Stop punishing developers who are trying to make their games accessible

Heads up – I’ve written this post to vent a little bit.

The company I work for has just recently soft-launched a new mobile game called Galactic Colonies (Link). We are committed to making this game accessible for blind players as well eventually. We were actually hoping to have accessibility ready on release day, but we fell a little short of that.

A few weeks delay

To cut a long story short, we ‘re currently working on adding in the missing pieces, but estimate that we need a few more weeks until it is as playable as we want it to be.

an ingame screenshot of the game showing a desert planet surface with many houses, farms, storage and mining buildings.

Screenshot from Galactic Colonies

It is quite a complex game to make accessible. It contains lots of interactions with 3D elements, even including flying a colony ship around on a space map. All of these game mechanics need to be handled with custom new mechanics and love and care, which takes time.

We are completely aware that there are players with vision impairments who are waiting to finally be able to play. But nobody is going to enjoy the game if we release the accessibility mode of the game in a barely working state. A few weeks delay is worth it in our opinion.

Make your game accessible now, or else!

Ever since we started an open beta we’ve been regularly receiving eMails from blind players letting us know just how upset they are with us. Some of these are quite disheartening to me personally, considering I’m working hard on making this game accessible. We’ve also started to receive negative reviews on the store because the game is not yet accessible. In one case, a 1 star rating was accompanied by the comment that the reviewer would change their review only once accessibility is added.

Do a few bad reviews really matter? Yes. Our game just launched and overall review count is still low. So each 1 star review is quite relevant for our overall average score, and can cause some damage. The average rating will recover over time, but right now it’s there.

But really, the effect this has had beyond that is what matters.

Do bad reviews help?

The first comment of our production manager was this: “We should stop making any of our games accessible. That way we avoid these kind of reviews.”
This is probably not the reaction the people giving us bad ratings had hoped for.

The mood inside the company has shifted and taken a sharp turn away from accessibility being seen as something positive. Now it’s a topic that causes eye rolls and sighs of annoyance. Instead of working on accessibility, I now have to fight to justify all over again whether the time spent on accessibility is worth it. Every time the topic comes up, the review is slapped in my face. My job just got a lot harder.

It’s also highly doubtful that those reviewers will actually come back to change their ratings. By the time we’re done, they’ve most likely long forgotten about us. And knowing that is even more frustrating.

I feel punished for even trying

I want to explain how unfair this feels. Those players are most likely not going through every single inaccessible app on the store and giving it a 1 star rating. There are hundreds of thousands of apps that are inaccessible.

In other words, if we wouldn’t even try and just leave our game to be inaccessible, we wouldn’t have gotten those reviews.
Instead, we’re getting attacked exactly because we are trying to do better, trying to make our game accessible. Yes, we aren’t as fast as everybody wants us to be, but is this a reason to try and bring down our game’s rating?

See, leaving a bad review isn’t motivating us – or anybody – to work faster. It’s quite demotivating, to be honest.

Moving things forward

All things considered, the accessibility in Galactic Colonies is making good progress. We do not have a fixed release date yet, but it’s looking good. Most of the user interface is already accessible, and just last week we got space travel in the game working – but many things are still left to be done.

At the end of the day, we are a very small studio, self-funded, and don’t have the capabilities and resources that big studios have. So we’ll always be slower than the big guys.
That being said, thank you all for being so patient and sticking with us!

31 thoughts on “Stop punishing developers who are trying to make their games accessible

  1. Paul69 says:

    I’m a blind user and loved Crafting Kingdom. As with many others, I was eagerly awaiting the release of Galactic Colonies – hoping it too would be accessible. When I did notice it had been released, I downloaded it only to find out that this initial version wasn’t accessible. I was disappointed, partly because nothing had been said that I could find which indicated that accessibility was being worked on but that it would be delayed. I sent an email to info @ Metal Pop Games and to their credit, they responded very quickly, advising that part of the accessibility had already been built and that some additional work and delay would be required. I was extremely happy at this news since GC sounds amazing as far as added breadth and complexity vs. CK. As others have mentioned, in the blindness community as in others, there unfortunately do tend to be a very small but rather loud minority of those who feel entitled. Yes, in a perfect world, all apps, including all games, would be fully accessible, but this is nowhere near where we are and especially for many games, given all the graphics, it may not be practical at all, much of the time. Counting myself and a number of other blind gamers, we greatly appreciate the extra time and effort that is put into games such as GC as far as making them accessible for us. Take the necessary time to get it right and please keep up the excellent work.

