Blindfold Games Fan Mail

About once a week, I receive a nice email from people across the world thanking me for building these games.  Here’s are some recent comments:.

picture of a mailbox

“Hi.  I would like to see more games that blind people can play make them more accessible with sound and talking so that we know what is happening.  I just tried blindfold pong and it is very good and challenging – I think it is great!”

“I’m a technology teacher for the visually impaired, and I recently heard the Applevis podcast that talks about the Blindfold Racer game.  I thought it was incredibly awesome on so many different levels!!  I enjoyed hearing about the therapy uses that you discussed.  But because I’m also legally blind since birth, and have sometimes dreamed of driving, I thought it was a totally, totally, incredibly liberating idea!!”

“Hi.  I love your games.  I’d love to see a Scrabble or a Bingo game for the IPhone.”

“Let me just start by saying that I’m a huge fan of your games and I’m happy to be able to play fully accessible card games for iOS.”

“So I have really been sharing and telling about the Blindfold Games. There is this page on Facebook where there are thousands and thousands of blind people into that group. I am a part of that group, and I posted to everyone about the Blindfold Games.”

“I wannnt to say how mutch I enjoy playing blindfold blackjack and poker! They are fun and easy to play and they are really good to play on my breaks .”

“Another great game and entertaining time waster. :)”

“I used to play this on Windows back in the day when I had vision. The other game I would love to see is something like Freecell, if you are familiar. I would definitely buy that as well.”

“This is my way of saying thank you for the games you have made available to those of us who are blind, but love to be in the mainstream of everything. I tell everyone I know, sighted or blind or otherwise, about your games. We appreciate them, and look forward to more. Monopoly, or something along that type of game line might be fun.”

Thanks to everyone for letting me know my time is well spent.

Blindfold Email: How important is punctuation?

I’ve been emailing several times a week to some of the blind gamers with whom I am collaborating on different games.

dictation icon

When I send an email, I re-read it several times, to ensure not only the tone is right, but the words I picked would probably sound correct when read by a text-to-voice system like Voice-over on the iPhone or JAWS on a PC or MAC. If I suspect the computerized pronunciation will be wrong, I’ll select an alternate word.

What’s interesting is what I get in reply. Blind gamers use a speech-to-text systems similar to SIRI. Unlike most emails, it is one long block of text. Sometimes there are sentence breaks, sometimes not. Sometimes commas are inserted properly, most times not. Sometimes the words are translated to text incorrectly, so I have to guess what word was intended. The easiest way for me to both understand the meaning and intent of a long email is to insert all of the punctuation back into their email, then re-read it. Alternatively, I can read it aloud to myself, and it is comprehensible.

I never realized how dependent sighted people are on the visual appearance of what we read. To give you an idea of what it’s like, consider the emails I received recently:

First off a fantastic job with all your games for the blind I’ve only been playing a few of them was wondering if there was a way to keep stats versus the computer in some of the games I’m currently loving wildcard but would love some career stats as I love to keep stats.

Hello if you got email from hockey app and sign in with your account info when prompted once you sign in you’ll seethe app to download and follow install link shown.

Yes it will be great to or more players yes I will definitely enjoy that is fun playing against the computer but is fun to play against other people state to state nationwide or worldwidebut what games do you think will be available I like to know a way that can play without being on Facebook is there anyway that could be donecause I was waiting a long time before playing games on the phone I have ever played video games …

Then again, when I think about it, they are no worse than the emails I get from my lawyer when he uses his dictating app.

Blindfold Solitaire #3: Creating Spider Solitaire

Not only did many blind gamers tell us how much they liked our first version of Solitaire, they asked us to create other Solitaire games, such as Spider Solitaire.

spider with card

The goal of the Spider Solitaire game is to build cards in descending order: King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8,7,6,5,4,3,2, and Ace in the columns of the tableau. Once you form this sequence, you can instantly move it to the foundation. Once you play all the cards and you have moved them to 8 separate descending sequences, then you win the game.

Spider Solitaire comes in several varieties, the easiest is where you use just one suit. The more suits you use – such as hearts and spades – the harder the game becomes.

At this point, Blindfold Solitaire had only two games in it, and they were more-or-less identical: Klondike one-card an Klondike three-card. It took a while to modify Blindfold Solitaire so that it could process several types of Solitaire games, such as Spider or Golf or Free Cell.

To make the game more generic, we had to create programming rules that described what actions are allowed on the tableau (must cards be of the same suit, or alternating colors), on the foundation (how many foundation piles are there), and the rules for the discard pile (can it be rescued and how many cards are taken from the deck each time). In all, we created about 30 rules to describe many variants of Solitaire.

