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Audyssey
Games Accessible to the Blind
Issue 40: First quarter, 2004
Edited by Michael Feir 

Fun, Friendship, Knowledge, Charity

 

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Welcome

Welcome to the fortieth issue of Audyssey. This magazine is dedicated to the discussion of games which, through accident or design, are accessible to the blind either with or without sighted assistance. This is not the last issue of Audyssey. It is merely the last issue that Rebecca and I will be editing. You'll be introduced to the new editor in this issue. Also, we have excellent coverage of games that are rocking the accessible gaming world. 

 

 Note: This magazine uses plus-signs as navigation markers. Three plus-signs are placed above any articles or sections. Within these sections, two plus-signs denote the start of a new sub-section. Smaller divisions are marked by a single plus-sign. This allows people to use their search capabilities to go quickly to the next division they are interested in. For instance, the "Letters" section is preceded by three plus-signs. Each letter within it has two plus-signs before it. Answers to letters have a single plus-sign before them.

 

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Distribution Information and Submission Policies

This magazine is published on a quarterly basis, each issue appearing no earlier than the fifteenth of the publication month for its quarter. All submissions to be published in an issue must be in my possession a minimum of two days before the issue is published. I use MS-Word to produce Audyssey, and can therefore accept submissions in pretty much any format. They may be sent either on a 3.5-inch floppy disk, or via e-mail to my Cogeco address. I will give my home address and my Cogeco address at the end of the magazine.

Please write articles and letters about games or game-related

topics which interest you. They will likely interest me, and your fellow readers. This magazine should and can be a

highly interesting and qualitative look at accessible gaming. To insure that high quality is maintained, I'll need your

written contributions. I reserve the right to unilaterally make changes to submissions if I deem it necessary to improve them grammatically or enhance their understand ability. I will never make changes which will alter the spirit of a submission.

All submissions must be in English. However, people need not be great writers to have their work appear in Audyssey.

Many of our community come from different countries. Others are quite young. Where possible, I try to preserve their

different styles of expression. The richness that this adds to the Audyssey experience far outweighs any benefits

gained from having everything in prose so perfect as to be devoid of life. Audyssey is a community and magazine built

on the need for blind people to have fun. There are no formal structural requirements for submissions. Within reason,

they may be as long as necessary. Game reviews should all clearly state who created the game being examined, where it

can be obtained, whether it can be played without sighted assistance, and any system requirements or other critical

information. Although profanity is by no means banned, it should not be used gratuitously. Submissions not published

in a current issue will be reserved for possible use in future issues if appropriate. Those who are on the Audyssey

discussion list should be aware that I often put materials from the list in the "Letters" section if I feel that they warrant it.

Anything posted to this discussion list that in some way stands out from the common and often lively ongoing

discourse will be considered fair game for publishing unless it contains the author's wish that it not be published. Until

now, this practice has been commonly consented to. From now on, it is now officially a policy of the Audyssey

community.

This magazine is free in its electronic form, and will always remain so. I'm writing this magazine as much

for my own interest as for everyone else's. Your articles, reviews, and letters, as well as any games you might care to

send me, are what I'm after. Send any games, articles, letters, or reviews via E-mail, or on a 3.5-inch disk in a self-

addressed mailer so that I can return your disk or disks to you once I have copied their contents onto my hard drive.

Please only send shareware or freeware games. It is illegal to send commercial games unless you are their creator or have

obtained permission to do so. By sending me games, you will do several things: first, and most obviously, you will earn

my gratitude. You will also insure that the games you send me are made available to my readership as a whole. As a

further incentive, I will fill any disks you send me with games

from my collection. No disk will be returned empty. If you want

specific games, or specific types of games, send a message in ASCII format along. If you have a particular game that you

need help with, and you are sending your questions on a disk anyhow, include the game so that I can try and get past

your difficulty. If you can, I recommend that you send

e-mail. I can send and receive attachments with ease. This way, no money will be

wasted sending me a game I already have, and

you'll get my reply more quickly. You are responsible for shipping costs. That means, either use a disk mailer which has

your address on it, and is either free matter for the blind, or is properly stamped. I can and will gladly spare time to share

games and my knowledge of them, but cannot currently spare money above what I spend hunting for new games. I

encourage all my readers to give my magazine to whoever they think will appreciate it. Up-load it onto web pages and

bulletin board systems. Copy it on disk for people, or print it out for sighted people who may find it of value. The larger our community gets, the more self-sustaining it will become.

 

There are now several ways of obtaining Audyssey. Thanks to the generous support of Monarch, Your PC1Source LLC., Audyssey Magazine now has an official home on the Web. All previous issues of Audyssey can be obtained from there in several different formats. LVG makes Audyssey available in MS-Word and PDF formats. There efforts on our behalf are very much appreciated. Visitors may take advantage of a growing amount of content as well as submit material. Check it out at:

www.audysseymagazine.org

 

Those who want to receive issues of Audyssey as they are published should send a blank E-mail to:

[email protected]

   

The Audyssey discussion list facilitates discussion about games

accessible to the blind between the publication of issues of Audyssey. All are welcome as long as they respect their fellow community members and keep in mind that the topic of the list is supposed to be games. Other topics are allowed within reason as long as they don't begin to monopolize the list traffic for too long. Newcomers should be advised that

traffic is frequently fairly heavy. To help those who are swamped with E-mail cope with this, there is a digest mode available which sends one large E-mail per day containing the day's traffic. Anyone participating in the discussion list will have issues of Audyssey automatically sent to them via E-mail. Representatives from all major developers of games for the blind are actively participating on the list. All staff members of Audyssey are also encouraged to participate on the discussion list. There are two moderators keeping things civil and orderly. Be certain to read the Audyssey Community Charter as all list members are expected to follow its rules. If you want an active role in shaping the future of accessible games, this is where you can dive right in. To subscribe to this discussion list, send a blank message to:

[email protected]

To post messages to the list, send them to:

[email protected]

Should you wish to unsubscribe, send a blank message to:

[email protected]

To change your subscription to digest mode so that you only receive one message per day, send a blank message to:

[email protected]

To go back to receiving individual messages, send a blank message to:

[email protected]

There are more options at your disposal. To find out about them, send a blank message to:

[email protected]

 

 

Stan Bobbitt has made Audyssey Magazine available in HTML format for easy on-line browsing. To take advantage of this, you are invited to visit our home-page. People can easily and quickly navigate through the various articles and reviews, and directly download or visit the sites of the games that interest them. This will be of especial benefit for sighted people who wish to make use of Audyssey and/or join the growing community surrounding it. The Audyssey community thanks Mr. Bobbitt for his continued efforts on its behalf in this matter.

 

You can also find all issues of Audyssey on the Internet on Paul Henrichsen's web site at:

www.henrichsen.org

J.J. Meddaugh has long been famous in the Audyssey community. He has now started his own web-site called The Blind Community. All issues of Audyssey are there in zipped files in the file centre.

 

Another site has recently added Audyssey issues to its resources. We welcome:

www.blindhelp.com

to the Audyssey community and hope that visitors to this site find our resource to be of value to them.

If you have ftp access, all issues are also available at Travis Siegel's ftp site:

ftp://ftp.softcon.com

Look in the /magazines directory.

 

 

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Contents:

Welcome

Distribution Information and Submission Policies

Contents

From The Editor

An Introduction From The New Editor

How to play mainstream games with little sight

Gimme Gimme Gimme!:

An Editor's Retrospective

Sunday Night Dungeons and Dragons

The Top Five Articles

The Next Steps for Accessible Gaming

News From Adora Entertainment

News From BPCPrograms SD:

News From BSC Games

News From GMA Games

News From PCS

Enchantment's Twilight Development Diary: Part VI

Game Announcements and Reviews

Contacting Us

 

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From The Editor:

 

Hello, everyone. This is my last opportunity to write to you as the editor of Audyssey. Ron Schamerhorn is taking over the editorship. Although I'll certainly do whatever I can to make this process easier for him, the future direction that Audyssey Magazine takes is up to you, the readers, and Ron. From time to time, I hope to be able to write contributions for the magazine. I'll certainly still be a part of the Blindgamers list. However, a lot of new challenges require my attention. Work on Enchantment's Twilight is my first priority. To bring a game like that to completion is going to be a very arduous and time-consuming task. I have a whole lot to learn and do. The end result of my efforts will largely depend on the efforts of others whose talents I'll need to employ. When I'm far enough along in my work, I'll be turning to this community to find at least some of that talent. The only compensation I can offer beyond gratitude is a free copy of the finished game assuming I'm able to ultimately complete it. I must also more deeply investigate and learn about the process of running a business in Canada and what effect being on government assistance has on what I can and can't do.

 

I have also begun working with a young blind student and have an opportunity to put my theories about the positive power and education value of games to the ultimate test. Needless to say, I plan to take full advantage of my own very positive experience to help this young fellow get a good head start with access technology in a fun way. To give praise where it's due, Jim Kitchen's free Pong game was a very welcome surprise for this lad's first cession with me. For people with limited keyboarding skills, I heartily recommend Pong as a great starting game.

 

As part of my last piece as editor, I figured I'd give you my thoughts on the future of the magazine. I don't think anybody could say that interest in accessible games is on the decline. Awareness continues to spread of the existence of such games, and more media attention has been given to them. The number of newcomers to the growing stable of game developers, myself included, tells me that there is certainly no shortage of motivation to make these games or great ideas for games to be made. It should soon be a bit easier for the new editor to be certain that he'll have at least one or two new games to talk about in each issue. The very big problem still lies in finding people willing to write for the magazine. Eight years after I started Audyssey, I still never know whether I'll have enough material to build a good issue until practically the last minute. That has simply got to change. I'm horrified at how much apathy is out there in our growing community. People are certainly willing to write enough short messages to the Blindgamers list. If only a quarter of that effort went to writing reviews of your favorite games or articles about trends or issues surrounding these games, we'd likely have material to spare. It's obvious that people enjoy the games developers make. However, they've got to get busy writing articles and reviews about them. That's what Audyssey is built on. That tells developers that they're having an impact on people. Due to the same lack of effort on the community's part, the future of the Audyssey homepage was uncertain until quite recently. Luis Defute and Stan Bobbett have created a wonderful resource for the community which has gone tragically unused. The changes just completed to the site mean that it can continue for at least another year. However, it can only be as attractive and effective as we make it. Certainly, Audyssey could continue as an E-mail publication. It's being posted to other sites, so it's not like nobody can get back issues if Luis pulls the plug. However, the community then loses the huge advantage of having an official home base on the Web. People looking for information about accessible games will likely find the homepage early in their search. Take an hour or two and write a game review or article about your thoughts on accessible games. Submit that to the site, and you'll demonstrate that there are people out there willing to make at least that much of an effort. This community depends on new thinking and perspectives to keep things interesting. I, for one, would hate to see the Audyssey site disappear due to lack of interest and effort. I could hand the magazine over to one of the best editors out there, but even he or she would get nowhere without community participation. Ron will do his best as will Luis and Stan. However, you, the readers, have to do your best to write in material for both the web site and magazine. Otherwise, these people who are so eager to assist the community will have nothing to work with.

 

The quest for fun has succeeded far beyond anything I could have dreamed of eight years ago. We've found that in spades thanks to the pioneering and generous spirit of accessible game developers. Audyssey Magazine has recorded the birth of an exciting new industry where good will and intensions still ultimately count for something. However, I've come to realise that an even more meaningful and precious reward has been granted us. The community of readers and participants in the magazine have all grown as individuals. I certainly include myself in that category. Even if only in small ways, we've come to care about something larger than ourselves. We've gone out of our way to help and interact with each other. The community is now a far more inviting place for newcomers looking for fun and friendship. For this, I must offer a special thanks to our excellent moderators David Lant and Brenda Green. Both of these fine people have gone to great lengths to help this community along and keep things somewhat orderly.

 

There is plenty of good will in the community. Many people have received timely assistance thanks to other members. I very much hope this continues to be the case. Some of that good will, however, must be directed towards the magazine's future. Many more of you must start pitching in and writing articles and reviews. The magazine can be so much more than just a collection of announcements from game developers if people just put in a bit of effort. It can show people what games can help us explore in our lives. It can be a testament to employers showing how much effort blind people are willing to put forth to make their dreams happen. Over the past eight years, I believe I've succeeded in making the magazine reflect well on our community. To all who came forward to be the next editor of the magazine, I thank you for your willingness. I hope that you'll still be willing in the future should Ron's life undergo similar radical changes to what I've experienced. Please give him the encouragement he needs and let him help you harness your creative energy. He is now your sounding board. He must build each issue of Audyssey from the blocks you give him to work with. It's that partnership along with the good will of game developers that gives Audyssey Magazine longevity. To everyone who has given me assistance in keeping Audyssey alive over the past eight years, you have my deepest thanks and appreciation. The lessons I've learned editing this magazine haven't always been pleasant, but have ultimately proved incredibly valuable.

 

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An Introduction From The New Editor

By Ron Schamerhorn

 

 

  As everyone knows, Mike is stepping down from editing the Audyssey magazine after doing so from the beginning.  Since this proves to be a great resource for those of us who are interested in the accessible games market this does leave one wondering who will fill this gap.  I am the person who will undertake this task, so allow me to introduce myself.

  My name is Ron Schamerhorn, I'm a 34 year old from Oakville Ontario, Canada.  What I'm intending to do is summarize some of what I've done in and out of the gaming community to give the reader some idea of my background.  Obviously I won't hit every point but attempt to keep it simple. 

  My beginnings into accessible games or to even discover they existed was a New Years get together 1997/98 at a friends place where I had the pleasure of being introduced to Michael.  During the evening we discussed the magazine and some of the available games for the blind/vi people to play.  Fortunately the mutual friend had a couple issues on a diskette and gave them to me.  If memory serves I got the first four issues on the disk.  Mike and I hit it off well and decided he would come over soon and give me a crash course in gaming.  This session ended up being most of the day!  I also remember the first game I played.  It was the text adventure "Haunted Theatre" which I managed to score full points on.

Since then I've been an active participant on the discussion list, and played most of the games which are available out there.  This by no means makes me a guru of gaming but I have a few years under my belt.  I suppose I'd be among the longer term members of Audyssey and look forward to providing a wonderful read for all of you with great community input towards each issue.

 

Now on to some of what I've done.  As I mentioned I've played pretty much all the games out there.  At least the demos available,  and have a list of those I'm wanting to buy.  My collection is ever growing bit by bit. 

  Over time I've been involved in some beta testing for various games and companies.  What I've tested are Adora Entertainment [when it was ESPSoftworks] Monkey Business & Aliens in the Outback.  I also was the voice of Camper Bob on the Forest Level of MB though I normally don't sound like that.  AllInPlay's poker, and also BSC's Troopanum [up to version 1.5].

 

I am involved with Saint John Ambulance Brigade here both as a volunteer and a first aid/CPR instructor.  My membership in this organization  goes back roughly 10 years.  It provides a great opportunity to be involved within the community.  In a nutshell as a volunteer Saint John attends various public events providing first aid & CPR services. 

  I graduated college with a Human Services Administration diploma. However, the employment prospects haven't been too good.  In light of this I am considering going back to school and taking something in the area of computers. 

  There you have it.  Some info about me.  I look forward to the challenge editing Audyssey will present to me.  My contact info is as follows:

 

Ron Schamerhorn

1180 Dorval Dr. #303

Oakville On L6M 3G1

[905]-842-1933

[email protected]

[email protected]

for MSN no email.

Thanks to Michael for two reasons.  The first is starting and spearheading Audyssey I know it wasn't always easy but it is appreciated.  Second for having the faith in selecting me to follow in his footsteps. 

 

  "I choose you to replace me."

   "I could only succeed you."

Star Trek VI Spock & Valairus

 

Ron Schamerhorn

 

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How to play mainstream games with little sight

By Darren Harris

 

Introduction

 

Greetings. I have been playing computer games now for around 20 years. I

started with an "original" Atari 2600 with the original Pacman and space

invader games. I only have 10% vision in the left eye and practically

nothing accept light perception in the right. I don't use large print, I use

a screen reader. The strategies I have developed over the years for playing

games didn't come easily. They came with a lot of frustration and in some

cases, by losing my temper at times. It was only through sheer determination

and my real interest in the game that allowed me to find ways of playing a

particular game.

 

I first started playing the original arcade games, now known as the

classics. Like Pacman, Mrs Pacman, Space Invaders and many many others.

Whilst they in themselves are not very complex, they are still amung the

greats of all time gaming. Over the years, I have gone from playing those

games to playing first person shooters like Doom, Doom 2, Castle

Wolfenstine, Jedi Knight and simulators like Elite, witch is the undisputed

father of all simulators.

 

As time has gone on, there has been an increase in difficulty in my being

able to play these games. That's not to say that it has become inpossible.

Indeed, for some games, it is quite difficult and I have given up in some cases. However, with other games, I have progressed and found my own ways of playing these games witch in some respects have turned out to be quite unorthodox in the eyes of our sighted counterparts. I hope to explain in

some detail as to how I manage to play these games. Please note. I'm not going to concentrate on specific games, but will look at different types of games that I have played with the occasional title to illustrate a

specific point. If I was to list all the individual games that I have played

and strategies that I have adopted, then this would go on for ever. But

there are some similarities that I will mention with the hope that it might help some of you out there who like myself, have some vision but have trouble playing games.

 

How to increase your success rate

 

Firstly, find a good computer games shop/store with a good manager who

understands the difficulties that you have and get an understanding with

them that if you cannot play the game in X amount of days, then you can

bring it back. Whilst this cannot always be achieved, it is quite

achievable. Or, if you have a (Game) outlet near you, certainly in the UK,

they have a 10 day money back guarantee. So you can purchase games with out

any worry of wasting money if you cannot play them. You can also get an idea

of what type of game it is by asking a certain member of staff in the shop

if they have played the game and basically how it is controlled. IE, joystic,

mouse and or keyboard interface. The types of backgrounds and foregrounds

that there are, and what ever questions that you feel are relevant to your

requirements. If you build a working relationship with certain members of

staff, then it will help to build up their knowledge as to what you can and

cannot successfully play. Whilst this way will not be 100% accurate, it does

increase your success rate. In some cases, the inaccuracies can go in your

favour, other times, it won't. Please be mindful of this.

 

Playing the game

 

Firstly, it is important to note, that it doesn't matter how many random

events there are put in the game, any game has a limit. That limit, is the

limit of it's programming. No matter how clever the computer AI (Artificial

Intelligence) is, in the end, you will learn how it works. Think of any game,

as like a mobility route. Learn it. Learn your way around it.

 

If you are playing a game like Doom for example, then you can use your ears

as well as your eyes. Now this is only a general rule of thumb. But if you

know that monsters make noises, then you can use their sounds so that you

can aim for them. In the same way you can play lets say, Tank Commander or

Shades of Doom, you can put the sound of the monster in the centre by

turning towards it.

 

A number of these types of games have an auto aim function. You might need

sighted assistance to activate this function. Auto Aim is basically  if you

get your target with in close proximity to the target crosshair the game

will do the rest. IE, the gun will point automatically in that direction and

when you press fire, it will fire. Note, this might be weapon dependent.

That can often be the case.

 

Another thing that can help you if you are using eyesight, is if you have

the crosshair activated. If by default it is turned off, then turn it on. To

basically explain in accessible terms, when you play a game like Loanwolf

or Tank Commander, in order to make certain that you kill an enemy

tank/ship, you weight until the beeping sound reaches a certain point and

then you fire. The Crosshair is the exact same thing. Some people use it,

some don't. I tend to use it as a way of making sure that I can shoot the

enemies properly. The Crosshair  is usually locate in the centre of the

screen. It can be cross, diamond or even a circular shape with a dot in the

centre.

 

With simulators, it can be quite different. There are loads of strategies

that you  can adopt here. For example. If you are in a combat situation, one

of the best ways of beating your enemies is to get either a heavily armed

fighter and just be big and bad, or get a very small fighter and run like

the wind.

 

When playing any type of game, memory is always important. If you have a

good memory, then use it to your advantage. Also, now we have the internet,

there are many discussion forums that are dedicated to games. Depending on

the game, will determine the strength of the community. I have had quite a

few pleasant experiences when asking for help with regards to playing the

X-Beyond series of games. The X forums are very much community driven.

There are websites out there totally dedicated to the playing of the game,

the best strategies to adopt and loads of other bits of information that I

have found to be invaluable. I would go as far to say that with out the fan

sites, I would have found it much harder to play the games. The important

thing here is to say that you require help and to explain as best you can

as to the reason why you need the help. Some people will only be too happy to

help you where as some people won't pay you any attention at all. It all

comes down to 1 thing. If you don't ask, you don't get. Also, I have found

that you may find someone else on the discussion forum who are/were having

similar sorts of problems and they may be able to help in getting you on the

right track. So don't think that you are the only one. The internet is a

fantastic resource, use it.

 

The types of games I find easiest to play

 

I have never been 1 who goes for games that are over in 5 seconds. Partly

because I find them too fast, partly because I find them to be rather boring.

I have played games like Mortal Combat, I have also seen totally blind

people play the game and beet it on the hardest level. Again, it's about

knowing the right movement combinations and learning the game like a

mobility route. The easiest games I have found to play  are games that have

good and contrasting back and foregrounds. IE, Xwing VS Tie Fighter. I never

followed the Campaign, I just enjoyed jumping in my Tie Interceptor and

blowing those Rebels apart!!! There are some point and click games that I

have also played. Cossacks springs to mind. Again, I avoid the campaigns on

that game. It's full of text. But the random maps are good fun. Especially

if you play it with/against other people. Memory is very important with this

game. Also, the ability to see the mouse pointer is crucial. I have had problems with

this, but when ever I lost the pointer, I would always pause the game. There

would be a dark option screen appear in the centre of the screen, I would

move the pointer inside that dark area then I would start the game again.

Over time I would get used to the pointer and I wouldn't lose it so much.

 

Conclusions

 

Firstly, it is safe to say that a lot of mainstream games are getting

to some degree more difficult to play. Although with a lot of games having

good community drive, you can get a lot of help online that the game manuals

simply can't/don't offer. Also, script editing is getting much more popular

now. So there may well be scripts out there that could assist you in various

ways.

 

In addition, games, or quite a few games have training sections/levels. Some

of them can be programmed reasonably well. So make use of them.

 

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, bring these games to the attention of

other blindgamers on the blindgamers list. Whilst the list is here to talk

about "accessible" games, it saddens me to see all too often the same games being talked about all day every day. It would make a good change for people to come out and talk about mainstream games that they have/are playing and

their experiences of those particular games on a more regular basis. It

would help other gamers formulate a decision as to whether they thought they

could play the game or not. Whilst it is important to make up your mind

through your own impressions, it should be noted that people will often feel

more comfortable about a given thing if they hear bits of information from

other people. If the information is positive, then they may well feel more

confident in purchasing X game. If they hear negative things, then they

might consider it to be a waste of their cash. If they hear mixed reports,

then they will have to make as a reasonable and informed a choice as they

can with the information that they have. The important thing is that the

blindgamers list has been set up for blindgamers to discuss gaming. Limiting

ourselves to just the purposely made "accessible" games is in the long run,

quite counter productive.

