A new update is now available for Forza Horizon 5 that features support for American Sign Language and British Sign Language for various in-game scenes.
According to developer Playground Games, for many deaf or hard-of-hearing players, captions can cause fatigue, so the team brought in actors from the deaf and hard of hearing community to sign for parts of the story between driving. This includes jumping into challenges, getting ready for a race, meeting other players, and driving across Mexico while planes fly overhead.
Playground Games made a decision early on to make accessibility a key pillar of the game, which won the Innovation in Accessibility award at The Game Awards 2021, as well two Can I Play That? Accessibility Awards the same year.
"We realized that there’s an opportunity to help people enjoy our games more by adding this feature,” says Mike Brown, creative director of Forza Horizon 5. “These are the key parts of the game that need to be preserved and protected.”
“I think it’s easy to come through the development of a game like this and start to think that maybe you’re an expert in the field of accessibility. I think that we have to have real humility and the ability to keep going, asking questions and trying to be better.”
For Playground Games, focusing on accessibility encourgaed a new process for applying siging to the game and the team performed testing to make sure it was actually working correctly. The studio constantly consulted with the deaf and hard of hearing community, who they invited back to play the game reactions.
Tarnya Smith, a producer at Playground Games for Forza Horizon 5 said the first thing the team did was hire a company run by deaf people to hold auditions and help cast the actors for the scenes. But they soon realized they needed more people such as an interpreter to communicate with the cast and crew as well as with the actor and a consultant to make sure that what the actor is signing is up to standard and is good language.
"We got to talk to them and understand what it is that they struggled with in-game," said Smith. "For me, it was quite an eye-opener. We learned that although we think subtitles are great and help everyone, they actually aren't that helpful for people who are deaf or hard of hearing who rely on signing. It was a big wake up call for us."
Support for sign language was announced alongside other accessibility features when the game was released in November.