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SpecialEffect News

18 Dec 2019

Accessibility, and Rare's sailtastic fundraiser

So here's a heads up about Rare Ltd's fabulous DLC fundraiser for us. At the time of writing, if you buy the Noble Pathfinder Sails with Ancient Coins in the latest Sea of Thieves update, then the lovely folks at Rare Ltd will be donating the proceeds to us! Just brilliant.

This DLC follows on from a number of brilliant fundraisers that the company has held for us this year, and also from the accessibility features introduced this year into their Sea of Thieves update. We'd previously been invited to the company's HQ to update the staff on how their support was helping us to level the playing field for disabled gamers, and as part of the talk our Technician Harry demoed playing a few aspects of the game with voice controls.

It took James Thomas, their Lead Engineer, by surprise.

"Projected larger than life onto the auditorium wall, there was Sea of Thieves being controlled by voice alone. It was impressive what someone could do with some patient setup but as the demo unfolded it became clear we could do so much more to help: the radial menus felt clunky with speech input; the “hold to interact” an unnecessary barrier. I left the room inspired to make changes."

"Changing fundamentals of a codebase that’s been in the hands of the public for years isn’t always easy, but credit to whoever architected our UI layer as within a couple of hours of SpecialEffect driving out of Twycross I’d managed to hack together a rough proof of concept. Options to remove holding down buttons, sticky menus, extra key bindings, and a few other titbits started to form. They all took a while to get through the pipes of game development but each one helped remove unnecessary friction that we’d inadvertently introduced."

"In the time since the biggest impact of those changes has been awareness. When new features are introduced there’s a greater understanding of the barriers we can introduce without even realising. With Sea of Thieves our aim is to continue to try and right the ship, but with Everwild we have the exciting opportunity to build in accessibility at the very core."

A big thank you to James and the Rare team for the accessibility updates, which will make the game more playable by everyone, not just people with disabilities.

Below. Deck the hulls with sails of charity. And very nice they are, too.

Screenshot showing geometric design on a ship's sails

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