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Audyssey;
Computer Games Accessible to the Blind
Issue 20 : November/December, 1999
Edited by Michael Feir

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Welcome


Welcome to the  twentieth issue of Audyssey. This magazine is dedicated to the discussion of computer games which, through accident or design, are accessible to the blind. As the size of this issue probably indicated to you already, not to mention its timing, this is the holiday issue for 1999. Our third special holiday issue is packed with exciting developments in the gaming world including some excellent gift ideas for the cybernetic fun-lovers on your list. Those looking for excitement in the Windows environment won't be disappointed with Personal Computer Systems Inc. They've converted five of their games to be Windows-friendly and accessible without a screen-reader. We also have coverage of the 1999 IF competition completed recently. James Peach offers several game previews among other things about mainstream games. Also, ESP Softworks has appeared on-line with a vengeance. Details on their web-site as well as their first product release can be found in this issue. Also, we have a new staff member. Randy Hammer has joined James Peach in investigating mainstream games and commercial games produced for the blind. His first review can be found in the Game Reviews section, and some biographical information can be found elsewhere in the issue.

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 bi-monthly 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. Thanks to ESP Softworks, there is once again a distribution list for those who want to receive Audyssey via E-mail. To subscribe to the distribution list so that you receive all future
issues, the direct Url to the subscription form is:
http://216.103.87.194/forms/maillist_to.asp
You may also refer a friend and pass onto them the current issue as well as an introduction e-mail explaining the magazine in detail.  Then, if they wish to subscribe they
will be referred to this form.  The form is available from the Audyssey Magazine section of the ESP Softworks web-site. To get there directly, go to:
http://www.espsoftworks.com/textonly/audyssey/audyssey.html
The Audyssey section also contains all back-issues of Audyssey if you want to get caught up with events.

Travis Siegel has set up a list to facilitate discussions among
readers between issues. Anyone participating in the discussion list will have issues of Audyssey automatically sent to them via E-mail. Representatives from all major developers of games for the blind are actively participating on the list. All staff members of Audyssey are also participating. If you want an active role in shaping the future of accessible games, this is where you can dive right in. To subscribe to this discussion list, send a message to:
[email protected]
with "subscribe Audyssey" in the body of the message. To post to the discussion list, send your messages to:
[email protected]

You can find all issues of Audyssey on the Internet on Paul
Henrichsen's web site at:
www.thesocket.com/~henrich
If you have web access, Audyssey now has an official web-page, maintained by Igor Gueths at:
www.concentric.net/~igueths
Besides having all issues of Audyssey available for down-load, six megabytes of storage space are available for popular games.

Another source for back-issues of Audyssey and accessible games is provided by Kelly Sapergia. He was our first interactive fiction expert, and has put his Internet skills and resources to splendid use for the magazine. Visit his site at:
http://listen.to/ksapergia

If you have ftp access, all issues are also available at Travis Siegel's ftp site:
ftp://ftp.softcon.com
Look in the /magazines directory.

Those wanting to subscribe that can't use ESP Softworks's web-site may send an E-mail to:
[email protected]
Include the word "subscribe" in the body of the message. You will then receive all future issues of Audyssey as they are published, and may also be updated more frequently with ongoing developments.

For those of you who have trouble finding some of the software discussed in this magazine, or if you know someone who doesn't have access to the Internet, but would be interested in the magazine, this magazine is now available on disk. PCS has agreed to distribute Audyssey, as well as selected shareware or freeware software on disk for ten dollars US per year. To subscribe to Audyssey on disk, contact them at:
Personal Computer Systems
551 Compton Ave.
Perth Amboy N.J.
08861
Phone (732)-826-1917
E-mail: [email protected]

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Contents:
Welcome
Contents
From The Editor
Letters
DOS and DOS Gamers
Striking A Blow For Audyssey
News From ESP Softworks
News From PCS
News From Zform
The Latest Finds
Free Game Winner
Bringing Down The Wall
Adam: The Immortal Gamer
The Great Gammon Hunt
Competition coverage!
Game Reviews
Year 2000: Who's In The Way?
The Heat is On: Commercialising Linux
Contacting Us
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From The Editor:

