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.
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!