Chapter 3: Concept
Motivation of choice
We decided to
test our research by making a racing game because of the following
before racing-games have been developed without a look at the essence
of game and the blind children have indicated that they could not
play and did not like these products. This is an interesting way
to test our research. If we would manage to isolate the essence
of a racing game they would likely be able to play the game and
even like the content. The racing game is the hardest and clearest
way to test our research for its dynamics and excitement. As mentioned
before, the children prefer this game-genre.
3.2: Essence of a racing game
In order to
make an accessible and understandable game for blind children we
had to isolate the essence of a racing-game. We already defined
a racing game as a game in which the player controls his own object,
either throughout a set course, or through a path the player chooses.
The player receives several impulses from the surroundings of his
object. Some impulses are good and have to be hit, some are bad
and have to be avoided and some are indications. Tension is built
up because the player controls the speed in which he receives this
So the player
controls his own object, in some way. Steering from right to left
is frequently used in a racing game to control the object. The developers
of the few attempts of racing-games for the blind have focused on
making the 'steering' accessible. This is understandable because
visually-orientated people tend to make the decision that steering
is one of the most important aspects (read: essence) of a racing-game.
We prefer another approach. In a shooter, it is not the 'aiming'
that makes the game exciting. It is the thrill you get from walking
through corridors, with possible danger lurking behind every corner
and the power you have to blast an angry alien. And similar in a
racing game, steering is not the exciting part. It is the rush you
get from reaching high speeds, driving in an amazingly cool vehicle
and just in time reaching your checkpoint.
One could also ask why a blind game player has to steer? Is it that
We decided to make a racing game in which the player would control
the speed of receiving impulses. Speed would be the central factor:
the primary goal of the game is to go as fast as possible. The name
of the game would be "Drive".
3.3: Concept of 'Drive'
The player is
inside "a vehicle" on "a track". We prefer this
abstract way of describing aspects of our concept in order to isolate
visual details. The details have to be clear in sound, not in words.
Most blind children have problems with some words of things they
have never seen e.g. a military tank. Even if they know the description
of a military tank, they usually cannot comprehend the sheer size
of the thing unless they have ever felt one.
Using the wrong terminology can cause an immediate distance between
the game player and the game. It is better to use words and symbols
that trigger the imagination and fantasy of the children.
When the player
starts his vehicle, he soon finds out that he reaches a certain
maximum speed. This is the minimum maximum-speed-level. The player
can only go faster if he can pick up "boosters". These
are audio-objects that exist on various spots on the track. Boosters
raise the maximum-speed-level but this is only temporary. When a
player picks up a booster he collects it. Collected boosters can
be activated by pressing a key. From the moment the player activates
the booster, he can go faster for a short time. After that the maximum-speed-level
is lowered. For each booster that is activated while another booster
is active, the maximum-speed-level is raised. This means the player
can reach a greater speed by activating multiple boosters on top
of each other. Again, from the moment the last booster is activated,
the countdown starts again and it won't be long until the maximum-speed-level
The player can pick up boosters like this: first he hears a pulsing
sound, becoming louder; a booster passing by. Then moment he hears
a ringing sound, indicating the player can catch the booster. The
player then presses the 'catch'-key. If he presses the key fast
enough, he has collected the booster and he hears a sound that confirms
this. If he is too late, he hears another sound, indicating the
booster has been missed and the sound of the booster fades out while
the player passes. The faster the player is going, the harder it
will be to pick up boosters. The vehicle provides an emergency-break
so that the player can drive up to a booster, press the break, pick
up the booster and continue driving. The player can pickup a maximum
of three boosters without activating them.
The way this game-system works is equal to our definition of the
essence of a racing-game. The player controls the speed of impulses
coming towards him and reacts to them. The player receives points
for every booster he picks up. This score-system depends on the
speed: a booster collected at a high speed-level is difficult to
catch and gives more points. The goal in the game is to reach a
high speed and a high score.
But this is
not all! Inside the vehicle, a passenger is present. His name is
Bob. Bob is the both the comic relief element in the game as well
as a stimulating force. He gives his comment on how you are driving.
If a player is driving slowly, he keeps pressuring the player to
"…try to go faster!". On the other hand, if the player
is going very fast, Bob is overjoyed and screams out his happiness.
