1.1 Background to the project
1.2 Summary of aims and objectives

2.Research achievements

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1: Motivation
1.2: Goal
1.3: Approach of the project

Chapter 2: Research

2.1: Game Fundamentals
2.2: Essence of game-genres
2.3: User Research
2.4: Research Results

Chapter 3: Concept

3.1: Motivation of choice
3.2: Essence of a racing game
3.3: Concept of 'Drive'

Chapter 4: Production Report

4.1: Technical Walkthrough
4.2: Tests and feedback
4.3: Production Results

Chapter 5: Conclusion

3.The Summary Report

Summary of aims and objectives

Future research


Chapter 3: Concept

3.1: Motivation of choice

We decided to test our research by making a racing game because of the following aspects:

Several times 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 impulses.

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 important?
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 will drop.
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.

Checkpoints 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.

Every checkpoint 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.


(c) 2001-2002 Richard van Tol, Sander Huiberts & Hugo Verweij. Please visit http://www.soundsupport.net