Computer Games Accessible to the Blind
Edited by Michael Feir
Issue 13: July/August, 1998
Welcome to the thirteenth issue of Audyssey. This magazine is
dedicated to the discussion of games which, either by accident or
design, are accessible to the blind. We also discuss any concerns
and issues raised by them. The third year of Audyssey starts off
with this feature-packed issue. PCS has released two games which
use extremely innovative approaches to mapping. You'll learn how
Carl Micla deals with the most challenging mazes. In addition to
the latest developments at PCS, we'll also discuss the issue of
violence in games accessible to blind players.
Please write articles and letters about games or game-related
topics which interest you. They will likely interest me, and your
fellow readers. They will also make my job as editor a lot more
interesting and true to the meaning of the word. This magazine
should and can be a highly interesting and qualitative look at
accessible computer gaming. To insure
that high quality is maintained, I'll need your written
contributions. I'm not asking for money here, and won't accept any.
This magazine is free in its electronic form, and will always
remain so. PCS needs to charge a subscription cost to cover the
disks and shipping costs that it incurs by making the magazine
available on disk. 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 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. 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. *Never* *ever* send your original disks of *anything*
to *anyone* through the mail. *Always* send *copies!* This
principle may seem like it shouldn't even have to be stated, but
when it comes to just about anything related to computers, there's
always some poor soul who will act before applying common sense.
Disks are *not* indestructible. Things *do* get lost or damaged in
the mail, and disks are not immune to these misfortunes. 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 have acquired a copy of the UUencode software, and can
send and/or receive files which are encoded via this means. 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.
This magazine is published on a bi-monthly basis, each issue
appearing no earlier than the twentieth of every other month. All
submissions must be sent to me in standard Ascii format either on
a 3.5-inch floppy disk, or via e-mail to my Compuserve address. I
will give my home address and my Compuserve address at the end of
the magazine. There are now several ways of obtaining Audyssey. To
subscribe to the distribution list so that you receive all future
issues, send a subscription request to J.J. Meddaugh. As he is
running several lists, be sure to specifically ask to join the
Audyssey list. His address is:
Travis Siegel has set up a list to facilitate discussions among
readers between issues. To subscribe to this discussion list, send
a message to [email protected] with "subscribe audyssey" in the
body of the message. To post to the discussion list, send your
You can find all issues of Audyssey on the Internet on Paul
Henrichsen's web site at:
All issues are also available in the disability forum on
Compuserve. If you have web access,
Audyssey now has an official web-page, maintained by J.J. Meddaugh.
There are links to other interesting sites, and all issues of
Audyssey are available there as well. In the near future, software
may also be posted there for you to down-load. The address for this
If you have ftp access, all issues are also available at Travis
Siegel's ftp site:
Look in the /magazines directory.
For those of you who have trouble finding some of the software
discussed in this magazine, or if you know someone who doesn't have
access to the Internet, but would be interested in the magazine,
this magazine is now available on disk. PCS has agreed to
distribute Audyssey, as well as selected shareware or freeware
software on disk for ten dollars US per year. To subscribe to
Audyssey on disk, contact them at:
Personal Computer Systems
551 Compton Ave.
Perth Amboy N.J.
E-mail: [email protected]
From The Editor
Of Strife Unseen
The Latest Finds
Special Announcement for Game Developers
News from PCS
Hints and Tips on Maze Solving
From The Editor
Well, folks, I hope everyone had a great summer. It was certainly
hectic for me, I can tell you. Despite considerable effort, I must
regretfully inform you that there will be no Adam the Immortal
Gamer episode in this issue. There just wasn't time to think
anything good up. this month, I received quite a number of letters
and comments from readers I've met with to the effect that Adam is
their favourite part of the magazine. I certainly hope we can bring
him back to stay, but unless a lot changes, I can't guarantee much
of anything. We're not getting enough articles and reviews for me
to feel comfortable about devoting too much time to things other
than searching for any games worth informing all of you about, and
writing the major articles for issues. In order to boost overall
quality of this magazine and give it a lot more permanence, I have
decided to try once again to assemble a staff. The informal
approach seems to have fallen somewhat flat, so we'll try something
a bit different.
First of all, I'd like to formally acknowledge the efforts of two
members of my informal staff who I hope will agree to stay in their
present positions. These are J.J. Meddaugh, our official publicist
and distributor of Audyssey. His list has enabled a lot of you to
easily obtain Audyssey by E-mail. Although circumstances have not
always permitted him getting issues out as quickly as might be
wished, he has done his best to insure that they were sent. for
this service, I owe him much thanks indeed, and hope that he will
retain his post as it is. J.J. will be the only staff member not
required to write a quota of articles, although I certainly hope he
finds time to do so. the other outstanding staff member has been
Kelly John Sapergia, who has contributed a wealth of reviews and
insights to this magazine over the past while. I hope that Kelly
will agree to the new conditions and remain one of our hopefully
two interactive fiction experts.
The conditions for becoming a staff member are as follows:
1. Each staff member must agree to provide a means of contacting
them for both myself and Audyssey readers. This can be either E-
mail or a regular address, although at least one staff member from
each portfolio should have E-mail access. This information will be
placed in the "Contacting US" section at the end of Audyssey.
2. Any staff member with Internet access should join the Audyssey
Discussion list set up by Travis Siegel and be willing to try and
help readers and participate in discussions.
3. Each staff member should provide me, the editor, with their home
addresses and phone numbers. This is so that I can send your copies
of games from PCS, and so that I can quickly contact you should the
need arise. Remember that you need only have one means of
contacting you in the "Contacting Us" section of Audyssey.
Additional information above and beyond that one means of contact
will be kept strictly confidential unless you explicitly request
that it be placed in the "Contacting US" section.
