Experience of Playing Unsighted in the Prosperous Universe

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In a previous article, we reviewed the accessibility and player experience of OGame. Today, we are going to provide an overview of another browser-based title — Prosperous Universe.

As before, our aim is to tell you just how accessible this game is for blind players and share our impressions of this project.

Prosperous Universe: Overview and Features

Prosperous Universe is a strategy game developed by simulogics where you can become the owner of your very own space company, exploring the galaxy, developing planets, designing spaceships, forging alliances and, most importantly, producing, trading, transporting goods and profiting from it.

 In Prosperous Universe, you take part in a persistent online multiplayer universe that offers a unique gaming experience and a variety of play styles, while aiming to eradicate the monotony economy sims are sometimes known for. The game emphasizes realism in everything from economics to space travel.

Prosperous Universe

Key features of Prosperous Universe include:

●       Resources and Production: Players mine various resources on different planets and can process them into materials for producing goods;

●       Trade: The in-game economy depends on a marketplace where players exchange goods and resources. This includes both internal and interstellar trade with other players;

●       Research: Players are able to develop technologically and conduct research to improve their production processes;

●       Supply Chain and Logistics: Managing the transportation and delivery of goods between planets is an important part of the game experience;

●       Community Interaction: Players can interact with other community members, form alliances, cooperate or compete for resources and markets.

Prosperous Universe also focuses on smooth, realistic, and strategic gameplay. The game requires players to carefully plan and manage resources to succeed in its vast ecosystem.

Official project website can be found at https://prosperousuniverse.com/

 Accessibility Research and Sad Experience

So, we have now learned about the game and its features. However, it is worth noting that the developers of Prosperous Universe also sometimes highlight another of their project’s unique features: the possibility of complicated competition between players and an emphasis on strategic planning for business success. Quote:

“Manage your company through a highly customizable user interface called APEX, accessible through a web browser.” 

As I understand it from the perspective of a visually impaired player, this interface is the very “spoonful of tar in the honey barrel” for comfortable play. Let me explain what I mean.

We will start with the fact that the registration and login forms are perfectly accessible, the field labels are prescribed and do not cause any issues. To register, use one of the two links: “Create Account” or “Sign Up.”

registration page

Next, fill in the fields for your display name, email, and password, then click the “Register” button. Finally, you will need to confirm your account’s creation via a code sent in a letter to the specified mailbox.

Finally, the player will be offered to support the project’s development by paying for a subscription, which comes with additional bonuses. This is not strictly necessary, as you can always play the game for free. Just locate the “Play” link and activate it.

Upon launching Prosperous Universe, the APEX’s creation assistant will inform us that the game and its APEX interface are both in early access, tell us that a few worlds will be deleted prior to full release, then ask us to accept the license agreement. Click the “Accept” button and move on.

To create our company, we need to customize some options. First, we select our profession. This should not be difficult, but it is important to note that there are two things to pay attention to.

●       Firstly, the elements responsible for changing the player’s profession are not voiced as interactive;

●       Secondly, depending on the screen reader used, they are voiced differently: in NVDA it is “Reverse” and “Play,” while in JAWS it is “Solid Pointing Triangle to the Left” and “Solid Triangle with a Vertex to the Right.”

Read the descriptions, choose a profession you like, and click the “Next” button.

At the following step, we are asked to choose a faction. Everything is the same here: read the flavor text and choose the most suitable one for our profession. Once you are done, press the “Next” button again and move on to the starting planet selection.

When choosing a planet, we study their characteristics and pay attention to “Profession Suitability” stat. The higher it is, the better. Once selected, click “Next” again.

Prosperous Universe gameplay

At the last step, you will need to come up with a suitable name for your in-game company, as well as a short code by which it will be identified.

I had no problems with the name, but the code… For a while, I could not understand what it should be, and it was only by selection method that I was able to find it. My code consisted of some letters that were included in the company’s title.

It is good that information about the correctness and acceptability of the entered data is displayed under all the fields that need to be filled in. Once we are done, click the “Create” button, and before we even have time to rejoice, our experience immediately gets soured.

The problem lies in the fact that the game uses the “APEX User Interface,” which is entirely graphics-based.

No, of course, there are available buttons, links, tables, text, but even the text of the first few tasks speaks about working with a graphical interface. And it should be noted that the APEX interface, judging by my PC’s behavior, is quite cumbersome. Of course, my PC is not a gaming rig, but rather an office one, but still.

On top of that, there is also a large amount of empty space on the page. It is more accurate to say that, from the perspective of a blind person working with a screen reader, this workspace is perceived as empty, but visually, I am 100% sure, there is graphic content there.

I did not even bother to look further into controls, as I realized it was pointless. However, I do not see the point in blaming the project for this, as it obviously was not designed with accessibility for the blind in mind.

In conclusion, our research shows that the Prosperous Universe game presents important aspects of the issue of poor accessibility support, and the importance of creating a more inclusive game world. By considering the challenges faced by blind players in this space strategy game, we realize that there is great potential to improve the game experience for all categories of users.

Despite this unfortunate experience, we know that the video game industry is moving forward, and there is still much work to be done to ensure equal access to many of its virtual worlds.The roles of developers, the community, and game designers are important in shaping a more accessible environment for all.