Call of Duty® Warzone™:
"Time to throw down while throwing it back. Verdansk hasn't looked this good since the Spring of 1984. Get ready and drop into Season Three of #Warzone."
Large map mode UX & UI development for the complete game life-cycle, including an annualized live-ops season with extensive content offerings. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility-centered development leader. Please contact me if you'd like to request additional information.
Design Tools: Illustrator, XD, Figma, Photoshop, InDesign, After Effects, Media Encoder, & proprietary tools
Implementation Tools: GSC, LUA, Perforce, Shotgrid, JIRA, & proprietary tools
My work for the Verdansk '84 chapter of Warzone focused on leveling-up accessibility, improving player quality of life, and developing in-game content that focused on diversity and inclusion for a global audience of over 100 million players. The overwhelmingly positive reception and success of these features brought Call of Duty® Warzone™ into the spotlight as an industry leader for accessibility, player choice, and content diversity.
Key to the success of any Diversity & Inclusion work is ensuring that it is appropriately contextualized within the project/product. For Call of Duty® Warzone™, that meant ensuring we consistently deliver an authentically Call of Duty® experience that is more inclusive and more diverse - not injecting diversity for the sake of checking off a box. In other words, this meant addressing "What does diversity and inclusion look like for us?" and developing a roadmap based upon the answer that not only preserves, but truly empowers the creative vision for the game.
Over the course of the Verdansk '84 narrative cycle, my work focused on developing strengthened dev-ops pipelines to support Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in our in-game content. By founding our DEI&A Kaleidoscope initiative and bringing a larger dev-ops focus to addressing our in-game content from a Diversity and Accessibility lens, we achieved a multi-faceted solution for Accessibility in Warzone that involved delivering a world-class feature set, strengthening player feedback systems, providing online outlets for information / discussion surrounding our current offering of features, supporting developers through formal education/certification, road mapping the Now & Next features for accessibility, and establishing a network presence with known experts in the field. The work the full team completed in this space catapulted Call of Duty® Warzone™ from a largely inaccessible game to a global industry leader in accessibility, gaining recognition for this work worldwide from dozens of news outlets, conferences such as #GAConf, and even through the PlayStation Store's Accessibility Collection.
To address Diversity & Inclusion, I led a similarly multi-faceted approach to improving our pipelines for identifying key issues as content is developed, providing proactive design solutions, pinpointing opportunities to celebrate diversity in a way that feels authentic to the franchise, and developing actionable response plans to any Diversity & Inclusion issues identified during the live-ops seasons. Celebrating player identity through features such as our (free) Pride Month 2021 calling cards sparked overwhelming positivity within the community. Numerous news outlets and well-known personalities vocally cherished the significance of seeing those identities represented in the Call of Duty® franchise for the first time in it's history.
The following features represent a vertical slice of my work in this space throughout the Verdansk '84 narrative cycle and illustrate some of our most buzz-worthy feature updates.
Verdansk '84 Trailer
Pride Month 2021 Calling Cards
For Pride Month in June of 2021, I led our effort to create and implement Calling Cards (also known as Player Cards) that represent and include additional LGBTQIA+ identities in-game, expanding on the game's original offering. Altogether, 8 new Pride flags were added to the game as Calling Cards and these were gifted to all players for free. The new Pride Flag Calling Cards added included the following:
1. Genderqueer by Marilyn Roxie
2. Agender by Salem
3. Aromantic by Cameron
4. Intersex by Morgan Carpenter
5. Genderfluid by JJ Poole
6. Pansexual by Jasper
7. Gay Man by Gayflagblog
8. Progress Pride by Daniel Quasar
In order to realize these assets in-game, I was responsible for developing the core pillars / vision, evaluating relevant considerations (financial, cultural, regional, legal), developing the Calling Card assets, implementing the assets, customizing the implementation per regional and legal requirements, and developing player-facing communications including patch notes details and twitter announcements.
"Happy Pride month! As a part of our celebration, we have added 8 new flags for free for all Players! Diversity and inclusion are important, and we are excited to expand our in-game representation of LGBTQIA+ identities in honor of Pride month."
The development of our (external) Pride Month celebration involved evaluating what an authentic celebration could look like in the context of our game and our players considering elements including: financial access/barriers, regional considerations, legal considerations, authentic visibility/representation, ESRB rating, development time, and technical considerations. For brevity, I will not cover the details of each of these elements of development, but I am happy to discuss the pipeline, asset creation, or various considerations in more depth if this or similar efforts are of interest to your teams or project!
