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Audyssey;
Computer Games Accessible to the Blind
Edited by Michael Feir
Issue 15: November/December, 1998

Welcome to the fifteenth issue of Audyssey. This magazine is
dedicated to the discussion of games which, through accident or
design, are accessible to the blind.
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, follow the instructions below from J.J. Meddaugh:

To subscribe to the Audyssey mailing list and receive the latest
issues in your Email, send a blank message to

[email protected]

If you wish to unsubscribe from the automatic distribution list,
send a blank message to

[email protected]

To contact J.J. Meddaugh, the listowner, directly, write to
[email protected]. Remember that this list is separate from the
discussion list.

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
messages to:
[email protected]   
You can find all issues of Audyssey on the Internet on Paul
Henrichsen's web site at:
www.thesocket.com/~henrich
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 Igor Gueths
at:
http://www.concentric.net/~igueths
Besides having all issues of Audyssey available for down-load, five
megabytes of storage space are available for popular games. If you
have ftp access, all issues are also available at Travis Siegel's
ftp site:
ftp.softcon.com
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.
08861
Phone (732)-826-1917
E-mail: [email protected]

++
Contents:
Welcome
Contents
From The Editor
Introducing Our new Staff Members
Letters
Lone Wolf: The Real-time Revolution For Blind Gamers
This Issue's Winner
Gifts For Gamers
Questioning Commercial Games
Anchorhead Adrift on Divergent Opinions
Game Reviews
Contacting Us


++
From The Editor:

Hello, everyone. First of all, I must apologise for this issue
being as late as it is. Several factors attribute to this. One of
the main ones was a stupid error on my part. While working late at
night, I tried to copy all of the separate pieces into the right
order. Unfortunately, I ended up copying over the sizeable portion
of this issue which I had already completed. This destroyed around
three weeks worth of work which I had to piece together in the past
five days or so. Fortunately, our new staff members and many of you
have provided the building blocks I needed to put together this
third Holiday issue of Audyssey.

Before we move onto the rest of the magazine, I must point out that
a startling and dangerous trend may be occurring. I am used to
having tons of letters to sort through, and not enough articles.
This time, there were tons of reviews and articles, but almost no
letters or discussion on Mr. Siegel's discussion list. I can only
hope that this was simply due to people being too busy. This
magazine needs your input to remain the forum for discussion and
news that it has been up to this point. Just because a staff is
finally starting to appear, don't think that you can just relax and
enjoy the ride. We need your letters and feedback to keep Audyssey
on the right path.

You'll no doubt notice that Adam: The immortal Gamer has not made
an appearance in this issue. The sad truth is that this gamer is
only as immortal as we make him. We need ideas and episodes for
future issues to keep this long-enjoyed section of Audyssey alive
and well.

With the bad news out of the way, lets turn to what you'll find in
this issue. There are two particularly exciting developments. David
Greenwood and PCS have released their real-time action/strategy
game Lone Wolf. you'll find their excellent press-release in a
special section all its own. Once and Future, the long-awaited
commercial interactive fiction title, is now available by down-
load. You no longer have to wait for a CD to arrive. It makes an
excellent gift for blind players. This issue is absolutely packed
with reviews to help steer you towards better games and avoid some
potential pitfalls.

In closing this editorial, I wish you all a happy festive season.
Lets make 1999 the best year yet for Audyssey.

Michael Feir, Editor of Audyssey   

++
Introducing Our New Staff Members

I'm pleased to announce that we have three staff members who have
taken up the challenge of providing much of the substance of
Audyssey for future issues. These three are Justin Fegel, James
Peach, and our old friend Kelly Sapurgia. Justin has provided us
with a good review of Once and Future as his way of greeting you.
He has five years experience with dealing with interactive fiction,
and I'm certain you'll all agree that it shows in his first
appearance below. we'll all learn more about him as time goes on.
You'll find his E-mail address in the "Contacting Us" section at
the end of this issue. He is also on the Audyssey discussion list,
as are James and Kelly. The other two staff members have elected to
introduce themselves, and I'll turn the page over to them now.   
+

Seasons greetings to readers new and old.  I am James Peach, and
though I was mentioned in the last issue of Audyssey, I felt that
I should give you a bit of background dirt on myself and how I came
to be affiliated with Mike's fine magazine.

To begin with, I am a 17 year old, Grade 11 student, in the rural
community of Wawanesa, that's in Canada somewhere in case you're
wondering, and I write for the enjoyment of doing so.  Though I do
enjoy writing, I have aspirations in the field computers, software
and electronics for the blind and visually impaired, and will
continue to write, and contribute to Audyssey, for my own
enjoyment.  As Mike has already mentioned, I do have some sight, 20
over 300, which puts me in the perfect position to text and review
commercial game accessible to the blind or blind/sighted teams, of
which I have included reviews and articles about in this issue.
Though this doesn't seem to be a great lot so far about myself, I'm
sure you'd rather be reading my reviews rather than reading a
lengthy, boring autobiography about me; did I happen to mention
that I was once a former Canadian operative for the KGB?

How did I get to where I am with Audyssey today you ask?  Well, I
originally met Mike at an event called SCORE (Summer Opportunities
in Recreation and Education) this past July, I found him to be an
honest, witty and talented individual, we quickly became friends.
Before I had met him, people kept telling me about this infamous
Mike Feir who edits this magazine called Audyssey, but this meant
nothing to me at the time, until I have actually met the mystery
man, and had gotten to know him.  We got talking about this little
hobby of his, and the issue of staffing came up.  He didn't ask if
I wand to be on his staff (as slave), but I offered my services,
because I believed that I could really contribute, and because I
really believed in what he was doing for the blind community.  It
wasn't until a few weeks later that he had an actual position for
me to fill, commercial games being the suggested position, and from
then on I've been working to try and get my work out to him for his
magazine; the reason for it's delay from last issue was because of
school, sports (curling) and sleep getting in the way.  This issue,
I've managed to add a few more things to my list of articles and
reviews, and I hope I haven't disappointed anyone in this way.

I hope that the convenience of my meeting with Mike at SCORE
doesn't deter anyone who wishes to join the staff, for whatever
reasons, from joining, because only good can come out of involving
yourself, in this way, with the one and only magazine for games
accessible to the blind; enjoy the rest of this issue, and holiday
cheer to you all.
+
MY INTERACTIVE JOURNEYS

By Kelly Sapergia

When I started reading Audyssey last year, I read articles and
letters from people discussing how they got into the hobby of
Interactive Fiction. I thought you might be interested in my
personal experiences as an IF player and reviewer.

I began playing, or rather, enjoying IF games when I was about 9 or
10. My brother, Derek, had been given a 8088 XT computer, which had
some programs on it. The first thing we wanted to try were the
games that had been put on the hard drive. Derek told me that there
were some "text" games on the hard drive. Some of these games
included "The Wizard's Castle", "Bug-eyed Adventure" (which I don't
recommend due to all the bugs), an IF version of Star Trek, etc.

Looking back, I can't understand why I wasn't interested in these
games. My attitude towards these text-based games changed when I
received some games from a friend of mine. Some of the games that
I received included such classics as "Beyond The Titanic",
"Explorer 2" (a small game), "The Haunted Mission Adventurer" and
"Island Of Mystery" by AdventureWare, and the always popular
"Colossal Cave". (I still have some of these games lying around
somewhere.) If I remember correctly, the first game I played was
"Colossal Cave". The version I'm referring to had a 2-word parser,
which took me a few days to figure out. I played most of these
classics during school, whenever I had a free period, or whenever
possible. (Not during class, of course.) I guess I knew how to move
around in a game, but I didn't know how to do certain things, like
getting past the "huge green fierce snake". To make a long story
short, at one point I was so exasperated with the game that I
decided to quit. Since I wasn't in a very good mood, I typed "I
QUIT". The computer responded "What?" I typed it

again. This time, I got a message that said, "I don't understand
that. Please try again." Finally, I typed "HELP". My voice
synthesizer read out a long list of commands, and I found out that
one of them was "QUIT" to end the game. I typed "Quit", was asked
if I wanted to do so, responded "Yes", and was back at the DOS
prompt. (I forgot to mention that at that time, I was using a Tandy
1000 computer with an Artic voice synthesizer.) For a few days I
continued to fool around with "Colossal Cave", and learned about
what to type in different situations, such as "THROW AXE" when a
little dwarf showed up to try to kill me with a "nasty knife".
(Here's some advice for anyone who wants to try "Colossal Cave":
down-load a copy of the TADS game "Colossal Cave Revisited" from:

FTP.GMD.DE/IF-ARCHIVE/GAMES/PC/CCR.ZIP.)

After awhile, I started to play the other IF games I had received.
I was getting better at figuring the parsers out, and having fun at
the same time. In 1993, when I was about 13 years old, I received
two games by a company called "Infocom". I had never heard of
Infocom, but that didn't stop me from playing their games. The
games I got were "Moonmist" and the Zork trilogy. The copies of
these games I received were not pirated, and they helped me
understand the full-sentence parsers which were a great improvement
over the 2-word parsers. After playing "Moonmist", I started to
play the first game in the Zork trilogy. After a few days, I
figured out how to do things like finding the troll in the cellar,
and was intrigued with the game because it was almost like Colossal
Cave. The only problem I had with these games were the puzzles. I'm
not kidding when I say that I had to wait about four years to find
out how to open the flood gates at the dam. (I received the
freeware version of Zork from Mike last year. Mike included in the
.ZIP file the solutions and InvisiClues documents for all three
games, all documentation, as well as a history of the games'
development.)

In 1996, Derek got a new computer. This one was a Pentium computer
with Windows 95, and Internet access. I, meanwhile, was getting
bored with the games I already had, and wondered if there were any
sites on the Internet where I could find some more games. We looked
up "Infocom" first, with no luck. Then we did a search on "Text
Adventures" and found "Snacky Pete's Text Adventure Archive". (See
issue 11 of Audyssey for the URL for this site.) We downloaded some
more games from the site, and I was amazed that IF games were still
being developed! (I didn't know about Infocom going bankrupt at the
time.) Speaking of Infocom, while we were looking for Christmas
presents in December of 1996, I found a CD-ROM, called "Infocom
Adventure Collection". I marked it down on my Christmas list, and
when I got it, I was impressed with the games. (There were only
about eight of them on the CD, but at the time, that was good
enough.) My favourite game on the whole CD was "Planetfall", a
science fiction game. (I solved it in May of this year, without
needing any help from a solution. Just thought you'd like to know.)
The only thing I didn't like about the CD was that all the
documentation was in a print book, and there were no

"InvisiClues" hint books, just the manuals. My mom read me what I
needed from the manuals, and helped me with the map for the game
"Infidel". (In my opinion, the CD-ROM, "Infocom Masterpieces
Collection" is better, since it contains all but two classic
games.)

