Computer Games Accessible to the Blind
Issue 19: September/October, 1999
Edited by Michael Feir
Welcome to the 19th issue of Audyssey. This magazine is dedicated to the discussion of computer games which, through
accident or design, are accessible to the blind. A mere two months have passed since our third anniversary, and a lot of exciting developments have already taken place. In this issue, you'll read about the status of Mr. Greenwood's joint development project taking place on the Audyssey discussion list. You'll also find an interview with Francesco Bova, author of the captivating game Jewel of Knowledge. From PCS, their latest offering will be announced, as well as a survey they have conducted. You'll also learn more about three new companies which are working on games for 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 via E-mail, or on a 3.5-inch disk in a self-addressed mailer so that I can return your disk or disks to you once I have copied their contents onto my hard drive. Please only send shareware or freeware games. It is illegal to send commercial games. 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. Thanks to my new computer, I can now send and receive attachments with ease. This way, no money will be wasted sending me a game I already have, and
you'll get my reply more quickly. You are responsible for shipping costs. That means, either use a disk mailer which has your address on it, and is either free matter for the blind, or is properly stamped. I can and will gladly spare time to share games and my knowledge of them, but cannot currently spare money above what I spend hunting for new games. I encourage all my readers to give my magazine to whoever they think will appreciate it. Up-load it onto web pages and bulletin board systems. Copy it on disk for people, or print it out for sighted people who may find it of value. The larger our community gets, the more self-sustaining it will become.
This magazine is published on a bimonthly basis, each issue
appearing no earlier than the twentieth of every other month. I now use MS-Word to produce Audyssey, and can therefore accept submissions in pretty much any format. They may be sent either on a 3.5-inch floppy disk, or via e-mail to my 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. Unfortunately, Mr. J.J. Meddaugh, the manager of our E-mail distribution list, has disappeared without a trace. Nobody in the Audyssey community has heard from him since before the last issue went out. Mr. Meddaugh has managed the distribution list faithfully and well for nearly three years. His absence from the community has certainly been felt, as many readers have not received the last issue. Until further notice, anyone wanting to receive Audyssey via E-mail as an attached .zip file or as a normal text message should send a request to my CompuServe address:
Be certain to specify whether you want it zipped or as a normal message.
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:
Anyone on the discussion list will automatically receive all future issues of Audyssey as a plain text message.
You can find all issues of Audyssey on the Internet on Paul Henrichsen's web site at:
If you have web access,
Audyssey now has an official web-page, maintained by Igor Gueths at:
Besides having all issues of Audyssey available for down-load, six 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:
Look in the /magazines directory.
Kelly Sapergia has all issues of Audyssey on his web-site. In addition, he has a page of accessible games to down-load. You can reach his homepage at:
For those of you who have trouble finding some of the software discussed in this magazine, or if you know someone who doesn't have access to the Internet, but would be interested in the magazine, this magazine is now available on disk. PCS has agreed to distribute Audyssey, as well as selected shareware or freeware software on disk for ten dollars US per year. To subscribe to Audyssey on disk, contact them at:
Personal Computer Systems
551 Compton Ave.
Perth Amboy N.J.
E-mail: [email protected]
From The Editor
Esp Softworks Goes Public
A Turn at the Helm
The Latest Finds
Interview With Francesco Bova
Free Game Winner
News From PCS
An Alternative to Monopoly
On Virtue and Vice
The Future of Blind Computer Gaming
From The Editor:
Well, folks; It's that time again at last. Due to a miscalculation on my part, this issue is around a week late in coming out. For those who have been biting their nails and pulling their hair out with anxiety, feel free to blame me for your lack-luster appearance. Some exciting frontiers have been opened up in the universe of accessible computer games since the last issue. Several new companies have made themselves known to us which intend to produce games for the blind. Also, the Audyssey discussion list is becoming a much more vital and active entity. Representatives from all of the companies, as well as other game developers, are seeking input and opinion from list members.
As mentioned in the Welcome section, the Audyssey community has suffered a major setback. Mr. Meddaugh, the manager of our E-mail distribution list, has vanished. I hope that he will return soon and continue his work on Audyssey's behalf. Due to his absence, the readership has dwindled quite drastically. The exact size of the distribution list at the time of his disappearance is unknown. However, it was well into the hundreds at a minimum. At one time, it was near or over a thousand. I hope that most of these readers have begun getting Audyssey off the Web, where it is available from quite a number of sites now.
Despite his disappearance, I think it important that you all realize the legacy Mr. Meddaugh's work has left us. Before he came along, Audyssey was mainly available on CompuServe. I had started a very small distribution list of around twenty people or so. It is thanks to Mr. Meddaugh's offer to help that Audyssey got its start on the Internet. He started the distribution list. Shortly after this, folks like Mr. Henrichsen started carrying Audyssey on their sites. I can't recall whether PCS stumbled onto Audyssey before or after Mr. Meddaugh started his list, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were also due to his work that PCS got on the band wagon. Whatever has become of him, I extend my thanks for his services to the Audyssey community. I also wish him the best of luck in whatever he decides to pursue. Hopefully, he will return to the Audyssey community in the near future. There is certainly a sad irony in his disappearing just as things really start to take off. After three years of only small advances, the past months have seen tremendous leaps forward in the possibilities for blind-accessible computer games. The most crucial of these being the emergence of the new companies and developers. Also, due to them, Windows users will soon have more entertainment which is accessible without sighted assistance. I hope that these developments will attract both new readers and those who may have lost contact due to the distribution list not working.
As you'll see, the sections to be hit the hardest by this shrinking in the community are the Letters and Game Reviews sections. In fact, James Peach's review of Betrayal At Krondor and Kelly's review of Jewel of Knowledge are the only reviews in that section. Other reviews are in the Latest Finds section. You may recall that the reason for having separate sections for new and older games is so that we can have our cake and eat it too. People looking for the absolute newest stuff can look in the Latest Finds section, while people interested in finding out about older games can look in and contribute to the Game Reviews section. I remind all of you that you need not worry about reviewing a game which has already been covered. If you have a differing opinion on it than reviews already published, we'll put it in there for people to examine. If you are readers of Spag or Xyzzynews, you'll see multiple reviews of the same game. This kind of back-and-forth discourse is what will keep Audyssey going. It is happening quite a lot on the discussion list. However, those of you who pick Audyssey up off the Web may not be involved in the discussion list. Just as Audyssey keeps you up to date with developments, you must keep us up to date on your thoughts, opinions, etc. Even if you don't want to plunge into the fray by joining the discussion list, you can still fill a vital role in Audyssey.
Another vital role that I ask all of my readers to play is that of ambassadors. If Audyssey needs anything, it needs a lot more exposure than it's getting. Too many people are unaware of the many games that are already available to the blind. They are also unaware of the exciting work being done to bring entertainment for the blind into the Windows environment. It is especially crucial that educational and funding organizations are made aware of these developments. Games are an excellent way for people to become less afraid of and more familiar with computers. They, and you, can help spread the word about Audyssey and the efforts of those who bring us the games discussed in it.
Audyssey also needs another staff member to help Mr. Peach cover the mainstream games which may be accessible or partially accessible to the blind. A person wanting this position should either have partial vision, or have ready access to a sighted assistant or assistants in order to try these games. This way, if a game is found to be beyond redemption in terms of accessibility for the totally blind, the tester might at least get some personal enjoyment out of the game and not have entirely wasted time or money. If sighted companions are helping a totally blind mainstream games staff member, they should get the games which turn out to be unenjoyable to the blind person. Remember that you need not go out and buy the latest and most expensive games. Most games have demos available on the Internet. These will almost always be sufficient to give an idea of how enjoyable a game is likely to be. If anyone is interested, please contact me. You'll receive PCS's games for free like the other staff members do.
For those who are curious, my search for a full-time job is still on-going. I haven't nailed one down yet. I've gotten a degree in English, but no one seems to think they need someone who knows how to write well. Strange, isn't it? People are getting sued all the time for poorly worded stories, articles, contracts, and the like, and a writer can't get work. Thankfully, I have the Internet on which to express myself. I can also laugh at people who lose out due to not hiring a writer like me to make them come across more clearly on paper. It serves them right. Yes, folks; It looks like your editor will enter the next century unemployed other than the work I do for Microcomputer Science Centre.
