Blindfold Unhappy User

I received an email from a blind user of the games expressing disappointment that the games cost more than she wants to pay.  Here’s what she said:

sad-smiley-face

It is with great sadness I write that I feel I must remove all the games I have downloaded from my phone. I had downloaded hearts, spades and crazy 8s but inasmuch as I enjoy playing each and would probably enjoy some of your others, I feel we are being nickel and dimed to death.

I had paid for starter packs with them when I initially downloaded each but now it seems like each one of the games wants me to purchase more starter packs. 

Now, I do understand it costs to produce these games but I only wish there had been a one time charge, a starter pack that would cover all the games in one.  

With another game competitor I only paid one price to rid myself of the ads and it covers all of their games I’ve played. That competitor also provides keyboard play which your games do not.

I am sure I probably won’t be missed but i did want to voice my opinion and let you understand why I feel as i do. of course it is what it is. I might also mention I know of others that for the various reasons mentioned above, they’ve chosen not to consider downloading your games.

(end of her email).
I asked the dozens of blind people who test the apps what they thought about her comments, and I really appreciate their answers.  While several people mentioned that many in the blindness community are on fixed income, and live on a tight budget, they realize that building the games requires an investment of time and money, and they appreciate my efforts, and most think the games are priced fairly.  Several of them were indignant about how some people expect everything to be free.

The following reply sums it up best.  He broke out his answers to her comments and how he would have replied:

Customer: It is with great sadness i write that I feel I must remove all the games i have downloaded from my phone.

His reply: You did not have to delete them, and if what you say below is true, I don’t understand your “sadness”.

Customer: I feel we are being nickel and dimed to death.

His reply: You are not being forced to pay.

Customer: I had paid for starter packs with them when I initially downloaded each but now it seems like each one of my games wants me to purchase more starter packs (for new games).

His reply: This is true. Listen to AppleVis Extra #36 from January where Marty explains this.

Customer: Now, I do understand it costs to produce these games but I only wish there had been a one time charge, a starter pack that would cover all the games in one.

His reply: The abovementioned podcast talks about this as well.

One of the testers also mentioned: “I am guessing the one she paid for ads to be removed is Dice World. Those are very simple games”.

In almost all cases, the prices are set based on how many hours of unique play the game offers, how many varieties of games are included, and how unpopular it was (a few games failed to gain a following).  Prior to announcing the game, I ask the testers how it should be priced, and in most cases, I set the prices lower than their suggestions.

All games follow the model of initial free plays so someone can learn the game well enough to decide if they want to buy it, and price if from $3 to $5, with optional add-ons that are priced between $2 and $4.  They all come with a $1 option for 10 to 25 more game plays, so you can continue to play at a very low cost prior  to buying unlimited usage.  Many of the games that offer multiple games (such as Word Games), let you get everything for one lower bundled price.

I’ve been toying with the idea of also charging a monthly subscription to have unlimited access to all of the games (there are 35 as of today).  If you have an opinion on that, please email me at marty@blindfoldgames.org.

 

 

Blindfold Games: Is Hangman Hard?

One of the games in the Blindfold Word Games pack is Hangman.  Almost everyone knows hangman, but making the game fun requires that the words be challenging.  Otherwise, you’ll guess the word in 6 or 7 attempts.

picture of a hangman drawing

It’s easy to find a list of words that are easy or of moderate difficulty.  Finding really hard words on other other hand takes a bit of research.  It’s not the length or obscurity of the word that makes it hard; its the use of infrequently used letters, such as “X” or “Z”.

Here’s an excerpt from a blog by Jon McLoone: “Back in 2007, I wrote a game of hangman for a human guesser on the train journey from Oxford to London. I spent the time on the London Underground thinking about optimal strategies for playing it, and wrote the version for the computer doing the guessing on the return journey. It successfully guessed my test words and I was satisfied, so I submitted both to the Wolfram Demonstrations Project. Now, three years later, my daughter is old enough to play, but the Demonstration annoys her, as it can always guess her words. She asked the obvious question that never occurred to me at the time: “What are the hardest words I can choose, so that I can beat it?”

Jon used game theory to design a program that could play hangman and learns as it wins and loses each game, and then, using a 90,000 word dictionary, he simulated 15 million games.

So back to the question: which are better, long words or short? Jon was surprised to discover that the average mistake rate is highest for short words. The reason seems to be simply that the more the letters vary, the less likely a person is to miss them. In the extreme, a word with 14 different letters cannot win a 13-game. There are only 12 wrong letters out there.

For short words, he found “jazz” to be one of the hardest.  For long words, “powwowing”, “bowwowing”, and “huzzahing” are difficult.

Blindfold Word Games now include all of the hard words he found in the “difficult” game level.

 

 

 

Blindfold Threes

I tend to alternate creating different types of games: movement games, such Bowling or Air Hockey, casino games, such as Blackjack or Craps, card games, such as Rummy or Solitaire, and puzzle games.

I was thinking about which puzzle game to create next, and the most popular request was for a version of Candy Crush.  Candy Crush is probably one of the most popular games, and generates a lot of money for the company that owns it.  Coming up with an audio equivalent of Candy Crush isn’t that easy, so I decided to pick a simpler game first.

2048 puzzle board

Threes and 2048 are simple tile games where you combine multiple adjacent tiles together to remove the tiles.