4. Each staff member must contribute at least three thousand words
worth of contributions to the Audyssey magazine within two issues,
or four months. Responses to individual readers will not count
towards this quota unless they are of sufficient general interest
or insight to warrant inclusion in Audyssey. What this magazine
needs from its staff are qualitative reviews and articles, and not
more letters. Letters should come from the readers of Audyssey who
are not staff. Exceptions will be made for in-depth letters, but
articles and reviews are what is most needed. while staff members
will be assigned to portfolios, they may still write articles and
reviews about games in other portfolios if they find themselves
short of things to write about. Should circumstances prevent a
staff member from meeting his/her quota within a four-month period,
the staff member will have until the next issue, that is, two more
months, to make thirty-five hundred words worth of material for
Audyssey. Failure to contribute roughly thirty-five hundred words
within this time will automatically forfeit your position. I will
then offer the vacant position to readers in that issue of Audyssey
after this last two months have expired. PCS is making a very
generous offer, and I've got to make certain that it is not abused.
Should game developers wish to offer their games to staff members
within the portfolio which concerns the type of game they've made,
they should contact both me and the staff members of that
portfolio. I can then insure that staff members review such
proffered games and be able to insure that you are notified if any
staff members forfeit their positions or resign before the game is
reviewed. While I cannot force the return of a product, I can try
and make certain that your game gets reviewed at the earliest
5. Each portfolio will have two staff members assigned to it. The
A) interactive fiction/role-playing games. This includes all text-
based interactive fiction and role-playing games which are deemed
accessible to the blind. It may extend to commercial games in these
genres, but members should not feel that they have to spend money
buying or accessing commercial games.
B) board and card games. Any board or card games fall under the
jurisdiction of the staff members in this portfolio. Members may,
but need not buy or access commercial games in this genre.
C) strategy games. War and other strategy games fall under the
domain of the staff members in this portfolio. Once again, these
members need not feel obliged to buy or access commercial games in
D) on-line games(MUDS, for instance) Any games played on-line
either on BBS's or on the Internet fall under the auspices of the
staff members in this portfolio. These members need not spend money
accessing or buying commercial on-line games.
E) commercial games. Members of this portfolio must be able to
access commercial games either through friends who buy them, or
through purchasing them on their own. Commercial games which show
any promise of being accessible to the blind, either with or
without sighted assistance are the responsibility of those in this
portfolio. Bare in mind that companies often provide demos of their
products on the net. it will be sufficient if you use these to
review or write about games rather than purchasing the whole game.
6. It is important that you fully understand that as a staff
member, you will not receive any financial payment for your
services. This magazine is free to all readers, and I am not making
any money doing this every two months. members must realize that
they are volunteering their services, as I do, to further enhance
the quality of this magazine. it is an act of charity which PCS has
chosen to reward with free games. Other developers may do the same
from time to time, but they may also withdraw such rewards at any
time. Members should not expect any reward other than the
satisfaction gained from helping others.
7. A reader who accepts a position on the staff of Audyssey commits
him/herself to a minimum of one year of service. He/she may renew
this commitment at any time before it expires.
Well, i hope I've covered everything there. If anyone has any
questions or suggestions, please contact me.
the final note for this issue comes from Adam Taylor. He informs us
that the next version of Adom is due out "soon". No specific date
has been given. Because it is unfinished, no firm details regarding
additions or changes is known at this time. Well, I guess that's
all for this issue. Happy reading, and dare to play! here's to a
successful third year of Audyssey.
Michael Feir, Editor of Audyssey
From Kelly John Sapergia:
I've got good news for you. That CD-ROM, "Masterpieces
of Infocom Collection", is in fact still available! You may
remember that I contacted Activision in April, to see how much
the CD-ROM cost. I was really upset by the fact that the CD
supposedly wasn't available. I guess it was just an error in
communication, because I think they thought I was meaning the
original games and not the CD. I think the sales rep must have
been reading from an old catalog or something, because I thought
that those game packs (such as the Science Fiction Collection)
had been discontinued a long time ago. But they did say at the
time, that the Comedy and Adventure Collections were still
I'd like to apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.
But at least I know that the "Masterpieces of Infocom" CD-ROM is
still available, so I'm going to send in an order to Activision.
(I haven't been able to find it at any computer stores.) I hope,
however, that this situation doesn't happen again, but I blame
Activision for this error.
I thought you'd be interested in a new idea of mine. I decided to
write reviews of some games by Infocom. These games are included
on this CD-ROM. The reason I wanted to write reviews of Infocom's
works is because there may be some readers who have never heard
of Infocom before. I've included a review of the first mystery
game I've ever played by Infocom, called "Moonmist". If you like
my idea, I'll write some more reviews of these games.
In other news, I managed to get a copy of the Hugo system,
plus a sample game, and wasn't impressed. The system was fine,
but unlike Inform, it isn't speech friendly. I haven't tested it
with my ALVA braille display, but it might work better with a
braille access device.
Speaking of computer upgrades, I'm no longer using my Artic
voice synthesizer, but the Accent PC synthesizer by AiCom Corp of
San Jose, California. The reason I'm using this synthesizer is
because the Artic doesn't seem to work with a fast computer.
Sometime in May, Derek (who's currently taking a course in
computer engineering) upgraded my 386 computer, which was an
upgraded 286 computer, which was an 8088 computer, to a Pentium.
He also gave me a 1 gigabyte hard drive, as well as a new sound
card. The problem, however, was that the Artic sounded garbled
and hard to understand when we tried it out in the Pentium. I
finally decided to get my Accent PC synthesizer from my computer
at school and exchange synthesizers. I can now play games like
Jim Kitchen's excellent Baseball game, and there are no lock-ups
at all! Another thing I like about the Accent synthesizer is that
it sounds more natural and less monotonous. On the Artic
synthesizer, I couldn't tell if there was a period or an
exclamation symbol at the end of a sentence, because it sounded
Thanks for allowing me to apologize for the error about that
CD-ROM, and have a great summer!
Kelly John Sapergia
It's certainly a relief to find out that the Masterpiece CD is
still available. It is certainly one of the few which are worth
buying for blind players. For those of you trying to access the
documentation in .pdf files for the games, you should use Acrobat
Access with the Windows version of the reader. I don't think
there's an access version for Dos, but I could be mistaken here. I
find that the best approach is to convert the documents into text.