Well, folks: You're really in for a treat this time. This issue is full of excellent news for gamers looking to spend time with their loved ones and zeros over the holidays. The first crop of Windows games are now starting to arrive at long last. Also, efforts are underway to make Winfrotz and Wintads more accessible for fans of interactive fiction who want to play it in Windows. Kevin Huber at MSC has been working on scripts for the interactive fiction interpreters, and will soon release them to the public. While not quite up to Dos access standards, Kevin's work makes it a lot less cumbersome to play our favorite text adventures in Windows.

Just to cap off the century for us, we have ourselves a new staff member. Randy Hammer is now on the team. He'll be helping James Peach look at mainstream and commercial games.

Events have necessitated a couple of changes to this publication. First of all, the "Letters" section will regularly feature material recovered from the Audyssey discussion list. This will give readers who cannot participate a means of keeping up with developments. I hope it also encourages more of you to join this exciting discussion list and help shape the future of accessible games. Also, the "Latest Finds" section will no longer include material related to the companies developing games specifically for the blind. For that information, please consult the "News From" sections. Each company has its own permanent place in Audyssey to bring us all up to speed on what they're doing and what is available. I hope all of you find these arrangements to be improvements.

Things are finally looking brighter for Audyssey on the whole. More and more people are joining the discussion list and becoming active members of the Audyssey community. Also, people regularly seem to find Audyssey on the Internet. Daniel Row is one such person. This young fellow hails from England, and is diving right into the world of games. Welcome aboard, Daniel. Perhapse, you may be able to hook up with Jack Goodfellow also from the UK. Another interesting newcomer is Norma. She is into less commonly found kinds of games such as board and card games. She started quite a lot of interesting discussion which ranged over everything from virtual vision to simulation ideas.

One of the most exciting events was also directly attributeable to folks on the discussion list. Mr. Greenwood has unvailed an early prototype of a Doom-like action game for the blind. This prototype is available for all to download as you'll see when you read news from ESP Softworks. Once again, he's managed to prove what most would have thought currently impossible to be completely within our grasp. He eagerly awaits fresh input on what to do next with Shades of Doom.

For fans of Ancient Domains of Mystery, the rumour is that a new version may be released over the holidays at some point. Keep your ears peeled. Also, be on the look-out for post-competition releases of interactive fiction. One game which has just appeared is called Ballerina. It puts you in a shopping mall searching for a rare gift for your daughter. Puzzles lurk around every corner, but hints are always available for stranded players. You'll need a Zcode interpreter like Winfrotz to play this game.

Well, I guess that's about it for now. I hope everyone finds this issue enjoyable, and hope to make Audyssey even better in the new century. Happy gaming, everyone.

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Letters:

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From David Greenwood


Hi, everyone.

Trek99 will certainly be released as a 32 bit Windows application, but I can't give you a date.  I have almost completed the port of Lone Wolf to Windows and it was a much bigger job than I thought it was going to be.   I
have three things on my plate I need to complete before I would consider the move. Namely, finish the port of Lone Wolf and add some requested enhancements, continue moving forward with the Shades of Doom prototype, and make some more headway on my 3D fighter simulation.

Trek99 would certainly benefit from the port to Windows, but since it is a move based game where sound is aesthetic rather than informational, I see it as a lower priority.  For example, in the not yet released version of Lone Wolf, I played several missions with the text turned off and I was successful in all of them.  I did this as an exercise to determine what sounds might provide the Gamer with the maximum amount of information. However, I don't believe that anyone who is not totally familiar with the game would be as successful, well, at least not with this incarnation.

By the way, if you have any suggestions for enhancements to Trek99, I would appreciate hearing from you.

