mode, you have to specifically select a waypoint to teleport to once you are in the appropriate menu. Not in story mode, however. In story mode, the correct waypoint you need to proceed is automatically highlighted when you access the waypoint menu. Now that is convenience, and accessibility for us.

It goes further, though. I mentioned before that waypoints do make noise, but we figured out that you don’t actually need to find them. Like, ever. If you go to the map screen, which you can do by pressing Down on the directional pad, then press R1, you get an act map view, which is actually what the waypoint menu is. It gives you a map of the current act of the story you’re in. Once you’ve done this, if you’re playing story mode, the automatic highlighting shortcut works just as if you had clicked on the waypoint. That makes it super easy for us to progress to the next area, no matter where we are.

There are more things that I haven’t mentioned here, but I think I’ve gotten the overall point across. Diablo 3’s accessibility is not a simple thing, like Resident Evil 6’s is. It still requires lots of patience, and it requires you to pay attention. It is, however, workable if you combine all these things together. Gear and skills are still a problem at times, but if you’re really, really patient, you can actually use a free screen reader called NVDA to perform OCR, (optical character recognition), on the game with PS4 remote play. The results are generally good enough to figure out what gear you’re looking at, though sometimes the stat numbers don’t read very well. However, it works just fine if you’re trying to build a particular set, as reading the names of gear generally isn’t an issue.

There is a lot of information here, but at the same time there is a lot of room for discussion. While I’m personally happy to answer the questions of anyone who contacts me, I would also like to point you at my Youtube channel, where you can find videos of me actually demonstrating this stuff. Check out http://www.youtube.com/superblindman for that if you so desire. For now I will say that Diablo 3 is a fun, addictive game, even if you are blind. You may need or want a little help along the way, (I don’t blame you for asking a sighted person to help with gear rather than suffering through using Remote Play for instance), but I do not regret my many Diablo 3 adventures. My Paragon level 661 wizard can attest to that. Thanks for reading, everyone, and continue to be awesome!

Gaming Blind in Virtual Reality

Alright guys, let’s talk about VR. Yeah, you heard me correctly. VR, or virtual reality, isn’t necessarily something you’d associate with totally blind gaming, even if you’ve heard me talk about games, or read any of my previous work. VR is a concept that is just too out there, right? It’s just… Just too visual, right? Well, I’ve spent a couple days taking a deep dive into VR thanks to the Playstation VR, and I’m going to do my best to answer those inquisitive thoughts you may or may not be thinking. Let’s get virtual!

First, let’s talk setup, as that’s the first thing you must do, both when you power up the VR for the first time, and upon the start of every game. This part of VR, unfortunately, is a pretty major stumbling block. At least in the case of the Playstation VR unit, there is no way to configure the device without sighted assistance. The Playstation 4’s text to speech feature does not read the configuration screens, and even if it did, it is essentially impossible to be certain the camera’s view is centered correctly without being able to see the screen.

That, unfortunately, doesn’t even cover individual games. As I said earlier, each game has to be calibrated separately, and each calibration is unique, because each game is looking for something different. Some of them only track your head. Others track your head and 1 or 2 controllers, all of which must be calibrated. This is a major problem for the totally blind like myself, but not necessarily an impossible one. Audio is a powerful tool, and I believe it could be used effectively to help the totally blind calibrate individual games, and even the VR itself. Perhaps a sound could play from the area the VR currently perceives as the center. That, along with talking configuration screens, would help us to adjust things properly. There are even a couple examples of semiaccessible calibration in a couple games, but I’ll get to those later. Don’t worry, we’re not nearly done yet.

Let us now put setup aside for a bit, and talk games, starting with my first Playstation VR experience, Farpoint. Farpoint is an action adventure game where you explore a distant planet searching for your lost comrades, and fighting enemies along the way. I had the privilege of trying this particular game using the super awesome Farpoint gun controller. I mention this because one of the things I learned very quickly is that I did NOT know how to hold a gun. I sometimes held it too low, forcing my aim to the ground, I sometimes held it right but aimed too high… It was something I had to get used to.

Another thing I had to learn is how to pretend to look at things because, you know, I don’t. I was quickly informed that I often looked up instead of straight on. I can’t really explain why I did this except to say that it felt straight on enough to me at the time. I just needed a little adjustment there, and all was well.

It needs to be said, though, that turning your head to face a sound you hear, which you can do thanks to the positional audio used in VR games along with head tracking, feels very natural to me. Once I got past my tendency to look up, I had little trouble “looking” over at things. In fact, the positional audio is so awesome that I was able to locate the first data point I had to scan, as it emits a sound. None of the other scan points do this, though, which makes me slightly sad. Still, even this little bit of success felt like a breakthrough.

