A Day Down the Arcades

Image of a virtual horse racing penny betting game from an amuesment arcade.Whacka-Monty-Mole programmers, Trevor (Smila) Storey and Stuart Collier, are currently building a fully featured amusement arcade. It's planned to have video games, pinball, fruit-machines, a pool table, air-hockey, juke-box, shove-a-penny machines and more. It's a massive undertaking, but they seem to be well up to the job, looking at their supporting web-site.

They've even hinted that one or two of the games may be made switch accessible, which I keep my fingers crossed for. Meanwhile, here's some links... Switch Arcade Classics, the A.T.E. Arcade (W.I.P.) and AbleGames 2009.

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Finding Beauty

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Picture Puzzle

Image of Picture Puzzle. A fragmented image of two dolphins jumping out of water at sun-set. Graeme Singh knows how to make a game accessible. His latest two are Picture Puzzle and Matching Pairs 2010 World Cup Edition. Outstanding features?

Picture Puzzle is one of the most accessible one-switch puzzle games ever written. It employs a lovely radar pointer system and a placement assistant. On it's easiest settings, all you need to do is hold your switch down, and the computer will place the segments for you.

Matching Pairs offers four different ways to play, including keyboard, switch, point-and-click device and dwell-clicking. With that it should be just as playable for people using an eye-tracker (with fairly accurate control) as for most other people with vision.

These have both been reviewed over at the Accessible GameBase (links are above) and our freely available to download from Grame's Free Games.

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Design Tips For: Subtitled Games

Full subtitles (aka Closed Captions if you live in the USA or Canada) in a game, can make the world of difference to deaf and partially-hearing players. Now that games and films have so many parallels, imagine how hard it would be to follow a film without the sound-track. It's not much a stretch to imagine how hard some games become without sound.

My friend, Reid Kimball, has posted a really helpful Mockup of Heavy Rain with full closed captioning. It shows some of the importance of having the mood of music described, the sound effects as well as the essential dialogue.

Reid is offering a service to advise game developers upon how to best include deaf and partially-hearing players. He definitely knows his stuff, after having worked with the team that modified Doom 3 to include full subtitles, and spending many years supporting the IGDA's Game Accessibility Special Interest Group.

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Natal becomes Kinect

Image of HAL's electronic eye from the film 2001. Microsoft's enormously promising Project Natal has become Kinect, and is due for release later this year. Borne of the massive influence of Myron Kreuger's 20th century works and the success of Nintendo's Wii, Kinect could become something special. It could equally well become another missed opportunity to open up gaming to those residing outside of the average gamer demographic.

It wasn't that long ago that I felt that Microsoft, and others, were not hearing the pleas of excluded gamers at all. After a nice e-mail from Microsoft earlier this week, I'm now hopeful that things may be taking a positive turn in attitude. Watch this space, and in the interim, I'd recommend reading Steve Spohn's take on Kinect for another view.

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Pebble

Image of Pebble's menu screen. Computer generated night scene of still sea. Following Gamevial's hugely impressive one-switch game, Zogan's Log, comes something much more peaceful: Pebble, an on-line stone skimming game. It's a beautiful little game, and highly accessible to boot. Read my quick review over at the Accessible GameBase for more.

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EyeGuitar Hero

I do like the Strokes. I like alternative access to popular video games even more. Found this fantastic video via the Accessible GameBase. Which is where I've pinched this from:

"EyeGuitar was developed by Matthew Smalley and supervised by Stephen Vickers and Howell Istance. It utilises the Snap Clutch framework written and developed by De Montfort University, UK and University of Tampere, Finland. Strings on Speed is an Open Source Guitar Hero clone: Centre for Computational Intelligence, De Montfort University."

If that piques your interest, have you also seen Guitar Hero for blind players? More from that stable soon.

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Kit 4 Kidz - Leeds

Google Maps image pin-pointing the Kit 4 Kidz event loaction at Pudsy Civic Hall, Pudsy, Leeds. Surrounded by three on-looking Ghosts from Namco's Pac-man.I'm not giving you much notice, I grant you, but if you live Bradford or Leeds way, and can get to Pudsy ("LS28 5TA" for your sat-nav), then read on. Kit 4 Kidz is holding a free exhibition on Wednesday, between 10am and 3pm, where you can see equipment designed to enable otherwise disabled kids. And SpecialEffect and OneSwitch.org.uk will be there with an accessible arcade (aka stall!) of games.

What will be there? All sorts of hardware, such as an eye-gaze controller, head-tracker, switches, one-handed controllers and more. What games? You'll have to wait and see, but we'll have PS3, Xbox 360, PCs and even Imagination Sound Controllers. Be great to see you there.

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The Independint Charles Show: Episode 3

What great fun the Indpendint Charles Show is! Here's Episode 1 and Episode 2 for your convenience (with five left to come as I understand). And if you're finding the sheer wealth of titles on the Xbox 360 Indie Games Service hard to sift through, definitely spend some time over at xnPlay, including at their Essential Collection section, who make things that bit more managable.

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Electronic Soup Podcast: with added Dark-ness

Image of headphones styled around the Michael Jackson Thriller video. They include a grave-yard, zombie and werewolf, and look pretty bulky. Each padded ear-pieced has a door next to them, one with a werewolf's head bursting through.Part three of the Accessible GameBase Electronic Soup Podcast comes in two flavours this month, skinny and fatty. Both feature Dark from AudioGames.net, who talks with passion about three deeper, more involving Audio Games.

In the "full-fat" version, you can hear Dark play each game, whilst explaining what is going on. I was particularly impressed with Tomb-Raider stroke Prince of Persia influenced, Tomb Hunter: Mysteries of the Ancients. I wasn't aware of side-scrolling arcade/adventure audio games before that.

You can listen to all of the ESP's (including the first time a computer ever sang) over at the Accessible GameBase and also at the excellent Access Collective.

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