The Girl Who Sold the World - EAR MODE; accessibility news and feedback thread
Hi AppleVis community,
my name is Art and I'm the co-founder of Lyorah Studios, the developer behind "The Girl Who Sold the World" which is a extremely immersive, episodic audio adventure game with a unique story, puzzles and in future with item combination as we know it from point-and-click adventures.
TGWSTW is not accessible yet but we definitely want it to make playable by just listening to the audio and interacting with our protagonist Frances.
Please believe me, since the idea of making an audio adventure game came up in my head it was clear to me that we want to make it accessible to as many people as possible.
But we want to make it happen on the highest quality level possible. That, unfortunately, means that it's not done with just implementing a screen reader. We want you to have the same deep and immersive experience and hopefully an option to solve all puzzles successfully.
We are very sorry that we couldn't achieve this at launch, as the development of chapter one ate up our budget.
But we promise you that it is number one on our schedule and we start development as soon as possible.
We stated it officially in the iFanzine interview (which you can read here) and we keep our promise.
So, this topic is going to be the place where we communicate the development together, collect your ideas and listen to your feedback.
We call that game play experience EAR-MODE, because regardless of whether you have no sight or just don't want to look on the screen, you'll be able to focus completely on your "mental cinema" and immerse in the story even more.
We'll do our best to achieve this ambitious goal :)
UPDATE #1: firstname.lastname@example.org Please use the above email address if you want me to add you as a future tester or for any other contact or feedback as well. Thank you!
UPDATE #2: We've launched the TGWSTW community blog. You can find it here.
I can't wait to play this game. What about an apple testflight version with accessibility built in. We could test the game for you and give you feedback. What do you think?
Hi. I understand that you are in contact with 3 blind/VI people to help with chapter one, could I possibly be another tester to help polish chapter one for everyone who is blind/VI?
We used testflight to get feedback for the actual version and it was pretty comfortable to work with.
So we'll definitely do that as soon as there will be something to test :)
Great! I just contacted you before and I am glad you appeared here. This community will help a lot, I am pretty sure! :)
This is the reason why I added your game to the database here.
Are you going to build a screen reader into the game, or have it so that the screen reader that is built into apple IPhones called voiceover works with the game?
hi, firstly, i'd like to help test and for the sighted market how does it work? it is just a case of selecting what to do next, as in a choose own adventure or do you have solve puzzles as you go? find objects, collect them, use them etc? i hope we can see it soon.
Hi, if you do decide to do an apple test versioon with accessibility imp;emented, defenetly count me in as a beta tester. I cant wait to play this
hi art, this game sounds like my cup of tea, and when ever you do have something to test in testflight, please keep me in mind as well. I would love to help beta test this game and give good feedback to you guys. I love adventure games, and am glad to see more of this type of game coming to iOS.
Hello Art. My name is Remy, writer, sound designer and player of mainstream adventure games for a great many years. This game sounds interesting and I am very pleased to see your willingness to make it accessible. There aren't enough accessible quality adventure games, which is really unfortunate as in the grand scheme of gaming, they are technically some of the easiest to make accessible. You and the developers of Code 7 (which I highly recommend everyone here check out) appear to be the only ones I've heard of recently. Heck, Perception, an adventure horror game where you actually play as a blind person of all things is most definetly not playable by the fully blind. I, like others here would be happy to test this out. I'll download it in a bit and see if I can give you some detailed feedback that hasn't already been said.
Hello. I'm so glad your willing to make this game accessible, and look forward to playing. Like others, I would also like to test, should you ever have something. Thank you
Thanks to all of you! Great to be in such a nice and helpful community.
Of course, every one of you is more than welcome to participate in testing the game when we reach that phase of development. Feel free to invite anyone who might be interested in joining this discussion.
@ lirin: Great to see you here :)
@ brad & everyone: No screen readers. No voice over apps. We are going to engage a professional voice actor in order to make this experience as immersive as it can get.
My first ideas on the basic mechanics are, that I would like you to swipe conveniently to the left and right through the choices while they are being played back.
Question 1: While doing the above, should the screen be completely black? I'm aware of the many different types and grades of visual impairment so maybe someone, who has no completely sight loss, would like to see a geometrical shape with a high contrast while swiping? This may sound stupid as I'm only able to try to imagine how you may perceive the world. I'm sorry if it does.