Before I leave you to enjoy the rest of this issue, a couple of news items should be covered. First of all, the Interactive Fiction competition for 1999 has started. The games are available in the /competition99 directory of the ftp.gmd.de/if-archive site. Kelly and Justin will give more details on these thirty-seven games in the next issue of Audyssey due at the end of November. Also, another large interactive fiction game called Mulldune's Legacy should be more thoroughly explored and reviewed by that time. Anyone wanting a crack at one of PCS's free games should try and review these games, or any others they like. The future looks bright indeed, but lets not forget that the last word has not been said about games from the past. Afterall, they are part of what got us to where we are today,. They also have a powerful influence on where we're going.
Esp Softworks Goes Public
By James North
Greetings, Audyssey readers!
ESP Softworks; Who are we? What do we do? Our goals.. What you can expect.
Those of you who have participated in the Audyssey Discussion Forum or who have read the e-mail I sent Michael in the #18 issue of Audyssey may already know who I am and what ESP Softworks is, but for those who don't I'd like to take this time to formally introduce myself and my company.
My name is James North and I run a small company called ESP Softworks along with a small handful of other individuals who are interested in producing high-quality games and entertainment products that are completely accessible by blind and visually impaired computer users. Our main focus is the development of modern, content-rich, and innovative games that are user-friendly, affordable, and a total blast to play! We also believe very strongly that technology isn't 'accessible' if it's not affordable. So, to that end we're pricing our products very fairly so that everyone may have a chance to experience our games.
ESP Softworks was founded with the idea that technologically innovative games could be created taking advantage of the latest technology available to mainstream games in such a way to be accessible by the blind and visually impaired gaming community. As more and more users shift to the Windows operating system, we feel it's important to develop this market and to offer a wide selection of quality games that use the rich multimedia capabilities of the Windows platform to it's fullest extent.
Our primary goal is to develop and produce advanced Windows-based games that are innovative and great fun to play. Advanced doesn't mean 'difficult' or 'cumbersome' to use, however. We take great strides in making our products intuitive and easy to navigate so that the player can concentrate on having fun with the game and not trying to wrestle with the interface. Our game products are designed to be fully accessible from the ground up. We plan to keep careful watch on players reactions and feedback and take everything into consideration in order to spot trends that would help improve our products.
Currently, ESP Softworks is in the development phase of it's game products and will soon begin rolling out it's premiere line up during the end of 1999 and the beginning of 2000. Our initial product offering will consist of real-time adventure and turn-based strategy games.
Our premiere release is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 1998. This As-to-be-yet-titled (please see our web page information below regarding our online contest for naming this release) is a turn-based strategy game that's a cross between the classic game of Chess and a first person action game. Innovative strategy tactics and imaginative game characters along with exciting audio make this game a must play! This will also be the first of our completely extensible games featuring add-on game packs and upgrades.
Our first real-time adventure title is called 'The Genesis Project' and will feature rich audio environments and a totally interactive game world where the player is immersed into a great sci-fi storyline with cinematic action. 'The Genesis Project' features an extremely robust interface and language interpreter that allows the player the kind of freedom and flexibility that brings this gaming experience as close to real-world as you've yet come. 'The Genesis Project' is scheduled to be released in the first quarter of 2000.
We're here to challenge, entertain, and innovate and that's our goal. It's my belief that the blind and visually impaired gaming community is ready to move forward in their gaming experiences and are welcoming of the challenge and change it will bring. We'd like to have the opportunity to help in providing this challenge to you--the game players.
If you'd like to find out more about ESP Softworks or the products we're developing, please visit our web-site at http://www.espsoftworks.com, or send e-mail to [email protected]. Company and product information, contests, online demo trailers, and beta applications are now available.
The cofounders of Zform LLC, after careful legal consultation, have decided to form a tax-exempt, non-profit organisation. This organisation, to be called Sound-Sight, will have several goals. The proposed goals are to:
* Develop games for the blind and visually impaired community.
* Push the envelope of 3D sound technology.
* Employ blind and visually impaired persons for many positions, including (but not limited to): programmer, technician, and designer. These employees will gain valuable experience in fields relevant to the game industry. Once enough experience is acquired, these employees will hopefully move on to jobs in the industry. Sound-Sight could therefore serve as an informal training facility for the blind and visually impaired.
Paul G. Silva and Jeremie Spitzer, the cofounders of Zform LLC, wish to see more quality entertainment for the blind and visually impaired community. It is their hope that Sound-Sight will help fulfil this wish. However, they have another wish. Right now a partition exists in games. There are games for the community and games for the fully-sighted. There is far too little overlap. For instance, the only online games that both community members and the
fully-sighted can play are all text games. It is Zform's second wish to see this partition blur - to make games that the blind, visually impaired, AND the fully sighted will enjoy and play. It is our hope to make online games where the game play experience for all will be very similar, so that a player will not be able to tell if their virtual friend is blind or fully sighted. This will go a long way to letting the blind and visually impaired join some of the communities of fully-sighted gamers around the world.
To achieve these ends Zform will:
* Often work closely with Sound-Sight in the development of its games.
* Adapt Sound-Sight's games for the sighted market while maintaining their blind and visually impaired accessibility.
Zform is currently doing the research needed to make Sound-Sight a reality. At least six months to a year will be needed before Sound-Sight begins developing its first game.
Help will greatly speed our ability to bring Sound-Sight into being, so if you believe in this idea and have any information that can be of assistance, we would greatly appreciate hearing from you.
Anyone interested in helping or learning more about this project should contact Jeremie Spitzer ([email protected]), or alternately, Paul G.
Silva ([email protected]).
From Terra Sonica:
A short introduction to this mailing:
We're a group of Dutch students at the Arts School of Utrecht (HKU). This year we enrolled in a (European Multimedia) Master's program. We have gotten the assignment to develop a demo/concept for a computer game (an entertaining adventure game) for the visually impaired. We have taken up this challenge as our main project in our master's year. School and a multimedia company are our clients.
A little background information:
We've been working on ideas for this concept for two weeks now. So we're still in an early stage of the project. We already decided that the game should take place in an 'audio-world'. The navigation tools are sound based. There will be no graphics in this game! (Monitor is of no use) We are still researching if a force feedback joystick could be of use in this (demo) game.
Who are we:
The team consists of four interaction designers, one audio designer, one journalist and one media psychologist. We have an experienced programmer in the group, and most of us have experience with conceptualizing and designing games.
We would like to get reactions and comments on this idea. That's why we are trying to get in touch with visually impaired people who have ideas and comments on this project. As for now, you can mail us at [email protected]. We are still working on a way to put up our own guestbook to create a platform for opinions and information. We will also be posting mail on the Audyssey mailing list.
If you are interested in more background information on the project, or participating in the discussion group, please post on the list or mail us. Of course, any other links, contacts or advice are also welcome.
From the first of October our project web-site will be online (and under construction): www.terrasonica.hku.nl . It will be in English and accessible. We will put logfiles, research, our concept and other project documentation on this site.
On this site there's a questionnaire for the v.i.p.. As a part of our research we would very much like people to fill it out and send it to us at [email protected] (this address is only for questionnaires)
Reactions: [email protected]
Web site (October first): www.terrasonica.hku.nl
questionnaires: [email protected]
To all involved in Terra Sonica, I wish you the best of luck in your ambitious endeavour. As time permits, I certainly plan to try and keep up to date with your progress and offer what assistance I can. I hope that others in the Audyssey community will follow suit. Please keep us apprised of your progress and ideas, and use Audyssey as a sounding board for them. We have a lot of experienced gamers here, myself included.
From James Peach:
Greetings to the Audyssey readership,
Ever since I started on with Audyssey over a year ago, I've seen many changes, most of them good. I really do feel that the world of accessible games got a real leg up during the summer months, and I feel very proud to say that I've been a part of it to some extent. Unfortunately, I have been contemplating my very existence within the Audyssey community as the person who brings you reviews of mainstream games.
In the beginning, the people seemed fairly open-minded to having me in their community, showing their interest by sending emails to me with questions pertaining to games,
but since then few if any have materialised. I take this as a sign that the people show very little interest in mainstream games. Understand please that this is merely an observation of events over the course of the year,
for which I sincerely hope is a mistake, because I really enjoy working with Audyssey, for the community.
With the misunderstanding that there were more people on the discussion list, I had asked these questions on it during the summer. Though there were mixed results from the list, Mike tried to assure everyone that Mainstream Games will always be covered in Audyssey. He had informed me that this was something that you, the community, wanted in Audyssey, and thus with a request from myself to join his staff, he gave me the position of Mainstream Games expert. (I am unfortunately still working alone). I know that you know that if you don't want to read about it you'll say so, and I personally feel that there should be little if anything Mike should do about it. Since this magazine reaches
far more people than the discussion list, I would really like to gather some response from you, the Audyssey community, on the issue of Mainstream Games. I would like to get a better idea of where it stands and where I stand.