 

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Gimme Gimme Gimme!:

A Crisis in Access

By Bryan McGucken

I highly doubt whether what follows in this moderately brief essay will win me any friends.  I can by no means say I have read How to Win Friends and Influence People, but then again I've always been of the opinion that hard work and dedication ought to assume primacy over networking and connections.  The latter is valuable but secondary to success, in my opinion.  To wit the subject of this essay may make many readers squirm.  In recent days I have decided to check out the Audio Games .net web site.  I was unsure why I chose to do this, since I had always relied on Audyssey's web site for the latest in accessible gaming news.  I recently checked out Audyssey's new design, but still found nothing of note to stimulate the gamer in me.  I went over to the Audio Games page and found out about the concept demos for Tarzan Jr. and Super Liam.  Needless to say, I was quite overjoyed to discover the former's development and the latter's rebirth and improvements over its predecessor of a year ago.  Nonetheless our editor's constant requests for material and submissions to the site were finally driven home with frightening force.  Though I admit to never having told him this, I was always bothered by what I at the time took to be his constant and annoying badgering of the rest of us about submitting material.  Of course, much of this stemmed from the fact that I had submitted at least one item for publication in the first three of last year's issues of Audyssey, and could thus wash my hands of the whole thing.  Nonetheless I'm now starting to empathize with Michael in his frustration.

I read a few posts in which people asked when certain games or other game-related products were to be released.  I have no problem with any of this, as I found myself consumed by curiosity about the projected release of an accessible fighting game in March.  Nonetheless I am quite disheartened at the apparent lack of initiative being taken to keep the accessible gaming community current on the latest game developments.

You may be asking yourself a very good question.  Bryan, what are you whining at us for?  If all the info you need is at the Audio Games web site, stop complaining!  This is in fact a valid point.  On the other hand, I have seen very little in the way of outside contribution to either web site apart from questions of the nature described above.  Audyssey will always be the first and, in my mind, best source for the latest gaming news.  It can achieve this status, however, only through active participation.  For example, an editor is, by definition, someone who corrects and finalizes manuscripts for publication or distribution.  She is not someone who writes material.

John Gray once wrote that it is perfectly okay for children (and in the current case gamers of any stripe) to want more, to be given what they need to flourish.  Nonetheless we as gamers also have a duty to our own community.  We must each do our part to make the community itself flourish, since we are, as members of it, constitutive ex hypothesis of that community.  This means we must, through our actions and contributions, motivate our fellow gamers to buy and download games, review games, and submit articles.  This does not necessarily mean making the next revolutionary title in accessible gaming.  One could ferret out a game that she finds is quite accessible to blind players.  Of course, not every gamer will appreciate this game, but there is no guarantee that no person will enjoy a given game.  Furthermore, just because a game does not resonate well with the community, this does not mean that past events guarantee future contingencies.  Okay, David Hume had one thing right.

As you can probably tell, I am a bit uncertain as to how the gaming community is to be motivated to action.  I simply think some more steps need to be taken to keep this community alive.  I am not suggesting that it is dead by any means.  I simply worry that allocating the largest portion of the work to the smallest group can in no way benefit the gaming community.

 

 

+++

An Editor's Retrospective

By Michael Feir

 

It's been a tremendously positive experience editing this magazine over the past forty issues. From very localised small beginnings, I was astounded at how things seemed to take off. This article will give a brief look at what I personally experienced during my editorship. I hope that people find it of interest and that it proves a useful account of events in this community's past. Rather than go through all forty issues, I'll simply cover some of the more important milestones from my personal perspective.

*Issue 1: Having the issue completed was a tremendously good feeling. I started the project out of sheer boredom and figured I might interest a small number of people. I was therefore surprised at how widespread the effects of publishing the first issue were. I initially published it on Compuserve as well as on an E-mail list run by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. Things went fine on Compuserve and the file was very well received. On Skyclub, however, I was horrified to see that I had started a fairly substantial flame battle between those who felt I had performed an admirable service posting the fairly long first issue to the list and those who thought I had cost people money downloading something they weren't at all interested in. I had never seen one of these flame wars take place and didn't at all like being the touchstone of one despite having a large number of supporters.

 

*Issue 2: While I hadn't gotten any reviews or articles from others yet, being contacted by Personal Computer Systems Inc. was quite a treat. It was the first time I had been contacted by somebody producing commercial games for blind people. I also was very encouraged by the letters I received including the very first contribution from  guy vermeulen.

 

*Issue 3: Things began to pick up steam. I still felt that I had to do most of the work regarding reviews and articles. However, J. J. Meddaug made an appearance and took over the electronic distribution of Audyssey. This took a great deal of work off my shoulders. It was also the first holiday special issue, a tradition that I've kept each year ever since.

 

*issue 4: Articles at last! I was overjoyed to be able to actually start being an editor and not so much an author. Ken Perry introduced us to multi-user dungeons and started a snowball rolling that many readers have enjoyed. Jim Kitchen, that magnanimous developer of great free games, was also very interesting to hear from. Adam, The Immortal Gamer, had quite the cult following. In hindsight, I'm surprised at how popular it eventually became and how quickly the concept took root. Theresa Van Ettinger wrote a splendid adventure for him and gave me a much needed break. Adam, the mortal gamer, also made an appearance in this early issue. It was quite a high point for me and did a lot to build confidence in what I was doing.

 

*Issue 5: A definite low point which hit all the harder after such an exciting fourth issue. No articles at all came in and I was going through a tough time at college. My first Windows computer had arrived and I was trying to come to grips with this drastic change as quickly as I could. It certainly had the potential to help with my school work, but I had to adjust quite a bit of my thinking. I felt bad about how absurdly short of the mark that the fifth issue of Audyssey fell.

 

*Issue 7: Our first anniversary issue was a bit of a strange experience emotionally for me. On the one hand, I was amazed that Audyssey had lasted a year and been so widely enjoyed. We also heard in the Letters section from a wide range of people including a sighted game developer interested in possibly creating a game for blind people. David Lant contributed a fantastic article made even more interesting by events which have transpired since he wrote it. This was exactly the kind of thinking I was after. It was also good to see our first interactive response regarding the comparison of two baseball games featured in the previous issue. In a lot of ways, the first anniversary issue showed us what Audyssey could be if I could just find a way of getting more people to take the time to get involved. Yet, there wasn't enough material to give me any sense of security. Despite getting as far as Audyssey had, I felt that it could disappear within a very short time.

 

*Issue 9: A fairly good issue all in all. We saw how the advocacy of people like Guy from Belgium could pay off handsomely as he made the developer of Wordy aware of his blind audience. This resulted in a free text-only Chess clock especially made for the blind. Jim Kitchen also showed readers that developers listened to their feedback by implementing changes to his Baseball game. There was also lots of good news about new games. However, during one of the many all-nighters I pulled getting this issue together, I made that infamous mistake regarding Mr. Kelly John Sapergia's gender. Thankfully, he was a true gentleman about it and became one of the first staff members covering interactive fiction for our readership.

 

*Issue 11: In terms of contributions, this issue was nearly as bad as the fifth. However, it coincided with the end of my university career. I published two of my own pieces of writing just to bulk up the issue. So much was changing in my life that I couldn't regard the lack of participation with the same gravity as with the fifth issue.

 

*issue 15: This issue saw three staff members join Audyssey Magazine. Justin Fegel and Kelly Sapergia took on interactive fiction while James Peach, now known as Ryan Peach, looked at commercial games which were accessible mainly with sighted assistance. I was quite relieved to finally have some help.

 

*Issue 18: This was our third anniversary and proved to be quite a turning point for the blind gaming community. In an open letter, David Greenwood got people to start discussing a game like Doom for the blind. This game would be developed by David while in constant communication with interested people in the community. David Greenwood never intended the game to be a copy of doom, but merely to be like Doom. This was quite a helpful catalyst for discussion and the ramifications of its ultimate result are still growing. The finished game was a smashing success and drew a lot of attention from outside the community of blind gamers. The engine used to produce the game is still being improved upon and its possibilities are staggering. James North also made his first appearance in a letter to the Audyssey readership. His generosity and visionary ideas for the future of accessible games have done much to get us to the present point in accessible game development that we now enjoy.

 

*issue 19: This issue saw Paul Silva of Zform make his first appearance. The discussion list took off quite impressively as a result of developments covered in issue 18. To add fuel to the fire, material posted from game developers as well as their active participation on the discussion list markedly increased interest and interaction. Carl from PCS Games wrote an article concerning the morality of gamers when it came to cheating in computer games which sparked a very large and fascinating response.

 

*Issue 21: This issue marked the start of the golden era of audio chats among game developers and keen members of the community. Using the Audio-Tips service, we participated in numerous very interesting discussions. While they lasted, these chats were a fantastic opportunity for game developers, audyssey staff and fans to get to know each other. It would be a very good thing if similar chats could start again.

 

*Issue 23: Things were looking very good for Audyssey Magazine. Campus2Day was in full swing laying out the groundwork for Audyssey Plus which would have put the magazine and staff on a whole new footing. It was a very high point for me personally as I was working full time and this magazine I had started out of sheer boredom was turning into an important aspect of my job. Shades of Doom had reached the Alpha stage meaning that people could actually begin to experience what lay in store for those in search of action. Bavisoft's Grizzly Gulch was still receiving a lot of attention as well.

 

*Issue 24: The rollercoaster ride continued non-stop. Campus2Day went bankrupt and all our progress with Audyssey Plus and changing the whole footing of Audyssey Magazine went up in smoke. Thankfully, many of the articles which were the first ones written as part of the Audyssey Plus scheme were saved and I published them in this issue. It was easily one of our best issues ever despite the personal slice of hell I went through in other areas of life.

 

*Issue 28: This issue marked a nice up-swing for Audyssey. Dave Sherman joined the staff to help us look into multi-user dungeons. The discussion list had stabilised again and was quite active. On a personal level, my life was changing drastically now that Rebecca and I were together. She helped make editing a whole lot easier and also wrote her first contribution to Audyssey. Shades of Doom was at last finished and released to a delighted public. Also, the now freely available game Once And Future gave interest in interactive fiction a much-needed boost.

 

*Issue 29: The Audyssey discussion list had become a moderated list governed by the Audyssey community Charter. David Lant and Joshua Loya took up the task of being the very first moderators. David Lant still holds his position as moderator to this day and I, for one, hope he is willing to continue in this. The discussion list tackled some very wide-ranging and meaningful discussion concerning game development, business practices, morality, and much more. Responding in a very cool-headed fashion to criticisms levelled against them, game developers provided those interested with a whole lot of insight into just what it takes to make it in this very new and slowly growing industry.

 

*Issue 36: This issue kicked off 2003 with a lively examination of software piracy from pretty much all points of view. We also saw a good dose of articles from different writers for a refreshing change. Another fine example of what I was after in an issue of Audyssey. Development on my first computer game was continuing. Also, I was very pleased indeed to include my interview with Paul H. Deal about his game Fallthru nearer the end of the issue. A splendid start to the year.

 

*Closing Thoughts: This look is by no means an exhaustive one. There were other highs and lows we all experienced. Bavisoft's Grizzly Gulch appeared out of nowhere to sweep through the gaming community. The Microsoft Gremlin made his frightening appearance. Luis Defute gave us the potential to alter our whole direction as a publication which has sadly gone relatively unused. Let us hope that the new editor and the community at large make better use of the new site Luis has just put up. I've learned a great deal and enjoyed the majority of the experience I've had as editor of this magazine. I hope Ron has the same calibre of experience that I have and that the community continues to grow.

 

+++

Sunday Night Dungeons and Dragons

By Phil Vlasak

 

The Dungeons and Dragons adventure is still in the public Gamer's room on  Audio-Tips Sunday night at nine o'clock Eastern time. The next date will be February 29, 2004. Audio-Tips is at: www.audio-tips.com

 

Audio-tips uses the iVocalize software for voice chats. If you haven't been to Audio Tips in a while, you may need to register and download this voice chat program. Game play has been made easier by using David Greenwood's new GMA Dice program that can be obtained in the Free section of his web site, www.gmagames.com

 

This story contains graphic descriptions of violence. It therefore may not be suitable for younger readers.

 

On Hermit's Hill.

 

Characters in alphabetical order Angst, Halfling thief, and half of a split personality. Fiona, Human Magic User. Mace Knighthammer, Human Magic User/ fighter. Hitomi  Reju, Human Fighter, Priest of Helandra, the goddess of knowledge and shadows. SpringRight, Elf fighter. Thesgna, Halfling Priestess  of Sedric, God of the Heavens, and Travelers, and half of a split personality. Thomlin, Elf Bard. Other characters played by the DM: Garabald, Property owner in Gathos Delmar Zorchglimmer, Retired fighter living in Gathos Za-bar, Mayor of Gathos RainSong, Elf Earth elemental magic user. WoodLock, Elf Druid

 

DM: At about nine in the evening the group on the hill hear some very loud noise coming from the direction of the ogre's cave. Thump, thump, crunch, thump, thump, smash, thump It is the sound of something large moving. The elves go to investigate. They are able to spot two of the ogres about 100 yards away moving off to the west, directly away from the town. The group knows that if the ogres continue west, they would eventually get to the road that the group came up on, which is several miles off. There are a few scattered farms in that direction. They set up a watch at the hiding area above the cave entrance with SpringRight, RainSong and WoodLock taking shifts. The elves on watch heard them return between midnight and one in the morning. Thomlin decided to let those with experience take on the task of watching. Thesgna says, We wouldn't want to even attack those two going off for we aren't at our full strength! Reju gets up early cock a doodle do. and has breakfast out of his saddle bags, and even starts a cook fire to make tea. scrape, scrape, sizzle, bubble, bubble, sip, sip. He joins up with Delmar, Fiona and Mace as they head towards the hill. Delmar has put on his armour at home and does not take it off. clip, clop, clip, clop, woe. Everyone meets up at the cabin on Hermit's Hill about nine in the morning. The elves tell of the ogres leaving and returning, and the Halfling describes the cave and what is inside it. Thesgna, I wish we had a mining map of the area. There were two branches of the tunnel going off to the north and south that I didn't follow. There could be other ways to get into that tunnel and surprise the ogres from behind. At the mention of a mine Delmar's eyebrows raised, A mine shaft you say? We're a good distance from the mountains. So there are few dwarves in these parts. Still, any map that might show things that are not on the mayor's map, would be back at the library either in Hanmer or perhaps the one in the capital of this area, in Bing. Thesgna, Delmar, do you know of any old miners who are still living in this area? Delmar shakes his head, No, no one I know in town were miners. Still I do know some in that business, only none around here. Thesgna, I couldn't tell how old the mine was, if it was abandon long ago or more recently. I would think if it was recent there would be more signs of its presence. It's a shame we didn't make a deal with those three Dwarf traders back at the inn. They might have been able to detect other entrances. Delmar, These three dwarves, do you know where they were headed? Thesgna, We were staying at an inn just outside of Gathos They started in the same direction but turned off. They didn't think Gathos was  large enough to stop at. Reju, Yes, they were merchants but didn't seem to be miners of any sort. It is possible that they might know about the mine. Delmar It's too bad you don't know where they went. I be leave I remember Garabald saying that you met some dwarves along the way. If anyone knows who that mine belongs to it would be dwarves. If I knew where they were, we could perhaps send a message to them. Reju, I do know that they took the opposite fork in the road when we went north east. Delmar, Hmm, so they were headed towards the crossroads. Makes sense if they were merchants. Do you know what their names were? Reju, Yes I know, the leader was named Door in. He had two other dwarves working for him, but I didn't get their names. Delmar, Hmm, perhaps once our task here is complete, we can send a message to the crossroads to see if they might still be there. It is only a few days journey from here and if they are pulling a wagon, they would likely be moving slowly. Perhaps we might even overtake them with our messenger. However, let us get down to today's business. Mace, Yes, I think we should. Reju, Well from what the Halfling described, we might be able to do our plan now that they are likely to be asleep. Should we send someone there to find out if they are snoring peacefully? SpringRight, I am not sure if I could tell if they were asleep. I could tell if they were still in the cave. Thesgna, My god Sedric would, I believe would allow me to enter the cave again today. But during the day, I would have to walk in far enough as a Halfling until I reached enough darkness. I do know how far back they were last night, but I don't know if they sleep around the cooking fire. I would need assistance from someone to help detect how far back in the cave they are. They could have even captured a prisoner last night. But since we didn't hear human screams, it isn't very likely. Thomlin, Hmm, if you go into that cave, how do we know they won't smell you? If one is awake, that is enough to alert the others. I'm not sure that is such a good idea. We do want a Halfling come out of that cave after all. SpringRight chuckles to himself. It would be better than a half a Halfling. Thesgna, Well maybe one of the elves could detect their motion or how far back they were sleeping from the entrance of the cave. That would surely give me enough information to determine if I could make it in and out safely. Thomlin, If our aim is to destroy them, so that they don't harm anyone else, why would we need to go in to see if they are awake after all? Why don't we just go after them if they are sleeping or awake? SpringRight, I agree, friend Elf. I'd say lets make short work of them. I think from the search done last night, I would be pretty sure there no slaves or prisoners in the front of the cave anyway. There may be some still farther in. Lets just do this and get it over with. Fiona, agreed here as well. it is time we take some sort of action. Are presence here can not be hidden for much longer. Mace, Yes lets do this. How much longer are we going to stay here before we get caught unawares. Thesgna, The reason I couldn't investigate the cave fully last night, was because they were awake then. But if they are asleep now, I could discover what those mounds of rubble were. It could be gems or treasure, a lot of things. Reju, Lets go! No need to discuss more, lets prepare for the battle to come. SpringRight, can you bring our two mages as close to the cave mouth as they need to be as we planned to cast their spells? And WoodLock can you bring Thomlin to a place we can lure them to? So the mages can fall back once their spells have warn off. Fiona, Fire is not going to damage gems. but it will ogres. Lets go now and get this over with. Mace, SpringRight as we precede, could you give me an idea of what is in the surrounding area of the cave? Thesgna, Fiona, did you not know that diamonds burn very easily? So would you be willing to sacrifice diamond treasure? WoodLock, if you would wait a few moments, I would try to discern if the ogres were in the cave. I have some ability to communicate with the fauna of the area. But it takes some preparation. It might at least give us some clues. Reju, Yes we can take a few moments, if you would be so kind to use your powers. It would be a great benefit to have that knowledge. WoodLock heads off into the trees. Thomlin turns to Mace, Well if we are going to attack them, in their cave, what need will we have of the gems I created last evening? There is no clear spot from what I understand so there will be no need to lure them. Mace, Thomlin, sorry, I don't think so. Reju, Mace, Do you think your one spell will kill six ogres? After it goes off, I think it would be beneficial to lure them out, if they don't come out on their own. Mace, I think we're getting confused here. I did not say if I wanted to go into the cave or lure them out. SpringRight describes what he saw around the cave mouth. The cave is somewhat built outward from the hillside. So you can actually stand on the roof of the mouth of the cave. Around the sides and in front, SpringRight could only see that there were a few trees, but not too many large rocks or boulders. Since he was farther than sixty feet of the cave mouth he could not give too many details of it except for lots of dirt and trampled underbrush. Fiona turns to Mace, You do have the ability to create fire? Mace answers, That I do. Fiona smiles, Excellent! I do not for see any problems then. Thomlin, So it seems that we can roast them in their lair then! It would be better than luring them out and destroying the beautiful surroundings that we see. Gesturing around the cabin. There's just no sense in sprinkling gems in the cave to lure them out if we plan to destroy them in it. Reju, I know powerful wizards can destroy six ogres in the cave. However, I fear the spells from our mages will not damage them to the point of them all staying in there to get cooked. Fiona, It is doubtful, but they will be severely injured. and as she rises, so we are agreed then? Reju, Yes when WoodLock returns. Mace, If I follow Fiona, I would think a damaged ogre would be a little easier for our warriors, and I to handle. WoodLock returns, Fauna have been avoiding this place because of the ogres of late, but I was able to talk to a rabbit. He was able to tell me that they do not stir at this time. He did not dare go inside the cave. But they are certainly not outside it. I hope that will be enough.

 

Fiona That should be sufficient. Mace, lets make haste. I would rather attack when they are sleeping than awake. Reju, Thomlin, definitely keep your gems available. If they break out of the cave, we can lure them to a better point for our  advantage. If we are lucky enough to cook them in the cave, so be it, I would like to have your gems available as a back up. Thomlin, Of course they will be available. The paint has already been spent in making them. I'll be sure to use them if I can. Thesgna, What about my idea of checking out the ogres to see if they have prisoners? Or in checking the cave for treasure before burning it up? Reju, I think we will be fine. You did a reasonably good scouting last night and I don't think there are any possibilities for prisoners. I'm sure your hearing would have been sufficient to pick that up. So let's go! Delmar, Hmm, I think the Halfling meant what if the ogres captured prisoners last night? Reju, considering this, it would be nice to know for sure. but I don't want to waste this chance of opportunity either, so is you would be able to make your investigation into their cave quickly, then we could do that. Thomlin, But if he were to enter the cave and they were to see him, he would be in the gravest of dangers. Is it possible that he could go in unseen? and still use his god's ability? Thesgna, If one of the mages had an invisibility spell memorized, I would be able to turn invisible. I would still smell like a Halfling but I would only need to go in a short distance before my power was effective. WoodLock, Hmmm, what are you concerned about, if they have prisoners, they are probably already dead and will be eaten. If they are alive, they could also be killed as you wait. Reju, Ogres are not known for keeping their meals alive. And they were not keeping slaves last night. Thesgna, If they are all asleep, I could dispatch one or possibly two before the others woke up. Delmar, Well good Halfling, if it is your desire to put yourself in such grave danger, then I think it best that we all go and if something were to happen to you, inside the rest of us could act quickly. SpringRight, I agree, anything less would be foolhardy. Mace, I am not sure I want the Halfling in the cave when Fiona and I start.  She might become a casualty. Delmar, Certainly that is true, but if she is captured by the ogres she will also be a casualty. Reju, No, I don't want her to go in there I think that is too much of a risk. Not only in alerting the ogres of our presence, but if she fails she would be instantly killed. I trust in your skills, as a cleric my friend, but I don't want to put you in such danger. It would be beyond what I would consider  to be honourable. So let us go forth with our plan to attack with the mage spells. And hope for the best if they do have prisoners, they did not have the time to kill them. Thesgna, Ah but you see, last night when I went in all six were awake and I was around them and they did not detect me. why would today be different? Thomlin, Using your deity's ability and some invisibility spell would be safer. But if you do go in, and they do detect you, we would have to attack them. And that would put you in grave danger. Is this something your deity would want you to do? Thesgna, I am not foolhardy, I would want the help of an Elf to clarify that the ogres are not so close to the cave opening that I could not use my power that works only in darkness. I would be vulnerable in the first ten feet of the cave opening. Thomlin, I am not one to go in the face of such dangers. but you are your own woman, therefore I will not stop you. But I would take in the concerns of our fellow comrades. We would not wish to loose you but it is your choice. Thesgna, I have revealed to my friend Mace, the secrets of the power. and he honours my wishes  not to reveal it, but he would know if I was successful or not with ten minutes or so of going in. Reju throws his hands up, go or not go but we must go forth with our plan. SpringRight, you can lead Thesgna, and the mages and the rest will follow. Thesgna, Since the hill has a steep slope at the cave opening should the rest of the party not be above the opening? I would think the higher ground would be of strategic importance. Reju, Yes the base of operations will be above the cave. SpringRight, I think the mages will have to be at the level of the cave opening or in front of it to send their spells inside. I think the plan for the others is good after the ogres come out. You would be able to hit them from behind. Reju, that makes sense, but we would all want to approach the cave from up wind. So they would not be able to smell us as we approach if they are awake. Fiona, Agreed We go down the hill, half of us face off on the cave mouth, half of us are above the cave mouth, and we launch our spells in, they come roaring out and those above the cave mouth jump down and attack. It's simple!