From Patrick R Davis:
This is Patrick again. Sorry I haven't been able to write to
you. I haven't really found anything interesting yet.
I read in Audyssey issue 12 that someone was looking for
Netsend. I have the address to find it at. It is located on Dave
Poehlman's web page at http://www.clark.net/pub/poehlman/readme.htm
I haven't been able to get the program to work for me yet, but now
you know where to find it at.
Jim Kitchen has his own web page on the internet. The address
is http://www.now-online.com/jkitchen and he has all of his games
on it. He even has a pagemaker program to down-load that he used
to make his page with. He has made a Simon game, and he has some
zipped files that contain wave files that you can use for the game.
The game is challenging, because one wrong tone and you loose. It
is a good concentration game because you need to remember certain
tones, or in this case wave files, to in the right order.
Well, I don't have much to report, but I do have a question.
What happened to Adam the Immortal Gamer?
Good to hear from you Patrick. Thanks for the info on Netsend's
location and on Jim's page. I'm sure a bunch of readers will find
this information of interest. As to Adam, the Immortal Gamer, he'll
hopefully make more appearances in the future. It's getting a bit
harder to come up with good plots for him. However, I've gotten
several inquiries into his fate, so special efforts will be made to
keep Adam going. Submissions or ideas for good episodes of Adam,
The Immortal Gamer are always appreciated. Let's get creative,
From Lynn Mclellan:
I've just seen your magazine for the first time, and so far have
only had time to glance through it. It's a great idea and I'll
I've been playing a game called DrugLord for several years - that's
how addictive it is. It's a DOS-based text game in which you begin
as a small-time drug dealer with $500, and your aim is to make
untold millions and become a druglord. You jet from City to City
buying drugs where they're cheap and selling them at as great a
profit as possible. You can borrow money from the
loanshark at an exorbitant rate of interest, but he has this
annoying habit of breaking your legs if you don't pay up on time.
Then there are those cops who are on your tail about every five
minutes. Should you run or have a shoot-out and hopefully kill
them before they kill you?
A great game in my opinion. It doesn't have a set plot which you
have to solve, but depends on your skill and cunning.
DrugLord is a shareware game. There are lots of sites where you
can down-load it, but I've only found one site where it comes down
as a ZIP file with instructions:-
Thanks for all the work you're putting into Audyssey - it looks
Glad you approve of our little magazine. Thanks for the tip on
Druglord. It certainly sounds like an interesting game. I should
caution here that anyone who is concerned about morality to an
extreme nature may find the subject matter to be offensive or
inappropriate. It is certainly not a game for young children. I
find that games like Druglord have a value in that we don't often
think about what such a criminal life would be like. Perhaps it
will discourage people from trying it out for real.
From Dave Sherman:
I am planning on putting a few text-adventure games together in the
near future. I've down-loaded the basic TADS info that includes
the run-time interpreter, and code compiler. I've also down-loaded
the programmers guide. I picked them up from the
Unfortunately, when I unzipped the manual I found that it had been
saved in some sort of typesetting format. The "readme" file said to
get a copy of a program called "TeX". This is supposed to be a
compiler that will strip out the typesetting format code, and leave
you with an ASCII text version of the manual.
My problem is that I can't find a copy of TeX. I've searched the
ftp.gmd.de site, and also searched for the program using several
search engines. I've come up empty handed. I realize that the
basic TADS package gives a " very basic" description of the
language. Unfortunately, I am an EE and programmer. I have this
awful habit of wanting to fully understand a language and all of
its options, before launching into a programming endeavour.
So, if any of you could help direct me toward a site where I could
down-load the TeX program, I would greatly appreciate it.
or <[email protected]> (use this address if sending any
Well, Dave, I'm not certain where to find the program you
mentioned. there should be a few programs which do the same kind of
thing. I have one called X-ray, but don't remember where I got it
from. If anyone can send Dave a text copy of the Tads manual, or a
program to pull text out of files, please do so. I certainly look
forward to seeing what Dave will add to the growing universe of
From Carl Micla
I congratulate you for a job well done over the last two
years. I am shore that most readers agree with me when I say "you
are deserving of a tremendous ovation, and much more!" but I know
you would rather have more subscriber participation. I also am
surprised at the little feedback Personal Computer Systems has
received over the last few years. It is nice to talk about
developing software which could use other input devices than a
keyboard, such as in David Lant's article, but to be quite frank,
why? There is probably only a few people out there who would take
advantage of the option at this time. There is a product available
which gives the user tactile feedback as they use a mouse or joy
stick over a graphical or text screen. One of these products is
called the Feel-It Mouse, there is also a joy stick version. I
took a close look at it and decided not to develop any software in
that direction. The product cost was high, and P C S would have to
buy an expensive developer's kit. I would rather see more work in
sensory output, by making full use of the existing stereo sound
card. P C S is also looking into producing games for Windows, but
many of our customers are still using dos only. Distributing games
on cd will happen, but there again, when? A large number of our
customers do not have cd roms yet. It is a matter of dollars and
cents deciding the direction P C S will go. If we were making a
fair return on our time and effort P C S would love to explore new
and alternative ways to develop game software. there are many
interesting ideas and concepts, but there is just so much time in
a day. Programmers should be encourage to pick up the torch and
into this market. However, I would tell them "there are many
challenging concepts to explore, but do not expect to make enough
money to keep your self in coffee while your working a project."
I am still enthusiastic about producing quality games. However, I
can not explore many new areas do to financial and time restraints.
I would like to have a few more programmers working with P C S, but
no one can be expected to work for free!
This brings me to a comment and a couple of questions. I do hear
much prays from customers, when I do hear from them, so I tend to
think that our games are ok for the most part. I myself like very
complex and strategic challenging games. I hope to be able to work
on such games in the future. P C S has a mailing list of about
four hundred addresses. Is that all of the blind people in the
country interested in computer games? Or is P C S not getting the
word out to all who would be interested? I know there are some
people who have games and did not buy them. Is this practice so
rampant that more bootleg games are out there then legal games?