Now, as mentioned, there are enemies in this game. Enemies which you must dispatch with great haste, or be murdered by. Guess what? I was actually able to dispatch several of these. Why? Because of the VR’s controller tracking, and again, positional audio. If you’re reading this, and you’re also totally blind, I ask you to stop and consider this for a second. We struggle with modern day shooters because most of the time we don’t actually know where we are aiming. We can throw the right thumbstick around and hope for the best, but we don’t actually know. However, when you’re holding a controller that is being tracked by a camera, and you hear a sound in a particular direction, when you swivel your controller in that direction and fire off some shots, and the sounds of those shots come from the spot you’re aiming at, aiming in a shooter becomes a real possibility. You heard it here first. VR actually helps when the game is a shooter. Believe it or not, more on that later.

So, with some navigational help from my sighted fiancé, (there’s no way for the blind to tell when they’re stuck up against a rock, or where the rocks are so they don’t get stuck), I proceeded for quite some time, finding new holograms to scan and view, and killing more pesky bugs. As an additional note, when your scanner is active, its sound changes when you’re moving it over one of these holograms. This, too, was extremely helpful. Alas, I did eventually hit a wall when I had to face some very evil creatures that spit a horrible substance at you. It is extremely painful if it hits you, and it gets difficult to dodge when there are a lot of them. The preferred execution method for these baddies is rockets, which I mostly just killed myself with thanks to the aforementioned rocks. One should not fire a rocket when one is directly up against a rock. Just saying.

And so, this is where my journey with Farpoint ended, but I had no regrets. It was a productive journey indeed. It was one that lasted for longer than it would have had the game not been VR, of that I am sure. Now that gives you something to ponder, doesn’t it?

Speaking of pondering, I tried another game called Headmaster! Get it? Pondering… you ponder with your brain which is… Oh never mind. Anyway, this game had one of the examples of semiaccessible calibration. Why? Because a friendly announcer voice actually told you to look left, and look right to calibrate. That, friends, is how easy it can be sometimes. This game, you see, is controlled entirely with your head.

The idea is a VR soccer headball simulator. You are at an academy that specifically trains you how to head the ball. A simple concept on the surface, but apparently you move onto practicing with fireballs and such. Keep in mind this was only the demo. Still, I didn’t find the game particularly playable for the blind, head-only gameplay or no. While you can hear the balls being launched your way, it is difficult to really follow their angle. There is audio of the incoming ball just before it reaches you, but it doesn’t seem to exactly correlate to its angle of approach. If there were more of that audio, if it was made to be insanely precise, and perhaps if it was made louder, that alone could make this game totally playable. That is one game that would, I think, require very little help to achieve total accessibility.

Now, to round out this piece, I will discuss the VR game I had the most success with of all I tried. Prepare yourselves, ladies and gents, because this one is going to shock you. The game I had the most success with, the game in which I actually finished the demo level without any assistance once it had started… Until Dawn: Rush of Blood. Yes. Remember what I said earlier about shooters? Well this one’s on rails, rollercoaster rails specifically, but it’s still a shooter. Allow me to explain what happened, and why this worked.

First, this game is the other reason I mentioned semiaccesible calibration. Calibrating the move controllers, (you need 2 for this game), was not really accessible, and it’s something I had to get help with. However, before the first level starts, you are treated to a unique way to calibrate head tracking. You hear a woman crying from your right. Look over there, you hear a sound, and she’s on your left, singing part of a song. Look left, and she moves back to your right, singing the follow-up to that part. Look back right, and you’re done. I admit I didn’t know the purpose of this initially, and wasn’t sure how exactly to deal with this crying woman I was hearing, I intuitively looked over there after a while and discovered what I was supposed to do by accident, which is still pretty clever.

Remember when I said I’d talk more about shooting things later as well? This is why. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood has EXCELLENT positional 3D audio. I’m going to say this because I must. Its positional 3D audio is better even than Farpoint’s, which as I have said was good enough to get me a solid chunk of gameplay time. It’s awesome. Not only does it sound like things pass you by as you roll past them, not only can you hear things behind you and all around you, but there seems to be some audio indication of distance as well, which is super neat! And yes, there are things that I missed. There are moments when you’re supposed to duck, and the couple I missed didn’t have sounds associated with them that I could tell, so I was thoroughly bonked in the head. Furthermore, there are little secret things you’re supposed to shoot, but these also make no sound. Make these things sound sources, make the calibration and menus accessible, and I’ve got this game.

As I said, I finished the demo level. And no, I didn’t just get lucky and cruise through, I definitely shot things. You can hear your bullets puncturing your targets in that game, so while I can’t say necessarily that I scored well, or even that I shot every enemy, I can say that I definitely shot a lot of enemies, and ultimately succeeded. Trust me, it felt amazing. Slinging around 2 move controllers, aiming at the roaring, sometimes laughing targets, and actually hitting them when I fired felt really, really amazing. It was an incredible, unbelievable success in my experimentation.

