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Monday, June 10, 2024

EA is letting developers freely nick Apex Legends’ ping system

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It’s hard to imaging how we played multiplayer games before Apex Legends’ ingenious ping system. But while games like Fortnite, Halo Infinite, and many others have implemented similar features, EA will now let developers freely copy Apex’ pings wholesale as part of a wider push towards accessibility.

Starting today, EA’s Accessibility First Patent Pledge grants free and unrestricted access to five of the publisher’s patents. Alongside “Contextually Aware Communications Systems” (i.e. Apex pings) that lets folks with hearing or speaking issues (or who may, for various reasons, may not want to hop on voice chat) call out enemies, weapons, and game states, the lineup also includes three patents for colourblind rendering techniques and an as-yet-unused patent for generating better audio in real-time for those with hearing deficiencies.

Additionally, EA has released the source code for a tuneable colourblindness solution over on GitHub.

While EA will consider adding more of its patents to the pledge in the future, the publisher is hoping this move pushes the rest of the industry to be as forthcoming with accessibility tools in kind. 

“We want to encourage this, we want to be bringing others along,” EA’s Chris Bruzzo told GamesIndustry.biz. “It’s like ‘Here’s some technology that we’ve invented, and has value in the world — what have you got?’ Let’s contribute and licence these innovations to each other to the greater good of players everywhere.”

Bruzzo confirms that there’ll be no license fees involved in using these technologies, nor will any royalties need to be paid to EA for their use. I wouldn’t have put 400 hours into Apex over the last 5 months without the communication afforded by the game’s pings, and I’m honestly pretty thrilled at the idea of seeing that system better translated across countless more games.

Last week, we dove deep into the ways games succeed and fail at accommodating for all players in our first Accessibility Week. Apex Legends’ pings are just one of many small, often overlooked ways games have become more accessible, though plenty of big-budget games still stumble when it comes to basic accessibility features.

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