SWTOR Legally Blind, Visually Impaired or Low Vision Gaming

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Can you play Star Wars: The Old Republic if you are blind? Is SWTOR accessible to blind players? The answer will highly depend on the level of sight you have available.

Total Blindness: If you have total blindness, or NLP, you will likely be unable to play Star Wars: The Old Republic solo, as it has no type of menu narration or menu tabbing or audio directional tools. The majority of the story is fully voiced in cutscenes, and with a copilot or friend leading or guiding, a totally blind player could experience and enjoy the story of their character.

Legally Blind / Low Vision: If you are legally blind but not totally blind, you will likely be able to play SWTOR. This guide will cover ways to make the game easier to see – although the game is not optimized for low-vision or half-blind play, there are a lot of settings you can adjust to make things a lot easier.

“As a person with RP, I have less than 4 degrees field of vision and I have 20/60 right eye and 20/100 left eye. With this level of impairment I can play games like SWTOR and Star Trek Online. The key is to play within your comfort zone. Get into the game and explore all the various game settings and find what works for you.” – Zach, SWTOR player with Retinitis Pigmentosa

Playing

“If, with my level of vision, I can play SWTOR then it might well be possible for you to do the same. To quote Sun Tzu “Know yourself and know your enemy and you shall always be victorious.” So don’t be afraid to play the game. Explore it’s settings and adjust to what works for you using the various tips and tricks discussed in the Swtorista guide. Play how you feel most comfortable. Branch out and try new aspects of the game such as Operations, or PvP or even Galactic Starfighter. If you find them enjoyable and you can easily adapt to play. Great. But if not, that is okay too. That is the beauty of SWTOR, you can play how you want to. Along the way you will find friends who understand your unique situation and be there to help you when you need it and not hassle you for it.” – Zach, SWTOR player with Retinitis Pigmentosa

These wonderful tips were sent in by MadDutchman, a legally blind SWTOR player.

  • Be patient, and know when you need to step back due to frustration. Your mental/emotional health is more important than any game, even Star Wars.
  • There are going to be parts of the game that will be hard to do (ex. dark areas for those who struggle with lighting). Inviting a friend to lend a hand is the most efficient way to deal with this. But if no one is available, set aside a block of time when you’re not tired for that piece of frustrating content (looking at you Knights of the Fallen Empire Chapter 11 and the nasty outcast village) and just slowly make your way through it. It will allow you to progress the story without inviting undue stress.
  • Be aware of eye strain! You’ll likely develop it much faster than a fully sighted person will and your health is important.
  • Playing multiple characters is a good way of experiencing familiar content in new ways. It’s not for everyone, but even in the level 1-50 content, the vast majority of the locations are common between classes, which can be at least partially memorized.
  • If you aren’t going in with a friend, it’s usually better to read a guide before challenging any boss battles that have mechanics (as many of them now do, even in solo play). Usually there are spoiler free versions available before/soon after the content goes live. It’s much easier to find annoying little glowy things if you know to look for them.

“Speaking from experience, you will encounter times or situations that tasks you mentally and just drives you nutty. Take a deep breath and step away from the game for a bit. Assess what the problem may be. Is it the lighting? Or some aspect of the mission location or task? Then decide how best to overcome that problem. If it is a lighting issue, try adjusting your settings, such as brightness or contrast. If that doesn’t help, then try asking someone for help in the guild. Dark areas are the biggest point of conflict with me and the game. Remember to have fun and just enjoy the game in a way that most fits your comfort and needs.” – Zach, SWTOR player with Retinitis Pigmentosa

Windows Magnifier

The built-in Windows Magnifier is incredibly useful to “zoom in” on your screen. You can automatically open it by pressing the Windows Key and the Plus/Equal Sign keys on your keyboard at the same time (WIN+=). Once it is open you can press the Windows Key and the Plus/Equal Sign keys on your keyboard at the same time (WIN+=) to zoom in, or the Windows Key and the Minus Sign keys on your keyboard at the same time (WIN+=) to zoom out. Try it right now!

IMPORTANT! You will need to set your game to be “Fullscreen (Windowed)” for the Windows Magnifier to work. To change this setting, press your ESC key on your keyboard, choose Preferences from the menu, click “Graphics” on the menu on the left and then choose “Fullscreen (Windowed)” from the dropdown under “Full Screen Exclusive mode”. This setting also makes it easier to tab in and out of the game.

User Interface Size

You can make all elements of the user interface on your screen bigger using the Interface Editor.

To adjust your interface, press your ESC key, choose Interface Editor. You can also choose Interface Editor from the main menu, it’s part of the symbol with a cog in the menu.

