Let's start off with advertising and awareness. To be blunt, it has
hard to get the word out. I tried all the time while I was editor of
I have no doubt Ron has as well. Even when I took opportunities to
who you'd think would be predisposed to be receptive, I met largely
with a blank
That has been my experience as well. There are places right here in Ohio
such as the Cleveland Sight Center, the Ohio Vision Center, etc and one
problem is they generally do training for business oriented applications
such as Jaws, Window Eyes, Openbook, Microsoft Office, etc. While they
like the idea of accessible games they aren't interested in stepping out
of the bounds of business only education and introducing perspective
blind computer users to accessible games. Not sure why the polacies are
that way, but it is clear they don't want to mix business with
entertainment. That leaves us without a very large contributer who is in
the best position to spread the word.
The problem isn't just with games either. I've offered to help train
there instructers in Mac and Linux accessibility in case a perspective
client should need that for work or school. Again I met with resistance,
and all they seam interested in is the same training courses they've
been doing for years. So communicating and introducing new things to
these organizations can pose challenging for developers as well as quite
frustrating to us who know about other alternatives and technologies
that are not getting exposed to the blind community at large.
Also, where are most of us going to find the money for widespread
in itself is a tremendous barrier.
That is definitely the major problem. Whenever a major company like
Activision, Edos, EA Games, etc comes out with a new game they can
sspend thousands of dollars to get some television, radio, and news
paper adds. The average one man operation doesn't have that kind of
money to do it. Mass market add campaigns such as television, radio, and
some major news papers are way out of the price range for most one man
operations. As a result we have to think up cheaper alternatives to
advertising, but if we don't get backing from blind organizations we are
just stuck tredding water.
Look at it another way. Even if I produced a stupendously good game
which sold a thousand copies, I'd
barely make what an average sighted programmer would consider to be a
economics of producing games are very tight. Even a majorly successful
like Dave Greenwood can't make producing games accessible to blind
people a fulltime
I'd like to add that even big name game companies lose money on games
too. They have a larger customer base which helps them make enough to
carve out a living, but not every game they create is a big name seller,
does well, or make the cut. Sometimes a game expected to do well turns
out being labeled a flop when it reaches the mainstream public as has
happened many times.
For example, Edos Interactive flagshipproduct line, Tomb Raider, has
been losing money as well as a customer base over the passed 5 years or
so. Tomb Raider was a huge hit the first two, three, and possably the
first four games, but now it is not the big name seller it once was. In
fact, the latest installment, Tomb Raider Underworld, is being called a
flop by game reviewers. Everyone agrees the graphics are stunning, the
sound effects are extremely good, the music scoring is the best of all
the games, but the lack of a good story line as well as technical
details has ranked it much lower than the previous Tomb Raider games.
Not to mention the U.S. econemy isn't in good shape so game sales
aren't doing well right now to begin with. That kind of disappointing
sales, low reviews, hurts the game company who tried to release a big
selling title, and in Edos case recapture the glory they had 10 years
ago when Tomb Raider was the rave.
Point being is that even if you create a game, mass market it, there is
no assurance it will do well. If Edos can't do it with a flagship
product based on there number one game series how can we small timers
hope to do better?
You need to bring sighted people into the equasion. While they might
find the idea of a sound-based game a novelty worth paying for,
that interest just doesn't seem to last very long. I've found it pretty
to interest sighted people in playing an audio game for very long at
all. They simply
need things to look at.
That also has been my experience. I've tried getting my wife, mother,
dad, etc interested playing this or that audio game with me and they
have no desire to play it. My wife says, "it is boring." That is really
too bad as games like Jim Kitchen's Monopoly is a great time waister,
but no graphics and my family gets really board really quick. As you
said sometimes they just need something to look at to be truly interested.
It's a very tough sell. As a blind developer, I would have major
reservations about getting somebody to create graphics for my game.
Good graphics cost even more money and I'd never know precisely what I
had bought other than through
hearing what other sighted people said about them. Would the world I
create be well
represented or would the graphics alter what people took away from the
game for the worse?
This has been a long standing issue for accessible game developers. In
addition to the cost of graphics, not being able to see what you
created, and it being very technically complicated to program the way
audio games works are often different from those our sighted players
play. For example, in MOTA Beta 2 when the v key is pressed the game is
paused, and all of the items in the room are placed into a list so you
can arrow up and down and look at the various things in the room. This
works for a blind gamer, but for a sighted player having the graphics
and game just freeze like that while the blind person takes the time to
carefully look at everything is a major show stopper. You can't interest
a sighted player into that kind of game, because sighted games are
non-stop action. They can see it so no need to put everything into a
list and review it. So the way I might play a game and my wife plays a
similar game can be completely different. We have to totally rethink the
game development process so that the games audio accurately conveys to
the blind gamer the same thing the sighted player is seeing on screen.
Not impossible, but not easy either.
There are certainly ways of providing the same sort of experience while
legal about it. Do a search on Google for Asteroids clones and you'll
find a ton
of them for sighted people. The same goes for Space Invaders, Pac Man
and many other
classic titles. All of them have sufficient differences from the
so that their owners don't get sued. I believe we have a number of
examples of people
who have approached this whole dilemma quite well.
Exactly. Take Mysteries of the Ancients as an example. It is not a clone
of Tomb Raider made accessible. It is a game likeTomb Raider that is
made accessible. In that way since I have a totally different story,
characters, sounds, music etc the game is different enough that I can't
be sued by Edos Interactive over it. This way I feel blind gamers can
experience a game like Tomb Raider without me having to worry about
As far as Asteroid, Packman, and Space invader clones goes I can name
several. There are a number of free games for Linux that are clones of
one game or another such as Vectoroids (a clone of Asteroids,) KPackman
(a clone of Packman,) Breakout (a clone of Super Breakout,) Penguin
Command (an interesting clone of Missile Command,) etc. If game
companies tried to chase down every single case of cloning they would
wind up spending more in court fees than they would likely get back
inrewards. Besides as you pointed out there often little differences
that makes the game legal in the first place.
To truly change things, you'd need a fully accessible game which had the
as something like Space Invaders or Trivial Pursuit. Something which
original and released at that magical right time where it grabbed hold
as a whole.
In order to do that you really have to have the right idea at the right
time. It takes a lot of creativity and imagination to really get people
excited in your game idea or story. Big name ideas like Star Wars, Star
Trek, Harry Potter, Tomb Raider, you name it just happened to be
introduced at the right time and place that it grabbed a lot of peoples
imagination. It takes a certain type of person to pull that off and
usually that is a once in a life time experience. It is easy to forget
how many books, movies, games, etc didn't make the cut for whatever reason.
This actually makes a very strong case for why game developers base
games on something else more well known. We want to recaptue the magic,
fun, and experience of games that were huge and are now forgotten about
by our mainstream peers. If you have never experienced that game before
it is truly a first time experience. A first real chanse to experience
what most sighted gamers take for granted. Sometimes a tried and true
game is likely to sell better than one totally original. All depends on
what you personally are looking for when buying.
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