@ Will: There will be items collecting and combination from chapter 2 on. Puzzles are already included in chapter 1 and we'll do our best to modify them in a way that they can be played in the ear-mode.
I think this will be the hardest part and it will require some in-depth testing.
Thank you for the kind words and appreciation! It's so encouraging and motivating, it keeps us going :)
hi this sounds like even more now that it will be a great project. look forward to following this and seeing when it is available. sounds like it will be, in the end, a long engaguing game to play.
This game sounds like a great idea! I'm interested in testing the game when it's ready and excited to see it develop to its final release and beyond! Thank you for making this game accessible! Have a great day!
As promised, here's my feedback. I've gotten to the point in the cabin where she needs to ... do a lot of really heavy lifting. I played it on an Ipad with Zoom to make the experience playable.
First what I liked. The sound design is fantastic. As a sound designer myself I was very pleased with the direction you took. Most things sound exactly how one would expect them to sound, and I love the organic way you've put it all together. The use of a field recorder (A Zoom I'm thinking based on the clunk it makes when it is hit) was a fantastic idea as it lends an authenticity that someone just sitting behind a microphone wouldn't have. She's there. She's in danger, and she's talking to "you" to help her get out of it. Signis tried this, and it didn't work even a quarter so well. I almost felt having the option to say the choices out loud would have been a nice touch. Speaking of which, you've also got one hell of an actress. There were a couple minor times I wasn't convinced by her performance, but they were very few and far between. 98% of the time she's great, and I'm sure that must have been a lot of fun to record. There were a couple of sound effects I thought fell just a little flat, such as a very untimely and violent end in the beginning with a certain tool. But most of all the sounds are all great. It sounds like a very lonely world with absolutely terrible weather. The story seems quite interesting so far as well. I'm not usually a fan of the nameless loan explorer in an empty world" genre, but Frances is anything but nameless and characterless, and the way this is presented makes it very compelling. I'm wondering whether gender and age will play a factor in Frances's interaction with us at all? Seemed like you had a purpose in asking those questions in the beginning. The only thing I didn't get (likely because of my vision) were the icons at the very beginning depicting ... something I was supposed to agree to.
I liked that, even though there were periods of forced quitting and waiting, they were done organically. It allows for the breakup of sessions and a way to save progress. I'm not a big fan of the "hurry up and wait" style of gaming. Time Crest does this too, and does it far, far too often. I hope there won't be too many of those. I also hope there will be some other checkpoint system in place in the event one has to pause or quit suddenly. Which reminds me, when switching from the game to another app, I was forced to restart when going back to the game. Cudos to the "Battling sissies" codephrase and your actress's reaction to it.
I also appreciated the ability to view a conversation log. While I couldn't really do so for visual reasons, it was there and helpful. I'm wondering why directional choices are on their own screen rather than just coming up in the main message window?
The only slight suggestion I'd have would be to make some of the ambient wandering just a bit faster. I'm talking about parts where Frances is just walking without speaking or interacting with anything. On one hand it does add authenticity, and on the other, during a specific exploration outside, I genuinely thought maybe the game had glitched because nothing was happening. It's a very minor gripe though.
Now for the whole reason this topic exists: accessibility.
First, again, thank you. More people need to play this, and this is exactly the kind of game the visually impaired community needs.:) There aren't enough quality narrative gaming experiences like I said.
I think the use of Voiceover would certainly be the easiest way to make this accessible. Your game shares a lot of similarities with one called Time Chrest, and they've done a great job with their accessibility. It's different in that it is text however; this is far more immersive. It would be good to have voiceover able to select each choice when it appears. Perhaps an audio signal when a choice is present would be helpful to know when we should be looking. The bottom tabs could likewise be selectable, as could each individual line in the conversation log be its own item. Signis is one game that does this, as does Earplay. Using voiceover in this manner would negate any need for changing the UI, which I quite like by the way.
However, if you wish to avoid voiceover, I'd point you to the game Heathcote, which does this quite well. swiping left and right through choices, then tapping on the screen to select one, and swiping up and down to cycle through the different screens might work. You could also do the opposite, swipe up and down for choices, left and right for pages. That might almost be better, because then you don't have to fiddle with the UI. Additionally maybe a two finger tap could pause the action and take you to the main menu. As for the conversation log, that might be hard to implament in this manner if you're self-voicing. It's not like it's a be all and end all feature, but it might be nice, especially since you have periods of "radio silence". Anyone have any ideas?