 This will open the Interface Editor tool which allows you to adjust where things are on your screen and their scale.

Global Scale

Your first step would be to adjust the “Global Scale” of your entire User Interface.

I do not recommend sliding it bigger than 1.35, with a realistic maximum of 1.6, as the bigger you make it, the more likely different parts of the game windows may be cut off.

“A quick way to tell if the global scale is too big is to open the map and see if the bottom is cut off.” – MadDutchman, legally blind player

Individual Element Scale

After setting the global scale, you can also click to select individual elements, and adjust their scale one by one. For example, if you want to make your ability icons bigger, you could select just those and up their scale at the bottom of the big blue box in the center of the screen.

Subtitle Font Size and Color

In Update 7.1.1 in 2022, a bunch of new subtitle options were introduced to the game, and you can adjust almost every facet of the subtitles in cutscenes including making them very large, changing their color, and giving them a background for higher contrast.

I have a guide about How to Make Subtitles in SWTOR Bigger that covers all the options and lots of tips!

Chat Font Size and Color

You can also highly customize the chat window font size and color. I have covered how to do this at the end of the Subtitles guide.

Other Font Sizes

Unfortunately, there aren’t any other settings for the other texts in the game, like the codex entries or GTN. You can only adjust the Global Scale and individual element scales. This is where the Windows Magnifier becomes most useful.

Map

“The key is to take your time. This is about you having fun and finding what works for you. If you are new to the game, don’t be afraid to explore by yourself. It may be slow going, but you learn and become better prepared for upcoming missions and content.” – Zach, SWTOR player with Retinitis Pigmentosa

In update 7.2 in 2022, the map received some great improvements. Pressing the “M” for Map key on your keyboard will bring up a semi-transparent map overlay so you can see both the game and the map at the same time. This popout map has a lot of settings, and the transparency can be turned up or down.

You can also adjust which icons show up on the minimap to reduce visual clutter.

At the time of writing this, the new popout map is not out quite yet, so I don’t have full instructions yet.

If the Map still isn’t big enough for you to read, the Windows Magnifier tool is helpful for a closer inspection.

“Here is something to keep in mind. Memory. Take your time and make good use of your map. Once you figure out your want through, it will be easier the next time you run the same mission on a different character. ” – Zach, SWTOR player with Retinitis Pigmentosa

Movement

I saw a really great tip about how to get your character going in the correct direction towards your next quest.

“When I can’t find a quest marker on the map, I will point my character as close to at the marker as I can on the minimap, as it’s much easier finding the marker around the outside ring. Then I can open the main map and either eyeball along the rough line my character is pointing, or even use a piece of paper or other straight edge to significantly reduce the area I need to visually scan.” – MadDutchman, legally blind player

Combat

There are three roles you can choose in the game – tank, healer, and damage. Of the three, I would guess the Healer may be the most difficult, as it requires you to pay special attention to character name text, healthbar fullness, and buffs and debuffs. It is very interface-heavy. While all of these can be made bigger, choose to play as a tank or a damage character might be easier, with damage likely being easiest if you plan to go into group content.

“If you are playing solo, playing a healer is a actually very easy, as you only really need to watch 2 health bars, which can be positioned conveniently in the Interface Editor.” – MadDutchman, legally blind player

I would also recommend choosing a ranged class. This means you don’t have to run up to your enemy to attack them, and gives you more leeway on being close enough to your enemy to attack them. For example, if you’re having trouble seeing your enemy as a ranged player, you can still hit them anywhere from 1 to 30 meters away. even if you can’t quite see them. If you play a close-ranged or melee character, you will need to locate them, run towards them, and get with 4 meters to hit them. However, if playing a lightsaber or melee class really interests you, don’t count them out! Many have what’s known as a “gap closer” – a leap or jump that teleports you directly to the enemy.

“Particularly good ones are Shadow/Assassin  Shadow Stride with Stalker’s Swiftness/Phantom Stride with Reaper’s Rush. If you target weaker enemies first, you can repeatedly use it using tab targeting to bounce around a brawl without overly concerning yourself about what’s actually around you. You can figure out where you ended up when everyone is dead. ” – MadDutchman, legally blind player

Tab-Target

Rather than trying to click enemies to target them, use your TAB key to target enemies. By default, pressing the TAB key on your keyboard will select the nearest enemy.

Keybinding

If you keybind your combat keys, you can spend less time looking for them on the screen to click them.

Keybinding is attaching an ability on your quickbar to a key on your keyboard, so you can press the key instead of clicking the ability with your mouse. By default, your first nine abilities are already keybound to the 1 through 9 keys on your keyboard, but you can add additional keybinds to make activating abilities easier. For example, you could keybind your Q, E, Z, X, C, F and R keys to some of your most used abilities.