I tried several other games as well, all of which were on the demo disc that came with the Playstation VR. I had varying degrees of success, but the ones I have highlighted here are the ones I feel I took the most from. I tried the London Heist portion of Playstation VR Worlds, for example, in which your move controllers become your hands, right down to picking things up and putting them down, but due to the lack of audible instruction, I couldn’t quite master what I was supposed to do. I tried Harmonix Music VR, but that game is entirely based on putting cool VR visuals to music. In a couple cases, the demos are just little VR experiences, like short films, that you watch rather than interact with.

Before I conclude, though, I want to give a sort of honorable mention to a game called Thumper, the demo for which is also on the VR demo disc. I’m considering this an honorable mention because Thumper doesn’t rely on its VR elements for gameplay. It can simply be played with VR for cooler visuals, or without VR for normal visuals, and is played the same in both cases. At its core, it’s a rhythm game, and guys, it’s actually completely accessible. Who would’ve thought that I would stumble upon a completely accessible, no VR required, game while browsing the VR demo disc? Not I, certainly. Of course, the menus don’t talk, but they’re a very small part of the game. As you fly through space, (I think), avoiding obstacles and shooting down bosses and so on, you hear background music with little sound effects that play along with it. These sounds literally tell you what to do, once you figure out what each one means. It’s crushingly difficult, at least for me, but it’s great fun. I could still make like 2 accessibility suggestions, but it’s still a perfectly playable game for the totally blind, and deserves some love.

Now, at last, the conclusion. Playstation VR is a fantastic Virtual Reality system on all fronts. I had my fiancé try it herself to be sure it looked amazing as well. Apparently it does. So it’s fantastic, and that’s great. Would I recommend a totally blind person buy one up right now, though? Sadly, I would not. The price tag is a heavy one, and given the fact that calibration is currently as difficult as it is, I couldn’t suggest a totally blind person get one just yet. However, I believe I have proven, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that there is tremendous, awesome potential here. My experiences with Farpoint and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood absolutely prove that. If game developers begin considering the concept of VR for those who cannot see VR, we could seriously be in for some real wild rides, folks. I truly believe that, and will back it up to anyone who says differently. Thanks for reading. Accessibility is happening, people. Let’s keep it that way.

Game Accessibility is Happening

The feeling going into the first ever Game Accessibility Conference was a positive one, yet I can honestly say that I still wasn’t completely sure what to expect. How was this going to go? Would people really listen? Would they care? Those are harsh questions, but given the difficulty of making our wish for accessibility known in the past, they were legitimate ones. After all, I was once sent a form letter by THQ in response to some requests I made about their Smackdown wrestling games. The letter thanked me for my appreciation of their stunning graphics. Yeah, seriously.

This conference, though, was not that. It was so much more. For my general readership, keep in mind that this conference was about gaming with all types of disabilities. Blindness, deafness, those who require one-switch controls, even discussions about using VR while in a wheelchair. And the best part is, the conference was full of those who not only listened, not only cared, but kept an open mind, and looked to be inspired. I feel that everyone there wanted to know exactly how they could help make this work, and those who already knew were more than willing to impart that knowledge. I cannot describe how that made me feel.

The world is beginning to change. Accessibility is now understood to a far greater extent, and disabled communities all over the world are beginning to be recognized as gamers, just like everyone else. Of course, there are those who have advocated for disabled gamers for years, such as the Ablegamers foundation, but this conference represents a whole new level of recognition, acceptance, and willingness to find solutions, in my opinion.

I’m happy to report that my speech, which centered of course on video gaming from a blind gamer’s perspective, was extremely well-received, and that I was approached by many, many people afterward to talk about the possibility of blind accessibility for them. That, ladies and gentlemen, felt great. Even when I was at GDC in 2014, even though I was pretty well received there, and even though I got a lot of compliments, I also got quite a bit of negativity when I began approaching developers about accessibility. Few attempts were made to actually discuss solutions, and I was often just turned down, with the assumption that it was not possible. Not the case at all with this conference, not once.

I am writing this blog with a very specific purpose in mind. I do not want to repeat what I said in my presentation, as that will be available for all to watch. Instead, I am writing this as a followup to the conference, and as reassurance to all of my readers that all of this is real, things are really happening, and people do want to help make those things happen. It is not going to be instantaneous, but we are further along than we’ve ever been, and based on discussions I have now had, I know that we are going to keep moving forward. Games should really be for everybody, and I’ve never believed more strongly that they will be. And furthermore, I want to assure all those who read this that I will always do whatever I can to help this process along. This conference has only increased my passion for games, and I look forward to similar events in the coming years.