As you may already know, I virtually had nothing for the last issue. I really botched up that issue, and I would like to apologise for that, but I
have my reasons. As I've explained to Mike, working alone on mainstream Games is really straining and stressful, mentally and
emotionally (yes I said emotionally). Because I must search the Net for new games to preview and review, I tend to look past some possibly good games, and tend to spend less time with those games I really should be interested in more. I feel that what I do is causing this change in mood and opinions about games (and observation and not an excuse), and I feel really bad about
not being able to enjoy a good game the way I used to. I am feeling burned out concerning the coverage of mainstream games, so effective at the end of this message, I will be taking some time off from Audyssey, and won't be
back until the holiday issue of Audyssey. There is the stuff in this issue, but other than that, I'm taking it easy. I'm hoping this time off will give me a chance to re-light
the fires, for which my desire for gaming is fuelled, and with that, I am signing off until possibly December.
See you all later. I hope to receive more mail in the future, as it is the best way to find out about the people I serve.
As you can see, Mr. Peach has had a lot on his plate over the past while. With interactive fiction, Kelly and Justin make a fine pair of experts who can work together when there is a lot to cover. James, on the other hand, has hundreds of potential games to look at and nobody to help him do it. Since my father and I enjoy playing computer games, I can help him by writing reviews of games that we've found enjoyable. However, I've got the rest of this magazine, another magazine, three games I'm designing, a search for a full-time job which pays, and, startled gasp, a social life. Yes! It's true! I admit to spending only some of the time in front of my computer. With the growing number of completely accessible games to check out, those will get priority since they are accessible to more readers. One of the results of James's letter to the list was that we found a number of readers do not have anyone sighted to play with. This is unfortunate since a lot of good games are out there. I hope that by covering these mainstream games, I can help encourage people to seek out sighted friends and not live in isolation. I've been fortunate enough to find several friends, including the famous Adam Taylor, through my interest in games. This is critical especially for younger readers. I've always felt that games are an excellent means of learning about life and the reality we live in. They are also an excellent means of learning about ourselves and each other. I hope that more of you take advantage of Mr. Peach's gaming experience.
From Paul G Silva:
I have a few questions that I think might be helpful to the designers out there.
What settings have games thus far been built around? In a broad sense, this means scifi/fantasy/real world. but in a specific sense is what I am really getting at. People have played countless IF games built in dungeons, mazes, puzzle islands, and crashed space ships. A detailed listing of the places games have taken you would be immensely useful to me. What games brought you there? How enjoyable was the experience ( a few words should suffice)?
Now, what worlds have these games NOT brought you to? More importantly, where would you LIKE to be that games have not yet brought you? It might be a habit to quote all the genres that are visually accessible, but not accessible to you... however, I ask you to think more broadly.
Forget all the genres, all the styles of games you have played. Turn on your imagination, remember when you were young, if you could "play pretend" again, where would you pretend to be? Why?
I think that when people think about building something for a "disabled" group, they often forget something critical. Of course having little or no seeing ability puts someone at a disadvantage compared to the sighted. that is not new information. HOWEVER, what advantages do such
"disabled" people have? I have heard some of you talk of a sonar ability which is completely lacking in any sighted person I have ever talked to (a darn goodly number). What other abilities do the blind and visually impaired have that the sighted do not? how can these abilities
be harnessed for more enjoyable entertainment? If one just imagines correctly, things can fall into place.
Imagine a world where sound is the major door to the world, where light is not very useful. In such a world blind and VI people would suddenly not be considered disabled, but enabled. Imagine a game centred around such a world. What can you think of? In a far fetched way, I can think
of a world where a blind scientist has discovered a way to represent complex data using music. Blind and visually impaired persons from around the world become the most important interpreters of this music.
The devise could be a military coding program, a hacking virtual reality, or any number of non-violence oriented things. But there is a real world example that comes to mind. A sonar man. Think about it, if
you were trapped in a tin can hundreds of feet underwater, no light to see the enemy, only passive and active sonar... who would you want at the sonar desk?
I challenge everyone on this list to try and open their minds to such worlds. to find more, to explore them, and to share them with the community.
That certainly opens a large can of worms. I hope a lot of you will give this some serious thought, as I plan to over the next little while. There are bound to be lots of not so far-fetched worlds in which hearing is more paramount than seeing. What would interest me more would be advantages not so much physical as mental. Being as dependant on other senses than sight as we are, do we develop any different kinds of mental abilities or ways of thinking? I leave all this for the community to discuss.
A Turn at the Helm
By Michael Feir with contributions from discussion list
From a state of relative inactivity, the Audyssey discussion list sprang rapidly into action over the last two months. The primary catalyst for this was the joint development project started by Mr. Greenwood. Within a day of Audyssey's publication, initial discussions had begun concerning the many possibilities in game type, genre, and method of execution available. A little later, representatives from three new companies joined Phil Vlazak of PCS in an effort to gather ideas and participate in the exchange of ideas and opinions. James North of Esp Softworks has been very active on the list even as his company worked on a web-site and their dabiew release. Paul Silva from a newly formed company called Zform also made his presence and intellect known to list members with some interesting insights into puzzle design and ideas on environmental sound.
One of the most startling developments took place when I submitted an idea about the possibility of a sonic pinball game for blind people. John Morgaard, a musician and obviously gifted programmer from Denmark, used the discussion list to beta-test a prototype pinball game he had produced in an incredibly short time. This project is also on-going, and he expects to have a finished game in another two or three months.
Our old friend and long-time reader Kirstan Mooney is also a member of the growing discussion list. She was having trouble with Ancient Domains of Mystery. Her request for advice brought a rapid and knowledgeable response from list members. Prior to this, Francesco Bova's Jewel of Knowledge provoked an extensive exchange of information as people tried to solve this brand new piece of interactive fiction.
Below, I've taken a few samples of discussion from the list and put them here for all to see. I hope that more of you will join this list in the months ahead, and help us plot the course of what the future of blind-accessible games will be. As you can plainly see here, the developers are indeed listening and responding to the ideas and suggestions of readers. By joining in on this discussion list, you will play an active roll in the Audyssey community, and share the benefits of having frequent and close contact with the major developers of games for the blind. If any developers are out there and not already on the discussion list, I invite you to join us. Make us aware of what you're working on or have already done. Let us help you make your games even better.
I thought I would give you a status of the Doom-like game I am prototyping. Like most development projects, it's taking more time then I expected. As
well, it has been a great summer here and I am taking advantage of the weather while it lasts.
I have developed three types of movement aids and I am working on a fourth. The first method gives you a concise narrative description of the surroundings. Some examples of these are -
Example 1, The passage continues. This indicates there are no right or left turns available.
Example 2, The passage turns sharply to the right. This message is exactly as it sounds.
Example 3, There is a passage off to the right. This indicates that the passage continues as well as the passage turning to the right.
Example 4, The passage opens up to the right. This indicates that you are entering a room and you can go straight ahead, to the right, and 45 degrees
to the right.
The second method is a sonar type effect. You are given five beeps at different frequencies. The first sound refers to the distance directly to your left. The second beep refers to 45 degrees off to your left. The
third beep refers to the distance straight ahead. The fourth beep refers to the distance 45 degrees to your right, and the fifth beep refers to the distance directly to your right. These tones will also have five stereo
speaker positions. The frequency of the beep will lower as the distance increases. When the wall or object is close the difference in frequency is the greatest. For example, If a wall is immediately ahead of you the beep
will be played at the highest frequency. When the wall is ten feet ahead, the frequency is played at half. When the wall is 20 feet ahead, the sound is played at one-third the frequency of the closest position. What this
means is that it is easier to determine the difference between things being 10 and 20 feet ahead than it is to determine the difference between things
being 80 and 90 feet ahead. This took some time to come up with, but I think it works quite well. the frequency change pattern.
The third method just consists of five indicator beeps having either a high tone or a low tone. The five beeps refer to the same directions as in the previous method and they also have the stereo effect. These beeps do not
give any distance information, but they are much easier to understand. I actually used this method for awhile before I could move on and get a handle on the sonar effect in method 2.
The fourth method involves directional ambient sounds. My home-made sound drivers were not up to the challenge. I tried a couple of commercial packages and they had their problems as well. I am starting to think that I
might port this game, as it stands, to a Windows development package. The sound problems should not then be an issue.