 

Reju, sounds like a good plan. Thomlin, very good, I think we have a plan then. However, I am not going to jump on an ogre's back. RainSong, I plan to stay above the cave opening for as long as possible. If the battle goes poorly, there are certain tactics that I can only use from above to be useful. Mace, Although, Thomlin if you stay above you can pick them off with arrows. Thomlin, Oh, my arrows are not that good. Believe me, I do not have the eye of a skilled archer. and I do have a couple of spells that could even the odds a bit. One of them would add an additional fiery flare to the situation, shall we say. Mace smiles, OK , lets get to it friends. Thesgna heading out says, Thomlin I saw you do an excellent job with those daggers back in Hanmer. I suspect your daggers would be good weapons in this kind of combat. Thomlin, It is but, you can not throw a dagger very far. Thesgna, Ah but if you stood above them  your position would give your daggers more force and distance when thrown. Thomlin, Hmm, perhaps. The group starts moving west straight down the hill to the cave opening. Thesgna, I have an interesting thought. What if this is a coal mine, and the fire spell was to ignite the tunnel walls? That could bring the whole tunnel down. SpringRight, Better still, then we would have six baked ogres and wouldn't have to work so hard. VB out of character, and if it blows up the hill we will all be rolling new characters next week. DM the grade on the west side of the hill is a little steeper than on the east side. Leading the horses down would be a problem, but walking it shouldn't give you too much difficulty. Fiona, I need to be within ten yards of the cave mouth. Mace, Yes me too. Thesgna, I will honour your wishes and not go in the cave first, giving the spell casters a chance. Fiona, Being right in front of the cave mouth would be better for me. I am  planning a step out cast a spell and step back manoeuvre. Reju, As far as the people above, they should get within eyesight of the cave opening. I think most of us are doing long bows, so for short range we need to get within twenty yards so they can get a clear shot. DM: Where will everyone be? Fiona, I'll be in front. Reju, I'll be above, and for a clear shot, within 20 yards. Thomlin, I will be above. Mace, Front. SpringRight, With the wizards, in front. Thesgna, If you are willing to look in the cave mouth and let me know how far in the ogres are, I will be at the cave mouth, otherwise I will be on top. WoodLock, I will be with the spell casters.

 

SpringRight, If we do go in front of the cave, I think we shouldn't be at the same angle as the rest of the group. I would not want the ogres between the spell casters and the archers or we are going to be sluing each other with arrows. Reju, Yes, so I will be off to the side a little bit. Mace, I would wish the ones above to be on the other side as we will be right in front. This way they will be able to cross fire and their misses would land on either side of us. Reju, Facing the cave opening from north to south should be me at 45 degrees north, then Thomlin at 30 degrees north then RainSong at 30 degrees south along with Delmar, then Thesgna 45 degrees south. SpringRight, I would prefer to be slightly off to one side so I would not be able to look straight into the cave. Thesgna, WoodLock, do you have your invisibility spell so you could look in to see how close the ogres are? WoodLock, My concealment spell does not work in such a manner. Mace, We plan to get ten yards from the mouth and ten yards apart. Thesgna, So, then, I will also be above with my hand crossbow. Thomlin, I would want to get a little closer to get off my spell. DM: Mace will be on the same side as Reju. and SpringRight will be on the same side as Delmar and RainSong. Fiona, Mace, hold your fire until they're engaged in my trap. Before getting into position, WoodLock hits everyone with a bless spell. Zap, zap, zap zap zap zap zap. SpringRight gets down the hill to the cave mouth fine. But Mace is not fine. Crash! Mace, Oops, crap! VB: out of character, Why is it always the big lug that slips and makes all the noise? Thumpity thump, thump, thump, crunch. Mace mutters more bad words, as he goes slip sliding down the hill. Smash! WoodLock slips too and rolls after Mace. Thump, thud. Fiona is in position at the front of the cave mouth as Mace slides by her. She casts a web spell, /Zap! It is ten by fifteen feet by fifty three feet deep into the cave. starting three feet inside the cave. A huge thick mass of spider webs Mace will take two minutes to recover, get onto his feet and get to the cave mouth. DM: Out of character, When Mace can use his fire spell, any critter that gets caught in the web will get crisped. After the web gets cast they hear some loud roaring from inside. Fiona looks over to see where Mace went. He is still in front of her and has waled into a tree. Crash, Damn! He is in a pile of bushes, trying to extricate himself from the undergrowth. Fiona murmurs some sharp unladylike sayings. DM: On the first round no ogres are present. SpringRight is in position to fire before the end of the round. WoodLock slid past Fiona and is starting to get up on his feet. He is about ten yards to the right and ten yards behind where Fiona is standing.

 

Round two: Still no sign of ogres. Mace is still trying to get up. Oof. He rises and moves over to Fiona to cast his spell on round three. Thesgna is thinking of sending a bolt Mace's way for messing up the surprise attack, but thinks better of it. She looks up into the sky to check the weather and sees clouds coming in a way off. Round three: Mace gets up to a few feet of the cave mouth to cast his spell. Zap, Bam! A flaming sphere appears right in the cave mouth. The webs start to burn. Woosh! The fire travels along the strands, woosh, sizzle, sizzle. The webs all get crisped, in the time of a round. Mace can't see through the webs before he casts the spell, and only sees fire after.

 

The sphere is six feet across, taking up about half the opening. As the fire burns, there is a great shriek of roaring from the cave. Roar, screech! The web slowly turns to toast, sizzle. the horrid smell of burning flesh comes out of the cave. Round four: You can hear the ogres growling and snarling behind the sphere somewhat. Roar, grumble, growl. Mace moves the sphere into the cave and one ogre gets caught in it. Roar! The other five are about ten feet behind the back of the web. They all got crisped by the web but only one was hit by the sphere. Since it is only moving 30 feet per round, it is backing them farther into the cave. Mace yells to Thesgna, What is at the back of the cave? Thesgna, There is a hole in the floor at the back. There is a slant to the floor before the hole. DM: Mace has to be within ten yards of the sphere at all times. Fiona, Oh crappy! DM: none of the ogres were killed and all six are backing up. At the end of round three, the sphere was within two feet of the front ogre, which gave him extra damage. But with the web burned, he was free and jumped back. Mace can only see moving shapes on the other side of the sphere. but the shapes tend to move back as the sphere moves into the cave. It is obvious the ogres can move much faster than the sphere. Mace backs out of the cave pulling the sphere with him. When he gets the sphere to the mouth he drops it Fizz. and moves off to the side ten feet away. The ogres do not appear as if they are following the sphere out of the cave. When the sphere drops Mace and Fiona can see that the ogres are fifty to sixty feet inside the cave. Fiona starts to move off to the side too. Thomlin yells down, Where are they? Mace answers, Still in the cave! About fifty feet back. Thomlin, Hmmm, I think they need a little help. He reaches into his bag of gems and pulls out two of them. Mace moves ten to twenty yards into the brush. Thesgna, Mace, do you see the wood supports in the cave burning? DM: Wood members are every ten feet but are not burning. Thesgna thinking we should have tried to burn them to possibly collapse the cave. Round five: SpringRight to WoodLock, Do you think we should be standing here to the side of the cave mouth? There will probably be a bunch of angry ogres running out soon. Maybe we should look for a little better cover. WoodLock nods, and begins moving back up the hill. SpringRight follows him. The flaming sphere disappears, Pop! Two seconds later there is a loud roar, Roar! there is the sound of stomping running feet getting closer. Thump, thump, thump The front ogre emerges from the cave He looks around and sees Fiona, Growl! then goes after her. Thump, thump, thump Both of the ogres are the larger ones and the second one follows the first. Thump, thump, thump Fiona, Oh, crappy! Reju shoots his first arrow and hits the leading ogre. Thunk! for 7 hit points. Thesgna fires his cross bow at the one with the arrow sticking out. boing, thud! The pea shooter  does an amazing 4 points of damage. The lead ogre stumbles slightly and is looking wobbly. Reju attempts to take his second shot, Ug! but he looses his footing, Wiz! the arrow goes off into the bushes, Crash! he drops his bow and it tumbles end over end down the hill. boink, boink, boink thud. about ten yards landing off to the side of the cave mouth. Fiona casts an orange orb at the lead ogre Zap! but it flies over it's head and dissipates. Wiz, Poof. Mace moves over behind the injured ogre and slices into it with his bastard sword Thwack! killing it. Growl, Uo, crash. Thomlin sends a magic missile spell into the side of the remaining ogre. Woosh, bang!

 

It hits him for 3 points of damage. The other four ogres do not appear to be coming out of the cave. Mace takes a swing at the other ogre but finds his blade slicing through air. Wiz. SpringRight and WoodLock are still moving into position and the ogre is out of range of Thesgna's crossbow.

 

The ogre swings it's large paw at Fiona. Wham! It hits her upside the head knocking her body sideways. Fiona, Damn, ug, oh, Crash. She crumbles to the ground stunned but not unconscious. Round six: Mace, I must save the fair maiden! Reju seeing Fiona and Mace fighting the ogres charges at the remaining one with his swords drawn. Thump, thump, thump Thomlin moves towards the cave opening with his ear open for the sounds of more ogres ready to give warning if anything is coming out.

 

SpringRight has moved up the hill towards Thesgna and his bow in hand and is preparing to shoot his arrows. RainSong seeing WoodLock and SpringRight moving up the hill, decides to move over to the left near where Thomlin was to spread out the attack. WoodLock seeing Fiona going down says to Thesgna, Do you have any healing spells at your disposal? She looks like she might be in some trouble. Thesgna replies, No, I do not. Unfortunately, my god is displeased with me for not entering the cave. WoodLock looks at Thesgna a little sideways, Very well, and he  puts his weapon down and starts heading towards the ogre and Fiona.

 

The ogre has been burned in the web and damaged by Thomlin's missile so doesn't look too healthy. It turns to Mace and attacks. Roar, Clang! It's big paw takes a swing at Mace's shoulder for 9 points of damage. Mace, Ouch! Oh, bad, very bad! SpringRight has two arrows on his bow. and shoots both at the ogre. Woosh, woosh. The first flies off and hits a tree, Thud. The second sinks into the target. Thunk! and hits with 6 points of damage. Reju reaches the ogre and swings his Katana sword. but the ogre hearing him come from behind jerks out of the way of the blade at the last second. Wiz. Mace swings his bastard sword at the ogre and gets a critical hit. Thwack! Crash. The blade comes down on the middle of the ogre's head cleaving it in two with 16 points of damage. Fiona seeing ogre brains sprayed all around her exclaims, Dang, that's cool! Reju moving for his second swing pulls up and says, "Good one, Mace!" WoodLock comes running down and casts a cure light wounds  on Fiona Zap. giving her back 4 hit points. Reju looks back to the cave opening wondering when the other four ogres are coming out. Mace, Now that this task has been taken care of, lets put our attention back to the cave! I'd hate to have us out of place when the others come out. Thomlin concealed in some bushes five yards away from the opening, does not hear anything from the ogres inside the cave.

 

WoodLock says to Fiona, Let us hope that no others are seriously wounded this day. I was counting on your Halfling to have curative spells. I only prayed for one. Mace, Hmmm, well, hopefully you can get some tomorrow. Looking at his shoulder Mace adds, I hope I don't take any more damage. Reju turns to WoodLock, Do you have one of those spells that tells you what they are doing in the cave? The one where you commune with the beasts of the forest? WoodLock, No, I fear not. Most of the spells I took this day were designed for combat. Delmar moves behind SpringRight saying, Nice little trick you pulled there. Very nice! Fiona is sitting on the ground shaking her head and still somewhat stunned. She doesn't feel too good with a ringing in her ears. Reju moves quickly up to Thesgna's position saying, Would you still be up for going into that cave? They don't seem to be coming out. Thesgna smiles and says, Oh, gladly! I did not want to interfere with the spell casters fun. But it seems that the spells weren't as effective as everyone thought. Yes, I will go in the cave and I thought I saw Thomlin move closer to the mouth. I would not want to turn the corner and come nose to knee with one of those beasts. RainSong moves over to Reju and Thesgna. Yes, I saw Thomlin descend to the cave mouth. I can just make him out among the bushes there. I know not why the ogres did not all come out. Perhaps they might be guarding something within the cave. Reju, It is highly possible. Turning to Thesgna, I know you talked about the power your god grants you to  infiltrate their  cave undetected. Even from smell! You said that you would have to be in darkness. Could we not manufacture shade, with tree branches or large rocks? Would that be enough? Thesgna, Ah, yes, if Thomlin had only painted a black surface to cover up the end of the cave, you could have leaned it against the opening and I could have been protected from sunlight instantly. Otherwise, if any one has a darkness spell, that would be enough. I did talk to Mace about using his invisibility spell, but he unfortunately did not memorize it. Then again, if there is an ogre waiting just inside the cave mouth, I wouldn't be able to do anything. But then, it could be attacked by the rest of you! Reju, Do you have any darkness spells, RainSong? RainSong, No, such are not my area of expertise. Reju, Hmmm, well you bring up a good point. They might be standing right inside the cave entrance. Reju quickly moves over to SpringRight and says, Could you sneak over to Thomlin without making much noise and tell  him to move away from the opening and come over here. SpringRight, Certainly, I'll do that right now. Thesgna, I could go over to where Thomlin is hiding. That shouldn't take too long, and I could move quieter.

 

DM: Mace, Fiona are still below the cave mouth and could be seen by anything near the cave opening. Mace bandages up his wound, and knowing he is in line looks in to see if he notices anything near the front of the cave. Since the sun is on the opposite side of the hill, the opening of the cave is completely dark. Reju positions himself above the cave to the right where Thesgna was before, and gets his bow at hand. Thesgna and SpringRight both move over to where Thomlin is hiding. Mace seeing Reju take up his position fifteen feet away, slowly walks back to the cave mouth. Just far enough to get a peak and have the ability to get away if anything is close. SpringRight is taking some effort to be quiet, and finally moves over to where Thomlin is. Mace is also preparing a spell just in case he does get surprised. Fiona is getting her senses back and she is very unhappy. She gets up and moves over to Mace. She gets herself in the typical wizard casting spell position, with her hands up and her fingers facing each other. You can almost see the power crackling between them. Sizzle. Mace stops moving forward and gives Fiona a questioning look. Fiona passes in front of Mace. Mace moves up to be next to her. They both move to within a few feet of the opening. When Fiona is ten yards from the cave mouth, Thomlin emerges from the bushes. Mace turns to Fiona and says, Hmmm, you're not looking too happy. Which I'm not surprised. But would you care to inform me what you might have in store? I just want to make sure what I'm about to do is not going to mess up what you are going to do. Delmar turns to Reju, Looks like something's about to go down. Fiona through clenched teeth, It didn't work the first time, but it will the second! And she continues to walk forward. Reju, without taking his eyes off the cave mouth, says to Delmar, It looks like they are going to try a rerun. I hope it doesn't backfire again. Reju knocks an arrow to his bow. Thesgna and SpringRight move over to where Thomlin was. but he has moved out in front of the cave.

 

Thomlin moves to Mace and whispers, what's she up to?

 

Mace, I don't know, Thomlin. Let me tell you this, it looks like it's going to be explosive! Thomlin back stepping, I see. Well, perhaps I'll just go back into the bushes. He moves as quickly as he can knowing what Fiona did the last time. Thomlin sees SpringRight back in the bushes and Thesgna gets there a moment later. Thesgna, Do you hear any noise from the cave, like clomping feet? Thomlin, No! But Fiona is going to go with something that's explosive! Stay under cover. I can tell you the ogres are in there and they're not happy. I hear them grunting far back, so stay low.

 

Mace, Fiona, do not cast until I cast. It may help your spell. Fiona is now in position in front of the mouth. Fiona pauses and glances over to Mace. You have something interesting, fire boy? Thomlin hears some movement from inside the cave. Thomlin pokes his head out of the bushes to catch Mace's eye. He plans to point to the cave to give him a heads up. Mace says to Fiona, If you have the fire, I have the fuel. Fiona shrugs and says, I've got the fuel. Mace, Hmmm, we may have a problem then. But I might be able to help you still with what I have. Mace hears someone to the side of him trying to get his attention. Mace whispering, What? Thomlin gestures wildly to the cave, I heard a noise in there! Mace, Get ready, Fiona, they're coming! SpringRight, raises his bow and knocks an arrow. Mace wanting to alert the others motions to the cave. Fiona smiles briefly. Now that you mention it, I might be able to do something with fire. If they're coming, go ahead. DM: With all the talking, they don't come. Mace is holding on until he sees something. SpringRight says to Thomlin, Do you still hear them? Thomlin will listen closely now that things are quiet but hears nothing. He shakes his head and sighs, "Nope!"

 

It's either a trap, or they're gone. SpringRight, I'll tell you my big theory, Thesgna reported that the tunnels go deep inside the hill. If they go back into the hill, we will have a very tough time getting them out. We may have a tough time even finding them. Fiona punches Mace in the arm, "Go! Now! Mace shakes his head, No. I have to see them. Otherwise it's not going to work. Fiona expresses a very un lady like comment. He leans over to Fiona and whispers what he has planned. Grease, girl, grease! It'll stop them right in their tracks. Fiona gives Mace a blank look. Greece? Mace looks at her, I've no time to explain. What do you have planned? Fiona, More of the same.

 

Thomlin to SpringRight, It's obvious that they're not going to come out. My guess? They want us to come in! And I don't think I want to be in a cave with four of them.

 

Thesgna to Thomlin and SpringRight, If one of you elves are brave enough, why not take a peek into the cave? With your better vision than those humans there, you may be able to see how close they are. SpringRight, Very well. He puts his bow on his back and puts on his shield, gets out his long sword and walks quickly over to the mouth of the cave to take a peek.

 

Mace turns to Fiona wide eyed because they are both planning to use the same type of thing, Watch the cave while I get something from my pack. He bends down and searches for something. SpringRight moves in front of Mace so he can get a good look. It takes a couple seconds for his eyes to adjust. He does not see anything within the range of his infravision outside of a very faint glow right at the very edge. Fiona will mutter something under her breath. And touches Mace's arm when SpringRight steps forward. She points to the elf. SpringRight walks back to Mace and and Fiona and says, I don't see anything at all except maybe the warmth from the campfire about sixty feet in. I just thought I'd tell you that before you did anything. Then he walks back toward Thomlin. Fiona sighs and steps over to SpringRight. So what are we going to do then? Reju seeing the mages move over will put up his bow and move towards where they all seem to be congregating. SpringRight, If I had my druthers, I would like to smoke them out. But I wouldn't know how to achieve that. Thomlin, Why do we need to bother them at all? They're not coming out. And if these two were the biggest and baddest, wouldn't they just stay in hiding?

 

Reju, What if these were the smallest? Remember, there were six of them and two were smaller. We have your gems. We could use them. Perhaps we could place a pile of them at the mouth of the cave. Do either of you mages have a light spell? At the  moment smaller was said, Fiona shutters for a second. stiffens her back and her head goes up. Thomlin, I have my doubts those two were the smaller ones. Would you send your smaller out to fight for your lair? I somehow doubt it. But why not throw one of my larger gems into the cave? And see if that causes any stirring at all, before we try and lure them out here? We can at least get an idea if they are still in there. I would, but I can't throw that far. Someone else has got to give a good heave.

 

Thesgna, trying to get a word in, says I've seen all six and those two we killed are definitely of the larger size. I believe the smaller ones were about as tall as Mace. Mace stands up and puts his pack on. He is holding something in his hand. but is not showing it yet. He turns to Thomlin and says, I'll be more than glad to throw it. I don't want to go in there, the way I'm feeling right now. He rubs his wounded shoulder and continues, I'll do it. Thomlin reaches into his sack and pulls out a large gem. It is particularly glittery. and hands it to Mace, saying Heave away. Fiona's eyes go up at the size of the gem, about baseball size. Thomlin will wink at her, but not say anything. All the group has congregated to the left of the tunnel mouth except for RainSong and Delmar still up the hill to the right. Thesgna, Mace, when are you going to throw that gem into the cave to see what happens? Mace doesn't say anything, he just gives it a hurl. Thunk, Thunk, Thunk, Thunk, thud. It lands a hundred feet or so into the cave. Mace turns to Thomlin, Let me have another one. Thesgna pulls out a bluish one and hands it to Mace. Mace tries to throw the next a little closer about 60 feet. Thunk, Thunk, Thunk, thud. Mace looks towards SpringRight, I will need your help to see if anything is moving in there. Reju, Do you hear any grumbling inside? SpringRight steps over and looks into the cave. Everyone is quiet trying to hear if anything is moving. SpringRight hears footsteps deep in the cave after thirty seconds. Thump, thump Thomlin's ears perk up. Yep, I hear them! Something's in there! Mace gestures to Thomlin in a way to say give me another one. DM: Out of character, there is a missing factor here but I won't give it away. Thomlin pulls out another gem, this one is green.

