Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Let me take moment to introduce a very interesting game that actually had its roots in the Kickstarter program, BlindSide.  Created by Michael Astolfi and Aaron Rasmussen, BlindSide is an incredibly immersive and innovative game for anyone that has an iPhone 4, iPad 2 or any later portable Apple technology.  While my opinion of Apple is typically non-flattering to the company and its hardware, I will say this, I have always had a secret love for the iPod and iPhone technologies, shh...  Don't tell anyone!  Since that confession is out of the way, I believe that it is safe to say that BlindSide is more than worth getting your hands on an iPhone 4 for.

While I've made the game's platform requirements clear, I haven't really given you a reason to want to play it yet.  I suppose the best comparison I can come up with is the Silent Hill games.  Now take Silent Hill (namely Silent Hill 2), make it so that you are always in the areas with monsters, and play it blind with you as the controller.  The gist of the game is that you wake up blind, the end of the world is happening, there are critters (of the want-to-eat-you variety) everywhere.  From the get-go, the game is immersive!  The main character Case has a wonderfully dry sense of humor and calm through every event, which I find hilarious, when you encounter a creature, the only thing you want to do is GTFO like a mad fool, and the characters you meet in the game are pretty fantastically ridiculous.  It does indeed take a crazy person to survive an apocalypse.

The element that makes BlindSide most immersive is definitely the audio.  What makes this so incredible is that to date there is no such thing as "true" surround sound audio (for example if you get shot at in a game, you simply hear the shot, not the direction from which the shot is coming from) although some games such as Battlefield 3 have introduced simulatd surround sound for these effects.  However this game, while hardware is still not built to handle surround sound, the software manages to create the effect of true surround sound.  As an in-game example, if you hear a creature breathing, you know exactly where it is in relation to the direction in which you are facing.  This in itself is an incredible development from only being able to ascertain distance from sounds.

Now, I'm going to jump back two paragraphs into why the game's platforms are so specific.  iPhone 4 and later, as well as iPad 2 and later, both have something that their predecessor models do not, a gyroscope. Earlier models of these technologies only have something called an accelerometer which allows the device to use sensors to determine if where most force of gravity is coming from, which allows the switching between portrait and landscape orientations.  On the models with on an accelerometer, you could not, however, play something along the lines of spin the bottle with the phone, because all the accelerometer does is measure gravity along the X, Y, and Z axes, not necessarily the directional orientation of the phone.  The newer models have something awesome called a gyroscope.  This gyroscope communicates with surrounding sensors to tell the device which direction it is facing.  For example, the game of spin the bottle I mentioned earlier is made possible by this technology, when you spin the device, the gyroscope moves, the sensors communicate where the gyroscope has moved, and this tells the device which direction that it is moving and facingm.  This makes the gyroscope the heart of navigation for BlindSide, allowing you to change the character's direction by changing your own!

We were also quite lucky to get an interview with the creators of BlindSide, Some of their insights into the creation of this game and environment were very interesting!

> What gave you the idea for Blindside?
The initial idea for BlindSide came from a short period of time in
high school when I was blind as a result of a chemistry accident. Mike
and I met up while I was visiting New York last May and we decided to
make that experience into a video game.  We successfully Kickstarted
the project, and have spent the last year developing it into the
game’s current iOS form.

> How did you program the game to react to the gyro movement within the device?
The gyros are surprisingly good in the iPhone with very little done to
them. We just added a little bit of debounce, and also compensated for
gyro drift with various fixed directions in cut scenes. Using the
gyros to control the character helps to ground the player and really
draw them into our game world.

> What were the greatest challenges for the creation of Blindside?
Aaron: One of the biggest challenges we faced, was striking a balance
between realistic audio, and useful audio. For example, we found that
we needed to exaggerate the effect of your ears blocking sounds that
are behind you, so the effect is more useful for navigation. The more
useful we made it, the less realistic it became.

Mike: It can also be a little tricky to develop the game from opposite
coasts. I live in Astoria, Queens, and Aaron out in Santa Monica, CA.
We’ve relied heavily on services like Google Drive and Dropbox to help
us sync up our work and stay on the same page. All it all, the process
has actually gone quite smoothly.

> What do you believe made Blindside stand out to the Kickstarter program?
Aaron: I think the concept of a fresh game experience resonated with
Kickstarters. They like to back endeavors with significant artistic
merit, and BlindSide is just strange enough to warrant their

Mike: We were excited to tackle the challenge of designing a
full-fledged adventure game using only sound, and I think many of our
backers wanted to see where our exploration of the field of audio-only
games might lead.

> What was your favorite part of Blindside (both creation and gameplay)?
Aaron: My favorite part of the creation of BlindSide was working with
Mike to make a game we're proud of. Frankly, it was a blast. There
were some trying parts, whether annoying bugs, long sleep-deprived
work binges for deadlines, or just overwhelming amounts of work to get
done, but the collaboration created something better than could be
achieved alone. Recording the sound effects for the game was great fun
as well. My favorite part of gameplay is the very end, which I can say
absolutely nothing about, but you'll see why.

Mike: I had been wanting to work with Aaron on a project since
college, but we’d never really found the right opportunity.
Collaborating through the ups and downs of BlindSide has been a real
treat, in which I’ve learned a lot. You’d be surprised how much you
can accomplish if you just cut sleeping out of your schedule. I’m
really excited about the game that Aaron and I have developed, and
proud of the experience we’ve been able to create for our players.  As
far as my favorite part of the gameplay, I think that the monsters’
audio came out spectacularly. Whenever I play and end up near one,
they just make me want to get the heck out of there.

The iOS version is available for $2.99 here:

All that is left to say about this game is, "Close your eyes, you don't need them anymore."