I have tried several layouts of keys and I am thinking that it will be user definable. Currently, I am using the numeric keypad. The 4 key turns you
90 degrees to the left, the 7 key turns you 45 degrees to the left, the 8 key moves you forward, the 9 key turns you 45 degrees to the right, the 6 key turns you 90 degrees to the right, and the 5 key turns you 180 degrees.
When you press the Shift or control key with the seven or 9 key, your head and weapon turns 11 and a quarter degrees to the left or right. That is, your movement direction remains the same, but you can hear and shoot at finer directional increments. This seems to be working out quite well.
The monsters are roaming around just fine. I have given them a small amount of intelligence and they do chase me quite well. You can hear them coming from 32 different directions. This is taking some time to get accustomed
to, but I am getting better. When I change the directional granularity to 16 directions it is much easier to determine the direction, but then it takes away from the targeting portion of the game.
Anyway, this is how everything stands. I haven't thought much about puzzles yet, but I think I have built in all the hooks to implement them quite
easily. As usual, any comments are appreciated.
(Editor's note: Mr. Greenwood has subsequently made the decision to port everything over to the Windows environment and take advantage of the far more flexible and easy-to-use sound capabilities it offers. As things develop further in the months ahead, you'll find further updates in Audyssey.).
I have a pretty good ear but if I had to quickly discern chords, pitches, and volumes I'm afraid it would take away from the game. I would have to focus so much on the sound that other sounds, such as approaching or attacking monsters would be forgotten or missed completely which would make
the game close to impossible to play.
Just my opinion.
Well, Paul certainly brings up some interesting thoughts. About the musical puzzles...I enjoy music as much as the next person...but what is
musical wave theory? With puzzles in games it is my opinion that you have to stay as generic as possible and general as possible or else you risk having a puzzle whose solution may be unknown to many people simply the
solution is too specialized.
For example, I've always loved dinosaurs ever since I was a little boy. However, if a clue to a password was based on a little known fact about dinosaurs, the majority of the game players would not have a prayer in solving that particular puzzle and therefore could probably not finish the game...which makes the game useless.
I must apologize for lapsing into physics jargon about that wave theory stuff. Let me use an example to show what I mean.
For those of you familiar with symbolic logic, you know that it is a course taught at the college level (usually) and that is often considered difficult. I myself found the course to be a bit challenging at the sophomore level of University. HOWEVER, in the 80s a company designed a
graphical game that used the simple picture representations of the logical symbols (AND, OR, NOT, XOR, and the like) and described to the players (elementary aged children). In this game kids were asked to "build something that does THIS..." and they did. In fact they built logic circuits that college age students were having difficult times building.
My hope is that just as that game used the IDEA of logic (without much of the jargon) to make a game that taught kids logic. And they did very well at it. It is my belief that other things (such as wave theory) can be done the same way. If you express the waves as calculus then of course it will be too difficult, but if you represent the waves as
sound... anybody can hear constructive interference (something becoming louder) and destructive interference (becoming softer) even if they have never heard of constructive and destructive interference. The purpose
of physics is to make intuitive models that describe the world around us. These models have mathematical equations behind them that prove them correct (or mostly correct) and allow calculations to be made. But the
conceptualization of the model is what allows non-mathy people (such as myself) to "See" what the model is doing.
Paul G. Silva
The Latest Finds:
Winboard for JFW
Revised by Ed Rodriguez to be JFW compatible
Reviewed by Dave Sherman
Do you enjoy playing chess, but can't find anyone else interested in being your opponent? Have you been searching for a decent Quality computer chess simulator, which is accessible either via speech or Braille display?
Well wait no more! Winboard is here ...
As the name implies, this game runs under Windows. So the need to be constantly going to an MS DOS prompt is fading rapidly. (Which may be beneficial or detrimental, depending on your main operating system).
Let me start by describing the basic functionality of the chess board, and the movement of the pieces. Winboard is fully accessible merely with the active cursor, and several shortcut keystrokes. There's no more need to
be constantly jumping around the screen with your review cursor. There are two methods of moving pieces. You can use the generic algebraic notation which is assigned to most boards (i.e. - rows 1 through 8, and columns A through H). Or you can use the arrow keys to move from square to square. I particularly find this second method quite handy. As the active cursor is moved over a square, its row and column are announced; and if a piece is present on that square, its name and color is announced. If no piece is in a square, then the location is announced with the tag, "empty square".
To move a piece, place the active cursor over that square and press the spacebar. The piece name and color will be announced with the tag, "selected". You may then move the active cursor to any square on the board.
To drop a piece in its new location, simply press the spacebar again. If you have made a legal move, then it is the computers turn. If you have made an illegal move, you will be notified, and the piece placed back in its
There are a number of handy keyboard shortcuts to review every piece on the board, and to check for possible opponent attacks. There are shortcut keys to check: all pieces in any row, all pieces in any column, any pieces
along the upper diagonals from the highlighted square, any pieces along the lower diagonals from the highlighted square, all pieces on the board, who's turn it is, the last move made, and many others.
There are keyboard functions allowing you to review previous moves, back to the beginning of the game -- if you wish to do so. This review mode can easily be brought back to the current move by reversing direction, and stepping forward through the moves you have reviewed.
This is just touching the tip of the iceberg. Winboard is overflowing with options. You can play against the computer, or let the computer play against itself. There are multiple modes for viewing and reviewing moves.
If you're a novice, then you can learn chess strategy by reviewing computer vs. computer games (or by paying attention to the computers moves as it
swiftly places you into checkmate!) You can choose from a handful of *.wav files which are played as the pieces move around the board. Do you like playing against a timer? (I hate it -- just an editorial comment). Well,
you can adjust the time allowed for moves via a simple menu choice. When the game first installs, the timer is set for five minutes of movement time per player. If you like pressure, then that's fine; or you can move the timer back to 30 or 45 minutes (as I did).
This version of Winboard, revised by Mr. rodriguez, comes with the chess engine called GNUCHESS. The documentation states that Winboard is
merely an interface, and can be used with many different chess engines. I personally have not attempted to use any other engines. (I rather doubt that the speech would function as well as it does with this "package".)
For those of you who are serious chess fanatics, Winboard has a feature for using it on various ICS (Internet Chess Servers). Although I've never logged into one of these, they apparently are like chess chatrooms. Log in
... and find an opponent to challenge you.
There is extensive documentation explaining all the features of Winboard, and additional files explaining the keyboard shortcuts for using Winboard with JFW.
I find the fact that this game is accessible through Windows to be a big plus. Its functionality is superb. Mr. Rodriguez has revised the original package so it works with JFW. Since I have no other screen reader,
I was unable to test Winboard with other speech systems. Perhaps someone who owns any of the other competitors of JFW could download a copy and give a report on the Audyssey discussion list. I guess that is the main fault
that I have found with this version of Winboard. It appears to be contoured to work solely with JFW, which leaves those of you with other screen readers in check (so to speak).
This version of Winboard is freeware. I am aware of two locations where it can be downloaded from:
www.hj.com/jfw/winboard.html and at jfw.cjb.net, under the JFW friendly software link. Good luck in beating Winboard! I was a mighty opponent, when I was in high school (some 20 years ago). But Winboard has made me look like a serious amateur!
Game produced by PCS
Reviewed by Michael Feir
Take on the role of Arthur as he tries to find Excalibur and restore order to the kingdom. Travel over an extensive map of forest, road, river, field, cottage and castle in your search for the experience and equipment needed to be victorious.
This is by far the most ambitious game ever produced by PCS. The mapping routines alone are quite impressive. Four different forms of combat are used in the game. One of these even uses stereo sound. Several different options are available when viewing your surroundings. You can look for certain features, look at all that is visible to you, and more. Terrain items will block others from being seen. For instance, a castle may block a cottage behind it from view.
Truly a hack-and-slash style of game, Arthur's quest leaves a lot to be desired in terms of plot elements. You simply travel to various locations on the map and fight knights when they are encountered. Some strategy is present, as there are cottages and chapels to help you heal and rest. Also, your chances of combat increase as you near structures like castles.
Overall, I found that playing the game put me in mind of a cartoonish game called Dragon's Lair, or possible Dragon Slayer, which came out back in the mid eighty's in arcades. Rather than continuous action, this game featured a sort of adventure on a laser disk. At various points in that adventure, you had to move the joy stick or hit a button at the right time to get stuff done. Timing was crucial, as it is in Arthur's Quest. The combat systems are all timing-based, and you have to hit the right key at the right time to win or score a hit. The sword combat is a lot of fun for those with stereo sound capability. You can hear the swooshes coming from the left, right, or the centre, and must hit the appropriate arrow key to attack or block.
