Xbox Accessibility Guideline 108: Game Difficulty Options

Overview

The intent is to ensure players can enjoy and complete a game experience regardless of their skill level and/or various physical, cognitive, or sensory capabilities. The ability to set a game to a very low level of difficulty may be the difference between a younger / casual gamer or gamer with disability being able to play, enjoy, and complete a title.

Difficulty is often thought of as “Easy / Normal / Hard” but these are broad buckets affecting entire swathes of variables. It’s important to recognize that different aspects of games provide different types of challenges and that gamers may want or need to configure these individually. To that end, games should choose to have multiple difficulty settings when possible.

Example: There might be discrete difficulty settings for in-game puzzles as well as combat in the same title allowing someone with fine motor control to turn down the difficulty when fighting enemies while keeping the puzzle difficulty high. Similarly, a user with limited cognitive skills might choose to turn down the puzzle difficulty setting while keeping the combat difficulty high.

Implementation Guidelines

  • Game includes multiple levels of difficulty presets (ideally 4+).

  • The game provides at least 1 additional difficulty setting (if not the primary) where progress is regularly saved (e.g. with checkpoints) and the player can continue after failure without significant loss of progress.

  • Game provides the ability for users to adjust the difficulty of different mechanics discretely. This can either be though explicit difficulty settings (e.g. Puzzle Difficulty, Combat Difficulty) and/or through a set of assists (e.g. Brake Assist, Auto-Aim).

  • Provide an ultra-low difficulty mode for the game that enables all users to progress through the narrative.

    • Consider providing a mode that allows the user to complete the entire game using a single button or stick for users with especially severe disabilities or those who simply want to experience the game's narrative.
  • Ensure language used to describe difficulty presets is descriptive and does not denigrate the player (e.g. "Wimp Mode").

Applicable personas

Applicable Persona
Users without vision Applies
Users without hearing Applies
Users with little or no color perception Applies
Users with low vision and limited / no hearing Applies
Users without speech Applies
Users with limited cognitive skills Applies
Users with limited reach and strength Applies
Users with limited manual dexterity Applies
Users with prosthetic devices Applies
Users with limited ability to use time-dependent controls Applies
Other users: Casual gamers, younger gamers Applies

Resources or Tools

Type Source
Article Offer A Wide Choice Of Difficulty Levels
Article Allow Difficulty Level To Be Altered During Gameplay, Either Through Settings Or Adaptive Difficulty
Article Offer A Means To Bypass Gameplay Elements That Aren’t Part Of The Core Mechanic, Via Settings Or In-Game Skip Option
Article Include Assist Modes Such As Auto-Aim And Assisted Steering
Article Provide A Manual Save Feature
Article Provide An Autosave Feature
Article Allow Gameplay To Be Fine-Tuned By Exposing As Many Variables As Possible
Best Practice Example Shadow Of The Tomb Raider