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Battlenet: Accessible Battle LOADING…

Battle Net Hompepage

This week I decided to test Battlenet after being recommended a free game called Hearthstone. I wanted to see whether Battlenet was accessible with JAWS and if gameplay was accessible too.

What is Battlnet?

Battlenet is a gaming platform, similar to Steam, Uplay and Origin, except that it is smaller and is based more around it’s online website and community, which is already good news for JAWS and screen magnification users! It is also slightly smaller than the other three platforms I’ve reviewed, with the focus being on MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) fantasy games. So if like me, you love games full of faeries, wizards, dragons and dwarves, this gaming platform is definitely for you!

A Cut Above The Rest

The first thing to say is that design-wise, when I first went onto the website (eu.battle.net), I was really impressed. The colour contrast is really good, at least for myself anyway. The font size is really good too – it’s large and very clear to see given that a lot of it is on dark background with bright-white coloured text. Obviously there are variations on the text throughout the website but the main thing to say is that all of it is clear to see and use. JAWS works fully with the website and reads out all of the captions and also gives a brief description of the graphics that come up on the screen. This is covered over the whole website – all of it works with JAWS.

I should say at this point that to get Battlenet activated onto your computer you have to choose a game to download which in turn starts up the Battlenet download. You also have to register with the website. The only snag about this is that (with my version of JAWS anyway) you have to turn off JAWS in order to type in the boxes and then turn it back on again when you’re finished. If like me you’re lucky enough to have enough vision to manage without JAWS for a few minutes then that’s good, but you could always get someone to help you register as then you only need help once!

Downloading Hearthstone

Downloading the game was very straightforward. As I have some vision I can use the mouse as well as JAWS to navigate around the screen and found the game that way. You can also use key commands to scroll through the different games until you find the one you are looking for or you can direct JAWS to the search bar and type in ‘hearthstone’ so that the game comes up. Whatever is easiest for you, all of these functions work with JAWS.

Playing the Game

Given the history of gaming platforms and accessibility, I was very dubious as to whether I would have any success trying to sync JAWS with the Battlenet game. So far, the only platform that is almost fully accessible with JAWS is Steam. Origin and Uplay have been useless so you can understand my scepticism!

But… (Wait for it!)…I have to say it: I was proven wrong! And I’ve never been so happy to be wrong! JAWS is completely compatible with the Battlenet software. It even reads out what you type as you type into the boxes to log in and reads out the name of the game (in this case Hearthstone) so that you know that you are in download/gameplay mode! As you are downloading the game, JAWS  tells you how far along the download is. If like me you have a little vision you can also rely on your remaining sight as the download bar is a clear blue colour. You know the game has downloaded when you hear JAWS say ‘Hearthstone’ and then you’re ready. JAWS doesn’t read out the ‘PLAY’ button when it is activated so you might need a tiny bit of help from someone with that but all-in-all JAWS works fine. So you then simply wait for the game to download and you’re ready to play!

Lights, Gameplay, Action!

When the game opens, JAWS reads out the name of the game (I’m not sure if this is the same for all the games but it definitely works with Hearthstone) and while JAWS does not work with the actual game itself the accessibility features in the game (whether intended or not!) more than make up for it!

The idea of the game is that you are in a fantasy realm where you use cards to ‘battle’ your character against other characters and the more ‘health’ they lose the more likely you are to win. You get an unlimited amount of free cards with gameplay but I believe you can also buy more cards to enhance the game – I didn’t try that though!

The introduction of the game is brilliant. I could see some of the graphics as they are very clear bold colours and the voiceover really sets you up in the fantasy world of the game. I played as a blue-haired faery called Jana apparently, (as far as I know you can’t choose your character but I was more than happy with being a faery!) The good thing about this game is that while you do have to click and aim to do ‘battle’ and use your cards against opponents, but the game reads out everything that is written on the screen. So all the text that is ‘said’ by your character and the ‘enemy’ you can see as well as hear onscreen! Also the font is very bold and clear and for some may be a good size – so I could sometimes see as well as hear what characters were saying.

The game’s graphics are lovely and really set you up in a headspace of a ‘fantasy realm’ – something that I crave! The characters have obviously been designed very artistically – the faeries in particular are my favourites as they’re so pretty but also as feisty as the others! The characters’ features are often somewhat brightly coloured as well and this is ideal if you have a little bit of useful vision like me. However, gameplay can be just as enjoyable if you have no vision as you can hear the voices of the different characters, which are great by the way, and if you were really bothered about what characters looked like, you could always ask a friend to describe them for you – thst’s what I did with Link in The Legend of Zelda and also the Final Fantasy characters that are in Kingdom Hearts.

So Where Are The Glitches?

There are a few tiny warning points that I should make about the game. Whilst it is brilliantly accessible in most parts, there are a few tiny things that are not read out. For example, if you hover the mouse over the cards on screen, there are facts that are given about each card you are duelling with. These are not read out. This may be a little annoying but this information is not essential for gameplay.

 I have a feeling that you would also have to use the mouse for this game as I don’t think key commands would work (you could always try – I didn’t as I use JAWS with a mouse instead of key commands). For the first time playing it, you might have to get a friend to show you where on the screen to position the mouse and where to click and aim, but after that you’d be fine to play by yourself.

So What’s The Verdict?

The brilliant news is that Battlenet and Hearthstone are both accessible to people with visual difficulties mostly through the use of JAWS! I have to say I’m really impressed with the accessibility features whether they were planned for that purpose or not. Hearthstone is also free so that’s another bonus! As outlined above, there are a few little things that you might need help with, depending on your abilities. However, you’d only need to be shown these things once by a friend or carer and then you’d be playing very quickly and easily. The game is also very simple to understand – there are no long rule books to read through before gameplay which is great for impatient gamers like me!

The graphics are gorgeous from what I can see of them, the voices in the game are just perfect and the overall feel of the game is that you have entered this fantasy ‘realm’ with dragons, faeries and dwarves which is exactly what I wanted. Both Battlenet and Hearthstone are superb examples of how games can be made accessible to blind and visually impaired people with a few simple adjustments. I’m not saying that they’re perfect, but so incredibly close to perfect that it’s more than good enough for me. Battlenet, Hearthstone: I salute you!

The Final Rating

Battlenet: 8/10

Hearthstone: 9/10

http://eu.battle.net/en/

http://eu.battle.net/hearthstone/en/updates/naxxramas/

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