Blackbox: seeking accessibility feedback for outside-the-box puzzle game
Hi AppleVis community! My name is Ryan McLeod and I’m the designer and developer of Blackbox: an outside-the-box collection of over 70 mind puzzles that generally don’t require touch to solve. Since the game currently relies on minimalistic colorful visuals and animations to play it's never been very accessible to anyone with visual impairment. Over the last month I’ve worked closely with my friend in sound engineering to re-think all 71 current puzzles to design ways for them to be playable via alternative sonic interfaces and Voice Over (and haptic feedback on devices that support it). These sounds compliment the current visuals but hopefully serve as their own stand-alone and satisfying way to figure out and solve the puzzles. With your help and feedback I hope we can make them even better!
A word of warning: these aren’t fast, casual puzzles but they are extremely satisfying to solve. The game is tough to describe without spoiling its “ah ha!” moments so I won’t say too much but I would love to hear what you think and get your feedback (nothing is too small!) so I can make my game as accessible as possible. Feel free to reply here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: 75% of the game is free but there are two paid expansions and hint credits, which can be bought or earned by referring friends via sharing in the game (helps keep things ad-free). That said, please email me at email@example.com for promo codes and I'll provide as many as I can!
This game sounds great! I'm looking forward to playing it! I'll provide feedback after exploring the game! Keep up the great work! I appreciate your time and effort making the game accessible!
I really like the game! The puzzles with the audio cues are easier for me to play. The visual puzzles are challenging for me because Voice Over describes the picture and if each light is on or off. The prompts throughout the game are accessible with Voice Over. I become stuck on the puzzles with a visual. The puzzle grid to choose from is also accessible. I find the Voice Over gestures do not work for me to try to solve a puzzle that is visual.
Thank you JTran!
Which challenges are you running into that don't have audio cues? Almost all of them should with VO enabled and the silence switch off. It'd be great if could list the Challenge Type numbers of the ones you're finding most difficult to work on!
What gestures are you referring to when you say "Voice Over gestures do not work for me to try to solve a puzzle that is visual"?
The list of puzzles that are visual for me include
1.2 lights type 6
2. 1 light type 3
3. 1 light type 7
4. 1 light type 10
5. 1 light type 3
6. 1 light type 42
7. I have one light on of 4 in type 8. I'm not sure what I did to turn on the one light to turn on in this puzzle.
Some of the voice Over gestures that I have tried in these puzzles include tap and hold with one finger, and then move my finger aroun the screen. I tried three finger swipe gestures left, right, up, and down.
The two finger double tap Voice Over gesture does work to return to the puzzle home grid.
I tried solving the visual puzzles without Voice Over without success.
Whenever you hear something labeled "visual" just think "clue" instead. I'm going to change this in the next version! Basically it's describing the visual clue a sighted person would use, but this doesn't mean it's not accessible or able to be solved with VO.
Most VO gestures won't do much as the game is all about anything other than touch for the most part :) I'll work on making this clearer!
I have downloaded the App and will test it more tomorrow on the 30th. I'll let you know my findings and if there are any suggestions I have regarding VoiceOver accessibility.
This game became more fun to play! I figured out the visual clues! I'm not spoiling anything!
hi does this game work on ipads? when i run it on my ipad mini 4 running ios 10,3,2 it is not doing anything. shame not hear a podcast to wet my appitite as it kind of game want to play. i have an iphone 5 but guess it run very slow on that.
just tried this briefly but then was told will not work on my ipad propperly, will try it on my phone later. i assume the further we get the more crative we have to be in solving?
This is a brilliant puzzle game! I'm also impressed with how well it works with VoiceOver enabled. Excellent work!
I've only lit up 3 or 4 lights passed the intro set, but am eager to figure out more.
Blackbox kind of reminds me of a game called Progress to 100, which had similar types of puzzles, but wasn't accessible to VoiceOver users.
The game is currently crashing on many iPads and iPod Touches. I'm working to find a device to test this on and will fix it soon! So sorry about that.
Thank you Jesse! Would love to hear which challenges were you favorites, or which were hardest/easiest if you can explain without spoiling (Maybe listing their challenge type numbers?). It's definitely related to Progress to 100 (another great outside the box puzzle game). How had you heard of Progress to 100?
I have only had a few minutes to check out this app so far, but I'm super excited with what I see. I recently gave up Texas Holdem poker, because I was spending too much time playing it, and I did not like it's super competitive nature. I have been looking for a more healthy, meditative game, and I think black box fits that criteria perfectly. I can't wait to get into it and let you know my accessibility findings. Thank you for the work you put into making this intriguing game accessible.
