Xbox Adds Speech-to-Text and Text-to-Speech Features

Xbox posted information in its June Xbox Update that focuses on newly added features for Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. The Speech-to-Text and Text-to-Speech features can be used in party chat.

At Team Xbox, we believe that gaming should be inclusive, approachable, and accessible to everyone. That includes making it easy for gamers to play and communicate together. Party chat, used by gamers around the world to talk to their friends while playing, now supports converting speech into text and text into speech. Each of these features can be used to help games who are deaf or hard of hearing and/or cannot or choose not to speak.

This is a wonderful decision because it makes gaming more accessible. People who are deaf or hard of hearing will now be able to see what is said in party chat because those words are transcribed into text.

The Speech-to-Text feature, once enabled, will automatically turn all words spoken by the people in a party into text. A transcription will be displayed in an adjustable overlay on top of gameplay.

A person who uses American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary means of communication can enable the Text-to-Speech feature. The text posted will be read by a synthetic voice to the rest of the party. The Xbox June Update says that there are several voices per language that a person can choose from.

The Text-to-Speech feature will also be useful for people who are selective mutes and who do not want to use their voice in social settings. People who are nonverbal can use Text-to-Speech. It can also help autistic people (and other neurodiverse people) who may feel overwhelmed by the sensory experience of a video game and having to try and participate in verbal conversation at the same time.

Another great thing about the Text-to-Speech feature is that it can be used by transgender people who happen to dislike the sound of their voice. The ability to choose a synthetic voice can make gaming with strangers a safer, more comfortable, experience.

The Speech-to-Text feature can be useful for people (like me) who have chronic illnesses that cause exhaustion and/or pain. A person who is having difficulty typing can communicate with their party just by speaking. Pain can affect a person’s voice, so the option of using a synthetic voice could make communicating easier.

Twitch Added New Tags for Streamers

Twitch recently added more than 350 new tags  that streamers can use to show people a little bit about who they are and what they play. Many of the tags help a viewer to find their community on Twitch.

LGBTQIA+ related tags:

Androgynous, Aromantic, Asexual, Bisexual, Demisexual, Gay, Gender Variant, Genderfluid, Genderqueer, Intersex, Lesbian, LGBTQIA+, Non-binary, Pansexual, Queer, Transgender

The Transgender tag is one that got a lot of support on Twitter. It is my understanding that the Transgender tag was added after a community of people who are transgender requested that Twitch add it. The addition of that tag shows indicates that Twitch welcomes people who are transgender. That’s really important right now, as the United States and the UK (to name a few) have been creating bills and laws that are intended to take away the civil rights of transgender people.

There is an Ally tag “for streams featuring content relevant to collaborators and accomplices of fighting injustice and promoting equality”. Previously, streamers who were not LGBTQIA+ were using that tag to show support for that community. They probably meant well, but using that tag made it harder for people to find streamers who are LGBTQIA+.

Race related tags:

African American, Alaskan Native, Asian, Biracial, Black, First Nations, Hapa, Hispanic, Indigenous, Latina, Latino, Latinx, Multiracial

I noticed on Twitter that there was support for a Black tag on Twitch. My best guess is that the rest of the race related tags were also supported by people in those communities.

Neurodivergent related tags:

ADD, ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Learning Disability, Neurodivergent, Nonverbal, Tourette syndrome

It is wonderful that Twitch created an autism tag, and did not create an “Autism Community” tag. They may sound alike, but are very different. The autism tag recognizes autistic people, while the “Autism Community” tag focuses on parents, teachers, and doctors of autistic people. In short, the autism tag is supportive while the “Autism Community” tag is not.

Physical Disability related tags:

A11y, Amputee, Assistive Technology, Blind, Chronic Illness, Closed Captions, Color Blind, d/Deaf, Disabled, Disabled Veteran, Down Syndrome, Dwarfism, Hard-of-hearing. Invisible disability, Neurological Condition, Paraplegic, Quadriplegic, Visible Disability, Visually Impaired

There is a difference between A11y and Ally. The A11y tag is for streams and content featuring the accessibility community.

Mental Illness related tags:

Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality, Depression, Dissociative Disorder, Mental Health, Postpartum, Psychosis, PTSD

Diablo Immortal, Diversity, and Disability

Diablo Immortal is currently in Closed Alpha. I was fortunate enough to have been given access to this wonderful, creepy, addition to the Diablo game series. There were two things that stood out immediately. This game includes more diversity in character options than previous games. It also provided me, a person with physical disabilities, with a game that feels very accessible.

This version of the Closed Alpha focuses on the newly added Crusader class. The classes that were released in the Technical Alpha are still an option, but it appears that many players picked the Crusader this time around.

In Diablo Immortal, players pick a class and can choose to be either male or female. They then can decide what their character will look like based on three options: Black, White, or Asian. Each version of the female Crusader has scars across their faces (some more subtle than others). These are battle-hardened women who have seen some things and lived to fight another day.

This is noteworthy because it is the only video game I have played where all versions of the female character for a specific class have scars. In general, female characters in video games are designed to be pretty, and often look younger than the male version of the same class.

The other cool thing is that the default option was Black. The Diablo Twitter account featured the female Black Crusader in a video shortly before the Closed Alpha started. I chose to play as the Crusader I saw in that video because, to me, and to the Diablo team, she is the Crusader.