In September of last year, I received a disk in the mail from a
company called "PCS" from Perth Amboy, New Jersey. (I had written
to them in 1996 asking for a demo of their game "Anynight
Football".) I wondered if the disk had a demo of a new game by
them, but I was surprised to find that the disk had a sample issue
of Audyssey Magazine on it! I read through the magazine, and was
hooked immediately! After reading Allen Maynard's review of Jim
Kitchen's multimedia baseball game, which was one of the games on
the disk, and after reading a request for sending reviews and
articles, I decided to send in a review of one of my favourite
games, "The Legend Lives!", a game by Adventions. I wrote the
review in October of last year, and sent it to Mike. In about two
weeks, I got some disks from him with some more IF games. On the
first disk, I found a letter from Mike, telling me that I "covered
the game with surprising skill and perception for someone writing
their first review." I was so excited, that I decided to write two
more reviews, and to subscribe to the disk edition of Audyssey.
After I sent in my reviews of "Electrabot" and "Wormhole", I got a
call from Mike and asked him what positions he had available.
That's how I became Audyssey's "Interactive Fiction Expert". In my
spare time, I've been experimenting with games and programming
systems, and writing reviews and articles for the magazine. Writing
for Audyssey is something that I really enjoy, not because my work
is published, but because I'm having fun doing it. I hope that my
contributions have been helpful to all readers of this excellent
magazine, and I want to take this opportunity to thank everybody on
the Audyssey staff, for allowing me to continue doing something I
really enjoy, helping all visually impaired gamers on their
journeys into the world of Interactive Fiction.

++
Letters
+
From Patrick R Davis:

Hi Michael,
     Thanks for the game.  That was really cool.  I'm glad that
there was some competition though.  I chose Haze Maze for my prize.
I chose it because it was challenging, but simple to move around
the maze.  I have got the demo of Haze Maze, and it is pretty cool.
    Also, I wanted to share my opinion about Breakout.  I only have
the demo, but I think it is pretty cool.  The sounds make up for
lack of vision to me.  The only thing it needs is a pause feature,
for if you are called to do something really quick.  I don't get
what the second wall of sounds was supposed to represent in the
demo.  The game was really good and it had structure to it.      I
think a good sound player for David Greenwood to try is sbplay.exe.
I find that one easier to use in my games than playwav or plany.
Jim Kitchen uses it a lot and so does PCS.  You can also find it at
www.clark.net/pub/poehlman/readme.htm titled
sbply253.zip.  I hope that works.
     I also want to add some thoughts to the idea of the arcade for
the blind, even though it might not happen.  There could be an ear
piece connected to the speech synthesizer that a blind person could
wear.  This could reduce the racket of about 10 speech
synthesizers, while leaving the other ear open so the occupants can
hear each other.  Also, the people in it could hear the computer-
generated or multimedia sounds, keeping the arcade ambience without
having the people yelling their heads off just to be heard.    
Well, good luck with future issues of Audyssey.  And for your
readers, keep up the good work, guys, and keep typing away.

Patrick
+
I suspected you might go for the Maze game. It certainly makes for
a novel experience. I urge all of our readers to try out the demo
if they have stereo sound in their computers. To hear your
footsteps echo off walls is quite a treat, and the mazes can be
quite a challenge. Patrick did a wonderful job with our Immortal
gamer episode last issue. I hope some of you are encouraged by his
success to take a shot at it yourselves.

+
From Igor Gueths:
Please forward this message to anybody you see fit i.e., the
discussion list. In case you don't know already, my url is
http://www.concentric.net/~igueths. If you want anything on the
page, just e-mail me at [email protected]. I'm running out of
ideas on what to put on it. As Mike said before, it's your
magazine, and feel free to publish your articles and reviews. Same
thing with the page. I'm running out of ideas. I mean, it's your
page, and you can put anything you want on it (I've got 5 mb of
storage space). You people out there reading this have to help me
out here. I don't know everything! I really want your feedback. So,
to make a long story short, the bottom line is: I need your
feedback and suggestions. Without them, the page will just sit
there like a bump on a log. Let's make the page rock!!!
+
Five megs is a whole lot of room for text-based games. The more
common places we can get to store games, the easier it will be to
be certain that everyone can obtain what they're after. Mr.
Henrichsen wants to put more games on his site as well, and I'm
going to help both of these fine gentlemen in this department.
However, I don't have the time to do everything. We can use all
your help. If you think a game is so good that everyone should have
it, make it easier for them to get by finding a place on a well-
known site like igor's or mr. Henrichsen's.

++
Lone wolf: The Real-time Revolution for Blind Gamers

                   Personal Computer Systems
                            Presents
                       DAVID GREENWOOD'S
                            LONE WOLF

Do you have nerves of steel?  Should you stand firm firing
torpedoes at a troop transport, or dive and try to make for safety,
while a destroyer is bearing down, and firing at the submarine?
Well, Lone Wolf allows you to take command of a world war two sub.
Now, feel the tension when you try to get your sub into a firing
solution.  If the destroyer gets a sniff of the sub, it will be on
top of you before the torpedo is launched.

               Lone Wolf - A Submarine Adventure

The Signals Officer was crouched over the radio, one hand holding
a pencil, the other pressed against the right ear of his head set.
"Sir!", he exclaimed, " Message coming in from COM SUB PAC.  I
should have it decoded in a minute."
     A short while later, Cassidy stood up, "Its ready, Sir."    
The Captain nodded as he took the message from the Signals Officer.
    "Thanks, Cassidy.", he said while walking past him over to the
First Officer, "John, read this."
    The first officer took the paper from the Captain's hands and
read:

     "Urgent! You must locate all oil platforms in the Boot Strait.

It
     is strongly suspected that the area is mined.  A Destroyer has
    been spotted patrolling the area.  Boot Strait is nestled in
the
     south of the three island grouping located in area C-3."

     The captain frowned, "I think there are three possible ways to
tackle this mission. And I don't like any of them.  First, we could
attack through the unprotected strait in the north.  This would add
a day to the mission and the Destroyer would be on top of us
immediately after we hit the first platform.  The second option
isn't
much better.  We could slip under the Destroyer by diving to three
hundred feet and run the engines at one-quarter speed.  We probably
wouldn't be detected, but it would be slow going and we would still
be dogged by the Destroyer once we hit the first oil platform.  I
think
the only way is take the Destroyer out immediately."
     John grimaced, "This is not going to be easy."
     "I know, but its probably our best option."
     Turning to the helmsman, the Captain barked, "Ahead full, set
course to mark 0 degrees."

The sun reflected dully off the surface of the gun barrel grey
submarine as it made its way north towards its target.  Like the
wolf
it emulated, its main  advantage is its stealth and its element of
surprise.  Although the submarine would not win any battles, it was
an effective weapon to play spoiler to the enemy.

     "Sir! Destroyer detected on radar at 9500 yards."
     "Good.  Dive to forty feet and let's take a peek through the
periscope.  Switch to battery and slow down to one-quarter speed."
    "Destroyer at 7500 yards, bearing 270 degrees."
     "Destroyer at 6400 yards, running at six knots."
     "Destroyer at 5400 yards."
         The Captain started raising the periscope.  "Full stop! 
   Open torpedo tube doors!"
     The captain peered intently through the viewing piece.  The
Destroyer was twenty-four degrees off port and closing.  In the
bottom right corner of his periscope view was a red light.  Keeping
his concentration shared between the Destroyer, the Firing Solution
light, and the compass lines, he watched anxiously for the right
moment.  At fourteen degrees off port, the Firing Solution light
turned green and in quick succession he immediately slapped the red
plungers labelled one and two.
     "Torpedoes away!", yelled the captain.  "Give me a constant
distance read-out of the torpedoes from sonar and set engines to
reverse."
     "yes sir! Torpedoes at 1500 yards bearing true."
     "Torpedoes at 3000 yards, still on course."
     "Torpedoes at 4500 yards still running true."
     The captain paled as he realized the torpedoes were going to
cross the bow of the Destroyer and enter the submerged mine field
protecting the mouth of the strait.  There was a distant sound of
an
explosion as the torpedo found and detonated one of the submerged
mines.  The Destroyer immediately spotted the rooster tail  caused
by the periscope and started turning in the direction of the
submarine.
     "That cooked it!  Full ahead! open ballasts! close torpedo
tube
doors! full right rudder! Dive!, Dive!".
     "Diving planes down full, sir.  Currently at seventy-five feet
bearing 43 degrees."
     "Good, continue turning and blow ballasts at 200 feet."    
"Sir, Destroyer at 900 yards and closing. Depth 157 feet."    
"Depth 190 feet, Destroyer starting to drop depth charges."    
The submarine shook as the depth charge detonated
uncomfortably close to the hull.
     "Sir, detonation at 210 yards!.  We have just reached 200
feet.
Centering rudder and levelling out.  Equalizing ballasts."
     The captain pulled a hanky out of his pocket and impatiently
mopped his face. "Okay, wait until our speed is at 8 knots and cut
engines.  Rig for silent running."
     "Sir, detonation at 170 yards."
     "Sir, 130 yards."
     "50 yards."
     The sound of the Destroyer was easily heard through the hull
of the submarine as the ship passed overhead, otherwise, everything
was silent.  Intermittently the submarine rocked from the force of
the detonations, but each one was slightly less than the previous.
The crew held their collective breaths as they waited for the
danger
to pass.
     "Sir, detonation at 1500 yards, I think they've lost us."   
The captain gave a slight smile. "Good, I guess we'll just sit
here and wait until they forget about us."
     Several hours passed as the crew waited until the Destroyer
resumed its regular patrol.  The submarine slowly moved back into
position and tentatively raised its periscope.
     "Okay, we learned something on that last go-round.", sighed
the Captain.  "The Firing Solution light gives a three degree lead
time.  That's fine if the Destroyer was travelling at its regular
speed,
but at six knots I should have waited a second or two.  This time
we
will do it right."
     The Captain sighted the Destroyer through the periscope and
watched for the Firing Solution light.  The light turned green and
the
Captain counted to three before slapping the plungers.
     "Torpedoes away!  Let's cross our fingers this time.  Give me
a read-out on the status of the torpedoes."
     Cassidy, who shared his time between radio and sonar, called
out the increasing distances of the torpedoes.  Through the hull of
the ship the crew felt the impact as the torpedo found its target.
The relief in the control room was palpable.
     The Captain leaned back on the periscope's housing.  "Okay, it
should be a piece of cake from here.  Surface and ahead full.
Cassidy, start pinging the active sonar and guide us through those
mine fields.
     With no opposition the submarine and its crew made short work
of the three oil platforms.

Suddenly, an omnipresent voice was heard, "Congratulations, you
have completed your mission successfully.  Would you like another
game? Y or N".

     Lone Wolf is an advance computer submarine simulation.  You
will need to have good skills using a compass, working with large
numbers, and knowing where you are at all times.  This game is for
a person with quick reactions, sharp decision making, and can keep
track of many events happening at once.  P C S Is happy to
introduce David Greenwood's challenging game.  He has made a game
that will send you to the bottom visiting Davy Joan's many times.
So, put your May west on and have fun trying to sink ships and stay
dry.

