You know what's absolutely terrifying to someone with full vision? Being thrown into a position where you can't see anything around you. But what if a video game challenged that? What if you were blind and had to use sounds to "see" where you are? Perception does just that.
Created by a 12-person-team of both PC and console developers (BioShock, BioShock Infinite, Dead Space), The Deep End Games brings us Perception, a first-person narrative horror adventure game that tells the story of a young, blind woman named Cassie, who uses her hearing and cleverness to unfold the mysteries of the abandoned estate that has been haunting her dreams. After researching for several months, she finally discovers what she's been looking for: The Estate at Echo Bluff in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Once Cassie arrives, she finds that the estate is far worse than her nightmares made her initially believe. An apparition, by the name of "The Presence," has tormented its inhabitants over generations, and now it's after Cassie. She must solve the estate's mysteries, or else she'll soon be a victim as well.
The game uses echolocation in order to "see" your surroundings. You can tap your walking cane on the ground to reveal a fairly large area surrounding you. This alone is already a fantastic mechanism that I believe will really set Perception apart from other games on the market.
When speaking to the creative director at The Deep End Games, Bill Gardner, about how Perception planned to continue to set itself apart, he said:
"The creeks and groans of the house can create enough noise that you can minimize your own noise and use the ambient soundscape to get around. Conversely, you can create "sound-bomb" type distractions by setting the grandfather clock to go off a little early. This could draw The Presence over to a room and clear the path for you. I love it when horror games let you create your own sort of war stories. The things that happen naturally based on the systems interacting with each other rather than through a completely scripted moment. I think with the tools you're given in Perception, each player is going to walk away with their own tale."
Cassie also has a smartphone, which she'll use to examine evidence left behind. As she puts the pieces together, she'll find herself jumping back in time, allowing us to see the house revert to its origins, and witness how it has evolved over time. Through decades and generations, the house and its inhabitants will change significantly as we watch the architecture and decor evolve, and wings and buildings come and go. Once discovering the source of evil in each generation, we must right the wrongs.
Can the visually impaired play Perception?
When discovering Perception, one thing I was really curious about is if this would be a horror game that would allow the blind to play. (It IS possible!) So often we rely on what we see, and although we can see the surroundings in the game due to echolocation, the sounds still play a huge part. Amanda Gardner, the lead writer and producer at The Deep End Games, had this to say:
"In an ideal world we’d love to make the game blind accessible as well, but that would require a number of significant design changes beyond the scope of our funding goal. We will, however, commit resources to exploring our options to determine if there is a right solution. We always felt that if we were going to do it, we were going to do it properly. We haven’t given up yet.”
When speaking to Bill Gardner on the things they've learned so far while trying to find that proper solution, he said:
"We've learned so much. Prior to announcing, we spent an enormous amount of time researching blindness, echolocation, and accessibility. There were a lot of important takeaways that helped inform our designs for things like Cassie's smartphone. ... I've learned a lot of about sound spatialization and using audio cues to help with navigation. In order to make Perception work with its specific needs for navigation, it would take a lot of time. And even then, I'm not sure it would meet our quality standards. I love the challenge though. As a designer, I would like nothing more than to be able to make the game blind accessible. Based on what we've learned so far, we're confident that we can make the game low-vision accessible and make that awesome. However, we need more time to figure out if we can do blind accessibility right. So, I've made it a goal to research solutions. If there is a way to make it work that's within our means, we absolutely will."
The game will, at the very least, implement options to make the game accessible to those with low vision. Including large subtitles, high contrast, reticle selection, and text-to-speech. This is truly a welcomed addition to the game, and one that I'm quite excited about! I'm always excited to see more advances like this in the games industry that will allow a broader audience to play!
Perception is currently being funded via Kickstarter, with a goal of $150,000. It is currently only planned for the PC, however, the stretch goals include Linux & Mac versions, and a Playstation 4 version. In terms of additional gameplay value, other stretch goals include Virtual Reality support, bonus gameplay modes and extra soundtracks.
In addition, if they reach $250,000 in funding, The Deep End Games will commit to donate $1 for every copy sold within the first year of the PC release, up to $25,000 to "World Access For The Blind." Bill Gardner went on to say:
"We are amazed by the media attention that the game has received so far and we hope that this buzz helps raise awareness for those with accessibility needs. We wanted to contribute to one organization in particular that has been truly inspiring. When we discovered Daniel Kish and World Access for the Blind, we were incredibly energized. For us, it made Cassie and the world of Perception more real. As such, we felt that it made sense to pay it forward and help create awareness for this amazing cause.“
At the time of writing this, they have not yet reached their goal. It is up to us to help them (and in association, the charity)! Perception is planned to release in 2016. You can watch their progress by following their Twitter or liking their Facebook page.