Regards,
David Greenwood.
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Originally posted as a response to an inquiry from a member of the Audyssey discussion list, I have reproduced this letter as a handy means of bringing everyone up to speed on what is going through the mind of one of our star developers. As you can see, he certainly likes to keep his hands full. Those who get a chance to try out his prototype Shades of Doom game may wish to pitch into this collective process he has started by answering some or all of the questions he recently posed to the list in the following letter:
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From David Greenwood:

Hi Gamers,

As you have heard by now, the prototype, with the temporary working name of Shades of Doom Version P0.1, is now available for download.

This prototype should not be confused with anything resembling a finished commercial game.

For those of you who are wondering what this is all about and have arrived on the list since July, know that the list members are putting our heads together to build an accessible real-time sound-based game.  In addition, I hope the intention is to push the envelope and make everything we learn in this process generally available to other game developers.

What we need from you are your comments on many elements of the prototype. The first thing I would like to say is ignore the bugs, or if you like, report them to me privately.  They are not an issue.  The elements of the game I would like evaluated work well enough for our purposes.  I suspect
that much of the programming code will be re-written or thrown out before we are finished.

The questions I would like answered are:

1. Do the ambient sounds provide enough information to tell you your direction?

2. Do the ambient sounds provide enough information to inform you when to turn and when you are about to hit a wall?

3. Does the method of controlling your characters turns work for you?  That is, use the left and right arrows for small changes in direction and control-right and left arrows for alignment to 90 degrees, or would you like even a third level of granularity.  For example, arrows for one degree changes, shift-arrow for ten degree changes, and control-arrow for 90
degree movement and alignment?

4. Does the forward and backward movement of your character work for you? I know we decided that the character wouldn't be allowed to move backward, but it seemed to work so nicely for me that I thought I would include it for your opinion.  For example, when you are confronted by an attacking
monster, you can walk backwards while shooting, thus giving you a few more seconds be fore you are hit.

5. Does the melee situation work for you?  By this, I am talking about all elements.  The targeting of monsters, the feedback when the monster is hit, the way monsters attack, and so on.


There are many other questions I would like answered, but I think this would be a good start.

I intentionally avoided textual descriptions for navigation in this version of the prototype.  I feel that by relying on the sounds alone, it will force us to evaluate this element of game play.

Once we have discussed these questions, we should talk about what we would like to discuss next.  For example, maze orientation, discovery and identification of Armour and weapons, sound cues versus text, and so on.


I am looking forward to your comments.

David Greenwood.

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From James Peach:

Dear Michael and Audyssey Community,

I feel that the summer scare of '99 is over.  At the time, I felt that my initial job, (Commercial Mainstream Games), was on the line. I had received comments (after asking), from the discussion list about whether those readers liked/disliked reading my work.  I had a mixed bag of results, both supporting and not supporting, Audyssey's coverage of Commercial mainstream games.  Mike had informed me (the second time; the first was when I joined Audyssey), that the
public wanted this coverage, so my position wasn't in jeopardy; I grudgingly kept going.

I had a new burst of hope one day, as I realised that it didn't really matter, as I also wrote articles for the magazine, alongside my reviews and previews; it only got better from there.  I got an email from a Randy Hammer, whom many of you may know, informing me that he thought he could contribute to Mainstream Commercial Games, and had asked about joining the staff; I will no longer be the head of my own division, but that's OK.  Then, I got serious with some HTML
one day (I had worked with it during the summer and consecutive months), and the Audyssey Magazine Online page was created (pick on me if it's not up yet).  Then, after months of silence, (about six months), I received an email from a Crystal Raymond, commenting on Betrayal at
Krondor, and the review that I wrote of it; I wrote back thanking her.

I feel that I'm back in the groove, so you can expect to see me for a very long time, writing reviews, articles, and maintaining the web-site.  Don't think that I don't care about what you have
to say, as your comments and input are greatly appreciated.  My fingers are fire and I'm ready to go, so just sit back and enjoy the show.

