• Hey, guest user. Hope you're enjoying NeoGAF! Have you considered registering for an account? Come join us and add your take to the daily discourse.

How Playground Created Forza Horizon 5’s Groundbreaking Sign Language Support Creative director Mike Brown: “This is not a thing that we want to keep"

STARSBarry

Gold Member
*literally no one*

Suddenly at the bottom right of the screen everytime someone talks.

 
Last edited:

Tommi84

Member
Your flippant attitude is bizarre. I refuse to believe kids are, in general, that slow unless they are neglected by their parents.
May I ask from which country you are? Not to scorn or anything. Just find it interesting. In Poland, where I'm from, children are taught to read at the age I provided earlier: 6-7 (when they go to elementary school and parents can decide if their kid wishes to go one year earlier, at least i still think it is possible). Of course, some parent will do it earlier, but saying that kids don't learn how to read at age 6-7 is because they are neglected by parents is an overstatement and bizarre to say.

For me, it's completely unnatural here that kids learned to read at 3 :).

Cultural thing and country background I guess.
 
  • Like
Reactions: dem

Panajev2001a

GAF's Pleasant Genius

A few years ago, a London-based teacher of deaf and hard-of-hearing children, Cameron Akitt was brought to Playground Games to participate in a workshop for the in-development Forza Horizon 5. Over two days, he spoke to numerous designers within Playground about his experience playing games with subtitling and captioning in video games.

At one point during the workshops, he gave a piece of feedback that he never expected to see implemented. He suggested that Playground could take a step beyond subtitles and captions, and include American Sign Language and British Sign Language as supported languages within their game.

“Subtitles and captions are okay,” Akitt says, speaking to IGN. “But if you are a sign language-first language user, if you are deaf and culturally deaf and your family's deaf and you only sign, then English is your second or even your third language, and reading in your second or third language is an exhausting experience at the best of times, and if that's the only way you can enjoy a game, then it's not peak enjoyment."

Akitt tells me that when he originally mentioned it to Playground, he understood it to be a bit of a pie-in-the-sky, unlimited budget, magic wand type of suggestion. He went home after the workshops and didn’t think much of it, until around two years later he got an email from Playground. It was implementing his suggested feature into Forza Horizon 5, and the team wanted him to return as a consultant to help make it happen.

Forza Horizon 5 ASL Sign Language Feature Clip


Now, on March 1, Akitt’s suggestion is being realized at last. Forza Horizon 5 will receive a free in-game update adding ASL and BSL language support to all of its cutscenes, with actors from the deaf and hard of hearing communities appearing on screen to sign the scenes in full.

Speaking to IGN alongside Akitt, Forza Horizon creative director Mike Brown says that their conversations with Akitt “turned on a light” for Playground. “As an English first language user, I'd always just assumed that subtitles were the solution to that problem,” he says. “And it was only from speaking to Cameron that I learned that subtitles were a solution, but were not the best solution.”

So Brown committed. He greenlit the feature “very early on” in Forza Horizon 5’s development, originally thinking the team would include it at launch as a language option like any other. But actually getting the feature implemented proved to be more complex and difficult than Brown ever expected.

It wasn’t that the actual tech of implementing a person signing over a game cutscene was challenging, Brown explains. In fact, that part was easier than he thought. Instead, the numerous challenges Playground had to overcome to implement the feature came up almost entirely because it's one of the first, if not the first, video game developer to try and incorporate such a thing at this scale.

Because no one’s done it before, there weren’t processes, people, or pipelines in place already as there are with other language options. Everything Playground did – finding actors, hiring consultants, interpreting English scripts into ASL and BSL, and so forth – involved building every system and connection from the ground up.

"Nobody is providing that service to offer sign language for video games. We had to create all of those relationships ourselves."

“If, for example, we wanted to add an additional spoken voiceover language to the game – let's say we wanted to add Hungarian as a voiceover language – companies exist in order to provide that service,” Brown says. "There'll be people that I can pay a certain amount of money, send them all of my dialogue and get back translated dialogue. And that'll be it.

“Nobody is providing that service to offer sign language for video games. And so we had to create all of those relationships ourselves. We had to find those interpreters… we had to make all those relationships, make all those contacts, find people that could provide us with a sign language actor or sign language interpreter and build it out. I think we were the first people to do that.”