 

Fiona mutters something about strong worriers just standing at the cave mouth, but shuts up after a second. Mace looks around to see if not all the ogres were at home. But all he sees is trees. Thesgna, I am worried. I should have explored those other tunnels yesterday. Where it branches deep in the hill, maybe there is another exit. It would make sense wouldn't it? And if there is, we could be attacked from behind. DM: About now, they hear the footsteps get louder for about five seconds, then stop again. Thump, thump, thump Reju is drawing both of his weapons at this time and moving out to where Mace is standing. SpringRight is still looking in. but he still doesn't see anything moving. Fiona moves up to Mace. Thomlin to Mace, So, Ya going to throw the third gem? Mace whispering, I was waiting until I could see if they took the first bate. and were coming for the second. Thomlin thinks that the ogres are giving us the impression that something is in there, for us to go after, but that it's less dangerous, so we get a falls sense of security. Thomlin whispers to SpringRight I think we're being bated here. There is definitely something bigger in there that they don't want us to know about. Thesgna, Oh, do you think there may be a dragon in the cave? Reju, These ogres seem more intelligent than I expected.  They seem more like the ogre magi than normal ogres. Thomlin, I don't know anything about ogre magi, but if I were trying to get in the last licks, shall we say, I might give my adversary the opinion that it's ok to go in. Then surprise them. After all, it's their lair. They know it well, we don't. I think they're just waiting for us to go in. Mace, Tactically, I would think the same thing. And I'm in no shape to run in there and try to fight something twice the size of me. Actually, four something! Thomlin, I'm not hurt, but I'm not in favour of that either. So you guys want to abandon this? I have no problem what soever. Fiona leans forward and screams into the cave mouth, with many un lady like expletives, the fact that she is calling them out. It's us two, you zero and I'm still alive! You suck! Or something to that effect. Thomlin smiles at the total side of Fiona that he never imagined. How wonderful! Reju laughs, Taunting ogres? Fiona turns to Reju, I got hit! And my spell did not kill them all! That Pisces me off! Thesgna, Can ogres understand common? Thomlin, Even if they understand her tonal quality, that is enough. Thesgna thinking about what Reju said about these not being ogres, goes over to the two dead ones and examines them looking for pouches and anything interesting. Fiona's tirade goes on for about forty five seconds and then she visibly collapses back into herself and stands back red faced. Reju If they didn't know we were out here, they do now! Thomlin is staring at Fiona with his mouth open. He composes himself and says, Well, I guess we'll just encounter these creatures after all. WoodLock, Indeed. It appears that there is something keeping them inside. I do not know what but it is obvious they want us to come inside. If we do not want to do that, the only alternative is to wait. We know that they will come out at night. If we wish to fight them outside, that is when we may be forced to do it, on their terms. Unless we wait until tomorrow. Fiona asks, Are we not strong enough? Are we cowards that we don't want to charge in there and take them on? What about you and you, Fiona points to the larger fighters, Reju and SpringRight, are you not prepared? Reju glares at Fiona, I? I? Are you questioning my valour? My virtue? I've slain much worse than those! But I worry for the rest of you. Are you prepared? Fiona, you've already been stunned once! Fiona shrugs, Yes I have been hurt rather badly, but I'm not showing it now. She sighs, Fine, let's pack it in then! There should be comfortable beds at Delmar's. Reju, So? I'm willing to go in if you're ready to go in as well! I don't see you leading the way! Fiona, What! Not leading the way! Who has been in the front the whole time? Thesgna searching the dead ogres while the argument is going on finds nothing on them but rags of clothing. Then she turns to Mace and fixes his bandages to stem his bleeding.

 

Reju, So Fiona are you ready? Fiona, Yes, how about the rest of you? WoodLock turns to everyone, If you go in I will follow. Reju, I'll defend you if you're fully prepared to do this. then sure, I'll go in! Thomlin says, I will not go in unless Mace who I believe is the one speaking for us, says that he is willing to go in. We cannot have everyone falling. Reju's eyes roll when he hears Thomlin say that Mace speaks for all of us. Thomlin turns to Mace, What say you? Although you may be injured, do you think the rest of us can handle it? And the chance of more injuries? Mace, I don't necessarily have a problem of going in. I'm a little hurt. so Delmar, would you want to take the point? Thesgna, All this talk about going in. I was in there already and came out fine, so I am comfortable going in again. The only thing I was worried about was if there was an ogre standing near enough to the cave mouth that I would be attacked. But since they are not near the opening, I feel safe about going in to find out where they are. Delmar looks toward Mace but hasn't moved. He is about twenty feet away. Reju, Yes, Thesgna, that is a good idea! Why don't you go in on a little scouting mission for us? See what they're doing in there. Mace gestures to Delmar to come over. Then he turns to Thesgna, Ah, If I understand it correctly, you're going to need darkness to do what you have to do. Reju could you cover him when he enters the cave? And I'll get the rest of the party together to go in. Maybe Thesgna can find out something we can use. Maybe we may not want to go in right away. Reju, Actually, SpringRight's eyes are better than mine. I'll stand with him, and with us two she will be better protected, but SpringRight could do the watching out. Delmar does his best to make it through the brush down the hill. But he still makes a good bit of noise doing it. RainSong moves a few steps closer to the group as well, and is still keeping an eye on the cave mouth, but with her better hearing she doesn't need to be too close. Mace, Delmar, here's the situation, Our fair maiden, and he looks towards Fiona, wants to go in and decisively take care of our foes. I'm hurt. I'm going to need you, if we have to go in, to take the point. Thesgna is going to go in and do some scouting. Then we'll know if we should charge.

 

Delmar, when hearing of Fiona chuckles a little bit, and when Mace finishes he says, Point alight? Well, being stealthy isn't my best attribute, you understand. And I haven't had much combat lately, in the past few years. But, this is to save my adopted home town. If it is what needs to be done, and he looks pointedly at Reju and SpringRight, then I'm willing. Reju just shrugs. He wants you to do it, he didn't ask either of us. SpringRight says, You know, I'm new to this fighting experience. I'm certainly willing to give it a try. But my instructors would say this is a fairly foolhardy way of attacking your foe. But I'm willing. Mace looks at Delmar, I'm not going to put you in a situation that  you can't handle. I'm doing this planning all on the fly. Then he looks to Reju and says, Just bear with me. while I get this all together. I'm not trying to leave you out of anything. or make you seam that you're diminished in this at all. I'll take any suggestions. But first lets get Thesgna to do what she needs to do. Delmar looks towards Mace, Hmmm, didn't say, I couldn't do it! Just expect me some time to shake off the rust! Thesgna looks towards Mace and says, Do you have something that I can carry that might give a signal if I get into trouble? Something that could make fire in the tunnel so the elves might see it? Mace looks at Delmar, Once a fighter, always a fighter. Then he pulls out the Greek fire he had in his bag. Do you think you can carry this? Delmar gives a broad grin. I think I can use one too. But I'll need some light in order to see in there. Fiona looking at the Greek fire, "Damn, I wish I had known you had that! Reju, It would make a blast! Mace looking at Fiona, I remembered it at the time you said you had just about what I had, a fuel spell. That's why I quickly looked into my bag for it hoping they wouldn't come out at the same time. Thesgna, Oh, if that is your only flask, perhaps you should save it for when the come charging out towards you. But I could also use it to attack them when I find them. Mace, No, this is not the only one. Thesgna takes the flask from Mace saying, Thank you! I will only use this in an emergency. Or if I need help deep in the cave. She slips it into her pouch and starts walking towards the cave mouth. Mace pulls out another Greek fire and hands it to Delmar. Mace, Reju, any suggestions? Reju, I suggest we go forth with Thesgna's plan to scout the tunnel to find out where they are. I think Greek fire is a bit over kill for what she is wanting. Perhaps we could use one of the gems. She could throw it out to alert us. But as to battle plan, it's hard to say. As soon as we know what is in there, we could better form a plan. Fiona brings her hands up to her head and rubs her temples a little. Mace, Well it could be over kill, but it could also do a little damage to the ogres. I'm still not pleased about going in there against four ogres. He turns to Fiona, What did you have planned? I know you were about to whip something up. Fiona turns to Mace, Another web! Reju, A web with Greek fire could make a nice burn, the problem is we know they are farther in than the web can reach. More than sixty feet, unfortunately. It is unlikely we would catch any of them from here. Fiona grins, Unless, we charge in! Then she blanches a little and winces from the pain the smile caused. Reju, If we charge in we could also be caught in the web spell. Mace, not if she is first. Thesgna puts her cross bow in her pouch and creeps slowly into the cave hugging the left wall trying not to be noticed by the ogres. She faces in the cave keeping her eyes and ears open for any movement or sound. She is in the thief persona and attempts to do a move silently and hide in shadows so as not to be spotted. After moving in a few feet, so there is no light affecting her infravision, she doesn't see anything. And she doesn't hear movement or breathing from inside the cave too. She creeps to ten feet from the cave entrance, reaching a level of light sufficient for the cloak to work. Thesgna opens it up and holds both sides then transforms into a bat. Zap! and flies off deeper into the cave. flap, flap, flap, flap. Because of the hide in shadows no one outside notices the change. She realizes that the flask would be too large and unwieldy to be carried as a bat and besides even if she could, it would alert the ogres if they saw a bat carrying a flask towards them.

 

Delmar has moved to a position near the cave mouth. He's got the other Greek fire in hand in case they need it to burn Fiona's web. He looks back at mace and says, How long should I wait? Mace, Delmar, just stay ready, I don't expect anything to happen but  we should be ready to go in right away. Delmar nods and says, I, but if I hear a scream, I'm charging! Then he draws a sword. Mace turns to Fiona, Do you want him to go in or do you want to try your spell? He could follow you. If they charge then maybe we could do the burning web trick again. Delmar looks to Fiona, If the little one gets in trouble, I'm not sure we'd want her caught in that web before us. Fiona thinking a second shrugs and says, Probably true. Then she rubs her temples. Delmar looks to Mace, Very well then. I'll wait for you to give the word. If I hear the Halfling make a sound, like she's in trouble, I'll look to you for a signal to charge. Thomlin taps Delmar on the shoulder, I'll probably hear it before you do. I'll let you know. JT out of character, If he hears a loud squeak and a wet squish, we'll know what happened. Reju will position himself off to the left of Delmar so he can be at his flank if they need to charge. Mace noticing Reju getting into position, says to SpringRight, You might want to be ready and in position too. So we can all be ready for action. SpringRight raises his sword, Yes, I have this, and then wiggles his shield and I am prepared. Thesgna flies in to where the ogres camp was the day before. Flap, flap, flap. and she still hasn't spotted them. She identifies the clutter and the fire has burned out. There is a little bit of heat left near the fire area. There are also a few scorched dead bats littering the ground. PV out of character: Would that be extra XP? DM: Only for those two who cast the spells about 5 to 7 xp each. Thesgna flies further into the cave Flap, flap, flap. at almost the ceiling, about 75 yards when she starts to get echo bounces off something that looks like two ogres about ten to fifteen yards in. Thesgna is moving at half speed moving back and forth to try to look like a real bat. reaching them in about ten seconds. The two larger ones are standing nearer to her. The two smaller ones are behind them. They are not moving very much. Thesgna moves to the upper left corner to keep as far away from them as possible. and picks up speed as she reaches their position. Flap, flap, flap flap flap, flap. She thinks a real bat would be scared of large creatures so would speed up as they got closer. They are standing in the middle of the cave from left to right. She can't tell which direction they are facing, but they aren't carrying any light source. Once she flies past the ogres, she goes another fifty yards to the opening in the floor. Flap, flap, flap. At this point she has been flying about five minutes. She thinks about stopping and attacking them from behind but thinks that would be too risky, so she continues to explore the back of the cave to investigate  the branches. She turns into the left or northern branch. Flap, flap, flap. Delmar turns to Mace, How long was she planning on being in there? Seems like it's been a while. What's going on? Mace, Your guess is as good as mine. I thought she was just going to check out the area and let us know where they were. Delmar shrugs, Hmmm, Maybe she got into some trouble and couldn't tell us where she was. Fiona lets out a low grown and puts her face in her hands. Mace looks at her, Are you ready? Fiona looks back, I guess. Let's do it! Mace, OK. I wish I knew where she was, SpringRight, you have the best eye sight, lets slowly edge in. Delmar be ready with that Greek fire, we may need to use that for our first volley. Delmar nods. and raises it in his left hand. with his sword still in his right. Mace we should go three abreast to give us room to fight. Reju, How about Delmar point, I'll be on his left flank, with SpringRight on his right. Mace, With me and Fiona right behind. Thomlin, And I will be behind them! Once it is apparent that the group is going in, RainSong comes down from the hill. She says, Well, if you're going in, then I'll join you. My fighting tactics work well in close quarters. Reju, Excellent, you can go next to Thomlin. Mace to RainSong, Is there any position you would like to be? RainSong, As long as I'm along a wall I'll be OK. I prefer to be out of the center. Thomlin, If you two are doing the fire and web, I think I can make a little addition. But give me a little space. Thesgna reaches the spot whir it branches and there is an open space below. She wants to make sure there is a way out if she is trapped behind the ogres. She flies down the tunnel about 50 yards, with the passage staying fairly level. Flap, flap, flap. There, she finds that it turns to the east, but after just a few yards it leads to an area where the cave had collapsed. There are a couple spots where she can probably squeeze through as a bat, but none that any human or Halfling-sized person could get through.

 

As the party enters the darkness of the cave, Delmar looks back to Mace, One of you back there is going to have to light a torch. If we are going to be in combat. Mace, This is true. Also, Delmar we're going to do this slowly and as quietly as we can. Does any of you have a torch, Thomlin, RainSong or WoodLock? WoodLock stifles a laugh, I do not carry such things. But I do have a lantern. Thomlin raises his brows, I don't have such things either. Their not necessary for some of us. Mace, I'm able to fight in the dark so I wouldn't need it also. Delmar grunts a bit and precedes forward at half speed. Reju has both of his blades in his hands, and is poised and ready. SpringRight has gone far enough so that his eyes are adjusted to the darkness. At ten to fifteen yards in, he still can't make out anything.

 

Reju, I too would need that lantern lit. I also have one but would not be able to fight carrying it. WoodLock sighs, Well I suppose it comes down to me then.

 

Hopefully I won't have to cast any spells while in here. Else I'll have to set it down. which might cause problems of its own. He digs into his pack. Thomlin, Somehow I think the fireworks we are about to set off will make ample light. Mace nods.

 

At twenty yards in, and SpringRight makes out the embers of the cooking fire. When the lamp is lit Mace gives a wave to go on. It cancels out SpringRight's 60 foot infravision. and their field of vision is cut to 30 feet. Or twenty feet in front of the leading three. When they get to forty yards in, they notice a lot of clutter on the ground. It is mostly bones and sticks, branches, firewood making stuff scattered around. They do spot the second gem that Mace threw in. and plenty of crispy dead burnt bat bodies.

 

Thesgna can sense echo about fifteen yards because it is quiet. She goes until she senses the blockage then returns to the hole in the ground and flies down into it. Flap, flap, flap. The group passes the spot of the cooking fire, and one of the ogres lets out a roar and starts charging. Growl! Thump, thump, thump thump thump thump Mace exclaims, Sugar Honey Iced Tea! DM: To recap, the group is walking into the tunnel Reju, Delmar and SpringRight in the front row, Mace and Fiona behind in the second row, WoodLock, Thomlin and RainSong on the last row. Reju has both of his things going on above his head and is holding his Katana and Wakazashi. SpringRight has his shield and sword out ready for an attack. Round one: Zap! Mace and Thomlin notice something. Reju notices that only one of the ogres is charging the group into the lantern light and is on them in only a few seconds. Growl! Thump, thump, thump thump thump thump

 

Thomlin can't cast his only spell from the back row so he tries to move over to a side. The charging ogre is moving on SpringRight's side away from Reju, so Reju holds his attack. thump thump thump thump. The ogre attacks Delmar with a weapon. A big mace type deal. Thwack! Clang! Oof! The ogre's mace pounds Delmar in the shoulder and dents his armour but Delmar shrugs it off with a grunt. And starts a mighty swing with his sword. SpringRight gets his swing in first but finds only empty air. Whoosh. SpringRight gets another hack at the ogre and hits it in the mid section. Whoosh, Thunk! It staggers back but stays on it's feet. RainSong has cast a spell, Zap! Delmar finishes a mighty swing decapitating the ogre. Whoosh, thwack, thud. The group looks around for the other ogres and notice RainSong has climbed the wall above SpringRight. And they notice Fiona hasn't moved a bit. Mace looks at her and realizes that she is petrified. But not in fright, she is stiff as a board. Mace, nudging her says, Fiona, Fiona! But he gets no response. Reju without turning calls to WoodLock, Can you move the lantern forward so we can see farther into the cave? WoodLock looks around and moves forward between Mace and Fiona. Reju can see a bit deeper into the cave and he hears thump thump thump thump Boom. thump thump thump boom. thump thump thump boom. three distant crashes. Mace getting no reaction, Thomlin turns to Fiona, and examines her face. He sees a rigid expression. Meanwhile, Thesgna still transformed as a bat, is examining the hole's shape when she hears the charging ogre's growl and the clang of it hitting Delmar. She realizes that the ogres are attacking the party and rises to the floor of the tunnel. flap, flap flap flap flap. Suddenly, three shapes past her going in the other direction. Whoosh, whoosh whoosh. The three ogres have jumped down the hole and land on it's floor. Boom Boom! Boom! Mace hears the distant sounds of something heavy falling and hitting the ground. Reju determines that the three sounds were coming a fair distance from the edge of the lantern light. Thesgna quickly lands on the edge of the hole, and transforms back to a Halfling. flap flap, flap, thud, zap!

 

Reju suggests that the group move forward to find out what made those sounds. Thomlin looking at Fiona says, I don't think all of us are going with you. Our good mage has been frozen solid! Mace and I can't seem to help her. Thesgna pulls the flask of Greek fire out of her pocket and drops it where the ogres landed. Kaboom! It bursts into a ball of fire, and the party sees a dim flash from the same distance as the three thuds. Reju exclaims, What the? Then he looks over to Mace. Off in the distance there is a warm glow surrounding the dark silhouette of a Halfling.

 

Delmar turns to Mace and Reju's direction, Just what the hell is that? Mace, Blast it! I don't know! Alright, we're in some kind of quagmire here. I'm not sure we want to move forward with Fiona like this. Reju staring towards the glow asks, What's going on back there? Thomlin waving his hand in front of her face says, Fiona doesn't respond! Nothing, I have no clue. WoodLock says, I think she's held. Thomlin asks, Held? By what? WoodLock answers, A spell. Tis not uncommon. She should be fine in a few minutes. I didn't expect them to be spell casters though. Unless they have someone working with them that we don't know about. Thomlin, Hmm, I haven't seen such a spell. This means, until she can move, someone's got to stay here. If the rest of you want to go ahead, perhaps that should be my job. I wouldn't be much good down below if that's where you guys intend to go. Reju considers, since we've only seen one ogre in the cave, and RainSong is above us, he will use his tattoo to detect invisibility. which will pretty much include the entirety of the cave.

 

Meanwhile, Thesgna can hear the party's talking but it is too far to understand what they are saying. Delmar turns around to Mace and says, Hmm, I have to wonder now, if the suspicions about these ogres working for the Duke might be right!

 

Mace, Could be. Now my concern is are we in here with magic users stronger than us? Delmar nods, Although that particular spell is not horribly powerful. I've seen even beginner spell casters cast it. Though they were not quite this effective. I don't know. Thesgna looks down the hole and sees the three ogres running away through the left tunnel, escaping the fire burning behind them. She turns around and shouts, I'm down here, but I'm OK! The other three ogres jumped down the hole and ran away! Mace, OK, did everyone hear Thesgna? It looks like one of our threats is taken care of. Now we can concentrate on who did this to Fiona. Reju looking at his tattoo detects nothing invisible in it's range. Reju then hearing the Halfling, moves up saying, Alright, WoodLock would you please follow me with the light? I want to get up to Thesgna. WoodLock elbows his way past Fiona's still unmoving form. Thump. and moves ahead a couple paces behind Reju. Thesgna looks down at the fire which is still burning twenty feet below. Reju and WoodLock reach the hole, and stand next to Thesgna. Reju asks, What did you see? and motions to WoodLock to shine the lantern down the hole. Thesgna, Two small ogres and one large one ran by me and jumped down the hole. I dug the Greek fire out of my pack and threw it down at them but when it hit the ground and burst into fire, all I saw was the three heading off to the left, north. WoodLock looks over the edge of the hole and says, The passage looks a lot like this one. It only goes two ways, left and right. Reju to Thesgna, You say they went left? He studies the wall of the hole, if it is a sheer drop and what were the walls made of. DM: It is an open dug out pit. about five feet across at the end of the passage that the party is at. There is a mound of dirt, about five or six feet packed around the upper level of the hole. It looks like there are a few hand holds on the wall, But from the floor of the upper level to the floor of the lower level is about fifteen feet. There are nearby wooden beams holding up the tunnel ceiling that a rope could be anchored to. Reju seeing that the coast is clear would motion to the rest of the party to move up. He says, If you have to, just drag Fiona here! DM: Fiona is just starting to come out of her state. Fiona shaking her head says, What happened? Where's the ogre?

 

Thesgna with a puzzled look asks Reju, What happened to Fiona and what about the other ogre? I heard the attack back there so I assumed that the lot of you did it in. Did it hurt Fiona?  Did you inspect it?  Is it like the other two ogres? Thomlin and Mace carrying Fiona notice that she is waking. Thomlin looking at Fiona, says, Ah, good to see you coming around my dear! Then turning to Thesgna, The ogre? It is somewhere else. But no longer on this plane of existence. And how are you doing? Fiona says, Yes I see that now. Damn, I'm getting tired of not being able to use my spells properly! Holding her head she adds,  It's quite frustrating. Very well, what are we to do next? Thesgna hearing that the ogre is dead, heads back to the body and notices Delmar examining it. Delmar, Ah, good Halfling! I'm sure you are quite interested in this creature here. He really didn't put a whole lot of fight, but he did give me a bit of a sore shoulder. Thesgna, Ah, yes, good fighter, I do see a slight dent in your armour. I hope you're not too injured? My god is very displeased with me because I let the threat to travelers go by. I do wish I could have protected the rest of you from their evil intent. Delmar says, Hmm, I'm fine! This good armour absorbed most of what ever damage he was trying to dish out! Still, I could feel his attack even through the armour. Those ogres are very strong! Reju takes a rope out of his pack and starts to attach it to the wood beams. Thesgna asks, Delmar, did you find anything on that ogre? And did you inspect their camp? When I was in the cave before I could just make out lumps of something but I couldn't identify it. Delmar, No, I didn't look at their camp site. You should ask SpringRight over there, he has better vision and walked right through it. Delmar holds a pouch out to Thesgna and says, But I did find this on the ogre. He tosses a small sack in Thesgna's direction who catches it. RainSong lowers herself and joins the others on the ground, Well, that was rather anti climatic. I must say! Let us hope that there is not a need for my services in the next battle. My typical method of attack has been a bit compromised. I have to wonder though, I know you said that the three ogres went by you, what happened to them? Did they go down the hole? Thesgna, Yes, I was in my other altered state, and they went right by me not noticing I was there. Actually, I was exploring the place that they jumped to. By the time I took out the Greek fire, and threw it at them, They had escaped the flames to the north. For you see, there is another tunnel about fifteen feet down that heads north and south. Those ogres were moving very fast. They probably saw that you had displaced their third member and knew they were outnumbered. I will go back to help Reju with the rope, I know of ways to attach it to the beam. Thesgna walks back to Reju and says, I have hooks to secure the rope to the wood. They are good for travelers in mountainous areas. Reju, That is not needed my friend. I too have the needed items to attach the rope, and it is done. It is prepared and ready for the group to use to descend into the hole. It is a rather sturdy rope, so we should be fine. Thomlin not able to do much at the hole goes back to the ogre's camp to look for the two gems that he had Mace throw. And looks for anything else that glitters. He only finds two of the three gems. The red glittery one that Mace threw deepest is missing. Thomlin picks up the other two and looks for anything interesting like weapons or anything of value. Thomlin sees one big mace, and one extra long spear. Other than that there is a pile of bones, ash from the fire, and a small pile of branches. SpringRight comes up to Thesgna and says, How did they get down the hole? Did they jump twenty feet? Or did they climb down? Thesgna replies, They did indeed jump. They went by very fast and were pretty agile. I would have bet they would stop at the bottom after that jump being stunned or rest to hear if anyone was coming. I wouldn't have been surprised if they had been knocked out, so I threw the Greek fire down thinking that it would hit them and hurt them. Thesgna walks off to the side and glances in the pouch that Delmar gave him. He feels coins but can't see what kind or how many. So he stores it in his backpack. Delmar comes over hearing Thesgna and SpringRight's conversation, Well that is a good drop even for an ogre, but they are tough creatures. Thesgna looks at Delmar and says, Yes, I wish the rest of you were a little more patient. My plan was to throw that Greek fire on them from behind,  which could have damaged them severely, but then  I didn't have a chance because of your charge into the tunnel and attack. I thought the plan was to allow me to explore the whole cave for at least a half an hour and report back. Maybe I was not clear enough about that. Delmar, Ah I wasn't sure how long you would intend to be  inside. Thesgna, I did tell Mace that I had the power to explore the cave for around an hour, but that is something I did not want everyone to know. I guess my reluctance to tell more about my power has hurt our chances on dealing with those ogres swiftly. I am restrained by my god Sedric to not reveal all the secrets of the power. But it is important that you people know to what extent I can use it. I am extremely displeased for if I had a little longer, we might have done away with all the ogres. Delmar chuckles, I'll have to get back to the town to notify the mayor of what you found. The group thanks Delmar for his help and agrees to return to the town when the last three ogres are dispatched.