You can keybind all your abilities by creating keybinds with the SHIFT key involved. To keybind your quickbars, press ESC -> Preferences -> Keybindings tab on the bottom -> Quickbar tab on the left. To set a keybind, first find the quickbar slot your ability is on, click the button beside “Key 1” and then click the key on your keyboard you want to keybind. If you haven’t moved anything around with the Interface Editor and are using the “Extended Quickbars” preset, your Main quickbar is on the top middle, Quickbar 2 is right under it, Quickbar 3 is on the right of your main one, Quickbar 4 is on the left, Quickbar 5 is vertically on the far left, and Quickbar 6 is right beside it. If you don’t like use the shift key, you can also try using a gaming mouse with the buttons on the side.

Double-Tap

If you have any abilities that need to be manually targetted onto the ground in a location of your choosing, you can enable a setting that allows you to instead double-click or double-tap they keybind for that ability, and it will automatically place the targetting circle in the center of the enemy you have selected. This makes it so you don’t have to visually find the enemy, or see the targetting circle.

To change this setting, press your ESC key on your keyboard, choose Preferences from the menu, click “Combat” on the menu on the left and make sure “Quick Ground Target Activation” is checked.

Disable Flytext

If you’d like less visual noise on the screen, try disabling the flytext that pops up when you do damage.

To change this setting, press your ESC key on your keyboard, choose Preferences from the menu, click “Flytext” on the menu and just uncheck the first option called “Flytext enabled”.

Graphics

If you can’t see fine details, you may like the way the game looks when you turn the graphics down, as the contrast is often higher between different types of materials that way.

To change this setting, press your ESC key on your keyboard, choose Preferences from the menu, click “Graphics” on the menu on the left. The easiest way to test this out is by setting the “Graphics Quality Preset” dropdown to “Very Low” and see if you like that any better than your current pre-set choice.

Sound

Many partially blind players use sound to help them play. While SWTOR does not have any specific settings for playing blind, you can in the Preferences turn down the ambient sound and the music, and turn up the Sound FX volume so you can hear any of the effects better. Be warned, some of them can be really loud!

Some of the sound cues you can use include:

  • Enemy Sounds
  • Your ability sounds when they are successful
  • The sounds of your character’s feet or animal mount feet on different floor textures
  • The sound menu items make when you roll over them or click them successfully
  • Macrobinoculars pinging sound

“For me, the key is to increase sound volumes, because sounds are a clue to what is going on around your character. I also increase the font size to a size that is easy for me to read comfortably and if necessary will adjust colors.” – Zach, SWTOR player with Retinitis Pigmentosa

This video isn’t about SWTOR, but is a really great example of how you can use sounds to navigate better as a blind player.

Community

If you plan to play with other players, choosing who you play with is almost as important as all of these others steps if you want to have fun. Depending on your vision, you may need extra time to get into position or move for combat, or may not be able to move around as quickly from location to location. All of the base content in the game can be done at a slower pace, but that doesn’t mean every player out there is running an inclusive group or is going to be willing to give you the extra time you may need. This is an ongoing problem especially for group Flashpoints and Operations, with players focusing on speed and efficiency rather than fun, and you’ll often hear about newer players having bad group experiences because of it.

“If you feel stuck or having trouble advancing. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is where being a part of a guild is most helpful. Don’t be afraid of sharing your disability. People will either understand and help you the best they can or they won’t. Makes it easy to know who to ignore for sure.” – Zach, SWTOR player with Retinitis Pigmentosa

The great news is that there are plenty of groups and players who focus on community and content completion rather than going as fast as possible at all costs.

“Don’t be afraid to reveal your visual impairment if playing group content, and to do it before engaging in any kind of group content with people who don’t already know. Be polite and understanding. People generally are reasonable and will be patient, though will likely be less so if you tell them after you wipe a few times. If they are not willing to accommodate you (speed runners etc.), this is ok. If they are jerks about it, add them to ignore and find another group. It can be a little scary at first, but it gets easier with practice (like pretty much everything else in life).” – MadDutchman, legally blind player

One of the best ways to make friends and find these friendlier groups, with a handicap or not, is to seek out and join an active guild. Guilds are groups of people in-game who have a shared interest or goal – and many guilds run group activities for the benefit of their members, and are more willing to wait, explain fights in more detail, or not demand perfection.

Use the SWTOR Fan Community to find a guild that suits what you are looking for!