    Like

  2. Georgios Karkalis says:

    Hi Michelle,

    when I read About the game and the post over at audiogames.net I was mad. And Really I’m still mad About the way These People are handling that accessibility will be delayed. I’m playing crafting Kingdom for years now and I still love it. when I’m on my way to work sitting in the subway or waiting at the buss stop. I asked my girlfriend to check out the game and she is sighted and loves it. So I’m Looking Forward to the release of the accessibility feature. Keep up the good work and best wishes to you and your colleagues.

    Greetings from Germany.

    Like

  3. Pierre Aubry says:

    I’m no developer, but I’m just as disheartened as you are. I mean, accessibility is not often implemented, needs much time and knowledge to be done properly, so it’s perfectly fine if we have to wait a bit more before it’s achieved. Better late than never, everyone should know that, especially those like us who deal with thousands of inaccessible app.
    Those people who don’t care thankfully don’t represent the blind community as a whole, but don’t have the slightest idea of the damage they’re doing and should be ashamed to behave like this.
    I wish you the best of luck and success. Please don’t give up.

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  4. Kelly Hill says:

    Michelle,
    Love Crafting Kingdom and played it regularly for the longest! Cant wait to try an accessible version of Galactic Colonies!We really do appreciate the time, work and money you and your company put into accessibility.

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  5. Truely disgusting, i can’t stand those people taking such radical actions only if a game is not accessible. That’s the way of life, not everything is accessible or even doable or possible. But i am however very glad that you guys are giving your best into getting this accessible too. And, keep in mind, for everyone who bashes your games, there are 3 more who appreciate your work. By the way, i did download the app, and gave it a 5 star rating right away, cause you guys really deserve appreciation, and no bashing. Keep up the good work!

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  6. Brandon Cross says:

    Hi, I’m sorry you had to go through that, and basically have to re-light the torch of accessibility in your company because of a few entitled people acting like children. I didn’t even know this game existed, but I will check it out for sure once the accessibility stuff is in it. This sounds right up my alley.

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  7. Jean says:

    You are doing great work! I’m impressed with what you are doing to help the disabled. Ignore the naysayers. Keep it up, and don’t be discouraged.

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  8. Eric Riskus says:

    Last month our city had an accessible gaming event featuring the Xbox controller. The number one thing I wish I had more of were games that were accessible to people who are blind!

    Thank you guys so much for putting so much effort into the game you are creating. Please don’t be disheartened because while some folks might not be patient – this is going to open more doors to inclusivity and provide gamers with disabilities a chance to play with the same chance as others.

    You guys are so loved, and appreciated, and though i haven’t met you I really look forward to purchasing your game and recommending it to my gaming consumers.

    I have spread the word about the awesome things you’re doing and am encouraging them to speak up and advocate for gamers with disabilities everywhere!

    Like

  9. Isaac says:

    The game sounds great, these people are a minority of the blind community and don’t represent us. Thank you for your work on making your games accessible

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  10. skyGuardian says:

    As lots of people said, shame on these people for making you feel that way for something that you’re doing to try to help them play games, Best of luck to you and your studio team

    Like

  11. John Snowling says:

    I am sorry you have gone through all the hurt and anoyance for you and your company. Crafting kingdom is a fantastic game and i’m sure over time you will get this one sorted too. I apologise for the idiots who do stupid reviews and cause untold damage.

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  12. Jondalar says:

    Hi Michelle

    I promise you that these people do not represent the community at large (we were shocked to hear this over at audiogames.net) and I’m very sorry that they’ve caused so much trouble for you with their impatience and ignorance.
    Galactic Colonies sounds like an awesome game, and I for one am very willing to wait as long as I need to for accessibility, and pay extra for the time and effort involved as well.
    It’s a multifaceted, largely undocumented field, which requires allot of testing to get right, so it’s completely natural that it would take extra time. I really appreciate how accessible Crafting Kingdom has been made and I’m going to try and make sure this article gets spread far and wide in an attempt to get people to reverse their bad reviews, or at least get people to think about how harmful this entitled attitude can be.

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  13. Names don't matter says:

    Yeah, I know that type of blind people. But to be fair there’s a statistically significant ammount of douches amongst the whole world population, not just amongst the blind. I don’t think blindness or accessibility is the real issue here. It is just a vent for an immature and unreflected persons stupid opinion (the rating, not you).
    The thing is: This person has way more power over your game rating and your thoughts than the big majority of “normal” blind have as is for now. I can’t do much about the applestore rating – those systems are busted nevertheless and nothing good ever comes out of 1* rating punishments – but I can try to help putting your frustration into perspective.
    Providing accessibility is _always_ a good thing. You enable a whole lot of people to enjoy something you and others already can enjoy. You’re bringing more joy into the world. But is it also the right thing? Thats mostly up to you. Making the world more equal is a costly, time consuming, frustrating and mostly ungrateful endeavor. If your company for one or the other reason can’t do that anymore that would be first of all a shame but secondly totally understandable – as you said there are thousands out there who don’t bother as well. So actually I don’t blame your productions manager here.
    But if you however keep on doing your amazing work you’re making a small minority really really happy and setting an awe inspiring example to other devs in particular and every human being in general.
    There is a (unfortunately mostly silent) part amongst us blind who are pretty grateful for every accessibility feature around. (Btw we are also ready to actually pay real money for that)
    For me thats the lesson our community needs to embrace here: Start rewarding developers who are trying to make their games accessible!
    We can’t do anything against dicks like that one reviewer. But we can outweigh them 1000:1.