If so, it is hurting software development and the way P C S is
approaching business. I hope in the long run I can keep working
soli on computer games, but it does not look promising. In closing
let me say, if the blind community would like to have a company
working exclusively for it, then it should be expected to pay for
the service rendered. Mike is producing a magazine for the blind
gamer and has to beg, threaten, and pull teeth to get a little
feedback from subscribers. I wonder if the blind community for the
most part just wants to sit on their fannies and let someone else
do all the work? After all if they can not afford to buy a game
which they are playing, then they should have time to at least
write an article, or comment on someone else's article.
P C S will give a free game each issue to a subscriber who writes
a quality article published in audyssey which contains two thousand
words or more, and is not on Mike's staff. Mike will be the judge
to determine who gets this game. Mike and his staff members will
also receive a game from P C S every time a new game is released
for the good work and effort they put out.
One thing Mike I would like to see is the in-mortal adam in every
This is for all you people using bootleg software. I know that you
heard it all before, but if you would like to see more products
written and produced for you then keep this in mind. I like making
computer games, but, I need to eat more. When I started
programming my weight was 200 pounds and I worked in a nice
penthouse office, but now I am 125 and going down, and I am looking
at some discarded appliance boxes that might have real
possibilities for a new office. You might not think your little
contribution means much, but believe me, I and any other small time
programmer really notice it! Yes, it honestly, really, really
truly, really, yes believe me I am not lying or fooling you, it
really matters! So, if you are using it pay for it, or else you
will not be able to get it! at least not from me. I do not know
how much longer I can keep things going, my cat moved out on me
yesterday for better pickings! If you can not afford our games and
would like to work to earn some of them. contact P C S and talk to
me. P C S could always use some help with research, data
organizing, mailing, and other such jobs. So, if your willing and
able to help, I will try to find a task needing to be done.
from personal computer systems
551 Compton Ave.
Perth Amboy N.J. 08861
Phone (732) 826-1917
E-mail: [email protected]
once again congratulations and good luck in the up coming year!
Well, Carl, I hope some of our readers will take advantage of your
generous offers. You've done some quite impressive work in the
past, and I hope people will now understand what holds you folks
back from doing even better work in the future. I can only hope
that piracy is not as large a problem for you as you might suspect.
It is certainly costing commercial game developers some grief. To
all you pirates out there, if you like this magazine, consider that
if people find that their blind-accessible games are being pirated,
they won't make them anymore. PCS is the only company making
computer games for the blind. Everyone else is working for free, or
is using the shareware system. With the offers made in their letter
above, PCS has shown just how far it is willing to go in order to
expand its market. Any of you could receive a game for free, simply
by writing two thousand words about games. If current levels of
input of such quality articles remain as they are, I can tell you
that it won't be all that hard to win that free game. You may also
wish to join my staff. See the From The Editor section if you
haven't already read it for conditions for becoming a staff member.
As to Adam, the Immortal Gamer, I hope that I will have more time
to work on episodes in the future as my staff starts pitching in.
Feel free to write an Adam episode as your two thousand words for
your chance at a free game. Are there any games you wanted to see
Adam get stuck in? Well, why not take a shot at writing the episode
yourself? With two months between issues, this should leave plenty
of time for even those of you who must use regular mail.
Of Strife Unseen
By Michael Feir
We hear it from worried parents all the time: "There's so much
violence in the games our children play!" There have even been news
reports on TV about the new crop of 3D action shooters such as
Quake and Diablo. When we look at it one way, there is nothing new
about kids playing violent games. Cowboys and Indians has certainly
been a North American favourite for at least the past hundred
years. Contact sports such as Football are and always have been
largely approved by society as a whole. So then, what is the real
difference? These action games are really the equivalent of
wargames like Cowboys and Indians for those less athletically
inclined. The major difference is in the realism of the newer
action games. They are designed to simulate actual combat, right
down to having all objects in the games obey the laws of physics.
Graphics have reached the point where guts and gore are depicted in
full colour. Sound technology has also reached incredible heights
of realism. Listening to one of these games, one can hear limbs
being hacked off with chain-saws, or body parts being chopped or
blown off and landing on the ground.
This level of realism has not yet appeared in games for the blind.
Violence is mostly depicted through words. For an example, let us
look at Fallthru. There, you'll find descriptives such as: "You
dodge the thrust of your opponent's weapon.", or, "Good hit! The
nasty brute is bloodied." Games like Adom are even more heavily
reliant on armed conflict. Things such as bleeding, disease,
poisoning, etc, are simulated. It is a lot harder for us to become
all that caught up in battle lust. We don't have the realistic
sounds and sensory input required for such adrenaline build-up.
Sighted people have games which rely heavily on quick reflexes and
hand-eye coordination. For the most part, even screen-oriented
role-players like Rogue, which is about as plotless as you can get,
is a more passive experience to play. I personally think of it as
just a different type of board-game. You must move your @-sign
around a room shown by dots and other symbols. It is turn-based, so
there is no rush to think through the best possible moves. The text
descriptions of combat are very scarce, merely informing you of
whether you hit or miss your target. There are some games which
offer more descriptive combat, but the detached quality of the
exercise still remains. I suspect that the only way this will
change is if someone goes and makes an action shooter which is
entirely sound-based. This is quite possible, and I would predict
it could happen within the next couple of years. Until it does,
however, us blind warriors will fight more distant battles against
foes which seem a lot less real to us than those encountered by our
sighted fellow gamers. This could turn out to be either a good or
bad thing in terms of its effect on impressionable blind youth.
Looking back to my early school days, I can distinctly remember how
inaccurate my initial conceptions of school-yard fighting were.
Even before I started playing computer games, I figured that fights
proceeded move by move, and were confined to a relatively small
area. I can see how this kind of eronious thinking might be
encouraged by turn-based combat, where one has plenty of time to
think through one's moves and options. On the other hand, action
games deprive their sighted players of time to think as carefully.