The sound for this game is done in a very tongue-in-cheek kind of way. Knights often have "evil" laughs which sound more comical than evil. This overboard style of sound representation is especially evident in the combat with whirling weapons like maces and war hammers. Rather than hitting a knight in armour, it sounds like you're smashing down some poor devil's house. The music in the game is taken right from the Superman movies. When noon arrives, you must either sit through or skip over twelve peels of a church bell. All these things combine to make the game seem like a cartoonist's sonic dream rather than a serious medieval quest. Originally, I was disappointed by this. However, it grows on you after a while. I now think that it gives the game a certain flavour rather than detracts from it.
An Interview with Francesco Bova
By Kelly Sapergia
If you've read my review of "The Jewel of Knowledge" in this
issue, you'll recall that I wasn't struck on any of the
experimental games. For awhile now, I've been looking for a true interactive story, and found one. Since there hasn't been much in the way of real interactive fiction lately, I thought it would be a great idea to personally interview the author of the game. Here then is my interview with the author of "The Jewel of Knowledge", Francesco Bova.
KS: First of all, I'd like to say that "The Jewel of Knowledge" was very enjoyable to play.
Could you tell us a little about yourself?
FB: I'm glad you enjoyed it Kelly. I'm a financial planner and career strategist from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (Aren't you from Saskatchewan? That makes us almost neighbours). I've also done a bit of consulting.
KS: What got you interested in text adventures?
FB: The first computer I bought was a Commodore 64 back in the early 80's. I bought it used, and it came with about 40 floppies or so. In that collection of 40 floppies I found the Zork trilogy and I was instantly hooked. The freedom that text adventures provided as opposed to graphics-based, point-and-click style games was really refreshing. I'm convinced that playing text adventures at such a young age helped to strengthen my problem solving abilities in school and helped me analyze problems through different paradigms as I was growing up. I didn't play many text adventures for about 10 years until I came upon the
Interactive Fiction Archive in the early 90's. The first game I played was Curses and I'm sure I've played over 100
games since then.
KS: What made you decide to write "The Jewel of Knowledge"?
FB: It's based loosely on a short story I wrote back in high
school and I've had the concept and the structure for the game kicking around in my head for a few years now. I had always wanted to write a piece of interactive fiction. One day in the summer of '98, I just turned on the computer and got down to business.
KS: How long did it take you to write the game? Was this your first time writing a text adventure?
FB: Including the beta-testing, it took me about a year to write and debug the game properly. This was my first text adventure, my first piece of creative fiction, and also the first time I'd ever programmed. The fact that some people seem to be enjoying the game is a testament to the fact that you don't need a computer science degree or a Masters in creative writing to produce decent interactive fiction. You do need diligence, perseverance, and an ability to handle criticism. Above all else, you can't cut
corners. During the beta-testing process I was spending about 15 hours a week fixing up grammatical problems, dealing with illogical plot concerns, etc. I found that no matter how small a bug was, if you wanted your game to be taken seriously, you had to address it.
KS: Did you design the game for visually impaired persons or for the general public?
FB: I didn't write it specifically for anyone although I had some feedback from a visually impaired player before I released the game. One of my beta-testers was visually impaired and he caught a whole slew of grammatical bugs (a lot of times, reading text doesn't have the same affect as hearing it I suppose) and he also identified some directional problems. In a few cases, I
"east-ed" when I should have "west-ed". He also solved the game in 2 days without any hints which I'm sure was some sort of record at the time.
KS: What do you think of the future of text adventures?
FB: It's certainly getting more experimental. There seems to be a real movement towards story-driven interactive fiction as opposed to puzzle-driven. An obvious example is the game "Photopia" by Adam Cadre, which scored huge critical acclaim after last year's competition. Like most everyone who played it, I thought it was expertly programmed, beautifully written, and extremely touching. The only problem I had with it was that the ending left me feeling slightly unsatisfied because it didn't take much to achieve it. It's great to play these story-based, beautifully scripted games,
but nothing will ever beat the feeling I had the day I won
Sorcerer (the 2nd game in the Enchanter trilogy) without using a single hint or walkthrough. I think we'll see a lot more Photopia-style games in this year's competition and in the years to come. However, there is still a huge demographic of players who continue to enjoy the traditional
adventure game where there are dangerous perils to be faced,
challenging puzzles to be solved, and fabulous treasures to be found. I got some really positive feedback from people who hadn't even played "Jewel" but were appreciative that there was a new traditional "text adventure" available to be played. I'm hoping we'll see more adventure games in the future.
KS: Are you planning on writing more games?
FB: Yes, I am. In fact it will probably take place in the land of Amylya (the same world that "Jewel" is set in), although the protagonist will most definitely be different. I'd like to make a trilogy based in Amylya with different themes and protagonists in each one. There will be one thing connecting all three games (outside of the societal connections of creating all three games in the same world). If you're interested, I've put a subtle hint in "Jewel" about the next 2 games. Try questioning the black dragon in "Jewel" about some of his conversation topics. One in particular will identify 2 other storylines.
Thank you, Francesco, for the interesting and enlightening
comments. Keep up the great work, and keep us posted on any new games you produce!
Free Game Winner
For his excellent review of Winboard, Dave Sherman has won this issue's free game from PCS. I hope that whatever he chooses, that Mr. Sherman will enjoy the game and share his opinions on it with us. Excellent review, David.
News From PCS
In conversations with Carl over the past months, he has explained that PCS is planning to start producing games which will work in Windows. Some of their older games are being converted over to the Windows platform. One of the earliest will be Packman. Others will follow fairly soon, and are already listed in some catalogues. It is unclear at present exactly when they will be ready to completely shift over to the Windows environment, and what effect this will have on the kinds of games produced. Rest assured that the development philosophy governing PCS's games has not changed. Carl's main concern is simplicity of use and enjoyability. At first, PCS produces games which introduce concepts to the market. Next, as we saw in Packman and now Arthur's Quest, these concepts are combined like building blocks to produce more challenging games. Other than Mr. Greenwood's three-pack of games due out shortly, it is unclear where PCS plans to go next. We'll all have to find out in time. More info will doubtless be in the Holiday issue due out at the end of November.
Personal Computer Systems
You are in medieval times. Your quest as Arthur is to find and recover Excalibur, then fight the Dark Lord with it, ridding the land of unrest and conflict. Before you can do all that, you must fight the knights that are under the influence of the evil lord. You Build your fighting skills with various types of weapons so that you will be
worthy of Excalibur and challenge the Dark Lord and banish him forever.
Below is a short story based on the text from an actual game.
your quest is to get to Ashford Castle.
you unroll your map and find it.
It is at location 34 x, 64 Y.
you are in the Forest and there is a road to your west with more forest to the east.
There is a Castle 1 block away, and it is to the north
west of your position. You look up at the sun and see that it is high noon.
You are at 29 X, 7 Y so you have very far to travel to fulfill your quest.
Time passes and you are hungry.
You ride off to the nearest cottage.
You are looking for food and rest but the place is empty.
You scout around and notice that there is forest to the west. There is another castle to the east.
There is one more cottage 3 blocks away to the south west of your position.
It is getting dark, you start to hear crickets as the sun sets. You arrive at the south west cottage and find that you can eat and rest there.
You sense danger from that mysterious castle.
You see a knight on horse back across the field.
Your challenger is the Scarlet knight.
He is riding a war horse and is in plate mail, armed with a heavy lance.
You are in chain mail, armed with a awl pike.
The two knights ride full speed towards each other and you strike a glancing hit!
The Scarlet knight also collides with a glancing blow!
You get knocked down!
You fall but you look fit.
The Scarlet knight also looks fit.
Your challenger is standing in front of you in plate mail armed with a long sword.
You are in chain mail armed with a short sword.
You let him swing first and block his jab to your body.
You counter with left and right swings.
The Scarlet knight falls to the ground!
After combat you are tired and banged up.
The Scarlet knight is knocked out laying on the ground.
You have a total of 354 experience points.
Just when you think it's over there is another to combat.
Your challenger is the black knight.
He is on foot, in chain mail armed with a cross bow.
You are in chain mail armed with a war bow.
He shoots first... Miss!
You wait until he gets closer before you fire... Your arrow hits! He doesn't appear to be seriously wounded and gets off another shot... Miss!