“This one may sound a little harsh, but it’s important to remember that no one is under any obligation to be accommodating. They are in the game to have fun their way, same as everyone else, even if you may not understand their idea of fun. If a group does a slow-mode flashpoint with you for example that they would have otherwise rushed through, it is very important to be gracious. They are doing you a favour after all, and they will be far more likely to do it again if they feel appreciated.” – MadDutchman, legally blind player

Playing Solo

If you are planning to play alone, have fun! SWTOR is one of the most solo-friendly online games out there.

“There is no obligation at all to engage in group content if you are not comfortable doing so. You don’t need best-in-slot gear to play non-group content.” – MadDutchman, legally blind player

You can also “play” the content alone but interact with other players as you play. I personally love to quest and explore alone at my own pace, but interact with my guildmates though chat.

“SWTOR has a lot of group content, you can easily play the game and never do an group content. I have been playing for almost two years and I have only done a few group content missions. The only reason I did those, was because I was with a group of friends who were aware of my visual impairments and they knew how to help me when I either got stuck or couldn’t see something. Also there are many ways to play the game. While I don’t usually play group content, I do help my guildmates and interact with them regularly. Because, I happen to be a guildmaster. Managing a guild for many is a boring task. But I personally like it and have fun with it. I easily use my talents and skills from the real world and apply them to the guild. This is something I enjoy and it frees up other guild members to setup and run Operations or various other group content, while I manage the guild and help new comers to the game and or guild.” – Zach, SWTOR player with Retinitis Pigmentosa

Photophobia / Light Sensitivity

Players with vision issues also often deal with light sensitivity, where bright lights or colors on the screen can cause pain or headaches. This can include neon signs on Nar Shaddaa, or glowing lightning abilities on characters.

A quick fix is wearing sunglasses – either Amber or rose-colored blue-light removal sunglasses or UV sunglasses, whichever works best for you.

“Be sure glasses block blue-green. FL-41 lenses are available in optical shops, but Dr. Digre cautioned that some so-called FL-41 lenses are not the real thing. “You really have to know who your supplier is in order to know whether the lenses are real or not,” she said. “Some lenses can look like FL-41, but they don’t act like it.” – Marianne Doran

You can also customize your glasses to add foam around the edges and bottom, to block light from coming into your eyes outside of the filtered sunglass lenses.

“If a person goes the sunglasses route, and someone asks why you are wearing sunglasses, you can always respond with: ‘My future in this game is so bright, I gotta wear shades.’ As a way to lighten the mood and how others feelings / way of thinking is.” – SWTOR Player with light sensitivity due to eyesight

You can also wear a hat with a brim to block out light from ceiling lights. Adjusting the rest of the lights where you play might be useful too.

“I have worked in an office that has an amber filter on the windows to reduce glare and infra-red. At home, I have the blinds do most of the filtering and a stand-up lamp that projects light upwards onto the ceiling, creating a nice ambient light.” – Jack Vanlightly

Reducing glare and reflected light is also helpful. Flourescent lights can be a big cause of reflected light.

“What can further worsen your eye fatigue in a situation like this is the light reflected from your display. Shiny glare panels are made to provide accurate blacks and colorful display, so they are good for watching videos, but they also tend to reflect outside light. In an office or similar setting, lights and other displays can be reflected on your screen, throwing off your focus and causing eye fatigue. For regular PC work, an LCD with a non-glare panel that does not reflect light is easier to use. If the product you’re currently using has a glare panel, you can affix low-reflection film to the screen.” – Eizo / ITmedia

Disclaimer

This article is simply a list of tips and tricks other players have suggested while playing video games while vision-impaired. I am not, nor am I holding myself out to be a doctor/physician, nurse, physician’s assistant, advanced practice nurse, or any other medical professional (“Medical Provider”), psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, counselor, or social worker (“Mental Health Provider”). As the owner of a gaming site, I am not providing health care, or medical therapy services, or attempting to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any physical, mental or emotional issue, disease or condition. The information provided in or through my website pertaining to any aspect of your life is not intended to be a substitute for the professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by your own Medical Provider or Mental Health Provider. Always seek the advice of your own or your child’s Medical Provider and/or Mental Health Provider regarding any questions or concerns you have about your or your child’s specific health or any medications you or your child are currently taking and before implementing any recommendations or suggestions from this or any other website. Do not disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical advice because of information you have read on this website. Do not start or stop taking any medications without speaking to your own or your child’s Medical Provider or Mental Health Provider. If you or your child have or suspect that you have a medical or mental health problem, contact your own or your child’s Medical Provider or Mental Health Provider promptly.


Questions or comments? Feel free to send me a message on Twitter @swtorista, Reddit /u/swtorista, Youtube Swtorista channel or by e-mail at the same name with gmail.com at the end. Have fun out there and may the Force be with you. ~ Swtorista