Coding without the keyboard: the creation of the game hands-free

Dig Dog
- This is a fun little video game. You can call it " Spelunky
for children," and do not consider it a dubious compliment.
Dig Dog
, recently released for iOS , Xbox , Windows and Mac , abandoned some of the complex elements of the genre, has smooth control and has depth. It is similar to one of the games of the modern wave with randomly created levels, which seemed to come from the arcade machines of the early 80's.
I liked the
Dig Dog
when I found it on last year's event Fantastic Arcade in Austin, Texas. But even more interesting to me was this game, when its author contacted me before its release and said that he managed what no developer of games did before him: he wrote the whole game himself
without hands
Coding without the keyboard: the creation of the game hands-free
Rusty Moyeru have been diagnosed as "trauma from a constant voltage" ( Repetitive Strain Injury, RSI ) (trauma caused by stress of the same group of muscles). At that moment Rusty was just in a very limited time
process of game development. He found that physical relief only occurs when he makes full, one-hundred-percent breaks without typing on the keyboard and using the mouse. This did not suit him. "I still wanted to create games," says Moyer. "It's hard to imagine a job or position that is not connected with computers."
Moyer wanted to prove that his dream - the creation of full-fledged video games without the use of hands - can be performed. The only sure answer was the release of a good, working game. So he would show the world that it is possible that others could go his way.

We fight with RSI along with the dragon

The diagnosis of RSI is never pleasant, but the pain in Moyer's wrists and arms peaked at the most uncomfortable moment. With two of his longtime colleagues, they just raised $ 6?000 on Kickstarter to sell project "six games in six months" . Today, even reading the description of the project
Retro Game Crunch
makes Moyer's wrists hurt: the developers had to receive offers from the backers, and then turn them over 72 hours into a prototype. This should be followed by a clearly honed process, which allowed to release the finished game by the end of the month, after which the cycle of creation and development of the next game immediately began.
Due to the manifested RSI Moyer, the team of three people failed to meet these deadlines. Nevertheless, he continued to work on these games for Kickstarter, while experimenting with changes in the workplace: ergonomic keyboards, replacing the table for better posture, changing mice. Nothing helped, except the good old inaction away from the keyboard and mouse (along with subcutaneous injections of drugs).
"Silver bullet" was found when Moyer came across video presentation of the developer and encoder Travis Rudd which appeared online in 2013. Shortly before this, Rudd was diagnosed with RSI, and he began step by step to acquaint viewers with his life experience with this disease. In a 28-minute video, Rudd talks in detail about how he set up the Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech recognition package to write Python code exclusively in voice. This contradicted what Moyer read in the topics on the forums about RSI and coding, who argued that the utility of the Dragon in coding is severely limited. "Do not try, it's impossible," - such, according to Moyer, was the voice of common sense.
But Rudd with the help of applied to the ecosystem Dragon hacks proved the opposite. He gave this knowledge to Moyer, who contacted him by mail. Two sets of tools, Natlink and Dragonfly, seemed attractive to him, because they could be configured to support certain key phrases that triggered any commands - from the simplest text input to the variable names and macros. "The commands actually spoken in the invented language should be such that the Dragon can easily and quickly recognize them," says Moyer. He recommends "short, concise words or phrases that can be quickly implemented."
The word "slap" means one press on Enter; "Two slap" - double tap. If we say "camel" before the phrase "this is variable", then it will sparse in the line "thisIsVariable". Triangular brackets can be entered by saying "lack" (from <) и «rack» (от > ). Moyer kindly agreed to record a video of his usual coding process:

Rusty Moyer demonstrates writing code with a voice.
Some of these commands are already built into tools downloaded and connected by Moyer to the installed Dragon NaturallySpeaking. But he admits that for the most part he had to invent and train the system so that she could understand the new teams.

Good old Texan two slap

"I needed to create a dictionary that suited me and to what I was used to," says Moyer. "The process of coding by voice is that I need to perform ordinary programming tasks, come up with commands and modify the system. Besides, I have to remember all these commands. This can be a very long process. I had to slowly develop a library of familiar commands, which are recognized when spoken in my voice and which I can remember. "
Part of the need for a new dictionary was due to the fact that Rusty uses Visual Studio and Xcode for coding, better suited for game development, rather than Emacs-friendly voice commands created and used by Rudd and his associates. In addition, in the Moyer development environment, as it turned out, much more cursor movements were required. That is, he needed to realize what Rudd and the others did not think аbout: a real mouse replacement, working without hands.
Instead of collecting on the knee some infrared tracker of the head or look, Moyer chose the most optimal solution at that time: the device SmartNav 4 for $ 50? supplied by Natural Point, which creates computer equipment for people with special needs. Before the line of sight of the user is located one sensor, and on the headpiece is put on a small reflector. Having built the sensitivity of the device, Moyer achieved satisfactory work with fairly small movements of the head - about 5-10 degrees in the horizontal plane and even less in the vertical plane. The last part of the equipment is a foot pedal, which is performed by mouse clicks.
Rusty was the only encoder, the designer of and artist
Dig Dog
, so the equipment for tracking the position of the head was necessary for drawing game elements and animation frames. The graphics of the game with huge pixels have a resolution of about 220p and a palette of six colors. "The device is not as fast and accurate as a mouse," Moyer admits. "I chose a graphic style of the game that was easier to implement on this system."
Moyer's original goal was a project that can not only be developed without hands, but also tested without hands, but he could not fully cope with this task.
Dig Dog
began life as an unattainable project - Rusty wanted to create a good platformer for iOS. His first prototypes were more atmospheric and discreet; in them a pixelated dog was just wandering through a vast desert. "Then I had the idea of ​​digging, and since then the main gameplay has been digging in the ground." (And in fact, digging by tapping the screen and moving the tapes to the edges of the screen under the constraints of the smartphone works pretty well, but the gameplay is also interesting with the standard game controller.)
But Moyer was the only designer and coder, so he still had to endure the wrist pain for only one purpose: testing the prototype. "I wanted to conduct playtest games with the tools I created, but I had to test it with my hands," Moyer said. "In no other way would I be able to understand the sensations of the game and carefully adjust its mechanics."

Give the community a bone

Part of Moyer's mission to create a complete game was necessary for him to create his own vocabulary of text-to-speech for coding. In order not to repeat the story with the project for Kickstarter, he did not want anyone in the work on a large project to depend on his speed or skills. Today, he believes that he laid the foundation for becoming the first encoder that uses speech first, at work or alone, or over a large project. ("I've almost reached the one-to-one ratio," he says, comparing voice dialing speed and normal printing.) And he is already considering using better tools, namely eye tracking technologies, to see if he can achieve an increase speed and accuracy of moving the cursor with the movements of the head.
For the first time faced with RSI, Moyer sought sources of inspiration in the community; now he hopes that other creators of games with similar diagnoses and limitations, looking at his achievements, will be able to start moving towards the game of their dreams.
"From the very beginning, I thought that if I could create an interesting and exciting game, this would be an attractive way to promote the idea of ​​coding by voice," Moyer said. "Modern instruments are rather unstable. They are easily spoiled: you need to install the software, configure it in Windows, purchase various add-ons and hardware. Probably, it is worth promoting the very idea that there are other ways of working and other tools? Maybe this will improve the overall situation with voice coding! "
Moyer sent us several interviews after the interview, because many of his improvements are based on the information available to the general public. Start with This guide to DragonFly - add-on for NaturallySpeaking, designed specifically for coding, as well as with installation manual relevant additions. You can learn more about the topic at .

Add comment