PS4: First Impressions

Update: The audio visual thumbnails I have mentioned several times are present in the PS4. However, when this blog was originally written, dynamic menus were not working on PS4, as it had just launched. Now that they do, I can confirm that the games that have these audio visual thumbnails will play them when you highlight the game and press down to access their dynamic menus. Another easy to use and helpful feature. I’ll leave the rest of the blog intact as I wrote it, but this is a worthwhile update, as it does improve accessibility.

I have now spent about 2 days with the PlayStation 4, and I want to take some time to let you all know what I’ve found so far in terms of accessibility of the console. I’ll put as much here as I can, but I’ll also probably forget something, so I encourage you to send me questions via twitter @superblindman, or email me at superblindman01@gmail.com. I’ll be happy to answer anything I didn’t answer here if I know it, or if I can find it out. For now, here we go.

First, and for some most important, menus do not wrap. This appears to be true in all cases. Every settings menu, the row of apps and games, everything. This makes navigation nearly a breeze for us blind folks. Just the menu memorization we’ve already grown used to, and we’re done.

The apps and games area of the PS4 is indeed organized as I thought it was, with one slight change from what I thought before. It is basically 2 rows, the bottom starting row being your apps and games, and the row above that essentially being the system management. However, if you’re downloading a game at the time, that game will actually be the first game in the list regardless of whether you’ve played it or not. (Remember, the play while downloading feature). Also, your games and apps do not start on the extreme left side of that list. The What’s New option is always the leftmost option, and that’s something that to my knowledge we never actually need to use.

An additional note here, yes and no dialogs that occasionally pop up also do not wrap, however unconventionally, yes is on the right and no is on the left. In all the cases I’ve found, you actually start on yes, and will be on no if you move to the left. Definitely important as there are situations where you do have to answer a question.

And speaking of such situations, here’s one. If you play a game on the PS4, then hit the home playstation button to exit it, that game is still open. You can return to it immediately by simply selecting it in the menu again, or using the “back to game” voice command. However, what I’m getting at here is this. If you want to launch a new game, the PS4 will display an alert, letting you know that doing so will close the previous game, and asking if you wish to proceed. So this is an example of one of these yes and no dialogs. You’re automatically on yes, so if you want to play that second game, just hit X again and it’ll launch. However, if you reconsider, go let to no.

Another thing to note. As I’ve said, games can be booted and played even while they’re installing from disc or downloading. There is actually a way we can play these games as soon as they are playable. As soon as the disc begins to install, or the download begins to, uh, download, the game becomes available in your games menu as the first game. So remember, that’s actually one to the right. If you click on it, the screen says “installing application.” However if you just stay on that screen, the game will launch as soon as it is able to. Some games appear to have a small secondary installation which is very short, so the music will fade as if the game was launching, then a few seconds later it will come back. Just select the game again, and this time it’ll work.

Now regarding voice commands. They do indeed work, but they can be a little wonky. First of all, the option to allow them is enabled by default, which is good. However, something I didn’t find out for most of my first day, you actually have to press the left trigger once before you can start speaking. The thing is, though, there are a couple of problems. First, whatever engine powers the voice commands can go faulty on you, causing you to be unable to use voice commands until you reboot the consoee. I suspect this will be fixed in a patch, but hey these are my first impressions, so there ya go. Second, though, there are some games for which voice commands don’t seem to work at all. I can’t tell you how many times I was trying to tell my PS4 to ptart Injustice with no result. It was hearing me, (there’s an audible tone to indicate this), but it just didn’t seem to understand Injustice, or Injustice: Gods Among Us, or any variant of the game’s name I could think of. I’m unsure whether or not this can, or will be fixed, as it might just be some weird omission from the PS4’s dictionary of words or something. Fortunately, as I’ve said, the menu structure is easy enough that I could figure it out. Still, voice commands are a quick and easy way to navigate the UI when they’re working.

One final, and unfortunate thing. The audio visual thumbnails the PS3 had don’t appear to exist in the way I thought they did. It seems that in truth, only some games have them, and you will only ever hear them when that game is open. Each game does have its own menu which you get if you press the options button on that game, but nothing plays unless the game is open, and it actually supports these things. This is unfortunate, but not a total loss, given how easy overall navigation appears to be.

And I think that’s it. Again, if I forgot something I won’t be supprised, and I’m perfectly open to questions. But I will say this. From an accessibility standpoint, the PS4 is awesome. The menu strutture actually makes it easier to navigate than the PS3, which was still pretty easy. Voice commands, which will probably be fixed and will work better soon, are a speedy way to jump to where you want to be, even if you’re not sure where it is in the menu. And with our access to the PlayStation Store and the accessibility of the PlayStation app, the entire console’s accessibility potential is quite high. It may even increase as features are added to the console and the app. Only time will tell. For now, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these first impressions, and I hope a few more games blind folks can play come out for the PS4, so you guys will start considering buying one. I need more friends! Signing off for now, but I’ll see you guys next week sometime when I shall be blogging about the Xbox One!