Pure Pool: In search of Accessible Pool

Pure Pool (Ripstone Games)

Screenshot of Pure Pool on Xbox One. A purple table with many coloured balls on top. View is down the tip of a cue about to strike the white cue ball. Trajectory guides appear on the table.

I've been searching for a video Pool game for some time, that will work really well for more physically disabled players (see here).  RipStone's Pure Pool for PS4, Xbox One (the version I tried) and PC is not it, but it so easily could be.

In it's favour... If you can manage the left-stick to aim (hold A for fine-aiming), right-thumb-stick to take a shot (pull back then very quickly push forwards), this game is pretty fantastic. Feels very, very close to the real thing. It's smooth, looks great and with the aiming help, it's certainly easier than the real thing.

It has a good tutorial if you can read, lovely (if limited) free-play mode and "black ball" mode (aka "yellows and reds") - which is easier to comprehend and see for most people.

Downsides are the lack of an alternative control method. If you can't manage the fast transition between pulling back and pushing forwards to strike the ball, this game is unplayable. I thought I might be able to hack something up, (like Boccia here, but with auto-scanning), but without some custom scripts and PC link-up, I can't see a way to make it possible. I'd recommend Xbox 360 Bankshot Billiards for a simpler method.

Additionally, I was a little confused at times how to choose "black ball mode" and practice by myself (or in a group by sharing the controller). Sometimes the game would say it was searching for an opponent when I'd not asked it to.

The key point that's missing for me on top of the control restrictions, is the lack of a true free-play mode, where I can place any ball wherever I like, and remove and replace balls. Why would I want to do this? Well, for trick-shots is one obvious answer, but actually, it's for real vs. virtual games. I'd like to set this kind of thing up next to a real pool table. A disabled person who can't play traditional physical Pool could break off with (an updated) Pure Pool. Wherever the balls lie, you recreate this set-up on the real table. The opposing player on the real table then takes their shot. The Pure Pool player moves the ball on the virtual table to match the real table, then takes their shot, and so on until the game ends. That would be amazing... Sadly this mode is commonly missing from modern day pool games. Will update if this gets added.

UPDATE: If you fancy jumping through many hurdles and expense, this can be made one-switch accessible in turns out. You'll need a XIM4 adapter, and some blue-tack to wedge back the right-thumb stick on the authenticating Xbox 360 joypad. You can then connect a switch adapted keyboard or Xbox/Playstation standard joypad like device to trigger an up-motion to play. And it actually plays brilliantly. Sadly, this could be so much better and easier to do with a small adjustment to the code.

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Android Switch Access and "iPad Toucher"

Great to see Android implementing switch access via Colin McDonnell's video above, although it looks like it needs improving. Great start though. When will consoles start to get some in-built access options out of the box, I wonder. Pretty shameful I think.

No idea if you can play many games using Android's scanning switch access like this, but I look forward to finding out. iOS is impossible.... unless you use the likes of Assist-lab.com's "iPad Toucher" which is very delicate and hard to obtain.

iPad Toucher found via @jalpsjp on Twitter.

iPad Toucher from Assist-Lab.com. Used to give better simple switch access to iOS devices. Used here to trigger a firework.

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Joypad Mounting Solution for £15.49

Joypad Mounted system for chin and/or mouth control. An Razer ONZA controller with illuminated A,B,X,Y buttons, RKade Freek thumb-stick extensions, and three sockets for external accessibility switches, all mounted on a simple system.

Cheap accessible mounting system for game controller. Xbox 360 system.

Articulating 11'' Magic Arm with clamp. Used for game accessibility mounting.

A "Selfie Stick" with blue-tooth button.

In the process of building a customised controller linked with the brilliant SpecialEffect, I needed to find a mounting solution. It needed to raise the joypad up to chin/mouth height and be as inexpensive as possible.

Inspired by a pair of Japanese tourists on Westminster Bridge I saw earlier this month, I wondered if a "Selfie Stick" mounted to a a small camera "magic arm" mount with clamp might to the trick. It did.

If you go to eBay and search on 11" Articulating Magic Arm Clamp, at the minute, you can pick them up for £11.99. The Selfie-Sticks are as cheap as £3.50. You can get them with a tiny blue-tooth "take picture" button for iOS or Android phones too, a potential very cheap way to give people a switch accessible camera, after soldering in a 3.5mm mono socket.

The build quality of the mounting system is not Manfrotto quality by a long way, but great for mounting a phone into view as is. For a heavier joypad, I found I had to use electrical tape to stop the telescopic joins from rotating and also had to mount the system on a table, to be directly in front of the user. Mounting at the side had too much flex.... but I think this could be resolved by using some epoxy metal welding paste around the joints that are causing an issue. [UPDATE: You can connect Xbox 360 microphones with this set-up. There's just enough room, and it makes for a very firm mount for the whole controller].