They try to simulate fighting as it actually is, chaotic and
unpredictable. The slightest lapse in performance can cause your
character's demise. When sighted youngsters become skilled in these
games, they might imagine that they could do as well in real
combat. Alternatively, the same youngsters might see how dangerous
fighting could be, and avoid conflicts. Blind youth might get false
impressions of some kind of orderliness to fights which does not
exist in real life. An action game for the blind would certainly
help dispel such illusions.
Ultimately, even the turn-based games statistically simulate the
chaotic nature of conflict probably as effectively as their real-
time counterparts. The illusion of having greater control stems
from having more time than one would have in reality. We can come
to decisions which, even if wrong, are more acceptable since we had
time to sift through various possibilities. Sighted players must
plan their strategy and put it into action within fractions of a
One interesting trend towards non-violence has occurred in
interactive fiction. Since its beginnings with Colossal Cave,
authors of interactive fiction have largely favoured logical
problems and means of dispatching enemies rather than the hack-and-
slash approach of a game like Rogue. Infocom was awarded several
times by parental associations for their high standards of morality
they set in their games. Since Infocom collapsed, interactive
fiction authors have largely continued with Infocom's tradition. I
am convinced that part of the reason for this is that programming
combat simulation is quite a lot of extra or hard work. Adding any
random variables to games makes them a lot harder to debug and test
properly. However, I believe that the main reason why interactive
fiction is less violent than other kinds of entertainment is that
Infocom set such high moral standards initially. The majority of
their players were eighteen and over. Economically, then, they were
under no particular pressure to uphold such a high moral standard.
Only one of their games was at all smutty. Not bad when you
consider that Infocom made over thirty of the best text adventures
ever invented. In all areas, including racism, the exercise of
power, and most noticeably with the discouragement of violent
solutions to problems, Infocom tried to provide gamers with an
alternative to video games. It is unfortunate that graphics and
special effects won so decisively over substance as they did.
So then, you may ask, where has all this discussion taken us? For
me, it furthers my conclusion that games are just another kind of
tool. Even the most violent games, with their attendant guts and
gore, can serve a purpose if used correctly. As much as I might
find them lacking in stimulation, others out there will have their
reflexes, judgemental abilities, and adrenal glands exercised by
these creations. Action games for the blind have been long delayed
by the relatively small market and the lack of technology. However,
they will eventually emerge. There are many problems that any
would-be designers will have to overcome. The most difficult is
that of either conveying information sonically in real-time, or
finding a way to keep the game advancing while providing blind
players time to absorb enough information to make it worth their
while to participate. There will be a lot of scepticism to
overcome, as action games are about as unconventional as you can
get when talking about blind-accessible games. However, just two
years ago, screen-oriented games like Rogue and nethack were
considered outside the sphere of possibility by the majority of
For parents, the best advice I can offer regarding violence in
games is to play the games yourselves, and discuss them with your
children. Make certain they can tell the difference between the
game and real life, and correct any misperceptions they might
develop as they are discovered. You'll find that a lot of games
will help you with this. I've come to realize that where most
parents go wrong with games is to proceed in ignorance of them and
make decisions about them without giving them due process. Ask
yourselves what educational possibilities are offered by the game
in question, and what your concerns are. Instead of simply telling
your children not to play a game, you may want to simply address
the issues you're concerned about. Role-playing games in particular
have been harshly treated due to misperceptions concerning them. I
looked into this quite heavily while in secondary school, but
couldn't discover any cases where the game itself was clearly to
blame for the various tragedies or nutty outcomes which were
attributed to the games. There were always many other contributing
factors, such as unrealistic parental expectations, alcoholism in
the family, or other such circumstances. Despite the transportation
barriers not faced by the sighted teens I grew up among, the
chances are that if you ban a game from being played at home, they
will play it somewhere else. I talked to quite a few students who
did this sort of thing to play some blood-fest game or other. As
long as they realize that it's just a game, let them play.
The Latest Finds
PCS has released two games which represent a radical step forward
in approaches to mapping. The Cops98 game puts you in control of a
police car in pursuit of fleeing suspects. You must prevent them
from exiting your city despite the obstacles placed in your way.
These include people and dogs crossing the road ahead of you,
traffic jams, children playing in traffic, school buses slowing
traffic, etc. When you run into one of these obstacles, you will be
delayed until the obstacle is removed. To help with this, you have
a horn and siren. It is always safe to use your horn, but it is
less effective at clearing hazards. Using your siren may alert the
fugitives to your proximity if you use the siren too close to their
location. Upon hearing the siren, the suspects will speed up. the
sound work is excellent, with real horn and siren sounds, running
suspects, and sounds of certain places as you drive by them. This
is quite a novel approach to land-marking. you must become familiar
with the city streets and buildings in order to have a better
chance of catching the thieves. Orientation and mobility
instructors will no doubt find this game to be of great interest.
Learning the city is quite a challenge, despite the mostly logical
layout of streets. When you are nearing the suspects, you will hear
them running in stereo sound if your system is equipped for it.
Stereo sound is not, however, essential to the game. It is merely
a nifty enhancement. I urge all of you looking for something
exciting and different to give Cops98 a try. It's worth your money.
Haze Maze98 is the classic maze game brilliantly rendered
accessible to the blind by PCS. Using sound as well as other clues,
you must find your way through any of twenty different mazes which
come with the game. These range from the very simple to the painful
complex. There should be a maze to suit any level of experience.