Thank you! I think you'd definitely get a kick out of Blackbox then. I designed it in part to help people flex and train their creative, outside-the-box thinking; while it may be frustrating at times this is only because it requires patience and careful thinking! (At least I hope—I know I can make it better)
This game is pretty cool, but after that first introductory challenge where you have to do a bit of, shall we say acrobatics, I am lost. Here's what's happening. the first challenge I have is 6 lights type 1, 6 of 6 solved. the next 1 is 2 lights, type 6, 0 of 2 solved. so, I open that one, and VoiceOver says, visual, circle with short lines radiating outword. then I have light 1 of 2, unsolved, and light 2, unsolved. Double-tapping on either of these brings me to a hint screen. If this challenge is visual i'm not even sure what to do or even where to begin? I think this is a supurb game, and figuring out how to turn on all the lights is a lot of fun. I'm just stuck at the moment.
Heh, well put. I'm working on some improvements to that challenge and others. First of all, when you hear "visual" just think of it as an image with a description (working on fixing this), and when you hear "circle with lines radiating outward" think "sun with x length lines". See if that helps at all! Would love to hear your thoughts on the 4 challenges (type 8) too :)
I don't see how to solve any of the puzzles with out getting a hint. Am I missing something?
Hey Jeff, which challenge types are you unable to solve? Were you able to complete the tutorial one?
woo, this one is tough and pritty fun!
I have completed some of the puzzles.I am a new member here anyways guys, really nice to meet you all. :)
I haven't gotten too far into the game yet, but am baffled on type 42. There's no visual or audio indicator, just the unlit light. Am I missing some interface element?
I heard about Progress to 100 a while back on a couple of podcasts, so being low vision, I tried it on my giant iPad Pro.
Welcome Jason! Sounds like you're making it pretty far! Would love to hear what you think of the others ones! One request though… do you mind editing your post to not mention challenge specifics that might spoil the game for others? Thank you!
For what it's worth, this challenge doesn't have an obvious visual for sighted players either… it's a difficult more meta-like puzzle :) Let me know if you get too stuck on it or figure it out!
Done, i edited my post :D , sorry about that hahahah
Yes I got past the tutorial ones and some others. I thought the ones that need headphones seemed easy but I am stuck on 2 of them.
No problem! I actually realized later that what you were referencing wasn't a secret at all when voice over is on! haha
I've solved the first 12 challenges, but beyond that it seems to require in app purchases. Is this correct, or am I missing puzzles somewhere?
I'm definitely interested in the idea of a puzzle game with secrets etc, however I find the game %100 unplayable.
When I start the game, I get voiceover reading the initial title "black box" then there is a short musical sting. After that voiceover started echoing so much and becoming so distorted that I physically could not hear what was being said.
I've not had this happen before with anything else using vo, even when there is a lot of background noise so I wonder there is a bug somewhere.
I am using an IPhone 5 on Ios 10.3.2 (I'm downloading the latest software update now to see if it fixes the problem).
Hopefully it's not a huge issue.
So sorry to hear that. This seems to affect any devices 5s or older. I'm investigating what might be causing it. I'll keep you up to date on any developments.
haha, I got that too, but after closing the game and restarted the voice over, everything going smoothly.
on some parts of the puzzle, sometimes I encounter voice over lag, like if I swipe left and right, the VO take around 2 seconds to respond. but it's not a huge problem for me though.
sorry for my english :D
and oh, I am useing iphone 5s
Hi, I am really stuck. I can't get passed the tutorial screen, where the text is upside down. I am not sure what I should do. Please help! I have tried double-tapping with one finger, and 2 fingers, the tap and hold gesture then dragging my finger around the screen. I even tried turning my phone upside down with the same gestures, and shaking it ... no luck. I'm not trying to spoil the game, but I am really stumped. This sounds like a wonderful concept and I will love to play through it. I am on the challenge VO announces as light 2 of 6 unsolved.
Sounds like you're on the right page with one of the things you tried! This is a rare: but sometimes accelerometers in phones break, would you mind opening the built in Compass app, swiping to the second page of the Compass app, and letting me know if it announces the rotation of the phone changing?
I have only played with it a little bit so far, but I love what I see. The puzzles are very artistic, and I am very impressed with the level of accessibility. Most wouldn't even have tried to adapt this, so well done. Think it's worth noting that to solve a light, you don't have to tap on it first, it is just letting you know that the challenge is their to solve. Also, does this game sound different with bluetooth headsets for anyone else? On one of the challenges, I got a rhythmic beeping with my headset turned on, and some quiet music without, for example.
Hi Ryan, I did as you asked, and my phone was announcing the change in values as minus 5 degrees, minus 15 degrees, etc, as I rotated it between portrait and landscape orientations while sitting down. I got this info from the levels section of the compass app. I feel like I am doing something wrong, but don't know what. I am using an iPhone 6S running the latest version of iOS.
Hello, as others have said on the iPhone 5 the game is on playable at the moment. Is there a way though, for when this is fixed for me to reset the whole game? I started on my iPad, but want to start again with the fall phone experience when it is sorted The game seems to remember what you have solved across devices. Even when I remove and reinstall the product.
@Jason thanks for the advice, however afraid I did try restarting vo but no luck, exactly the same thing happens.
Hopefully there will be an update to fix this soon.