LONE WOLF costs $30.00 US.
Please add two dollars shipping per order. 

     You can contact P C S in any format at
PERSONAL Computer Systems
551 Compton Ave.
Perth Amboy NJ.  08861
phone (732) 826-1917
E-mail [email protected]
++
And The Winner Is...

This time around, the PCS free game goes to Goddess. Despite
nightmares and strong repulsion to Anchorhead, Goddess has chosen
to fight it out to the end and bring us an informed and insightful
warning about this dark piece of interactive fiction. By taking
this step, she has gone far beyond the call of duty. Hopefully,
this will make your festive season a bit brighter. I hope that you
can draw strength from your ordeal. Please continue to share your
insights, ethics, and most of all, your profound courage with the
readers of Audyssey. Just call the folks up at PCS, and you can
claim your well-earned prize.

++
Gifts for Gamers

While a lot of good ideas have been covered in other parts of this
magazine, I always like to have a small section to share some ideas
for gifts which you won't find elsewhere.

Before we turn to games, I'd like to encourage you to consider a
product you'll find advertised in the MSC Vantage which you likely
received by now. It is the Parrot Plus. It is a personal organizer
which uses a simple keyboard combined with voice-recognition.
Features of particular interest to gamers are the ability to record
notes which can be retrieved easily by giving a voice command and
hitting a key. The system has a crisp and clear female voice, but
mostly, you'll hear your own digitally recorded voice. The five-
function calculator will also be of use to you. For those of us who
have a propensity to become lost in game, and accidentally forget
about deadlines or appointments, the Parrot can remind you of them
in time. it can store and dial phone numbers, and operate in
several languages. Recently, Microcomputer Science Centre decided
to lower the price in keeping with the festive season. The current
price is $249 Canadian. Small, powerful, and easy to use, the
Parrot is a gift which will fit in your budget and under your tree.

+

From Justin:

I just read this a few minutes ago on rec.games.int-fiction. This
is kind of last minute, but maybe you can work it in to this
month's issue before you send it out tomorrow.

Forwarded message begins here:
From: "Mike Berlyn" <[email protected]>
Newsgroups: rec.arts.int-fiction,rec.games.int-fiction
Subject: [Announce Once and Future: Download Version]

Once and Future, the text adventure by Kevin Wilson, is now
available in electronic download form for the Mac and Win9X OS.
Pricing for the downloadable version is lower than that for the
boxed version.

Included in the ZIP file are the executable, manual and "feelies."
The manual and "feelies" require Adobe Acrobat for viewing.

For more information, please see:
http://www.cascadepublishing.com
and then follow the links to the software page.

(Editor's note: Thanks to Justin's prompt action, you can retrieve
Once and Future in time for the holidays. As you'll see in Justin's
excellent review, Once and Future is an excellent gift for a blind
gamer. The subject matter is a little serious for youngsters, but
anyone from around fourteen or so onwards should find this game
quite enjoyable.)

At last, the first Inform port of Dungeon has appeared. you can get
it from:
ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/infocom or /inform
This port of Dungeon is called zdungeon.z5, and is a direct port
from the MDL version once found on mainframes. The author still
considers it in beta-test stage, but from what I've seen of it,
he's done a very good job indeed. I'm still waiting for the .z8
port being worked on by another author. It is supposed to be a
special 20th-anniversary edition, packed with historical
information. Even this .z5 version, however, offers gamers
interested in where things all began an authentic and exciting
piece of history.

Some time ago, a university friend of mine called Chris Marn
brought Star Wars: Rebellion to my attention. He suspected that by
setting the game speed to the slowest setting, events would happen
slow enough for blind players with sighted friends to participate
meaningfully in the game. My father and i took him at his word, and
found that he was quite correct. You'll need good strategic skills,
and a good dose of patience. The sound and music is excellent,
although it would have been nice to have more speech from the
actors. Any Star Wars fans are certain to enjoy this galactic
struggle. You'll need a CD-ROM drive, and a fairly good system to
play the game. Be certain to check the game's requirements before
you purchase it. Rebellion should be easily found in computer
stores which sell software.

Return To Krondor is an exciting new sequel to Betrayal At Krondor.
The award-winning author Raymond Feist is back at the helm again,
and has helped to produce another amazing role-playing game. Due to
the game's being wrapped up and sitting under our Christmas tree,
I'm certain you'll understand why I couldn't exactly review it.
However, I can tell you what I've had read to me by Adam Taylor AKA
Adam: The Immortal Gamer. The game has eleven chapters of story,
just chalk-full of plot-twists and surprises. All of the characters
have full speech, which will make the game excellent for blind-
sighted partners in fun. Also, combat is entirely turn-based. This
will give blind players time to come up with tactical plans and
discuss them at leisure with their sighted fellows. Music and sound
are apparently both of excellent quality. The Audyssey staff will
do its best to make certain that a review of this game appears in
the next Audyssey.

Ancient Domains of Mystery, a gift to the world from Thomas Biscop,
can be obtained from the Net free of charge. Consult earlier issues
of Audyssey for instructions on where it can be obtained from.
Gama10 was the last release to include a separate manual and
documentation files as far as i know. It appears that Gama12 is the
latest version currently available. Whichever version you get, I'm
certain that anyone who is sufficiently skilled at reviewing the
screen with either speech or Braille will thoroughly enjoy this
game. No special hardware or software is required to play this Dos-
based game.       

++
Questioning Commercial Games
Article written by: James Peach

Computer and console games generate large revenues for their
creators, with their target audience being the sighted gamer, with
plenty of money for their state of the art gaming experiences; this
article will be questioning the who, what, where, when, why, and
how of such games that are either totally or partially accessible
to blind gamers.

Who would benefit from games accessible to the blind is not the
easiest to answer, because blind gamers don't seem to be considered
when it comes to accessible games.  The most obvious answer is that
blind people would benefit from computer and video games that they
could play without the required assistance of the sighted.  Though
less obvious, sighted game players would benefit also, in the case
of games that they could, or may need to, play with their blind
friend(s), since many of such games are geared for the sighted
consumer in mind, but I'll elaborate on this further on in the
article.

What games should I, blind consumer, purchase for myself or for
play with a partner?  Well, you should try and decide what your
basic interests are, and then finding a game category which relates
to your interests.  Some of these categories are: simulation, role
playing games, strategy, puzzle, adventure, trivia, and so on, with
a variety of combinations.  It's always a good idea to bring
someone along with you to help you decide on what games to buy, and
to help you read the boxes.  An example of using interest to decide
what games you might like would be, if say you liked to read
novels, then role playing games might be for you, or if you like
intellectual challenges, you may want to buy puzzle games.
Ultimately, nobody should purchase a computer, video, or other type
or game if they're not going to want to play it.

What should I look for in a game accessible to blind game players?
There seems to be particular game elements that apply to most games
that are accessible; I'll begin with games that are totally blind
accessible.  For games that don't require sighted assistance: (1)
they have to be programs that either use printed screen text a
speech synthesizer can interpret, or the text has to be read out by
the program itself; (2) they should not be real-time in game play,
even if it meets the previous criteria, just because a blind player
reacts slower in such situation, and depending on the game, this
may take away from the overall experience; (3) though not
necessarily a requirement, games should involve as many of the
senses as possible, using multimedia sound effects, music and voice
to utilize hearing, and the use of tactile interfaces and
environment responsive controls to utilize touch; blind gamers
should be able to be enveloped by the game environment in a similar
manner to the sighted counterparts; Personal Computer Systems (PCS)
is trying to sell such accessible games, which utilize multimedia
sounds, creating a more enjoyable experience.  For games played by
blind/sighted teams: (1) the game should give the blind half of the
team as much info as possible, so that he/she may be able to
participate better; (1) should be turn-based or should have a
reasonable time limit, mostly because these such games show most of
their info through graphics, and because of the sad fact that sight
individuals can react faster to the game environment, real-time
games are not viable for a good gaming experience; (3) obviously
enough, the game should be a game you both want to play together;
(4) your computer should meet of exceed the desired game's minimum
requirements, which are printed on the box, and if you don't know
what is on your computer, try to find someone who can help you with
that; if don't want the game badly enough, system requirement won't
be that important.

Where should I buy my games from?  If you happen to prefer a
particular store, and they sell what you want, then buy from there.
If are able, you should try visiting other stores to find out what
they are selling, do you like and of the games/programs that they
are selling, and what are their prices.  In the end, people won't
want to buy a game, unless the supposed quality, quantity, and
financial conveniences of buying are acceptable.  When shopping for
computer games (and console games, if PCS has anything to say about
it), you should look for stores that will respect your needs and
wishes as a blind gamer, wherein if the game is not as accessible
for example, that you should be able to return of exchange it; in
most cases, if they want your business, they'll comply.

Where prices are reasonable to pay?  That's entirely up to the
individual buying the games; if you want a game badly enough,
you're probably willing to pay what they are charging.

When would be the best time to buy games, either for myself of for
a friend/relative?  Well, since the holiday season is fast
approaching, you could start now.  Many good games that are payable
by blind/sighted teams (it's much less common to find commercial
games accessible to the blind gamer) are on the shelves, and on
sale.  Waiting for sales isn't that bad of a way to buy your games
and other merchandise, though I personally wouldn't wait too long;
in the case of myself wanting to buy Betrayal at Krondor at Radio
Shack, I waited a week too long, because the only copy, reduced to
$10, was gone.  In the case of Krondor, it wasn't on sale at all,
but reduced in price, as are many games that have been on the
shelves for a long while, and aren't selling the way they used to,
in which case you can capitalize on this reduction.

Why should I buy commercial games at all?  Good question; why
should you, especially when you can just download accessible, free
games from the Net?  Though you really can just go on the Internet
and download games accessible to blind game players, and there's no
question about the fact that good games, such as Jigsaw, Anacreon
Reconstruction, the Zork trilogy and more, but it all comes down to
the saying: "you get what you paid for".  If you're looking for
something that is new, fresh, and innovative, you usually have to
get it through the purchasing of the product, though you can
downloads hundreds of games, with no sound, and of which have been
around forever, if you can get Net access, which costs money.  You
can fill up your hard drive with text-based or ASCII text
graphically-based games, but don't expect technical support for
many of them, even if it does damage to your hard drive.  When
playing in blind/sighted team, in most cases the sighted person
won't want to play such games, because they don't have graphics,
great sound effects or music, though they're decent enough for
blind individuals to play without assistance.  Some of the biggest
reasons why sighted gamers in particular buy commercial games,
which are usually, instead of buying older ones or downloading good
challenging games (like the Zork trilogy), are because they want
more, faster, newer, more involving challenges and experiences, and
they're willing to pay for it.  Ultimately, it is entirely up to
you, the blind gamer and consumer, to decide on what you are wiling
to do with your time, money and effort when it comes purchasing or
not purchasing games, because it's your time money, effort and
entertainment.

