9/18/16 Update, LOTS of Blind Game Stuff / by Dan Andre

I thought I had posted on here more recently, but the post seems to have been deleted, which is really a shame.

Given that I don't remember what I wrote last time, I'm gonna have to be more detailed this time.

So the big news right now is that I now have a stable, working test build of the Blind game. It's basically a proof of concept right now, but it's all pretty much self contained. It's only one level right now, but this represents huge progress.

As of now, the system can currently cycle through levels on it's own, meaning that when it reaches the last existing level, it automatically rolls back to the first level and the game starts over automatically. At this point, since the game is only one level anyway, the game just loops that level over and over.

I've also added some new features. I now have an objective tracker built into the game, that allows the game to keep track of the player's progress through a level, tracking milestones as set by objectives or the new and improved special colliders.

The special collider was previously for just letting the narrator know about special conditions in a certain area, like tutorials or additional information I want the player to know, which could help them solve puzzles or just expose the world further. I have overhauled this system to have a few new and very significant features. First is the ability to do automatic narration. Entering a special collider marked as a narration event will automatically read the special narration in that area, which can be heard then again by hitting the World State key, which checks direction and what they are standing on.

The other new feature is what I call the Finish Line parameter. Setting this will make an area of the game effectively the end of the level. It will check if the player has completed all other objectives in the level, then if so, it will read the level outro and move onto the next level, or restart the sequence if the final level is reached.

The level intro and outro are another feature that is useful for giving the player good feedback. The intro is used to state the players main objective, and give them some background on the particular level. The outro indicates that the mission is complete. This kind of feedback is very simple, but I find it's absolutely vital to being able to run the game autonomously with the player by themselves. It gives the player a sense of what they are supposed to do, and allows me to give them the kind of information they need to play the game. It makes the game feel structured, and actually game like.

I've also added a new button to the control scheme, the Quest key, that allows the player to check their current objectives. It reads back objectives based on how many objectives are in that level. If there is only one for example, it will just reiterate the main objective, while if there are more, the system can iterate through each objective and tell the player exactly what they need to do, based on what objectives are still incomplete. I feel that this gives the game significantly more depth, allowing me to develop challenges much more complex challenges for the player, without making them feel too lost, since at any time the game will tell them what they are supposed to do.

Additionally, I've also added the escape key to the game. pressing it asks the player if they would like to quit the game or not, and allows them to answer the question with the same prompts used for regular in game decision making. This allows for the player to accidently hit the escape key without immediately shutting down the game, and keeping the game's experience consistant.

I've made the builds for Windows, Mac, and Linux. I've tested so far with the Windows version on two machines, and it works perfectly fine no matter what settings you choose. I even got the game working on a virtual machine running Manjaro Linux, which, while it took some tinkering, worked perfectly fine. Given the extremely low resources of this VM (2 Cores, 2GB ram, 128mb Vram), I feel as though this game could run on a massive majorities of machines. I've also tested the game with some sighted players, and using the new systems, they seem to be able to figure out the basic demo mission included in this test version. I've turned the camera off, so sighted players play on equal ground with visually impaired players, as was the design.

The only test I haven't run so far is with my blind friend on his mac, I feel his test data will be the most important.

To make the game more generic for running on all these different platforms, I've altered the controls in a way that I think makes the game play much better, mapping the main controls to the Q, W, E, and R keys, or in other words the top row of the keyboard. A lot of the development software I use like Maya and Unity itself use these keys as hotkeys, and given that any English keyboard, regardless of platform or region, should have these keys, it should maximise the games compatibility. And at least on QWERTY layout keyboards, QWER should be easy to find even without sight, since they are next to each other (hence the name of the layout).

Turning to the recording side of things, The lost post was made the day I recieved my nice new SM-57. But since that post is lost, I'll recap

I wanted to get an external mic that is tough as nails for attaching to my recorder so I can leave my recorder in a safe location and record outdoors overnight. And given the famous durability of the SM-57, I figured this would be a good choice

I have since recieved all the pieces I needed to test this, and the test run went very smoothly. The ultimate goal of this was of course to record adverse weather, like rain and thunderstorms. I have devised a very complicated rig for doing this, that will hopefully protect the mic from damage while also getting a good recording.

Tonight, it is supposed to be scattered thunderstorms. Looking at the radar, I think it is going to be a lot more scattered than even they think. Of course, since I've started this quest to record a thunderstorm, we have had drought conditions for over a month.  Never the less I need to try and record this rare opportunity while I have it, incase we do get hit by a stray boomer. Just the off chance is enough to make it worth it. My only issue is timing. Though my recorder with the massive SD card I have in it can handle up to 30-ish hours of recording, the battery with an external mic can only handle about 4.5 hours of recording before it quits. So I need to get the recorder set up and recording as late as I can, but still before the storms, which according to the ever changing forcast, go later...and later...and later.... lets hope I get something.

In terms of those creek sounds I've been trying to get, I've bought my brother a pair of creek boots in hope of getting him to record those sounds for me (I would have got myself some, but imagine that, cheap Walmart muck boots don't come in size 13). Our schedules just need to synch, then we can finally get that done.

Overall, I feel like the project is coming along quite well, I'm starting to actually see a path to completion.