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God of War: Ragnarok ‘accessibility needed to be better’

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Making a sequel to a title considered by many to be one of the best games of its generation must be daunting.

It was praised for its slick combat, emotional storytelling and immersive setting but 2018’s God of War, which saw the return of iconic gaming character Kratos, did have a significant weakness according to one of the team making its successor.

“It was apparent that the accessibility features needed to be better, 100%,” says Mila Pavlin of Santa Monica Studios.

Mila and her team have been responsible for trying to make God of War: Ragnarok an experience that players can access more easily if they have a visual or hearing impairment or are unable to use a controller in a conventional way.

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“It was the biggest thing that we looked out for at the beginning of the process of making the game – how to make it more accessible to more people.

“There were many gamers who wanted to play in 2018, but were unable to because of things like low vision, motor issues, cognitive or hearing disabilities. We wanted to make sure that everyone was included,” Mila explains.

This approach hasn’t been commonplace in the gaming sector. Mila’s team were already working away on their plans when The Last of Us: Part 2 was released in 2020. It was widely praised for its approach to accessibility and opened up the conversation about the issue within the games industry.

Increasing the number of players able to engage with titles like this is a significant step for disabled gamers but also makes financial sense for big companies.

There are concerns that the games market, which was worth £7bn to the British economy in 2021, may stagnate in the coming months due to the cost of living crisis. Having a broader potential audience for your game is one way of encouraging growth.

 

Kratos in God of War Ragnarok

SIE

Visual cues

Now Mila is hopeful that God of War: Ragnarok will set an example for the wider industry to follow.

Story-driven games like this often require intricate button combinations to progress and rely on sound or subtle visual cues to expose danger and opportunity to the player. It can make playing especially difficult for disabled people.

But small tweaks can make gaming more accessible, such as changing how captions read on the screen, giving players visual cues for sound and the option to fundamentally change how the controls work, allowing you to remove the need to press certain buttons and make movements, such as climbing, automatic.

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“We want to show that blockbuster games can open up their worlds to brand new players, making sure that players of all walks of life are able to play. The learning we have implemented, we want to spread across the industry to create more accessible games everywhere,” says Mila.

“Accessibility is not about diminishing the the original experience – we want to keep that experience together and intact. But ultimately, 10 years from now, I would love to see every triple A game have this level of accessibility options.”

‘Room for improvement’

Video game accessibility critic and consultant Laura Dale says it’s “really heart-warming to see big companies in the industry finally starting to see disabled people as people who deserve to be able to play video games”.

Laura is autistic and dyspraxic, and as the presenter of the Access-Ability programme on YouTube, she reviews the accessibility options games offer people with a variety of disabilities – both visible and non-visible.

Having a big suite of options to help different players access games, she explains “really is a new space and it’s still a very positive surprise when you see a game go as far out of the way as God of War: Ragnarok does.

“When I started making YouTube videos about accessibility and video games, there were basically no examples you could point to that were broadly accessible for most kinds of disabled gamers. The sheer difference between what came out four years ago and today, honestly it is night and day. I am really excited by the direction the industry is going in, and how quickly.

“I think there is always room for improvement, I don’t think we yet have a game that I can point to and say this one is perfect and does absolutely everything you could possibly do to make a video game accessible to every disabled player, but I think that we are getting closer.”

‘Nit-picking’

The God of War series dates back to 2005 and follows the story of Greek god Kratos and the triumphs, tragedies and treachery he experiences. The 2018 release re-imagined the action-adventure series with a more mature Kratos struggling to cope with parenthood. It was a success, going on to win many prestigious awards.

Despite concerns that Ragnarok pushes older generation PlayStations to their limits in order to play, with some comparing the noise a PlayStation 4 makes while running the game like that of a jet engine taking off, its reviews scores suggest the sequel has more than lived up to expectations.

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Simon Cardy is a senior editorial producer at IGN and reviewed God of War: Ragnarok for the site.

“Some people might prefer the more focused nature of the 2018 release, as opposed to the broader more epic scale of this one,” he explains.

“Maybe there are a couple of little bits you could tighten here or there, but I think it’s really nit-picking.”

Simon gave the game 10 out of 10 and describes it as “a masterpiece”.

“It’s like when Francis Ford Coppola was making the Godfather Part II. How do you follow up on the Godfather? Well he managed to do it by arguably, making an even better film, which is what I think Sony Santa Monica games studio have done here.”

 

Screenshot from God of War Ragnarok

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Wandering around a frozen landscape with a tempestuous teenager and a sarcastic severed head (it’s based on Norse mythology after all) while battling monsters and gods may not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, for fans of crafted single-player story experiences God of War: Ragnarok seems to have lived up to the high bar set by its predecessor.

