It turns out that Rusty Moyher’s new game Dig Dog -Treasure Hunter [$2.99] has an interesting story behind its creation. Namely, Moyher managed to create the entire game purely by voice and eye-tracking. He spoke with Ars Technica about the unique method of the game’s development. He was diagnosed with a Repetitive Stress Injury (similar, but separate from Carpal Tunnel syndrome) a few years ago, where it wound up negatively affecting his work, particularly with Retro Game Crunch, delaying the game’s development.
However, Moyher found a video by developer Travis Rudd in 2013 that discussed how he used Dragon NaturallySpeaking to code in Python. After getting the info from Rudd, and applying some custom commands to work with his software, Moyher managed to get a setup where he could code with just his voice in Visual Studio and Xcode.
But that’s not all. Moyher managed to implement a head tracker, the SmartNav 4 AT, which uses head motion to let people use their computers. It’s technology that people with ALS like Steve Gleason use to help interact with the world. In fact, Congress recently approved the Steve Gleason Act to help secure funding for these kinds of speech-generating devices for ALS patients.
Moyher was able to use this device and a foot pedal in order to use his head as a mouse in the tools he needed. Which included the game’s artwork. While the game uses a simple, low-resolution, primarily monochromatic pixel art scheme, he still was able to create every line of code, design the game, and create the artwork in an entirely hands-free manner, allowing him to not suffer any of the pain that he would normally suffer from his RSI. The only work his hands had to do was to physically play and test the game.
Dig Dog was already a fun platformer before this news came out, but this serves as an important milestone for accessibility in game development. This is a sign that users with disabilities that would prevent them from traditional coding methods can still be game developers, and make fun titles regardless of whatever limitations they might have. While there’s difficulties like learning the ‘language’ of speaking code, Moyher says that he can now talk his code out at a one-to-one rate comparable with typing code out.
For those looking to get into hands-free coding themselves, handsfreecoding.org serves as a great starting point, as does this guide to voice programming. With the technology that exists nowadays with voice recognition, and tools for users to interface with computers without using their hands, Dig Dog – Treasure Hunter‘s development should show that literally anybody can make games regardless of physical ability.