We designed PaleoVet designed to be playable by everyone. Every aspect of the game is as accessible as possible. Accessibility holds a special place for me because I happen to have Dyslexia, along with some other vision processing issues that can make reading things more difficult.
There are many amazing games that I will never play. While they might be fun games, their graphic design and text layout make it too hard for me to play them. So, let’s talk about how we tried to make PaleoVet better.
Since Dyslexia is my primary issue, making the text in the game very readable was our first big focus. Far too many games try to cram too much text onto cards, using smaller fonts to do so. This makes the cards hard to read, even when they are in your hand, let alone across a table. Depending on color choices, it can be even harder to read some cards if you aren’t in bright light.
To make the text in PaleoVet easy to read, we chose a sans serif font and printed it at a larger size. We even went as far as using a hyper-legible font in the rule book to make it easy to read for everyone. We also made sure to have a high contrast between the text color and the background color, to have plenty of space between the individual words and each line of text. Finally, we limited the text on each card to no more than three lines. All of these affordances make things easier to read, even if you don’t have Dyslexia.
Once we had those rules in, we looked at the readability of all the text in the game. We wanted PaleoVet to work for all ages, including younger kids with minimal help from their parents. We looked at our word choices and kept the text as clear and simple as possible. Focused on consistency across card text ensures that once you understand one, you understand any similar cards.
The next element we looked at was color. None of us on the Absurdist team have any Color Vision Deficiencies (CVD), but we all know someone who does. Still, CVD accommodations can also benefit people with normal vision. I know I’ve run into games that looked beautiful, but unless the light was right it could be hard to tell dice and card types apart. We wanted to make sure PaleoVet played well for everyone, even if the room was a little dim.
First, we added icons that allow players to identify things without even worrying about color. Icons also let us more easily identify which dinos specific abilities target. So, I know at a glance the Triceratops’s ability affects other Ornithischians, for instance.
To support people with CVDs, we checked in a few CVD Facebook groups and tested various filters to find a set of colors that provided enough contrast to be easily identifiable for most people with CVDs. While this was meant to help with CVD, it helps everyone. The cards are now much easier to identify from across the table.
Written by Harley R.
We initially didn’t plan on creating a game that would be playable at different skill levels, but that’s what we ended up with. While many players who have playtested our game told us directly that there wasn’t a need for the different play levels, it was still very important for us to include.
The playtesters who helped us refine PaleoVet were mostly skilled, established, or hobby gamers. They were used to playing games with higher levels of strategy that require a lot more decision-making. However, we believe they are not the only group of people who should be able to enjoy our game.
The first iteration of our game was very similar to the most basic play level. At this level, players do not need to know how to read, except to read the rulebook, and with very minimal complex decision making. It can be a great level for introducing a more strategic game to a game group or to help support those who do not feel confident reading English.
We added the upgrade cards to spice up our game, so that there was a good balance of strategy and press-your-luck. As Lance of Love 2 Hate Games mentioned in their review video, “You never feel like this game is totally all luck or this stinks because ‘I didn’t get what I thought I would get.’ You still feel like it was your choices that led you to that point.” This was our goal with PaleoVet and the upgrade cards helped achieve that. However, this level does include a lot more strategy and reading skills that some players may not feel confident with.
We also have a middle-ground play level. If your game group isn’t quite ready for complete strategy but feels comfortable reading some, then this is the level for them. It includes a bit more strategy by bringing in the special effects that occur on the dinosaur cards while leaving out the upgrade cards.
If you do not need a game that is 100% language-independent, then you can slowly move your game group through the three phases as they build confidence with their strategy skills or develop their reading skills.