Either way there's one major thing to consider, and that is the timed choices you occasionally present. They do add a sense of urgency, but I normally hate these in games personally as the artificial panic they induce is more for how long it takes for me to visually read the screen fast enough. Such was the case here while reading visually. Whichever way you implament accessibility, a slightly longer timeline to make a decision would be helpful. Also maybe a different tone to signify that this is going to be a timed choice.
You've got a great project here, and I really hope my feedback has been helpful.
I think the screen should be completely black when making the choices, it makes it far more immersive
Just a quick note to let you know that I’m very impressed with your review, opinion and suggestions on this project! ! As a totally blind person, ait makes me proud when I see the care and the dedication you put to your posts! Very thoughtful! It’s users like you that will make this game wonderful! Cheers… Rocker
@ Remy_C Thank you for taking the time to write such an in-depth review.
We very much appreciate it. It was flattering, interesting and fun to read.
I'd love to answer your questions:
1. The gender and age question, in the beginning, is just for analytic purposes. It's always good to know your audience in order to create great results.
2. The icons you had to agree to were actually a gimmick we came up with.
Nowadays many of us are so focused on their smartphones that we actually don't see what's happening around us.
And we wanted to say it in a funny way. For instance, hey, don't chop wood while you are playing.
Or, don't sit too long on the toilet with your smartphones because you might attract hordes of flies etc. Ha ha. Just don't take it seriously.
3. The directional choices appear on an own screen which we treat as an interaction/tasklist /puzzle panel. A kind of inventory if you like, where also item combination will take place.
It gives us also a little extra space because the upper text output is then left out.
But of course, it wouldn't make any sense in the ear-mode.
4. All timed choices will be modified as much as needed so that we still raise a little of excitement and pressure while keeping it comfortable. That's a sure thing.
As for the conversation log, I already have an idea but I have to work it out a bit further before I present it to you.
@ JTran2013 Thank you. We are excited, too.
As more great people join this discussion I would like to use polls so we always decide on a solution which the majority of us agrees to.
I just need to know if google forms is accessible to you. Are you guys comfortable with it?
I could share a link every time we need to choose between two or more ideas.
Let me know what you think about that. Thank you.
Google forms is accessible. and I'd be happy to test as well.
If given the opportunity, I would certainly welcome the chance to beta-test this game which, as far as I understand, seems like an absolutely wonderful project.
My email address is:
Thank you in advance.
Thanks for answering my questions. That is a funny little intro now that I understand it. I can see why you did a lot of what you did. Because this is just a test run, I ...well, I've been kind to Frances, but I've made her do some very questionable things to stay warm. I am not a nice person. I'll be nicer on my real playthrough. I'd be curious to see how other decisions and the order of events play out. The only trouble I've run into is with the ... hunting challenge. I ... think maybe I'm supposed to keep the little moving ball within the target, but that's proving to be very difficult. This would be a pretty easy puzzle to do in audio though. Perhaps you could have two sounds, one that moves on its own left and right across the stereo field, and another which the player has to control so that the two sounds merge. And hey, If I'm doing this challenge wrong, Please let me know. I'd like to continue.
There was one glitch I did notice. During one of the last cabin sequences, the wind was very strongly blowing in the background, even though she was inside.
I can't wait to have you all testing chapter 1 with ear-mode already. And I want to thank you in advance for your patience. We've just started this journey and there is quite a bit to go.
The amount of work is overwhelming for the two of us at the moment but I'm pretty confident that chapter 1 will be a success. We just have to be patient, people need to learn that this game even exists, somewhere in the gigantic pile of apps.
@ Remy_C Amazing how well you're doing. And yes, the hunting game can be quite tricky. The best way to solve it is to drop the crosshairs on the dot when it's moving slowest. I know, easier said than done but I'm pretty sure you'll make it if you keep trying.
Your idea how to modify it for the ear-mode is great. I have noted it.
Would you mind trying to explain to me where exactly the wind glitch appeared? Was it still at night or in the morning already? I would like to fix it as soon as possible.
