Terraformers: What Is Yoohoo And What Is Yuck!

A Year ago I decided to create a game for the blind. Later, as you may remember, I found one already developed. That was the first-player walker/shooter “Terraformers” made by some Swedish company. It can be played by the viewers, but it is balanced to the listeners. Tonight I tried the demo opening my eyes from time to time. Impressions were not bad, but the game could be better.

First of all, the game had its storyline (That is one of the most important criterions for the attractiveness of games). The story was told in the in-game interrupts while playing some background music that suited to the current mood. The demo level started with the tutorial for the gameplay: a female voice told me what, when, and how to press. Wherever I was, I could press some button to listen to the description of the area I was in. The story of the game was rather cold and there was too little interaction with other characters.

As I have started talking about sounds (and they’re the worthiest thing to talk about), I will certainly mention that I could hear my pattering as well as bumping to the wall. The pattering sound on the metal floor was even different from the pattering sound on the sand. This made me greater impression of reality and I had mentioned that as a requirement for a sound-based game, when I talked about the idea of such a game. Sadly, when you bump into the wall, window, or the door that you had just went through, the sound was the same. Therefore it was hard to orient where are the limits of the room, what was the form of the room, and so on. Of course, I could listen to the description of the room, but these descriptions weren’t very thorough and if it was, it would disturb the playing. I had to find silently beeping things according to the coordinates; unlock alarming doors; fill the energy of the costume touching a wheezing sphere for my compass (jingle in the north) to work; after finding a non-sounding packet of rockets according the coordinates (going through the room back and forth or just opening your eyes), I had to shoot from bazooka to some target to open some door; I had to avoid a guard robot that was moving towards me twice as slow as I did… So there was what to do, but sometimes I was lack of the balance of the sounds: the low-volumed sound of a necessary object was drowned out by a high-volumed sound. There should be an ability to chose yourself which object has to sound currently at the highest volume. After such a choice, you could already go there and to do something with it.

The seeking for the object according the coordinates is also a nonsense. Are you a mind drawer of the coordinate system or what? Or maybe I had to count steps in the game? Some steps to the North and some steps to the East. Who knows…

The controlling was implemented only with a keyboard. I didn’t like that the controlling included the bottom line of alphanumeric keys, [Home], [End], and a couple of keyboard combinations. Its good if you can manage the touch-typing and you can press [M] or [C] without mistakes. But what if you can’t? What if you sit down at a computer rarely and you don’t know where to find that [Home]? Even if you can touch-type, you will also need to learn all the keyboard shortcuts that are presented at the initial tutorial. Would you still want to play? The game MUST be fun. The player shouldn’t be burdened with challenges in the very beginning of the game. Therefore there should be used a small quantity of the keys. The options of the actions should rather be prompted as soon as you reach some object.

The last thing to criticise is the price of the game. Terraformers costs 40 and 60 bucks, respectively when you download the version from the Internet, and when you order the CD. In my opinion, such a game should be free of charge for the player himself. It should be financed by some sponsors or based on the donor system, where the player or his relatives could transfer some money to the developers by their goodwill. Only the CD-version could cost some 5 bucks and the cover would include the title and the description of the game in Braille.

When I start my game for the blind, I will consider these thoughts and the evaluation of the existing game (now I am working on the Halma project at my free time). But otherwise it’s very nice that the unseeing can already also play 3D games.

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