You are going to a central point here. As you know, I'm still a big java
fan, I wrote past games in java, and upcoming games outside of the
playroom will very likely to be in java again. Why I haven't written the
playroom in java ? There is two reasons for this:
1. You might have experienced the problem I had with magic blocks most
notablyy: speech via screen reader support was totally absent. I tried
to arrange something myself using COM and DLL proxy libraries and failed
to make something really reliable. All screen reader supports including
SAPI were quite buggy and it mades the application to crash randomly,
especially on 64 bit machines but also on 32 bit ones.
As reliable speech output via screen reader is a very capital point in
the playroom, I had first to find a solution for that problem before
going further, and nothing came to mind at that time.
2. The playroom is a little different to most of audiogames we have out
there. It uses true windows GUI components, when most audiogames simply
open a blank window and directly react to user input from there. Most
audiogames actually use virtual menus and controls that are not shown on
screen at all. Why this choice ? Again, there are multiple reasons:
a. Initially the playroom was in french only. At the very beginning, I
received comments telling that it would be good to be able to play with
braille display. As you know, direct speech output to screen reader does
not use braille, and the easiest way to have all so different braille
displays behaving correctly is to place text into standard controls so
that the screen reader does the job nicely in the way the user usually
set in his preferences.
b. I found also nice to be able to navigate through the game's text
freely, to allow easy review, easy copy/paste, easy saving, and as easy
to use as in normal applications. In fact this feature is quite rare,
even on mud clients (where it's indeed a must-have in my opinion). I
suffered not having easy review and copy/paste on mud clients I had, and
I'm still suffering not having this feature on console windows and
SSH... In playroom this is important because there's a lot of text to
deal with, just like in a mud.
c. Using normal GUI components has a nice edge effect: it allows sighted
people to play. Of course, the playroom is not as interesting for
sighted people as other common games because there's no graphics, but
still, I know that there are a couple of sighted players in the
playroom, they wouldn't be able to play if I had used virtual menus and
controls in a blank window.
To come back to java, standard GUI controls in java with a screen reader
remain problematic: they are slow, sluggich and somewhat buggy. The bugs
there are are very stupid indeed: before very latest jaws 13, backspace
in an edit field says empty instead of the character being cleared, and
NVDA sometimes says empty instead of reading a line of text in a edit
field. For all screen readers, when you press up or down arrow sometimes
it reads the old line instead of the one where you just arrived. Some
less common screen readers don't support access bridge at all, etc. and
don't forget the most important thing: java access bridge is no more
actively maintained. In brief, all that is not very reliable, is not
going to be more in the future, and this is not acceptable. You will
tell me that there is scripting: yes, certainly. But if scripting is a
working partial solution for experienced computer users, installing
scripts is another problem on itself and especially if you aim to
support multiple screen readers.. clearly not doable for less
experienced computer users. And because the playroom is conceptually a
simple game, it must be manageable by less experienced computer users as
This closes my probably longest english post.
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