At the suggestion of the testers, we created some new gestures that speeded up game play, and published Spider 1 Suit, Spider 2 Suits and Spider 4 Suits as in-app upgrade for Blindfold Solitaire. We added a cute zip-pop-bop that tells you that a card can be moved to the foundation.

The biggest request we had was the ability to undo a move. Keeping consistent with our other apps, and since it was a gesture that is not used that often, we selected a 3 finger swipe to the left. Gestures that are commonly performed should be one or two fingers; those that are rare can use 3 fingers.

Blindfold Cryptogram – how hard is it?

I met Doug Wakefield about a year ago when I was in Boston, and he was telling me how much he enjoyed playing Blindfold Racer. Doug’s career includes helping many companies ensure their products or services are accessible.  Doug wanted an entire series of action games, such as boating, flying, and racing. But he also missed solving cryptograms.

cryptogram

A cryptogram is a quote by a famous person, where there the quote is encrypted by simple letter substitution. For example, the letter “A” can be represented by the letter “C”, the letter “B” by the letter “X”, and so on. The phrase “Hello there” could be encrypted as “Asttq uasps”, where “a” means “h”, “s” means “e”, “t” means “l”, “q” means “o”, “u” means “t”, and “p” means “r”.

To solve a cryptogram, you first find the most common letters in the encrypted quote. For example, the letter “e” occurs often in words. In the above example, it occurred 3 times. In the encryption, the letter “s” occurs three times, so if you were trying to solve that cryptogram, there’s a pretty good change the letter “s” translates as the letter “e”.

Using the frequency of letters, and trying to solve the short words before the long words, you can eventually figure out the entire cryptogram.

Doug’s idea for Blindfold Cryptogram would allow him to flick left and right through the cryptogram, and be able to hear both the encrypted letters, as well as the portions that he had already decoded.

We based the app on the 9 by 9 Sudoku game that we had already built with Judy Dixon, and found about 100 popular quotes by people such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Maya Angelou and Nelson Mandala.

The hardest part of building this game was making it clear whether you were hearing the encrypted version or your decoded version. We solved that by speaking the encrypted version in a man’s voice, and your decoded version in a woman’s voice. We also created gestures so you could hear either the letters, or each word that you’ve translated. That helps because as you get closer to the solution, you start to recognize which words must be in the quote for it to make sense.

BNOHQD MZT TVOWCHJ SE LYZJ OLZKB LYCHWMZYW JOSVD.

Blindfold Games and Ebola – Are you serious?

A few days ago, I was talking about how I found some Chinese programmers who would sell me their programming code for a video game, that I could then convert into an audio game.

Symptoms-Of-Ebola-Virus-Picture

I wanted the programmers to simply show on the screen the words: 10 diamonds, 6 clubs, 9 hearts, 8 spades, Q hearts.  If they could make that transition, I could easily convert their code into an audio game.

All four of the programmers were from China, and I discussed what I wanted with each of them.  They came back with offers from $500 to $2000, much higher than my budget.  Two of them finally dropped their offer to $250, and I selected to work with Lian.  His English was fairly good, and he understood my goals.

He asked for a $50 deposit to start the project; I put $250 into an escrow account with Freelancer.com.  One feature of websites like Freelancer – websites where you can hire people anywhere in the world to do work for you, (including Guru.com or Elance.com) is that they will maintain an escrow account for your funds, and release the money to the contractor in stages.  Each time the contractor completes another phase of your project, you tell Freelancer.com to give the contractor some of the money.  If the contractor fails to deliver, or there is a disagreement, you can have the problem arbitrated by the Freelancer.com.

He confirms that he can deliver the modified program in two weeks, and I release the first $50 payment to Lian.  Two weeks later, I contact him, and he says he’s been a little delayed, and will have something to me in a week.  One week later, I contact him several more times, with no response.  A week after that, he tells me that he was very busy finishing a project for someone else, and that I would have everything I want in three days.

Two more weeks go by with no word from him, so I open up a dispute with Freelancer.com.  He immediately responds telling me that he is currently sick with Ebola, and he is in quarantine and won’t be able to finish until he is released.  Keep in mind that this was when the media was consumed with Ebola reporting.

I’m sure he thought I was a naive, but couldn’t he come up with a better excuse than Ebola?  Living in Beijing (or so it claimed on his Freelancer.com profile)?  It confounds me to this day why he chose this excuse, if he actually intended on finishing the project.    If he never had any intention to complete the project, why did he bother?

Freelancer.com found in my favor for the dispute, and refunded my money.

Update: He contacted me about 4 months later, and asked if I had any more projects for him.  I asked him how he was feeling after his life-threatening illness and he had no idea what I was talking about.