We've developed an iOS game called Timecrest. It's a work of interactive fiction with over 200,000 words, and we've recently worked to make the whole game accessible to blind and low-vision users using VoiceOver.

We received some very positive feedback from the people posting at the AppleVis.com forums, and talking to some people at reddit.com/r/blind. We were advised us to post here as well to get your feedback,  so here we are!

You can get the game on the iOS App Store at this link:

https://itunes.apple.com/app/apple-stor … s&mt=8

Please try it out and tell us what you think. We're passionate about making a great, accessible game. Below are the update notes for when we introduced many new features.

Timecrest 2.3 Patch Notes

VOICEOVER SUPPORT
We have turned on the screen curtain and played through our whole game with VoiceOver on, redoing and reworking most of the features in our game to better work with VoiceOver. THANKS TO APPLEVIS.COM USERS FOR ALL OF THE FEEDBACK!

- Better accessibility labels across all UI. We've added and rewritten many labels, and even reworked UI to make it more accessible.
- Message sound effects. Indicates when a new message is delivered, when all messages have been delivered, when your VoiceOver cursor is over the last received message but more are incoming, and so on.
- Pronunciation mode. When pronunciation mode is enabled, the spellings of text will be changed to improve VoiceOver's pronunciation. Disable it if you prefer to learn the correct spellings of words or if you are using a Braille display.
- Text indicators. For UI that previously relied on visual indicators, such as the red handwritten text at the beginning of Chapter 6, and specially indicating which messages are System Messages, or even the green "Turn back time" button, descriptive text was added.
- Descriptive help. For each of the main tabs, there is a button in the top left corner of the screen that can provide help text describing how each feature works from the perspective of a VoiceOver user.
- Improved pouch and merchant. You can now tap to get the description of an item, and magic tap to use it.
- VoiceOver specific settings menu. Where you can adjust the music volume, enable or disable Pronunciation Mode, and turn on or off the VoiceOver messaging sounds.
- Descriptive map & characters. We have made all of the maps accessible, adding detailed descriptions of what Ash has drawn for you as you run your finger across the map. In the Relationship tab, we've written out accessible descriptions of the images of the characters, so you can know what is in the pictures of them.

"An interesting story... Simple fun." - The New York Times

There exists another world, and that world desperately needs your help.

Alyncia is about to be destroyed by meteors. When it seems all hope is lost for this magical world, a young mage named Ash establishes a connection with you and discovers that you have the power to alter time in Alyncia.

In this time of darkness, Ash needs a friend. Ash needs you.

- EXPERIENCE AN EPIC STORY with over 200,000 words and multiple endings.
- DECIDE who lives and who dies. Your decisions change the story, so choose wisely.
- EXPLORE ALYNCIA at your own pace with our new non-linear maps.
- IMMERSE YOURSELF in a world of fantasy and magic, with 14 musical tracks to set the scene.
- BUILD A TEAM and make friends. Unlock secret storylines by building your relationship with other characters.

Timecrest is a nonlinear story based game with multiple endings where every choice you make matters. The story progresses in realtime. Ash will be notifying you on what is happening in Alyncia and awaits your guidance throughout the day.

And if you have an Apple Watch, you won't even need to pull your iPhone out of your pocket to respond. Apple Watch integration lets you store the entire world of Alyncia on your favorite digital timepiece.

Delve into Timecrest, where fate is in your hands, every end leads to a new beginning, and a single moment can change everything exclusively for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch!

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Hi,

I recently bought this game, along with other similar games such as the Lifeline games, and I think you've done a really great job with this. Everything reads well, and the sounds are good. I haven't tried it on the Apple Watch yet, but I'll try that soon.
Great job, and keep it up! I look forward to getting more of Timecrest.

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Hi.
[wow]... Welcome to the forum. Thank you, so much, for making this interesting game that much accessible to blind and visual impaired people. I'll grab the game as soon as possible and check it out. [wow] it sounds awesome...

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Hello Cowbunny and welcome.

One of our forum members recently commented on the game and how a major access update was planned. The game sounded great from her description and I was just waiting for the fix to give it a try.
I'll also be glad to post some news and add this to our games database too.

