Editor's Note: We would like to remind everyone that installing third-party software can be potentially dangerous. RSBANDB does not endorse or support any third-party software. This article is presented purely from the standpoint of increasing accessibility within RuneScape.
Third-party apps have a complicated relationship with the companies that make the games they are meant to enhance. There are some games in which the company welcomes these apps with open arms. Then some companies will go after any third-party app that interacts with their games in any way. Still, others will allow them for some of the games they make, but not for others in their portfolio. Jagex has always been a company that comes down hard on the use of third-party apps and does not allow any application to interact with its client. What happens then when an app doesn't interact with RuneScape but watches your computer screen and can recognize what the RuneScape client is displaying? In that case, you're left in a sort of gray area. Now imagine that this app that watches your screen but does not interact with the client, can make the game more accessible for disabled players. It's not a hypothetical, it is a very real situation that I want to draw attention to this month. Keep in mind as we get started I'm not advocating breaking any rules or terms of service Jagex has laid out, however, this particular app exists in a gray area. I want to show people how it can benefit visually impaired players and give them the opportunity they never thought they would have.
Long-time Informer readers and listeners of RSBANDBUpdate! know that accessibility in gaming is important to me. I want to improve the accessibility in RuneScape in particular. Recently I had a friend tell me about a tool that might make the game more accessible for me called the ALT+1 Toolkit. This app has been around for a long time and it works by not interacting with the RuneScape client but by being able to read what is displayed on someone's computer screen. It's almost like an invisible overlay that has been developed to recognize RuneScape's particular style of font. Most players that have heard about or use ALT+1 use it to help them with clue scroll puzzles. While this is probably the most common use for ALT+1, it's just one tool in their toolkit. The tool I want to talk about today is called the AFK Warden. This is the only tool I've ever used in the ALT+1 toolkit, and contrary to what the name brings to mind it's much more than just a reminder to click. It has opened up aspects of the game that I thought were permanently off-limits to me before.
The game-changer for me is that the ALT+1 toolkit has the capability of turning visual information into audio information. The reason that is so important to me is that I, like many visually impaired people, use a screen magnifier. The magnifier is great but the downside is it reduces your field of vision. That can be a major disadvantage when doing things like bossing in RuneScape. While the movable interface is extremely helpful to me it is limited when bossing. No matter how I position the action bar or the chat I simply can't see them while watching out for a bosses attack. This is where ALT+1 comes in. It can watch items on my action bar that I can't see and use text to speech to tell me when my health/prayer is low, when I can use a threshold, and much more. You can add whatever sound bit you want for a particular warning along with whatever speech you want it to say. Now all of a sudden I don't have to take my eyes off the boss to know all that vital information anymore, and that's just the beginning. It turns out that many warnings appear in the chat while fighting a boss. Every time a boss speaks it appears in the chat and is a heads up to the player some mechanic is coming. I've never been able to see these chat lines and therefore when you don't know a certain attack is coming it makes PvM virtually impossible, but not anymore.
Since ALT+1 can see my chatbox I can type in what phrases I want it to notify me about when they show up in the chatbox. Now when the Queen Black Dragon says there are super hot flames coming I hear the message and get out of the way like everyone else. I can do this for anything that appears in the chat. I can have it say my prayer renewal will end in thirty seconds. I can have it notify me with sound and speech when a loot beam appears or when my Luck of the Dwarves goes off. Think of all the information you take in through the chat and action bars while playing RuneScape. This is information that I either never could see or I would have to use my very limited field of view to look at it at the cost of not seeing something else. That is why it is such a game-changer for accessibility. It let me do something I had been resigned to never being able to do.
I have barely scratched the surface with what I can do with this tool. There are even plans to be able to use its text to speech capability to be able to read dialog boxes in the future. That means I may be able to enjoy a quest again without the struggle of trying to read it. This little tool, while it exists in a somewhat gray area, has opened up the game in which I never imagined. I've advocated for better accessibility in RuneScape for a long time, and not one time did I ever think to suggest text to speech chat messages. Honestly, PvM was such a long shot I had just never thought it possible.
Does the question now become, can Jagex include any of the features I've talked about to make the game more accessible? The answer to that is I don't know. Jagex has incorporated functions of ALT+1 before. Runemetrics is predated by ALT+1's XP tracker, and the recent additions of drop logs were also an ALT+1 feature before Jagex included their version in-game. I hope they will in the future or at the very least officially state the use of ALT+1 for accessibility. Either way would be a win for disabled players. With February fast approaching it would be great to do while there is some focus in the gaming world about accessibility.
With that, I hope you all have a great start to your year. This will be a great year for RS3 and I can't wait to play around with Wars Retreat now that I can go and try PvM for myself. If anyone would like more helpful tips on making RuneScape more accessible contact me in-game @tanis79 or send us a question on RSBANDBUpdate! Until next time, Happy RuneScaping.