You look fit.
The black knight looks fit also.
Since he is challenging you, you can choose your weapon.
You have four choices:
Fighting on horseback in a joust with a lance,
fighting on foot with a striking weapon such as a sword,
fighting with an aiming weapon such as a bow and arrow,
or fighting with a whirling weapon such as a mace.
Your challenger is still the Black knight.
He is on foot, in plate mail armed with a mace.
You are in chain mail armed with a mace.
You swing first and miss.
The Black knight swings and hits you with a damaging shot!
You counter with a damaging shot!
The knight hits you with another damaging shot!
You recover with your own damaging shot!
The knight is off a little but lands a good shot!
You get in another damaging shot!
The Black knight is staggered, swings and misses you.
You hit him again with a damaging shot!
The knight misses again.
You are on target with a damaging shot!
The knight barely nicks you with a glancing shot!
You return his effort with a damaging shot!
The Black knight gets in a good shot!
The Black knight staggers and falls down
You fall down also.
After combat you are knocked out laying on the ground.
The Black knight is also knocked out laying on the ground.
You wake up and go off before the Knight awakens.
You have a total of 365 experience points.
As Arthur you travel through out the land. We use the
exterior map movement similar to that in the Fox and Hounds game. There are two mapping routines to assist you. One is an overall mapping view. It will display the entire map, or a one ninth area, and it will give the make up of the terrain. You can also search for particular terrain types. The viewing mode is the other mapping routine. It will let you know what is with in your visibility. Here you may search for the nearest terrain type in
each of the eight directions. While you move around the map
objects will appear when they come with in view, disappear when visibility is blocked by a closer object and reappear when it is no longer hidden. We have tried to make the mapping routines be as descriptive as possible. For example when there is a river or road, the computer will tell you that a specific number of East West river blocks are on the map or with in your visibility.
There are four types of combat which are used throughout the game. Jousting with a lance, aiming a bow, whirling a mace and swinging a sword are four types of weapon skills you will need. So hone up your hand and ear dexterity and find out if you are the one the world has been waiting for!
Arthur's Quest, is a Personal Computer Systems game and costs $30.
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]
An Alternative to Monopoly
By James Peach
Since the mid 1980's, Bill Gates and his Microsoft Corp. have been running the world's computers, with it's DOS and Windows operating systems. Though the first few tries were unsuccessful, the kinks were worked out, and Windows 3.0 and subsequent versions (WIndows95/98/NT/2000 etceteras) have
been running the world since. Many have tried to create their own Windows-like OS (OS/2 Warp is an example), but with limited success, leaving the door open for the mega-monopoly that Microsoft is today. It would have stayed this way, if it weren't for the Internet, and an up and coming new OS called Linux, named after it's creator, Linus Torvalds. Linux was first started at the University of Helsinki, by a student,
Linus Torvalds, as a response to the desire to own a copy of Unix, without paying the high prices for such a copy. It was released to the Internet shortly after, under the General Public License (GPL), allowing anyone to
work on the source code, thus improving and updating Linux. Because of this, Linux is the most stable, robust, and up-to-date OS anywhere.
Linux itself, is a client/server operating system (client meaning terminals or workstations connected to the network, and server meaning the computer that is used to manage and control the network). It is a text-based, Unix-like
OS, which if you aren't familiar with Unix, is similar to DOS, in that it is text-based, and similar to WindowsNT, in that it can multitask (run many programs at once), use new technology, and is very powerful (has many capabilities and options over other OS's). It however, is neither of these,
and requires neither of these to run. Linux runs the way DOS would run, without any assistance from any other OS.
There are many advantages that Linux has over DOS, such as the ability to run many operations at once (multitask), the ability to use more than eight characters for document, folder and file names, and the ability to string single commands together using a semicolon. There may be many more
features, interesting to find and handy to use, but this will take some time, and will be covered in subsequent articles.
You may be wondering, "So what? DOS is enough for me, and besides, it is complicated enough as it is without giving me more things to worry about,"
which in truth is correct. If you have serious problems getting your head about DOS, then Linux would probably be very stifling to work with and try to understand. Here in lies the problem of why Linux has not been as widespread and as popular in the consumer PC market (Windows was Microsoft's solution to the DOS headaches of the people). This also became a problem for those using Linux, as it is vastly more complex than DOS could ever hope
to be, so XWindows was created (the only similarity is that MS Windows and XWINDOWS have the word "Windows" in it, the similarities thin to nothing at about this point).
XWindows, is a GUI (graphical user interface), making the use of Linux, the running of applications, and the performing of commands a lot simpler, the way that Windows did/does for DOS. It uses a menu system to launch
programs, and a mouse to click on icons that can represent a whole variety of things. Now this may cause some fright, as it may seem to spell the end of the Linux that I just talked about, right? Not at all. Yes, like MS Windows, more and more programs are being developed to run under it, but
there are still many programs that are being used, and continuing to be developed and updated, that can run under text-based or "native" Linux.
This may all sound very confusing at first, so I'm hoping that the articles that I submit in the future, pertaining to Linux, will help to clear the air
and educate the public. At the moment, it may seem like I am simply publishing this article in Audyssey to share my interest and curiosity, about Linux, with you the community; this is partially true, but by no means the initial intent. I have been thinking about Linux as an alternative to
DOS and Windows,, for usability, accessibility, and for gaming (can't forget that now can we?).
As a text-based system, like DOS, that is powerful and stable, better than Windows, it might make for a good switch, especially for those who are
becoming worried that computer upgrading will mean using Windows, and the very expensive screen readers that work with it (all depending, Linux itself isn't really that expensive buy, and is free to download, legally). For the
moment, Screader and emacspeak are the best text-based screen readers around (free to download), but unfortunately a screen reader that will work under XWindows does not exist that I have found so far. Accessibility aside, it seems likely that games will be accessible under
Linux. For both Native Linux and XWindows, games are being developed, some actually rather mainstream and initially created to run under Linux, and thanks to DOSemu (a DOS emulator that runs under Linux) you could even play
your fave DOS games (in theory anyway). At the moment, this is purely hype, but given time, more information will be articled in Audyssey for your interest.
On Virtue and Vice
By Carl Mickla from P C S
Recently a heated discussion broke out between two computer
gamers. The point of difference between the two was if a player changes data files of a computer game when the designer did not make any provisions to do so, is it cheating or being clever?
Player 1 feels that if the game takes more time to play than they would like to spend on it, there is nothing wrong with manipulating files to quicken play. The manipulations may range from saving backups of your stats in case of death and not having to start from the beginning, to changing data files to decrease the chance of dying.
Player 2 believes the designer should know if the game is
going to be overly difficult, and will build in short cuts and backing up if it warrants it. Player 2 also states they get a great deal of accomplishment when a game is completed without using hints, and winning with outside help is not as enjoyable.
Player 1 says Any one who plays a game which lasts for hundreds or thousands of hours is a fanatic and does nothing more with their life than play the game! Player 2 feels that it is not how fast or how many games a
player plays. It is the quality play, with a quality game, which matters most.
Phil and I placed a survey on the list proposing eight
questions of cheating and manipulating play. I have also talked to several people and proposed the same arguments. The survey, the results and my observations are listed at the end of the article.
Following are my beliefs and thoughts before analyzing the survey.
I would be willing to bet that the people who use cheats will peak at their gifts before it is time to open them. I myself am a purest. playing to me is a challenge and an evaluation. Most of all I like playing war games which depict pass battles. I like to see how my strategy would have fared against the historical result. One problem here is if I have played or studied the battle it is
unlikely for me to make the same mistakes which were made at the time. So, I might play with hindsight but I get more gratification when I play the non-historical scenarios.
If I feel that a game is made unfairly too difficult or
impossible to win by the programmer, in the trash or up to the attic it goes. I don't have much time to play so, I only buy titles that come highly recommended or from companies which I trust, or I might buy one if it really sounds good. It is not the price but the playability which means more to me. Actually this is
why I guess the price doesn't matter to me. It takes me a very long time to complete a game. this allows me to play many of them well after they have been evaluated by others. I very rarely get to buy first release software.