One thing that you should note is that when you encounter doors and
such, there may be more than just the option it speaks. PCS uses
its standard menu approach in the game, where arrows are used to
toggle through options. As you move through the maze, you hear your
footsteps in stereo sound if your system is equipped for it. I
found that while it is possible to play without stereo sound, it is
a lot harder. We cranked it up on my father's computer, and found
that the sound information provided was quite impressive,
especially for a first attempt. PCS has tried to simulate hearing,
with footsteps echoing off of walls, and changing as you walk over
different materials. As PCS becomes more skilful at employing
stereo effects, games can only get better from here. This was an
absolutely stunning experience. The game is much more atmospheric
than other PCS games, with so much dependant on sound. the wind-
chime placed at the exit of the maze provides a kind of mystical
quality to the experience as it gets louder as you get closer or
fades as you move away. While this game is not perfect, it is a
very ambitious first attempt which succeeds admirably. Orientation
and mobility instructors will find this game useful for teaching
auditory skills as well as mental mapping. If you have a hankering
for mazes, or just want to put your soundblaster to good use, buy
a copy of this emersive game.
The second release of Gevan Dutton's Zrogue is a fantastic
improvement over the original release. It features extensive on-
line help which was sorely lacking from the first release. With the
"/" key, you can identify monsters and symbols you are uncertain
of. Hitting the "?" key twice will bring up an extensive menu of
help topics from basic instructions to command summaries to details
on the current release. the game is fully speech-accessible, and I
can find no obvious reason why it would not be accessible to
braille displays. Rogue is a much simpler screen-oriented role-
playing game than Adom or Nethack, having far less plot and scope.
All you need do is kill monsters, collect gold, and find the amulet
which will allow you to escape. When i refer to this game as
simple, I mean in the playability sense. Be prepared for quite a
challenge. The first time I won Rogue, I played for fifteen hours,
nearly non-stop. The game is also different each time it is played.
although I doubt that Dutton had blind players specifically in mind
when designing this port of Rogue, he/she has nevertheless
succeeded in making an easily accessible version of a game of truly
historical significance in gaming terms. I therefore offer Gevan my
sincere thanks on behalf of myself and Audyssey readers. You can
find rogue.z5 at:
Note that you'll need an interpreter such as dosfrotz in order to
play. You can find this in the /if-archive/interpreters-infocom
section of the ftp.gmd.de site.
the final note this month concerns Once and Future, the game once
known as Avelon. Legal difficulties forced the author to rename the
project. At last, it appears to be nearly ready to ship. On the
same web-site where Cascade Mountain Publishing tells developers to
go concerning the Milenia Anthology, gamers will find the means of
ordering Once and Future. This professes to be a full-length novel
in which you are a US soldier who is in search of piece within
yourself. your quest takes you across time and to other worlds in
an effort to reclaim your sense of tranquility. If anyone obtains
this apparently spectacular game, would they please send a review?
The cost is around thirty dollars US.
Special Announcement for Game Developers
Cascade Mountain Publishing (http://www.cascadepublishing.com) is
soliciting shorter works of IF for their _Millennia_Anthology_.
compilation on shorter IF works will encompass IF of all types by
of authors. Launch date for _Millennia_Anthology_ is second quarter
The goal of _Millennia_Anthology_ is to provide the user with a
of interactive fiction experiences, a sampler of different styles,
structures, and different content.
Participating authors will receive a share of the royalties, thus
ruining their amateur status.
There are no pre-set topics to which the author must write, nor are
any pre-set interpreters, target machines, size of product, etc.
For further answers to questions you may have, feel free to contact
Berlyn at: mailto: [email protected]. Please reference
in your email subject.
News From PCS
P C S Expands into New Market
by Carl Mickla
PERSONAL COMPUTER SYSTEMS will introduce a new game playing
station this fall. We will be able to produce better quality games
with more stereo sensory sound effects. By writing games for our
own game station we will be able to control the machine environment
and how the programs will work with it. This means, there will be
no more configuring problems. The games will not need any speech
output devices like screen access programs or speech synthesizers.
To play a game all you have to do is place the game floppy in the
drive and follow the verbile instructions. Then place the game CD
into the CD drive, and you are ready to roll! Games will have
human recorded speech giving you all the information and
descriptions you need.
The best thing is that the game station along with three games will
cost only four hundred U.S. dollars. Each additional game will
about forty dollars.
The game station will come equip with a set of high quality
Yamaha speakers, keyboard, and a small central unit containing a
floppy and CD drive. Also, included are three super games.
We hope this product will interest people who are not comfortable
using computers but would still like to play electronic games. We
are also targeting people who can not afford a full computer with
the additional cost of screen review software and speech
synthesizer. Even computer owners may find using a game station
for playing games is better then trying to get them to play on
In the long run, the game station may be able to have games
which use virtual sounds. This means not only using sound in
stereo, but having sounds depicting left, right, up, down, in
front, and behind. This could happen with a game station because
we control the machine's Environment and do not have to try to come
up with techniques to work with other computer systems.
Having arcade game rooms for blind people is now very
affordable, and we think places like camps, rehab centers, clubs,
and schools could now afford setting up several game stations for
a reasonable cost. Children who might be too young for the complex
computer and what is involved with using it, could easily get
started with a game station. After all the game station with three
games only cost four hundred dollars. If you think about it, after
subtracting the cost of the three games, the station would only
cost two hundred and eighty dollars. That price is not much more
then a video arcade game machine found in most homes today made to
work with the television.
P C S also Promises to create at least twenty games for the
game station in the first five years.
The game machine is a Pentium computer without a hard drive and
could be converted into a full working computer for a small cost,
if it was not used as a game machine any longer.
P C S encourages programmers to develop games for this game
station. We would give as much help as possible if any programmer
needed to know some particulars to get their program to work on the
machine. We will market the game for them if they desired. We
really think this machine and supporting software is going to be
very highly excepted by the blind community. There is now a very
reasonably priced product to enable many blind people to enjoy
themselves. If this is not a winner We would be stunned.
Of coarse we will still be producing games for the regular computer
folks. After all we will still program using text sent to the
screen. This means the computer version must be made before the
game machine version can be modified and improvements are made.
Yes, games on the game machine will be better then the computer,
but computer users will not notice the difference unless they
experience the same game on a game machine.