 

The group climbs down Reju's rope and find themselves at the bottom of the hole with a rope dangling to the west side above and to the floor of the lower cave. Reju leaves the remaining ten feet of rope looped up to the side of the tunnel. The passageway is ten feet wide and twelve feet high with tunnels to the north and south. Reju, Since Thesgna said that the remaining ogres went to the left, I will take the lead with SpringRight. The second row should be Mace and WoodLock holding the lamp. Fiona and Thomlin in the third row, and Thesgna and RainSong behind them. Mace thinking, Hmm, I would put Reju and SpringRight in the first row, Fiona and RainSong in the second row, Thomlin and WoodLock in the third row, and myself and Thesgna in the last row. I want to be rear guard. Thesgna, Yes I would prefer to be in the rear and could use my better vision to look back. Reju, I do need WoodLock in the second row because of him carrying the lamp. Thomlin, Thesgna, my Elvin eyes should be able to see much farther than yours. Thesgna smiling says, That is true, good Elf, but you could always look over my head! Thomlin chuckles, Yes a quick glance over my shoulder would be enough. Mace, I would prefer Thomlin in the last row next to me.  I do not mean to offend you Thesgna, but he can give me more of what I need. Reju, So we've got, Reju SpringRight first row, WoodLock, Fiona second row, RainSong, Thesgna third row, and Mace and Thomlin last row. Thesgna, I would rather be in the last row so I could use my power without giving away all its secrets. Plus with the power evoked, I could investigate the tunnel ahead of us for possible ambushes quicker than anyone else. Mace, I am sure there will be plenty of shadows for you to hide in to do what ever you have to do. Thesgna, That is true but it just mite take a little longer. I could also step around Thomlin if the need comes. Thomlin, Exactly! I think we should move on and take each situation as it comes.

 

DM: The party advances through the passage, eighty feet or so where the passage makes a turn to the east. They continue, and this passage slopes down rather sharply. WoodLock's lantern has been burning for about a half an hour. Thomlin will be doing his best to listen for large noises, growls and grunts. Things that are out of the ordinary from the party's creaking armour and such. Reju, I too have a lamp I can light when WoodLock's runs low, or you can refill it with my spare flasks of oil. We don't want too many people holding lanterns for if we get into a fight, we can run into trouble that way. DM: Typically an oil lamp burns four hours.

 

The group descends the thirty degree slope, It is all packed earth walls, ceiling and floor with wooden supports every twenty feet. The group can see in spots that there has been some crumbling away of the walls. There are piles of dirt and small stones occasionally throughout the area. They also see a fair number of rats scurrying about. An occasional flock of bats hanging from the wooden support beams. But not encountering too much else at this point. Once they go another sixty feet, the passage levels off again and continues to the north. Twenty feet ahead, the group spots a side passage leading off to the right, east, so they stop. Thesgna asks, SpringRight have you seen any footprints of the ogres? SpringRight, The packed earth does not have any footprints as of yet.

 

Thesgna takes out his hand lamp and asks WoodLock for help lighting it. He does so and then turns it down and puts on a shade to lessen the amount of oil used. It would be good to have a backup if WoodLock's burns out or is put out. Reju asks WoodLock, What do you know of ogre sight? Can they see in the dark like Elves? WoodLock, Indeed they can. It is good that we have the light for that will make us even in a fight. Reju, I was hoping that perhaps one of you could look around the corner to see if the ogres were there before we pass by it. We may be walking past an ambush point. It does not appear that your Elvin sight gives you an advantage over them in sneaking up on them. I don't wish to walk past there with some knowledge of what is around that corner. WoodLock nods, Understandable. I will admit to not knowing how well a half ogre can see in the dark. I have little experience with their kind. It all depends, I suppose, on what they are crossed with. Reju whispers to SpringRight, How quietly can you get up there? Would it be possible for you to move silently and look around that corner? SpringRight, I can certainly try, but I won't be that quiet with my armour on. It would be too dangerous to take it off at this point. SpringRight creeps twenty feet to the corner. and cautiously pokes his head around it taking a look. He comes back and reports that he saw nothing. Reju leads the group up to the side passage. The side passage is a little narrower about eight feet across and it extends at least sixty feet. Thesgna, Good friend WoodLock, do you still have that power to communicate with animals? For if you do, the rats and bats in this cave may tell you which way the ogres went. WoodLock, Unfortunately, this morning, I prayed to Various for spells to help me fight these creatures. I had but one spell of that type. Since we had intended to fight them in the open, I had taken a pair of entangle spells, which to this point seems useless. Ah, such is the way. Reju, SpringRight, can you check for any tracks? SpringRight, If WoodLock would come over with the lamp, very closely to the ground, I'll take a closer look. This is packed dirt so it is possible that I may see footprints. WoodLock comes forward and lowers the lamp to the ground. And sure enough, off to one side, SpringRight notices a small pile of fallen dirt that looks like it has been recently disturbed. As though something large had moved past there. SpringRight points in the direction of the mound and says, I think this is the direction we should go. As the party enters the cave the floor feels soft and sludgy.

 

They follow signs that the Ogres left but as they continue through the tunnel they realize that they are circling around and eventually find their way back to the entrance. The three remaining creatures tricked them and led the party on a wild goose chase through the tunnel. The party had neglected to post a watch at the entrance which could have stopped the creatures or alerted the rest of the party to where the ogres were.

 

Exiting the cave, the group finds Thesgna's pony missing and a trail left by the ogres heading away from the hill. They decide to head back to town to regroup and give a report to the mayor on what they found.

 

The end.

 

 

 

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The Top Five Articles

Selected by Michael Feir

 

By far, the hardest things to obtain during my editorship of Audyssey were articles. I've always treasured them. Even when they were a whole pile of work to edit, I've always tried to include all of the articles I received. Without these articles, Audyssey Magazine would be far less a publication than it has been over the years. It would have been a whole lot more shallow both to read and to produce. A simple collection of game announcements and reviews would still be a useful thing. However, it would be missing an overall sense of the direction and perspective of the community. Articles are where you find the deeper and wider thinking which goes beyond specific games to important places like the state of the industry or morality and how it relates to games. Below, I've included what I feel are five of the best articles ever to appear in Audyssey. I hope they serve as inspirations for future articles which I will have the pleasure to read without having to edit them.

 

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The Future of Blind Computer Gaming

By David Greenwood

 

It is interesting, and sometime disturbing, to watch how the computer games world has changed over the last ten to fifteen years.  In the past the only games that were available to us were written for the visually able, which

was fine when many games were text based.  But now, for the most part, the current batch of commercial games which are arriving at our corner computer stores are totally inaccessible.  They come with a big sound, great theme, interesting plot, but they are primarily visually oriented.  Unless you have a sighted gaming partner, you're out of luck.  Except for current text based interactive fiction, we are being left out of the main stream gaming market.

And I think I am being generous in including interactive fiction in this category.

There is a small handful of people and businesses which are developing games for the visually impaired, but to date, these programs have been using five to ten year old technology.  We can not totally blame the developers.  Many

blind computer gamers are using DOS and older computers, and it stands to reason that game developers want to include as many potential game users as possible.  But the demand is changing.  Many younger and new computer users are entering the market and they are arriving with up-to-the-minute technology and with only limited access to DOS.

I don't think I need my crystal ball to come up with the following.  I expect that over the next two years, the majority of the games written for the blind will be written for Windows, and will begin using true 2D and 3D

sound.  With the popularity of the Sound Blaster 128 and 512 cards and the power of the new machines, I am sure we will see some interesting games arriving.

I believe that the use of directional sound will make the biggest inroads into this area.  This will open up many opportunities for simulation and live action games.  Let me give you an example of how one of these games may

work.

I will use the ubiquitous racing car game as our example.  You are at the starting line.  You can just barely hear the sounds of the crowds in stereo over the sound of your engine. You have set your gear shift to neutral while

you rev up your engines.  The start flag sounds and you quickly shift into first gear.  You put your foot to the gas and you listen to the sound of the engine to ensure you don't "red line" it.  As the sound of the engine reaches the optimum, you shift up to second gear.  The engine abruptly

lowers in frequency and you continue to apply gas.  You again listen to the frequency and shift at the optimal point.  You have set your heads-up sound beacon to 200 yards in front of your car.  This sound beacon remains centred in your current lane, a preset distance in front of you.  You can vary this distance depending on your reaction time and comfort level.  When the beacon starts moving to the right, you know that the road is starting to turn to the right and you must adjust your direction accordingly.  Suddenly,

you hear that your right tires are on the rough shoulder of the track.  You must adjust the direction slightly to the left to ensure you stay on the road.  You now notice that the beacon is directly ahead of you.  From the direction of the beacon, you know that the track is straight for the next

little while.  You also hear a car ahead of you and slightly to the left. You give the car a little more gas and you hear yourself passing the car from the right.  Now, the same car decides to try to pass you.  You hear the sound of his engine behind you and to the right.  You quickly steer your car to the right in attempt to block him, but he anticipates your move and steers into the lane directly to the left of you.  You can tell by the volume of his engine that he is too close, but try to block him anyway. Unfortunately, the game ends in a fiery roar and you are once more at the

starting line.

In this example, there are several sounds being transmitted to you at any one time.  You have your background sounds which are optional and can be turned off.  You have the continuous sound of your directional beacon that

you use for steering.  As well, the sound of your engine will inform you whether you are in the correct gear.  You will constantly hear the sound of your tires hitting the shoulder of the track if you are going too fast and

having a hard time staying on the road.  You will hopefully adjust your speed accordingly.  You hear other cars ahead or behind you, and to the left and right.  From these sounds you can get a general idea of the speed of

your competition.  You will also have the opportunity to pass or stop someone from passing.  Each sound will be in 2D or 3D sound, which optimally, gives you the feeling that you are in the middle of the action, in addition to the multi-dimensional information it provides.  A set of

headphones would be beneficial in a game like this.

There seems to be a lot happening at one time in this game, and there is! If this game were to be developed, you would have the opportunity of practising on an empty straight track.  This could be described as being on

the Salt Flats.  You might then progress to a large oval track, and then to a competition track with other racers.

This example shows how natural sounds can be combined with accessibility sounds, such as the directional beacon.  It would be hard to imagine a game that would work well only using natural ambient sounds, but I'm sure it's possible.

In the Audyssey mail list we have discussed some of these ideas and the following example is similar to a not-yet-developed game  we have discussed.  This example comes close to a game which may not need accessibility sounds nor a text narrative.

You are walking through the passages in a long deserted castle.  You are only armed with a sling with which you are quite proficient. The tunnels are pitch black and you don't have any light source.  As you walk through the passage, you hear the sound of the wind as you pass open doorways and diverging passages.  There is a low wind sound constantly blowing from ahead of you.  You hear a passage directly to your left and you turn that way. Suddenly, ahead and slightly to the right you hear the roar of some creature.  You turn slightly to the right and fire your sling.  The creature continues to roar, but closer now, and you adjust your direction and use your sling again.  The creature cries out in pain, but then continues to roar.  It is even closer now.  After a few more exchanges, you turn and run.

In this example, I have used the device of a non-visible world to simplify the story.  It might be more interesting to have props and such to add a little colour to the game.  Here we use sound exclusively to move and fight monsters.  The directional sounds of the wind as it blows from in front of you and from either side helps you navigate the tunnels.  You can fight the monsters by using the directional sounds coming from them. You can tell you have scored on the monster either by the cries from the monster or by the

sound of the projectile or weapon hitting the monster.  You can tell if the monster has scored on you by your character's screams.

I hope these two examples gave you a window to my vision of the future of blind computer gaming.  There are so many other types of games , such as board and logic games, which will require other approaches to make them more interesting and easier to use.  I certainly do not want to imply that I hold the monopoly on this vision.  As you will see in the near future, there will be as many approaches as there will be developers, and the winner will be you!

 

+

Interview with Suzanne Britton

by Justin Fegel

 

Since Worlds Apart has been so well received among the Audyssey community, I thought it would be interesting to interview the game's author, Suzanne Britton, and find out a little about the background of this incredible game and how it came to be. If you would like to read a review of the game, you can find two excellent reviews in the Game Reviews section of issue 21. If you haven't tried Worlds Apart yet, you really must download a copy. You can download it from:

ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/tads/worlds.zip

Worlds Apart is also included in the Rising from Time's Ashes collection, which was compiled by Audyssey's editor Michael Feir. You can download this collection from:

http://www.espsoftworks.com

Now, on with the interview.

 

JF: Well, I guess we'll start with that universal question that seems to

begin every interview. Could you tell us a little about yourself?

 

SV: Lesse. I'm a 26-year-old happily married Roman Catholic computer geek. I'm an

idealist. I'm asocial (usually). I have a somewhat hyperactive imagination. I program computers for a living and for fun, and have had a passion for writing since adolescence. These two loves are combined in my interactive fiction work.

 

"Worlds Apart" is my first real work of IF. Before that, I wrote a teach-myself-TADS, Tolkien-themed game called "Journey to Lothlorien". I had fun with it, but it will probably never see the light of day.

 

I've been a lurker in the IF community for some time now--since well before the first IF competition. Every now and then I poke my head up, usually to help with TADS questions on raif. I can be found on ifMUD periodically as "Tril". But for the most part, I keep to myself, listen and learn and occasionally offer something back to the community.

 

JF: When did you become interested in interactive fiction and what are some of your favourite games?

 

SV: I was 12 when I had my first encounter with IF: a split-screen Apple IIe adventure game called "Death in the Caribbean". It was a straight puzzle game which boasted a primitive two-word parser, an imp that followed you around stealing your inventory, and various types of Instant Death (e.g. a chasm that you must jump across, with a 50% chance of surviving). I fell in love with it. When I was playing "Death in the Caribbean", the outside world might as well have ceased to exist.

 

The Real World and I never got along very well in my childhood, and from as early on as I can remember, I was inventing alternate ones (Worlds Apart is, in fact, the fruition thereof). IF became part of that escapist passion. And as I grew and the computer gaming industry matured, I became more and more demanding, favouring story-rich interactive fiction with good writing and smoothly integrated puzzles.

 

Some of the more memorable games I remember along the journey, in chronological

order, are In Quest of the Starlord, Caladuril II: Weatherstone's End (both CoCo III graphic/text adventures), King's Quest III and IV, Bureaucracy, Wishbringer, Trinity, Loom, Gateway and Gateway II. You may notice these are all commercial games. But since the commercial gaming industry began to shun text and the parser interface (which I believe to be by far the most flexible and immersive interface), I've drawn away from it and become increasingly engrossed in and loyal to the modern text-IF movement.

 

Some of my favourite works of modern, text-based IF are Curses, Shelby's Addendum, Delusions, Tapestry, Babel, Sunset over Savannah, For a Change, and LASH. But the king of them all is Photopia: I feel it's the greatest masterpiece the IF community has ever produced, and I don't think it will be surpassed any time soon.

 

JF: Worlds Apart is certainly a very large and detailed game. In fact, even though I have played it a couple times, I still don't feel I've found everything yet. How did you come up with the idea for the game and was it intended to be this large?

 

SB: The universe in which Worlds Apart takes place has been with me, evolving in my

imagination, since I was very young. It almost seems to evolve on its own, and its denizens feel very emotionally real to me, so it seems strange to talk about "coming up with ideas", as if I sat down one day and thought, "let's write a story about a healer". I never did.

 

You might say the whole thing started with Yuri: he was the first Dyrana I ever knew, coalescing when I was 14 and evolving from there. I knew that someone in his past had affected him deeply, transforming his whole personality and outlook on life, but I didn't know who or how or why.  The seed of "Worlds Apart" was in those questions. The game design, prose, and puzzles were all consciously created, but the *story* was more of a discovery.

 

Was it intended to be huge? Definitely. In fact, there was a time I wanted to tell the whole story in one game (instead of splitting it up into WA and its sequel), in which case it would have been unreasonably huge. But the bulk of the game's size is in its depth. I don't think any one person will *ever* find everything unless they find a way to disassemble the TADS binary. Over 50% of the game, I'd estimate, is optional, and finding the hidden surprises is intended to be one of the pleasures of playing it--and

replaying it.

 

JF: How long was Worlds Apart in development?

 

SB: There were three years of writing and programming, plus some preceding months of "gestation"--letting ideas bounce off each other and scanning design discussions on raif.

 

JF: Are there any other interactive fiction games that had an influence on Worlds Apart's creation?

 

SB: Quite a few. The most influential were my favourite games of the 1996 competition, since around that time I started programming in earnest. These included Delusions, Tapestry, and Fear. Each introduced powerful tools for player immersion, and immersion was one of my foremost goals in "Worlds Apart". Delusions' self-discovery theme, Tapestry's forcing of the player to make a difficult decision, and Fear's vivid representations of the subconscious: these three were a big influence on my imagination and my design decisions.

 

JF: I understand that there are colour changes that take place in certain parts of the game. Of course, blind players will not be aware of these changes unless they are playing with a sighted friend. How crucial is it to know about these colour changes and are there any parts in particular that blind players should be aware are in a different colour?

 

SB: Colour is not heavily used and is not crucial to understanding--it's employed mainly in a few special instances (e.g. the three section title screens) for setting mood. A more important but related detail is font: I use italics to represent Lyesh's thoughts, bold for others' thoughts, and bold italics on the rare occasion that her thoughts sync with someone else's. It's an important distinction and sometimes the font is the only way to tell whose mind is speaking.

 

Perhaps the most crucial instance is the curse at the end of the locket-vision within the statue. That was Kitara's mind speaking, not Lyesh's, a detail which even one of my (sighted) beta-testers missed.

 

JF: Since the game was developed with HTML tads, have you considered adding graphics, or for us visually impaired players, sounds?

 

SB: I'm not planning much further development on Worlds Apart. I'd rather make

room for new endeavours. The sequel may have graphics and/or sound, though...

 

JF: I also understand you are working on a sequel. Can you tell us a little about that and how it's coming along?

 

SB: It's gestating. There was a burst of activity towards the end of "Worlds Apart"

development, during which I wrote about 60,000 words of prose, but no code. Things have quieted down since then. I'm bouncing ideas around, and also waiting for TADS 3 to mature.

 

"Full Circle" will be fairly big, but unlike "Worlds Apart", most of its size will be in breadth rather than depth. There will be less optional material and therefore less for the player to miss, though as with "Worlds Apart", they will have to read carefully to understand what's going on. This change is somewhat dictated by the subject matter: the base story of "Full Circle" is so far-reaching that there is little room for optional embellishments. Also, while Lyesh remains the player-character, "Full Circle" is not a story about Lyesh. The focus is on someone else.

 

The endgame/epilogue will be an exception to both of those statements, however, and my hope is that it will help to resolve the "left hanging" feeling that many players had at the end of "Worlds Apart".

 

A final note: "Full Circle" will be a story told from up to three viewpoints at a time, and my current plan is to divide the screen into three scrolling frames. Since becoming aware of Audyssey and the IF fans among its readership, I've started to give some thought to how I can adapt this plan to vision-impaired players.

 

JF: What are your thoughts on the future of interactive fiction? Can we expect more games like Worlds Apart that focus more on telling a story rather than puzzle solving?

 

SB: Absolutely. Like me, the IF community as a whole has grown demanding and

a little jaded. Its collective reaction to Lunatix (a quite solid old-school adventure game, well above that old Apple IIe game that so enchanted me as a child) alone shows this. Most IFers, certainly in the newsgroup-based community, are no longer willing to forgive arbitrary puzzles, sketchy plots, or sub-Infocom parsers. There's been a movement

towards story-rich, prose-rich IF starting around the 1996 competition, and I'm enjoying every minute of it.

 

On the other hand, puzzles will always have their place. I decided early on that "Worlds Apart" would not be puzzleless--but the puzzles (although "problems" is perhaps a better word) are woven into the story as seamlessly as possible, and are designed to aid immersion rather than thwart it. Part of it is the old cognitive dissonance trick. After struggling to help Lia transform her nightmare, or to make contact with Echo, the player will hopefully think something like: "If I put in all that work, I must be a true healer." And

hopefully, they won't stop to think, "Nah, I put in all that work because it was the only way to finish the game."

 

JF: Worlds Apart is a fine game and I'm certainly looking forward to the sequel. Do you have any final comments? Any words of advice for any potential interactive fiction developers?

 

SB: Advice: Worship your beta-testers. Without my testers, "Worlds Apart" would not

be half as rich and detailed as it is. Many of the optional discoveries originated from tester comments. Also, without my testers, the game would have sported several hideous game-killing bugs despite all of my own careful testing (actually, one such bug managed to make its way to release, but one of my testers, Vincent Lynch, caught it and alerted me soon after), including one which put Lyesh into a self-repeating time warp when she came out of the jinna tree. You won't catch all of these yourself--guaranteed. Most of them turn up when the player is prying at a difficult puzzle, something the author never has to do.