There is nothing more enjoyable to me while playing than when I've finished a very difficult campaign and have come out on top. The only thing which is a downer at this time is it is over! It is like reading a great trilogy and coming to the end. There is just a large void left to fill with the next story or challenge. About being a fanatic, in my heavy gaming days I worked fifty to sixty hours a week, fished on many weekends, read a book a week, had a social life and budgeted my computer time. It took
six to twelve months for a friend and I to complete a contest but it was all fun and quality play. When you spend that much time in a contest the characters or military units mean more to you. You're not likely to quickly sacrifice them, especially after spending time and effort to build them up or nurse them along. If you lose
one of these it can feel disheartening. I have conversed with my gaming partner and we have occasionally talked about things going on with the game, characters and military units while downing a few beers at our favored watering hole. When other people overheard us, they thought they really existed in the real world. Playing over a long time gave us strategy and problems to work on in our spare
time when ever we wanted to, keeping us out of trouble.
Here is the survey and the results. T stands for tainted and C is for clever.
Here are a few questions for serious game players from P C S.
1. A computer game is designed to be played with out backing up the player's stats. The player loses all their stats when killed. If the player saves their stats in another directory to preserve them, so if they are killed and recover the older stats, is the player's success tainted or is the player smart to do this?
2. If a player manipulates data files so they can adjust their performance in a game. Is the player being smart or tainting their play?
3. If the rules don't state that an action can be performed is it legal to allow the player that action?
4. If the player performs actions which will manipulate the game from outside the scope of the game, is that player's activity wrong or clever?
5. If a player wins a game in any other way then the designer meant, is the player's win smart or tainted?
6. What matters more?
A. How the game is played.
B. win anyway possible.
7. Is it OK to cheat as long as no one finds out?
8. Is cheating justified if the game is difficult to win?
Thank you for replying to our survey.
There were quite a few comments which were put forward to
justify both answers. I think in many cases most players have played games that the programmer has made unreasonably hard. To me, this means the designer is cheating and creates an atmosphere in which the player feels justified to be dishonest. If the programmer designs a game that is very difficult then there should be some modifications that the player could make to adjust their play.
Many people believe that cheating while playing a computer
game is fine, as long as no one is playing against them. One theme repeated a few times was, games are for one's enjoyment and any way they have fun playing it is OK.
I was surprised to see how many people don't find any thing
wrong with cheating, while playing computer games. Are they made too long or difficult for many people to complete? Maybe there is something wrong with the concepts of computer programmers designs to cause this attitude. Perhaps many of us just would like to cheat any way. I would like to see a more in depth survey on this subject. One question that should have been asked was, do you consider yourself a person who plays games on the computer or a
gamer using the computer to play games?
What do you think?
Let's hear from you!
"THE JEWEL OF KNOWLEDGE"
Game by Francesco Bova
Reviewed by Kelly John Sapergia
Lately, I've been noticing that there haven't been many GOOD
IF games, with the exception of some short games for
mini-competitions. A lot of the games I've seen on the IF-ARCHIVE
have been demos of different libraries for TADS and Inform, which
I didn't find exciting. That's why I became interested when I
read a message on the newsgroup rec.games.int-fiction about a new
game called "The Jewel of Knowledge: A Traditional Interactive
Crawl". I downloaded the game, and became hooked immediately!
In this game, you and your friend, Jacob, are trying to search
for the mysterious jewel of knowledge. It is said that whoever
has this jewel will possess more knowledge than anyone else.
However, to find the jewel, you must try to find the entrance to
the Sixth Layer of the underground (you start at Level Five), and
deal with three dragons that guard the jewel.
This game has some tragic moments, which I won't discuss here,
because I don't want to spoil the game. Also, when you start the
game, if you move around, you'll probably think that you're in a
maze. Don't worry, there is a way out of it, but I won't tell you
that either. When you do eventually figure out how to get out of
the Fifth Level of the Underground, you can then begin to search
for the jewel.
This game is what I like to call an interactive novel. The
storyline is great, and the characters are well-developed as
well. Personally, when I got to the end of this game, I found the
ending to be both surprising but satisfying.
One thing I didn't like about this game when I first started
playing it were the puzzles. Their solutions weren't that obvious
to me at first, but when I played the game after completing it
for the first time, the puzzles made sense.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I'm giving this game a rating of 10.
The game is probably geared towards advanced players, but I think
it's the best game I've played this year. I highly recommend
it for those of you who like traditional text adventures.
If you're like me, you won't be disappointed.
This game can be found on the Interactive Fiction site at:
ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/zcode/jewel.z5. You'll need an Inform
interpreter to play this game. My favorite interpreter is "DOS
Frotz". If you need the walkthrough, look in the Solutions
directory, but only use it as a last resort!
Betrayal at Krondor
Developed by Dynamix
Distributed by Sierra
Reviewed by: James Peach
Betrayal at Krondor, released in 1995, is an RPG/strategy game set in the world of Raymond Fiest's Rift War novels, though you need not have any knowledge of him or his novel in order to play and understand BAK. As with
other RPGs, you will encounter other characters, visit towns and cities, discover ancient ruins, and uncover a detailed web of plots and subplots as you explore the world around you. In my honest opinion, this is one of the
greatest freeware RPGs of all time, aside from interactive fiction (which is akin to role playing games). Ever since I found out about Betrayal at Krondor (which I refer to also as simply Krondor or BAK throughout the review), from Mike, my charismatic editor, I had wanted to get a copy of it. When I had receive my current Internet freedom, I knew I needed to go out on the Net and get Krondor.
Once I had gone off-line, and unzipped the 10 meg file into my Games directory that evening, I began playing, and I was hooked. From someone who doesn't play many RPGs (mostly because the one's I wanted to play where already beaten ten times over by my super talented gaming friends; discouraging), I felt that this game was very open, easy to use, and fun to keep playing. Unlike newer real-time RPGs, like Might and Magic VI, there is little or no possibility of being attacked, out in the countryside, by just standing still (not that Might and Magic VI is bad, just more real-time). This game is based around a chapter system, with each chapter acting like a game within a game. With so many things changing or developing from one chapter to the next, in my opinion, it would take my very talented RPG-playing friends weeks, if not months, to finish Krondor.
One thing I have to stress is the addictive qualities of Krondor. If you have ever experienced a game that you want to play for hours, and only want to stop for food, sleep and bathroom, then you know where I'm coming from.
There's little chance of wandering through desserts or countryside for weeks (in game time) in this game, as there is usually someone to meet, some place to explore, some town or city to visit, just around the next corner. This
could keep you wanting to go just a little bit further, wanting to see something new, something around the next bend or over the next rise. At nearly every opportunity I could grab to play BAK, I was found saying things like; "time to go back on the Krondor,", "Need a few more pints of
Krondor,", "Ah, sweet Krondor,", and, "I can stop playing Krondor anytime I want (to myself), I just need to take it in smaller, two-hour amounts that's all,"; it's a lot safer than alcohol, but I wonder about its side effects.
Another thing that can really make or break an RPG, is it's prose, and I must say that the prose found in BAK is excellent; Fiest really out-did himself with the prose in this title. Since all good RPGs are rooted in a
good storyline, it is very important to get it right; with a novelist such as Raymond Fiest writing the prose, it should be hard to go wrong. Though the story in this game is very detailed and involving, it, like many RPGs, is very open. You don't have to go through a strict, linear sequence
of events to continue or expand the plot(s); you can explore a lot before moving on to the next chapter.
For those of the blind gaming community, the music and sound effects are more important than other things, and with Krondor, there is little disappointment here; the freeware version's MIDI music is good, but the CD audio (CDA) is even better, with at least 62 tracks of music (about 65
minutes long). The game music especially (though not MP3, is still good MIDI for the time the game was released in) helps to further develop the mood of the game, as it activates whenever you enter an inhabited building,
and changes when the environment changes or when something important to the overall plot occurs. The game sound, which includes the occasional chirping of a bird or the creaking of an opening door, help push the realism of the
playing environment, and the combat sounds, or clanking swords and casting spells, just plain make sense. There's no doubt that without the music and sound effects, Krondor would be missing something very important, something
that makes playing a game less of a reading exercise, less of a mindless travel from point A to point B.
The only damper in the whole experience, was the recycling of story monologue, and graphics (graphics shouldn't concern most of you, so don't worry about them). For example, when you happen to encounter a tavern, and choose to go inside, you may find a mercenary sitting at the table, who happens to have the same description and dialogue as all the others. This is also the case with the example of the "blubber drunk", and in the use of graphics for houses, temples, taverns, shops, etc. Also the use of text cycling (same as
recycling, but uses two or three different descriptions or dialogues which are cycled randomly), as well as recycling, an annoyance I have with the game, can both make the game boring, as you encounter the same stuff over and over again. Please understand that this is based on today's standards
for game creation, since when a game is created, there is greater use of and attention to detail than ever before, even though cutting corners to save money and time still goes on.