The bottom line for us is the more we sell the more we can
afford to pay for work to be done. That means more game
development, more data intense games, and more work can be explored
with using virtual sounds. There is a price to do these things and
in order to pay the cost we have to get a larger market base. If
we succeed then all of us benefit, we get to work in a field we
enjoy, and you the consumer get cool products to enjoy.
contact P C S at:
Personal Computer Systems
551 Compton Ave.
Perth Amboy N.J. 08861
Phone (732) 826-1917
E-mail: [email protected]
"SPACE ALIENS LAUGHED AT MY CARDIGAN"
Game by Andre M. Boyle
Reviewed by Kelly John Sapergia
One of the games I received for a Christmas present last year
was "Space Aliens Laughed At My Cardigan". I thought the title
was OK, but when I started to play the game, my opinion changed
rapidly to "Not a good game!" This is one of those games that
shouldn't have been put on the IF-ARCHIVE, or created in the
first place. In my opinion, it's a exercise in software suicide!
Why do I say this? Well, here are some reasons that should prove
- The game is virtually unplayable. It has got to be the first
game that is totally packed with bugs!
- The room descriptions are horrible, not to mention the attempts
- In all the years I've played IF games, I've never seen a game
that is littered with spelling and grammatical errors like this
one is. You'll have to play this game to see what I'm talking
This game is freeware. The author doesn't expect any
registrations, but if you send him some money he'll write a game
to your exact specifications, and will include your name as one
of the characters in another game. (I don't know about you, but I
can't imagine anybody registering a piece of software junk like
I, and possibly other players of this "game", have rated this
game at 0. This means "Don't bother trying it." I think that the
author should have played the game a few times to get all the
bugs worked out of it.
I personally got so disgusted with this game, that I wiped it off
my hard drive just 2 days after receiving it, and in a way I'm
glad I did. Games are fine if the humour is good, and if there
are no bugs. But "Space Aliens Laughed At My Cardigan"should be
awarded the absolute worst game to play.
If you really want to try this game, go ahead. It was
developed using the AGT system. But that, in my opinion, isn't
the problem. I've played a lot of games created with AGT, and
they're great. This game, to my mind, looks like the type of
thing one might make to experiment with the AGT system. I myself
have wrote some incredibly stupid games with AGT (both the
Classic and the Master's editions), and I'm definitely NOT going
to distribute them. However, if I do make a really good game that
people actually like, then I'll distribute it. I don't think Mr.
Boyle followed that rule for game distribution.
One thing I forgot to mention is that Mr. Boyle also has another
game on the IF-ARCHIVE, called (get ready for a creative title),
"WHAT? NO LOW ALCOHOL MINERAL WATER!". According to the MASTER-
INDEX file that I obtained from the GMD.DE site, you wake up and
find yourself inside the data banks of a computer. Your life
depends on performing the various tasks assigned to you by the
computer. I haven't played this game, but I hope it's better than
Reviewed by Kelly John Sapergia
"Moonmist" was one of the classic Infocom games that appears
on the "Masterpieces of Infocom" CD-ROM from Activision. However,
I managed to obtain a copy of this game from a friend. (It isn't
freeware, and the version I have isn't pirated.) You're probably
asking yourself "Why is he writing a review of a classic Infocom
game?" My reasons will be given at the end of this review.
In this game, you play the role of a young American detective
who arrives at Tresyllian Castle to solve a mystery. Apparently,
a ghost has been seen at night, and the inhabitants of the castle
are scared, especially your friend Tamara. She wrote you a letter
that explains what's going on, and asks you to come at once. Your
first task, when you arrive, is to question all the guests about
the ghost. Then, you must get ready for dinner at 8:00 PM. After
that, you're free to investigate the case. You'll have to examine
everything, or search the entire room by typing "SEARCH ROOM" to
find certain clues that will eventually lead you to the treasure.
This was the first mystery story I've played by Infocom.
Actually, this was the first game I've ever played by Infocom.
(The second series of games I played was the Zork Trilogy.) Even
though I didn't receive the letters for the game, and didn't get
a copy of the manual or a solution for it, I was able to solve
this game without any problems. One thing I like about this game
is that there are four variations, and each is random. Anything
can happen when you play the game a second time.
Another thing I like is that the game uses your name for the name
of the detective, as well as your favourite color. For instance,
whenever I play the game, I enter my name and I'm addressed as
"Mr. Kelly Sapergia". I've heard of this same trick being used in
"Seastalker", but I haven't played this game yet.
I think this game would be rated as a standard game. I could
have used Introductory, but that level would have to have some
form of online hints. But, I personally rate this game at 9 out
of 10. The writing is excellent, as well as the characters. I
particularly like the part when you eventually meet up with the
ghost. It is different in every game, but the effect is the same.
1. I read in the "REC.GAMES.INT-FICTION.FAQ" file that the text
of the letters that Tamara refers to is available from the GMD.DE
site. Look in the directory
2.Now here's my reason for reviewing a game from Infocom. Because
I made an error about the "Masterpieces of Infocom" CD-ROM not
being available anymore, I thought I'd do a review of an Infocom
game or two for anyone who has never played an Infocom game.
(By the way, that CD-ROM is still available. It costs about
$16.95 US plus shipping from Activision.)
"MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATRE 3000: DETECTIVE"
Game by C.E. Forman
Reviewed by Kelly John Sapergia
This is the first IF game that stars the crew of "Mystery
Science Theatre 3000" (MST3K, whatever the K is for anyway). If
you'd like more information about this show, read issue 7 of SPAG
Magazine, available from the GMD.DE site. You also might want to
try the second game in this series. The files to download from
GMD.DE are MST3K2.ZIP, and, if you have a Sound Blaster or
compatible sound card, MST2SNDS.ZIP. (The second game was created
with the Master's Edition of AGT.)
This game was written in Inform, but is a recreation of an AGT
game called "Detective" by Matt Barringer. According to this
game, you have to go through a city to find the killer of the
mayor. However, while playing this game, I was actually doing
more moving and less interacting with the characters with the
game. If I had the original game, I would have probably done what
I did with "Space Aliens Laughed At My Cardigan": wiped it off my
hard drive. But this game is staying on my HD, because of the
side commentary by the characters from MST3K. They had the same
opinions that I had with this game, mainly that it was a horrible
work of IF.
