I remember when Flappy Bird was all the rage, and it seemed like everyone was playing it on their phone. Back in 2014, Flappy Bird, created by Vietnamese software developer Dong Nguyen, went from obscurity to the #1 game for the iPhone in 53 countries – in under 28 days. It was downloaded millions of times each day, and was generating over $50,000 a day in advertising. From what I’ve read, he removed the game from the app store when he was flamed on social media.
Other developers created dozens of Flappy Bird clones, and it was even used in software engineering classes; when I taught programming to 7th and 8th graders, I used a course based on Flappy Bird using MIT’s App Inventor development platform.
If you are unfamiliar with Flappy Bird, your task is to direct a flying bird who moves continuously to the right, between sets of Mario-like pipes. If the bird touches a pipe, you lose and the game is over. The bird briefly flaps upward each time you tap the screen; if the screen is not tapped, the bird falls because of gravity; each pair of pipes that you navigate through earns a point.
I wanted to create an audio version of Flappy Bird, but I couldn’t figure out how to give audio indicators of the bird’s position on the screen, the position of the opening in the pipes, and how close the pipes were to the bird.
One of those problems was easy: the distance between the bird and the pipes. Since you play the game with headphones, the pipe sound moves from your right ear to your left ear; when its at the center of your head, that’s when the bird should move through the pipe’s opening.
How should the game tell you how high the bird is, and the location of the pipe’s opening? Sound, on the iPhone, has three primary attributes that can continuously vary: left-to-right location, volume and pitch. I decided to use pitch for the bird’s height.
Each time you tap the screen, the bird’s pitch becomes slightly higher, as the bird moves up a little on the screen. Tap several times, and the pitch becomes much higher. The sound of the pipes, as they move closer, is at a constant pitch. You know the bird is lined up with the opening in the pipes when the bird’s pitch matches the pipe’s pitch.
The game lets you pick amongst several sounds that vary in pitch: the note “A”, a tone similar to what a phone makes when you press the “9” button, the a bird squeak, a dog bark, and a frog “ribbit” sound.
To play with Blindfold Flappy, press here: