When I was young, I read the story about John Dalton who described his own color blindness in 1794. In common with his brother, he confused scarlet with green and pink with blue. This story has always fascinated me, because with ‘normal’ vision, it’s hard to unsee the color you’ve seen or simply imagine seeing the world through a completely different color palette. And I’ve often wondered how can I ever be sure that the color “yellow” I see, is the same “yellow” as everybody else’s.
My childhood wonder had quickly been forgotten until many years later, when we started working on LUNA. After sending out an alpha demo to players, we suddenly realized there was a particular level in the game, in which a small group of people become seriously stuck where most other players usually wouldn’t.
In the puzzle, players are required to pick one particular color (the correct answer) among six different colors. To my eyes, these six colors were distinctively different from one another, however I later on found out that not everyone agreed with me. Finally I came to realize that the players who had difficulty completing this puzzle simply did not see the same color as me, either aware or unaware of their color weakness.
Working as an illustrator for many years, I am so used to selecting various shades of similar colors just to make a drawing perfect to my eyes. I will easily get frustrated when prints come out just a bit darker or bluer. I actually never really truly realized how different the experience can be between people with normal vision and those with limited color recognition. Until now!
To inform my actions, I did a bit of research about the different types of colorblindness, really wanting to find a solution to a color themed puzzle that everyone could play without struggling.
From the research, I learned there are commonly three main different types of colorblindness. Each of them has a restricted color vision within certain range of colors. Some are not sensitive to blue and green, others find it hard to differentiate from red and purple (see image below).
I realized that almost all sufferers experience issues with the color green. This was the problem with our level in LUNA, a lot of greenish colors were associated with the color picking step.
If we wanted our players to be able to pick a green tone color as the correct answer to complete the puzzle, deuteranope and protanope groups of players would have difficulty figuring out the right answer. To their eye, there were other colors that appeared to be the same (see example below).
Now we knew what the problem was, the next step was to redesign the colors for this puzzle. But the challenge, even now we were aware of the situation, was that there would still be no way for us to know which group of colorblind players would be playing this game. As all are sensitive to different rage of colors, simply changing from one color to another might just cause the problem for another group. We needed something for everyone.
First of all, we decided to avoid putting any green tones together in the design, as all three groups of colorblind people would have issues here. Secondly, we tried to avoid primary reds and greens in the same group, next to each other, as they often appear to be very similar as well. To help colorblind players, we added a bluish tint on the original design. By doing this, it knocks them into a different color range . Now, after the changes, players can distinctively tell the difference from A and B.
Last step, we re-designed the choices pool. From the previous six color choices we had before, three of them appeared very similar for colorblind players. Instead of changing the red color we wanted to use for the correct answer, we changed the other five, to make sure that all the other choices can still appear varied enough for colorblind players to distinguish within the range they can see. Although the final colors lose some of their original color tone, the answer color now looks different from the rest of other choices, and can be picked out more easily.
That’s how we attempted a more color-friendly redesign! We still have to test it with players to see if it actually works as intended, and also how much it might affect the original puzzle difficulty. We hope this will make everyone’s gaming experience more enjoyable. It was a very valuable lesson we learned from the feedback we received from our recent exhibitions and shows. You guys are helping us make the game better and better.