Blindfold Game Rejected by Apple. Again.

It’s rather funny when I submit a game to the Apple App Store, and have it rejected.  Keep in mind that I’ve built about 70 games, so I know how to avoid doing things that would cause a rejection.

font-sizes

Usually the reason for rejection is that the screen shots don’t accurately reflect the game.  Games on the App Store can have up to 5 screen shots for someone to get a feeling on how the game works, and Apple insists the screen shots must be sufficiently informative and accurate.

I tried explaining to Apple that about 90% of the people who download Blindfold Games are blind, and screen shots are meaningless.  Apple replies “You need screen shots so that other people know what the app will do, otherwise they won’t get the game”.  I replied, “Yes, that’s the point.  Sighted people are not interested in audio games.  Why should I bother?”  Apple replies “Because if you don’t, we’ll reject your app.” (Apple phrased it more pleasantly than that, but that was their point).

In the latest round, they rejected Blindfold Word Search, because they didn’t like the screen layout.  Even though it’s an audio game, I still show the word search grid, up to 20 rows by 20 columns, on the screen, using a font size of about 8.  Apple said the grid was not properly centered, and the font was too small; that violates Apple’s rule of good screen layout.  I countered with that doesn’t matter – it’s an audio game, and I can just keep the screen dark.   Apple said that too violates the screen layout rule.

I said I can make the font bigger, but then half of the columns won’t fit on the screen.  Apple said that’s OK, people can scroll back and forth.  I said that blind people navigate in the word search grid by swiping left, right, up and down, and that adding scrolling would just make the game confusing, and since they don’t see the screen, how would they know when to scroll the screen.

Apple said the app, as it stands now, may work for blind people, but it doesn’t match Apple’s requirements for everyone else, so sighted people will think the font is too small to see; you need to raise the font size, allow for scrolling.

We went back and forth like this for 34 minutes.  I timed it.  I have a fix that can work, but it’s a complete waste of time and effort.

Latest update: I made the changes last night, and Apple approved the app today.  Details on this app in the next blog.

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Blindfold Games in Iowa

I was invited as a featured speaker at the ICUB – Iowa Council of the United Blind -Convention and Conference in Des Moines over the past few days.  I was supposed to fly in for the three day conference , and run several sessions, but circumstances prevented that, and I attended via Skype.

iowa department for the blind logo

ICUB is a consumer-run organization whose educational, advocacy, support, and other activities are based on the contention that blind and visually impaired people can and do fully participate in their families, communities, and jobs.

For each session, we prepared several iPads with a handful of games for people to play with, and I talked about a couple of games: how they were built, what’s unusual about the game, and how they are tested.  People played with the games for the remainder of the session.

In the first session, I demonstrated Blindfold Blackjack and Blindfold Bowling.  As usual, about 10% of the people knew and loved my games, and the rest were introduced to them for the first time.  The most common question I received was: “When I’m playing Blackjack, who is Bob and why does he always win?  I think he cheats”.

Actually, Bob is one of the four people that you play against in most of the games, and you can vary your opponent’s expertise.  I picked the four opponent names; it’s easy for you to change those names. I used two male names, and two female names; the male names are friends of mine; one of the female names is a family member, and the other female name is similar to another family member.

In the second session, I demonstrated Blindfold Sound Search and Blindfold Bird Songs, and talked about how they were built: Bird Songs was a collaboration with students of a birding class at the Hadley School for the Blind.  We also played with Blindfold Spin and Spell – a variant of Wheel of Fortune – and I described how the Braille Spin and Spell helps people practice their braille contractions.

I had more volunteers for game testing, and revealed some of the new games coming out, including Blindfold Invaders and Blindfold Clues.

The final session was focused on Blindfold Greeting Card and Blindfold Racer, and how they were created.  Blindfold Racer, the flagship game, took over 6 months to build, working with sighted students in 5th, 6th and 7th grade as a S.T.E.M. project at my daughter’s school, and Blindfold Greeting card took several weeks, and was tested for several months.

When I mentioned that thousands of people participated in the Blindfold Racer World-Wide Championship that we ran last year, many attendees requested another Championship in 2017.

You can get a full list of the Blindfold Games here: BlindfoldGames.org

 

 

Blindfold Games & Cerebral Palsy

Last week, I received an email from Jim H. telling me how much he enjoyed some of my games and that he thought the Talking Information Center interview was very cool.

cerebral palsy awareness logo

He went on to say that he has mild cerebral palsy, and plays Blindfold Pinball on a slow level, and really likes that game.  He said there aren’t that many games available on the App Store that can be slowed down to accommodate coordination limitations.

Last week, he told me that now Blindfold Air Hockey is his favorite game – it too can be adjusted for player speed.  He thought there might be other people with Cerebral Palsy that would enjoy the games, and we talked about posting some inquires on related Facebook groups

I asked to join one such group, and was approved the next day, and posted the inquiry.  Within a few hours, I had about a dozen likes, and two people commented.  If you know of people who need games that can be slowed down as an accommodation, please contact me.  I will start ramping up the effort to join many of the Cerebral Palsy Facebook groups, similar to what I do with several Facebook Blind and Low Vision groups.  We post each blog to about 20 Facebook groups.