Bigger doesn’t automatically mean better in gaming and as Simon says, “if anything it means more things can go wrong” but he believes the studio “have managed that balance between scope and the intimacy of the story elegantly”.

He goes on to argue that “there’s no other games studio that gets performances out of their actors like Sony Santa Monica at the moment in my opinion, it’s a different level to almost every other game out there in terms of writing and acting”.

If you’re a PS4 owner however, Simon recommends playing with your headphones on – just to hide the noise your machine will undoubtedly make.

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Report: Microsoft, Sony & Nintendo All Skipping E3 2023 – Kotaku

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This was supposed to be the year, after industry setbacks and a global pandemic, that E3—once the brightest centre of the video game universe—came back “recognizably epic” as a live show for the first time since 2019. Reports today indicate, however, that it will be doing so without any of the console industry’s power players.

A story on IGN this evening says “all three of gaming’s first-party console manufacturers appear poised to skip E3’s big return”, meaning that for the first time in the live show’s history not a single one of them will be at an event that was traditionally their highlight of the whole damn year.

While this is a definitive final straw for E3, this has been coming for a while. Nintendo stopped holding big E3 press conferences ten years ago (though the company had a showroom floor presence at the last live show in 2019), and Microsoft and Bethesda recently pivoted to holding their own showcases alongside the E3 festivities. Sony also began passing on E3 stuff a few years back.

While Microsoft won’t be at any official E3 events, boss Phil Spencer says that, as they’ve done the last few years, Xbox will in 2023 be doing stuff alongside E3 so that any press and industry folks in town for that show will be around for theirs as well. It’s not known what Nintendo and Sony will be doing in E3’s stead, if anything, though Geoff Keighley’s rival Summer Games Fest will be taking place at roughly the same time.

It’s important to note here that this isn’t the same E3 as the olden days. Events specialists ReedPop took over planning of the show last year, and said:

For years, we’ve listened, heard, and studied the global gaming community’s feedback. E3 2023 will be recognizably epic—a return to form that honors what’s always worked—while reshaping what didn’t and setting a new benchmark for video game expos in 2023 and beyond.

How they’re going to be “recognizably epic” without any major platform holder in attendance is anyone’s guess, though ReedPop did say in a statement to IGN that:

As we spent much of 2022 refining how E3 2023 would take shape, reflecting on the feedback we solicited, we did not send a single contract to an exhibitor until the start of this month. We have received a tremendous amount of interest and verbal commitments from many of the biggest companies in the industry, and when we are ready to announce the exhibitors we are confident it will be a lineup that will make the trip to Los Angeles well worth it for the industry and consumers alike.

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Sources: Nintendo and PlayStation will not attend E3 2023 | VGC – Video Games Chronicle

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Nintendo [3,362 articles]” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/platforms/nintendo/”>Nintendo and PlayStation [6,843 articles]” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/platforms/playstation/”>PlayStation will not have a presence at this year’s revamped E3 show, according to an IGN report and VGC sources.

E3 2023 will officially run from Tuesday, June 13, until Friday, June 16, according to organiser ReedPop, which has taken over the running of the flagship industry event from the  Entertainment Software Association [90 articles]” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/companies/entertainment-software-association/”>Entertainment Software Association.

According to VGC’s publishing sources with knowledge of Nintendo’s plans, the company has decided to skip E3 2023 – the event’s first physical show in four years – because it feels it has fewer major releases than usual ready to show and which would justify significant event space.

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Nintendo has traditionally been one of E3’s biggest supporters and was present on the show floor at the last physical event in 2019, when PlayStation and Xbox [6,335 articles]” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/platforms/xbox/”>Xbox were not.

Sony Interactive Entertainment [2,796 articles]” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/companies/sony/”>Sony Interactive Entertainment’s absence this year is less surprising since it skipped the last E3 show in 2019 entirely, and announced it wasn’t planning to attend the 2020 event either, before it was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Forza Motorsport – Developer_Direct, presented by Xbox & Bethesda

Meanwhile, Xbox Game Studios (Microsoft) [2,425 articles]” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/companies/microsoft/”>Microsoft will have some form of presence in Los Angeles this year with an already-announced summer showcase. However, according to IGN, the Xbox firm will not have a show floor presence at the Los Angeles Convention Center itself.

VGC’s own sources claimed discussions were ongoing with Microsoft, however, and that it could yet have a business and media presence similar to last year’s Gamescom [195 articles]” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/events/gamescom/”>Gamescom, if not a traditional booth.

Microsoft traditionally holds its E3 live event away from the LACC, and in 2019 it didn’t have its booth there either, instead opting for the neighbouring Microsoft theatre. So unlike Sony and Nintendo, there should still be plenty of Xbox news around the event.