One thing I really liked was the game's introduction. If you
choose to view it at the beginning, you find out what some of the
characters of MST3K have done with the Inform language. One of
the characters of this series made a small game that starred her
idol, Richard Basehart. (I've actually heard that this "game" has
been recreated! For a more detailed review of this "game", read
Issue 14 of SPAG Magazine.)
I don't want to give away everything in the intro, so I'll just
say that the intro is very funny. You'll have to play this game
to see the whole thing. (I forgot to mention that I have the 1995
Competition release. I've heard that a silver-screen edition is
available that features an interview with Matt Barringer
himself, and part of another MiSTing of a game called "Caverns of
Now for my ratings: I'm rating C.E. Forman's version 8 out of
10. The real game may be horrible, but this is much better. I
think, and hope, that there are going to be more games released
in this series as more "games" are uploaded to the IF-ARCHIVE.
(This game, MST3K1, has also been converted to AGT by Graeme
Cree. It's in the file MST1AGT.ZIP).
HINTS AND TIPS ON MAZE SOLVING
by Carl Mickla at P C S
Maze solving is a methodical approach to a map puzzle. There
has been many mazes designed throughout history. One application
for a maze was used to confuse attacking armies when they breached
through the outer walled defenses. Another use of mazes was to
cause people from out side the area to become easily lost. This
would make it more difficult for strangers to cause mischief and
get easily away. The Egyptians used mazes in many of their
pyramids and other great works. Here again the maze was used to
confuse tomb robbers.
You might ask how would a maze make it very difficult for
armies to achieve the final stroke of the battle? Well, it works
like this. When the streets of a walled city had to be navigated
by a hord of attackers, and the streets were laid out in a maze,
the mighty army would branch off into many narrow streets. The
home defenders would be able to ambush, snipe, and trap large
numbers of soldiers. Once an attacking army was scattered through
the maze of streets and buildings, fires would be set and the
attackers would be cooked.
The same city designed to confuse attacking armies, would
serve to make strangers lost. If a person is not sure of their
selves to navigate through a city, they would be less likely to
steal from a resident, because a quick clear getaway is in doubt.
Street hooligans wood also take advantage of lost strangers, by
giving them wrong directions. The strangers would be directed to
an area where they would be set on by other members of the gang
laying in wait.
When the Egyptians employed mazes in the construction of their
great works. It was to confuse workers, making it hard to talk to
others about secret details. It would also make it very difficult
for tomb breakers to find any treasures, and to find their way out
Solving mazes is not impossible. There are no unsolved
physical mazes from the ancient world up to today. However, there
is the computer. With the aid of electronics defying nature, there
are some unsolvable mazes out there.
There are a couple of ways to approach maze solving. Here is how
I approach the puzzle. First I order a pizza from Domino's,
because they have the best boxes. then I get a sheet of braille
graph paper from the American Printing House for the Blind. I then
place the graph paper on top of the pizza box. I secure the paper
with a map tack on all for sides. I place a box of different types
of map tacks in easy reach. If I know my starting X, Y, position
I count blocks across for X, and then I count down blocks for Y.
If I do not know where the starting position is I then place a tack
in the middle of the one side on the edge. then I work the maze by
keeping the wall always to my right, placing a tack where every
wall is indicated. If the maze breaks off, room, hallway, and so
on I only check it out if it is to my right. I never leave the
maze for another level, when playing multi level games, until I
know every thing in the maze. The other thing I like to do is to
turn the box or map when the maze changes direction. This helps me
to keep the perspective of the map the same way as I am facing,
allowing for me to synchronize myself with the map. Once I have
completed the maze with the wall to my right I then work the maze
by keeping the wall to my left. Then I go back and hit all the
areas that I have passed by. This might seem a little slow, but it
works. Every time I start getting tired, I just open the box and
grab a slice! and keep going.
I once played a Dungeons and Dragons game called Wizardry. There
was an area in the dungeon where light would not work. Using the
method described earlier I was able to navigate and solve the whole
mapping puzzle. I do very strongly suggest using graph paper.
After all the first mazes used on computers were not graphical and
you had to use paper to solve them. Now the game creators do not
want to make there games to tough and draw the mazes out for the
players. I think this is wrong, because many people playing maze
games are not getting the full challenge of solving mazes and the
opportunity to sharpen map puzzle solving skills. If the maze goes
beyond the sheet of graph paper, call Domino's and order another
pie! So do not shy away from tough maze puzzles. Get some braille
graph paper, map tacks, and call Domino's. Remember It is the box
you want, not the snack inside!
I can be reached in two ways. The easiest is through Compuserve. My
e-mail address is as follows:
Alternatively, you may correspond with me on 3.5-inch disks,
provided you be sure to send them in returnable disk-mailers. I
don't have the money to pay for postage. My mailing address is:
5787 Montevideo Road
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Postal code: L5N 2L5
I have acquired a copy of UUencode and UUdecode for dos,
so you may send files to me via this means. Also, thanks to a
reader named Frank Haslam, I have acquired a copy of something
called Netsend. this is a program written and encoded so that it
can be sent as a standard e-mail, but once it is cut from the rest
of the message text, it can be run as an executable file. You will
then have all you need to send and receive files over E-mail. this
should go a long way to making sharing of files easier. thanks a
Adam Taylor, star of Adam, The Immortal Gamer, and our resident
ADOM guru, can be reached three ways. You can send him e-mail at:
Or, you can check out his homepage on the web:
His page is dedicated to providing help, cheats and solutions to
many games. Send him a request, and he'll do his best to find what
you need. He also has sections on ADOM and Nethack available. And,
you can download the magazine from his page.
Finally, if you wish to contact him at home, his address is:
3082 Bartholomew Crescent
Canada L5N 3L1