Blindfold Racer is designed to be fun, so we needed fun pictures to put on the screen so sighted people have something to look at.
One of the students at The Cushman School in Miami (where this all started) is a good artist, so I asked her to create cartoons to appear during the tutorial. I sketched what I wanted (in Batman Zap-Wham style), and here are some of her drawings that we use:
She also did a set of drawings for the iTunes App Store. Since the screen (for the most part) is dark, there’s not much to show. Instead our screenshots for the App Store give the feeling of playing the game.
When I tested the app – with these pictures – with sighted adults, they had a lot more patience when listening to the tutorial. Sighted adults seem to lose interest if they have nothing to look at. Sighted children, on the other hand, didn’t need the pictures to maintain their interest.
We will probably have to add more visual stimulation to the game on other screens as well.
My colleagues were strongly suggesting that I test the app with visually impaired people, since I really needed their opinion. I had no idea how the game would be received.
Emily at Lighthouse for the Blind (Miami), met with me, and agreed to let me test it on a Saturday when many of the blind and visually impaired teens come to the center. I staged about 10 iPads with the game, and after lunch, the teens started playing the game.
It was quite a hit, so I asked them to come up with a name. The best one was Blindfold Racer, so that’s what we’re using.
One of the blind teens asked me if the screen is dark (you can see how it looks in the above photo). I told him it was, and he told me that’s a bad idea. Sighted people will think their iPad is broken if the screen is dark. He suggested we put something on the screen while it’s being played.
There were several other suggestions – enough that took about 2 more months of programming effort.
The magic of the game is completely based on hearing things, and imagining what is going on. The voice that speaks to you during the game can make the difference between a hit and a dud.
Originally, I tested with Apple’s voice-over technology, but that made the game sound robotic. I tried out several other voice emulation systems, but they just sounded flat. This game needs emotion, and that means a real person’s voice.
It just so happens that my daughter (Mariel) is a talented actress, and this was a great opportunity to let her do some voice acting. She had previously narrated the tutorial for our prior app “Wish To List”. She auditioned for the role, and won the part.
Each phrase or sentence in the game required about 5 takes before we got the intonation and feeling just right. Some had to be redone several more times when we got criticism (usually from adults) where the intonation gave off a feeling of superiority or cynicism.
Most of the sound clips in the app came from free download sites.