James Peach, Audyssey Magazine
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Well, folks, I'd welcome James back if he had actually left us. In truth, he has been working behind the scenes on a new home for Audyssey which we'll present to you in the next issue. A few E-mails have come my way suggesting that Audyssey be available in HTML form. That's exactly what's going to happen in the new year. Plans are also afoot to make Audyssey available in audio format off the Internet. To expand our readership even further afield, John Morgaard from Ear Games has asked if he could translate Audyssey or parts of it into other languages. Anyone is absolutely free to do this as long as you inform readers that they must submit writing for publication in Audyssey in English. That's the only language I'm very good in, and I can't edit what I can't understand. John has told me that he will be certain to do this, so we may see more articles and letters from people in more diverse countries before too long. I certainly welcome this new input, and hope we'll all find it refreshing and thought-provoking. Have yourself some fantastic holidays, James. Just don't let that fire burn out on us.  

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From Gary Bergman:


I love PCS's adaptations of classic arcade games
These are memories of endless hours of childhood delight. After I started to really loose my vision, I never thought I would be able to play any of those games again.
So PCS, thank you!

Personally, I always found Space Invaders boring. If you can create a version of this, how about one that's a little more exciting...
Galaxian, Galugga, Gyris, Pheonix, just to name a few.

I sit here thinking of classic games that would'nt be too difficult for a blind person to follow in a DOS or windows format

how about some discussion on some of these titles:
Dig dug
Moon Patrol
Jungle Hunt
Battle zone
Tempest?

I am sure I can come up with more, but lets talk about these as possible options.
thanks


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This letter appeared quite early after the release of issue 19 of Audyssey. In light of recent breakthroughs made in David Greenwood's prototype action game and PCS's ability to convert DOS games into Windows games, I thought people might want to comment on the games Gary Suggests as possible. ESP Softworks will be releasing their first action title in the coming year, and this will shed more light on the possibilities of arcade-style games for the blind.

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From Adam Myrow

Hi.  Just to let everybody know that the Masterpieces of Infocom CD is still available from a company called CDROMs Online.  They are strictly an
on-line store and take orders via their web site and FAX.  The way it looks on their web site, they are still selling an older Infocom collection called The Lost Treasures of Infocom II for over $50 and are almost out of stock.  They still have many copies of the Masterpieces of Infocom CD for
only $21.99.  My advice: if you want this collection, which contains most of Infocom's games, get it from them.  Here is their web address.

http://www.cdromsonline.com/infocom.htm

This will take you directly to a page where you can order the Masterpieces collection.  You will get a form to fill out asking for mailing address etc.  You can provide your credit card information via the web page, send it in a FAX, or mail in a check.  I recommend faxing if possible as the web
site is not encrypted like many other companies are.  This is my only gripe.  I was able to fill out the online form easily, selected the "I will fax my credit card number," radio button, and got a page containing a form for faxing.  I then saved it in a text file, filled it out in Wordpad, and used my FAX software to send it out.  If they'd used SSL encryption on the
web page, I wouldn't have done this.  Like I said, that's my only complaint.  Other then that, I ordered my CD on Monday night and got it this afternoon!  That's fast!

Anyway, I recommend that anybody who wants this CD get it soon.  It sounds like they are becoming more rare.

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Many thanks to Adam for that tip. To put things in context, this letter came on a Friday. Adam got his order within a week. The Infocom Masterpieces collection makes for a wonderful Christmas gift. It contains over thirty great interactive fiction games from Infocom. This company created some of the finest and most creative works of interactive fiction before it went bankrupt in the late 1980's. They are most famous for their Zork trilogy. Anyone looking for gifts for blind teens or adults will want to grab a copy. You'll need a CDROM drive to access the games, and you should also download the Winfrotz or Dosfrotz interpreter depending on whether your intended recipient is a Windows or DOS user. You'll also need Adobe's Acrobat software and the Acrobat Access plug-in in order to transfer the manuals to a text file or read it as a .pdf document. I can vouch for it being accessible with the Windows Acrobat software, but I'm not as certain about the Acrodos software.

