In a game where everyone’s a specific colour and and you need to shoot everyone not wearing the same colour as you, it’s important to know who you are supposed to be shooting and where you’re supposed to be going. This isn’t always possible if you have some form of colourblindness. Some games feature a option or setting, in order to accommodate those who can’t see colours as well as we can.
Now, I’m definitely not colourblind. I used to look at those coloured, “can you see the number?” things and easily point out what number it is. I am lucky to have actually really good eyesight, despite my glasses-wearing medical persona. But out of curiosity, I always check to see if a game has various options to assist those who have issues, and, after subtitles, colourblind mode is something I look for. It’s mostly for curiosity.
Unfortunately for my curiosity, Team Fortress 2’s own colourblind mode completely failed to meet my expectations. To the point that I forgot I even had it on.
Let’s start with a question. What would one expect from a colourblind mode in TF2? Clearer characters? Better distinctions between RED and BLU? Nope, TF2’s colourblind mode contains nothing of the sort. All it appears to do is add a floating Jarate/Mad Milk symbol above affected players’ heads. That’s it. That is 100% it.
The good news? The symbols do help show that someone’s affected by Jarate or Mad Milk, if you can’t see the white drops or yellow overlay. Small problem though, you still can’t tell what team the Jarate’d player is on, if you struggle with colours. Really, colourblind mode actually does very little to do anything.
This is upsetting. TF2 is heavily based on colour. Red and blue are somewhat distinct enough to be able to tell the difference most of the time, but that’s just in a static environment. In a dynamic, constantly moving environment, it’s easy to lose track even as an able-eyed person, imagine what it’s like for someone who doesn’t have the best eyesight!
It’s not just colourblind mode though. TF2 lacks subtitles too. Subtitles need to be added ourselves and done manually. The functions for subtitles are there, just unused and not updated. The only real way I’ve seen subtitles used is in custom HUDs, used as a system to tell how much damage enemies are taking.
So how can TF2 be improved for those with disabilities? An easy first step would be to add subtitles. You don’t need subtitles for everything, just the basics – things the Announcer says, shouts that the cart is moving forward/back, things like that. That system is already in place, it just needs to be used. And chances are someone’s already gone and done it as a community thing.
Colourblind mode is also somewhat easy to fix. Sites like Gamebanana have custom skins that make one team white and the other team black, making them easier to distinguish between. Perhaps the RED team can be made redder and darker, when the BLU team can be lighter and bluer. The Jarate overlay effect could simply not apply in colourblind mode, so people can still tell who is on what team.
I’m not an expert on this though. The absolute BEST thing for Valve to do is to get in touch with people with problems, so we can cater far more effectively to their needs.
But in the mean time, Valve, you should probably be angry with yourselves that your colourblind mode is so shit.