That was one complication. Another was that translating English into ASL and BSL isn’t a direct, 1:1 translation by any stretch. As Akitt explains, ASL and BSL have their own grammatical structures that are influenced by facial expressions, lip patterns, and body language in the same way spoken words are influenced by tone of voice. All that must be taken into account when interpreting a script.

And that’s made even more difficult in video games, where scripts written for spoken language dialogue might not necessarily translate effectively into ASL or BSL. There were a number of lines, Brown says, where what the game was asking the player to do wasn’t immediately obvious in the written English script, meaning the intent needed to be explained to a sign language interpreter so they could then translate effectively. And Akitt adds that this became even more complex with certain more video game-specific concepts and terms.

“With oral languages, the vocabulary already exists that if you're translating from English to French, French will have an equivalent word or an equivalent idiom that expresses this concept,” Akitt says. “In sign, in video games so much of the vocabulary is new, that you have to think about how you're going to express something. You need to come up with signs, agree what the signs are going to be, check in with the members of the community, see what they're signing to try and get a consensus.

“When Overwatch came out, me and my deaf friends loved it, but we had to agree on signs for the maps, for the characters, for the ultimate abilities, for the Overwatch league teams and everything. So we're there physically agreeing on a lexicon in BSL that's never existed. And that takes time.”

And then – yes, there was more! – there’s the added complication of Forza Horizon 5 being set in Mexico, with Mexican terms and phrases interspersed in the spoken and written scripts. “How do you sign the Mexican vocabulary in English?” Akitt asks. “Do you sign the English sign of the Mexican word or do you translate it directly? There's so many nuances.”

One notable choice I asked Akitt and Brown about was keeping sign language implementation to cutscenes – you’re not going to see an interpreter on-screen signing the radio dialogue while you’re driving. Brown admits there are technical limitations influencing that, but he and Akitt both agree that even if it was something they could reasonably add, it wouldn’t actually be that useful to players, who might accidentally crash a car into something while trying to watch an interpreter.

The main, cool new thing that we have in our campaign, and accessibility; they are of equal importance.

But Brown says that’s okay. The dialogue delivered during regular gameplay is written to be inconsequential in the first place – just in case a player, regardless of their language choice, is driving off a cliff when it happens.

“I already have philosophical views about the type of messaging given to players at different scenarios,” Brown says. “So when you are actually driving the car, I already keep the scripts down to things like, ‘Great job. You're doing great!'... and not, ‘Hey, you need this specific thing right now,’ because when you're in control and you're actually trying to play the game, even as an English user who can hear that dialogue normally, it's still a challenge.”

Brown mentions that a key reason this feature was possible for Playground in the first place was because accessibility has been one of the core pillars of Forza Horizon 5’s development since the start. Had sign language interpretation been an afterthought or something suggested and thrown together near the end, it might never have happened. But because Playground was asking these questions very, very early on, it had the time to gather resources, speak with numerous consultants, and devote energy, time, and budget to it alongside other critical accessibility features.

“When something is a pillar of the game, that is, as the word suggests, a supportive structure of this game that we can't cut,” Brown says, “we can't get to a point where it got a little bit too expensive and we can't do it anymore. Those are things that the leadership team has defined as being of critical importance to the game and therefore the team has to get behind it.

"Another example of that is our expeditions, which are one of our key new campaign features, one of the best, most fun experiences you have when you're playing through the game. That's a key initiative for the game. And when you put accessibility next to that and say, ‘These are two things that are of equal importance to the game: the main, cool new thing that we have in our campaign, and accessibility. They are of equal importance.’ Then it sets the tone for the team and it sets the expectation of what we mean.

“This isn't a thing that we're doing because it sounds a bit nice and it's a little bit of a good news story. It's a thing because we actually believe it's really important to the game and it's really important to our players. And that is the way that I tell my team to think about it.”

"This is not... a Playground Games secret. This is something that we want to be in as many games as possible."

With so many challenges overcome and the feature on its way tomorrow, Brown is very optimistic that the next time his team or anyone else wants to do something like this, it won’t be nearly so difficult, because Playground has already laid the foundation. He says that with a network of connections in place, it’s already been much easier to talk to the right people and ensure that sign language continues to be included as a part of future updates. And while he can’t confirm plans for future games either at Playground or more widely at Xbox, he encourages any developer or publisher who wants to do something similar in their own games to call him up.

“We've broken ground here and we've made a lot of these connections and we are available to assist any developer that needs help with this as well,” he says. “I think we will pick up the phone and we will provide all of the information that we've learned. This is not a thing that we consider a Playground Games secret that we want to keep for ourselves. This is very much something that we want to be in as many games as possible. And we will assist in any way that we can.”