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  DOS and DOS gamers.
By Jack Goodfellow

Well fellow readers, windows games are now up on us, what with PCS and other companies converting their games to windows. However, my question to you all is: what is going to happen to DOS gamers?

For a grate number of years, hundreds of people have been accessing many speech accessible games via DOS and it's simple interface. However, as we know, the windows environment has taken over DOS. Windows can offer us more digital, sound and graphics quality than is available in DOS.
Also, windows is a much more simple environment for blind people to work in. Yet, people can not afford to transfer to it, or may not have the confidence or the knowledge to change.

Although I am a windows user, and am glad of the evolution in the world of gaming, my question to everybody is this:
Are DOS users not going to be able to find any speech friendly games, apart from the traditional interactive fiction that is being produced? If a DOS user is not on the Internet, it is difficult to get hold of even these types of games and other DOS games witch are available as freeware or shareware.

DOS still allows players to download and play interactive fiction games. However, many interpreters such as HTML tads are changing to the windows environment.

Although the majority of gamers are running windows on their home computers, there is also a minority of people who are running DOS. The new windows games could present a big problem for that minority because they will not be able to buy games designed by PCS and many other gaming companies.
There is all ready not much material on the Internet for DOS users.

As a DOS user in the past, I know how hostile a windows environment can seem to a DOS user. So many people may not want, or may not be able to afford to transfer to windows, even though they know it has many exciting features built in.
So is this the end for the DOS user, or are companies still going to produce DOS materiel alongside new windows games? Or, are DOS users just going to be stuck with interactive fiction games, and not be able to obtain new games, or existing upgrades to the ones they all ready have? To move forward like the rest of us who are using windows.

I wood appreciate some feedback regarding this issue, perhaps on the Audyssey email list.
Jack Goodfellow.

[Editor's remarks]: Have no fear, Jack and others. PCS has over twenty games out there for DOS. Although programmers are shifting over to the Windows platform, I doubt that we've seen the last new games produced for DOS. There are a lot more games out there for DOS than just interactive fiction. For example, Nethack and Ancient Domains of Mystery are role-playing games. So is Fallthru. The World is Mine and Anacreon Reconstruction are two of the best strategy games out there for DOS that are accessible to blind players. As long as things are accessible, this magazine will continue to cover any and all accessible games we become aware of regardless of their platform of operation.

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Striking A Blow For Audyssey:
Introducing Randy Hammer

As you found out earlier, we have a new and welcome addition to the Audyssey staff. Randy hammer has agreed to help James Peach search for and review mainstream games. He will also be better able to review the commercial games for the blind which are being developed, as well as those already out there from PCS. Here is some information sent in by Randy to help us get to know him better.


 You all remember James's pleas for help in the last couple of issues, right?  He's been looking for someone to assist him with his reviews of commercial games.  The world of freeware and shareware is not going away, and it won't go away for the foreseeable future.  However, the visually impaired community is starting to look at commercial games as a way to waste time.  I personally waste a lot of time.  :)

 So I decided that I'd step forward and assist.  I like the idea of the project, and it gives me a great chance to waste more time.  I can even justify it to my wife.  :)

 An introduction....I'm Randy Hammer, a totally blind IT professional in Washington State.  For those of you who aren't in the USA Washington is in the northwestern corner of the country, on the Pacific coast.  I've been blind since birth because of a genetic mutation that caused my eyes not to
develop.  I'm 22, married, and a college graduate (a Bachelor of Science in Computer Sciences and Networking.)

 A couple things that you'll notice about me in my writings are that I am A: very informal, B: don't have the best writing skills, and C: love to ramble in extremely hyperbolic run-on sentences.  So in other words, writing is something I do for fun, not because I'm good at it.  My main goal with
this position is going to be reviewing games that are available currently, and reporting how a visually impaired person might enjoy them.