Now that I've successfully put commercial games to the question (ha
ha), I think it's time to move on, to the rest of Audyssey, to
computer stores, and to the holidays.

++
Anchorhead: Adrift on Divergent Opinions
Special thanks go to both Goddess and Robin Mandell for
contributing these two very different takes on the largest Inform
game to appear as of December, 1998. Comprising over 400 K,
Anchorhead is a very long game to play through. Thank you both for
your patience and your time. Without lessening the value of Robin's
excellent review, I must extend my utmost appreciation to Goddess.
Despite finding the game quite traumatic and offensive, she stuck
with it right to the end. She felt that it was vital that we, the
Audyssey community, should be warned in time for the holiday season
about just how dark and sinister this game was. Nothing forced her
to take these extraordinary pains except her sense of duty to us.
Many critics who find a work offensive will not go completely
through it, and will base their judgements on a fraction of the
whole. By not doing this, she gives her warning a lot more
authority and depth. Goddess has gone through a mentally harrowing
ordeal, and has thereby compelled our profound gratitude, respect,
and attention. I urge all of you to heed her warning. This game is
definitely not for younger players, and i caution you to think
carefully before giving it as a gift. I've played some of this game
myself, and agree with most of what she's saying. I don't agree
with her view that even adults shouldn't play the game. Neither
does the other reviewer of Anchorhead, Robin Mandell. The problem
with censorship is that once a line has been drawn, it is all too
easily moved. There have been far too many examples of what can
happen when materials are banned or otherwise restricted. We must
all draw our own lines in that respect, and allow others to do the
same. As I've stated before in this magazine, games are like tools.
A hammer can be used to build a house, or smash someone's skull to
pieces. We would never think of banning the hammer due to its
capability to be used to evil ends. The author of Anchorhead has
used the medium of interactive fiction to explore very dark issues
such as rape and incest. His efforts have provoked revulsion and
terror in one instance, and keen enjoyment and interest in another.
not having played the entire game, i reserve my final judgement of
its ultimate value or lack thereof. I'll let these two brave and
clever souls present their cases to us all. Hopefully, this will
spark some discussion among you. This is the first time Audyssey
has seen two reviews of a game as different as these. I hope that
it isn't the last. I also hope that it doesn't take a game as
darkly powerful as Anchorhead to spark such divergence in the
future.
+

++    Anchorhead, "A tale of Lovcraftian Horror?"
Warning by Goddess

  Hello again, due to a lag in delivery of Audyssey, I was not able
to post this in the last issue, I apologize.  Anyway, I had
originally planned to submit a review of the game Anchorhead.  I
wouldn't call what follows, a review, I'd call it a warning.  When
I first started playing the game, not only was I happy and relieved
about there being a female protagonist for a change, but I also
thought the descriptions were absolutely the best I'd seen and the
author's ability to create moods was downright upsetting.  I was
soon to find out how right I was.  I was prepared for the game to
be quite scary and actually had nightmares about it the first
night, and was quite upset by it the next day.  This was quite a
bit more than I had planned on, but it was still nothing compared
to what I found when I played further.  By the second day in the
game, (this game is divided into days) I came upon something which
disturbed me more than I could handle, which is one of the reasons
for the following warning. 

  THIS GAME IS DEFINITELY NOT FOR CHILDREN, AND I WOULD VENTURE TO
SAY, SHOULDN'T EVEN BE FOR ADULTS!!!

  The main thread of the game's story hinges on repeated incestual
childhood sexual abuse, and repeated is putting it mildly.
Needless to say, this upsets and offends me far more than I can
express here.  I am outraged to say the least.  What I found were
diary entries from a little girl talking about her father
repeatedly raping her.  I don't care what type of "game" I'm
playing, I feel that this sort of thing has no place in it, and
makes me question the author.  After seeing this, I  wanted nothing
more to do with this "game".  I thought, however, that getting this
out was vitally important, so, after speaking with some friends who
encouraged me to finish the game and write this review, here it is.
   As the game progressed, the abuse was unfortunately discussed
further and, in my opinion, sickeningly elaborated on.  In addition
to some profanity, quite graphic violence, and some upsetting and
repulsive "mystical" references which also had to do with rape, it
became the central theme of the "story" and played into a tasteless
and sexist ending which I consider revolting.  I know this is
strong language, but I feel that this game warrants it.  For those
of you who still want to play this game, I've not given anything
away which will interfere with you.     In closing, I'd just
reiterate that this game is obviously not for children.  I'm also
choosing to refrain from even giving this game any rating
whatsoever, for reasons stated above. 

This file can be found on the gmd.de ftp sight in the if-archive
directory.  It is called anchor.z8 and is written by Michael
Gentry, [email protected]


  I wish you all happy holidays, and happy adventuring, with the
emphasis on "happy!" 

Goddess

+
Anchorhead: An Interactive Tale of Lovecraftian Horror
Created by: Michael Gentry
Reviewed by: Robin Lee Mandell 

     "Raindrops spatter down onto the pavement. You take a deep
breath of salty air. And the swollen, slate-coloured clouds that
blanket the sky mutter ominous portents amongst themselves in the
little coastal town of Anchorhead."  So begins Anchorhead: An
Interactive Tale of Lovecraftian Horror.

     Anchorhead, created quite recently by novice creator Michael
Gentry, is, in my opinion, one of the best games which has appeared
in the interactive fiction realm in a while.  (Please keep in mind
as you read the whole of this review that I am a novice Interactive
Fiction player.)  Set in the town of Anchorhead--which is somewhere
along the New England coast--this game is a gripping, thrilling
saga of horror and deceit.

     Your role as the main character is that of a young woman who
has recently moved from the warm sunniness of Texas to the cold
raininess of Anchorhead with her writer husband.  The circumstances
surrounding your move are these:  Your husband, Michael, has been
notified that the last in the line of a distant line of his family
has recently died and that he must come take possession of the
house.  The turmoil of the sudden move has left you, the wife,
feeling rather uprooted and desolate.  To make matters worse, its
raining out. 

     With all that nitty-gritty background information out of the
way, let me tell you how thoroughly I am enjoying this game.  For
many reasons, I have only progressed about halfway through the
game.  However, I find Anchorhead to be a superbly crafted, well-
written game.  The writing, as can be seen from the introduction
which I have already quoted, is absolutely superb; its spell-
binding, enthralling quality adds to the game a richness and
realism which cannot be paralleled.  When you play the game, note
especially the rich, almost verbose, descriptions and the poetical
cadences which have been intentionally or unintentionally utilized
in the dream descriptions.

     Do not think for a moment that my playing of Anchorhead went
without a hitch.  I found some of the puzzles quite tricky and had
to rely--perhaps too heavily--upon the solution file.  This
solution file, incidentally, is well-written and quite handy.  It
can be obtained at: www.personal.leeds.ac.uk/~phsmw/anchor.sol.
Since there is no time limit placed upon the first 2 or 3 days of
play--incidentally, the game is divided into 4 days--you can do
enough exploring to eventually discover the puzzles and clues which
must be solved or retrieved.  There was one spot, however, where I
feel that the author made an unfair assumption.  I found an object
which needed to be opened but which had no obvious means of
opening.  As I learned from the solution file, a certain character
in the game, whom I had already met, could open this object for me;
I never would have figured this out.

     When playing Anchorhead, you must put all of your Interactive
Fiction playing skills to work.  Remember to look at, under,
behind, and in everything.  Some objects of importance do not
become apparent until you examine and/or search a room or area
therein.  (My neglect to follow this last instruction is part of
the reason I have not yet finished the game.)  Most of the objects
you see in the game are important, so pick them up.  One hint:  The
exception to this last bit of advice is the coffee cup.  The rest
of this game's complexities you will have to learn for yourself. 

     Anchorhead is not for children, or for the faint of heart.  I
neglected to mention before that your character, the mysterious,
unnamed wife of Michael the moody professor, is seeking for clues
into the mysterious past of the members of Michael's distant
family.  As the plot thickens many details of incest, murder, and
other inferred offenses to the social norm are revealed.  In fact,
though it certainly is not akin to any Stephen King novel,
Anchorhead's eerie story and sometimes shocking revelations can be
rather disturbing to the player.

     What more can I say?  To gain a little more information on
both the creation of Anchorhead and some hints for playing the
game, type "about" at the command prompt at the beginning of the
game.  Anchorhead requires the Frotz interpreter to run.  The game
can be found at: ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/infocom/anchor.z8

     I look forward to hearing your views, positive or negative,
concerning Anchorhead.  E-mail me at: [email protected].

++
Game Reviews
+

Field General, created by Rodney Markert
Reviewed by Allen Maynard

Football is my favourite professional sport, so I was excited when
Mike Feir told me of a dos-based text football game.  Field General
is just such a game.

This game is very involved mainly because of the amount of things
to select from and the different happenings in the game.

Let me rattle them off.  I hope none of your brains explode:

You can set up a football schedule with the included schedule
utility.  You can also set up a tournament.  If you want to play
individual games you can pick from a list of the 30 football games,
(which include the 2 new expansion teams--Carolina Panthers and
Jaxonville Jaguirs),  and then you choose the year you want to use
which includes the actual player names and team stat ratios.  You
then select which team to automate and which team you will control.
If you wish you can automate both teams and have the computer play
itself, or you can automate neither team for a human head-to-head
game.  You can also choose to have both teams be equal or not, and
even if home-field advantage is turned on or off.  You can play a
shortened game with seven minute quarters, or a more realistic game
with standard fifteen minute quarters.  There is a real-time game
clock and a real-time play clock  both of which you can turn on or
off.  It is less frustrating if you turn them both off due to the
volume of offensive and defensive plays available.  I have even
brailled both sets of plays but the play clock is still annoying.
Part of this is due to the fact that you only have six seconds to
call a defense if the playclock is on.  Also, you can set the
playclock to off but if the game clock is on, the playclock will be
engaged during the last two minutes of the second and fourth
quarters.  I must admit I may have this a little wrong since I turn
all clocks off.  If you use the schedule creation utility and then
play the teams in your schedule, the playclock will engage at the
last 2 minutes of the second and fourth quarters.  You can also
choose to have the pc-speaker sound turned on or off but with it
on, it really doesn't add to the game. This game doesn't use
soundblaster sounds.

Now to get into the game:

On every kickoff you have the choice of kicking the ball to the
right, left, or down the middle.  The offense must choose to set up
a blocking wedge on the right, left, or in the middle.  Depending
on what is chosen by the kicking and receiving teams, the runback
will be effected.  It is possible to kick the ball out of bounds
and even out of the enzone.

