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Inside Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey's Colorblind Mode Options

In celebration of Bubble Bobble's 35th anniversary, Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey is taking the series' puzzle game spinoff into 3D for the first time. The jump to a new dimension also brings three distinct Colorblind mode accessibility options, letting players with red-green, blue-yellow, or other types of color blindness enjoy the game on console or in VR.

Puzzle Bobble, initially known as Bust-a-Move in the U.S. and Europe, is a match-three puzzle series that sees players clear formations of multicolored bubbles from a screen by firing same-color bubbles at them. Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey's 3D puzzles turn the bubble formations into "three-dimensional clusters that spin and rotate with realistic physics when bubbles collide," according to a press release from developer and publisher Survios, which should add further depth to the central bubble firing mechanic. The game will feature 100 levels in Story Mode, as well as endless puzzles in Infinite Mode and a 1v1 Duel Mode.

Related: How Among Us' Color System Changes Improve Accessibility

Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey is also what Survios calls a "Cross-Reality" title, as it can be seamlessly transitioned between normal, console play on PS4 or PS5 and virtual reality play on PS VR. In both modes, several accessibility options allow players with R/G, B/Y, or UNI color blindness to experience the game. Screen Rant spoke with Christina Orcutt, environment designer at Survios, to learn more about how the Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey Colorblind mode options work.

Screen Rant: How easy is it to find and adjust Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey's various Colorblind mode options?

Christina Orcutt: Very easy, all players have to do is go to the options for the Colorblind mode from the in-game menu. Since color blindness affects individuals differently at different times, we made sure there is an option to implement the different settings both at the start and/or during the game. We wanted to ensure availability of the different modes could be enabled at any point during the game to account for any weird nuances those with colorblind impairments might face with a moving and/or various lighting environments.

Did any part of the game's design (other than visuals) have to be changed to make things accessible for colorblind players?

Christina Orcutt: The game design did not have to be changed per se, rather new designs and interface UI processes had to be implemented to make the visual changes possible. We did some extensive research and tested more than one hundred colorblind participants with the color palettes featured in the Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey’s new Colorblind mode during the production process.

What were the biggest challenges or roadblocks you faced in implementing color blindness options?

Christina Orcutt: Because each colorblind person’s eyes are different, it is almost impossible to find colors everyone with color blindness can see without adding characteristics other than color. Depending on the environment, objects can have brightness, shading, texture, or shape. To distinguish one object from another, the most simple solution would be to add a texture or pattern to the color. Shapes, lighting, effects, or sound could also be added to further distinguish it. As more characteristics are added to a color, they can alter the visual appearance of that color.

For Puzzle Bobble VR: Vacation Odyssey, there are a variety of different environments with different lighting and moving parts. Hence, coming up with colors to fit against the different backgrounds with constant lighting changes and moving parts was the most difficult for sure. Thus, to try and account for all the nuances those with colorblind impairments might face, three modes were created: Red/Green, Blue/Yellow, and Universal. After extensive playtesting involving colorblind playtesters, we settled on colors for the Red/Green and Blue/Yellow Modes that have a variety of hues and tints that most Red/Green and Blue/Yellow colorblind people can see in their respective modes without adding textures or distinguishing characteristics.

The Universal Mode enables those with Monochromacy to play the game. In this mode, all the colors appear in shades of black and white with a texture added to further distinguish colors. In addition, those with varying degrees of Red/Green or Blue/Yellow Color blindness may also use the Universal Mode if the colors in either the Red/Green or Blue/Yellow Modes are too difficult to distinguish, especially as objects move or lighting changes.

Does Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey's VR version have any specific accessibility features?

Christina Orcutt: As Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey is a cross-buy title, it means every PS4 purchase of the game will automatically come with the PS5 version at no extra cost. In addition, the game is Survios’ first true Cross-Reality title, allowing players to experience the game on PS4, PS5 or PS VR. The game can be played with or without a headset and seamlessly swapped in-game for players who want to approach puzzles from a different perspective.

What was the process of designing puzzles that work both in VR and in a traditional console format?

Christina Orcutt: Originally the game existed in the 2D space to begin with before our company brought it to VR with Taito. It has been one of the longest-running franchises in gaming history - in fact it just hit its 35th anniversary. Thus, it was more of how do we take the traditional game we all know and love and bring it to VR but also still be able to be on a traditional console. How can we make it fun to interact with the puzzles and interesting for players to look at while in the headset.

Virtual Reality is all about immersing the players into the world they’ve stepped into. Players want to feel like they are actually there experiencing what their characters, as they are more used to just looking at a TV/Monitor in the past, have been experiencing. It’s also that excitement of saying you’ve read, watched, heard or imagined a world that is unlike our own and being able to actually step into it. Keeping that all in mind, the next question to ask ourselves was how do we bring bubble matching puzzles into a 3D space where you want the environment to feel alive and not like your normal flat screen matching game. It’s not always so much a case of asking ‘How does this work in real life?’ as understanding this is really about making something that is as fun and intuitive for players to dive into as possible in both settings. Thus adding things like environments, sounds, visual effects, animation, etc. encompass the whole picture of bringing it all together into a format that can exist in both VR and traditional console worlds.

To think, the idea for it to one day exist in virtual reality was unimaginable before but now it has evolved. It’s been a surreal experience seeing it come alive on the next-generation consoles people are playing today like the PlayStation 5. Working with Taito has been a great experience for us too, they relied on our expertise to make the game as good as we possibly can in its VR version. Similarly however, they have guidelines we had to follow. It was clear from the start that the vision for the game was to have a tropical island feel, to keep it very lighthearted and playful.

What are the main differences between the PS4 and PS5 versions of the game?

Christina Orcutt: I think most people are familiar by now with the key differences between the two platforms, as one is older and the other is far more recent, but players can of course expect brighter and sharper visuals, deeper draw distances and faster loading times in the PS5 edition, to name just a few elements. We have however also tried to ensure the playing experiences for each platform align with each other as closely as possible.After this release, are there more plans to continue the Puzzle Bobble franchise?

At this time, we aren’t able to share what our plans might be, other than our sister product Puzzle Bobble VR: Vacation Odyssey on the Oculus Quest, will be getting color blindness accessibility features added later this year. But all things considered, after the release of Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey chimed so nicely with the loveable protagonist Bub’s 35th birthday, we think it’s safe to say that you might still be seeing Bub and Bob in another 35 years time from now. Watch this space!

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Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey will be available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation VR on October 5, 2021. Color blindness accessibility features will be available for Puzzle Bobble VR: Vacation Odyssey on Oculus Quest later this year.

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