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I've recently downloaded the game again after a few months of not playing. I'll show y'all how good this game is by explaining something.
I rarely give money for games. The only time I did was for King of Dragon Pass, because, well, everyone should experience that. And I bought Uno on blind fold RS-games, mistake as I rarely play it on the phone now that I have a Windows computer. I've spent a good $5 already on the time crystals. Five whole dollars. So yes, it's that good. I'll probably spend more than this on it though. I'm on part two, the door.

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Very few Mainstream games have equal access to both sighted and blind gamers, thanks to the developer smile

I'll definitely try the game!

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I've just started this one and [wow]! it rocks, I've very much liked games like the 3D games ones (lifeline etc), and one button travel that do time plus choice based stuff, and this one looks more complex than any of that sort I've seen uptonow, which is great.

I also love the soundtrack.
I'm not that far through as yet since I couldn't try this until later, and am still on the first chapter, but the story is definitely intreaguing, particularly the way unexpected things tend to happen and I definitely look forward to seeing where this goes.

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Hi.
The game is really fantastic... I only have one complaint: Why does the text scroll that slowly? When reading fast, either by using Voiceover or by reading normally, it takes sooooo long time because you constantly have to wait for the next small text to appear. I don't mind waiting when the game says wait for 10 minutes or more, but I find this really annoying when you have to wait so long for the text to come up. Things which could have been read by two minutes takes 5 minutes or more...
Having said that, I really like the game. I'm still in the first chapter.

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This game is incredible!
The music is beautiful and situation-specific, and the writing is superb!
I love how you can also follow the characters on Twitter and really see their personalities.
The developers have worked hard, and been extremely responsive to accessibility suggestions and requests too.
So congratulations for a great gameplay experience!

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@Mirage, it actually sort of makes me want to setup a twitter account big_smile.

@Slj, each message comes in sequentially. this is because if your on the home screen you'll get each message spoken as it appears, it's a way of simulating texting, indeed I can see this particularly as cool on an apple watch since you'd get each message spoken as it comes in (sadly I don't have an apple watch yet).

The three minute games and one button travel all work this way and it's just something to get used to.

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from what i've seen, am in the library at the moment this is going to be a long game. when do we get to start exploring the maps? smile.

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so are these 2 games in one, since i can't play "the dorr" until have completed "faded connections" but d∮y both contain the same level of accessibility?

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@Wlomas, yes, a long game, I've not yet finished chapter 2 and haven't had access to the map as yet.

As regards the two games, i gather that they are essentially two volumes of the same story compiled as one ap, rather like some of the Cog and hg titles, so access wise they'll work the same way.

I'm loving the story and exploringI've already found alternatives I couldn't access so this is also one for multiple playthroughs which is nice.

My one major problem is that quite a lot of the dialogue choices when talking to Ash are basically being a nice person or being an ultra sarcastic git! eg "I'm glad your okay", or "Oh it's you again!"

This makes some choices something of a no brainer for me, unless there's intentionally a path where Ash either likes you or hates you with nothing in between.

I do also notice a lot of prevarication, eg "Do I speak to this person or run away?", (which happens a lot), and "Can i trust this person?" Indeed I sort of get the impression that Ash is not only quite young (between 11 and 15), but also a little bit paranoid big_smile.

Still as this is a long game I'm guessing he grows up along the way, and it's rather fun to be the voice of reason, or at least the voice of not behaving like a bit of a brat big_smile.

I've got a four hour wait now which probably means that's it for today unless I sleep badly again, still I'm liking so far.

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Thanks to everyone trying out Timecrest! We greatly enjoy your feedback.

@SLJ, the game simulates as if you are sending text messages with Ash, and it takes Ash some time to speak, similar to how it takes time for someone to type a text message. For sighted users, they will see an ellipsis, a dot-dot-dot that indicates that a message is incoming much like how their text message software might look. For VoiceOver users, we instead use sound effects to indicate messages coming in, and so on. Just imagine Ash acting out in real time on the other side, and the pauses might be more immersive for you.