Talking Information Center interviews Blindfold Games

The Talking Information Center is a non-profit reading service that broadcasts newspapers,magazines, books, and special consumer information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to visually impaired and print impaired listeners.

poplogo

Their volunteers read selections from the Boston Globe, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Boston Herald, the Washington Post and the New York times, and have special shows including Science Hour, Spanish News, Pets, Diabetes Update, Book Hour, Business, and local Massachusetts community news.

John Shea of the Talking Information Center interviewed me about 2 years ago, and I met him again was at a recent event, and he invited me back to the show entitled Mission Possible.

We talked about how I got started with these games, how the games are built, and what new games are coming.

You can listen here:

You can visit their website here:   http://ticnetwork.org

Blindfold Greeting Card: Getting it wrong

Prior to creating Blindfold Greeting Card, I discussed the app with lots of visually impaired people, and they all thought it was a great idea.

greeting card

The app lets you send an audio e-card to someone else, via email, text message, Facebook, twitter, etc.  First you select one sound effect out of 500 audio clips, varying from 5 to 30 seconds long, and then you record yourself speaking a greeting.  The app combines both audio clips, and adds an 8 second promotion for Blindfold Greeting Card, and stores it at a website.

To send your e-card via text, just push the text message button, and enter your friend’s phone number, and off it goes.  When your friend gets the text message, she taps the weblink in the message, and hears your card.

It’s great for a blind person to send to a sighted person, so the sighted person can appreciate the card in the same medium that it was created it in.  It’s far better than sending an video e-card with a description that says “cute puppy under a tree”.  Likewise, sighted friends and relatives can send a card to a visually impaired person in a format that he can fully enjoy.

So here’s where I got it wrong.

  1. Most of the people who got this app used the pre-recorded sample messages instead of recording one themselves. I thought recording yourself would be great; I learned its a nice feature, but not a requirement.
  2. The app charges about 10 cents per card you send.  If you send the same card to 5 people, that’s about 50 cents.  What people did was create one card, send it to themselves for 10 cents, and then forward it to their friends at no additional cost.
  3. The audio e-card has the following message at the end of their audio clip: “Brought to you by Blindfold Games.  Visit us at blindfoldgames.org”.  People hated that promotional message.
  4. The price is $1.00 for 10 cards, $5 for 60 cards and $10 for 125 cards.  Almost all games have a price for unlimited usage, and people wanted an unlimited usage price for Blindfold Greeting Card.  I didn’t do this since there are costs associated with storing each audio card at a website.

I had a conversation with one of the fans of Blindfold Greeting Card, and he suggested I approach the app differently, and I’m working on those changes:

  1. Create an unlimited usage price.  Fortunately, the storage costs have gone done since the app was introduced last year, and that’s now economically feasible.
  2. Offer the ability to remove the promotional message as an purchasable upgrade.
  3. Have more prerecorded messages in addition to “Happy Birthday”.
  4. Let people be able to type in a message, and have the app speak it as part of the greeting.  This would be an alternative to recording your own voice.

We hope to get this new version out within a month.

Blindfold Boggling

Over the past few years, I’ve had a several requests for the word game Boggle and Scrabble.  It wasn’t clear to me how to do a good Scrabble game where you play against the computer, since the computer has access to a dictionary, and that seems like an unfair advantage.

4 by 4 board of letter cubes

Boggle, on the other hand, appeared more realistic, and there are many variants of Boggle so that a sightly different game could be created without violating the Boggle copyright.

Our version is called Blindfold Biggle.

If you are unfamiliar with Boggle, it’s a set of cubes arrange in a 4 by 4 pattern.  Each cube has 6 letters on it (one letter per side), and you spin all the cubes, so that you get a random pattern of letters.  From the letters, you must form words that are at least 3 letters long.  For example, a Boggle board could have the following letter combination:

M A V W

U S E A

F  I R L

E O S H

You can form a word by connecting adjacent letters, above, below, left, right, or diagonal, and you cannot use a letter cube twice in the same word.  For example, USE and SEA can be created on the second line, FUSE can be created from the first letter of the third line, and the first three letters of the second line, and SUM can be created by the 2nd and 1st letter of the second line, and the first letter of the first line, and SIR by the third letter of the fourth one, and the 2nd and 3rd letter of the third line.

The first step in building Boggle was to create an algorithm to determine all of the valid words.  I found several master’s thesis by people solving this problem; the easiest solution for a computer is to take all of the 3 letters words in its dictionary, and then attempt to find them in the puzzle, then take all of the 4 letter words, and so on.  It’s not how a person would solve the puzzle, but it does work, and on an iPhone, it can be done in under a second, using a dictionary of over 40,000 words.

We created a 4 by 4 variant of Boggle, with some changes from the original game, and called it Word Flick.  We did a 5 by 5 variant as well, a 6 by 6 variant, and a timed game for each of the variants.  To win the game, you try to get as many words as you can; the longer the word, the more points you score.

To download this game:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-word-biggle/id1182837304?mt=8