The game has eighteen defenses and sixty offensive plays.  With
this fabulous number of both offensive and defensive plays, there
is a vast number of possible results.  There are fakes, play-action
passes, long passes, a hail Mary, smash-mouth running plays,
screens, draws, traps and much more.  There are hashmarks to worry
about.  In other words, if you are at the left hashmark you
probably don't want to throw a screen to that side because you are
closer to the sideline and consequently have less room to work
with.  There are the typical punts and field goal attempts, but
there are also fake punts, angle punts to pin the receiving team
deep in their own end of the field, and fake field goals which you
can select and try your luck.  Once you score a touchdown you are
given the choice of kicking the extra point or going for a two-
point conversion.  You can ground the ball if you are out of time-
outs and need to stop the clock--(the time-outs prevent time from
being taken off the clock on the up-coming play).  I almost forgot
that you don't have to kickoff directly, you can try an on-side
kick or you can squib the ball down field.  And this was one of the
more impressive aspects of the game--you must contend with weather
conditions.  It might be rainy, or windy, or snowy, I believe; or
it can be a combination of weather conditions.  Of course the
weather may be perfect for your game or you can choose to turn off
the weather condition feature. You also have to be careful of
injuries since they can drop your particular effectiveness in the
given area.  For example, one of my wide receivers came up lame and
my pass completion ratio dropped by one point.

Here are some of my observations and opinions:

For a DOS football game, I would have to say that this one was one
of the best I've played.  I have created my own DOS football games
in the past, but my attempts cannot hold a candle to Field General.
If you want to quit a game in mid-stride, you have the option of
saving the game.  This game is incredible but it can also be
incredibly frustrating.  The computer plays a damn good game.  I
have played five games so far against the computer and I've only
won one game--not a winning percentage to be proud of.  As a coach,
I'm looking at being fired at the end of the season.  Sometimes the
program works in your favour such as when the refs gather to
discuss if a pass was caught or to bring out the chains to measure
for a first down. But I have found that you really need a good
knowledge of pro football to play this game well.  For example,
some of the defenses are like this: over key strong zone, nickel
twist strong zone, key mombo, flex man-to-man, weak side blitz, and
4-2 key safety X combo.  Some of the offensive plays are:  double
tight 35 slam, Z pop, X quick out, A and B slip, shotgun X
comeback, 24 B rim, trap draw, sprint draw, flea flicker bootleg
right, and double-tight blind.  Fortunately I have a friend and a
father who understand many of these terms, but even armed with this
vague understanding, I am still getting my but kicked by a cluster
of microchips.  I just realized that I should have clarified
something I mentioned earlier.  With the clocks, time is always
kept on the game clock, but if you turn off the real-time game
clock a certain number of seconds is taken off the clock--more for
running plays and less on incomplete passes.  Now the only bug I've
found is when you or the computer use a time-out, the first one is
not taken off your total.  If the computer has three time-outs
remaining and then uses one to stop the clock, the computer still
has three time-outs left.  If the computer uses another, then at
that point the total drops by 1, effectively giving each team 4
time-outs. 

Is this game blind and speech friendly?

Generally it is.  The upper part of the screen is set up as a
scoreboard and the prompts for offensive or defensive plays and
play results are in the lower half of the computer display.  I use
Vocal-eyes and I had to set different windows because after each
play I would hear the entire scoreboard spoken to me before the
prompt for a new play.  The first game of Field General I tried
which was version 5.1, there was virtually no text description.
All I heard was, "x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x" and then something
like, "result, 8 yards."  Version 5.1 can be found at
www.thesocket.come/~henrich and follow the "great files to download
from my ftp site" link.  The file is called football.zip and for a
blind user it makes a good demo since text descriptions are
lacking.  When I tried version 5.1 of Field General, I e-mailed Mr.
Markert and asked him if he could create another version with more
text description since I was blind, and he e-mailed me back saying
he had received a lot of requests for such a version and he was
nearing completion of version 8.  I was greatly impressed that a
programmer of a great game would take the time to make it more fun
and accessible for blind people to play.  Version 8 definitely does
have more description and I paid the $32 for my registered copy,
but to be honest I would have liked even more description.  For
example, it does say now, "Marino takes the snap, draw play, a give
to Higs...4 yard gain." but what I was hoping for was, "Marino
takes the snap, a draw to Higs...he crashes off tackle and is spun
down after a 4 yard gain."  Yes, I'm being picky now but I'm just
voicing my opinions, shallow and ungrateful they might appear to
be.  However, in both versions 5.1 and 8.0 you have to listen to,
"x x x x x".  There is no getting around this.

All in all it is a fantastic DOS-based football simulation.  I
think it is worth every penny of the $32, and more.  I believe Mr.
Markert's email address, home address, and phone number are located
in the general.doc file of the unzipped football.zip file.  If you
have any questions which I may have neglected to cover in this
review, please email me at
[email protected], put a question to me in the next audyssey
issue, or post a message on the audyssey email list which I am now
on.
+
MAX-imum Review
A Comparative Review of MAX and MAX 2
Created by: Interplay
Reviewed by James Peach

For those of you who haven't ever heard of, or played MAX (which
stands for Mechanized Assault and Exploration) or MAX 2, this
comparison will give a concise synopsis of the plot, and the game
in general.

MAX (Mechanized Assault and Exploration), was created in 1996, and
is a graphically-based, turn-based strategy game, so to start off
with it will require that you, the blind consumer, play with a
sighted partner.  Just to give you a feel for the game, I'll begin
by rattling off the plots of both MAX and MAX 2 (in that order).

The plot of this game, is illustrated in the manual that comes with
MAX, but if you don't care to read it, the opening movie summarizes
it into a five minute nutshell.  The plot goes like this: An alien
organization, the Concord, is looking for peoples to aid in the
Concord's distant galactic conquests; they come across Earth.  The
earth has become politically unstable, so religious faction,
minority groups, corporations, and entire governments where more
than will to jump out of the fire that Earth was burning in to aid
the Concord.  Some of these men and women would fight in the Armies
of the Concord, most would build and maintain what would become the
machinery of war, and the select few would become the prestigious
MAX Commanders.  These commanders were the brains of willing Earth
refugees, removed by surgery from the skull and placed in a sealed,
liquid-filled capsule, which was then connected to robot interfaces
which controlled the colony ships.  Since humans cannot withstand
the rigors of hyper space, all except the MAX Commanders, were kept
in stasis, while the insulated brain would be left responsible for
the control of the ships they piloted, and for the direct control
of the robotic units that would be on the planet's surface.  Now
the human species was promised new worlds that they could colonize,
by the Concord, if only they agreed to fight for the Concord, and
to fight for the planets, the land, if they wanted it.  Surely
enough, when the colony ships dropped out of hyper space at their
planets of destination, most of them found other such ships, and
earlier colonies on the surface, which proved true that if you want
the land, then you'll have to fight for it's possession; and so the
battle begins.

MAX 2, which was created in mid 1998, is the basic sequel to it's
acclaimed predecessor.  The plot in this one is much less complex
than the elaborate one in MAX (in my opinion, it could've been
worked on a bit, but I'll continue on with that later), however it
does manage to set the mood of the game well enough.  IN MAX 2, the
humans have advanced in technology and structure since their
departure from the homeworld, and have become very successful for
the Concord.  Unfortunate for the human factions, they tried to
take a few too many worlds, and came across the once benevolent
Sheevat.  The humans tried to take the Sheevat worlds, but the
Sheevat awakened from their hibernation, and wouldn't stand for the
occupation of their land by a single human form any faction; they
now bred their species for the destruction of the humans, so that
they could return to rest.  The battle rages on for the humans and
the Concord, of whom we see more of in MAX 2.

Now that the stage is set, we can rush head long into the yeas and
nays of MAX and it's sequel, MAX 2.

NOTE: At the end of each compared point, a fating will be given for
each, with MAX always appearing on the left and MAX 2 appearing of
the right.  The approximate average will be given at the end of
this review.

To start us off, lets compare the plots, since we're familiar with
them: I really did appreciate the way the plot unfolded and created
a setting with a story, whereas MAX 2's plot was really just a
matter of you encounter the Sheevat, and they wish nothing more
than to destroy you, and though they're both simple enough, MAX 2
doesn't really seem to have a plot, with MAX's intro movie telling
a lot and MAX 2's movie telling not.

Level of difficulty: MAX is a difficult game in itself since you
have to battle against, and beat an existing colony, compared to
MAX 2 which is more or a merciless slaughter of your units at most
levels; for this reason, I would rather be playing MAX, since they
will give you some time to build up a force before they kill you,
which doesn't subtract from the experience of playing.

Game play, which mostly discusses play during a game of MAX/MAX 2:
there is only a slight difference between the game play of these
two games, except for a few improvements that are included in MAX
2, such with the transfer of materials from buildings to units and
vise versa, with transfer being automatic and instantaneous in MAX
2.  However, MAX still retains some elements of game play that were
lacking in MAX 2 for whatever reason, such a with the ease of
navigation using the mouse, which may seem irrelevant to nearly all
of you, but without quick and
easy navigation for your sighted partner, the harder the game
becomes for the whole team, and movement, which I find to be a lot
faster in MAX, whereas with the sequel it seems that your units
trudge along while you they move very quickly.  Also, the most
important to note is that they can both be played in either turn-
based or simultaneous turn-based play, which just means that the
turns are taken at the same time, and this is more important still,
because the way they both are designed, it's much simpler to play
turn-based style instead of in real-time, of which is possible in
MAX 2.  The only real improvement is in the irrelevant graphics,
with the game play of both being very similar, aside from movement
which is really the  most noticeable.

Innovations for MAX 2 over MAX, though there are few of these such
innovations, they are really nice to have: for starters, the
general use of resources has improved with the elimination of fuel
and automatic resource transfer in MAX 2, making it more
straightforward and faster than MAX; The Sheevat bring some
elements unique to their species into combat, with the use of
shields, regeneration, parasitic attacks and more; as I mentioned
earlier, the humans have made advances and changes since last we
made conquest outs with them in MAX, with more improved weapons,
resource gathering and refining, and even special attacks of their
own, the Concord have decided to make an appearance in MAX 2 with
their own brand of weapons (which look similar to the Sheevat
weapons) which they supply for a price to help the home team;
surface-dwelling animals make also create an unstable element in
the game if you so choose, and may even end up aiding in the attack
against the opposition, though they're more likely to attack you
instead; finally, if that wasn't enough, MAX 2 has a scenario
builder and editor so that if you get bored with the maps you've
played, you can just make new ones, or even exchange them for maps
that your friends have created, an option of a map editor for MAX
would've been severely appreciated.

IN the end of it all, MAX 2 is little more than a slightly expanded
version of the original, though with the above comparative review
to consider, as well as boredom of MAX due to your mastery of it
(for those who might have played it), purchasing MAX 2 might be
worth considering.  Though the odd music in both games leaves a bit
to be desired, the multimedia effects and voice are excellent for
adding a greater sense of what's going on.  One element that I
think should be included in more strategy games is the nearly
limitless upgrading of a single or group of units, which is not as
easy and inexpensive as you might thing, only necessary for
survival.  I personally think that both are worth purchasing, with
all the improvements in MAX 2 balancing out the horrible intro as
compared to MAX, and with Christmas quickly approaching, you might
want to think of either of them as a great gift idea for you or for
someone you care about; they're both relatively inexpensive,
pricing at around $25 for MAX and around $35 for MAX 2 (this is in
Canadian prices, so you may have to do some math, and for those who
don't this includes taxes!).  Until next time, gain MAX-imum
satisfaction out of the games you love to play.

