Hi Richard and thanks so much for your exellent and informative post. It's been quite a relief to find out things aren't always beyond our control, more like a little thought needs to go into things, as games can be made accessible, it's just the desire and market isn't quite there yet. Unfortunately I can't access sudosan, at the moment, as IE won't open the page, it just clicks away as if it's stuck, but I'll try out the other stuff tomorrow when I have a bit more time. Things have become much more clearer with your explaination, along with superb info from Thomas and others on the list. I really appreciate you taking the time to get this info down, so let's see where it leads us! Cheers Steve. ----- Original Message ----- From: "AudioGames" <rich...@audiogames.net>
To: "Gamers Discussion list" <gamers@audyssey.org>
Sent: Monday, June 28, 2010 1:56 PM
Subject: Re: [Audyssey] Advice on implamenting accessibility into avisual/graphical game?



Hi Steve and list,

Here're some answers from me...


Question 1:
What is the best combination for accessibility within a visual environment. E.g, Java (graphics) and self-voicing? Flash (graphics)
and self-voicing? Java (graphics) and a client TTS based program? etc...

Answer:
The choice of technology depends very much on the type of game that you are going to develop. You need to know the type of graphics that the game is going to use (3D or 2D) and also the platform on which the game is played (PC, iPhone/iPad or (handheld) console, online in browser on website/ Facebook, etc.). There's a wide range of game technology out there so you first need to be more specific. But I can tell you this already: Java and Flash are currently the most popular apps for 2D online/offline graphics, including a 2D sound engine. Unity, Director, Virtools and Quest3D are the most popular (in that order) for online/offline 3D graphics, including a 3D sound engine. Of these, only Director contains standard TTS functionality. But there are many options if you choose to develop for another platform, many including coding (for example C#) instead of
scripting (ActionScript) solutions.


Question 2:
Would 1 approach be more difficult than another? E.g, screenreader over self-voicing?

Answer:
Again, this depends heavily on your game design and the type of experience that you want to accomplish. The benefit of screenreader functionality is that you don't have to produce sound file assets for the text in your game. If your game contains a lot of text this saves a lot of money and time. It also saves a lot on the size of your game (100 text files is much smaller than 100 mp3 files). The downside is that you can't control the sound of the voice on the players computer, with many people having different voices. You also need to somhow get TTS working in your game as not that many game development tools support TTS. Your game will (partially) sound like any other application and that a lot of expression thus immersion of the gamer may probably be lost, compared to a recording of a voice actor. This is one of the benefits of a self-voicing game - you can make it sound great, original, expressive and exciting. You can make it sound like a game and not Word. But of course you need to have the resources (voice over/actor (=not the same), recording capabilities, time) to do that. Also, it will make your game a lot bigger. And many
development tools can simply handle multiple sound files.


Question 3:
Are there any examples of such a graphical game which offer a good gaming experience to both the blind and sighted, which
incorporate audio accessibility?

Answer:
Aside from the obvious ones such as Terraformers and The Blind Eye, that others have already mentioned, there are several games in our AudioGames.net database that feature visuals and from which can be learned. Such as:

http://www.audiogames.net/sudosan/
http://www.audiogames.net/thecurbgame/
http://audiogames.net/db.php?action=view&id=mueckenjagd
http://audiogames.net/db.php?action=view&id=SoundVoyager
http://audiogames.net/db.php?action=view&id=km2000
http://audiogames.net/db.php?action=view&id=tag

Many of the above are accessible but have (light and big) design issues in one way or the other. Sudosan, which I developed, is an accessible version of the popular Sudoku puzzle. It is very boring because solving a 9x9 sudoku takes a lot longer by listening to each row and column compared to having a visual overview of the puzzle. A better solution would have been the option of a 4x4 or 6x6
sudoku.

The Curb Game was intended as a (first) simple online blind-accessible video game, as there were none at that time. What we learned was that adding visuals double the production time (also see final note below).

The game KM2000 is an excellent example on how why one should NOT base your accessible game design on a visual perspective. KM2000 is a racing game in which it was decided to use a top-down perspective and making it possible for a player to rotate his car 360 degrees, thus resulting in many accessibility issues and in a game that is almost unplayable. Would the designers have chosen for a 3rd person (like Outrun) or even 1st person perspective, than the game would have been a whole lot different and better. Lesson learned: base your game design and game perspective on accessibility first (only then on sound), and not on visuals (which has a different possibility space with different properties/dimensions than sound).

Mueckenjagd offers a similar problem. In this fly-swatting type game, the player control a crosshair in a 2D plane (x,y). The crosshair cannot leave this plane and this will bump the edges. When you see this in action, the mechanic is very clear. But the mechanic is very unclear in just sound alone (when there is no visual plane), and it is only enhanced by the minimalistic sound design for the bump notification (a beep, of course :( ). It would maybe have been better if the designers choose to use a 360
rotating on 1 or possibly 2 axis.

I've added Sound Voyager as a game with a "good gaming experience to both the blind and sighted". Both the visual and auditory assets are designed as abstract and it works quite well. When you look at many music-driven games, many of the visuals are abstract shapes (cubes, squares, lines, triangles, etc) with simple animations enriched by nice lighting and special visuals effects. Sound Voyager sticks to simple circles and points though, and still remains a fun game to experience in both sound and visuals.

Final note: Please know that if you want to dig deeper in making blind-accessible video games, that adding imagery includes adding a lot of work and expertise. That if you intend to target sighted gamers, that you must your visuals should be up-to-date to current standards. This doesn't neccesarily mean 3D, though, it may very well be 2D. It does mean well-excecuted visual artwork, proper animation, a reasonable framerate, etc etc. Don't make the same mistake that the non-tripple-A-title-video game industry unfortunately still makes with sound today: don't add the visuals sometime later but plan it together with the whole of your game.

Best regards,

Richard

http://audiogames.net
http://creativeheroes.nl


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