Btw, there is also now a topic about Black box on the forum over at audiogames.net (where I heard about it, find it here:
Hi Ryan, I have read about this game here on AppleVis and downloaded it.
I appreciate the approach of the game - possibility to use gyroscope, accelerometer and tiltometer instead of using touch or gestures; movement is an input method that has never been explored so much, so, it's interesting you're doing so, and I am happy -together with the whole community- to help you improve. Unfortunately I have still a phone which does not support haptic engine, I've got a 6 plus; I'm planning to buy a next generation iPhone as far as it comes out, I'd not get the 7, I'll get 7s or 8 whatever it will be called, this autumn.
Well, I do not manage to solve all puzzles, the type2 I have solved one of 2 and don't know how I did it; but in some puzzles -for example challenge type 6- audio is not present.
It's really unclear what input mode is used for getting out of there, and in some cases sound volume is too low, and I feel in type2 sounds are not clear, I mean, don't understand which flute sound to follow, for example.
I'll drop you a mail soon, ad I'd like to have a talk with you about this, as I am an accessibility professional I'd like you to explain me what you're thinking of, regarding making it accessible. I am totally blind, so I think you should change something, to make us understand what the game wants.
Hi. I am amaized at this game and how different it is. I got through some of the challenges and that is all I will say because I don't want to spoil anything. I did get to an audio challenge and was using my airpods and for some weird reason they disconnected and it said that headphones are requiered. I'm confused because I had my airpods in my ears and connected. I closed the app and they reconnected like nothing happened. Can this be fixed? Or am I doing something wrong? I'm using an iPhone 7 with the latest IOS.
hi all, someone stated that it is not required to tap on the light to solve it, yet when doing that, are we not presented with the visual element pertaining to that light? how about an item on the actions rotor when focused on a light, without tapping it, to tell us the visual element?
So to open a puzzle, you tap on the item that says the type of puzzle, and how many lights. once you are their in the puzzle, it will say, for example, light one, unsolved. tapping on this only goes to the hints to solve that light, so once you are in a puzzle, you don't need to tap on anything on the screen. Forgive me if my comment was confusing rather than clarifying. :)
A lot of people said it couldn't be done so I had to give it a shot!—thanks for bearing with me as I make it better. In regards to tapping the lights, let me explain what a sighted person would see and then maybe you'll have an idea how I could represent it better:
The home grid shows a grid of dots, some of the dots are actually colored, outlined squares (lights), when they're solved, they "turn on" and become filled squares. When a group of lights are tapped, a challenge screen appears with the "visuals" and the lights move into this new screen so players can see if they've been solved yet (sometimes their position on the screen matters or is helpful too (these locations are described in the Voice over labels when applicable).
As for the bluetooth issue, I'll have to investigate that further. What device and headset are you using?
It sounds like your accelerometer is indeed working. Does the light (2 of 6) in the Blackbox still not turn on if you turn the phone upside down? Is there any chance you could have a sighted friend take a look at it or would you mind contacting me on Skype? (I'm @warpling)
Again, so sorry about that. It appears that the iPhone 5/5c and older phones might not be able to handle the audio processing the game requires but I'm investigating other options.
The game syncs via iCloud and is pretty hard to reset (I made it hard to reset because players thought resetting the game was part of the game!). To reset you can visit blackbox://reset in safari which will ask to open Blackbox. From there you can "reset everything" or just the tutorial!
The haptic engine actually isn't required at all, but it does make the game feel extra nice. I'll try to make that clearer in the release notes.
Re: challenge type 6: it should make a sound when that challenge is opened, but I might experiment with having it play on a loop for VO players. Some challenges do have sound that only happen when the right action is taken and may require just the voice over value/hints to help until the mechanic is discovered if that makes sense?
Re: audio being quiet: It might help to disable voice over ducking in settings if you haven't already and to sometimes turn off VO speech to listen but maybe I can make the sound effects louder if VO is enabled? What do you think? Is the game audio too quiet overall?
Would love to talk more over email :)
I'm not sure about AirPods but have reached out to my friend to see if I can borrow hers to test with. Do you have any other headphones you can use or test with in the time being?
You are correct that it's unnecessary to tap or make any gestures on the lights once they're in the challenge screen itself. Is there a way I could help clarify this? Someone mentioned adding them to a rotor maybe? Not sure how that could clarify that they don't need to be interacted with to solve the puzzle but can be pressed to go to their hint screens?
No, i think the way you describe the lights is perfect, and clear. I just wanted to put it in here as some people sounded as though they were getting confused. I have played a little more with your game, and don't think bluetooth is a problem after all, I was just in too much of a hurry yesterday. I can't wait to solve more puzzles, though now most of the ones i've left have me incredibly stumped! Good luck to all players, and thank you, again, for doing such a lovely job!
Great to hear. If you do think of a way that might make it clearer please do let me know. As I mentioned, feel free to email me for promo codes too. I really do appreciate all this feedback.
Hello. I have already emailed you. Now...i'm going to try and do something with upwards jutting rays or strange, colored balls...