You can email me at email@example.com so we don't accidentally spoil here anything. Thank you.
Do you know when the bata will be?
I'm not sure if Art is ok with this but I was thinking anyone else who wants to test the game might email him at the address he gave out, because that way, he wouldn't have to copy everyone's email addresses down when it's time to test the game. It'd make less work for him. Plus putting your email address here is probably not the best idea since it could potentially attract spammers.
@ Toonhead Thank you! That's fine with me.
Though I'd like to keep things separated so I've put a different email address at the bottom of my first post. Of course, I collected all addresses, which have been posted here already, so there's no need to email them additionally.
Thanks to everyone!
@ Autumn I'm sorry, I really can't tell when we'll have a workable version of the ear-mode and I don't want to make any false promises. I hope you'll understand.
This game sounds incredibly interesting. Thank you so much for making this huge effort to make this game accessible. I appreciate the time you take to make sure the blind community can play. Thanks again!
it is a long hard road to success and to be honest - at the moment we are struggling to survive.
But as long as we still have creative ideas we keep trying and modifying our marketing strategies.
We think every day of our common goal: the ear-mode. You've been so kind and engaged here and that keeps us going.
Thank you for your patience!
As soon as there is any progress I'll let you know.
Until then be optimistic and enjoy life :)
No hurry, I can't imagine how stressful it must be in your shoes, trying to get a game off the ground. Better quality and sanity, than quantity with losses. :)
I know this game will be great.
Thanks for your dedication to make this game Accessible.
I would love to thes this app! Has anything changed sense August?
I'd like to beta test this game. I'll eMail you with my apple id.
Hello Art. I've been playin gthis off and on for the past couple months. It's a bit of a chore since I'm doing it on my Iphone. I'm far enough that I don't want to start on my Ipad, even though the text is far easier to read. Speaking of text, that's my suggestion. I noticed with the most recent update the text and background for the choices have changed - gotten more colorful in fact. With everything else the wite on dark, this surprised me. I don't know what it's like for a fully sighted person, but for someone with partial sight it makes it a lot harder to read since the contrast isn't as well defined. Is this going to be a permanent change? Also one other suggestion. I finally figured out how to beat that particular woodland shooting part. Didn't realize I had to center the crosshair on the dot and THEN raise my finger. Thought I had to keep track of it. Might be helpful to give a little message the first time such a minigame comes up so people know how to do it. Still enjoying it though. Only thing that baffles me is how the connection has to keep getting cut. Sometimes it makes sense. In fact most of the time it does. But occasionally Frances will disconnect for seemingly no reason, then never comment later. Keep up the great work in any case.
Hi Art. Thanks for your reply.
Regarding the color pallet, that actually surprises me. I thought the original bright text on dark background matched the UI a bit more closely since everything else, including the chat log is light on dark also. I'll have to try it on my Ipad and see if it's any easier to read. For me it's just that the background color of the text boxes don't have as easy of contrast with the text as the original color palet did.
The crosshair puzzle isn't in itself a problem. It wasn't terribly difficult once you get the hang of how to do it. My problem was I didn't realize I was supposed to lift my finger when it was centered. Originally I tried touching the dot. Then when I realized I could drag the crosshair, I tried to center it, never realizing I was almost doing it right. The other more traditional item combining puzzles have been fine though. It would be cool to be able to examine random stuff like in a classic adventure game, but I can see that taking a lot more to implament. I'd personally much rather expore Frances's personality and learn about her surroundings through her observations. So far that's been going well. There's already quite a bit to interact with, particularly at the cabin which so far for me is where the majority of the puzzle solving happened. Still trying to figure out what led to my unexpected demise in the cabin at the end of the night.
(For reference, I'm
Just cresting the hill after having a really unpleasant night of it, while Frances is in a really bad way.
I remember those forced disconnects. The ones I'm referring to weren't a bug, as Frances commented on them. I can't remember exactly where, as it's been a while, but I think I recall one being after the cabin as she's walking. I think maybe she ... senses something or someone watching her maybe? Either way it's one that she disconnected from, but then never commented on again.
