Train2Game was at the Eurogamer Expo, and while there we sat down with gaming charity Special Effect. Special Effect is dedicated to helping young people with disabilities enjoy computer games when it may not otherwise be possible. They use their expertise and adapted technology including eye control in order to make this happen.
In the second part of our two part interview, Special Effect R&D Bill Donegan tells the Train2Game blog how they decide which games to add their tech too, what their biggest challenges are and how you can help them.
How do you decide which games to build eye tech and other technology into, and do you get any help from the developers themselves?
Yeah we’ve had some really good input. For instance, last week someone we’re working with in Dublin on eye control, who before he had his accident he used to play a lot of golf and so we’ve been trying to find a way for him to play golf using the eye control system. Then this developer basically took a game that he’d already made and we asked him if could put some changes in. He basically put in these functions that allowed eye control or any other pointer input to control the game.
It’s not just a case of being able to control a mouse, if you can play with a mouse it doesn’t necessarily mean you can play with eye control, there’s lots of small subtitles. So basically it involves a lot of testing of games and looking at games seeing what might work and then testing it. Or if there’s something like racing games where in general the genre doesn’t use curser controls as input method, we’re trying to think of ways that we could use that and then play the game.
If any indie developers had a game they wanted to allow this technology to be involved with, would you be happy for them to come to Special Effect?
Yes, we offer a free service of helping developers if they want to put our features in. We don’t say ‘You have to put these features n,’ we’re quite happy to look at someone’s game and make some recommendations, and if they feel it’s viable to do that and put them in then we’ll advise them on how they might want to do that. They do that by meeting us in person, or through email.
And what’s been your biggest challenge adding this tech to your projects?
The one that eludes us slightly and what we’re going to test this bit of software with is first person shooters. Because obviously there’s a large amount of controls just to use a cursor movement for. So that’s the next big thing on the agenda because obviously lots of people want to be able to play that type of game, like Call of Duty, Battlefield. So using one control input such as a cursor to do about twenty different things, that’s the next thing we’re going to look at long term.
And how can developers help you to do that?
Lots of people we work with have different ways of controlling a computer and different abilities, but there are things that can be put into every sort of game that would help a larger amount of people that we work with, be able to play it.
Quite standard features like, for example, lots of people have heard about putting remapping functions into games. Obviously it opens up games for someone who wouldn’t be able to play ordinarily because they use a specialist controller; they can’t reach a certain button so they need to put it to one they can reach. Being able to do that in the game can be the different between being able to play that game and not.
So some things like eye control is obviously a difficult thing to do, but there are certain things like being able to turn off the cursor control in a first person shooter will obviously allow us to move the cursor and do other functions. It’s quite a hard thing to explain but there are things that if we had discussions with them we’d be able to work on I’m sure.
If people want to get involved with helping Special Effect, how do they go about it?
We’ve just launched a Facebook fan page for Special Effect and by liking it you instantly become a ‘Gamer For Good’ and that basically says ‘I support what Special Effect is doing,’ helping people to play video games. From there they can contact us and find out what they can do to help.
There are special edition Special Effect t-shirts on sale here at Eurogamer can you tell us about those?
Yes. So, Insert Coin who did the logo for our Gamers For Good Facebook page and they’re selling them on their stand. (The Special Effect t-shirts are also available from Insert Coin Tees website.)
They’re really nice guys basically, they’ve been really supportive of us from the start, and all the profits from the t-shirts are coming straight to us which is lovely. We’ve had no outlay from them so everything we get from the t-shirts is profit for us. It supports the work that we do basically, we’re privately funded, we don’t get government funding, all of our work is supported via donations so it all goes to helping the work we do.
If you know someone who might benefit from the work we do, get in touch: email@example.com
Thanks for your time
For more information about Special Effect, www.SpecialEffect.org.uk