Half-Life: Alyx Devs Explain How Accessible Design Made The Game Better

Virtual reality isn’t the most accessible platform. It can be expensive, it’s unfamiliar to the majority of the game-playing market, and it’s more physically demanding than traditional games, with very few ways to accommodate. Half-Life: Alyx‘s developers are optimistic about the future of VR, but they’re also aware of the challenges the platform faces. They have their own ideas about the “chicken and egg” situation when it comes to VR’s financial investment, they took careful measures to make sure Alyx wasn’t an overwhelming experience for new players, and they’ve included some accessibility options for players with disabilities.

GameSpot had the chance to speak with Valve level designer Dario Casali and programmer Kerry Davis about Half-Life: Alyx, including some of the ways they’ve tried to make the game a more enjoyable experience for all types of players.

“We definitely wanted to appeal to as many people as we could,” Casali tells GameSpot.

Beyond introducing VR mechanics in a slow, deliberate way so as to not overwhelm players, the team also tried to design with certain physical requirements in mind.

“We had to make sure you could play it seated,” says Davis, noting that it’s also playable standing or room-scale. “One of the later options that came in was single-controller mode. We thought–it seems like something we should be able to do, so why not? Why shouldn’t you be able to play the game with one hand?”

Alyx's gravity gloves. Half-Life: Alyx is playable with one hand.
Alyx’s gravity gloves. Half-Life: Alyx is playable with one hand.

According to Davis, the team worked to modify interactions around those additional options so players using them “could have an equal experience.”

“Putting the grenade on the end of a shotgun is a two-handed interaction,” Davis explains. “So we had it so you could just touch the end of the gun to a grenade anywhere and it’ll attach itself.”

Davis recounts how testers actually started interacting with this option in unexpected ways.

“They’d equip the grenade in their hand, toss it up in the air, quickly pull out the shotgun, and catch the grenade on the way back down,” he says. “It was a real cool move to see.”

In addition to seated mode and one-handed mode, Half-Life: Alyx also has a light sensitivity option, height adjustment settings so players can avoid having to physically kneel and crouch, and four difficulty levels.

Learn more about Half-Life: Alyx’s accessibility options in our guide. Don’t forget to read our Half-Life: Alyx review and if you’re getting ready to start the game yourself, check out our weapons and puzzle guide.

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