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  14. First off, I wanted to say to you please don’t get discouraged. There are bad apples who will ruin things no matter what you do. Second, while I think this is shitty treatment you’re getting, I wonder if you guys have considered (or perhaps already do?) putting a small note in the description stating the anticipated date of accessibility. While I understand a certain amount of frustration people might feel at not being able to play a game at the same time as everyone else, acting in this way isn’t helpful at all and I doubt they even realize it has this affect. Kudos to you for continuing anyway.

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  15. Rick Harmon says:

    I loved bit life and defenatly will go buy this game as well. Thanks for taking the time to make the games accessible. Not all of us are jerks!

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  16. Ryan Peach says:

    Until Liam posted a link to this blog post, I had no idea this game existed. Hex-based space civ building and exploration? Being made accessible?! I’ll get in line and wait patiently for that. Take your time to do it right.

    Like

  17. Gruntok says:

    As a fellow dev, I send you all my good vibes and support. You will find morons anywhere, sadly morons tend to shout louder.

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  18. I am beside myself with indignation. I have been waiting for this game, patiently, knowing that accessibility wasn’t quite ready yet, but knowing thanks to Crafting Kingdoms that it would be good and worth the wait. I want to emphasize that not everyone in the blind and visually impaired community are this entitled and rude. I am truly disheartened that accessibility has turned people this sour because of a few very loud folks that do not speak for all of us. It really is no wonder that folks don’t always want to tackle the challenge with people that react like this. Know that we aren’t all this rude and entitled. Please continue to fight and create amazing games and I look forward to the accessibility to be finished and know it will be well worth the wait. Thank you for your work everyone on the Metalpop Games team.

    Like

  19. Stefen says:

    That’s horrible, and I’m sorry your company was treated with such disrespect. Just remember that there are those of us who appreciate what you and other companies do to make their products accessible. Don’t let the haters get you down.

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  20. Michelle. I am so incredibly sorry you have to deal with this sort of thing from the community. I’m not sure what the cost of the app is, but I will go pick it up right now. Please pass on to the rest of the team that not all of us think this way.
    People in this community expect everything now now now. It’s ridiculous, and the one-star reviewers should be ashamed.

    Like

  21. I’m sorry to hear you ran into the small number of troublemakers within the blind community. I’ve had to deal with them myself, and it isn’t fun.

    Every community will have a small number of very loud, very entitled people who try to ruin things for everybody else. The blind community is no different. For what it’s worth, the rest of the community will be very supportive and kind.

    Like

  22. I strongly believe that the people who are doing this do not represent the community at large, and I’m very sorry they were so impatient and ignorant, like Burak said, shame on them!

    As others have mentioned, I really appreciate just how accessible you’ve made crafting kingdom, and even without the other stuff this game sounds really awesome!
    I can’t wait to play it and I’m certainly patient enough to wait for accessibility to be done properly, I know it takes allot of hard work and testing, in a not very well documented field, and any developer or company who rises to that challenge as well as you have deserves allot of praise.

    And I would not mind paying extra for the added work, either, as your going above and beyond to serve a small section of the market here.

    Like

  23. SkyLord says:

    Shame to you people for acting like this.
    Keep your work and good luck, guys! this game got me interested, so i’ll wait until accessibility is implemented, and i think i’ll try it for sure!

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  24. What would you like blind players to do instead of leave 1-star ratings? They would like to feel as if they are being listened to and hear what is going on. It’s posts like this that open people’s eyes to the unintended consequences of their actions.
    But there needs to be some way for users to express their interest in having the nonvisual mode.

    Like

  25. Hi, as someone who is totally blind and a strong proponent for accessible games and those endeavoring to create such games, I thought I’d chip in here. Just figured I’d let you know that all of us definitely do not feel this way, and that there are many reasonable blind people who greatly appreciate your efforts. So keep doing what you’re doing. Honestly I may go and give this a 5 star even though I can’t play it yet to balance out some of the bs.

    Like

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