Accessibility Ideas for Deaf Players

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WoW Community Council
#1 - Feb. 15, 2022, 6:29 a.m.
Blizzard Post

Hi, guys. I’ve been tossing around a couple ideas in my mind for a good while, and I wanted to share with you all and get your thoughts.

Let’s establish the premises first – the goal of my post here is to propose ideas which would serve to equalize the playing grounds where deaf and hearing impaired players are concerned.

(Disclaimer: When I use “deaf,” I usually mean players who are severely-to-profoundly deaf, whereas with “hearing impaired,” I mean players with any kind of hearing loss.)

I am not trying to make the game “easy” for deaf players. I am not trying to “get the stuff handed” to us. What I am trying to do is think up equative alternatives to the existing tools that hearing players already have.

And without further ado, here we go…

Idea One:

Generally, hearing players can play the game with sounds on. These sounds can serve as alerts – the players would hear a warning about a situation that is occurring nearby, or even hear certain sounds which signal that a mob is close by.

Sound is a large part of the environmental awareness in the game, and for deaf and hearing impaired players, not being able to hear the sounds means they miss out on a lot of the alerts and warnings that hearing players take for granted.

So I got to thinking how Blizzard could possibly create an alternate system of warning that would be roughly equal to the sounds without “making it too easy” for players, and I was inspired by the relatively-recent addition to the base UI – screen flashing at low health.

This option is currently toggle-able through the Interface section in the game menu, and this is what leads me to believe that Blizzard is capable of modifying the existing technology to apply to various forms of alerts.

Currently, our screen flashes red when we’re low on health. But what’s stopping Blizzard from adding an option where the screen flashes, let’s say, blue when we’re low on mana?

Or flash yellow when a raid-wide warning gets thrown up (e.g., “Fire on the ground! Move or you will burn!”) – I’m talking about the default warnings that comes with the game itself, not the warnings typed up by raid leaders.

Really, there’s a whole plethora of colors, and it doesn’t have to stop at colors. Blizzard could also modify the intensity and frequency of the screen flashing. Blizzard could also give us – that is, deaf and hearing impaired players – the option to choose which alerts we want.

I only gave a couple small examples for my first idea, but I hope I’m clear enough. If you happen to think of another example, or have questions about this, I would love to hear them!

Idea Two:

The second idea that I have was the result of my pondering about the nature of voice chat (such as Vent and Discord). Normally, hearing raiders would use voice chat to communicate with each other almost immediately during raiding – and this increases their environmental awareness. A raider can call out to his teammates, “Mob incoming!” And he can give the approximate location of the said mob. His team instantly knows to respond to this new threat.

Deaf players don’t have this advantage. Not every hearing impaired player can use voice chat; some players would have just enough hearing that they can hear some spoken words through voice chat, but this is not an one-shoe-size-fits-all situation. Generally, it’s safe to assume that deaf and hearing impaired players would not use voice chat.

This means deaf raiders are not able to respond as quickly to threats, nor can they alert each other as quickly – they communicate through typing! This means they have to take their hands off the keybinds and stop attacking in order to type out “MOB BEHIND” or something like that.

So I got to thinking, ‘What kind of alternative is there that can get around this without making it too easy?’

And then the answer came to me: Waypoint markers!

In Shadowlands, Blizzard added a new feature known as “In Game Navigation.” This is, essentially, a waypoint marker. So we know that the technology already exists.

My idea is that Blizzard could build onto this existing feature and add multiple waypoint markers, one for each target marker. So if the raid leader throws up the Blue Square on a mob, then the Blue Square waypoint marker will appear as well. This will both alert the deaf raiders and give them the approximate location.

(They will still need to do a little work to pinpoint the mob exactly; the waypoint marker is not 100% accurate, but neither is voice chat. So this is why I felt that this is an appropriate comparison.)

My vision of this is that this option would be toggle-able – deaf raiders can choose to turn on ‘Target Marker Waypoints,’ or something like that. And multiple waypoint markers can pop up – so if the raid leader marked one mob with the Green Triangle and another with the Yellow Star, then both waypoint markers would show up.

So why these ideas?

I know that there are addons which already provide similar function (e.g., WeakAuras), but there are a few downsides to having to depend on addons – for one, deaf raiders have to wait until the addon creators update their addons for the latest raid, and for two, addons can be a burden on some players; addons eat up memory, after all! For players with older or cheaper computers, running addons is not such an easy task.

These are just the first two of ideas I have. I’m eager to hear your feedback! My ideas are in their rough-draft state, that’s for sure. I’d love to hone them, so please share your thoughts!

(One final thing: Sooner or later – about a week or two – I will also post my thoughts on raid bosses and their mechanisms. A few raid bosses over the past couple expansions have been extremely unfriendly toward deaf players, and I’d like for Blizzard to keep this in mind when designing future raid bosses.)

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Lead Encounter Designer
#21 - June 15, 2022, 3:01 a.m.
Blizzard Post

This is a great callout. After discussing with the team, we’d like to look into changing this in a future patch. Our current thought is that priests in Voidform would no longer speak in Shath’Yar by default, but we’d also add a glyph so that players who like the flavor can still opt in to it.

Thanks for taking the time to share your feedback!