Fortnite is the first game I’ve ever played where my only major complaint is the people that play it. More on that in a minute. After about ten hours of time in the game I can honestly say there are only a couple minor tweaks that need to be made for Fortnite to be the most fully deaf accessible game I’ve played.
A bit about Fortnite for those unfamiliar with it: It’s a massive game with a million things to do, to put it simply. It’s a mix of tower defense, shooter, base building, resource collection, and zombie killing. And it’s an MMO/co-op. There are four classes of heroes, ninja, constructor, soldier, and outlander, all with different stats and skill sets, and there are about a million different melee and gun schematics. As you level up your base, you level up your heroes, defenders, and survivors (I’m not entirely sure of the purpose of the latter two, but they do something). You can also level up your weapon schematics, allowing them to do more damage, and there are skill trees and research trees that you invest points into as well. Sound overwhelming? It was for the first hour or so for me. But it’s also probably the most fun co-op game I’ve played because it doesn’t have that air of seriousness and the obnoxious git gud attitude that so many games like this seem to revel in.
Ok, on to the accessibility and all the things Fortnite does really damn well.
First up we have team and global chat. Epic had the notion that just maybe, chat shouldn’t be limited to voice chat, so it isn’t limited to either voice or text. You can use either. Or both. That’s where my issue with the other players comes in. The missions take a certain amount of planning and teamwork to fulfill goals. It’s natural for hearing people to want to just use voice chat for this planning because all you have to do it talk and everybody knows the plan. This lead to someone bitching at me, at least once, in every single mission I participated in, because I wasn’t in on the plan. I made use of the text chat at the start of each mission, informing my teammates that I’m deaf so anything I need to know needs to go there, and everyone ignored me and carried on with voice chat and carried on bitching at me for basically doing my own thing. As you can see in the above image, nobody seems to care for text chat, which is annoying. My small gripe about the chat methods (and this is a minor one because it’s still in beta and I assume it will be fixed) is that when you turn the chat volume down to zero, it does nothing, so unbeknownst to me, my seven year old son was watching me play and listening to my teammates curse up a storm.
Next we have visual cues! There are many and they are incredibly helpful, whether you’re deaf or not. The first image shows the visual guide available to you in build mode. When it’s red you can’t build it. When it’s blue, you did it right and are free to place your wall or floor or roof section.
The second image displays two very important things: A resource you can collect, which has a glowing outline when nearby and when close enough to collect it, the button you need to use is displayed. It also shows, up in the minimap, the direction from which the enemy will be coming with that blurry white line (at least I think that’s what it does, as the white line becomes a purple line telling you where the enemies are coming from in the next stage of the mission).
The third image displays both the enemies that are appearing and their health, as well as the purple directional indicator in the minimap, and a faint purple cloud in the minimap to show you exactly where they’re spawning.
Quest info is displayed clearly and very legibly on the screen, along with the names and health levels of your team. The countdown to the next event is announced as the event grows nearer, but it’s also displayed very clearly on the screen.
My favorite accessibility feature of this game, and one that almost always left out of games, is clear visual indicators that an important sound is happening nearby. In Fortnite during missions you can rescue survivors and when you’re close to one, they call out for help. Not only are you told in a big on screen alert that a survivor is nearby, but once they’ve called out for help, their location is displayed (that little blue person icon on the minimap in the first image) on the minimap.
Aside from the annoying and sometimes obnoxious other players, my sole complaint about Fortnite is that Ray, your off screen robot helper, isn’t consistently captioned. Sometimes what she says during a mission will be captioned and sometimes it won’t. It is consistently captioned on the home base screen and during any post-mission announcements.
This game would be absolutely perfect for me if I had more friends to play with so I never had to run missions with random people and be yelled at in voice chat. Oddly though, none of my friends seem to play video games as much as I do. They should remedy that.
For a game still in closed beta, Fortnite is more accessible than most games released this year. Or last year or the year before that, for that matter. Aside from a couple minor glitches, there doesn’t seem to be one thing Epic didn’t consider in terms of deaf accessibility when they built this awesome game. It is definitely worth the money if you are into this type of game and other game devs should play this one to learn what they can do to make their games better for their deaf players.
Fortnite – Closed Beta
Easy to read captions
Great visual indicators
Visual indicators for important in-game sounds
A couple minor captioning issues, but that's expected for a beta release
Other players rely heavily on voice chat for mission planning