 This enjoyment will take two courses.  I will either write from the standpoint of playing the game directly or through a sighted assistant. You'll see in my first review that I've taken the latter course, and expect to continue this for a while until I get a chance to review a few adaptive games.  I've given a pretty good description in my article of how to play
games through a sighted assistant, and hope it will work well for others.

 Thanks for reading, and for keeping Audyssey strong so I could use you all as guinea pigs.  :)  Feel free to write me to propose reviewable games, or for assistance with game access.

Randy Hammer
[email protected]

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News From ESP Softworks


Greetings, Gamers!

This article is designed to help keep everyone up-to-date as to what's going on at the ESP Softworks' web-site as well as to let people know of new additions to the site.  If you don't already know what it is that we do, or haven't already been to the web site, now would be a *great* time to find
out! *grin*  ESP Softworks is an up and coming game and entertainment software company that specialises in the development of software that's completely accessible to those with low or no vision.  You can visit the web-site at http://www.espsoftworks.com.

What's New at ESP Softworks' Web Site:

 ~ The 'Battle Chess' style game (which, by the way, needs a name!  See the site for details) is tentatively scheduled for release by mid-December.  It also now has an audio trailer
   in MP3 format which can be downloaded from our demos section. Check it out!

 ~ There are now *two* versions of the web-site--text only, and full version. The content of both are identical except that the text only version contains no graphics, frames, or tables.
   Once you arrive at the main site (http://www.espsoftworks.com), you will
be prompted for which version you'd like to use.  Once you jump to the version of your choice, simply bookmark that page so you may return at the start point the next time you
visit.  You can always switch versions by starting at the main page and re-selecting your preference.

 ~ Subscribe online to the new Audyssey Game Magazine mailing list and have upcoming issues of Audyssey Game Magazine automatically e-mailed to you as they are
published.  You may also refer a friend and pass onto them the current issue as well as an introduction e-mail explaining the magazine in detail.  Then, if they wish to subscribe they
will be referred to this form.  The form is available from the Audyssey Magazine section (click on the 'Resources' link and then click on the 'Audyssey Magazine' link), or you
may directly access the Audyssey section at
http://www.espsoftworks.com/textonly/audyssey/audyssey.html,
   or subscribe directly at http://216.103.87.194/forms/maillist_to.asp.

 ~ The 'Shades of Doom' game prototype is available for download!  This development beta is being written by David Greenwood from ideas culminated from the Audyssey discussion forum. There are links near the bottom of the ESP Softworks' main web page, or you may grab it from http://www.espsoftworks.com/textonly/sod/beta.htm.

~ ESP Softworks has preliminary plans on setting up an online game server to host it's own games that are going to be online multi-player capable.  See the "What's New" section of    the web-site for details!

Other Things of Interest You'll Also Find:

 ~ Product information about upcoming game software that ESP Softworks is currently developing featuring multimedia rich, interactive game play.  Audio demos and trailers for some of our titles are also available via the web-site.

 ~ Beta tester application forms are now available on the web-site for those interested in having the chance to beta test some of our game titles before they're finally released.
   Check out the web-site for more information about becoming a beta tester

 ~ Participate in ESP Softworks online survey and be heard!  By taking the time to complete this survey, you give us a much better idea of who you are and what type of products you'd like to see developed!  Also, it'll allow us to give the gaming community interesting statistics regarding the state of the industry.

 ~ Grab the current issue--or, any of the back issues--of Audyssey Game Magazine.. a bi-monthly publication devoted to the blind and visually impaired gaming experience. The magazine features informative reviews, information about upcoming technologies, hints and help with current games, and articles of general interest related to accessible
gaming either through design, or in conjunction with sighted companions.

.. and, Coming Soon:

 ~ Links, links, and more links! to tons of informative and enlightening web-sites dealing with technology and issues regarding computers and their use by the blind
and visually impaired.

 ~ Online archive of *free* popular and accessible computer games to help you unwind!

