The fact that a lot of effort is now being put into adapting computer games for the blind is giving us a great hope for brighter gaming future. Getting lost in the sounds of stories and games and letting your imagination wander along with your fingers on the keyboard is a truly soul-warming experience. We’re already starting to see better days dawning on mobile phones too, and games are slowly coming up here too. However, Dotris offers a completely new gaming experience – truly braille computer game played basically in silence, fully focused only on players thoughts, accuracy, speed and precision.
The game Dotris is created by N A Soft Software and is designed for braille lines. The game is freely downloadable, but is licensed under a DonateWare license, meaning that once downloaded, the author expects to make a financial donation to ClearVision Library, a charity that transcribes children books into an accessible format combining print, braille and tactile graphics.
To install the game you need to download two files, the game installer itself and also the control software from Dolphin Computer Access, Dolphin SAM. The main menu of the game is very simple and the game itself is language independent. After installing both files and running the Dotris game, I recommend disabling the screen reader (NVDA or JAWS), especially if you operate the braille line. The game itself comes with voice guidedance and controls the braille line itself. If the reader is not turned off, the line may display information in the wrong encoding and may adversely affect the game itself. The menu items are:
- Game level selection,
- settings for the buttons to control the game on the braille display (these settings need to be made before each game when the application is restarted),
- interactive tutorial,
- changing the braille display,
- turning the game voice guidedance off or on,
- quitting the game.
The tab key is used to move through the menu and the space bar or Enter key is used to confirm the menu item. When we open the settings buttons to control the game on the braille display, the game prompts to press the buttons on the braille display to perform specific movements:
- Move block up,
- move the block down,
- move the block to the wall from left to right (zoom the block),
- scroll up the wall,
- scroll down the wall,
- rotate the block.
After setting the buttons, we are in the test mode, where we can press the selected buttons and the program will repeat their function, so we can check the correctness of the settings. If we are satisfied, we can return to the main menu by pressing Enter. From the level menu we can select the level and press Enter.
The playing area
The playing area, “game board”, is centered roughly in the middle of the braille display. It consists of ten cells, with the wall on the left side of the board being built, and the building blocks coming from the right side of the board. These blocks consist of braille dots in different shapes. We can move these shapes up, down, or rotate them on the line. The goal is to build a solid wall of eight-point braille cells by filling the eight points of the cell with incoming blocks to fill all the points of the cell.
There are 3 levels in Dotris. Level 1 uses a wall 4 dots high, 4 dots of a vertical line. This means that the braille display can show the playing area of the entire wall at once. But in level 2, the wall is already 6 dots high, so it is like a twelve-dots braille cell. And in level 3 the wall is 8 dots high. In order to complete the wall properly, you need to use wall scrolling, that is, as the game gets more difficult, you need to scroll up and down on the line to see the whole wall.
One line of the wall is complete when there are no blank dots on it. When completed, the recent score is updated on the left side of the line and the completed wall line is removed. A beep will announce how many lines have been completed in each turn. The more lines completed at once, the higher your score.
If you complete one line, you score 1 point. For two lines at the same time you get 4 points, for three you get 9 points and for four you get 16 points.
The game simply needs to be tried. Then, this complicated-looking article will quickly make sense. Then it will become clear that what we describe in words quite complexly, we can recognize by touch in an instant. It has the benefit of silent concentration, which for me, an audio game player since my -teen years, has an as-yet-unspoken dimension.
Oh, perhaps quite important thing to mention – the wall-building blocks move of their own accord, approaching the wall inexorably at approximately one-second intervals. If they’re even a braille cell away from the wall, the block can no longer be moved and it sticks to the wall as is. Believe me, it’s an incredible adrenaline rush.