Speaking with The Verge, Naughty Dog has explained and outlined the thought that went into the large number of accessibility options that The Last of Us Part II will have. While not a lot of games and developers are talked about because of their accessibility features, Naughty Dog received a lot of praise from the community with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. The studio had “a very simple plan” for accessibility features when they received a letter that discussed how a player couldn’t finish Uncharted 2: Among Thieves due to being required to press a button rapidly. This got the studio thinking more about accessibility and they took things further with The Last of Us Part II which features around 60 different accessibility options.
Speaking about Uncharted 4‘s accessibility options, Lead Gameplay Designer Emila Schatz said “In Uncharted 4, our accessibility options were actually pretty sparse. But we got a lot of community praise for it and felt like we had a huge success with a very small amount of things that we did.” For The Last of Us Part II, Naughty Dog’s main goal was to keep players from hitting sticking points like the player who couldn’t finish Uncharted 2. “Accessibility for us is about removing barriers that are keeping players from completing a game,” Schatz said. “It’s not about dumbing down a game or making a game easy. What do our players need in order to play the game in parity with everyone else?”
Accessibility options in The Last of Us Part II range from being able to adjust the UI and subtitles to be able to navigate the world by sound or zoom in on the screen like you would on a smartphone. There is a text-to-speech option you can turn on that reads out everything in the game from menus to notes that Ellie picks up. Audio clues will indicate when items are nearby or whether you’ll be able to climb a ledge. Zooming in on the game is done using the touchscreen, and a high contrast mode can be used for low-vision players. The mode renders the world in grey and highlights enemies in red and allies in blue.
The game has so many options and features because it was a big part of the design process from the beginning. Game Designer Matthew Gallant said “we absolutely had to plan these features early in production, it was critical. We couldn’t have done this if we hadn’t, from the outset, said ‘This is a priority.'”
Naughty Dog is excited to see how players will utilize these features and hopes that they come up with new options for their next game. They believe that having accessibility options like the ones they have for The Last of Us Part II is vital to expanding to a broader audience. “It feels like a failing on our part if a player reaches a part of the game that’s inaccessible to them in any way,” says Gallant. “It’s incumbent on us to be the ones to find the solutions. Accessibility just makes these games better.”
The Last of Us Part II releases June 19, 2020, for PlayStation 4.