Galactic Colonies – Accessibility Sneak Preview

Galactic Colonies is on track to be fully accessible. Soon-ish.
Actually, it’s coming along quite nicely. I made a recording of the first 4 minutes of gameplay. If you’re interested in a sneak preview, here it is:

If your screen reader has issues with the sound cloud player, here’s a direct download link: Galactic Colonies Accessibility Audio Demo

Sounds like it’s almost done, when can I play?

In the demo, things sound a little further along than they actually are. In reality there is still a metric ton of work to be done.

I’m sorry to say, I have no release date for the accessibility patch yet. But it will more than likely be a few more weeks.

Different from all other games I’ve made accessible in the past, this game has a lot of 3D elements. Those are making things tricky, and there is need for many creative solutions.

Sounds a little… vague?

Fair enough. I’m going to describe an actual problem that I’m working on this week. That should demonstrate why it takes a lot of time to make this game accessible.

As part of the game, players have to build colonies on planets. This gameplay happens on the planet’s surface. Players can explore new regions, construct houses, farms and other production buildings and set up a flow of products between buildings. Everything is in 3D of course, and the camera can be moved and zoomed.

Screenshot showing a colony on a jungle planet, more than two dozen buildings, many lakes and part of the ocean

Colonies can get large

The difficulties start with selecting a free region to place your next building on. In the beginning only a handful of regions are explored, but there are a total of 2500 regions on each planets surface. Obviously I don’t expect players to swipe through them one by one, by one by one by one… I need to find a different method for players to navigate their colony.

The planet surface is flat, but it is a hex map, not squares. So a simple up, left, right, down navigation doesn’t cut it either. Each tile has six neighbors around it, not just four.

It is important to know which tiles are next to one another. Farms built next to a lake will produce more food. Houses next to an industrial building will have reduced capacity. Because which colonist wants to live next to a polluting, stinking factory? So the game can’t simply make the decision of where to build next for the player either.

The problems don’t end there. Some buildings need to be connected, so that one building can deliver products to another. You can produce food all day long, but you need a warehouse to store it in. And then you want the food to be distributed to your various houses, so your colonists don’t starve. Buildings that are too far apart cannot be connected. And one warehouse can only supply goods to a maximum of four other buildings.

Colony on an ice planet showing a warehouse receiving food from a farm and distributing it two connected houses

Warehouses are among the most important buildings in this game

Planning out what is delivered where is a core part of the game, so again, the game cannot make these decisions for the player automatically. These connections are set up visually by tapping on the buildings you want to connect. Difficult to do if vision isn’t an option.

But as you can hear in the audio demo, I haven’t been idle these past few weeks, and some parts of the game are already playable.

That was just a glimpse

I’m spending my days trying out a lot of different solutions to all of these problems, and then throwing away anything that doesn’t work.
This, obviously, takes time.

And keep in mind, everything I described above is just one of the mechanics in this game that I have to solve. It isn’t the only one. I haven’t even talked about space travel yet!

We made a good game with Galactic Colonies, and I’m determined to deliver a good experience on the accessibility part, too. I know as well as anyone how frustrating waiting can be, but I’m convinced it will be worth the wait.
Thank you for being so patient!