Design Tips For: One Switch Games

Image of One Switch logo.A pure “One Switch Game” is one that can be started, played and replayed using just one control. Typically that will be via the SPACE BAR and the LEFT MOUSE BUTTON (both doing exactly the same thing).

For disabled gamers unable to use conventional mouse, keyboard or joypad controls, for what ever reason, one-switch gaming can bring independence and much greater fun.

Imagine these messages appearing in your favourite game, and you’ll get part of the picture:

   • “Press a key [that you can’t possibly reach] to continue”…

   • “HIGH SCORE! Now get someone else to enter your name on the keyboard because you can’t play on until they have”…

Sticking to the SPACE BAR / Left Mouse Button control scheme also ensures compatibility with the maximum range of alternative controllers on a PC. These controls can then be positioned in such a way that each gamer can comfortably operate them, such as mounted by the head (example photo). For further info take a peek at these switches and switch interfaces to learn a little more on this “assistive technology”.

One-switch standard game controls:

A. The SPACE BAR and LEFT MOUSE button should both function as the default player one control. A default PLAYER TWO control (if needed) should be operated via The RETURN key and RIGHT MOUSE button.

B. Ideally you should allow players to user-define their controls if they wish to break from this standard (as seen in the one to five player game, Scorch Went Bonkers). All this should ensure compatibility with vast majority of switch interfaces.

C. The ESCAPE key should function as a way to QUIT the game back to the front menu screen. From the front menu screen, pressing ESCAPE again should exit to windows. Ideally, a menu based system will be provided enabling gamers to exit to windows using the SPACE BAR or LEFT MOUSE button.

The following links provide some examples of how to get around the control restrictions but still offer fantastic fun games (by the way – not all follow the standards set out above).

Penalty Shoot Out – a game of luck – but once started – very, very clear.
Run Rabbit Run 3D – pure one-switch controls.
Strange Attractors – aimed at the top end of ability – but compelling and unique.
Orbit Racers – one switch accessible menus – hectic racing.
Alien Abduction – timed games give more play than lives based games for some.
Alice Amazed – highly polished one or two player game.
The Pyramid – a must see for the inspirational number of accessibility features.
Aurikon – difficulty level adjustment from super easy to super hard. – one-switch research projects: FPS, Bejewelled, Super Monkey Ball, Second Life and Super Mario Kart.
UA-Chess – great examples of scan and select methods. rules a problem for some.
Switch Access to Technology – A pretty comprehensive guide from the Ace Centre.

Additional accessibility wants for a one-switch game?

1. Inclusive difficulty level options (see Aurikon). Easy should mean easy! Remember that the average person using their head to hit a switch won’t have the reaction speeds of an average person using their finger on a small button. Rapid hits may be a problem too for some, as might holding a button for a long time. Give it some thought, as there’s often a pretty simple solution.

2. If the game has a number of user-definable options (such a choice of playing interface, e.g. one-switch, joystick or mouse) allow the game to auto-save and auto-load the settings.

3. What ever else you can cram in

But the main wish over all, is simply to see more fun and accessible one-switch games!

Retro Remakes, Special Effect, OneSwitch and the IGDA’s GASIG are all very happy to take a look at any works in progress, to give support and ideas for tweaking and improving accessibility. Often times there might be just one or two things stopping an average game from being a really great game for disabled/enabled gamers. It would be great to have the opportunity to support people in getting the best out of their ideas.

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