Added to the Accessible Gaming Shop: Mounting Solutions.

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Apple Switch Accessibility: 1979 to 2014

Apple have an undeniably long history of promoting the accessibility of their computers. This reputation was cemented in the 1980s by activists pushing for greater access such as parent Jacquelyn Brand of the Disabled Children’s Computer Group and later Alliance for for Technology Access. Of course most importantly, by the successes of the enabled users.

Key also to Apple's current reputation are the past and present teachers and engineers such as Paul Schwejda and Judy McDonald of Adaptive Peripherals Inc. and the likes of AssistiveWare and their Switch XS system. These are undoubtedly some of the shoulders that Apple's current switch access features stand upon.

The videos above show: Ms. Pac-Man played with a single switch on an Apple II GS with Adaptive Firmware Card. Tap to bring up the auto-scanning menu, then tap again to choose D(own), U(p), (R)ight, (L)eft. Love the way the game stops whilst you decide.

The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy is again played with a single switch. There's also a short demo of Morse Code entry which was an alternative to scan and select.

Mike Philip's demonstrates his phenomenally quick single switch skills with Switch XS on an Apple Mac to play mainstream games.

And finally, Colin McDonnell shows the current Yosemite operating system with in-built access, which has taken much from the iOS7 switch access updates.

Some of the current switch access is not perfect, as some activities are very difficult now. I'm hopeful Apple will address this soon. Finally for now, if anyone has a manual for the Adaptive Firmware Card, and ideally the resources disk too, please get in touch. The Ms. Pac-Man and Hitch Hiker's videos were kindly created by Richard Pickles who brought my (g32) Adaptive Firmware Card back to life with his Apple II GS. We can't understand for the life of us how to get the joystick and paddles emulation working, and would love to do so to document this amazing device a little further. UPDATE: Superb post from Richard Pickles here on the Adaptive Firmware Card.

g32 Adaptive Firmware Card with Don Johnston I/O Box with blue accessibility switch plugged in. Fitted to an Apple II GS (doesn't fit very well!)

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I find it strange that Apple's iOS devices won't let you connect a standard mouse. Even more so, I find it odd that iOS is really bad for switch access to action games. Especially considering how well-thought out the switch access options are otherwise.

Android has a long way to go to catch Apple up for accessibility. For skilled switch users who can comprehend the menu systems, iOS is the way to go for portable use. For switch users falling under the PMLD umbrella who might just want to make something fun or interesting happen, or any switch users who just want to play some fun action games, Android is by far the better portable prospect.

If Apple want to keep ahead and be the mobile device of choice for all switch users, they need to find a way to duplicate what can be done in the video above. Seems easy enough, and there's ways it could be implemented inside and outside of the existing switch accessibility system. Come on Apple! Meanwhile, after the break, see a list of some one-switch accessible Android games and activities...

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The Pyramid

The Pyramid from Pug Fugly games. 2D shoot-em-up, with one-person bubble space ship taking on an onslaught of ancient Egyption creatures.

Still a game that so many could learn from, Chris Roper's Pug Fugly award winning PC game, The Pyramid is back from the dead. Originally created for the 2006 Retro Remakes Competition, it has a huge array of brilliant access features.

The Pyramid died with Windows Vista, 7 and 8 updates. Chris kindly slogged through the code and resurrected the game. Features include speed control, difficulty adjustment, various ways to play including a one-switch mode, a magnification mode and more. Stunning work. I wonder when a main-stream game will ever have a fraction of that.

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2014 TIGA and AGDA Game Accessibility Awards

Fantastic to see the games industry body TIGA adopt a Game Accessibility category. Their first ever was awarded on the 6th of November 2014 in London to...

Somethin' Else: Audio Defence: Zombie Arena. An audio-game off shoot of the Papa Sangre franchise.

Northway Games: Deep Under the Sky and SixToStart: Zombies Run 3 made the (very short) short-list. The award criteria focussed on opening the game up to a wider audience through accessible design. I'd personally rather play Deep Under the Sky, but it is a hard one-switch game, requiring perfect timing, and it lost out for that reason I feel.

On the other side of the world, on the 29th of October 2014 at the Australian Game Developers Awards (their second), "Appointment With FEAR" from Tin Man Games walked away with the accessibility prize. Runners up were Bonza, Minimega and Framed, Loveshack Entertainment.

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Christmas 1979: The Electronic Generation

1979 December Personal Computer World photo. A group of young children playing with the latest electronic gadgets and toys.

The early days of the home electronic gaming revolution for kids in the UK (from the Personal Computer World December 1979 issue). Many would find these games far too expensive back then but there was always the arcades, electronic calculator games or just leafing wistfully through the latest Argos catalogue.

Thought I'd share a little with this of a great looking event up at the National Museum of Scotland, on the 13th of December: Rab's Video Game Christmas Morning. Sure to be a joyous thing.

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