Blindfold Solitaire #2: Why fast gestures are important

Now that we determined some of the gestures to use in Blindfold Solitaire, we started creating the first variant of Solitaire called Klondike (also known as Patience Solitaire).

Almost all Solitaire games use 3 regions where cards are placed: the tableau, where you build cards from a high card to a low card, such as putting a Jack of Hearts onto a Queen of Spades, the foundation, where you build cards up from the Ace to the King, the discard pile, where you place the cards after you draw more cards from the deck.

finger pointing at iphone screen

When building an audio game that is only controlled through gestures like swiping and tapping, it’s important that the primary tasks of the game can be done quickly.

In our first attempt at Solitaire, consider how  you move a card from the discard pile to the foundation.

Let’s say you just flipped over 3 cards, and an Ace of Hearts is showing on the discard pile.  To move that Ace from the discard pile to the foundation, first tap at the top of the screen to tell the game that you want to get the top card from the discard pile, then tap the screen twice, to indicate that you want to move that card.  The app starts beeping, so you know that a move is in progress.  Then tap in the upper half of the screen, but not quite at the very top of the screen, to instruct the app that you want to move something to the foundation.  Then flick left and right until you find a foundation pile that’s empty.  Next, tap the screen twice again, and the app moves the Ace of Hearts from the discard pile to the empty foundation pile.  It took about 6 gestures of flicking and tapping to move the card.   That’s a lot of effort to just move one card.

Since moving a card to the foundation is one of the most important actions in Solitaire, we created a new gesture.  When you tap the screen three times, the game immediately moves the card from the discard pile to the foundation.  That reduced six gestures down to one gesture.  Similarly, if you are flipping through the tableau, and you find a card that can be moved to the foundation, just tap the screen three times, and the card is moved for you.

Finding short-cuts to make the game easier is part of the testing process that each of the Blindfold games goes through.  I’m working with about 30 visually impaired gamers, and it’s their rigorous testing and suggestions that have made each game fun to play.

Here’s a list of ideas that the gamers came up with that we’ve incorporated into Blindfold Solitaire:

  • As you flick left and right, up and down, the app makes a zip-pop-beep sound if a card can be played.
  • To cancel a move, either shake the phone, or swipe down with 3 fingers.
  • When you a quickly flicking from card to card, the app stops speaking until you stop flicking.  That way, if you traverse 7 cards, you don’t have to wait for the app to finishing speaking each card before you hear the 7th card that you want.
  • To get quick summary of your progress in the game, shake the phone.
  • To flip between the foundation, tableau and discard pile, swipe left with 2 fingers.  Or just tap near top edge of the screen for the discard pile, upper half of the screen for the foundation, or bottom half of the screen for the tableau.
  • When moving a bunch of cards, it tells you how many cards you are moving, and the top card that is moved.  Once you complete the move, you hear a chime sound.
  • To move all eligible cards from the tableau to the foundation, press and hold 2 fingers for a second.
  • To undo a move, swipe left with 3 fingers.
  • To hear a help on all of the gestures, press 3 fingers for a few seconds.
  • To get better at solving a game, you can replay the game with the same cards over again.

In the next article on Blindfold Solitaire, I’ll talk about how we set up the main menu, and why that’s so critical.

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