Accessible Maps

Okay so I’m making a game with some pretty controversial design choices, mainly revolving around active and hostile NPCs that create navigation hazards for the player, in a map where puzzle elements have been randomized and scattered about before play begins. (I have plenty of other design decisions to make this manageable, for what it’s worth.)

For such a game, though, I feel like including a map for the player to use would be an excellent practical tool, and I also have an in-lore reason why the player would have access to one. While the puzzle elements are randomized, the room layout is not.

The thing I’m stuck on is what to have as an alternative for our non-sighted playerbase.

Right now, I’m contemplating a verb that makes the game enter “map mode”, where the NPCs and world simulation are paused, so the player can freely explore a simplified version of the world as a ghost, though they are unable to interact with objects until “map mode” is ended, and the player returns to what they were doing before, with all the other elements unpaused again.

For what it’s worth, this would not be difficult for me to implement.

(An even simpler idea would just be a text file that details the arrangement of the rooms on the map, in case this turns out to be more convenient for some reason. I could do both, as well.)

I’d appreciate your thoughts and feedback. I feel like there’s already a precedent for this, but I just don’t know about it.

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“Map mode” seems a lovely idea. I am a sighted player that now and then plays IF making a mental map; if the rooms are not that many and the layout is not complex, describing the arrangement could work.

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I am out of my depth here, but I recall there were a couple recent-ish threads sorta about this, where at least one person who uses a screen reader shared their thoughts - passing it along in case they’re useful:

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I’d personally prefer just a text file, that way I could know where everything is, but not have the puzzles spoiled by seeing them beforehand. Are the rooms randomized too, or just the puzzle elements and NPCs? The map may need to be generated programmatically at game launch if the rooms are also randomized.
Thanks for considering this!

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I like the map-mode option a lot.

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Ha, thanks. I did check the post and still managed to miss that. As for the map mode, I like it too. My thinking was that a text file may be easier to notate and refer to so long as the map isn’t extremely large or complex. That’s informed by my personal playing style, though, and won’t apply to everyone. A thing I do like about it is the idea that you could essentially pause the game and wander around to plan your next moves. And of course, making text maps that the majority of screen reader users can follow comes with some of its own challenges, so it may be easier to implement a map mode. Thought I would argue for the text solution, but the map mode is a good idea.

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This reminds me of PC console commands for a game like Fallout 3/4/NV. Specifically the TCL (Toggle No Clipping) command that allows you to turn off collissions with physical objects and walk around freely.

I really like this idea for two reasons. One, you could tease things in otherwise inaccessible rooms or areas, similar to seeing the inaccessible ledge or being able to look through a window into a locked room. Two, this is a feature that adds value to the game across the board for all players, while still acting as an accessibility feature hiding in plain sight.

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sorry for the OT on design, but there’s a potentially serious pitfall: avoiding that the randomisation and scattering of puzzles generates an unwinnable game from the start, and I guess this is a major coding problem.

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.

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Thank you to everyone who has responded so far! I really appreciate the feedback!

The way I’m planning this is: Objects won’t appear in map mode at all, or they will only appear if you’ve seen them there firsthand, sorta like taking notes. Otherwise, you’ll basically be navigating an alternative copy of the game world, where the rooms are all empty, but the descriptions convey what you should expect, based on what would be visible on a simple top-down map. Mostly things like how the room connects to other rooms, and maybe stand-out landmarks like decorative furniture.

I agree it would be a bad idea to let the player freely ghost about and spy on stuff lol. I’m glad you brought this up.

Actually, you made another amazing point…

Would anyone appreciate the ability to add, read, edit, and remove notes in map mode?

The procedures I have designed won’t allow this to be a problem; don’t worry. This was something that concerned me earlier in the planning phase, though.

I could imagine the crushing dread and frustration when the player realizes they’re permanently locked out of the solution, and are doomed to run from the antagonist forever lol.

Not exactly the kind of dread I wanted to go for!

The plan, if you're curious

The rooms are organized into various “lock groups”, and are unlocked by the previous group of rooms in the sequence. Therefore, all of the puzzle elements necessary to unlock the current group must be placed only in rooms of the previous group.

So the player isn’t necessarily solving things room-by-room, but instead they are slowly opening up entire groups of rooms at a time, which will have a self-contained set of puzzles elements distributed within it.

Puzzles that would require the entire map to be unlocked (particularly the puzzle that grants you the victory exit) can have its pieces distributed across multiple room groups, because it should only be solvable once everything else is solved first.

I’m really happy that you think so. This was really important to me, especially if it’s a game that will have an active antagonist. I didn’t feel comfortable sticking a player into the environment and telling them that things are actively coming for them, just to say that they’ll have to take the awkward way around because of inaccessibility.

In a game where the environment waits for the player to be ready, it might not be as much of an issue, but I absolutely do not think this would be okay when put against an antagonist.

Thank you for posting these! I’ll give them ol’ poke-around! :smiley:

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I’d vote for both. Options are, in general, a good thing in accessibility.

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