Akitt tells me he’s looking forward to seeing what feedback other deaf and hard-of-hearing gamers give on the feature, and what the community makes of it. “I think that'll be really useful feedback either for Playground or any studio that looks into the future and thinks, ‘We'd like to do something like this. Who can we talk to from the community and what feedback do they have?’ It's like any design, it's a process of iteration, and it can only ever get better.”

Brown adds that, over the course of development, he found that his own perspective on Forza Horizon 5’s sign language interpretation has shifted. Initially, he says, he treated it as a language option like any other. But now, he sees it also as an inclusivity feature.

“It allows people who use sign as their first language to feel like they're represented in the game in the same way that people of different ethnicities are represented in the game, [or] people with prosthetic limbs can represent themselves in the game,” he says. “People who speak sign as a first language are feeling as though the game is for them. They are included in this game, and they're represented within the game. And that's the thing that I've actually found to be very powerful.”

The title is confusing… it seems like something they want to remove.

“This is not a thing that we want to keep"​

 

adamsapple

Gold Member
The title is confusing… it seems like something they want to remove.

“This is not a thing that we want to keep"​



Because OP likely ran into the character limit.

The full line is:

Creative director Mike Brown: “This is not a thing that we want to keep for ourselves.”​


Not to keep for ourselves.
 

nowhat

Member
Because OP likely ran into the character limit.

The full line is:

Creative director Mike Brown: “This is not a thing that we want to keep for ourselves.”​


Not to keep for ourselves.
Came in from the bans to see what the fuzz is about - thanks for clearing that up, makes much more sense.

(I mean I could read the article, but at the same time, c'mon, that's just amateurish)
 

kingfey

Banned
The title is confusing… it seems like something they want to remove.

“This is not a thing that we want to keep"​

The title is correct. It is confusing, if you don't read the first words carefully.
It implies they don't want to keep the technique to themselves.
It reads as secret, you don't to keep it to yourself.
 
Kinda shocked to see the downplaying here.

Those suggesting subtitles; the article clearly states, as soon as the third paragraph why integrating sign language would be preferred.
When their argument for sign language support starts with "subtitles are okay" it's hard to see the necessity of it all.
 

Loope

Member
Meh.. I’m no education expert. I just work in the education system and my wife is a teacher. Just telling you what I see.

Afaik kids dont even start school until 7 in Finland… and they seem to do great on testing. My wife insisted we hold back both our children so they would start Kindergarten late (late birthdays). It’s actually pretty common now.


but this is getting far off topic for the gaming forum :messenger_winking:
Many children psychologists say the same. They should start reading at 6, if they take an interest early on so be it. If not, then wait for school. I started reading at 4, i didn't feel any particular advantage in relation to my colleagues other than be bored to dead at school when they were teaching it.

I think the purpose is: There is a time for everything, play, read, learn etc. No point trying to force that shit down kid's throats when they have no interest in it. My 5 year old son knows how to write, read some words and do some basic operations but only because he took an interest in it, no way am i going to force a kid that should be having fun to start the whole education-work-die sooner just because i decided so.
 
  • Like
Reactions: dem

DeafTourette

Older than air but younger than the foundations of the earth
Sure, but beyond those basics I assume you would have to be able to read to learn how to sign anything depicted in a video game cutscene. One would also assume that reading and writing would be a much more vital form of communication with hearing and speech removed from their repertoire.

Deaf children sign before they can read. ASL is their first language. And reading English isn't the same as reading ASL. So while the words and spelling is the same, the grammar isn't. That is explained in the article. An example:

English: I'm going to go downtown

ASL: I go town down

It's simplified and the closest correlation to it's grammar is, I believe, Spanish. It isn't 1:1 ASL - English... Also as the article said.

So deaf kids go to schools for the Deaf and learn to read and write in ASL... English is the second language they have to learn to read and write... Some learn to speech-read and fewer learn to speak. It's very difficult because they can't hear tone, volume, etc.

I'm excited for this development! Most deaf gamers I know have long had to do guesswork and trial and error to get the rules and flow of the game... Some just skip the cutscenes because they can't follow along, missing the story aspects.
 

Schmick

Member
When their argument for sign language support starts with "subtitles are okay" it's hard to see the necessity of it all.
Well thats not the whole truth is it, the statement goes on from there.