@wlomas, the first map is available in Chapter 8. It's an exciting time as the world opens up a lot and you get to choose where to explore. Once you get it, it will appear in your pouch and you can magic tap to open it. Timecrest 1: Fated Connections is Chapters 1 through 5. Timecrest 2: The Door is Chapters 6 through 10. We always add new content as updates to the app so that you can play through the story seamlessly. Chapter 5 goes right into Chapter 6 as if it's the same game.

@Dark, thanks so much for highlighting us and adding us to the game database. And thanks so much for the feedback. One of our goals is that there aren't right or wrong choices, just different paths and stories to explore. So some of the negative choices aren't bad, they just produce a different result. But I get what you're saying about how if you don't want to be mean to Ash, it feels like agency is taken away, so we'll think about that as we continue to write the story.

Ash is indeed young, born 998 M.G., and Timecrest starts 1014 M.G., making Ash 16. Ash may have a chip on the shoulder from joining a mage guild but starting out unable to cast magic. But you will see Ash develop in the later chapters. It was on purpose that Ash starts out a little bit too innocent. This innocence is tested in the later chapters, as you'll see, and there will be a storyline questioning Ash's ability to lead others, as an example.

Please keep passing along your feedback. I assure you we consider it all very seriously.

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@Cowbunny, glad to help. Timecrest isn't actually in the database yet, I'll need to write out an entry for it, though i will want to see a little more of the game before I do that so that I can give people an accurate idea of what the game is like, particularly in the ways that it differs from games with a similar gameplay style.

Btw, I do have one bare bones practical question. Is there a way to get the item overview of items in the merchant tab? It'd be nice to know for example what an aura potion is, however when I double tap on it I get the choice to buy it, ---- or rather i get told I don't have enough gold to buy it big_smile.
I've tried two finger double tap but that doesn't work. Do the Merchant's items get explained in the course of the story?

In terms of choice, some middle of the road responses would be nice. For example, when Ash learns a spell (I won't say where when or how for sake of spoilers), your choices are either "it seems cool" or "It seems lame"

However telling Ash that the first spell he's managed to learn is "lame" is insensative to say the least.
It'd be nice if there was a more middle of the road option, eg "It seems interesting but I'm not sure how much use it'd be" or "Awesome you learned it but the spell itself doesn't seem that great"

My only access suggestion currently is that it might be nice if there was a way to instantly get vo back to the last system message after a break without having to swipe through all of the other incoming or previous messages.

Though vo counts these as "buttons" I've tried the rotor control, but I couldn't pick up any buttons on the screen, the only option was headings. Would it be possible to make the system messages such as "Ash is running", or "Ash is busy" come up as headings so that they can be got to immediately? or heck, just hav vo recognize them as buttons.

This would also help in the history if you wanted to look at say everything back from your last choice.

In general on access I really! like what's done, particularly when you explain graphical elements like the circling dust, since I could see something blue on the screen but no idea what it is so that's one area where the explanation goes along with my remaining vision, which is great.

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hello, I've recently tried the new version of timecrest, and it seams pretty good and accessible.
this one is pretty interesting game, just like when I am playing games like game of thrones or the walking dead cause this one has similar concept to those, mainly choices and multiple endings to explore. I've played the first chapter now, going to continue it later.

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17 (edited by kingzombie 2016-10-12 23:55:44)

This game is so awesome! Just started chapter 3.

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@hanif, @kingzombie, thank you for your kind words. Please tell us what you think as you play through the game.

@Dark, good feedback that item descriptions are not accessible in the Merchant tab. What would feel most natural to you? Would a magic tap bringing up the description feel right? All of the items do get described in the story, but you should be able to access the descriptions in the merchant as well. This is an oversight and we'll get it fixed in a future version.

Also good feedback that you wish there were more choices beyond the negative and the positive choice. One pitfall we fell into originally while writing was having too many choices that felt the same. If you have to choose between "Nice work!" and "Cool, you learned a spell!" it doesn't feel very interesting as they feel the same. So in future rewrites, we tried to add more contrast to the choices, but in doing so, if you felt one choice was too rude or negative, you don't feel like there is really an interesting choice there. (To be fair, many of our players enjoyed the more negative choice, as we did work hard to write interesting story behind those choices too.) So we'll keep all of that in mind as we update and write more story for Timecrest in the future.