Microsoft’s plans are understood to be complicated by the backdrop of recent significant job cuts across the company, in addition to cuts to its marketing budgets which would traditionally cover shows like E3.

Losing all three platform holders would represent a blow to the revamped E3, but sources suggested there should still be a significant presence from major game companies at the event.

New E3 organiser ReedPop told VGC that it had received “a tremendous amount of interest” from many of “the biggest companies in the industry” and that it was confident the line-up would be worth the trip.

“Since ReedPop took on the contract to run E3 six months ago, we’ve worked diligently with ESA members, using their feedback to create a new type of E3 that supports their goals and needs,” a spokesperson said.

“This process takes time and we are working to balance getting it right, and being inclusive, with getting it done quickly. E3 is a deeply significant event for the game industry and being entrusted with an important cultural touchstone is not a responsibility ReedPop takes lightly.

“We continue to work tirelessly to create a show that brings together the global gaming industry. We believe we’ve created a new format for the event that serves the needs of both the industry and its fans, and are committed to building and growing it in the coming years.

“We have received a tremendous amount of interest from many of the biggest companies in the industry, and when we are ready to announce the exhibitors we are confident it will be a lineup that will make the trip to Los Angeles well worth it for the industry and consumers alike.”

When the games industry’s other flagship expo, Gamescom, returned from its pandemic hiatus last August, over 500 companies attended, including 2K Games [383 articles]” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/companies/take-two-interactive/2k-games/”>2K, Bandai Namco Entertainment [669 articles]” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/companies/bandai-namco-entertainment/”>Bandai Namco, Sega [583 articles]” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/companies/sega/”>Sega, Ubisoft [837 articles]” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/companies/ubisoft/”>Ubisoft, Warner Games and Plaion.

VGC has requested comments from Nintendo, Sony and Xbox, and will update this article upon their response.

Details of E3’s revamped 2023 format, which will see separate business and consumer events split between four days in June, were revealed late last year.

Sources: Nintendo and PlayStation will not attend E3 2023

Under the revamped format, the first two days of E3 2023 (June 13-14) will be reserved exclusively for business. The third day (June 15) will welcome both business and consumer visitors, while the final day (June 16) will be dedicated to consumers.

As well as running high-profile events in the US and Europe, ReedPop is the owner of Gamer Network, which runs websites such as Eurogamer, GamesIndustry.biz, VG247 and Rock Paper Shotgun, and is the network partner of VGC.

Days before the revamped E3 returns, Summer Game Fest [92 articles]” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/events/summer-game-fest/”>Summer Game Fest, the digital showcase helmed by journalist Geoff Keighley [153 articles]” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/people/geoff-keighley/”>Geoff Keighley, will hold a live show at the YouTube Theater at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, California.

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Hacker finds bug that allowed anyone to bypass Facebook 2FA – TechCrunch

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A bug in a new centralized system that Meta created for users to manage their logins for Facebook and Instagram could have allowed malicious hackers to switch off an account’s two-factor protections just by knowing their phone number.

Gtm Mänôz, a security researcher from Nepal, realized that Meta did not set up a limit of attempts when a user entered the two-factor code used to log into their accounts on the new Meta Accounts Center, which helps users link all their Meta accounts, such as Facebook and Instagram.

With a victim’s phone number, an attacker would go to the centralized accounts center, enter the phone number of the victim, link that number to their own Facebook account, and then brute force the two-factor SMS code. This was the key step, because there was no upper limit to the amount of attempts someone could make.

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Once the attacker got the code right, the victim’s phone number became linked to the attacker’s Facebook account. A successful attack would still result in Meta sending a message to the victim, saying their two-factor was disabled as their phone number got linked to someone else’s account.

“Basically the highest impact here was revoking anyone’s SMS-based 2FA just knowing the phone number,” Mänôz told TechCrunch.

An email from Meta to an account owner telling them that their two-factor protections have been switched off. Image Credits: Gtm Mänôz (screenshot)

At this point, theoretically, an attacker could try to take over the victim’s Facebook account just by phishing for the password, given that the target didn’t have two-factor enabled anymore.

Mänôz found the bug in the Meta Accounts Center last year, and reported it to the company in mid-September. Meta fixed the bug a few days later, and paid Mänôz $27,200 for reporting the bug.

Meta spokesperson Gabby Curtis told TechCrunch that at the time of the bug the login system was still at the stage of a small public test. Curtis also said that Meta’s investigation after the bug was reported found that there was no evidence of exploitation in the wild, and that Meta saw no spike in usage of that particular feature, which would signal the fact that no one was abusing it.

January 30: Headline updated to reflect that only Facebook accounts were vulnerable to the bug; this was due to an editing error. ZW

Updated with comment from Meta.

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