 ~ Articles about current and upcoming technologies and how they both relate and will be implemented in our game software.  Discussion of system requirements and how they impact your system's performance when running game and application software.

 ~ Community interest providing, we may set up an online discussion group and help board for our game software and computer use in general.  We are also considering setting up a specialised news server featuring informative and interesting news groups.

 ~ Refer-A-Friend (or organisation, publication, etc.) online and they'll automatically be sent an introduction e-mail about ESP Softworks and the--you guessed
it--web-site! Of course, word of mouth is great, too!


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News From PCS


Personal Computer Systems now has games playable from Windows or DOS without needing any adaptive equipment.
The games are completely audio, all information is spoken by a human voice, not a synthesiser, played through your computer's speakers.

Each game, Breakout, Pack man, Red Dragon Kick Boxing Challenge, A 2 Z Key Finder  and Mobius Mountain, comes on a CD. Additional Games will be added to the list as they are converted from the DOS versions throughout the next year. 

Breakout
SMASH! POW! CRUNCH! Is your hand/ear co-ordination up
to demolishing wall after wall of objects? Breakout brings back the nostalgia of early video gaming days but adds today's challenges. Over twenty years ago the original Breakout video game was introduced. P C S has taken the Breakout concept and adapted it for game players who are visually impaired. You shoot a ball with increasing speed into layers of walls with over 130 real sounds. Breakout contains four game variations, bust through, clear the wall, squeeze play and stretch to breaking where you can break glass, smash cups, pop balloons and try to beat your highest score.
Who ever said life was fair  never played Breakout!

PACK MAN
     You are the roly-poly Pack Man, a glutton for fruit. All you
do is travel around searching and Eating all that can be found.
Oh, yes, and don't let the ghost get you!  Play Pack Man from a new perspective.  You are Pack Man himself moving around a simple maze at ground level.  This means unlike the original game where all the ghosts are known to the player at all times, here ghosts are only identified  when they are in front of you.  Then a decision must be made, to turn and run, charge the ghost hoping to get super power to dispel them back home, or to charge the ghost hoping to get
past.  If none of these work then the ghost will take one life, and send you back to the starting block.  Use up your last life, and it is all over!  Try this real time arcade game and find out if you have the quickness needed to win big!
This version comes with a Braille map of the Pack Man maze.

RED DRAGON KICK BOXING CHALLENGE
     Hay!  You.  Yes you!  I am talking to you!  I hear that you
think your pretty tough!  Well, do you think you can take me on? Well, I hear you talk the walk.  but can you walk the talk?  Lets meat at the Red Dragon Kick Boxing Ring in five minutes and we will go a few rounds and find out what you've got!
This is a real time kick boxing game for you fast action lovers!
The game uses the six pack key group, the arrow key group, and your stereo speakers to play the game.  There are twelve ranked kick boxers for you to fight.  You can even make the computer fight itself. Listen for your opponent to throw a punch to your head or body, or to kick out at you.  The yell coming from your left, right, or centre stereo sound will tell you which direction the attack is from.  The type of yell he makes tells you what he is aiming for.  You try to block his blow by hitting the correct key. Attacking the opponent is easy by  using the three top keys on the six pack group, INSERT, HOME, AND PAGE UP to throw a punch to the opponent's head.  The three lower keys DEL, END, AND PAGE DOWN throws a blow to the body.  You Kick using the left and right arrow keys.  You move towards and back from your opponent by using the up
and down arrow keys.  That is all the keys you need, but it takes lots of practice to beat the champ!
     So, get those fingers limbered up, put in your mouth piece,
and lets go a few rounds!