 

And one other note about testing: ask for full transcripts. You'll find out all sorts of things this way that your testers might not otherwise report.

 

Final comments: Many thanks to Audyssey and its readership! I didn't know about this magazine until recently. As a new author, I'm somewhat starved for feedback, so finding the reviews in Audyssey came as a very pleasant surprise. If you have any suggestions on how I can make "Full Circle" more accessible to you, let me know.

 

Thanks Suzanne for taking the time to do this interview. We certainly are looking forward to Full Circle when it is released.

 

+

Sparkle and Shine:

Reflections on Trends in Gaming

By James Peach

 

If you happen to have sighted friends or family who gawk at the latest hardware, or drool over the latest games, you might comprehend this trend in gaming: faster, better cheaper (sound familiar?)  The desire for the latest in the "goods" among the sighted community especially, has always been a hard and fast desire.  It's easy to damn less than adequate computing equipment and substandard games; the standards seem to change every four to six months, perpetuating the market.  With that being laid out, there appears to be a more relaxed stance in the blind/VI gaming community when it comes to such issues; perhaps conservative is the right word.  They, for the most part, do not feel a strong need to keep up with technology, and with new releases, creating a separate subculture of gamers within the whole.

 

Why might this be?   Are there two different computing/gaming philosophies existing together?  The answer seems to lie in the community itself. Regardless of whether you are blind or not, the gaming community you hang in does a lot to decide how games and complementary hardware/software advance.  Regardless of whether your comrades are in person or online, they and you will probably have suggestions/opinions for the "next big sequel" or "expansion pack," and will collectively decide on whether to buy that advancement or not.  The difference lies in what kind of content the community is expecting out of the next big release or improvement. making such a dividing line between the sighted and non-sighted alike; the sighted may want the sequel to have compatibility with newer graphics cards.  Those that are not sighted, for the most part, seem to simply want bug fixes, or an advancement in a story, and nothing else.  One wants revolution, while the other only evolution.

 

While this is more or less true and fair, one can not help wondering why such a chasm in expectations exists.  From observations accumulated over the years, I have come to the conclusion that it's the exposure, the advertisement and popularity that are the deciding factors.  Think about it.  While a whole stew of games has come out over the years in mainstream gaming, creating new genres and expanding old ones, the blind have been saturated with text-adventures. Many of the best of these are 10 to 20 years old!  While I realise that this has been really the most/only accessible type of gaming for the blind, current developments are showing time and again that the restrictions we have are the ones that we put on ourselves.

 

Why should we not be able to have the quality and functionality that the sighted enjoy in their games?  Developers seemed to have asked themselves this question and the answer could only be a shrug; after the shrugging was over, they set to work to bring it up a notch, and bring new unprecedented quality to the blind gamer.  I remind you that like blind/VI game developers, commercial gaming companies for the sighted have evolved their games over the years as well. Theirs was a smooth and gradual transition.  The advances experienced by blind gamers are giant leaps; in 1996, WarCraft 2 came out.  Now regarded  as quite an obsolete and simple game, it blew the doors off the Real-time strategy market. WarCraft II raised the bar for quality. Now, developers are taking real-time strategy 3-D (WarCraft 3)!  After PCS Games began development in what seemed to be an untapped market, they raised the bar of quality that was held by interactive fiction at the time.  Then, David Greenwood came along with his Lone Wolf and Star Trek games. The bar was raised again. Star Trek introduced continuous sounds. Lone Wolf proved that it was possible to have a complex real-time simulation game playable by the blind.  Next, out of the mist comes Jeff Gibbons and Bavisoft with Grizzly Gulch: Western Extravaganza. This blows the doors off of all other previous developments, raising quality to a level never dreamed possible a few years ago.  No one in this community is chanting anymore, "It can't be done," but are now asking, "What can't be done?"

 

It's a good time to be a blind gamer.  I could foresee a day when standards of sound quality in games, for example, would rival any mainstream gaming package of the day. A day when we could be buying gaming accessories such as joysticks that everyone else was using may not be too far off.  We may even be using accessories of our own to enhance our experience that the sighted may not have thought of using.  With Grizzly Gulch available now, Shades of Doom on the way, the Genesis Project in development, and whispers of a David Greenwood developed accessible flight sim, truly the sky's the limit.  It's a great time indeed to be a blind gamer, where tried and true Interactive Fiction and other text-based games are an option instead of "the" option. Things are getting better every day.

 

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Total Losers?:

Re-evaluating Loss and Defeat in Computer Games

By Bryan McGucken

We get beat by a computer.  What do we do when we get beat?  We may throw a book across the room, slam a door, punch a wall, or even hit ourselves.  There is no doubt that losing in a computer game, or any game for that matter, is nothing short of frustrating nay, infuriating!  Yet what does losing a game tell us, both about the game and about ourselves?

In a previous issue of Audyssey, you may recall that I offered a general definition of a game.  Any game worth playing by an avid gamer must have goals or objectives which the player must complete.  There may be smaller goals or one large goal.  There are usually both in any good computer game.  If the player achieves all goals set forth in the game program, she succeeds, or "wins".  If not, she "loses" and must accomplish some or all of the goals over again up to and after the point at which she was defeated.

If I win a game, it means that I did what was necessary to complete all pre-determined objectives.  How is it that I accomplished this?  Games take thought, decision-making, quick analysis, memory, concentration, and a plethora of other mental functions.  These mental functions are vital to winning the game.  It is not enough to simply physically control a character, move a car or jet, or fire a shotgun.  We must move the character a certain way, move the car a certain way, and fire the gun a certain way.  Some may argue that chance could bring about the winning of a game, and I shall not deny this to them.  Yet games are designed to be enjoyed by their players, and chance diminishes the enjoyment of a game because the game, quite literally, becomes mindless.  Enjoyment is mental pleasure or, as Baruch Spinoza might have put it, psychological empowerment.

Now winning, no one will deny, is also enjoyable.  There is no better form of mental empowerment than knowing that our minds adequately assessed the virtual situations set before us, or is there?  When a gamer loses the game she is playing, what does that mean?  It means, quite simply, that a mental process either did not present itself to her, or that she did not assess the virtual situation properly.  This means that her mind will have to perform more output in order to assess the situation in an adequate way.  Her mind does this in the interest of empowering itself.  Now it may do this simply for the sake of the mental exercise it receives, or, what is more probable, as a means to the end of "winning" and achieving the pleasure that invariably comes with succeeding.  A good game will give the player a posterior incentive for this.  In the case of "The Savage Gamut", for example, when you defeat the final fighter, the song "We are the Champions" plays and you are told that you have won.  When we lose, we become annoyed or angry because we want to win, either because we want our minds to do their jobs properly, or, more likely, we want to win and derive the enjoyment that comes with it.  If we want badly enough to win, we will strain our minds to ascertain what exactly needs to happen in order to win the game.  In this sense losing can be a blessing in disguise because it forces us to redouble our mental efforts in the interest of what we really want.  In this sense games bear a mild resemblance to life.  In life, if a difficult problem arises, it would not serve us well to allow the problem to fester and not be solved by us.  We thus put in the added effort necessary to solve the problem.

Now although it should be born in mind that each person's mental capacity and faculties are different even from her relatives, nonetheless a particular game may not be enjoyable simply because we won it, either quickly or without difficulty.  If a game is too easy to complete successfully, our minds need not put in the effort to complete it.  Man only does what he feels he has to as a general rule.  If effort is not required to complete a game, the mind tends to lose power and focus, and the game becomes less enjoyable because we are not encouraged as strongly to complete the game.  Without mental empowerment, there can be no enjoyment.

On the other hand, if a game is too difficult, the mind will soon wear itself out.  Each mind has a different fortitudinal limit beyond which it cannot proceed.  If a game's objectives are beyond the scope of a particular player's mental capacity, she cannot complete the game because her mind is literally straining against itself (its own limit) and yet attains no thing.  Now some may counter that out of nothing comes nothing: a person cannot put in effort and have no result come out.  This may be true, yet, as Descartes would have it, there are times when the actions based on choices of the will move beyond the scope of the understanding.  Now while Descartes would argue that this amounts to an egregious error, nonetheless it is human error based on man's finite nature.  One may think she can complete a game at first, and only later come to find that she cannot do so.  In this case the game is not good for the player in question.  Thinking takes power, for it is one of man's faculties as a man, and is proper to him.  However, unlike God, or many other deities, man's intellect is finite.  This may be said even without positing an infinite intellect.  Man does not know everything.  If his power is finite, than it may be exhausted, and in the case of a game, there is no longer a point to the game because the mind has been drained of its power.  In this sense, too, then, losing is a blessing in disguise because we learn that some games are not for us at the time we play them.

The long and short of this essay is that losing is a good thing.  While it may be true that we can get too much of a good thing, nonetheless we will all be better off if we realize that games were designed to be lost every now and then.  A game we win on the first try without losing at all or making any error is not a game because our skills have not been tested or challenged.  This also rings true of games we cannot win at a given time.  The skills required are not available which are to be tested by the game.  Understanding these factors will make gaming much more enjoyable for all of us.

 

+

My View of Games for the Blind.

By David Lant

 

As we all know, there are, at best, few games which are

specifically designed to be played by blind people on computers. 

With the appearance of PCS in the US there is now a nucleus of

interest in producing such games and, having looked at some of

their demos, they are taking it seriously.

 

The future for this market, however, is greatly underestimated

by many people today.  One of the fundamental problems is the

perspective from which game designers start the process of

developing a game which requires no visual input.  I will make

it clear right now that if I make any reference to PCS games in

a way which might seem negative, this is not because of any

failure or shortcoming in their staff or products.  They are

merely the victim of being the best I have come across in the

market and are therefore what I choose to use as the current

watermark.  If you like, it's a sort of back-handed compliment

to PCS that I use them as an example.

 

Firstly, one of the difficulties of designing a game is that

many attempts to do so start from a concept which was originally

designed for sighted people.  The developers then try to find a

way of adapting it to work without the need for sight.  Next,

the technology is considered in much the same way.  Most

commercially available games use fantastic amounts of visual

effects of an incredibly high quality.  So an immediate reaction

is to disregard the multimedia technology and go back to text

based games as they are at least known to work.  Finally, the

potential use of sound is recognized as a wonderful source of

"flavouring" to give a game atmosphere.

 

All of these considerations are perfectly valid in themselves.

There is nothing untrue or disrespectful in any of these

considerations.  However, there is another perspective.  One

which, as yet, I have not found in any game.

 

To invent a new game specifically for the blind is not an

insignificant chore in itself.  But the initial difficulty is to

know how much information can be presented to the blind player

in as pleasing and entertaining a way as possible.  Also, what

volume and density of information can the player accept?

Clearly, using speech synthesizers or Braille displays, this

information will tend to be in a rather linear form, rather like

listening to an audio tape, the information will come in a

series of sounds or symbols one after another.  This is not how

we live our lives.  Sounds do come to us at all times and from

all directions.  It has been shown in studies that we can

process several sound inputs at once provided they are

compatible and coordinated.  And the information that everyday

sounds provide is not just contained in what the sound actually

is.  For example, when you hear a car engine, you are not only

aware that somewhere nearby a car engine is running.  You are

also aware, assuming you have relatively normal hearing, of such

things as the direction from which that sound is coming,

whether it is moving towards or away from you and even, quality

of the sound, whether it is a new petrol engine or a clapped out

old deise.  Of course you have no idea what colour the vehicle

is or, unless you are a real expert, what make or model it is.

But most people would probably be able to tell the difference

between a two door hatchback and your average juggernaut.  So

you can see that the sounds we receive can contain large amounts

of parallel information which is a potentially great source of

inspiration and entertainment for games.

 

The advancement in technology available in sound production today

could be

compared to the change in visual technology between the two

movies "Tron" and "Toy Story".  By today's standards, "Tron"

seems clunky and cumbersome; consisting of relatively simple

perspective wire-frame animations and linear drawings.  But with

newer software and hardware, it is now possible to produce near

live quality motion pictures entirely from within a computer's

memory.  The same is roughly true of sound production in modern

home computers.  I the early days, we considered ourselves lucky

to get a small built-in speaker which could produce a range of

musical tones to accompany our "Space Invaders" game.  Now, with

multimedia sound production at its best, we can achieve 3D CD

quality sound as well as multi-channel sound synthesis of an

amazing complexity.

 

So, given this fact, why are most games for the blind basically

text data with sound files played to give atmosphere and

background to the event?  Why do our games not warrant the full

use of the kind of sound generation most of our computers are

capable of?  Just wander past your average computer store and

listen to the sounds being produced for normal sighted games.

It is not just background music these days.  You get synthesized

noises of guns firing, cars racing, balls being kicked and

crowds cheering.  Clearly there is a matter of cost involved.

For a very small market by anybody's standards, the development

of high quality synthesized sounds in complex active games may

constitute a high initial investment.  I am sure there are

others out there who are much better qualified than I to

quantify this matter.  But just think of the possibilities.

 

As an extremely simplistic example I would like to present the

following as a development for a game for the blind.  Please do

not take this as an example of the pinnacle of excellence or

imagination in the use of sound technology.  I am simply using

this as a blackboard on which to scrawl some ideas.

 

Consider a randomly generated maze.   I know this is not an

original thought in the games market, but it allows for

replayability in this example.  Now, what information does the

player need?  Well, she or he needs a goal to aim for. 

Although there might be some satisfaction in simply reaching the

centre of the maze, it would make the game more motivating if

there were an actual reward of some kind.  Let us take the

"Fountain of Youth" as our reward.  Your mission is to find your

way through the maze to this site to gain immortality.  We could

just as easily base the game of the myth of the Minotaur and

have the slaying of that beast as the objective.  In any case,

we can have the system produce a sound of a fountain playing

continuously throughout the game.  This is not merely a background

effect.  The sound would be played to the player in such a way

as to indicate the direction to the center of the maze.  Thus if

you can hear the fountain over your left shoulder, you know that

you are facing away from your ultimate goal and that you need to

bear heavily around to your left and back some to be heading in

the right direction.

 

So far, so good.  Now what about the maze itself?   What data is

needed by a player to negotiate one?  Clearly, the player must

be able to tell where the walls of the maze are.  Are they

standing in a long featureless corridor or are they at a

junction?  Let us for the sake of argument say that the maze is

constructed from high hedges.  We could produce sounds of

rustling leaves from whichever direction the player is

immediately confronted by a wall.  For example, if the player is

in a dead-end, they would hear rustling from in front and to

their left and right.  By using keyboard or joystick controls,

the player can rotate and move themselves in order to judge

which is the clear route.  If the mere absence of a sound to

indicate a clear passage is not enough, the sound of a soft

breeze blowing could emanate from the direction of an open

space.  Thus if you  hear a breeze from all four directions, you

are probably in a crossroads or a wide open expanse somewhere in

the maze.  Some sense of mystery and difficulty must be

maintained in the game, so we must stop short of providing

audible signposts which point all the way to the center of the

maze and leave the player with a little exploring to do.

 

At no time during the playing of our game so far has the player

been given any textual information.  At present, as the game

stands, there is no need for any.  We could settle for its

simple puzzle quality as is.  But of course some of you out

there might prefer a little excitement so the maze could be

populated with roaming, growling beasts to be avoided or fought.

These encounters could be dealt with in similar ways to the

logistics involved in navigating the maze, but there might be

yet more scope for directional sound information as well as

warning noises of a leaping hound or swinging axe.  Again, these

should not just be atmospheric events but should allow the

player to judge direction, distance and speed.

 

Before I round up, I will admit that the kind of intensive use

of sound that I foresee would require a degree os skill

development to play with.  But I see this as part of the

challenge of any game.  Even the sighted must improve their

hand-eye coordination by trial and error before they become

proficient in some games.  What I do not want is a game that is

so simplified for my lack of sight that I am almost bound to

win.  Nor do I want a game which is so heavily influenced by

random events that my skill level will have little impact on my

enjoyment of the game.  However, none of my suggestions preclude

the possibility of having skill levels such that differing

amounts and types of sound can be provided for novice and expert

players.

 

Again, in no way am I saying that we are being sold short

deliberately by anyone.  The inventive minds are out there.

Just take a look at some of the games from PCS for example.  The

technology is readily available.  Most new computers sold today

have multimedia capabilities.  And the customer market is out

there too.  Just look at the readership of Audessey to judge

that.

 

+++

The Next Steps for Accessible Gaming

By Michael Feir

 

An unbelievable amount of progress has been made by the accessible gaming industry over the past eight years. We've gone from text based fun right up to full stereo sound. The foundation has been laid, the groundbreaking work done. Concepts long thought to be impossible have been at least solidly demonstrated if not used to their full potential.

 

I think I'm fairly safe in assuming that I'm not the only one who looks at games and thinks about what ramifications their concepts have for future games. The basic discoveries have self-evident potential. We've already seen this quite clearly with Space Invaders style games. Troopanum and Alien Outback have each taken a slightly differing approach to the basic premise. Both games have been quite successful despite their similarities at least so far as public reaction to them indicates. I would anticipate that the future holds at least a couple more Space Invaders style games which add yet more elements to their predecessors. However, that genre of game has pretty much reached its climax just as it did in the video arcades twenty years ago. What wider ramifications have Alien Outback and Troopanum demonstrated which could apply to completely different games? I was surprised when I stopped to give it some hard thought. For one thing, things don't always have to be as blatant as was once thought. Troopanum had a target locking beep which told you exactly when you could fire and score a hit. Alien Outback had no such target lock beep. You had to judge for yourself when you were directly under an enemy. Alien Outback and Troopanum both gave gamers seeking more complex strategy something to put some brain power into. Which enemies to go after, when to use special items, whether to go for points or safety at any given moment, etc. It wasn't just a matter of quick reflexes. One area where Alien Outback was far more conservative than Troopanum was in its background music and extraneous sounds. Troopanum showed quite clearly that many gamers very much appreciated the richness and character that these extras gave BSC Games's kick at the can. One must always give priority to sounds which relay critical information. However, it has now been proven fairly conclusively that background music and sounds add flavour and detail to games and aren't as distracting as was initially feared.

 

The Pacman genre of games have certainly been proved to be within reach of blind players. Pacman Talks from PCS Games and Dynaman now sold by Adora Entertainment certainly show the potential this type of game has. A lot of room for additional elements exists here and I have no doubt we'll see that challenge taken up. One area of exploration is in how broad a perspective the player should have. Dynaman clearly takes a more aggressive approach in this instance. Players can hear enemies and other game elements at a greater distance.

 

One trend that I've been quite pleased to see is that sound is doing more and more work in portraying information to the players rather than narration. Games are so much more captivating if there are less intrusive devices used to tell players what's around them. I was pleased that in GMA Tank Commander, you could choose how much help you wanted. If you desire, you can do everything without any artificial beeps or other noises. This is, of course, quite hard. However, it certainly adds to the feel of realism overall.

 

I can't count the number of requests I've gotten for information about accessible sports games. While no pioneering work other than World Series Baseball and some efforts by Jim Kitchen has yet been done in this area, I have no doubt at all that innovative attempts will eventually be made to bring these games to an eager group of blind fans. I can't think of any type of game that I've seen as much interest in as sports games. Having said that, I would also caution anybody thinking of making a sports game that they had better be fans of the game themselves or involve them heavily in the development process. Word spreads quite quickly in the blind gaming community and if many fans who try a game are disappointed in it, sales may never recover. The saying that beggars can't be choosers is definitely not applicable here.        

 

Clearly, the demand is there for more multi-player games. This is especially true if they bridge the gap between blind and sighted players. All inPlay has a very good start in this area, but there's room for a whole lot more initiative. I believe that Paul Silva and company are taking the right approach and that we'll eventually see quite a diverse series of games from them over the years. I'm also hopeful that there is room for multi-player games that are played in terns taken on a single computer. Eventually, I hope to produce one or more of these. Single player board and card games are also still sought after and demand for these may grow over the next while as the computer-savvy blind population is added to by senior citizens who lose their sight and as access technology penetrates into more families of blind people.

 

Not many developers have decided to pack up and leave the arena. This is an excellent turn of events. It means that we can expect more polished and deeper games from them. This will maintain and grow the community of people interested in accessible games while new developers learn the ins and outs of building their own creations. Also, we have at least two engines which these new developers will be able to use to drastically reduce the learning curve needed to be overcome in order to start producing accessible games.

 

Thankfully, game developers in this still small market aren't nearly as secretive or competitive as those in the mainstream games market. Of course, millions of dollars aren't at stake and are unlikely to be for the foreseeable future. As long as this cooperative spirit holds and new developers are welcomed, I believe we're in for a fantastic time.                              

 

 

+++

News From Adora Entertainment:

 

News and Commentary from Adora Entertainment

 

Greetings gamers, from all of us here at Adora Entertainment.

 

As many of you already know, 2003 ended with a couple of big bangs for

Adora Entertainment.  We want to start this update by

 

reviewing what has been happening the past few months, and then move on to

what you can expect in the future.

 

On December 8th, Adora Entertainment, in conjunction with PCS Games,

launched its first accessible game title: Ten Pin Alley.

 

  We are very proud to report that the game has been wonderfully well

received by the community and we thank all of you for

 

your praise, criticism, and overall support.  You can download the demo of

Ten Pin Alley, or hear an MP3 trailer of the game

 

at our web site:

http://www.AdoraEntertainment.com

 

Shortly thereafter, we opened up our Online Community Forums, for you to

discuss our future plans, current titles, and make

 

suggestions for things you'd like to see us develop.  We'd like to

encourage you all to register and tell us what you think

 

and want.

 

Just before Christmas, we announced that we were acquiring ESP Softworks

and all of its previous titles, as well as two of

 

its titles under development.  ESP Softworks is now a division of Adora

Entertainment.

 

To prevent any further confusion, let us clarify by listing the titles we

acquired from the previous owners of ESP Softworks.

 

ESP Pinball Classic (formerly ESP Pinball)

Monkey Business

Alien Outback

Change Reaction

DynaMan

ESP Pinball Extreme (formerly ESP Pinball 2)

ESP Raceway

ESP Whoopass

Shell Shock

 

ESP Softworks provided the very best in accessible games, and we are

extremely excited and honoured to be able to carry on

 

that tradition.

 

The transition and incorporation of a company such as ESP Softworks into

Adora Entertainment has been a monumental task and

 

is still continuing as this update is being written.  Here's a look at all

the ESP titles and their current status under

 

Adora Entertainment's guidance:

 

ESP Pinball Classic -- This title is currently available from us at a

special new low price of $14.95.  A patch is available

 

to update Version 1.5 to Version 1.6 from our Download Center.

 

Change Reaction -- This title is currently available from us for $19.95.  A

patch is available to update Version 1.2 to

 

Version 1.3 from our Download Center.  We have also reintroduced the

monthly competitions for ESP Bucks, which can be

 

redeemed for other software titles.  Check the web site for more details

and the official rules.

