Sunday, December 18, 2011

'Rock Band'-style game developed for blind people

From msnbc:

The rhythm game revolution has largely ignored a significant segment of the population — blind people. If you have vision problems, you are unable to follow the titles' on-screen prompts. The creators of "Rock Vibe" (pictured) are trying to fix that by developing a "Rock Band"-style game that can be played by blind and sighted people alike.

In addition to an on-screen stream of notes, "Rock Vibe" tells players which guitar buttons or drum panels to hit by sending timed vibrations to specially designed, wearable equipment. The game is built on top of a free PC rhythm game called "Frets on Fire," and is not affiliated with the official, Harmonix-developed "Rock Band" available on consoles.

First created by three University of California, Santa Cruz researchers in 2008, "Rock Vibe" has since been featured in a number of computer accessibility conferences and journals. But now the developers are looking to raise money through Kickstarter to help develop a more professional, commercial version of the game.

That effort has already drawn over $12,000 in donations, though the developers are looking for at least $20,000 more by Jan. 20 to help fund research and development, testing and promotional travel, as well as to provide free games to schools and centers for the blind. Those who contribute can receive copies of the finished game and even personalized features, depending on how much they donate.

"Rock Vibe" isn't the first game designed for sightless play — there's a long tradition of audio games meant to be played without any visual input, and coders have made blind-accessible conversions of traditional games ranging from pinball to first-person shooters.

But the earlier titles have largely failed to keep up with the latest advances in gaming, the "Rock Vibe" creators say, and are often too simple to keep the interest of sighted players who may want to play, too.