A BELFAST-based games developer will head to Germany this week to showcase a new point and click game, which is accessible to those with disabilities.
Conor Bradley’s Soft Leaf Studios released ‘Stories of Blossom’ on the Steam and Itch digital platforms on Wednesday. An Xbox release is also imminent.
The point and click adventure has been in development for two-and-a-half years.
Soft Leaf is a two-person team run by creative director Conor and art director wife Clare. They will join a delegation of games developers from the north travelling to Gamescom in Cologne.
The annual trade fair, known in the industry as ‘Glastonbury for video games’, runs from August 23-27.
Last year’s event brought Soft Leaf Studios to the attention of Xbox, who showed interest in the Belfast developer’s focus on video games that are accessible to everyone.
“Gamescom is a huge opportunity,” said Conor. “People swarm to see the new games that are out and to get a hands-on opportunity of demos of games that haven’t been released or updates that haven’t been released."
The creative director, who works from his Belfast home, also hosts workshops across the UK to raise awareness and make the future of games accessible.
He said Stories of Blossom is based on a doodle he created more than a decade ago of a little girl being read stories by her grandfather.
“That idea always stuck with me. We then took that forward and did prototypes for the game.”
The game has been supported by funding from Northern Ireland Screen.
It centres around a protagonist called Clara, who brings to life three short tales told by her grandad.
Clara plays the role of an adventurer, an astronaut and a pirate and gets to befriend cute creatures in odd situations and help solve their problems along the way.
“From the beginning, game accessibility has been our main goal,” Conor said.
“A lot of this work has been embedded into the experience itself, such as the readability of each dialogue line, the design of our puzzles and how we lay out information and our menus."
From the outset, Conor’s game stood apart from others in terms of the use of audio descriptions.
“Over the years we’ve seen it being used more although ours remains more interactive,” he said.
“People see that we’re pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.”
Soft Leaf Studios will be joined in Germany by Holywood’s Italic Pig, who are promoting their game Paleo Pines, and Stephen Downey’s Outsider Games, showcasing its game Tax Force.
“Stories of Blossom is one of the stand-out projects that we have helped fund,” said Andrew Reid, chief content officer at Northern Ireland Screen.
“Other developers like Italic Pig and Outsider provide a snapshot of the wealth of talent in the interactive space that exists in Northern Ireland.
“The video games industry represents an incredible opportunity for Northern Ireland an established international location for developers and publishers and for large scale digital content productions.”