2048 is played on a 4 by 4 grid, where you combine identical numbers to produce their sum.  Hence, in the above puzzle, with line three reading: 2, 2, 4, 32, you can combine 2 plus 2 to generate a 4, resulting in 4, 4, 32, open-space.  Then you can combine 4 plus 4 to generate an 8, resulting in 8, 32, open-space, open-space.  You win the game when you combine 1024 plus 1024, yielding 2048.

Threes is similar, but you combine multiples of 3, such as 6 plus 6, together.   I’ve heard both games called “Candy Crush” for math geeks.

The challenge in making this game enjoyable as an audio game was to find the best gestures to manipulate the puzzle.  The testers suggested that a one-finger swipe tell you what is one the row or column where you swipe, and a two-finger swipe move the rows or columns in that direction.  Using those gestures, game play is very fast, and fun.

For the sound environment, I wanted something to keep your mind sharp and engaged and be consistent with the game.   I picked Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto Number Three.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blindfold Games in the Barn

Last year, I was watching my daughter play the iPhone game “Goat Evolution” while we were on vacation, and thought a variant that would be a fun audio game.  The idea of Goat Evolution game is to drag two similar goats together, and that produces a newly evolved goat that was worth more points.  You repeat the process with the more powerful goats, until you create the ultimate goat.

animals in barnyard

The basis for the audio equivalent would be where you use finger to explore the screen to find the first goat, then use another finger to find a second goat, and then drag the two goats together.  As you explore, when you  first finger passes over a goat, you would hear the goat, and the goat would then follow that finger; the gestures would be the same for the second goat.

I prototyped this game, and found that locating goats was extremely difficult, and dragging them towards each other almost impossible.  Not only was the game hard to play when I was looking at the screen, getting the app to switch quickly between one finger and two finger dragging is unreliable on the iPhone.

I modified the game to use just one finger, and instead of combining with another animal, the goal of the game was to drag the animal to the edge of the screen.  That turned the game into Blindfold Barnyard: drag barnyard animals to the north, south, east or west fences.

To earn points, once you have a bunch of similar animals at a fence, swipe with 2 fingers to move those animals into the barn.  The more animals that are hitched and moved, the higher you score.  For one animal, one point.  Two animals, three points.  Three animals, six points, and so on.  But if you attempt to hitch a different animal to the fence, all of the animals run away from the fence.  New animals appear in the barnyard every few seconds.

The testers really liked the game, but had trouble finding animals.  I added two methods to locate the animals: compass and clock directions.  With compass directions, the game tells you where the nearest animal is, such as “Horse to the north east”.  With clock directions, the game tells you “Sheep at 3 o’clock”.

I’ve been told some people are scoring as high as 2,000 points in the 3 minute game, and the instructions are quite funny.

You can get this game at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-barnyard/id1069200628?mt=8

 

 

 

 

 

Blindfold Games with Friends

The most common request I get is to let people play with other people.  Instead of playing against the computer, people want to play against other real people.

Apple-game-center

The iPhone and iPad  provide several ways to accomplish this via Game Center, but each method has its drawbacks.  I’ve spent the last year trying to find a good combination of technologies to make many of the Blindfold Games multi-player.

Apple’s Game Center makes it easy to find someone to play with, assuming enough people have the games.  If you can’t find someone to play with, you can invite them to play with you.

First, I tried the method used by many games where a real-time connection is made between two iPhones, and the game goes back and forth between the two players.  If one of the players leaves the game, or the network loses connectivity, the game is over.  I used this method with Crazy Eights and Wildcard (a variant of Uno), but it was very difficult to build, and people didn’t like that when they left the game to answer a phone call, the game ended.

Next, I tried using the Turn-Taking technology  built into Apple’s Game Center.  That was easier to build, but at that time, but it was difficult to test. Each time one of the testers wanted to test out “Crazy Eight with Friends”, not only did I have to create a special Game Center account for them and for their friend to play with, but they had to log out of their existing Game Center account just to test that game.  As you can imagine, almost no one tested it, and it was fraught with problems.  It sometimes took 10 minutes between moves.

Like most software, it takes 3 or 4 attempts before something actually works reliably.  With iOS 9, the Game Center account restriction was removed, I redesigned the multi-player feature of Blindfold Crazy Eight with Friends using a combination of Game Center’s matching making service and a hosting website.  That was much better, and received more testing, but still not perfect.  The major complaint was that multi-player games could not be resumed easily.

In the fourth version, I added a feature so let you resume a multiplayer game even if you powered down your phone – the game now stays around for days.  In addition, thanks to a suggestion from one of the testers, I added the ability to play with other people in the same room.  Using either Bluetooth or Wireless Network, the game looks for a nearby iPhone running the game, and lets you invite that person to a game.

This version of Crazy Eight with Friends is almost out of final testing, and once that’s complete I can start making many of the games multiplayer.

 

 

 

Blindfold Games Video Night

Last week, the New Hampshire Association of the Blind hosted Video Game night at their facility in Concord.  They invited the families of teens with visual impairment to play Blindfold Racer for a few hours.

About 6 teens showed up, and we set them up with iPads and ear buds, downloaded the game from the app store, and let them have fun.  Nazzy, a well-known  New Hampshire radio personality and the local TV station NH1 came to record the teens playing.

Video News Coverage

Nazzy’s radio coverage:

Thanks to Dave Morgan, CEO of NH Association of the Blind who arranged this, and all of the great people who work and volunteer there, as well as the teens who really seemed to enjoy themselves.

If you would like to host a Video Game night in your area, please contact me at marty@blindfoldgames.org