+
Magic: the Gathering (MicroProse Inc.) Reviewed by James Peach  
 

Magic: the Gathering was originally a card game created by Richard
Garfield, the President of Wizards of the Coast and TSR Inc.  He
was out originally to combine the randomness and playability with
the collectible/tradable element of sport cards, into a truly
unique approach to gaming.  MicroProse's attempt to emulate such a
game is a commendable effort, though misguided, as I will explain
further in this review.
     The main objective of this game is to defeat your opponent by
reducing his life points to 0, through the use of spells, creatures
and artifacts.
     In this game, you have three modes of play: a duel (match
between you and the computer); Shandalar, which is a strategy/role
playing type of game where you roam the land of Shandalar, as a
planeswalker, duelling other planeswalkers and monsters that are
out to end your adventure; and then there's online play, where you
can select from literally hundreds of players to duel against.
They all have their strengths, but they have massive pitfalls as
well.      This game would not be playable for the blind, since
it's all graphical, but it makes an excellent game for
blind/sighted teams.  Though there is only some memorization
involved in this game, by no means does that make it easy.
     In the duel, you have the option of selecting a pre-made deck
from the list of decks, or to make your own, through the use of a
deck editor/creator included with the game. With over 800 cards to
choose from.  Since the game is turn-based, there is plenty of time
to build a strategy from the cards that you have in play, or in
your hand.  Through the use of sighted assistance, the cards you
have in play, in your discard pile, your opponent has in play, etc.
can all be described, and all in good time.  Through the use of
multimedia sounds, which are not hard to memorize, in my honest
opinion, so the blind person will be able to hear the sound(s) and
know what has transpired.  In all honesty, the only reason you'd
need sighted assistance is to execute the commands of casting
spells, attack, the effects of spells, etc.; if you have a fairly
good memory, whether sighted or not, then the game will come much
easier and time effective.      The Shandalar game allows for a
multitude of combinations for good replay value.  For instance,
when you start out, you could choose to be a blue magic-user, with
a sorcerer difficulty level; you'd then start out at a point on the
game map, (and it's a very big map I will add).  When walking
around, you will require food to keep you going at a good place;
not to worry, every town, village and city has food that you can
purchase.  Spells can be purchased as well, to add to your starting
deck of spells (which is randomly generated).  After that's done,
you can travel about, performing tasks for the old man, would will
reward you with spells and/or amulets (play the game), go on quests
for rare spells, duel wandering monsters for spells and "dungeon
clues" (just play, you'll see), and much more!
Finally, there's the on-line option for play over the Internet,
though it doesn't come with the original, type 1.1 or type 1.25
versions, so it has to be downloaded off of the Net, which is free
to do so (legally)!  This can add a new level of challenge, since
your are playing against real people, with real experience, and
wisdom, that can keep you going, spell for spell.      Now that
you've heard the rave reviews, lets hear the rest  (sigh).    
With the duel mode, unless you know the deck's contents, then
you'll either have to take the time to check them out with the deck
editor, or take your chances with a deck you don't know; which can
be challenging and fun at the same time.
     Shandalar is a great game to play for the sighted, though it
is absolutely horrible for the blind.  This is because the action
of movement is real-time, so when you're moving about, so are the
monsters, and unless they've fought, and lost to, you before,
they'll go right for you (a tip for the game if you will), leaving
little time for thinking and escape.  Though, if you leave this
problem to your sighted companion, this should be no problem.    
The online mode I strongly dislike, for everyone, regardless of
sight, because, many of the people play with flavourless decks
(that is, cheap, first-turn-kill decks, which I know how to make,
but would never use, because I like to play Magic, not to win in
that way) making it boring at frustrating, especially to new player
of the game to face such a deck.      It is so very easy to be
drawn to the first-turn-kill deck for guaranteed victory, though it
removes the fun and flavour to the game.  Coming from a person who
has the game, and who has played the card game for at least three
years, I hope you would take such advice seriously.  Our of the
standard 1 to 10 rating system, that we've come to love and accept,
I give MicroProse's attempt to bring the card game to the computer
a 7 seven rating.  With most of reason explained in the above, I
will attempt to explain the rest.  Remember when I said that the
Magic: the Gathering computer game was misguided idea, what I meant
was, that it's collectability of cards, that makes the card game so
appealing, is completely destroyed, since they give you over 800
cards to choose from, and you can have an infinite number of any of
these card in your deck (up to 500).  Though this may not seem like
much to base such a moderate rating on, but I assure you, if any of
you have ever played or have a friend who played, you'd understand
why this is such a big deal.
     Oh yeah, the game also has a tutorial, set as a group of
cinema scenes, teaching you all the basic, so that you could
successfully play a game yourself.  Don't worry about the
threatening word "cinema scenes", as they are graphical, the tutors
(yes, I did use a plural) will speak their words of wisdom to you,
in a clear, concise way, with the graphic acting only as support.
From someone who has taught many people how to play the card game,
it is a very descriptive and helpful when trying to learn; I wish
I had it when I was teaching people how to play.      I do believe
that it is a good buy, if you like such elements, like those I had
mentioned, rolled into one game, and frankly, until they come out
with Braille Magic cards (don't hold your breath for that), then
this is the next, best thing to the card game, in my opinion.  The
game requires Windows 95 to run, a sound card for the multimedia
sounds, a CD ROM drive to install it (and play it with CD music),
and plenty of patience.  My advice to you is to get the older
version, not the "Duels of the Planeswalkers" version, since you
should be able to get the older one for a reasonable price (I got
mine for 30 bucks), the must-have upgrade (I'm absolutely NOT
fooling about that) from the www.microprose.com site, and the
online add-on is free from www.gathering.net.  Enjoy the game, if
you get it.
+
SimCity (Maxis)
Reviewed by James Peach

As the name implies, it is a game in which you build and manage a
city as it's mayor.  Pollution, crime, natural forces, traffic
jams, riots and more all play a factor in your success, or failure;
are you ready for the high-stress job as mayor?
     The game has three basic options for game play: create a new
city, scenarios, and map editor.  These options can create a
certain amount of fun, challenge, and replay value.      When
creating a new city, you select a map from HUNDREDS of maps, create
a name for the city, and choose what difficulty level to play; all
you need to start your community.      With scenarios, you have a
selection from about six, which can range from a nuclear accident,
to natural disasters, to an alien invasion!  The main objective in
these scenarios is to restore the city to as close to it's former
population and glory as possible, with added smaller objectives
added into each.
     With the map editor, you can take an existing map that has
been saved, or a scenario, and change things in it, from where
property squares are located, to the whole layout of the city.  If
you save this work, you can either save over the existing
information, or save it as it's own file.      When starting a game
of SimCity, you will start out with a certain amount of money, and
open space.  What has to be done here is to use that money to build
a community where your simcitizens can live, power for them to use,
roads for them to travel on, industry for jobs, and commerce for
the same reason.  When  people are tripping over themselves to get
to your community, you'll then have people to pay taxes, so the
money that you've spent will slowly and eventually return, allowing
you to build more, and continue to expand. Eventually  you will
expand to become a town, then a city, then capital, then a
metropolis, and finally, megalopolis!      This game is a classic
in every respect, the one that started the whole genre or
educational/simulation games, bringing together organization and
financial management skills and entertainment.  Through it's wide
variety of maps and options, this game has great replay value.  AS
you may have been wondering, it is perfect for blind/sighted teams,
adding twice the ideas and schemes and knowledge to create a
prosperous city.  Though it is a real-time simulation, the game
speed can be adjusted, or even stopped, allowing you to make
decisions without the computer overwhelming you.
     Regardless of how many SimCity sequels they create, they all
have their roots in the original, classic, SimCity, and I feel
confident in giving this game a rating of 8 out of 10, simply
because of audio effects, which could've been greatly improved upon
in my opinion.  If you're thinking about buying this game, shop
around, it is fairly inexpensive, even in the multi-game packages
that are appearing for older games these days.

+
IMPERIAL SECRETS
                 Game created and led by Janet DeLacroites
                      Review by Theresa van Ettinger

           URL: http://members.tripod.com/~johnny7/imperial.html

    You've been walking now for at least a day.  At last, a city
comes into view on the horizon.  Your pace quickens as you realize
your destination cannot be far away.
    If the lure of adventure and intrigue calls to you, then
Imperial Secrets may be just what you're looking for.  This is an
epic taleweaver play-by-email (PBEM) in which the play is done by
means of an email list to which the players subscribe.  It is set
in a world brilliantly created by Janet DeLacroites of Email Gaming
Central.  In this game, players write in contributions to an
ongoing saga, expanding both their characters and the world in
which they reside, gaining in rank as they go along.  Also, it is
quite common for various characters to team up and write joint
posts, which may include anywhere from two to four characters.
Currently it has two groupings, one entered around L'Isle Calypsa,
and the other around the island of Rompel to the south.  The game
has been around now since April, and although the GM had to step
out for a while, the game has held up quite well, and now has about
fifty players.  All of them are quite friendly and willing to
answer questions.  This is an excellent game for those who enjoy
creative writing, and who like to socialize in the process.  I
would definitely rate this one at 10 out of 10.


Interactive Fiction Page, wordplay section, poetry .......
http://members.tripod.com/~k_lana
+
Pegs
                    Game from University of Washington
                      Review by Theresa van Ettinger

                        URL: scv.bu.edu/htbin/pegs/

Pegs is a challenging game of strategy in which the player competes
against a computer opponent to try to remove the highest number of
pegs from a board.  The pegs are represented by their colour, or by
an "o" in the case of neutral pieces.  No java interface is needed,
and Lynx has no difficulty reading it.  So far, I have not
succeeded in defeating the computer, but I have been able to at
least come to a draw. But then, I also used to think the neutral
o's couldn't be removed.  Another thing is that you never know what
the computer's strategy will be.  If it has a set strategy, I have
yet to determine it.  This is a game I would highly recommend if
you're into strategy, and are looking for something with a simple
design, but challenging nature.  I'm giving this one a rating of 10
out of 10.


+
South American Trek
Created by: Conrad Button
Reviewed by: Robin Mandell

     South American Trek is the first educational adventure
produced by Buttonware Inc. It is designed as an entertaining
teaching tool for students. The player must completely explore
every country on the South American continent. Once this is done,
and once every task has been completed, the player makes his/her
way to Cape Horn where, the last destination in his/her voyage.  
  Although this game is designed for school aged children, it can
provide an entertaining challenge to all--though to the
directionally or geographically challenged it may prove too much.
The greatest challenge is remembering where you are in relation to
other countries.  The game requires you to complete certain tasks
which require certain objects. You must remember where you saw the
required object and retrace your movements to that
location.  E.G.  Gold is needed to entice the cowboy to give you
his bola.  The bola is needed to catch the llama to ride it to the
top of the mountain.  There is an important object at the top of
the mountain, but first you must find the gold. 

