Apple has taken a big step forward in terms of making gaming more accessible, having just released an open source plug-in for the Unity game engine that allows developers to tap into the assistive features of iOS.
As introduced by Eric Liang, an Apple software engineer, in a video (opens in new tab) from the recent WWDC 2022 conference – hat tip to 'Can I Play That?' (opens in new tab) for spotting this one – the Apple Accessibility plug-in comes with all sorts of neat tricks for making games far more inclusive.
For starters, there’s the ability to incorporate VoiceOver, the screen reader tool in iOS, with games, allowing for on-screen text to be read out for the benefit of blind or low vision players, and also enabling custom gestures for game controls.
Support is also present for Switch Control, so multiple external switches can be used for in-game controls. Then there’s Dynamic Type Support, which gives developers the ability to change the size of the text in-game to match the user’s specified text size from Settings, so it’s bigger and more easily readable if needed. (Also, in an example Liang shows of a simple playing card game getting the benefit of the plug-in, the face values of the cards can be made larger in conjunction with the text, too – see the image at the top of this story).
Further capabilities include the ability to increase contrast for better visibility of interface elements, or the power to reduce transparency of the background, making it opaque so text stands out better.
Developers can get hold of the Apple Accessibility plug-in at Github (opens in new tab), and it’s free to use.
Analysis: Apple is making commendable progress with accessibility
Unity is a widely-used game engine, powering the likes of Hearthstone and Rust. While accessibility plug-ins have been available for Unity in the past, their third-party nature doesn’t always make for the most reliable experience, as you might imagine.
But with Apple bringing forth its own effort, we can expect a much more solid and well-supported plug-in going forward, and that’s obviously great news for game developers using Unity who want to ensure their products are accessible across a wide audience of gamers.
As the linked instructional Apple video shows, it’s easy to implement these accessibility features in iOS games, and they can make a big difference in all sorts of ways.
All this is part of a broader drive by Apple to improve accessibility, because as we’ve seen recently, iOS 16 is set to benefit from the likes of Live Captions, a Door Detection feature and more…