Monthly Archives: July 2011

Block Party 1.0

                Block Party is here! It’s been four weeks, and there have been a few setbacks, but the game is finally released. Block Party is a strategic puzzle game which will challenge your mind to develop complex strategies as you work to break your previous high score.

In previous posts I referred to the game as Jawbreaker, borrowing from the Windows Mobile game of the same name, but it occurred to me as I developed the game that since we’re working in an audio environment, the playing pieces look and sound nothing like spherical candies. They remind me more of blocks: marble, stone, wood, etc. Thus, Block Party.

I’ll tell the story later. For now, you’re probably looking for the download link.

Enjoy, and thanks for playing!

An Overdue Update

                I had planned to write a long, whiny-yet-justified post about how life has been so busy these past few weeks, but my being busy has kept me from that. I had thought to write about the Minnesota state government shut-down and the work we at BLIND Inc. have had to do to prepare for it, about the work involved in getting ready for convention, about recording an audio version of a textbook, and about my general lack of programming time, but I decided not to. In fact this post will not contain references to any of those things.

                Woops …

                Instead, let’s talk about something happy; let’s talk about Jawbreaker.

For those of you who own or have owned a Pac-Mate, you may be familiar with Jawbreaker. It’s a grid-based puzzle game that can be made “accessible” by labeling the graphics which make up the playing squares. The problem, though, is that for some reason the Pac-Mate liked to introduce random numbers and elements that you the labeler never implemented, and it liked to introduce random spacing that you the player had trouble understanding. In a game with pieces labeled “1” to “5,” it was rather jarring and off-putting to encounter a “6” or a “0” among the squares. Likewise it was confusing to scroll up and down through the lines and find that column 8 was on the right side of the Braille display on one line and in the middle on the next. More often than not I would simply tap the pieces randomly just to pop a few bubbles and see how high a score I could get, and I used the game mainly to keep myself awake.

Last Sunday, after finishing the bulk of my work, I sat down to the boxing game again, only to discover that the problem I was having trouble with when I had to put the game on hold was far too difficult to solve after over two weeks away from coding. As a result, I decided to tackle a quick, simple project to reactivate my brain cells. That project was programming an interactive Spy vs. Spy comic strip. No. Wait. It wasn’t.

                I had two other reasons for wanting to code Jawbreaker: First, I wanted to play a version that wasn’t all screwed up and barely accessible. Second, and more importantly, I wanted to pick up a project that I had envisioned, conceptualize it through from start to finish, and hammer it out as quickly as possible just because I could. I started working on Jawbreaker last Sunday morning, and as of midnight today, the game is nearly complete. All I have left to do is create a few sounds, implement a starting menu, and build in a high score system. After that I’ll be done.

                Before I can complete those things, however, I’ll be attending the NFB convention from July 2 through 9. As might be expected, the time I’ll be able to spend programming my games will be nearly non-existent, and I own no laptop besides. I had pondered releasing the game, warts and all, before I left, but the thought of throwing an untested project to the wolves and not being there to answer questions or make bug fixes stayed my hand. You will be happy to note, though, that the game will be completed likely within a week of my return. I have two days off when I get home, and I intend to make full use of them.

                And—oh yeah—since the concept, idea, and even the title of the game aren’t mine, I can’t very well charge for Jawbreaker, so after I get back, everyone will have a fun, addictive, and—above all—free game to play.

                See you in a week!