     Though it can be enjoyed by everyone, this game is obviously
for children. The help system will tell you exactly what to do in
almost every situation. It can be a nuisance, so I would suggest
that you only type "help" when you really need it.  Oh, did I
mention Miss Diddlemeyer?  She is the touring geography teacher who
tags along with you after you find her.  She is terribly cheerful
and, if she were a real person, her behaviour would be rather
annoying. 
     This game is completely compatible with speech.  The only
bizarre incompatibility I have found is with my Pow Braille 40; the
display completely shuts down during the game and comes back to
life only after I have finished playing. 
     South American Trek is a relief from the more complicated text
adventures.  This is not to say that it is unexciting.  I have not
completed the game yet and I am still surprised by new locations
which I somehow missed before.
+
Crypt: Adventures into Unfathomed Depths of Horror Version 2.0,
Copyright 1990
Created By Steve Herring of Herringbone Software
Reviewed by: Robin Mandell   

     Please do not be afraid of the title of this game. It's not as
scary as it sounds.  During the two-and-a-half years in which this
game has resided on my hard drive, it has remained an
enigmatic mystery to me.  The documentation file speaks of many
horrific circumstances which must be met and conquered in the
ancient English church in which this game is set. To illustrate why
I am so mystified I will show you an excerpt from the
documentation file and then tell you what I really found. It is
important to note before I do this, however, that the version which
I own is unregistered. This could make a difference. "In the crypt
may be found long lost historical artifacts of great value,
protected by a host of traps, tricks, and creatures both natural
and supernatural. The successful adventurer must possess courage,
skill, intelligence, and a bit of luck."  

     While playing this game, I explored the knave, the altar, the
vicar's office, (you even get to wake the old guy up and talk to
him), the crypt, and the graveyard.  The only challenge I
encountered was in the graveyard, which turned out to be a
somewhat complex maze. This churchyard is quite unkempt and the
player's way is often blocked by brambles and fallen headstones.
One must remember precise directions and retrace one's steps very
carefully; I only made it back to the church once.  In the
graveyard can also be found many historical artifacts and an open
grave.  Here, in the churchyard, is the only sign of the danger and
intrigue to which the game's documentation alludes. 

     On to the crypt--the place which is supposed to house the real
danger.  Aside from a creepy, crawly monster which is scared away
from the light of the candle which is found on the altar, the crypt
is devoid of danger. The crypt is composed of a
passageway with many chambers leading off of it.  Each chamber
contains a stone sarcophagus.  Aside from cryptic writing on the
wall, there is no mystery here and there seems to be no where to go
except back up into the knave of the church. 
     Now that I've done telling you of the games inadequacies, I
will praise its good points.  The writing is superbly eloquent.
E.G. "Coloured light filters through stained glass windows and
splashes among the pews and columns."  Smells and sensations are
described just as vividly. The maze in the graveyard, as I hinted
before, is very involving.  One could spend a great deal of time
exploring. 
     It is important  to note that one must be able to review the
screen. For some odd reason, the screen is not automatically read
during each turn. As with other games involving a great deal of
text, I personally prefer to use my Power Braille 40 to read the
descriptions. 
     Crypt is an extremely simple game to play.  The
documentation file likens the style of the game to that of The
Colossal Cave Adventure.  Only directional indications and two-word
commands are needed.  However, the simplicity of the game ends
there. The help system, such as it is, gives virtually no
assistance.
     Crypt is a game which has great potential. I would be
interested to know whether there are later versions of the game and
whether the registered version is any more complete than the
unregistered version.

+
"JACARANDA JIM"

Game by Graham Cluley
Reviewed by Kelly Sapergia

This game, which I'll refer to as "JJ", was one of two IF games,
made by Graham Cluley, who also wrote the excellent game, "Humbug".
Apparently, he created these games from scratch, which is quite an
achievement! In this game, you play the role of a guy called
"Jacaranda Jim", who was on his way to Jupiter. However, his ship
was attacked by, get this, a crack squad of "Homicidal beechwood
armchairs", and crash-landed on the wacky world of Ibberspleen IV.

He was rescued from the wreckage by a "gribbley" (whatever that
is), called Alan. "This is too much," you thought, then decided to
"call it a day and lose consciousness". Your mission is to explore
the planet and find a way to leave it.

So, now we have to answer the question, "Since the intro text is
good, is the rest of the game?" Well, I'll be honest with you: yes
and no. I'll admit, the humour is good, and some of the locations
are described well, but for the most part, the game, in my opinion,
isn't that great. The parser is really good. Even though it is a 4-
word parser, it can be used as a full-sentence one if you wish. But
that doesn't really save the overall game.

One thing I really hate about this game is that you have to drop
certain items at certain spots in order for something to happen.
For instance, at one point in the game, I had to drop a chair, and
a cucumber. I then had to say a magic word to teleport somewhere.
After I did all this successfully, I went back to the spot where I
dropped the chair and the cucumber. But the cucumber was gone! In
it's place, was a gold key! I couldn't believe it! I'm wondering
now what happened to the cucumber?. It seems strange, doesn't it?
It could be that the magic word I typed in was the reason why
things are disappearing and new things appear in an item's place.
(Well, this is fiction, isn't it?) Other than that problem listed
above, the game isn't too bad. It's geared towards advanced game
players, and some of the puzzles aren't really logical, in my
opinion. But, if you like that sort of game, then you'll have a lot
of fun with it. A word of advice, though: without the walkthrough
from GMD.DE/IF-ARCHIVE/SOLUTIONS, you'll be spending a long time
trying to get through this game.

It is shareware, but I'm not sure if it still is. The reason I said
this is because last year, Graham released his other game, "Humbug"
to the public domain, because he didn't have a lot of
time to support it anymore. (I'll give you a hint here: the
solution file on GMD.DE also has the name you get when you register
the game.)

One thing that might annoy you is that this game will NOT speak
through BIOS, so you'll have to go into your screen reader's review
mode to read the screen. If you're using a braille display, then
you don't have to worry.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I gave this game a rating of 6. In my
opinion, the story starts out fine, but I think it needs some work.
Also, I wasn't crazy about the puzzle I described a little earlier
in this review, since there's really no reason for it. But other
than that, the game isn't that bad. You can find it on &
the Internet at:
FTP.GMD.DE/IF-ARCHIVE/GAMES/PC/JACJIM50.ZIP.
+

"LISTS AND LISTS"

Tutorial by Andrew Plotkin

Reviewed by Kelly Sapergia

Did you notice that I said "Tutorial by Andrew Plotkin" instead of
"Game by Andrew Plotkin"? The reason I put that in is because this
is an "Interactive Tutorial" program that was created with Inform.
I know that Audyssey specializes in Interactive Fiction games, but
I thought it might be of interest for those of you who are thinking
of making educational programs with Inform.

In a way, this looks like a game, but it isn't. There is no score,
or time limits. Basically, a genie will give you some exercises to
try out, as you learn how to program in "Scheme", a cleaned-up
version of "LISP". (I never heard of "Scheme", but I have heard a
little about "Lisp". There are a few IF creation toolkits that use
the LISP system. It sounds complicated to me, though.)

Other than the examples you are given, there really isn't much to
do, except try them out on the "Scheme Interpreter" that has been
incorporated into the program. It activates when you turn on the
computer. Some commands you may have to use are either in brackets
or have a colon symbol, followed by the command. For example, to
access the manual (see below), you have to type ":m" (without the
quotes). Personally, if you're going to try this program, I
recommend using either a Braille display, or turn on your screen
reader's Punctuation, because you'll need it!

I tried a few of the puzzles in this tutorial, and I'll admit, I'm
impressed. If you are completely stuck on an example, or if you
don't know what to type in to make something work in Scheme, don't
worry. There are two forms of on-line hints in this program. One is
an on-line version of the "Scheme Programmer's Manual". When you
want to read the manual, you'll get a menu of all the chapters in
the book. You simply have to move to the chapter you want by using
Inform's standard menu keys. (N for next, P for Previous, etc.) The
other way to get on-line hints is by typing "HINT" when you're not
using the computer. The genie will start off by asking something
like, for example, "Did you
read Chapter 6 of the manual?" If you type "HINT" again, the genie
will give you another hint. He'll even tell you what to type to
complete an exercise.

On a scale of 1 to 10, this "tutorial" program is rated at 8. The
idea was an excellent one, especially for a first attempt at
writing a tutorial in Inform. I hope that more people will do this,
not just for new programming languages, but also for some of the IF
game-writing toolkits, such as TADS, or even Inform itself. I
certainly could use some of these tutorials, since I'm trying to
learn both TADS and Inform, and am having alot of problems trying
to read the manual and write some sample code at the same time.
Yes, I'm glad that there are some sample games included to help
you, but they aren't enough, in my opinion.

If you would like to give "LISTS and LISTS" a try, you can get it
from:

FTP.GMD.DE/IF-ARCHIVE/GAMES/INFOCOM/LISTS.Z5. You'll need an Inform
interpreter, such as "DOS FROTZ" to play the tutor.

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"ANOTHER LIFELESS PLANET AND ME WITH NO BEER"

Game by Dennis Drew

Reviewed by Kelly Sapergia

Since I'm interested in Interactive Fiction, I'm always interested
in seeing what people have come up with. I play all types of games,
from the ones that are programmed from scratch, to games made with
such systems as AGT, TADS, INFORM, etc., as well as games that
game-writing toolkit writers have made. The game which I'm about to
review fits into the latter category. It is a shareware game, but
it is also a demonstration of Dennis Drew's game-writing system,
called "Gamescape". It's clear from the start that Mr. Drew really
likes to publicize his products. (Well, who doesn't?) For one
thing, included with the NOBEER.ZIP file is a catalog of his
products, that describes them with terms like "logical", "high-
quality", etc. In a way, he is almost right. Also, NOBEER.ZIP not
only contains the game and the Gamescape interpreter, but a sample
of another product, "CompuNerd", a program that answers the
question "Am I a nerd?" You basically answer some questions, such
as "What percentage of your computer use involves word
processing?", then you get a few screens about your rating. For
example, for the above question I answered 95, and was told that I
was "one of the millions of people who have found word processing
to be an incredibly valuable computer function." The program then
gave me a rating of 5: minor nerd. (Not bad!)

But now onto the review of "No Beer", another one of Mr. Drew's
"Astounding", and "logical" programs. I played part of the game,
and what I saw didn't really impress me. The story isn't original,
and the parser needs ALOT of work! This game is a sequel to Mr.
Drew's other game, "Marooned Again". Basically, you're stranded on
an alien planet and you have to find some items in order to get
your alien ship to work again. And, contrary to the title of this
game, the planet isn't really "lifeless". You will know this if you
walk to the north from your starting point. (I won't reprint the
quote from the game.)