Warzone & Black Ops Cold War Accessibility FAQs
During the Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War year of Warzone, we launched comprehensive, public-facing Accessibility FAQs that review the accessibility options offered in-game in Call of Duty Warzone and Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War. These FAQs provide insight into the available tools, their purpose, and their locations in-game within the Options menu and submenus. The FAQs are crucial for players that use accessibility features because they allow players to evaluate whether or not the game(s) support their needs as individual players before committing either to a purchase or a download.
Working alongside both studio-level and publisher-level teams, I was responsible for all of the copy text development, including both the Questions and Answers for the FAQ for both titles concurrently. In addition, I handled collection of the relevant research on which features can/should be included in the FAQ, the priority/order of information within the FAQ, and how to word the FAQ to balance specificity with brevity.
In addition to developing the FAQ itself, I led development of player-facing communications surrounding the FAQ, including pointing players towards and accompanying feedback survey and analyzing survey feedback data. This feedback survey and comprehensive approach to social media strategy provided both the developers and players with a closed-loop feedback cycle where players could gather information on features provided in the live-service seasons and provide feedback on features that were not functioning as expected or were not yet provided.
Ultimately, this approach continues to allow us to have a dialog with the community about which features are most valuable, which gameplay experiences are least (or most) accessible, and how we can continue to evolve our games over time in ways that include, rather than exclude, disabled players. Even further, this dialog provides developers with the opportunity to evaluate the ways in which past gameplay elements have been inaccessible so that future gameplay experiences can be developed as accessible-by-design, limiting tech debt, increasing audience engagement, and strengthening our community overall.
Each of these elements comprising the Accessibility FAQs for Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War and Call of Duty Warzone created extremely impressive and measurable online buzz through social media, feedback survey submissions, and news outlet coverage. Most importantly, the Accessibility FAQ and Feedback Survey continue to provide valuable insight into the most desired areas of improvement for accessibility in Call of Duty, providing invaluable insights for feature direction, ROI, and production planning.
The Accessibility Menu is one of my absolute favorites, and I would happily geek out about it all day! For this feature, I managed the design and the team implementing the Accessibility Menu, which was originally launched concurrently in Call of Duty Warzone and Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War. This feature was implemented across both titles to serve as a strong, sustainable foundation for our accessibility efforts across all products within the brand, and this feature continues to be supported in every new Call of Duty title today!
"Raven remains committed to making #Warzone accessible for everyone because we believe that games are for everyone. In an effort to make the Accessibility Options more visible and easier to access, you can now find them right when you open Warzone or in the in-game Options.
We view our Accessibility Menu as a platform to house current and future #wza11y Options. As we continue to expand on our Accessibility features, we want to make sure you are being heard. Visit the link to provide Accessibility related feedback: https://tinyurl.com/j2dmxhzc"
Core to our philosophy is ensuring all players across a broad spectrum of ability and disability are able to play and enjoy our content. The addition of the Accessibility Options menu supports this vision by bringing more visibility to the available options while increasing ease-of-access. The Accessibility Options menu provides a pared-down list of settings which are specifically oriented towards accessibility. Players can access this menu from the main blades menu immediately upon launching the game. Alternatively, players can access the Accessibility Options menu from the existing Options menu.
At the highest level, the Accessibility Menu provides a central hub for players to reference all Accessibility features contained within the main Options menu. Notably, this menu - from an implementation point of view - functions essentially as a filter of the broader Options menu, meaning that players themselves do not need to discern which Options qualify as accessibility-related or not. Rather, the Menu's purpose is to provide a stable location wherein players specifically looking for either a particular accessibility feature or a category of accessibility can quickly access those options without the cognitive overload or frustration of sorting through the larger menu. Today, the Accessibility Menu alone has over 100 Accessibility Options, so it was crucial to design a system for accessing these options that was considerate of all players and focused on eliminating cognitive overload as well as navigation (fine motor skills) barriers as much as possible.
Long-term, the Accessibility Menu serves several primary functions:
Stability: Create a consistent, stable location for Accessibility Features to live within that persists across Call of Duty titles.
Visibility: Ensure the Accessibility Features being implemented, particularly those added in the live-ops season, are visible to players and accessible.
