Blindfold Games wins Developer of the Year

Thanks to all of the people who voted for us – we won AppleVis’s Developer of the Year.  Blindfold Bowling won 3rd place for the Best iOS game for 2015.

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Candidates for Developer of the Year must:

  • Have a long-standing, exemplary commitment to making their apps fully accessible to blind and low vision users.
  • Be receptive and responsive to the needs of blind and low vision users in a timely manner.
  • Have delivered significant new features or updates to their app(s) during 2015, particularly updates which directly benefit blind and low vision users.

The 25 games we’ve created the past two years are enjoyed by thousands of visually impaired people.  If you have ideas for more games, please email us.

 

 

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Blindfold Skee Ball – Why Vee Ball?

When I started looking into building a bowling game, I still had not learned how to integrate a physics engine into the games, and I thought I could create a Skee Ball game without a physics engine.  In the arcade Skee Ball game, you roll a wooden ball up a ramp, and where it lands in a hole at the bottom of several concentric circles.  The smaller the circle, the more points you earn.

skeeball machine

After studying the game for a while, I determined that Skee Ball does indeed need a physics engine; I created Blindfold Bowling first, and then started on Skee Ball.

The difference between Skee Ball and Bowling is that bowling is a two dimensional problem – you roll a ball towards pins and they knock into other pins.  If the pins move too far, they fall down.  In Skee Ball, you roll a ball up a ramp, it flies through the air for a few feet, and then drops into one of the circles and rolls into the hole at the bottom of the circle.  That adds a vertical component to the two dimensional problem, hence its needs a 3D physics package.

game screen from vee ball

Fortunately, the Skee Ball problem can be solved using a two dimensional analog of the game.  Instead of tossing the ball up in the air and landing in concentric circles with a hole at each circle’s bottom, you could also roll the ball down a ramp where there are successively larger V shapes.   Imagine the highest V is about twice the width of the ball.  The next lower V shape  is about 4 times the width of the ball, the next 6 times and so on.  As the ball rolls down the ramp, if it hits one of the arms of the V, it will follow that arm down to the hole at the bottom of the V.  If it misses the arms of the V, it will continue rolling down the ramp to the next lowest V, eventually hitting the arms of the lowest V, or ending up in the gutter.

That’s how we built the game, and Blindfold Vee Ball gives a very similar experience as Skee Ball.  When you tap the screen to insert a coin, you hear 9 wooden balls rolling into a slot where you can then launch each of the balls by swiping up on the screen.  If you swipe too quickly, the ball goes beyond the top V, and you get no points.  If you swipe too slowly, the ball lands in the gutter. If you swipe just right, you can score from 10 to 100 points per ball.

So that’s where the name “Vee Ball” came from.  And the name “Skee Ball” is copyrighted.

Blindfold Word Ladder: Step by Step

Over the past few months, blind gamers have asked me to create an audio version of Scrabble.  Not only is that a fairly complex game, but there are copyright issues that would need to be overcome.

ladder

Instead, I started looking at popular word games, and came across the Word Ladder game.  In order to win the game, you change the start word into the end word progressively, creating an existing word at each step, and changing only one letter at a time.

For example, to convert COLD to WARM, first change COLD to CORD, then CORD to CORM, then CORM to WORM, and finally WORM to WARM.  Word Ladder was invented by Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland) in 1877.

Blindfold Word Ladder had to solve the word ladder before it shows the start and end words to you, just to make sure the puzzle is solvable using normal words found in a dictionary.  It also needs to determine how many steps are needed to solve the puzzle.

The first challenge was to create a computer program to solve the word ladder.  This problem has been studied by computer scientists for the past 30 years, trying to find the fastest way to arrive a solution.  I used a breadth-first search approach, and in most cases, on an iPhone, a 3 letter word is solved in under a second, and a 4 letter word is solved in under 10 seconds.

I also had to find a dictionary that was not copyright protected.  There are several available for free, and I extracted all of the 3, 4 and 5 letter words for the game.

To win the most points, you must solve the ladder in as few steps as possible, and not ask for any hints.  Each additional step, or each hint given by the Blindfold Word Ladder, will reduce the your score.

Once the initial version of the Blindfold Word Ladder was ready, I sent it out to the testers that help me with all of the games.  Most of these people prefer other types of games, but a few gave it a try, and pointed out its problems.

More in the next blog.