Also a good point about allowing you to move quickly through the text using a rotor. I know that iOS 10 has some new APIs that give us some ability to customize the rotor, so that is something that we need to investigate. We'll look into that for future versions and ask you questions here if and as we design the feature.

Thanks for the detailed feedback. You've given us a lot to think about, which means we came to the right place to ask for help!

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19

Hi.
It makes sense when thinking about the texted messages are written in realtime.
I'm really surprised that this huge game is free. I'll play it a lot today, because I have to travel in train for 3 hours... smile Sounds like there is so much to look forward to...

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Well I'm now on chapter three. It's actually lucky the time waiting saved me since otherwise I think I would've been going all night, though I am this morning having to restrain myself from the urge to go and play as opposed to actually get some work done  big_smile.

Oh well, long train journey to London tomorrow, so plenty of time for playing I've actually discovered the perfect combination of activities, playing through Timecrest, then going off and reading a few chapters of my current book while I wait for Ash! big_smile.

First off, we have a bug report.
At the start of chapter three I checked the merchant tab to see if there was anything new to buy. There are still the same teleport orb and out of stock aura potion, however additionally, there seemed to be some extra text on the screen under the "Descriptive help" button. Something that said "used to teleport" a "buy" button and a "more info" button.
When hitting "more info" I got the description of an ignis amulet, which was odd since it wasn't in the main tab.

I believe this text was some sort of overlay, since I could see something purple which isn't usually there.
Once I double tapped on the teleport orb, the popup alert appeared telling me I didn't have the gold, then when it left the page was back to normal.
Not a miner bug but still a little confusing.

As regards the Merchant and items, well there are several routes to go down.
I wouldn't personally suggest having the magic tap for the description of the merchant items, since in the inventory magic tap is used to use an item while the standard double tap is describe, but having the magic tap in the merchant's tab used to describe and standard double tap used to buy seems a direct reversal and thus needlessly confusing.

I'd either suggest having double tap describe and magic tap buy, or simply having the descriptions occur in the same alert as the confirmation to buy.

for example you double tap on the teleport orb and get something like:
"This is an orb containing a one use teleport spell created by the mages of alynsia etc"
then under that "buy for 150 gold"
And a "buy" button you could hit multiple times.

A final alternative, and likely the one which would cause least trouble in terms of the interface might be just having the item descriptions added to the "speak hints" text for each button, eg, you flick onto the "buy teleport orb" and then if you wait, after  a second or two vo will start reading the description (apparently there is a box specifically for speak hints attributes in the property sheets for each item on the ios interface). Most  gamers with vo will always! play with speak hints on, and actually it's been a handy method for various developers to show extra information to vo users, showing rpg stats and the like, since it's useful for far more than just describing how to use controls.

It's very cool that Ios 10 lets you customize the rotor setting for Vo, that's a potentially very interesting feature developers could use for access, especially since there are lots of occasions where being able to rotor and flick to specific parts of the interface could be really handy.
As regards choices for interactions, I do think a little subtlety here would be appreciated, since in most normal conversations there are far more ways of saying things than just being utterly positive, or completely negative, and far more ways your choices could affect the story and Ash rather than just being cruel, which as I said really doesn't feel like a choice to me, or at least not one I have to think about.

For example, while yes, "nice work" and "cool" are pretty similar, saying "Well the spell is okay but doesn't seem much use" might cause Ash to become a little defensive, think of extra things it's used for and have other alternative uses for it later (Ash strikes me as the type who would probably try to justify himself when pushed).

While if you said "well done!" Ash might say "Hay you sound like a teacher" and start treating you the way he'd treat one of his instructors at the guild, which might be good in terms of proposing causes of action, but make Ash less likely to confide personal things to you.
The same goes for a lot of other choices in the story as well, particularly in chapter three i did notice there were several of "this character hates you!" or "This character is still your friend!" where as having a "We don't know what this character is doing so treat them with suspicion" might actually be another avinue to explore, rather than avoiding them or befriending them utterly.

If the backend programming for how your handling Ash's feelings is a little more complex and has actual stats (like the relationship points), as opposed to the "if choice x, then choice y appears later" type of setup, there are still other things you can do.