Bob is a cool element in the game. Players want him to be their
friend. Bob is the second way of rewarding the player. Instead of
playing only for the highest score, people can also play to listen
to what he has to say.
As an Easter Egg, it is also possible to make Bob sick. If you press
the break a few times while you are at a high speed, he can get
quite nauseous! Of course, this provides for a totally different
game to play.
Bob is based on the knowledge that blind children are used to a
guiding voice. On purpose, we use voice-recorded samples.
are a third manner of rewarding the player. There are various checkpoints
evenly spread throughout the track. These are the levels. A slow
driver might end up at checkpoint 3 while a fast driver might end
up at checkpoint 9. For every checkpoint the player reaches he gets
awarded with extra points.
is a new level and with each new level there is a change in audible
scenery. While the space between checkpoint 1 and checkpoint 2 is
filled with the sound of a noisy harbor, complete with overhead
seagulls, the next level (between checkpoint 2 and checkpoint 3)
consists of a dark forest, with heavy wind and rainfalls, and scary
inhabitants like owls and wolves.
These scenery-sounds are only heard while driving slow. This is
because of two reasons. First of all the logical way sound works.
When driving through a forest with the speed of 500 mph you don't
hear the sounds of the birds and the bees. What you hear the most
will be your motor running. But when you are cruising with a speed
of 10 mph you can hear more details in the scenery. Secondly we
think a player that wants to go fast isn't interested in the environmental
sounds but only in the racing sounds and vice versa. The change
in audible scenery is the fourth reward in our game. Players can
play to get to level 6, which is for example 'The Howling Forest'.
The above is a good example of the way sound is the powerful tool
to make the game interesting. Instead of telling the players they
are in a windy castle with crows and cobwebs, one can also make
a soundscape containing these sounds. Then the player can make up
the place himself, whether it is a castle or a dungeon or a labyrinth.
The last reward
is the adaptive music in the game. We create a stimulating soundtrack
that gradually follows the movement of the player. The faster the
player drives, the more intense the music gets. The music also adapts
to the distance the player has driven. The further the player gets
on the track, the more intense the music gets. This is far more
exciting than a static soundtrack, which loops all the time. There
is more about the adaptive music in the Technical Walkthrough.
In 'Drive' we
use a special technique we call force focusing. This applies to
a property of the human hearing system called the cocktailparty-effect.
This effect is the ability to focus on one conversation when multiple
conversations are present. But when there is a new or sudden sound
your concentration is automatically drawn to this new sound. Force-feeding
new sounds into the existing game-sound is what we call force focusing.
When the player is concentrating on the booster-sounds, other sounds
pass the player by. He focuses on these sounds and misses the booster.
These consist of overhead helicopters, planes and passing motorcycles.
We used the Doppler effect on these sounds, so that they really
seem to pass the player.
There are also sounds that are related to the level the player is
driving in. In the harbor, for example, the sound of seagulls tries
to break the players concentration. Aside from the function of breaking
the players concentration, these sounds also function as an enrichment
of the audible scenery. Then there is also an interface voice. This
is an undefined female whose function is to call out which checkpoints
the player passes, if the maximum of boosters is collected and if
the maximum speed is reached. This is the same voice that is present
in the menu and also later on, telling the score. This voice has
to be clear and understandable because of its important function.
Again these are voice-recordings.
No game nowadays
is complete without an intro and a menu. We think the immersion
(see Game Fundamentals) of the player into the game has to start
in the intro and should not be broken in the menu. So for this game
we gave the menu a soundtrack and the female interface voice. Instead
of items called "play" and "controls", we called
these "board vehicle" and "training", as if
the player was in a test facility.
We also designed
a little meta-game (see Game Fundamentals) for 'Drive'. A players
score is compared to the score on the 'Drive' server (if the player
has an open internet connection). When the players score is higher
than the one on the server, the player has the 'Hi-Score'! He can
then type his name. This name, together with the score, is saved
on the server and embedded in the Drive website. Also, the players
name and score are added to the Hi-Score history, a list containing
all previous Hi-Scores. To be on the website is an extra motivation
to play the game.
Such a meta-game also adds a competitive element to the game because
players now are aware of each other. We provide a message-board
on the website, so that players can get in contact with each other.
To emphasize the meta-game players (and non-players!) can also download
two audio tracks from the 'Drive' website, so that they can listen
to the games music without playing the game.