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  • Designing For Accessibility In Fake Illusions

    [09.10.20]
    - Tom Hermans
  • There have been a lot of games about optical illusions recently, but most of these have focused around impossible geometry in Esher-esque environments. However, many more interesting visual phenomenons are still unexplored in games. I had the idea of hiding "fake" optical illusions inside real ones, and having the player point out the cheater. After an initial prototype with a few illusions, I've spent the last year and a half working on expanding this idea, and I'm currently preparing it to launch on Steam soon!

    Fake Illusions title screen.

    Because the game idea is so unique and visual-focused, it runs at a high risk of being very inaccessible to play, for example for people with bad eyesight, colorblindness, or other handicaps. I have some experience with this subject when designing the accessible precision platformer Mobility, so I wanted to ensure the same accessibility for this game, even though the two game ideas are wildly different. Today, I'd like to run through my design choices for keeping Fake Illusions accessible while still embracing minimalism and surrealism.

    Simplicity

    Fake Illusions features very little text: the logo, an epilepsy warning and the credits. This makes a couple of things more difficult to design for me (mostly the tutorial and menus), but it generally pays off since players are not required to speak a certain language to play. Also, you don't have to worry as much about font sizes & contrast, but just to be sure, all text in the game is always rather large and has an outline.

    Similarly, the game can be controlled completely with just the mouse and left mouse button, with Escape being the only other recognized button. The simplicity of the controls allows players to focus on the game instead of on the input methods.

    Screenshot of the game, showing a number for each arrow.

    The game features almost no dexterity elements-quite the opposite, the game rewards concentration and thoughtful answers instead of brute-force or quick reactions. The number next to each illusion allow multiple players to discuss the puzzle more easily. Any time the player changes a setting or makes progress, the game autosaves so the player can quit at any time without losing progress.

    Most of these features were implemented and standardized rather early, and as such, all of these seemingly small design choices really bring accessibility into the core of the game's design.

    Colors

    Most optical illusions require the maximum amount of contrast you can get to achieve the strongest effect, meaning you're often required to use black or white. I expanded this monochrome style even to illusions that do not necessarily require it, making the game as colorblind friendly as it can be with this gameplay. In the rare case that an illusion type still trips someone up, the player can simply skip the illusion (we'll get to this later) or change the settings.

    Example of an illusion that would normally be color-based, but is grayscale in this game.

    Sometimes the game breaks from this style for contrast colors: crosses are red while check marks are green. There's also a single case where an illusion in the game does not work in monochrome, and keeps its original colors. Altogether, this allows for an art style that looks minimalist and uses a lot of primitive shapes, which has the added side effect of keeping the scope of the artwork small enough so I can make all of the game's art assets by myself.

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