Galactic Colonies – Accessibility Update

Since I announced that it will still be a little longer to get the accessible version of Galactic Colonies out, I thought I could at least keep everyone updated on the progress. 

First things first – no, I don’t have a release date for the accessibility yet. But the game is coming along great, and a lot of things have been done in the last two weeks. I wanted to give you a little update on what I’ve been working on, and share a short video.

Same UI, but different

I’m trying hard to make the accessible version of the game use the exact same UI as the game has when accessibility is turned off. That is not only consistent, but it makes it a lot easier to maintain the game, too.

But this doesn’t always provide the same game experience to sighted and non-sighted players. Sometimes a small change in how the UI works can make the game more enjoyable for players that rely on a screen reader.
Let me give you an example. 

To construct a building on a planet, a sighted player first selects the building from a list in the build menu. Then he can see the price and time it costs at the top of the menu. If he has enough money, he’ll hit the button labeled “Build” at the bottom of the menu to start construction. 

Sounds simple? Now do it blind!

Image doing the same task when you are navigating the construction menu with a screen reader, and traverse all buttons one by one.

Selecting a building is easy enough. But then you’d have to navigate back to the beginning of the page to read the price and the construction time. And this is assuming that you even know that you have to do that in the first place. Then, if you want to build it, you have to get to the very bottom of the page where the build button is, traversing through each and every building button on the way. The information and functionality that is instantly available for a sighted player is hard to get to for non-sighted players.

So instead, when accessibility mode is on, the price and construction time of a building is read out immediately along with the building name. And if the player wants to start construction, he can double tap while the building is selected, and that will automatically start the build process. No need to navigate to the build button at all. In fact, the button won’t even be shown if accessibility mode is turned on.

Side by side comparison of the construction menu in Galactic Colonies.

Left shows sighted mode menu, right shows the accessibility version

The code of the user interface had to be partially rewritten to support this change, but I think in return the construction menu is now really usable. You can see and hear this in action in the video at the end of this post as well.

Selling Stuff

To sell product from a warehouse, sighted player can use sliders. While they drag the sliders to the right to sell more and more of the product, other part of the UI will change to display how much product will remain and how much money will be earned if the player lets go of the slider at that point.

This is not practical for screen readers at all.

We took a lesson we learned from Crafting Kingdom and replaced the sliders with buttons. One button to sell all, one button to sell half, and one button to sell a single unit of the product in the warehouse.

Here’s screenshot of the warehouse menu for sighted and for accessibility mode next to each other.

Side by side comparison of the sell menu in Galactic Colonies.

Left side shows the slider based sighted version, and the right side the accessible version which uses buttons instead

In this instance, the UI had to be replaced by completely different UI which is only active when accessibility more is on. This change required both new code and a new user interface setup, so it took a little longer. 

Got something to show?

After the last post only included an audio demo I’ll include a short video in this one. Please keep in mind that this is still all extremely work in progress and by no means ready for release yet.

Thank you to everyone who’s commented and thank you for all the patience.