Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Break Out for the Blind

Wrecking Ball is a blind-accessible version of the classic arcade game Break Out. The object of this game is to break all the bricks in each level using a bouncing ball. There are seventeen columns of blocks arranged in eight rows, making 136 blocks. If the ball lands in the top center--that is, center and quietest, the blocks will shrink to half their size. If it lands on the bottom--that is, anywhere where it's very loud, you will hear a crashing sound and lose that ball. The number of remaining balls will then be announced.

There are two sets of keystrokes used to move your ball. The shift keys and space keys function exactly like flippers on a pinball table. When the ball is anywhere from on the right the to just right of center, press right shift and the ball will go forward and left. If the ball is in the center, hit the space bar. This not only makes it go forward but slows it down somewhat. This is good if you find the ball going too fast. If the ball is anywhere from left of center to extreme left, use the left shift key to send it to the right.

Using the flippers is relatively easy, but they don't get the ball moving as fast as you might like. Therefore, there is a second set of keys you use to move the ball.The rows of keys above the row with the space bar and shift keys act as a paddle, which, instead of being moved by the mouse, is placed at the position of the corresponding key. For example, pressing the l key moves the paddle to the extreme right. If the ball is there, the paddle will hit it. There are nine columns of keys arranged in four rows. they are:

1 through 9
q through o
a through l z through period.

The bottom row of keys move the ball very slowly. It is made to go mostly forward. The top row of keys sends the ball speeding off, but its direction is irratic. However, there are times when speed is all that counts.

When the game starts, you'll hear music and the SAPI text to speech voice welcoming you to the game. If you do not hear speech, make sure a TTS engine is installed on your computer. You will also hear thumping noises. They are panned across the soundscreen. They are the blocks. The deepest thumps are blocks closest to the bottom, while higher clicks are bricks furthest away. You will be able to hear, by these sounds alone, where all the bricks are. When the ball hits one, you will hear it shatter. When this happens, the ball will either bounce to the left, right, ahead, or back at you. Sometimes it can break multiple bricks, bouncing between them until it reaches the bottom of the soundscreen. You will hear additional sounds when the ball bounces off the sides, and a boing sound when it bounces off the back. You will only hear the boink sound if the blocks are not shrunk. If the music is too loud, you can adjust it by pressing and holding the up and down arrow keys below the six pack.

Click this link to learn more, or to download Wrecking Ball.

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