On a similar note, I think that it is good of them to cut corners in this way. I understand that when experimenting with something new (some of the concepts used in the game and not the concept of RPG'S themselves), taking
shortcuts can create it's own benefits. They can get the game completed in less time, using less disk space (which back then was a problem), and they can focus attention and playing time on the important parts of the game,
instead of on the mercenary whom probably doesn't really matter concerning the plot(s), all by cutting corners. Even though, by today's standards, Krondor may seem cheap because of this reusing of material and graphics, but
since this is still a very small part of a very large game, it is not really worth worrying about.
As you may have noticed, I haven't given much background detail about the game as I usually do. This is because if I did give you more than what I have, I would be tempted to tell you more than what I intend, and that would
spoil the fun and discovery of an RPG experience. I believe that Krondor is one of the timeless gaming gems of the Internet, of which I feel it worth anyone's while to at least take a look at. The game is a beautifully crafted package of sights, sounds, characters and story, and I feel proud to give this game a perfect 10 rating; I am completely satisfied with Krondor, even with the cycling and recycling, because it's so isolated throughout the game, it doesn't really matter. Please make it a TO-DO to get this game. It can be found at either www.download.com or www.sierra.com, or
purchased at any computer outlet that sells it or can get it. If you are having problems playing Krondor, the game comes with a BAKTS.TXT or BAKTS.WRI file, which has some troubleshooting info. If you are stuck in the game, and you're desperate for help, search the Internet, using the
search words , "Betrayal at Krondor", and most certainly, you'll get the Help Web site, which has an obscure, hard to remember URL. Enjoy the adventure that is role play gaming!
The Future of Blind Computer Gaming
By David Greenwood
It is interesting, and sometime disturbing, to watch how the computer games world has changed over the last ten to fifteen years. In the past the only games that were available to us were written for the visually able, which
was fine when many games were text based. But now, for the most part, the current batch of commercial games which are arriving at our corner computer stores are totally inaccessible. They come with a big sound, great theme, interesting plot, but they are primarily visually oriented. Unless you have a sighted gaming partner, you're out of luck. Except for current text based interactive fiction, we are being left out of the main stream gaming market.
And I think I am being generous in including interactive fiction in this category.
There is a small handful of people and businesses which are developing games for the visually impaired, but to date, these programs have been using five to ten year old technology. We can not totally blame the developers. Many
blind computer gamers are using DOS and older computers, and it stands to reason that game developers want to include as many potential game users as possible. But the demand is changing. Many younger and new computer users are entering the market and they are arriving with up-to-the-minute technology and with only limited access to DOS.
I don't think I need my crystal ball to come up with the following. I expect that over the next two years, the majority of the games written for the blind will be written for Windows, and will begin using true 2D and 3D
sound. With the popularity of the Sound Blaster 128 and 512 cards and the power of the new machines, I am sure we will see some interesting games arriving.
I believe that the use of directional sound will make the biggest inroads into this area. This will open up many opportunities for simulation and live action games. Let me give you an example of how one of these games may
I will use the ubiquitous racing car game as our example. You are at the starting line. You can just barely hear the sounds of the crowds in stereo over the sound of your engine. You have set your gear shift to neutral while
you rev up your engines. The start flag sounds and you quickly shift into first gear. You put your foot to the gas and you listen to the sound of the engine to ensure you don't "red line" it. As the sound of the engine reaches the optimum, you shift up to second gear. The engine abruptly
lowers in frequency and you continue to apply gas. You again listen to the frequency and shift at the optimal point. You have set your heads-up sound beacon to 200 yards in front of your car. This sound beacon remains centred in your current lane, a preset distance in front of you. You can vary this distance depending on your reaction time and comfort level. When the beacon starts moving to the right, you know that the road is starting to turn to the right and you must adjust your direction accordingly. Suddenly,
you hear that your right tires are on the rough shoulder of the track. You must adjust the direction slightly to the left to ensure you stay on the road. You now notice that the beacon is directly ahead of you. From the direction of the beacon, you know that the track is straight for the next
little while. You also hear a car ahead of you and slightly to the left. You give the car a little more gas and you hear yourself passing the car from the right. Now, the same car decides to try to pass you. You hear the sound of his engine behind you and to the right. You quickly steer your car to the right in attempt to block him, but he anticipates your move and steers into the lane directly to the left of you. You can tell by the volume of his engine that he is too close, but try to block him anyway. Unfortunately, the game ends in a fiery roar and you are once more at the
In this example, there are several sounds being transmitted to you at any one time. You have your background sounds which are optional and can be turned off. You have the continuous sound of your directional beacon that
you use for steering. As well, the sound of your engine will inform you whether you are in the correct gear. You will constantly hear the sound of your tires hitting the shoulder of the track if you are going too fast and
having a hard time staying on the road. You will hopefully adjust your speed accordingly. You hear other cars ahead or behind you, and to the left and right. From these sounds you can get a general idea of the speed of
your competition. You will also have the opportunity to pass or stop someone from passing. Each sound will be in 2D or 3D sound, which optimally, gives you the feeling that you are in the middle of the action, in addition to the multi-dimensional information it provides. A set of
headphones would be beneficial in a game like this.
There seems to be a lot happening at one time in this game, and there is! If this game were to be developed, you would have the opportunity of practising on an empty straight track. This could be described as being on
the Salt Flats. You might then progress to a large oval track, and then to a competition track with other racers.
This example shows how natural sounds can be combined with accessibility sounds, such as the directional beacon. It would be hard to imagine a game that would work well only using natural ambient sounds, but I'm sure it's possible.
In the Audyssey mail list we have discussed some of these ideas and the following example is similar to a not-yet-developed game we have discussed. This example comes close to a game which may not need accessibility sounds nor a text narrative.
You are walking through the passages in a long deserted castle. You are only armed with a sling with which you are quite proficient. The tunnels are pitch black and you don't have any light source. As you walk through the passage, you hear the sound of the wind as you pass open doorways and diverging passages. There is a low wind sound constantly blowing from ahead of you. You hear a passage directly to your left and you turn that way. Suddenly, ahead and slightly to the right you hear the roar of some creature. You turn slightly to the right and fire your sling. The creature continues to roar, but closer now, and you adjust your direction and use your sling again. The creature cries out in pain, but then continues to roar. It is even closer now. After a few more exchanges, you turn and run.
In this example, I have used the device of a non-visible world to simplify the story. It might be more interesting to have props and such to add a little colour to the game. Here we use sound exclusively to move and fight monsters. The directional sounds of the wind as it blows from in front of you and from either side helps you navigate the tunnels. You can fight the monsters by using the directional sounds coming from them. You can tell you have scored on the monster either by the cries from the monster or by the
sound of the projectile or weapon hitting the monster. You can tell if the monster has scored on you by your character's screams.
I hope these two examples gave you a window to my vision of the future of blind computer gaming. There are so many other types of games , such as board and logic games, which will require other approaches to make them more interesting and easier to use. I certainly do not want to imply that I hold the monopoly on this vision. As you will see in the near future, there will be as many approaches as there will be developers, and the winner will be you!
I can be reached in three ways. The easiest is through CompuServe.
My e-mail address is as follows:
You can also call me via telephone. I have voicemail, so you can
leave a message if you fail to catch me at home and off-line. I'll
do my best to return calls, but won't accept collect calls. My
number is as follows:
Alternatively, you may correspond with me on 3.5-inch disks,
provided you be sure to send them in returnable disk-mailers. I
don't have the money to pay for postage. My mailing address is:
5787 Montevideo Road
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Postal code: L5N 2L5
I have acquired a copy of UUencode and UUdecode for DOS,
so you may send files to me via this means. Also, thanks to a
reader named Frank Haslam, I have acquired a copy of something
called Netsend. this is a program written and encoded so that it
can be sent as a standard e-mail, but once it is cut from the rest
of the message text, it can be run as an executable file. You will
then have all you need to send and receive files over E-mail. this
should go a long way to making sharing of files easier. thanks a
Adam Taylor, star of Adam, The Immortal Gamer, and our resident
ADOM guru, can be reached three ways. You can send him e-mail at:
Or, you can check out his homepage on the web:
His page is dedicated to providing help, cheats and solutions to
many games. Send him a request, and he'll do his best to find what
you need. He also has sections on ADOM and Nethack available. And,
you can download the magazine from his page.
Finally, if you wish to contact him at home, his address is: 3082
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:
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
Kelly Sapergia 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: