Audiogames, Audiogame Jam and Playing Videogames Without Sight

Videogames are software applications designed for interactive entertainment. They are available for home computers, dedicated games consoles, smartphones and tablets, and are an increasingly significant part of modern culture. They are also in most cases inaccessible to those with sight loss due to game designs that require the player to react to visual elements and on-screen feedback. Continue reading

Audiogame Jam Post-Mortem

Audiogame Jam logo

Audiogame Jam is a game jam event that ran between August 26th and September 5th 2016. The challenge was to make games playable in audio only so that those people with limited or no sight would be able to play them It was run to raise money for the Royal National Institute of Blind People, a charity that provides support and services to people with sight loss across the UK. RNIB are a charity that have provided me with a great deal of support since my sight loss through macular degeneration, and Audiogame Jam is my attempt to pay back some of that help through fund-raising,

This post documents the main areas of success and failure in the event.

Firstly I wish to thank everyone who participated in Audiogame Jam. Without their hard work and enthusiasm the jam would not have been nearly as successful as it was. Please visit the Audiogame Jam website, try the games and give the developers feedback. You can also support Audiogame Jam by donating to RNIB through the Audiogame Jam JustGiving page.

What worked:

Before the event:

  • Using existing game jam tools on GameJolt made it easy to get started with a presence online that I could easily build on. This made managing the event a lot easier than it would have been if I’d tried to do it on my own.
  • Using Twitter as a tool to raise awareness of event. It led to a lot interest, positive feedback and advice from those with more experience.
  • Circulating the event among RNIB staff. The idea was popular within RNIB and I received a lot of support from them in promoting the jam through RNIB Connect Radio and other third sector organisations.

During the event:

  • Engaging with the community participating in Audiogame Jam helps keep everyone’s enthusiasm for the event high. It’s also  it’s own form of promotion, raising forum threads and bringing information about the jam to anyone following related topics or tags on social media.
  • Creating images and posters to spread online. Promotional material to advertise the event and mark important milestones seemed to work well in drawing in people throughout the jam.

After the event:

  • Working with RNIB to have some of the Audiogame Jam games playable at their Techshare Europe 2016 event.

Mistakes and things that didn’t work:

Before Audiogame Jam

  • Not deciding the date of jam properly before advertising it on game jam websites and forums. This led to having to edit posts and pester website administrators to correct my mistakes.
  • Not checking for other game jams running concurrent to Audiogame Jam’s planned start and end times. I should have arranged it for another time to avoid having a negative effect on Audiogame Jam or other local game jams, especially other with causes I support.
  • The focus of the jam was audio-based gameplay rather than specifically creating blind-accessible games. In any further Audiogame Jams the focus will be on blind-accessible games as it’s a better fit with the RNIB fund-raising goal of the jam.
  • Announcing the jam four weeks before it began may have been a mistake. The relatively short time until it began may have made planning for participants difficult and led to few submitted games.
  • Failure to use current RNIB branding on some promotional material I produced led to them having to be reworked and reposted again later. The old posters with the incorrect branding were still being used by others for some time after the new posters were published. This didn’t cause any friction with RNIB but it’s a mistake I wouldn’t want to repeat.

During Audiogame Jam

  • Maintaining all the different forum posts, messages was very time consuming. It’s unclear whether it led to more game submissions or donations either.

After Audiogame Jam

  • There were relatively few donations. Although there was a lot of interest in the event, converting this into donations proved very difficult.
  • Restrictions on available hardware for demoing games Techshare led to some games not being shown at the conference. This led to annoyance and frustration from some devs.

Other points:

Although AGJam was advertised to the Audiogame and Interactive Fiction communities, I do not believe there was much participation from these communities in the jam. Perhaps as a result of this many games were audio-based adaptations of game styles common in video games.

Many submitted games had accessibility failings making them impossible for blind players to play from start to finish. This is almost certainly due to poorly specified jam entry requirements. “Playable by blind people” as a requirement rather than playable through audio would have been better to to press the accessibility aspect more.

Sharing links online shortened by Google’s link shortener is fine but these don’t work very well when telling people in person or on radio where to go to find out more. A tinyurl link with a custom suffix or a custom domain that redirects to the GameJolt site would have been much more memorable than a goo.gl link or the GameJolt URL.

Finally…

Thanks again to everyone involved in Audiogame Jam. Please go try the games and if you like them consider supporting Audiogame Jam and the work of the Royal National Institute of Blind People by donating through the Audiogame Jam JustGiving page. You can find more about Audiogame Jam on Twitter (#AGJam) or contact me @JamesKyle.

 

High Steaks

I did a little freelance work back in February – April this year but I’ve been reluctant to mention it here in case the game didn’t get released. It went live on Google Play last Thursday though so I guess now I can speak about it.

High Steaks was made by Future Fossil Studios in Dundee and I did some character animation and skin weighting for the main character. You can get it now on Android here. It’s free to play and pretty good.

Character Movement in Unity

Rewriting the character movement code for my character I found several approaches.

  1. Move by altering the transform.position of the character.
  2. Move using a character controller component and forces.
  3. Move using rigidBody component and forces.

The first of these worked fine but didn’t play well with my camera control code. Also, since I’d reworked the level generation code to automatically build invisible walls of box colliders in a corridor of any given width or height I wanted a solution that used these. Not using the colliders would have meant adding code to check whether the player would exceed the bounds of the level on the next frame, and I’d rather not have to write this if I can help it.

The second option seemed like a better fix. It would let me use the colliders I’d added to the level geometry but it became clear that I wouldn’t get the arcade style movement I wanted. Move() worked okay but SimpleMove() didn’t work at all, and neither allow any interaction with the Unity physics model.  I saw a lot of negative feedback on the character controller component, so I decided to try the rigidBody instead.

In using rigidBody I was very much at the end of my rope in getting the movement I wanted. I found however that with some adjustments to the mass and drag of the player rigidBody and greatly increasing the gravity of Unity’s Input Axis functionality I could get very close to perfect movement; very responsive but with just a hint of inertia. It will need some tweaking no doubt once the game nears completion but it’s far better than it was. The final problem with this method is that, as it uses the physics engine of Unity it meant that friction was occurring between the player and level walls, though this was easily fixed by making a zero friction physics object and adding it to the box colliders of the level walls.

Some articles that were also useful in getting player movement right…