The hands-free development of Dig Dog
"It can be really slow going. I had to slowly build up a library of commands I was familiar with, working with my voice, that I could basically remember."
- Developer of Dig Dog Rusty Moyher on the process of coding by voice.
In an interview with Ars Technica published earlier today, game developer Rusty Moyher shared how he programmed and created art assets for Dig Dog using his voice and an interesting alternative to a hands-on mouse.
After being diagnosed with Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) five years ago, Moyher needed to find an alternative to traditional keyboard and mouse development.
Relief came in the form of taking full breaks from typing and using a mouse, but that wouldn't be good enough. "I still want to make games," he admitted. "It’s hard to imagine any career or job that doesn’t involve computers."
In the pursuit of proving that video games could be developed without using his hands, Moyher found a video by developer Travis Rudd which broke down how he customized the voice recognition software Dragon NaturallySpeaking to write code in Python using only his voice.
Despite warnings from various forums about the limitations of coding using Dragon, Moyher decided to give it a try. "The commands you come up with, basically in a made-up language, are all built to be quickly and easily recognized by Dragon," Moyher explains, saying he recommended "short, tight words or phrases that can be executed quickly."
Coding using this method meant creating an entirely new vocabulary. "I needed to build a vocabulary that was suited for what I was doing that I was familiar with," he said. "The process of coding by voice is, I have to do programming tasks, like normal, and come up with commands and modify the system. On top of that, all at once, I also have to remember these [shortcut terms]."
With the programming taken care of, Moyher needed to figure out how to create art assets for Dig Dug without needing to use a mouse. The full interview at Ars Technica goes into how he did just that.