For example if you have a stat for Ash's confidence and for how much he lieks the player, saying "The spell is cool" could increase his liking of you but not quite as much with the confidence, where as saying "this spell seems really useful" could increase his confidence but not his liking of you as much, (after all, telling someone they've got a handy tool to rely on is different from telling them they! have achieved something awesome!).

Final question, is your pet care game "chairman cow" i believe it was called accessible with voiceover? I saw it on the ap store, and did wonder. We've had a lot of  requests for pet care, farm sim and single player building/expantion games in the community, ---- heck we're pretty short of most things that aren't instant reaction arcade titles, so if the game is! accessible people would probably like to know.

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another bug report: when I access the settings screen, there is no way to close the screen other than going to the app switcher and closing the game.
could you maybe fix this one in the next update?

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Hmmm, Hanif, that is odd, I've not had that bug happen to me and Have checked the settings screen a couple of times adjusting volume and other things, you should just be able to close  settings and go back to the main  messages screen with the "close" button in the top right hand corner.

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@hanif, to close dialogs, including the settings dialog, you can either use the close button in the top right of the dialog, or use the “escape” gesture, which is a Z-shaped gesture.

@Dark, if you’re evaluating what makes the game different from others with a similar style, let me share with you some of our writing principles when creating this work of interactive fiction that we feel differentiate Timecrest from other games with a similar gameplay style.

- Choices should feel as though they impact the story. We worked hard to create different paths and interesting choices for the characters.

- Choices affect the story, but no path is the “wrong” path. A lot of the stories we see right now are a single character trying to survive a single scenario. It’s entertaining, but we were looking for something deeper. We wanted each choice to create a different journey through the game, where decisions you make in early chapters can dramatically change what happens in future chapters. A whole city may be destroyed, some characters may live or die early on, and this completely changes some scenes late in the story.

- There should be conflict, with a clear beginning, middle and end. Story structure still matters, even if your choices are changing the story.

- Character relationships matter. On our whiteboard we wrote, “Break a promise to save the world, and that character may betray you later. Follow through on that promise, and lose an opportunity, but make a new friend.”

As for the bug report, the purple overlay you’re seeing is hidden to VoiceOver users. There is a bug where if you toggle VoiceOver on and off while in the app, it might still remain on the screen. As we built accessibility, we found it was confusing that the “Buy” and “Info” buttons were located away from where you select the individual items. We prefered a design where you interact with the individual rows like in the pouch. It was an oversight that the merchant did not offer the item descriptions in the new design, and we will fix this in a future update.

Thanks for the feedback on more subtlety in the options, and we will think about that as we continue to write Timecrest.

Unfortunately, Chairman Cow is not an accessible game, and we can’t recommend it here at this time. We may revisit it in the future, but we’ve decided to prioritize all of our efforts on Timecrest and developing its story and improving it’s accessibility. Since we’re a small indie game studio (the whole company is just the two of us!) we have to make hard decisions on where we focus our effort.

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Hi.

Fare enough on chairman cow, as I said I was just interested since it's another type of game we've not got many of in the community.
Interesting stuff on the writing principles and impacting choices, however when i said "differences from similar games" I am afraid i was more talking in terms of very basic stuff such as the use of time crystals, items from the merchant and things like world maps.

It's part of the purpose of the database of games we have on this site that we have reasonably comprehensive information in each entry, including what gameplay is like and what mechanics are in place so as to encourage people to see the good points of given games (why what we do with the db are descriptions rather than reviews).

As a fan of gamebooks myself, and having played a couple of the more modern real time variety like lifeline and one button travel, i am familiar with the basic process of recieve messages over time, make choices, wait to see what happens. However aside from a very unique world and story and as you said, choices with impact on events, Timecrest also has a couple of other things I've not seen before in this style of game which obviously i do want to say a little about.

Btw, I'll be away for the next couple of days, though i shal be taking my mobile phone and timecrest with me big_smile.

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hello guys,

Is it possible for the game to read out Ash's texts as they come in automatically? I don't mean to be picky but having to swipe through each message while waiting is irritating.

Also on a different note, is it possible to make voiceover stop saying alypsis? like a gag setting or something? it kind of spoils the ambience.

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