Dialog: Create a space that gives visibility to players on our Accessibility efforts to ignite conversation around gameplay accessibility that is working well, gaps that persist, and where the product can continue to lean into providing support for a broad spectrum of player (dis)ability.
Ease-of-Access: Provide opportunities for players to access these settings quickly and easily. This includes providing entry points in the First Point of Interaction (Launch Menu) as well as the front end Options menu and the in-game Pause menu.
Inspire: Develop a foundation for the larger Accessibility effort we are embarking on that is rooted in leading the way on prioritizing accessibility features (even after launch), providing visible updates to community dialog/feedback, engaging in continued education, and leaning into accessible-by-design gameplay.
The Accessibility Menu itself as well as the features it houses, from legacy systems like Subtitles to new and emerging tech like Mono Audio Amount (an evolution of Mono Audio), the Accessibility efforts of our team have contributed to immeasurably important dialog around Accessibility. The team has, together with feedback directly from disabled players, truly levelled-up Accessibility in Call of Duty in dynamic, new, and exciting ways that broaden access to our games for a breadth of players. One example of the ways in which this is recognized and celebrated by the community is demonstrated with the PlayStation Accessibility Collection, in which not just one, but two Call of Duty titles were simultaneously spotlighted!
PlayStation just recently added an Accessibility Collection, described as:
"The Best of Accessibility
Browse a collection of games that are leading the way in accessibility options, meaning people of all abilities can enjoy.
The developers of these games are setting a great example for the rest of the industry, ultimately making games better and more inclusive for everyone."
Of special note, both our Call of Duty: Warzone and our Call of Duty: Vanguard teams have landed a spot on the collection! So incredibly proud of our culture surrounding accessible design and of the work we've done over the last months to level-up accessibility in the Call of Duty franchise.
The Accessibility Menu represents one of our most talked-about, most visible, and most empowering, and most beloved Accessibility updates to-date by developers and players alike. This feature led to dozens and dozens of news articles - both within and outside the gaming sector - covering the feature, it's purpose, and it's meaning. Closer to home, this feature has been a point of pride among our developers globally and is one of the most visible externalizations of our efforts to engage with and action on feedback directly from disabled players and the disability community. Details regarding the internal effort that set the stage for this feature to be brought to life are protected by NDA. Please reach out to me directly if you'd like to hear more about business transformation regarding Accessibility or how this (and similar efforts) can be leveraged by your teams and products!
Steady Aim Behavior
For Steady Aim Behavior, I managed the design and implementation for creating an option that allows players to select a toggle instead of a hold (default) interaction when Steady Aiming scoped weapons for Controller and KBM. This accessibility feature supports Fine Motor accessibility by eliminating the need to hold a button for extended periods of time in order to stabilize scoped Weapons such as snipers.
In this feature, I led a strike team towards adding an option under the Accessibility menu to customize the amount of time that messages in the Killfeed stay on screen. This option is intended to support Hard of Vision, Hard of Hearing, and Cognitive Overload accessibility.
The setting has 5 options:
Off: Never show updates
Default: Updates show for 10 seconds
Medium: Updates show for 20 seconds
Long: Updates show for 30 seconds
Extended: Updates show for 60 seconds
Text Chat Duration
Non-verbal communication is a cornerstone of Warzone gameplay and we leveraged accessibility-oriented playtesting and our Warzone Accessibility FAQ feedback form to explore improvements to our text chat features. By adding more customizability to the amount of time the text chat stays on-screen when new messages are received, we hope Players will be better supported in strategically communicating with their squad without needing to rely on external hardware, such as headphones. However, we want to avoid spamming Players with additional HUD messaging during moment-to-moment combat, so we have also added an advanced version of this feature that allows Players to choose which of their incoming messages have longer or shorter on-screen durations. In effect, Players will be able to choose to keep squad messages on-screen for longer, while quieting down things like system messages. Alternatively, for Players with disabilities related to cognitive overload, the Text Chat Behavior (Time On Screen) feature allows Players to turn off in-game text chat notifications on the HUD entirely, so that messages can be received without causing disruption or disturbance that hinders the gameplay experience.
With this feature, I led a strike team focused on adding a new accessibility option to change the visibility duration of incoming messages in the Text Chat widget. With the changes made, players can now adjust the length of time that the text chat widget stays on screen when a new message is received. This feature is intended to support Hard of Hearing, Blind/Low Vision, and Cognitive Overload Accessibility.
