Blindfold Games: Thank You e-Card (Updated)

I just received this audio eCard sent with Blindfold Greeting from Lydia A.  It’s nice to hear from the game fans – her card is about a minute and a half minute long.

Thank You Note

Listen here: http://qormagic.com/blogsounds/thanks1.m4a

Another fan, Debbie C.,  wrote me saying “I am totally blind and reside near Melbourne, Australia. I recently purchased Fireworks and love it! Today, after having trialled Oppoly, I bought the bundle.  I like the choice of country (for the game board layout). That is a good initiative!”

I get a few “Thank You” emails like these each week.  If you like the games, please let me know.  If you don’t, tell me what bothers you, and perhaps we can collaborate and improve them.

You can see a list of all Blindfold Games here:

https://blindfoldgames.org/apps-we-built/

Blindfold Monopoly: What’s a good trade?

The game that was requested more than any other game, when I did a survey about a year ago, was Monopoly.

Monopoly banker

For those of you living under a rock, Monopoly is a board game that originated in the United States in 1903 as a way to demonstrate that an economy which rewards wealth creation is better than one in which monopolists work under few constraints and to promote the economic theories of Henry George, and in particular his ideas about taxation.  Since the board game was first commercially sold in the 1930s, it has become a part of popular world culture, having been locally licensed in more than 103 countries and printed in more than thirty-seven languages.

With many games, I research open-source games, and look at the programming code written by other software engineers.  I study how they approached the game on a computer, such as Windows or Mac.  Sometimes a programmer had a great idea on how to present the game, and I can translate what they’ve created into an audio equivalent.

With Monopoly, the game rules are straightforward, the board layout is well known, so other people’s programs didn’t really help.  Almost all of the games I found were designed for people to play against each other; I wanted to find one where you played against a competent computer opponent.  I evaluated over 30 different open source Monopoly programs, and while some of them did let you play against a computer, it played horrendously.

I stumbled upon a master thesis written about 20 years ago, where the researcher came up with strategies for a greedy player,  an evil player, a cheap player, an extravagant player, and for fun, a stupid player.  The differences relate to what types of properties they collect, how often them build houses, how often they mortgage properties, and how they decide which properties to trade.

When I started testing the game, called Blindfold Oppoly, I let you pick which types of players are in the game.  The testers told me that the players were too predictable, and they found it easy to come up with a strategy to win against each player type.

I created a “wise” player that took the best features of each of the four player types, and randomly set which tendencies each computer player would have.  Most times, the wise player makes the best possible move, but sometimes he reverts back to a tendency.  That made the game far more interesting.

While I’ll describe some of the features of the game in another blog, what I found fascinating was reading blogs about when to how to make a good a trade in Monopoly.  Apparently, a trade only makes sense if you end up with a monopoly with rents higher than your opponent.  If you need a monopoly, and you end up with lower rents in the trade, you must get sufficient additional cash to handle landing on their hotel several times.  In addition, it makes sense to mortgage everything you own to achieve your monopolistic goals.

You can download Blindfold Oppoly here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-oppoly/id1175945148?mt=8

 

Blindfold Bowling’s Birthday

Blindfold Bowling was created about 2 years ago, and it continues to be one of the most popular Blindfold Games.  If you follow my blog, you’ve probably read some testimonials from people who rediscovered bowling through this game, or play the game when they aren’t bowling in their blind bowling league.

person bowling

With visual bowling apps – where you see the action on the screen – you position yourself by moving your finger left and right  a picture of the bowling alley on your phone, and then you swipe in the direction you want the ball to move.

In Blindfold Bowling –  an audio game – you position yourself by moving your finger left and right.  The game tells you where are: when your finger is on the left edge of the phone, a woman says five.  As you move your finger towards the center, the woman counts down to 1, then says “center’, then a man starts counting up from 1 to 5, where 5 is the right edge of the phone.

I asked the gamers how they wanted to choose the angle to throw the ball.  I got back so many different alternatives, the game comes with 3 methods.  The simplest is a straight throw.  After you position yourself, you swipe up.  The ball travels straight towards the pins.  It’s very easy, and it’s a great way for someone to learn how to play Blindfold Bowling.

If you want to pick an angle, you can use “One Finger Aim and Throw”.  First, position yourself on the bowling alley as described above, pause briefly, then, to aim, flick in the direction that you want the ball to go.

To be even more accurate in your bowling, use the “Two Finger Aim and Throw”.  Position yourself using your thumb (not your forefinger), and then touch your fore-finger on the screen, and rotating your finger left and right (while you keep your thumb in the same spot) until you have ball aimed exactly where you want.  Finally, pause briefly, then flick your fore-finger.

While everyone seemed to like these three methods, I did get a lot of fans requesting another method.  Like the Wii device for playing games on a TV, they wanted to swing their arm as if they were bowling with the phone, instead of a bowling ball.  My fear was that people would be tossing their phones across the room.  I could just imagine the number of emails I would get telling me how much they loved the game, but now they needed a new iPhone.  Maybe I should sell a wrist strap to go with the phone, if I ever add that feature.

You can download Blindfold Bowling here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-bowling/id1038994263?mt=8

 

 

Blindfold Family Feud

It’s not actually called Family Feud like the TV Game show; instead, it’s entitled Blindfold Feud.

Family Feud game board showing joint answer

TV Game shows are the most popular category of games that I’ve built.  Spin and Solve, inspired by Wheel of Fortune, has almost as many players as Blindfold Bowling or Blindfold Racer, the two most popular games.