Either way, the experience is overall very posative. Not a lot has really "happened" storywise yet, but the moment to moment interactions with Frances do make a decent simulation that someone is on the other end of the line. It's an interesting and seemingly desolate world that I'm interested in learning more about. Hopefully you guys will able to get the ear mode up and running eventually. Once it is, hopefully you'll be able to develop using it along side the regular version at the same time. As it is, this first chapter is a pretty lengthy adventure. I'm not sure how much further I have to go before I'm finished it.
hi art, what is the status of earmode pleaseWill
I would be interested in knowing that that’s well this game is really awesome and I can’t wait to play it fully once it’s accessible keep up the good work
@Hannes, thank you for your kind words!
@Will, I'm sorry to say that but there's 0 progress. We didn't even begin really.
The enthusiasm, the will to work hard and the passion to continue this story is all there.
But we've put all our money into this project (even our private savings because we are 100% convinced that this is a great project) and although we had some good marketing and press covering here and there the ball is rolling very slowly.
We know that we are striving against the tide and most of the players run away when they read that there are no graphics. But to be honest we are a bit disappointed that the word of mouth didn't work out as we thought it would.
We even made the first chapter completely free on Google Play and that's sacrificed profit in a way because we cannot change back to "paid" ever again (on the Appstore we theoretically can raise the price at any time). That relates of course to episode 1 only, as further episodes will be available as in-app purchases.
So the most probable solution to this desperate plight is to crowdfound the continuation - for instance via kickstarter. But even with that, to have success we'll need a lot of potential backers from the very start. And here the circle goes on which is gaining awarness and popularity. Thats what we are trying desperately at the moment.
We also contacted the AFB and the RNIB to get some additional coverage but no reply since then.
Maybe one of you knows a blind influencer, youtuber or blogger who could support us with coverage when the moment is right and we start a crowdfunding campaign.
Anyway, I see just now I got a reply from David, one of the editors of this great community. It's a reply to my request, if there's any option to inform as many applevis users as possible about our crowdfunding plan. So we'll see if we can move things forward and if the kickstarter crowdfunding would be a realistic goal.
Because I don't even know how many users this community has, how many of them would be willing to back us and I'm not sure if you guys want it to go in that direction at all.
Please, let me know your thoughts on that. Thanks!
is the first chapter of this game in the apple app store
i would love to try to play it and let you know what i think
Yes, it is in the app store. I have the game. Art, I think that a kickstarter is a great idea. Definitely agree with you on the funding problem. Here's my thought for the ear mode. Instead of recording the spoken dialogue for the ear mode, like prompts for accessing buttons, why not have synthetic speech do the talking, after she, the girl, says her lines, and whatnot. It would be simpler in my opinion. You've probably seent a crapton of time doing recording for the voice acting!
it's really discouraging to hear about all the financial difficulties. A few of my favorite adventure game serieses, such as Tex Murphy and The Longest Journey have experienced similar setbacks. Both serieses were very successfully revived via Kickstarter campaigns. When Kickstarter works, it really works well. The trick is garnering the interest. Both aforementioned serieses were beloved by adventure gamers all over the world, so getting them funded wasn't all that hard. Something like this? It might take some creative explaining, but I still think it could work. Personally I'd love to see sighted games have an accessible mode, and I really don't think for adventure games especially it is that hard to implement. Point and click adventure games for instance could very easily be made accessible. I've seen it done with an ancient game called Time Adventures, which, while nothing innovative certainly showed the interface could be made accessible. There are also other types of adventure games which accessibility works well with. Take for example Code 7, which is a hacking-based text adventure. It uses a smart text parcer as an interface, but does it in an intuitive way which is easy to grasp. It also has full voice acting for all dialog which of course helps. What the developers have done however is use a conventional synthesized voice to read everything that is spoken. That's choices and system messages, but it also extends to any emails/notes the player comes across. As someone who generally hates written material in games because I read slow, that was a really great experience. This game was accomplished via a kickstarter. There's also a Hero's call, a pretty generic fantasy RPG by mainstream standards. Except it was made ground up to be playable by the blind, who, let's face it, don't have enough narrative gaming experiences beyond the text adventure. These guys, Out of Sight Games, are doing the exact opposite. They implemented accessibility first, but thanks to their very successful Kickstarter, they made enough to encorperate graphics into their game for the sighted, something that hasn't yet been accomplished. SO, simply put, with enough interest, Kickstarters really do work.
