The Art of Space Travel

We are gliding across the world in total silence, with absolute smoothness; a motion of stately grace which makes me feel godlike as I stand erect in my sideways chariot, cruising the night sky.
– Michael Collins (astronaut)

Outer Space and Beauty have always been two concepts that often find a great kinship in each other, both in the stunning visuals of the universe around us but also through the lenses of our own imaginations. While Tau Station will always strive to harness the boundless creativity of your own imagination through engaging narrative and an immersive universe, we are just as committed to presenting you with stunning visuals crafted by the deft fingers of our talented artists.

This week, we would like to present you with various images inspired by the concept of travel within the Tau Station Universe.

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Interstellar Travel for All – A Socratic Exchange

In one of our recent posts we described some of the work we’ve been doing to improve Tau Station’s star map. This week we’re going more in-depth about the process and will even show some of the code we’re using.

Initially, a canvas map was all we offered the player.

A three-dimensional rotating set of stars and their names, with some connected by wormholes.
The <canvas>-based star map.

 

But as we said in the last map post, a canvas is only selectively accessible, and doesn’t work with screen readers or in browsers that don’t support JavaScript. Thus we wanted to reduce the star map into its basic HTML representation, so that we could progressively build it back up into a canvas rendering.

When we approached this, we asked ourselves one question:

What is this thing, and what does it do?

Ok, so maybe two questions.

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Interstellar Travel for All

In Tau Station, you can travel between star systems and stations by taking a public shuttle or flying your own ship. One of the ways you can explore and plot your route is through the Star Map.

Our first version of the star map was built using a canvas element and looked like this:

A three-dimensional rotating set of stars and their names, with some connected by wormholes.
The <canvas>-based star map.

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The Tau Station Universe: Design

Pretty, immersive, thoughtful, and inclusive – these are concepts that have guided us as we’ve been designing our user interface. Words and stories are the foundation upon which Tau Station is built, but we’re going beyond just text on the screen to create the universe that we’ve imagined. Our narrative, art, and graphic design all work together to create an immersive experience and the sense of adventure and exploration that’s at the heart of Tau Station.

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The Tau Station Universe: Accessibility

We’ve always envisioned the Tau Station Universe as a place of escape and adventure, somewhere you can go when you want to step away from the world for a time. It’s important to us that we create it in such a way that everyone who wants to can explore and enjoy the universe with us. We’re doing our best to build a user interface that is accessible to as many people as possible, and in today’s post we’re going to share a little bit about the technical work that goes into that.

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Tau Station’s User Interface

Our dream for Tau Station is to create a world you can explore and escape into, the way that we escaped into books as children. A world that you can picture yourself living in. But with more than two hundred stations to visit and explore, NPCs to talk to, missions to take, careers, combat, trading, politics, and more, how can we translate that onto the screen while also making it accessible to all players? It’s a challenge, but we have a team of very talented people working on it. By following web standards and design best practices, they’re building a user interface (UI) that is both good for gameplay and supports our overall vision for the game.

Our UI:
• Ties all the elements of the game together
• Is easy to use
• Provides you with information when and where you need it
• Contributes to the immersive atmosphere of the game
• Is accessible to all players
• Follows the principle of designing for mobile first

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Making Tau Station an Accessible Game

The inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, famously said:

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

We share Sir Berners-Lee’s vision. As we design Tau Station, we’re making sure we meet level AA of the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, and are developing the game to be playable across a wide range of devices and browsers. We have some passionate developers on the team to help us reach our goal, and one shares their thoughts below.

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