 

DynaMan -- This title will be returning for purchase very soon.  We are

currently working out some bugs that have been

 

reported and completing the conversion to an Adora Entertainment title.  We

want to be as sure as possible that our games are

 

as bug-free as they can be.

 

Monkey Business -- This game is being converted to an Adora Entertainment

title and will be available for purchase again

 

soon.

 

ESP Whoopass -- This freebie title is currently available for download from

our web site and is also included on CD's of

 

Change Reaction and ESP Pinball Classic.  It will likely be included as a

bonus on other CD titles as well.

 

ShellShock -- This title has been discontinued and is no longer offered.

 

We know that you are all very excited to play ESP Pinball Extreme and ESP

Raceway.  We are as impatient to release these

 

titles as you are to receive them.  Please continue to be patient.  We are

working as fast and as hard as we can, but we want

 

to insure you receive the very best games we can deliver.  We understand

that there have been many delays in the release of

 

these two highly anticipated games, but when they do finally arrive we

guarantee you won't be disappointed.  Rather than

 

promise a date and have to delay it again, we are working to get them out

as fast as possible.

 

Delivering quality products is something that is very important to us.  All

of our software titles, if purchased on CD, come

 

with a jewel case and a printed label with your user name and registration

code.

 

We also have two ways you can order from us by telephone within the United

States or Canada.  Simply dial toll-free

 

1-888-235-2113.  Pressing 9 will take you to our automated telephone

ordering system.  Pressing 1 will connect you with

 

someone in sales during our business hours of 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM Pacific

Time, Monday through Friday.

 

Many of you have contacted us regarding the status of the Eamon series and

Final Defender.  These games have been pushed

 

back, but they will be developed in the future.  We have a few projects

from ESP to wrap up and release before beginning

 

full-time development on these titles.

 

All of what we have been able to accomplish so far is largely due to the

support the community has shown us.  Thank you all

 

for making Adora Entertainment a success.  We look forward to bringing you

top notch accessible games, and becoming one of

 

the industries leading developers.

 

Sincerely,

Adora Entertainment

 

Adora Entertainment

"Even in the name you can hear the magic..."

http://www.AdoraEntertainment.com

 

 

 

+++

News From BPCPrograms SD:

 

The Treasure Hunt Evolution

Written By Munawar Bijani

 

      In October, BPCPrograms SD released Treasure Hunt three, the first highly interactive game from the organization. Since then, we've been working hard on the 4.00 release of Treasure Hunt. We are glad to announce that this game is almost ready for release! In TH 4, players will be emerged into a world of action, from walking down corridors to being caught by surprise by an unnoticed guard, to being challenged by James Brutus, the evil clowner whose laboratory you are to infiltrate. You are an FBI agent called on a mission to investigate what Brutus is up to. Your main task will be to end his days of clowning, in such a way that none may use it again. You will be able to pick up lasers, bullet reflector shields, and more! Great music and sound effects will make this gaming experience (combined with 3-d sound) a cutting-edge opportunity! Treasure Hunt will be selling for $25.00 and is due for release in early March. You may find out more about Treasure Hunt or download our great but outdated trailers by visiting our website:

http://www.bpcprograms.tk

or directly link to it at:

http://munawar.no-ip.com/bpcprograms/

Happy Gaming!

Administrator, BPCPrograms SD.

 

Hello Gamers,

After six months of development, debugging, testing, and recycling, BPC has finally

presented to its customers what they have been waiting for for a very

long time! Treasure Hunt 4.00, a massive evolution from 3.00, has finally been released!

This game features full 3-D sound, and cutting-edge game play

which is sure to keep you on your toes throughout the whole mission! Stop an insane

clone from performing the experiment he so much desires to complete!

Navigate his underground laboratory to find yourself in the middle of horrid danger!

You'd better act quickly or the bomb will blow. As an FBI agent, you

are sent on an official mission to investigate what this dude is actually up to. What

waits for you at the control panel? Who knows. You'd better save

before you die!

 

Treasure Hunt is a licensed game thus players must buy the full version. The game is

selling for $25.00 (US.) A free demo is available and allows you to

complete the first section of the mission. The download is approximately 85 megabytes.

 

You may download either from our FTP server or HTTP server; we recommend FTP since it is

much quicker. It allows a limited number of users though so if you cannot download from

it, please try again later or download from the HTTP server.

Get TH 4 at

http://www.bpcprograms.tk

now!

 

+++

News From BSC Games:

 

*** ANNOUNCEMENT FROM BSC GAMES ***

 

Greetings Gamers.

 

This is an update to inform everyone on the latest activities of BSC Games. We are located on the web at www.BscGames.com.

 

** Pipe2: Blast Chamber **

 

First, we are working on "Pipe2: Blast Chamber" (formerly named "Pipe v2.0"), which is to be released sometime in April 2004. It has new features and all new game play. Pipe2: Blast Chamber will be an arcade action game packed full of quick reflexes and new in this version, some logic.

 

We now have a web page dedicated to Blast Chambers development. The Blast Chamber lets you stay up to date on the games progress and get a sneak peek at some features. Drop into the Blast Chamber often, for the latest news and updates. Check it out at:

 

http://www.bscgames.com/pipe2.asp

 

Lots of continuous Pipe2 discussion on the BSC Games Game Talk list. Feel free to subscribe and join in, by sending a blank email to [email protected] with the word "join" in the subject line.

 

** CastleQuest **

 

We are currently developing a new game called "CastleQuest." CastleQuest promises to be one of the freshest titles to hit the blind gaming market in 2004. We are getting ready to update the cq website soon to fill in more detail about the game. CastleQuest unveils a complete 3D adventure to VI gamers through the Kingdom of Nivora, home of King Tiras. Plenty of items, quests, and encounters will keep even the most avid players challenged and enthralled. CastleQuest will be one of the most revolutionary adventure games to ever hit the VI market.

 

You don't want to miss out on this game! To keep up to date on CastleQuest news and events, you can join the game talk mailing list, see above, and you'll also want to stop back frequently to the CastleQuest web site found at www.castle-quest.com where we will be updating everyone on the progress of the game. Please note the dash between castle and quest in the website address.

 

** Licensing Score Posting Technology to Developers! **

 

The BSC score posting system allows a developer's game software to post a score from their product, to a top ten score board real-time across the internet. Unlike other similar systems, the BSC score posting technology updates scores immediately so they are instantly viewable on the website -virtually no wait time required! The system is very easy to implement with any existing game, saving the developer time and money to implement such technology in their next release.

 

We have successfully licensed the technology to key players in the accessible games development arena and are looking forward to helping

other developers use this technology in their games. The development version of the system comes with well written documentation, a sample project in Visual Basic 6, and all the tools you need to get up and running quickly with posting scores from your games. If a developer needs a sample project in a different language, this could be accommodated. For any developers interested in licensing our score posting technology, feel free to email us at [email protected] for pricing and availability.

 

** BSC Games forums are coming **

 

While we do have the game talk mailing list, we are getting ready to launch BSC Games forums for all our game titles including cq. We should have this in place in the near future. We primarily want to have this in place for cq, since after all, everyone who will be playing CastleQuest must have a guild to meet at *smile*.

 

 

+++

News From GMA Games:

 

GMA released Tank Commander in early December, and from user feedback, we

are quite pleased. We will shortly be releasing version 1.1 of Tank

Commander in the next few weeks. This will fix some of the small bugs

reported, and it will have a couple of new goodies. We will then split our

time between upgrading some of our previous games and working on new ones.

 

In the last month we released two free programs. The first one is called GMA

Mine Buster and it is an accessible version of Microsoft's Minesweeper. The

second program is an accessible dice roller. It has realistic sounds of dice

rolls, 12 dice presets, the ability to review the individual dice, and the

ability to re-roll part of a roll. The dice roller is especially good for

more complex dice games such as Dungeons and Dragons, Yahtzee, and Dice

Poker. Both of these are available on the GMA Games web site along with GMA

Tank Commander, Lone Wolf, Shades of Doom Trek 2000, and PCS Game's Pacman

Talks.

 

+++

News From PCS:

 

News from PCS Games.

Thank you Michael Feir, for your eight years at the helm sailing the ship

Audyssey Magazine from a small ram shackled port of call on a long

forgotten stream to a robust thriving harbour where ships from many

countries are constantly docking and training their goods.

I hope your switch to game development will allow you to express your

talents in many new and interesting ways.

 

I am very happy about the response to GMA Tank Commander.

It sold very well for Christmas and has continued to sell in January and

February.

You can down load a forty eight meg demo at,

www.gmagames.com

The price of the game  is

thirty five dollars US for the down load version, plus

three dollars and ninety nine cents extra for the CD version if purchased

from PCS games.

 

I am also happy about the sales of Ten Pin Alley, where you can bowl a

hundred frames from dark until dawn and still have a roaring good time.

The Ten Pin Alley windows bowling game is a joint venture between Adora

Entertainment and PCS Games.

You can down load the fifty eight meg demo and try it yourself at,

www.adoraentertainment.com

 

The price of the game  is

twenty four dollars and ninety five cents US for the

down load version, plus three dollars and ninety nine cents extra for the

CD version.

 

Under development, Ms. Pacman Talks.

In deciding on what game to work on next, David Greenwood suggested that I

convert Pacman Talks to his new revised game engine that he developed for

Tank Commander.

I have a long list of features that people have suggested for Pacman, and

reading code in the new format would be easier if I converted Pacman rather

than starting a totally new game.

So that is what I am doing now.

 

I will be adding the new features to a game with all new sounds

and  release it as Ms. Pacman Talks.

The original Pacman game for the video arcade spawned several versions

with  one of the most popular being

Ms. Pacman.

I have re-recorded all the voices for Ms. Pacman in a female voice instead

of the squeaky Pacman voice.

I am developing new ghosts with new phrases.

One clue to what the ghosts will be,  is throughout the maze, you will

hear  the sound of thirty musical saws, which gets louder as you get nearer

the ghost home.

The four ghosts will be named Peeves, Nick, Myrtle and Binns.

Plus there is a creature that Binns says,

"It is believed to be some sort of monster,  but I tell you, the thing does

not exist."

 

The features I plan to have in the new game include,

a new bonus level where Ms. Pacman races around the outer ring for extra

points.

 

1, Send your High score  to a  score board web site.

David is adding the BSC score posting system  from Justin Daubenmire to the

Game engine and it will be in

Ms. Pacman Talks.

  This will allow you to post your score while playing the game, to a top

ten score board across the Internet.

It updates scores immediately so they will be instantly readable on the web

site.

 

2, Energizer Dots can reappear.

The super power pills are now named energizer dots, which are randomly

renewed after 30 seconds.

 

3, An audio map.

You can now have  the maze described with sounds

indicating where the remaining dots are, and the location of you, the

energizer dots and bonus object.

 

4, Multiple speeds.

You will have three forward speeds, stop and reverse that are controlled by

your up and down arrow keys. Sounds like the way you control your tank in

Tank commander, doesn't it?

The space bar will now spin you around so you can quickly run away from

trouble.

 

5, Panic button.

When you hit the panic button, you will be  transported to a safe place on

the outer ring which the ghosts don't know about. You will get one chance

to use this per level and you can allow the count to add up if not used.

 

6, temporarily scare ghosts.

Hitting the Scare button will cause all the ghosts to run away from you for

ten seconds, allowing you to escape charging ghosts. You get this ability

after eating the bonus object in the center of the ghost home and each time

you  get to the next level and grab the bonus object, you get another added

to your count.

 

7, Main Menu.

Similar to Tank Commander, Ms. Pacman Talks will have a main menu feature

where you can

a, play the game,

b, play a saved game,

c check your top ten high scores,

d, review game sounds,

e, Post your high score to my web site,

or f, end the game.

 

8, Additional save game slots.

The game will have twelve slots so you can save the game more often.

 

9, Each level will be different.

The mazes on each level will be slightly changed and the ghosts will

be  placed at random.

 

10, Cheat codes.

Like Pacman Talks, this game will have a training mode on level one that

stops the ghosts from moving.

But in addition to training mode, you will get  three new cheats that will

make the game easier to play, but will also prevent you from posting your

high score.

a endless life.

b. endless super power.

c change levels

 

This game will include the same simple graphics as the earlier Pacman

Talks, so it is mainly for Non-photon junkie folks.

 

I plan to charge a reduced price for the registered owners of Pacman Talks.

 

I will be releasing a one level demo after the game has gone through beta

testing.

Just like Tank Commander, the game will generate a computer code which I

will need to create your registration key.

 

If you have any comments or additional wishes, let me know and I will try

to add them to the new game.

 

PCS Games

We make games that tickle your ears!

PCS Games Web site

www.pcsgames.net

 

+++

Enchantment's Twilight Development Diary: Part VI

By Michael Feir

 

The past quarter has been quite a hectic one for me. As a result, game development has been crawling forward in spare moments between other happenings and working on this last issue of Audyssey that I'll be editor of. Updating to Windows XP Home Edition was quite a long and arduous process. It'll certainly save time in the long run though. Since I finally have everything up and working again, I've enjoyed an extremely stable computer which almost never seems to crash. Now that I know about the task manager and how to get at it with Jaws, I should be able to close any crashed program and just keep working instead of having to save everything and reboot. I've still got a lot to learn about XP, but I'm competent enough now so that my ignorance doesn't have to interfere with what I'd like to do.

 

If I have any hope at all of making this epic fantasy game, I'll need the good will and assistance of volunteers. The only compensations I can offer are of a non-financial nature. It therefore becomes absolutely crucial that I treat anybody who chooses to assist me as well as I can. Unfortunately, writing enough script so that voice recording can begin is going to take a year at a minimum and perhaps longer. The good friend who has volunteered to play the part of the kind wizard will therefore have to wait quite a while. I don't plan to actively seek any more voice actors until the script is much farther along and approaching completion. Kelly Sapergia has agreed to compose the music for Enchantment's Twilight. He has also been left hanging in limbo for quite a spell. However, I put as much effort as I could into coming up with an improved music guide for him. It is by no means a final draft etched in stone. However, it gives both Kelly and myself something to think about and work from as game development progresses.

 

I found this music guide quite a difficult thing to write mainly because I don't have any musical background or aptitude at all. In my mind, I can certainly come up with musical scores which seem to sound good to me. However, I have no way of attempting to get them from inside my head into a presentable form. The best I can do is to try and describe as much about the characters or situations that any given piece of music I think about is based on. I also tried to think of examples of the kind of music I was thinking of.

 

Rather than have Kelly write shorter pieces of music specifically timed to fit the potentially hundreds of various situations and events I want to have in Enchantment's Twilight, I've asked him to do suites of pieces which are related to different characters or situations. These are likely to be longer than necessary. I can then take these pieces and use as much of them as is needed at any given time. I'll have to cut and paste music to fit various things. Of course, this will work to Kelly's favour as people will then have more of a reason to purchase the music CD he'll be selling containing the full pieces of music uninterrupted by other game sound or speech. I'm particularly looking forward to hearing what Kelly comes up with for the arcade portion of the game. Those pieces will be heard unaltered as background music if the player chooses to have that on. I'd like that portion of the game to have a kind of euro dance minus the lyrics feel to it. The non-arcade portion should have a more Celtic epic fantasy style of music. I have hopefully given Kelly enough direction in the guide for him to get started working on all this.

 

As I develop the design document further and finalise more game elements, I'll have a better overall sense of whether I'll need additional music or whether I've asked Kelly to do too much. It all depends on how far my creativity can go regarding situations involving the game's main characters. Ideally, as I see things now, I'd like each of the main characters to have a story arc which has them growing as characters throughout the game and contains random events or branches depending on what the player decides. I won't be absolutely certain that I'm up to this challenge for quite a while yet as I work on the script and begin to experiment with the game engine.

 

To illustrate what this will likely mean musically, let's add some spice to this diary entry and take a sneak peak at a few of the game's main characters. Of course, there's the kind wizard. His pieces should reflect his role as quest leader and effective king over the enchanted island. He'll require music befitting his status and Arthurian character as he faces issues relating to the moral use of authority and leadership. Kenbar is the spokesman of the merchants on the enchanted island on the ruling council. He is a wealthy and honest merchant who has lost his family and very much wants to find someone special to share his good fortune with. His set of music pieces should reflect the situations he faces in business dealings and in his search for true love. Breeze Silverthorn is the sun of the leader of the enchanted island's elves. Avarice is the daughter of the island's leading farmer. They have both elected to leave their homes in search of their own identities. They'll both face the challenges of exploration of the different communities on the island as well as tests of character. Their music should reflect the yearnings and struggles of young people coming of age in a sometimes dangerous world. The archfiend is the kind wizard's arch enemy. This evil demonic presence, though mostly trapped in the heart of the enchanted isle, can still reach out with malevolent power to influence events and make mischief. He seeks to make certain that people can never escape the terrors of the imagination even as they turn away from its finer aspects. Such a nasty presence will need suitable pieces of music to help bring his frightening speeches and dark deeds to life.

 

My work on directing Kelly's musical efforts in no way stops with the guide I will have sent him by the time you read this. I see it as a process which will be ongoing as the rest of the game comes together however that might ultimately happen. During the next while, I'll be focussing on the story arcs of the main characters. Also, I hope to start doing some more serious tinkering with the game engine. Until the script and all the various situations have been completed, I'll use synthetic speech to speak a character's lines. This will sound odd but will let me test things like the event selection process. Sound editing is another thing I'll have to become proficient at, but I may leave that problem for a while. Eventually, the speech, music and sound effects for the cut-scenes will have to be layered together. While the game engine will largely handle the placement and priority of sounds during the action portion of the game, I'll still have to sculpt and edit these sounds and do a lot of volume balancing. Perhaps, by the next quarter, it will be time to start looking more into that side of things. Until then, I hope everyone continues to enjoy the games which others have developed.

 

 

 

+++
+++

Game Announcements and Reviews:

Above the full reviews which appear in this section, any new games which have not been fully reviewed yet will be announced in the hopes that readers and/or the Audyssey staff will try out and review these games for us. Reviews of games will not appear in any particular order. The only exception to this will be when we have more than one review for a game. In this case, reviews will be placed consecutively so that it is easier to compare them. As with Anchorhead a few issues back, I may wish to interject my own thoughts on a game should it provoke significant reaction or otherwise prove itself especially noteworthy. When I choose to do this, you'll find my remarks above the review or reviews for the game in question. Should a game have more than one review, two plus-signs will be placed above the first review and/or my remarks. This policy will hopefully encourage people to try both the latest as well as some older games which may have been overlooked. Just because something isn't hot off the presses doesn't mean that it is any less worthy of a gamer's attention. Also, remember that it doesn't matter if a game has been reviewed before. If you have a different take on the game than has already been published, send in your review and I'll consider it for publication. If a review fails to interest you, simply skip to the next plus-sign. It's that simple, folks.

 

+

 

          Hark The Sound (Of Tar Heel Voices)

          Reviewed by Don Coco (djc)

          Game Web Site

http://www.cs.unc.edu/Research/assist/Hark/

Review For Odisy Feb-10-2004

 

   Special Greetings from Sacramento California. Like all of us I Love

Games. I especially love those types of games that I'll want to play again

and again. Hark The Sound is a Multiple Choice game for Children which has 15

different games so Children won't be bored easily. I might also ad that

this game was Developed for Blind Children.

   To play this game we first install it and it will install I believe on

any windows platform. The installer is standard and since this game uses

the TTS or Text To Speech you will need Sapi5 installed. On the web site

there are complete instructions for each Os including links to get the TTS

if you don't have it. The game itself is 12 Megs and he offers to send a CD

to people who would prefer to receive the game that way instead of

downloading it. For a CD, just send the developer your mailing address. This game is completely free and once installed you should be ready to go.

 

Once installed you will find the game and it's folders under an Icon in

the Program Group called Hark The Sound. There are several folders as well

as the game itself. The Game Maker is an editor for creating more games and

it's simple to use. For example I might create a Trivia style game. There

is a games folder that has all the games stored in it. The following is the

list of games:

 

Braille letters

Braille whole word contractions

Counting

Multiplication drills

Name that animal

Name that capital's state

Name that classical tune

Name that color

Name that country music tune

Name that holiday

Name that kids tune

Name that rock and roll tune

Name that sound

Spelling words

And State Nick Names

 

Hark The Sound is the game itself. The rewards folder contains the .wavs

and text files for the game and there is an uninstaller Icon as well.

When you start the game the TTS will ask you which game to play. You use the

left or right arrow keys to select the game and the up arrow to start the game

and also to answer a question. In the counting game for example a sound is

played so many times and the Child uses the left or right arrow till the

correct number is guessed and presses the up arrow to guess so if a sound

is played 4 times the Child needs to find the number 4. If the Child pick

say number 2 and presses the up arrow the game will give you a "try again"

or "You can do it" message. Some of these games offer hints with the down

arrow. A hint might say what's the number after 3? When you want to move on

to a different game you use the esc key. Some games have a few questions

phrased differently and then the game moves on to a new set of questions.

In the Multiplication Drills game the question might be like this:

 

4Times3, 6Times2, 3Times4 and 1Times12. Then the exercise moves on to a

different number with different possibilities.

   State Nicknames was fun to play. For example New Hampshire is called The

Granite state. I'm 51 and it amazed me how many of these I didn't know.

   All these games are excellent and the sound quality of the games are

also excellent. Again you can download this game from:

 

http://www.cs.unc.edu/Research/assist/Hark/

 

and on his web site he gives a complete explanation. Whether your a Kid or

like me a Kid at Heart you'll enjoy this game and it has good replay value

as well. On a scale of 10 It's a 10 all the way. It's excellent. The developer also indicated that more games are being worked on and that feedback on this first offering as well as more to come would be appreciated.

 

In closing I'd like to Thank Mike for the excellent work he's done for

our community for many years and I welcome Ron and I know that Ron will do

an excellent job. I appreciate all the game developers who are trying to

create great games for us. I'm a Beta tester for a couple of games and it's

not easy work. Like all Authors it comes in spurts. You can have great

ideas but making them a reality is not easy. I remember when we had almost

nothing to play and now I have a good list of games. We all want more games

and I encourage the developers to keep making games accessible for us.

 

 

 

+

My Ten Pin Alley article

 

Get it from

 

www.adoraentertainment.com

 

The game is self voicing, so no screen reader is required.  It can be played with no sighted assistance.

Reviewed by Charles Rivard

 

If you've been waiting for a bowling game that will operate on a computer that has Windows 95 or higher that is a good simulation of real bowling, wait no more, 'cause it's here now!!  As a computer gamer who has been blind since birth and an avid bowler since 1970, I came across a game that worked on a DOS-based machine that was put out by  PCS Games in 1997.  The sounds were not bad, and they were on the right track.  The game was fun.  I have come up with ideas on how to improve the game.  Dang!  If only we had a game that was closer to the way you actually bowl that would work using Windows!!  Well, after mentioning my thoughts to a few people and sending the schemes as to how I thought a game could work to Phil Vlasak, he sent the ideas to Josh De Lioncourt.  Now, through a joint venture between

 

www.pcsgames.net

 

and

 

www.adoraentertainment.com

 

my dream game has come to life.