You are saying something akin to "1080p is ok so why both with higher resolution". And actually that isnt nearly as important relatively to what is being achieved by Playground.

The post from DeafTourette DeafTourette clearly explains the benefits.

Deaf children sign before they can read. ASL is their first language. And reading English isn't the same as reading ASL. So while the words and spelling is the same, the grammar isn't. That is explained in the article. An example:

English: I'm going to go downtown

ASL: I go town down

It's simplified and the closest correlation to it's grammar is, I believe, Spanish. It isn't 1:1 ASL - English... Also as the article said.

So deaf kids go to schools for the Deaf and learn to read and write in ASL... English is the second language they have to learn to read and write... Some learn to speech-read and fewer learn to speak. It's very difficult because they can't hear tone, volume, etc.

I'm excited for this development! Most deaf gamers I know have long had to do guesswork and trial and error to get the rules and flow of the game... Some just skip the cutscenes because they can't follow along, missing the story aspects.
 
Well thats not the whole truth is it, the statement goes on from there.

You are saying something akin to "1080p is ok so why both with higher resolution". And actually that isnt nearly as important relatively to what is being achieved by Playground.

The post from DeafTourette DeafTourette clearly explains the benefits.
Of course there's benefits. It's just that those benefits require a lot of money and work, and they ultimately only benefit a small group of people who could mostly play and enjoy the game already.

I'm just not convinced this is the best way to spend your resources. They could've spent that money on translating the game to Vietnamese for example and it would've benefited a lot more people. Even Vietnamese deaf people. Wouldn't that be a lot more inclusive than this slight improvement for a very small audience?
 

Hugare

Member
This is awesome

Every acessibility option is great in my eyes. And this is above and beyond anything that I've seen in gaming so far. TLOU 2 options were great, but recording sign language for every cutscene is putting some work.

Shame that the story is Horizon is pointless
 

DeafTourette

Older than air but younger than the foundations of the earth
Of course there's benefits. It's just that those benefits require a lot of money and work, and they ultimately only benefit a small group of people who could mostly play and enjoy the game already.

I'm just not convinced this is the best way to spend your resources. They could've spent that money on translating the game to Vietnamese for example and it would've benefited a lot more people. Even Vietnamese deaf people. Wouldn't that be a lot more inclusive than this slight improvement for a very small audience?

You're forgetting that this isn't going to be limited to this game going forward. This game is just the start. Games like Legend of Zelda, Uncharted, etc ... Games that are dialogue dependant to advance the story, because Deaf people actually enjoy stories too, will benefit deaf people with this new technology.

Just English subtitles isn't enough. Especially when MOST Deaf people don't read English. They mostly sign or read ASL written by other deafies.

I'm a late life deaf person who knows many other deaf people, was in a long term relationship with a deaf woman and has educated himself on deaf culture and whose daughter is a CODA.

I'm explaining this as clearly as I can.
 

Schmick

Member
Of course there's benefits. It's just that those benefits require a lot of money and work, and they ultimately only benefit a small group of people who could mostly play and enjoy the game already.

I'm just not convinced this is the best way to spend your resources. They could've spent that money on translating the game to Vietnamese for example and it would've benefited a lot more people. Even Vietnamese deaf people. Wouldn't that be a lot more inclusive than this slight improvement for a very small audience?
The number of people who are deaf will be in the 10s million across the US and UK.

But you make a point also about Vietnamese translation. I would be just as pleased about having that implemented as I am sign language.

I'm looking at the big picture, accessibility. MS has a fantastic approach towards accessibility. And let it continue. Let it be an example to the rest of the developers and manufacturers.
 
Word limited misleading title aside, came to see feedback regarding this initiative. Instead, thread derailed to learning to read timeframes!

MS/Xbox have been proactive in the accessibility space this generation (or did it start last gen?). It is rarely mentioned but the Adaptive Controller is simply brilliant it what it achieves. This is a game company/corporation doing this! Cant see this being a profit driving decision to continue with these.
I consider myself fortunate to not require any of these! So pleased that gaming brothers and sisters that require these products/initiatives are now have these options.
 

marquimvfs

Gold Member
For everyone here downplaying the difficulty that deaf people could have while reading.
Imagine yourself having to learn how to read without being able to hear. How would you know whats the sound of every letter? How do you do syllables? It for sure is doable, as I've seen for myself, but it's not the same experience of being able to read while knowing the sound of what you're reading. If it's more natural to them, as the specialist pointed out, so be it. I applaud the initiative.
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom