Colour Blind Friendly Game Design

I’ve mentioned in my first post that this is my first game. I’ve learnt a lot and I’d like to share ones of those experiences with you here. In my game various elements are randomised and assigned a specific colour. In older versions of my game all red objects would harm players and could be destroyed with one projectile hit, while orange objects were neutral and would require two hits. I had colour coded essential information and expected players to be receptive to this information. Only during this last week I realised that people who are colour blind would be at a constant disadvantage, which was not intended from a design standpoint.

In my home country of Australia, almost 10% of males and less than 1 percent of females are affected.  So there is a need to make my game more colour blind friendly, but I’m not colour blind, so how can I improve my game?

Some quick internet research lead me to a program called Color Oracle (link: http://colororacle.org/) which applies a colour blind filter to your screen. It supports three forms of colour blindness and most importantly the program is free. The only downside to the program is that it only applies the filter to a single frame and therefore does not support videos or gameplay. Having said that, it is perfectly adequate for my purposes.

Reading more about the topic I realised how important different shapes, symbols, icons and even lines (solid, dotted, dashed) are to the colour blind. Anything well designed (most maps for instance) take all of this into account.

I also have a friend who play video games and happens to be colour blind, he graciously answered my questions on the topic and gave an insight on how colours are harder to distinguish while moving.

Armed with this information and a perception altering program I began to change my game.

Shape and Colour Comparison
On the top left is the old art, the top right is the new and slightly improved. The bottom row shows them with a colour blind filter applied (Deuteranopia).

The players are squares with a triangle “pointer” that shows the direction the player is facing, it turns from yellow to white when an ability cooldown period is in effect. I changed the colours to make them more distinct, light blue rather than red is the lethal colour and grey makes a better background colour.  The colour blindness being simulated above is the most common form and limits colours to blue, yellow, white and black. So it makes sense to convey important information with colours that are perceived well.

You may have also noticed that I changed the shape of the pointers, below are how the four players are currently represented in game. I have assigned a different shape “pointer” for each player.

new_players
While some of the player colours (red, orange and green) can be hard to tell apart the symbols are clear and distinct.

As you can probably imagine it is an improvement from all players having triangle pointers. The player colours could use extra tweaking as green looks too close too similar to the background and I have yet to fully implement this approach to all other aspects of my game, but it’s a start.

I recall talking to my friend about his frustration about games that relied too heavily on colour (some colour matching puzzle games) and how happy he was to find that Battlefield 3 had a colour blind option. I don’t want my game to disadvantage players just because they are colour blind – not to say that my game won’t frustrate people. My game is designed to surprise and disadvantage players through randomised mechanics, but they are applied and felt equally. I simply want my game to be played and enjoyed by everyone, with or without the ability to see colour.

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