As for this game, I applaud everything you guys are trying to do making it accessible. I can't help wondering however if the above poster is right. Maybe you're over-complicating things? The game here has a very basic interface as it is. I don't know a thing about coding mind you, but if there is a way to make Voiceover recognize the choices buttons, bottom tabs, menus, item combining, compass directions and chat history using standard voiceover commands, I really think this might be enough. If you've seen the game Time Crest, they do a pretty good job implementing accessibility. No idea which engines you both use, but the style of your games is very similar, except they only use text with a little music. With a standard interface, we could swipe back and forth between choices, then just dubble tap to select one. Only time that might be hard is for the occasional timed choice, and for the hunting minigame we have already talked about. And actually if you're going to keep that in, there's probably an auditory way to make that work also.
I've wanted to play this game ever since I heard about it. I'd be happy to contribute if you started a Kickstarter campaign. I'm always eager to support any mainstream developer who takes the time to make their game accessible.
Agreed on kick starter. I'd say looking at the inquisitor series of games by TiconBlu, they're in the app store. There interface is simple and pretty self explanatory to use and it takes five seconds or so to figure out once you get the hang of it.
@Justin Thank you. The voice acting is only a part of the development and certainly not the most difficult just a little time consuming. It's the coding, all the logic and the structure/branching of the options/puzzles in combination with audio.
@Remy Thank you. I completely understand your reasoning.
As a company we learned over time how things work differently and we can't measure success just by looking at the games, reviews, downloads etc. and much less copy the success.
We have an audio concept which most people don't understand in the beginning because they expect something like Papa Sangre, which is significantly simpler to code when you can reuse many of the sounds and dynamically play them back depanding on your position. (the engine does msot of the work)
In comparison TGWSTW has over 1.000 sounds which have to be separately and manually (there's no engine for that) connected with many other logical things. I don't want to get too technical and I'm not trying to convince you because I know how it looks from the outside, but sometimes the simplest things are not that simple behind the curtains.
Plus it's a thriller/survival which is not what most of the CYOA fans are after (at least it is what a learned from them). And TimeCrest is a great example for that because it's just what fans of CYOA are used to it. A cute world with magic and spells and whatnot, so it works for them and they probably didn't have to struggle that much.
But despite all that, more important is that we have to manage a business here, we have to sell in order to be able to continue work. And the calculation simply won't work for now. Let's say we could recharge our budget a little (which is not possible at all but let's just assume) just so we could implement a simple voice over. I would clench my teeth, because it wouldn't be the greatest solution but it would work for you guys. But what's next? You would play chapter 1, and would want to continue the story but we'd still stand there with 0 budget. It wouldn't get us anywhere in the long run, just leaving us with a medicore product and unsatisfied players.
Additionally to that the app world is following different rules and you have to generate tens of thousands of downloads just to gather a few real fans (very low conversion rate throughout the genres). But I don't want to bore you with that.
I'm not saying that it couldn't gain a few more fans but it wouldn't be enough. And that's why we came to that conclusion a while ago which I kept repeating: we can't move forward without a strong fanbase. All successful games have it and we need it too.
I just hoped when we started out that it would build slowly by itself just by word of mouth.
But that's unfortunately not the case.
Remy, just to make clear why I'm writing all this. I'm not trying to argue with you. I just wanted to give you a little insight and share what we have learned and why things got that complicated. I know you are just trying to help and I appreciate your thoughts and input very much.
One thing is sure, we won't give up because the project is near and deer to us. We love the story, Frances and her world and we want to make it an outstanding story.
We just have to focus on another buisness/ideas for now in order to survive not only as a business but as human beings.
What an irony, we've found ourselves in a survival mode :-(
@Chris Wright Thank you so much, I appreciate it!
I just realised (better late than never) that most of you probably didn't listen to our trailer which was also made primarely for the sighted players (my apologies)
This is something I can fix and I will!
I'm starting work on that right now. It should at least show users who are new to this thread what the game is about so they get a feeling for it and can decide if this type of game is something they would like to play.
hi when i first installed the game and opened it for the first time nothing happens and i can’t interact with the screen
i also get no audio feedback
is there something i am missing
Hi, I'm from Turkey. I would like to play/try too, is it available in Turkish app store?