Players can choose their desired text chat behavior from the following options:
Off: The text chat will never show on the HUD for new messages
Default: When new messages are received, the text chat will stay on screen for 3 seconds. This is the legacy behavior that has been in use in Warzone.
Medium: When new messages are received, the text chat will stay on screen for 15 seconds.
Long: When new messages are received, the text chat will stay on screen for 30 seconds.
Extended: When new messages are received, the text chat will stay on screen for 60 seconds.
The advanced version of the Text Chat Behavior (Time On Screen) accessibility option allows Players to customize the visibility duration of incoming messages according to message type. In other words, Players can choose different visibility durations for Player Messages compared to System Messages. In addition, Players can select Always On Screen to prevent the text chat element from fading from the HUD.
In addition, the Always On Screen setting is accessed from the Advanced Text Chat Behavior (Time On Screen) option. When enabled, the text chat widget will stay permanently on-screen while in-game. This setting is intended to support Cognitive Overload and Blind/Low-Vision Accessibility by eliminating the need for rapid peripheral visual localization and language processing of a temporary HUD element under time pressure.
Tactical Sprint Behavior
Tactical Sprint is an action that also presents as a consumable resource in Call of Duty Warzone. At launch, this behavior required players to choose between automatically consuming this resource or performing a double-press on one of the analog sticks, which can be exhausting or impossible for disabled players. We want players to be able to use Tactical Sprint strategically without the need to choose between Auto Tac Sprint and the physical pain associated with repeated quick presses of the left / right analog sticks. To address this, I designed and worked with a team to implement an augmentation to the Tactical Sprint Options within the settings menu. With this refresh, the option to Single Tap from Run gives players the ability to use a single button press to go from basic speed to Tactical Sprint. The Single Tap from Sprint option allows players to opt to use a single button press to go from Run to Sprint, and then another single button press to go from Sprint to Tactical Sprint. Each of the available choices allow players to customize their button functionality and balance that against individual gameplay style and noise associated with player movement. At the core, this option supports Fine Motor Accessibility, though it is used by a breadth of players, regardless of ability / disability.
Accessible By Design
A significant part of designing with accessibility in-mind involves developing gameplay experiences that are Accessible-By-Design, meaning that every player can participate in the experience without supportive technology and without relying on settings within the settings menu. This work is absolutely critical for creating truly accessible, compelling experiences for our players, and it is by nature woven into the DNA of the experiences themselves. This means that there is no still-image substitute for experiencing this cultural shift in the way we develop games through first-person experiences in the worlds we are creating. Oftentimes, these by-design changes occur - from a UIUX perspective - by incorporating disabled voices directly in feature development and constantly evaluating all the pathways/channels through which we are communicating information to ensure we are always using at least two channels of communication for each piece of information. For example, you might notice that in later evolutions of Warzone events, all relevant gameplay sound is passed through audio channels as well as visual (on-screen, HUD) channels to ensure that gameplay audio is adequately supported for a broad spectrum of players. Similarly, you might notice an increased focus on providing secondary support for state changes that go beyond simply changing an element's color in order to ensure all elements are colorblind-friendly.
All of these subtle shifts occur with a unified team vision regarding Accessibility and comprehensive engagement with educational resources. In other words, every piece of this shift is truly a team effort and I am honored to have been so deeply involved in so many of the individual pieces.
If you would like to discuss more specifics on the leadership of these cultural changes, the pipeline of implementation, specific examples of work, or the player impact, please reach out to me directly.
For a look at systems broadly within Warzone that example Accessibility By Design as a pillar of development, please check out this article by The Washington Post, entitled Accessibility is part of the beauty of battle royales like 'Warzone,' 'Fortnite' and PUBG'.
Additional Accessibility Features
During the Call of Duty Black Ops (Verdansk '84) year of Warzone I also supported my teammates and coworkers in implementing, testing, and unveiling numerous additional Accessibility options in parallel disciplines. From copy text and implementation in the Accessibility Options menu to developing community engagement campaigns, I had the honor of supporting my coworkers in developing impactful, relevant, and highly requested features. Just to name a few, these included New Message Sound Alerts, Mono Audio, Mono Audio Amount (an evolution of Mono Audio), closed captioning/subtitle updates, and Armor Box iconography improvements.
If you would like more information on any of these features or the fantastic, highly-skilled developers who led their design/implementation, please feel free to reach out. Our team is incredibly passionate and tackles development with an empathetic, player-first approach that is invaluable to any project.