 

How it works:  The game takes you right into the bowling center.  You hear a worker at the front desk answer an occasional phone call, someone being told that their order is ready from the snack bar, music played from an overhead speaker, other people bowling, comments from those bowlers, and, as if you are participating in a bowling match that is being broadcast prompts on who is next up to bowl and what they should do, as well as comments like, "I wonder if we could be looking at a spare, here, folks?" or "Have you ever seen a better strike than the one that he just threw?  His aim was unbelievably perfect!"  You also hear a watching crowd cheer for strikes and spares.  The sounds of your ball rolling down the lane and the pin fall are very good.  You even hear the ball coming back through the ball return on your left.

 

Now, to play, you hit the space bar to pick up your ball.  You will hear clicks and chirps move from left to right, then back to the left.  These are aiming clues.  On the easiest level, they move pretty slowly.  There is a chirp where each of the visible pins are when you have a full rack.  From left to right, these are the 7, 4, 2, head, 3, 6, and 10 pins.  There is a click between each of these chirps.  If you are left handed, you hit the space bar on the click between the 2 and the head pin for a possible strike.  A right handed bowler should hit between the head pin and the 3 pin.  On the hardest level, there are no chirps.  You hear a series of 21 clicks as you travel across the lane.  Left handed bowlers hit on the ninth click while right handed bowlers hit on the eleventh from the left.  They move more rapidly, making the game more difficult.  Now, if that's too easy, add the swinging method to the skill level.  Hit the space bar to stop moving across the lane where you want, and you will hear a set of ascending tones as your arm swings forward.  You have to release the ball by tapping the up arrow at the eighth tone for maximum delivery force.  Hold the ball too long, and your aim is thrown off.  Release too early, and you might hit the right spot, but not with enough force to knock all the pins down.  If you want more challenge than this, add the hooking feature.  As you deliver the ball, press and hold the left or right arrows to put a hook on the ball.  This takes a lot of practice in order to put just the right amount of hook on it.

 

The instruction manual will tell you all you need to know about the game of bowling and how to play this computerized version.  Up to 99 people can play.  The game keeps track of each player's score, average, and your handicap.  People of different degrees of bowling proficiencies can bowl against one another.  The bowlers are each given the difference between their average and 250.  The higher average bowler might lose to the lower average bowler who gets on a hot streak during the game.  If you bowl 20 pins over your average, and I have a 50 pin higher average than you do, but bowl 5 pins over my average, you will beat me, even though I did bowl a higher score, because you bowled more over your average than I bowled over mine.

 

In order for the game to operate on your computer, you will need directx 8.1 or higher, a multi channel sound card, Windows 95 or higher, 128 megs of RAM or more, and stereo speakers or a headset. 

 

Let's! go! Bowling!  I'm sure that you'll love this game, but no more than I do, that's for sure!!

 

+

Review of Tenpin Alley Version 1.0

Reviewer: Bryan McGucken

Developed jointly by P.C.S. Games and Adora Entertainment

Published by Adora Entertainment

Available commercially for $24.95 by visiting either www.pcsgames.net or www.adoraentertainment.com.

Game is fully playable without sighted assistance

Now for something completely different.  I'm going to begin my review of Tenpin Alley with some comments which many may construe as negative.  This game, to begin with, is extremely simplistic as regards game play.  You only need to know where the up and down arrows, the enter key, and the spacebar are located on your keyboard.  These are the only keys one really needs to use to actually play this game and enjoy it.  This, in and of itself, makes for a high level of playability.  You use up and down to cycle through options found in menus.  You use enter to advance to the next frame in a game and also to select a highlighted option in a given menu.  Spacebar appropriates a player from the players list for the match to come, and also releases the ball or confirms where you will release at the end of your swing of the ball.

Why, then, did I purchase this game?  Well, besides the simple key map involved, Tenpin Alley gives the player something few other games I've come across can.  The audio in this game is so unbelievably rich and detailed that it fulfills one of my main requirements for purchasing a game namely, a decent sound environment.  As you stand at the foul line, pondering where to release your bowling ball to convert that difficult spare, you hear the sounds of other bowlers, immersed as they are in the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.  One of the other reasons I purchased this game is that it is, corny as this may sound, an extremely uplifting experience.  A day or so ago I was sitting here playing a solo match, as I'm wont to do without other folks to play the game with, and had the chance to convert a spare.  I let go of my bowling ball, a bit unsure in the process if I'd released it in the correct location.  However, I heard some (though not necessarily all) of the pins fall, but was reassured via a warm and rowdy round of applause that I had hit the jackpot!  When you bowl a strike or pick up a spare, as many in the sport are prone to say, the crowd all around you goes wild, applauding much more loudly and warmly than under other circumstances.  If you fail to knock over every pin on your first ball, or if you fail to convert a spare but knock down at least one pin on the second of two chances you receive per frame, you here some minor, softer applause.  This latter situation is, however, mediated nicely by the fact that in either of the above cases, you will hear randomly placed phrases from virtual audience members such as "yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!", "way to go, girl!", or just a simple "wooo hooooooo!".  I don't know why, but in my case Phil and Josh succeeded admirably in this department.  Knowing that everyone is always pulling for me (and never booing me, by the way), invariably makes me smile whenever I sit to play this game.  That sort of approval really makes one feel good about oneself.

Yet, as Phil and Josh seem to realize, not even these features can entirely do justice to the bowling experience.  For as you bowl in this humorously commentated simulation, listen for the voice of Sally in the background, doing everything in her power to keep Tenpin Alley running smoothly.  Listen as Sally calls for help from fellow employee Ally Gator, warns Mr. Patty O'Furniture of the arrival of his taxi, and informs No. 42 that her order is ready.  Apart from the fact that I like word puns, these little touches can only, as one might expect, add to the atmosphere, which is, in my opinion, the hallmark of a trip to Tenpin Alley.

As for the commercials inserted between frames five and six, I find myself more drawn to the original ones developed for this game, as opposed to the retromercials also used, although I must confess I can hardly help but sing along to the tribute to Mr. Bowling Shoe Giver Outer.

Now, for some drawbacks, so cue up that mystery organ music!  Commentator Bo Linball can be amusing at times, but if your ball only connects with the back bumper or the gutter, his chides can be a little biting.  I know what Phil and Josh were after in this regard, but it is a bit harder for me to swallow this than some other things.  I also wonder what the game would have been like if the player had actually been permitted to move her body from side to side to find just the right location from which to release her ball, although I know in this case also what Josh and Phil were after.  The way they have it programmed is that you hear a series of clicks, which move from left to right and back again to yield one cycle.  If you allow three cycles to transpire without releasing your ball, you are assessed a foul and either move to the second ball in a frame or advance to the next frame.

All in all, I'd rate this one at nine out of ten.  Phil and Josh have given us a wonderfully accurate simulation of a bowling match, from accurate, though mildly predictable, bowling physics, to a warm and inviting atmosphere (no easy task in a computer game), and a wonderful sense of humour.  Never before has a game so invariably put a smile on my face!  I would strongly recommend this game to sports fans and non-sports fans alike who seek a boost to their spirits.  It has certainly given me this.  So let's lace 'em up, grab a ball, and listen to that crowd!  No, I'm serious, folks, listen to it!  Oh, and by the way, dude, wipe that pizza grease off your bowling hand before you go out there, okay?

 

 

+

 

My name is Elaine, and I'd like to tell you about the first accessible tenpin bowling game for windows. Tenpin alley is a game that was created by PCS Games and Adora Entertainment.  It was released on Monday 8 December 2003. It was mostly designed using PCS Game's original DOS game called tenpin.

 

The idea of the game is to hit as many pins as you can, using a ball, which is thrown down a wooden track, known as a lane. This game is done using three D sounds, which are directional, so for instance, when you throw your bowl down the lane towards the pins, the sound grows fainter as it rolls away from you.  These sounds are very realistic and you really feel you are in a bowling alley. There are other sounds in the game such as crowds, music, and a very polite public address guy, called Bo.  He loves to give you lots of encouraging helpful hints and suggestion on game play.

 

This game can be played by adults and children alike, as you can progress at your own speed and capability. The game starts off with clicks, which represent the width of the lane and chirps, which represent the position of the ten pins. The locator clicks and chirps start off very slow, and if you find this first level too easy then move on to the next level where the levels get harder as the clicks are faster and the chirps are removed for certain key pins.

 

You don't have to be a tenpin bowler to play this game, all you need is skill to know when to throw the ball. The game is a multi player game and you can have up to 99 players at anyone time. Although it might take you about a month to finish a game. With the demo version you start off with two practice players already set up for you,

 

 

I particularly like this game as it is easy enough to for even a beginner tenpin bowler to hit at least one pin. I love all the sounds in the game as it makes you feel you're actually in a tenpin alley. There are even old adverts during the game play, which bring back memories.  They seem to add more realism to the game. If you r fed up with shooting games and just want something to while away half an hour or how ever long it takes you to play, then this is a game you'll love. You can download a registerable demo from:

 

www.adoraentertainment.com

 

also check out PCS Games web page at:

 

www.pcsgames.net

 

Ten Pin Alley is a joint game from Phil Vlasac, PCS Games and Josh De Lioncourt, Adora Entertainment.

 

+

Hellfire

Free to play and found at:

www.ffproject.com

fully playable without sighted assistance

reviewed by Patrick Moen

Hellfire is a fighting fantasy book made playable online by Andy spruce. In

my opinion, this game rules. It's got all the elements of a good game:

awesome plot, challenge to the extreme, and plenty of combat. It is very

complicated, and many of the choices you can choose from lead to gruesome

and detailed deaths.

 

Plot:

You are the survivor of a village that was attacked by demons. The village

was destroyed, and you want vengeance. You must infiltrate the demonmaster

Traitor's labyrinth, collect many items, slay many foes, and eventually,

come to the main combat with Triniltour himself. Along the way, you will

encounter many allies which help you if the right options are chosen, and

usually end up killing you in some very messed up way if you choose the

wrong thing.

 

Combat:

Combat works like this. When you are first engaged by a foe, a screen comes

up displaying the enemies  name and stamina, or health. There is then a

fight link below that which you use to perform a basic attack. When

thbeginning screen comes up, however, you also have the option of using one

item. You can't use items during the actual combat, only at the beginning.

The only exception to this rule are healing potions. You can use as many

healing potions as you need to at the beginning of a battle, but you still

can't use them during it. To use an item, when the beginning screen pops up

displaying name and stamina, go to the items menu just under your skill

points, select the item you want to use, then click use. If the item is an

attack item, you will usually have to test your skill to get success from

it. If it is a healing potion or some other sort of potion, you can use them

as many times as you want as long as you don't click fight. To actually

combat a foe, just keep clicking fight to attack them. When you click fight,

a screen comes up just above the name and stamina of the opponent displaying

something like this:

you

Your opponent

attack rating=20

attack rating=18

This means you do 2 points of stamina to your opponent, unless otherwise

stated. If your opponent rolls higher than you, that means he does 2 points

of stamina to you, once again, unless otherwise stated. The only way to do

more than two points of stamina is if the game specifically states you can.

For example, if you were wielding a sword of legendary power, you may be

able to do 4 stamina instead of 2, killing your opponent faster. Well, as

far as I know, that pretty much covers the combat system.

How to play:

I probably  should have put this in before the combat section, but oh well.

To play this game, all you need to do is read the screens that come up and

select from the choices that come up at the bottom of them. as you progress

through the game, it gets slightly harder in most cases. The choices,

obviously, do different things, so choose wisely. Also, to make sure you

don't mess up, you can save your game. To do this, simply bookmark the page

if using netscape, or add to your favourites list if using IE.

 

Cheats:

The only cheats I know of so far are:

Saving your game: Technically, you're not really cheating by doing this,

it's just like putting a bookmark in the book to save your  place. But it

sort of acts as a cheat, as the author never states anything about saving or

bookmarking your game anywhere, nor does he have an actual save option.

Life Insurance: Press Shift+enter on the link to open it in a new window.

This ensures your safety, as if you die or make a bad move, you can just

close the window and start from where you were.

Skipping ahead: To do this, mess with the number in the URL of the page.

I've never done this, so I'm not sure of it's stability or how well it

works.

 

Conclusion:

Well, I think that pretty much raps everything up. This is a very fun game,

and if you haven't tried I strongly advise doing so if you're into this type

of game. You can find it at:

www.ffproject.com

I still haven't beaten this game, even with a few hints from the game

master, but I'm still working on it. If you need help, feel free to email me

at:

[email protected]

and if that doesn't work:

[email protected]

and I'll see what I can do. You can also try the site master at:

[email protected]

 

+

Midnight Deep

Reviewed by Patrick Moen

See above game for location and accessibility details:

 

Midnight Deep is an action packed and very involved game. It involves having

a lot of the right items at the right times and choosing the right options

at the right times. It is slightly challenging, and if you don't know what

your doing, it can be very frustrating.

 

How to play:

When you first start the game, you are given the option to select your stat.

I can't remember what the highest combination is as I haven't played

forever, but I believe it's something like 11, 16, 9 or something like that.

Once you pick that, you must pick a skill from acrobatics, stealth,

something about scrolls,. Depending on what you  pick, you will want to take

a different path at the beginning of the game.

 

Combat:

Combat works much the same way as it does in the other FF books. However,

there are a few slight differences. First of all, you can use several

different weapons. Each weapon has it's own advantage and disadvantage. I

will make a section of all the weapons I have encountered and can remember

later. This game also has the same attack and healing potion system. You can

only use one attack item at the beginning of the battle, but you can use as

many healing potions or provisions at the beginning of the battle as you

want. You may also switch weapons as many times as you want before you start

the battle.

 

Weapons:

Here are all the weapons I've seen in the game and can still remember. This

should help a lot, and I'm not sure if it belongs in a review, but I'll put

it here anyway and leave it to the editor to decide:

Sword: The weapon you start with. No advantages or disadvantages.

Mace: Adds 1 to attack rating.

Pike: Subtracts two from attack rating, but if you roll more than 2 higher

than your opponent, you will impale them and do double damage.

Horsehair Whip: I'm not sure about this one. I think it subtracts 2 from

attack rating, but if you do something during the battle, you strangle your

opponent. I'm not sure what this does, I think it keeps them from attacking

for a round or something.

 

Battleaxe: Subtracts  2 from attack rating, but does 4 damage to your

opponent on every successful hit.

Sword of dusk: Not sure on this one.  it's the final weapon of the game. I

think it adds 4 to attack rating and does 3 stamina of damage in battle,

but it takes energy to wield, and sucks stamina points from you at the end

of the battle. I can't remember how many points are taken from you, but you

should  wield this weapon wisely.

 

Conclusion:

Well, that about sums up this game. Find it at the same site as all the

other games,

www.ffproject.com.

If you need help, look for my emails in my

other reviews and feel free to contact me.

 

 

++

GMA Tank Commander.

 

Available from

www.gmagames.com

No sighted assistance needed.

Reviewed by Charles Rivard

 

David Greenwood does it again!  Yet another great game that can be played with no sighted assistance, GMA Tank Commander will put you at the helm of a modern tank, and you have a problem.  The enemy!

 

You will need:

 

- -a Pentium system, 233 Megahertz or higher,

 

- - 32 megabytes of memory,

 

- - Windows 95 or higher,

-          

-          Microsoft's DirectX version 7 software (available free from the

-          HTTP://WWW.Microsoft.com/DIRECTX

Site and on the GMA Games CD), and

-          - a

-          Windows supported 16 bit stereo sound card.

 

While some people prefer using a set of headphones, I prefer using speakers, but which way you play is entirely your choice.  The game can be played either way.  You may want to use phones so that you can hear distant enemies.  The stereo sound is excellent, as are the sounds in the game. 

 

David Greenwood describes the game on his web site as follows:

 

 

GMA Tank Commander pits you against a numerically superior force. You must move through the game by successfully completing each mission that is radioed

to you. You initially land on the southern coast of an enemy held peninsula and you are required to make your way north through six sectors of enemy held

territory. If you are successful, you and other surviving friendly tanks will be picked up on the northern coast of the peninsula by your tank transport.

 

You are equipped with standard shells, armour piercing shells, guided missiles, cruise missiles, interceptor missiles, a machine gun with armour piercing

bullets, a supply of proximity triggered mines, and a quantity of smoke for defensive purposes.

 

This self-voicing action strategy game will immerse you in its full surround sound world. Targeting systems, recommendations from your crew, sounds of approaching

enemy and environmental ambience are just a few types of sounds that make you feel you are at the controls of a modern day tank.

 

 

Here are my thoughts on the game:

 

First of all, the instruction file is well laid out, so learning the game and the keystrokes is not difficult at all.

Sound easy??  It is not!  Notice that each of the 6 sectors that you have to work your way through is already held by the enemy??  Well, there's your first clue that you do have a lot of work to do.  You can use any of your weapons at any time, but keep in mind that the weapons have their own strengths and weaknesses.  For example, the machine gun shoots faster, but has a range of 500 yards, while the cruise missile can detect and home in on a target in excess of 1,000 yards, but will also destroy you if you are too close to the target, or it will destroy something you do not want to damage if it is near the enemy tank or helicopter.

 

There are other difficulties waiting for you as well.  Not just the enemy shooting at you, but you sometimes have to search for and retrieve extra ammo.  You will need it in the future as you encounter more and more enemy resistance and heavier attacks.  In the second mission, you have to explore the town and stop the 3 ammo trucks that are moving through the streets.  Retrieve the ammo they carry, but do not destroy the trucks, because the ammo is destroyed along with them.  You will have to manoeuvre your tank right near the stalled truck in order to collect the ammunition, so be careful.  After you do this, you have to find the road that leads out of town into the next sector.  You may encounter enemy forces in the town or on the road out of the town.  Long range weapons are not advised.  You might blow up buildings, which is not a good idea.  Be careful.  Don't use all of your weaponry on 1 or 2 targets, because you might need those missile interceptors and cruise missiles later in the game. That is a sample of what you are going to be up against while playing this game.  There is tactical planning along with shooting and being shot at.  There are loads of nasty surprises awaiting the tank commander.

 

The demo, which is unlocked with a code sent to you by GMA Games, is 50 megabytes or so in size.  If you don't want the download, you can get the game on a CD.  The demo restricts you to playing for 10 minutes or completion of the first mission, whichever comes first.  It will give you a feel of whether you like the game or not, but if you play it, I'll bet you get hooked on this superb game.  You will buy it.  It is well worth the $35.00 in U.S. currency.

 

Replay value:  You may think that there isn't much replay value because there are only 6 tasks for you to complete, particularly if you are a player of Lone Wolf (Another game from GMA Games).  Quite wrong.  There are 5 levels of difficulty.  Also, while your objectives are the same, enemy forces and other factors of the game are randomized whenever you start the game.  There is also a very interesting way to play this game that I saved for last in this review.  When playing the standard game, when you are destroyed, the game is over.  However, you can choose to play the arcade game.  You begin with 3 lives.  For each mission you successfully complete, you are given another life.  The amount of ammunition you have is also greatly increased, so the game is easier to complete.  When the game ends, your point total is given.  Try to beat your best score thus far.  This game is, literally, a real blast!!

 

+

GMA Tank Commander

Commercially available from

www.gmagames.com

Fully playable without sighted assistance.

Reviewed by Michael Feir

 

GMA Games has hit another milestone with its latest creation. GMA Tank Commander puts you right in the action in fantastic style. The limited concept demo released some time ago by GMA Games took the community by storm. Players who enjoyed that will absolutely love the new missions in the full game. Despite there being only six missions, so many things are randomly determined that the game has great replay value.

 

*Interface:

 

You certainly make good use of the keyboard with this game. Driving and firing are quite simple. The arrow keys control the speed and direction of your tank and the space bar is your fire button. The numbers one through six select the weapon to be used. Other keys allow you to scan around your tank to see what's around you. I definitely recommend reading the manual and looking through the online help before playing the game with serious hopes of winning. Overall, the keys chosen for things make intuitive sense and will likely be memorized fairly quickly. It's possible to change keys around if players want to.

 

*Sound:

 

Although there is a degree of repetitiveness in the game's sound effects, this doesn't detract from the game play at all. Sounds were quite well chosen and I haven't encountered any unfair situations due to poor use of sound. The background music is again repetitive but well chosen. You can also change the music volume if necessary or even turn it off altogether. Full surround sound is supported and that's a real treat. Hearing those shells whistle in at your tank and being able to try to dodge them is quite exhilarating. It's also neat to fire at a tank, turn away to engage another and hear your shot strike the tank now off to a side and behind you. Tank Commander deserves top marks for sound other than the repetitiveness of some sounds that I brought up earlier.

 

*Game Play:

 

I would be crazy not to wish that Tank Commander had even more missions than the six neat ones it comes with. You just want the game to keep on going forever. It's very easy to get caught up in the excitement of combat. Due to things having a degree of randomness, the six missions don't get dull even after reputed success. Things always go a bit differently than expected. One very nifty and ground-breaking element found later in the game is friendly tanks which you can issue orders to. It's a stimulating challenge trying to command other tanks and survive in your own at the same time. It also clearly demonstrates that controlling helpers independently of your own sonic point of view is possible without leading to confusion. I hope more games implement this and certainly plan to in the ones I have in mind. The friendly tanks are simple to direct and the balance struck between the degree of control you have over them and how autonomous they are is well struck. The only criticism I have about the game is that there weren't more situations involving friendly units which you could control. They're somewhat underused in the game. Overall, I would give this game a nine out of ten. The repetitive sounds and under-used friendly units are the only two things I find somewhat disappointing. Other than this, people are in for a very impressive treat and should definitely purchase the game.

 

+++

Contacting Us

 

From this point on, Ron Schamerhorn is editor of Audyssey Magazine. All material to be included in future issues of Audyssey should be sent to him at the following addresses:

1180 Dorval Dr. #303

Oakville On L6M 3G1

[905]-842-1933

[email protected]

[email protected]

for MSN no email.

 

Although I will no longer be editing Audyssey Magazine, I am still quite willing to do what I can to help people. I am also willing to be interviewed and review games for developers. I can be reached via my Cogeco E-mail address.

My e-mail address is as follows:

[email protected]

 

Luis Defute and Stann Bobbitt are in charge of the official Audyssey homepage. They can be contacted at:

[email protected]

and

[email protected]

 

David Lant has long been an active member of the Audyssey community. He is now one of our two moderators keeping things pleasant and orderly on the Audyssey discussion list. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

 

Brenda Green is the co moderator. Her efforts on behalf of the Audyssey community are very much appreciated. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

 

Paul Nimmo is a long-time resident of the Audyssey community who maintains a Frequently Asked Questions or faq file for Audyssey. When it is updated, it gets posted to a number of sites. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Michael Feir
Editor of Audyssey
E-mail: [email protected]

 
 


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