In Diablo III, players also have the option of playing a male or female character for whatever class they pick. There is only one race option per class. Crusaders in Diablo III are White; Wizards are Asian; Witch Doctors have dark skin, and a quick internet search reveals discussions about whether or not that class its portrayed in a racist way. Diablo Immortal provides an improvement by giving three customization options for each class.

Another great thing about Diablo Immortal is that it is very accessible. It is a mobile game, which gives players more options about how and where they play. My disabilities include chronic illnesses that often cause pain and exhaustion. It would be possible for me to play Diablo Immortal while I’m lying down and waiting for my medications to kick in. Mobile games give me the ability to play without having my hands hurt when I’m done.

I’ve noticed that Diablo Immortal has short quest lines (at least at the start) which are easier for people like me to finish in one go. There doesn’t seem to be a penalty for pausing after failing to kill a boss in a dungeon. The game lets you take a break when you need to, and starts you where you left off.

Warchief Gaming Announced Auroboros TTRPG

Warchief Gaming has announced its first TTRPG (Table Top Role Playing Game) – Auroboros: Coils of the Serpent. The game is based on the role-playing campaign that Chris Metzen (Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Warchief Gaming) created and ran with his childhood friends in the ‘80s and ‘90s. This was previous to Metzen’s work at Blizzard.

Auroborus: Coils of the Serpent is an adaptation of that roleplaying game from decades ago. It has been adapted to Dungeons & Dragons 5E, which makes it much easier for D&D players and Dungeon Managers to pick it up and start a campaign. Ryan Collins (former Hearthstone designer and Lead Product Designer of Warchief Gaming) helped update the game to 5E, along with the help of Warchief’s team of designers and artists.

The first release in the Auroborus: Coils of the Serpent campaign is Worldbook: Lawbrand. It “gives players and GMs all the tools they need to create their own adventures in this epic fantasy world”. It will be launched on Kickstarter on April 20, 2021.

The core concept of the game is the Auroborus (a snake that is devouring its own tail). The campaign takes place in the realm of Lawbrand, a collection of trade cities. The Church of Sularia keeps the order in the cities with “really stringent laws and codes. It’s kind of like Lawful Good gone crazy.”

Beneath it all is the Auroborus, the world serpent, a primordial power. “It is life and death. It is growth and degeneration. It is enlightenment and madness.” Its power can be wielded by mortal creatures – but it comes at a high cost.”. Player characters that take the Mark of the Serpent can use the Auroborus’s power directly to heal the sick or shatter mountaintops. Doing so can cause great peril to the one who uses that power.

In addition to a new world to explore, Auroborus: Coils of the Serpent includes five unique new races and four new subclasses. The Atsaad is an aquatic race. The Wildkeeper is a nature-wielding fighter subclass. There are also new magic items, spells, and “Sigils” (which is a new form of customization).

I am very interested in experiencing what this new TTRPG has to offer. The new setting, races, and subclasses, could bring a fresh energy to the 5E D&D game many of us are playing. The concept that a player character could use the power of a primordial power – while knowing the risk that comes with it – would make for a unique role-playing experience.

Warlock Spells Are Confusing

Male tiefling
Artwork by @scoots

Have you ever wondered why the Warlock in your party seems unsure about which spell to use? The reason is simple. Some Warlock spells (or cantrips) are misleading. The name of the spell doesn’t necessarily mean it will do what you expect it would.

Chill Touch

What it sounds like it does: Touch an enemy with your hand and make them feel cold (or potentially freeze them in place). Either way, the enemy is slowed down for at least one turn. A red dragon might temporarily lose its ability to breathe fire due to chill touch.

What it really does: Without moving toward the enemy, the Warlock creates a ghostly, skeletal hand near an enemy. Assail the enemy with “the chill of the grave”. Target gains 1d8 necrotic damage and cannot regain hit points until the start of the Warlock’s next turn.

True Strike

What it sounds like it does: Absolutely guarantees that your spell, or an object you throw, will strike the enemy of your choosing. The amount of damage caused depends on the level of the spell, or the size and weight of the thrown object.

What it really does: Grants the Warlock a brief insight into the target’s defenses. Gives the Warlock advantage on their first attack roll against the target on the Warlock’s next turn.

Hellish Rebuke

What it sounds like it does: Allows the Warlock to insult an enemy in a way that would make even a Bard blush. Enemy will immediately start crying (unless they pass a Constitution saving throw). Their tears cause disadvantage on their next attack.

What it really does: Allows the Warlock to surround an enemy with hellish flames. The enemy must make a dexterity saving throw. It takes 2d10 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

Shatter

What it sounds like it does: Instantaneously causes all glass that is within a ten-foot sphere around the Warlock to shatter. If used indoors, your party will never be allowed in that Tavern ever again!

What it really does: Causes a sudden ringing noise, that is painfully intense. It erupts from the Warlock at a point of their choice (within range). Each creature in a 10-foot-radius sphere centered on that point must make a Constitution saving throw. Creatures take 3d8 thunder damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

Vampiric Touch

What it sounds like it does: Allows the Warlock to bite an enemy and cause blood to rapidly gush out of that wound. Enemy needs to make a Strength saving throw at the start of each turn. Each failed save causes them to become more anemic and have an increasing desire to just lie down for a while.

What it really does: Enables the Warlock to use their shadow-wreathed hand to siphon life force from others to heal the Warlock’s wounds. On a hit, the enemy takes 3d6 necrotic damage and the Warlock regains hit points equal to half the amount of necrotic damage dealt.