Mr. Drew's spelling is all right, but I don't really think that
makes the game better. For one thing, his humour isn't really the
best. As an example, here's the starting room description.

"You are standing right beside a square hole in the ground. It
looks very deep. You have seen such holes before. They too, were
very deep. Holes have a way of doing that. Being very deep, I
mean."

As every IF fan knows, the quality of the game's parser is also a
good factor to consider. It can be really good, or really poor. In
this case, I think it's really poor! You can only use two words,
and no synonyms! If there is an object that you want to pick up,
you'll have to hyphenate the word. For example, at the beginning of
the game, there's a small stone. If you want to get it, you have to
type "TAKE SMALL-STONE". Most of the parser problems can be worked
around, but sometimes not. For instance, I was in a room and was
basically playing the Gamescape's version of Hangman. In this case,
I had to guess the secret word, then I would get a scrambled word
to try to figure out. I haven't yet guessed the secret word, and
here's the reason why: I think I got just about all the letters,
but when I tried to guess the letter Q, I was asked if I wanted to
quit the game! "GUESS Q" didn't work either. I tried the "GUESS"
command on the correct letters, and that didn't work! I gave up
with the game after a week of accomplishing nothing. I blame my
problems with the parser, which Mr. Drew claims to be "high
quality". By the way, here's another thing that isn't good about
the parser's performance: if you try going in a direction that
isn't listed in the room description, you'll get the message "I
don't understand that. Is that logical?" (I'm not making this up!)
This also happens if the parser can't understand what you want it
to do.

You can tell that Gamescape was used to make this game, because
when you quit, you have to read, or listen to, two promotional
screens about the product. I haven't tried out Gamescape itself,
but from what I read in the Frequently Asked Questions documents
from REC.ARTS.INT-FICTION, I don't think anyone likes it. I have
also read that there is no discussion about it on the newsgroups.
I really can't blame anyone for not taking an interest in it. You
can get an idea of how this system is by playing "No Beer". And to
top it off, the price for this shareware adventure game writing
system is [prepare to be shocked] $95 US!! (If you'd like more
information about this system, read Bob Newell's "Which System Is
Better?" document. You can find it at:

FTP.GMD.DE/IF-ARCHIVE/INFO/. The file is WHICHSYS.ZIP.)

After spending a few weeks with this game, I gave it a rating of 2
out of 10. I wasn't impressed with the system used, or with the
story itself. If you'd like to try this game, the file NOBEER.ZIP
can be found in the /GAMES/PC/ directory on the IF-ARCHIVE.
Gamescape can be found in the /PROGRAMMING/GAMESCAPE/ directory.

+
Once and Future
by G. Kevin Wilson
Reviewed by Justin Fegel

After almost five years in development, the most anticipated piece
of interactive fiction to date was released back in August.  I
finally got around  to purchasing the game last month and presently
I am about half way through.  So far, I think the game is quite
good.

The game is written in Tads, the Text Adventure Development System,
and has the distinction of being the first commercial text
adventure in many years. The game sells for $29.95 US from Cascade
Mountain Publishing, a company founded  earlier this year by
Michael Berlyn of Infocom fame.  The cd that the game  ships on
contains Tads interpreters for a variety of operating systems
including Dos, Windows 3.1, and Windows95/98.  The packaging also
includes a  printed manual and some other documents that will give
you a little background  on the character you will be playing.  I
used my scanner
to read all of the documents and they came out fine.

In Once and Future, you assume the identity of Frank Leandro, a 23
year old U.S. soldier in the Vietnam war.  Even though you start
out in a tent playing poker, your adventure really begins when you
are killed trying to save three of your friends from a live grenade
which has been thrown in to your tent. You suddenly find yourself
on the mythical isle of Avalon face to face with the legendary king
Arthur Pendragon.  Arthur tells you that he has been watching you
for some time now and that you have been chosen to save your world
from a terrible fate.  In order for you to do this he gives you the
holy grail and says that you must purify it and use its powers to
resurrect yourself. Before you can do this however, you must find
three other important items, one of which is the sword Excalibur.
Arthur then vanishes andd you're on your own.  In your adventures,
you will travel through time, across worlds, and even through the
veil of death and back.  You will also encounter many characters
from myth and legend whowill either help or hinder you in your
quest.

Overall, I think this is a good game.  For one thing, it's huge!
The game file itself is over 900K in size.  There are plenty of
places to explore and many things to do.  The puzzles are all
logical and straight forward.  Since I haven't finished the game
yet I can't comment on all of the puzzles, but so far, they haven't
been to difficult.  Many of the puzzles also have more than one
solution.  According to the author, there are also several endings
depending on certain actions you take in certain areas.  This gives
the game some replayability value.

I thought the scoring system was really neat.  Instead of getting
points for specific actions like in most games, your score
increases by military rank.  For example, you begin ass a private,
then you move up to corporal, and on up through the ranks.

The writing is excellent.  The descriptions of places and actions
are very detailed.  I also like the use of cut scenes throughout
the game.  They help to move the story along.  I think that the
author also goes to a great extent to make the main character seem
real to the player.  By using flashbacks of Frank's life and making
extensive use of dialogue in certain scenes,  you can get a good
idea of what type of person frank really is and what he's going
through.

Since I haven't completed the game yet I don't want to make a lot
of negative comments, because I may end up taking them back when I
finish. There are however, a couple things I would like to mention.
First, there have been a few instances where I have had to play
guessing games with the parser. Second, I thought that the plot
could have been set up a little better.  The lines, "I have been
watching you for a long time," and "you have been chosen," have
been used countless times before one way or another in other games
I have played.  I think there could have been a more creative way
to develop this.  I also think that Arthur should have given more
explicit instructions on what exactly you are to do.  He basically
hands you the grail and says "go save the world." Right now I feel
like I'm on a treasure hunt, wandering around, solving random
puzzles and trying to locate these three items he told me to find.
I'm hoping that once I've found what I'm supposed to, someone will
appear  and give me more explicit instructions.

On a scale of one to ten, I would give Once and Future an 8.5.  The
writing and attention to detail are excellent and the game on a
whole is well implemented.  I'm only subtracting points for minor
parser problems and plot development.  Keep in mind that this
rating could change when I finally finish the game.

As I stated before, overall this is a good game.  If you enjoy huge
text adventures with a lot of puzzles then definitely buy this
game.

To order Once and Future, call Cascade Mountain Publishing at
1-800-981-6889 or check them out on the web at
http://www.cascadepublishing.com.

Happy holidays.

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"PHOTOPIA"

Game by Adam Cadre

Reviewed by Kelly Sapergia

This game won first place in the 1998 IF Competition, and most
deservedly, in my opinion. Personally, I only liked two of the
games that were created for this year's competition, and this was
one of them.

Photopia is different than just about any other IF game I've played
before. This game uses a "branching story" approach. That is, you
start the game as one character, then switch to a different
character and setting, then back to the first character after
completing a few puzzles, etc. When I first played the game, I
thought "What is going on here?" But I was amazed by the quality of
the Inform parser and the excellent text that I didn't want to quit
the game! It takes a good IF author to do something as good as
this. The puzzles are simple. You really don't need to get a
walkthrough for the game. If you're stuck, typing "HELP" will give
you a hint (if there is one) for the current puzzle you're stuck
on. But for the most part, you should be able to solve the puzzles
easily.

One thing I didn't really care for about this game was what happens
when you're switching between characters and settings. You have to
press any key to switch scenes, which is fine. But instead of
saying "Press any key to continue", the game simply gives you the
traditional greater than (>) prompt. One way to find out if you
have to press a key is to look at line 24 of the screen. Normally,
it's blank, but there may be text on the line, which is the ending
of the current scene. You can then press any key, and you're in
another scene.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I gave this game a 10. If you're looking for
a game that is easy for novice players, and has excellent text
descriptions, then this is the perfect game for you. I'm not sure,
but I think this was the first game to employ the "branching story"
approach, but if it is, it was an excellent idea. I hope there are
more games like this in the future. I recommend this game for
players aged 14 and up.

This game requires an Inform interpreter. The one I use is DOS
Frotz. You can find Photopia at:

FTP.GMD.DE/IF-ARCHIVE/GAMES/COMPETITION98/PHOTOPIA
The game file is PHOTOPIA.Z5.
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"REVERBERATIONS"

Game by Russell Glasser

Reviewed by Kelly Sapergia

This is one of my favourite entries in the Inform category of games
from the 1996 IF competition. It's a totally action-packed game
with very good puzzles, and an excellent story-line. Combine all
this creative accomplishment with Inform's superb parser, and
you've got a top-rated game worth downloading!

In this game, you play the role of a pizza-delivery man, who is
assigned to deliver a pizza to the courthouse, where a Guido
Canzone is being convicted of a crime which we're not told about.
You, on the other hand, are hungry because you didn't have
breakfast this morning, so you open the box, start to eat a slice
of pizza, and find a metal file hidden amongst some cheese. When
you go to the courthouse, you give the file to the DA at the
Canzone trial, and Mr. Canzone is being held in a maximum-security
prison. I won't reveal any more of this game, since that might
spoil the fun, but I'll just say this, if the first puzzle is
anything to go on, you'll have alot of fun with this masterpiece.

I personally found this game to be quite addictive. Even though I
solved this game, I kept going back to it at different times, just
to read the text. This game basically looks (or sounds, if you
prefer) like a TV show or a movie. The good thing about this is
that because you can interact with the game, you can decide the
game's final outcome. It's basically like an interactive movie.
(This is one reason why I've always liked Interactive Fiction,
(Compared to graphical games.) The game does come with a built-in
hint system, but you should be able to figure out most of the
puzzles on your own. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'm proud to say that
I've rated this game 10. This means "You won't be disappointed when
you download this work of IF!" Like I said, the overall game is
outstanding! I haven't come across any bugs worth mentioning, which
is a good thing! I hope that Mr. Glasser is planning on writing
more works of IF! He certainly did a terrific job in this game!

To download this game, go to:

FTP.GMD.DE/IF-ARCHIVE/GAMES/COMPETITION96/. The file to look for is
REVERB.Z5.

++
Contacting Us

I can be reached in two ways. The easiest is through Compuserve. My
e-mail address is as follows:
[email protected]

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
bunch, Frank.        

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:
[email protected]

Or, you can check out his homepage on the web:
Blade's Armory
http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/Arcade/9111
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
Mississauga, Ontario
Canada L5N 3L1

Justin Fegel is one of our two interactive fiction staff members.
He will be happy to advise and guide players through the many
interactive fiction games out there. He can be contacted at:
[email protected]

James Peach, our commercial games expert, will do his best to
advise those seeking commercial entertainment which is accessible
to blind players with or without sighted assistance. He can be
contacted at:
[email protected]

Kelly Sapurgia is another expert in interactive fiction. He is a
well-established reviewer of games for Audyssey, and has an
interest in developing interactive fiction as well as playing it.
He can be contacted at:
[email protected]


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