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Example Games

Here are good examples of blind-accessible games.

Some, like those from Niels Bauer Games, L-Works, or our own 7-128 Software, are commercial and must be purchased, albeit for fairly low prices. Some, like those from Jim Kitchen and Ian Humphreys, are totally FREE.

For each example game, we note specifically how it accomodates gamers who are blind.

Niels Bauer Games

www.nielsbauergames.com

Independent developer of Commercial games for Windows. Currently three of their games are blind-accessible: Smugglers 3, Smugglers 4, and TV Manager.

Smugglers 4 is a good example of how a trading and war game set in space can be made blind-accessible.

Since Smugglers 4 does not self voice, gamers who are blind must use a screen reader.

A Visually-impaired gamer option can be set from the Options panel. This adds text to otherwise image-only controls.

The Supernova virtual cursor works with this added text as well as the normal cases of block text, table text, and buttons with text labels. The JAWS cursor does recognize the text, but has random behaviors that render it unusable for this game.

You can also turn the Smuggler 4 background music off, making it possible to hear the screen reader.

Industry rumor has it that his forthcoming Empires and Dungeons 2 will be blind-accessible. Niels Bauer says, "Indeed, I am planning for blind accessibility for all my future games."

Niels Bauer Games is a good example of how a few feature changes can produce commercial-quality blind-accessible games.

Smugglers 4 game screen with blind option on

7-128 Software

www.7128.com

We are an independent developer offering over 40 Commercial games for Windows, 25 of which are blind accessible.

Our game, Scrambled Sayings is a good demonstration of how to maintain context for the blind gamer.

The Equals key turns the self-voicing on and off. The JAWS screen reader can accept non-displayed text programatically sent to it. This is set in the Controls panel. The two voices are never used together.

Scrambled sayings presents a saying such as "The absent are never without fault nor the present without excuse." Each word has its letters scrambled. For example: "hte astnbe aer neerv wuitouth fltau onr eth pnreste wtithou euscex." The gamer types in the correct spelling of each word.

There's a panel of controls plus clock, score, and level displays. The Tab order is: First word, controls from top to bottom, back to first word. Each control and its numbered hotkey are spoken: "8 Controls"

Within the saying, the right and left arrows move among the words stopping on the first letter of each word. Each word's position and its current spelling are spoken: "Word 8 is E T H."

The Space bar speaks the entire puzzle. The F4, F5, and F6 keys speak the current game score, clock, and level without changing the focus.

Selecting the Controls button displays the Controls dialog box. This dialog speaks to the gamer when it displays, and when it exits. Within the Controls dialog the tab order is top to bottom with each control, its numbered hotkey, and its value spoken.

All 7-128 Software games follow the above pattern.

Scrambled Sayings is an example of how to maintaining context for the blind gamer because:
  • Everything is spoken
  • Simply and
  • Consistently
Scrambled Sayings game screen

It's also an example of a game that can be played via either a screen reader or via its self voicing.

Kitchens Inc.

www.kitchensinc.net

kitchensinc.net is the first name most often heard when asked where to get good FREE audio games.

As of January, 2011, Jim Kitchen has built over 33 audio-only games including the popular Homer on a Harley game, as well as trivia, racing, arcade, sports, word, and puzzle games. Warning: Not all of these games may be suitable for children.

Jim's Hangman is a simple SAPI-based audio-only self-voicing game that demonstrates how to tell the gamer what to do totally without text.

The game speaks clear instructions when it starts. The gamer types in the letters of the word.

F1 speaks the word as far as you have guessed
F2 speaks whether the word is a person, place, or thing and letter count
F3 speaks the individual letters and blanks
F4 tries to say the word as it is
F5 speaks the used letters
F6 speaks the unused letters
F7 speaks the unused letters one at a time
F8 speaks the parts of the hangman
F9 changes the voice
F11 speaks game instructions
F12 speaks special key instructions
Ctl sets the voice speed
Esc exits the game

For either a blind or a sighted gamer, Jim's use of the F keys makes makes his audio-only Hangman game easy to play.

Spoonbill Software

www.spoonbillsoftware.com.au/blindgamers.htm

Ian Humphreys is a retired computer programmer who makes FREE commercial-quality computer games. As of the end of 2010, he's offering 17 audio and visual card and puzzle games that are playable on Windows by both gamers who are blind and those who are sighted.

None of these games use a screen reader. All self-voice. His early games used sound clips. His current games use SAPI.

Spoonbill's Blind-Gamers Free Cell Solitaire game demonstrates the combination of context and instruction demonstrated by the Scrambled Sayings game and the Hangman game described elsewhere on this page.

It's necessary to read the game's help file before starting the game. The help text file provided can be read by a screen reader and includes #T# tags to help audio navigation.

The program begins by telling you to hit either the N key to begin or Q to exit. Each game begins by speaking the card exposed.

The play area is 8 empty cells and 8 rows of cards. The Right, Left, Up, and Down arrows move you among the cards, each speaking as it gains focus. The Enter key selects a card, which speaks when selected.

F1 tells you to look at the help file.
F2 re-speaks the last thing spoken
F3 speaks the status of the free cells
F4 speaks the status of the home cells
F5 speaks the status of the free cells and card columns
F6 speaks the game credits
F7 speaks the count of games won and lost
F8 decreases the voice speed
Shift F8 increases the voice speed
F9 turns background music off and on
F10 turns the game's column numbers option on and off
F11 turns the game's automatic card placement option on and off
F12 turns the keypad move option on and off
Various A - Z keys and combinations are used for control

Context is maintained by:
  • Using the Arrow keys for navigation
  • Using the Enter key for control
  • Using the F keys for information and options
In Blind-Gamers Free Cell Solitaire, the F keys provide a consistent means for blind gamers to get information.

Freecell Solitaire game screen

L-Works

www.l-works.net

Liam Erven is an independent developer of Commercial games for Windows. As of 2011 he offers 7 audio-only commercial games.

The Super Liam game is a audio-only side-scroller. It uses neither a screen reader nor SAPI self-voicing. All instructions and sounds are recorded sound clips.

Read the readme.txt file before playing the game. The game begins with a brief introduction. You can hear enemies as they approach from either side.

The Left and Right Arrow keys walk you to the left and right.
The Left Shift key reverses the direction you're facing
The Up Arrow makes you jump
The Left Control key fires your laser
The Space bar makes you move faster
The P key pauses the game

Informational keys include:
H speaks your health
L speaks the number of lives remaining
S speaks the score for the level
T speaks the total score for the game

Various sounds announce walking, running, jumping, hits, misses, wounds, power-ups, level-ups, and other events.

Super Liam demonstrates how a side-scroller can be made with an audio-only user interface.

Podcasts


The Accessible GameBase (www.gamebase.info) has three podcasts on Audio Games:

Final Words


These examples demonstrate that quality blind accessible games can be made.

To find more blind accessible games, please look at our annual Top 25 Web Sites for Gamers who are Blind list at www.7128.com.

John Bannick
Chief Technical Officer
7-128 Software

jbannick@7128.com