With Family Feud, you must come up with answers to questions that are not necessarily correct, but are popular.  In a recent Family Feud episode, the host put up the question “What is something that people like to pass around”, and the most popular answer was “a joint”.  Other answers included a lighter, sickness, thanksgiving dinner and yard tools.  You win points based on how popular your answer was.

Typing the most popular answer in Blindfold Feud couldn’t work, because there are so many different ways to express the same thing (“a joint”, “marijuana”, “weed”), and it would be very difficult for the game to determine if your answer is the same as the popular answer.

Instead, I created several game variants.  The ranking game, shows you a list of answers, and you must pick the most popular answer; you win points based on the answer’s popularity.  If 70% of the people picked “joint”, you would win 70 points.  Your turn continues until you get a wrong answer, and then your computer opponent goes.

The testers suggested adding guessing game, where you guess the answer after being told the first letter.

If the question is “Name Something A Parent Reminds Kid Use At Summer Camp”, the popular answers are Toothbrush, Sunscreen, and Soap.  The game reads you the question, tells you there are 3 answers, and tells you that one answer that begins with the letter “T”, and the other two answers begin with the letter “S”.  When you type the letters “T”, “O”, and “O”, you get credit for the “Toothpaste” answer, and win points.

I purchased a list of questions and answers, added a computer opponent whose skill you can vary, and released the game as Blindfold Feud.  You can download it here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-feud/id1200250347?mt=8

Blindfold Games: Little things matter

I receive many emails thanking me for the games, many expressing surprise about how many games there are, and telling me how much fun they have playing the games.

suggestion box

Kimberly R. wrote to me about the Euchre card game,  saying “I love, love, love this game. It has helped me grow more confident when playing with others in person around the card table.   I’d like to thank you for making this and many more games so myself and others who are blind can have games to play on our phones.

I don’t think it’s simply that the games exist and are accessible that makes the games popular.   It’s that the testers, who are all visually impaired, as well as the fans, tell me how game should be enhanced, and I listen.

For example, in Blindfold Pinball, the testers told me to create  a “Learn Bumper Sounds” screen.  Pinball has over many different sound packs, where each sound pack is a different pinball machine, such as a wild-west pack, an animal pack, and  a body pack (including burps and farts).  The “Learn Bumper Sound” screen tells you which sound corresponds to which bumper, and its point score, as the pinball bounces around the pinball machine.  Knowing the sounds helps you know when to hit the flipper, so the ball is shot as high as possible to score more points.

In Blindfold Invaders, testers suggested that I create a “Learn Sounds” screen so people can identify each of the 14 sounds they will hear during the game.  Even though the sounds are described in the user guide, the testers told me that having a menu of the sounds, such as “Incoming missile from invader”, or “invaders moving left” or “right edge warning” would make the game easier to understand.

Blindfold Barnyard initially told you where the animals are situated using compass directions, such as “The closest pig is to the northeast”.   In the game, to get to the pig, you  slide your finger to the upper left.  The testers said I should add clock directions as an alternative, since many visually impaired people use clock directions instead of compass directions.  In this mode, the game now says “The closest pig is at 2 o’clock”.

It’s these little things that make a difference between a good game and a great game, and I really appreciate the feedback, so I can continue to improve the games.

Blindfold Travel Cards

Some of you may have played the game “Mille Bornes” when you were growing up.  The game was created in 1954 by Edmond Dujardin, and was quite similar to the earlier American automotive card game Touring.   Parker Brothers acquired the American license in 1965, was eventually acquired by Hasbro.  It was one of the most popular games in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and is still sold today.

mille bornes french cards

In Mille Bornes, you are in a road race based on playing the cards in your hand. The first player to complete 700 miles wins.  There are hazard, remedy, safety, and distance cards. Each hazard is corrected by a corresponding remedy, and is actually prevented from happening in the first place by a corresponding safety.  The 700 miles is reached by playing distance cards.

I received many requests to create a Blindfold variant of this game, and published Blindfold Road Trip about 18 months ago.  You can play against one to three computer opponents, and as you play each card, you hear sound effects for that card: the “200 mile” card sounds like a car speeding by, the “flat tire” card sounds like a tire leaking air, the “go” card sounds like an engine starting and the “repair” card is reminiscent of an automobile body shop.

Blindfold Road Trip was hit, and people asked for more variants of the game, using airplanes, space ships or boats.  The trick to building other versions of the game was to not break the overall game logic, and still allow the computer opponents to play intelligently.  And I needed to do this without rewriting the game for each type of transportation.

First, I renamed the game to Blindfold Travel Cards.

The basic automobile game has 7 distance cards: 25, 50, 75, 100 and 200 miles.  Looking at this another way, if the slowest distance card is the value “X”, the distance cards have values: X, 2X, 3X, 4X and 8X.  Then there are 4 hazards, 4 repairs for those hazards, and 4 super cards to protect you from the hazards.

I modified the automobile game to create a sailing game using the above principles.  The slowest sailing speed is 2 knots.  Hence, the distance cards are: 2, 4, 6, 8 and 16 knots.  I created 4 hazards, such as a ripped sail or broken rudder, repairs for each, and super cards.  I bought some cool sound effects, and launched the game: you can play it with either an automobile or a sailboat.

Next, I created the train game.  The slowest train speed is 10 kilometers per hour, so the distance cards are 10, 20, 30, 40 and 80 kilometers.  The hazards include broken air brakes and out of coal, with repairs and super cards for each.  Mix-in some sound effects, create an instruction guide, and the train game was ready.

You can download Blindfold Travel Cards here:

https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/blindfold-travel-cards/id1080225770?mt=8

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.

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