A 2 Z
Does your little one want to work on your computer too?  Well, now your youngster can use the machine just like you!  A 2 Z will teach your beginner where the letter and number keys are found on the keyboard.  When a key is hit the game can be set to play a letter or number and a corresponding sound.  The game can be played in several ways.  There are three settings voice only, voice and sound, or sound only.  There are also several short Follow the Leader games, which will have your child  trying to repeat the computers prompts.  This game is definitely geared for the novice, and will be fun while also teaching them the keyboard layout. Best of all, while the future computer whiz begins learning how to manipulate the machine, the computer is safe!  Only the ESCAPE key will allow them to exit the game, making it difficult to hit keys
which will upset the computer as in your word processor. 
Now you can let the little one  loose with A 2 Z while you sit back and read a book.

Mobius Mountain  
Can you beat Augie to the top of Mobius Mountain?  Augie
thinks he is a pretty smart cookie.  Watch out for the wild
animals, rock slides and pits, and answer math problems correctly and make giant leaps to the top.  This math adventure game was written for children and follows the format of the Chutes and ladders game. Mobius can be played by one to four people. There are seven skill levels so children of any age will be able to play and succeed at the game.  These levels range from addition and subtraction problems of two single digit numbers to multiplication and division problems of two double digit numbers. At the end of the game each player will get a report of how well they did in solving the math problems.

Games in this format cost $49.00

RAINY DAY GAMES
     Bored?  Looking for something to do?  Well, how about a game of Solitaire, Mine Buster, or Triple yahtzee?  Rainy Day Games is a three game pack that contains the games mentioned above. Solitaire is a favourite card game for many people killing a little time waiting for the sun to come back out. 
Mine Buster gives you a chance to play a speech friendly  version of Windows Mine Sweeper.  You mark hidden mines by exploring the cells surrounding the mines. Your mind gets a good workout while a passing shower goes by.
Triple Yahtzee is a dice game that is fun to play by your self or against a friend during a heavy downpour.
     
The games Solitaire and Mine Sweeper have been played from back when the first computers started using Windows.   Now, our games can be played on DOS and Window machines capable of running DOS. We also through in Triple Yahtzee for something different.   These three games are the type of games that all computers should have available so you can fool around and get in trouble just like everyone else!
        
 RAINY DAY GAMES cost $30.
Please add two dollars shipping per order. 

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

Web site:
www.webspan.net/~scrivani

+++
News From Zform


Zform Update:
November 1999

Hello Audyssey community,  this notice is meant to bring people up to speed on what Zform LLC is up to as well as to fill in those who are not familiar with us.

What we're about, in a nut shell: We make computer games.  Our first games will be for the blind and visually impaired communities. We hope to one day build games that blind
and sighted communities will both greatly enjoy and play together. We're brand new, so new we're still laying down the foundations. We're securing the economic, legal, and technological resources needed to allow Zform to make games for the VIP community.  One of the ways we
hope to do this is by forming a VIP game alliance, a strategic alliance of game companies, blind organisations, and assistive technology companies.

The most up-to-date info on Zform can be found at our web site
(www.zform.com).
Please feel free to email Paul G. Silva ([email protected]) with any question you might have.  If you are a member of a company or organisation that is interested in Zform's VIP Game alliance, Zform would LOVE to hear from you. Please send email to [email protected].

Zform would like to thank the editors of Audyssey magazine for giving us this chance to inform the VIP gaming community about our progress.

+++
The Latest Finds:

+
A short time ago, Jim Kitchen broke his long silence to inform everyone that a new version of his Simon game is now available at his site. I'll save myself some typing and let him describe the changes he has made to it in his own words:

 I have put a new version of the Simon game up on my web site.  The address of my web site is at the bottom of this message.

dosimon2.zip 774k bytes November 99
Simon type game where you have to repeat the sounds that are played. Now, keep all of the sets of wave files in the same directory. Four new sets of wave files have been added. Also, there is no longer a PC speaker sound it is now through the sound card.
Simon says down-load the Simon game.

[email protected]
http://users.nowonline.net/jkitchen/

+

+

Age of Empires 2: Age of Kings
Ensemble Studios/Microsoft.

Maybe you want to rule the world, with nobility or an iron fist?  Maybe you want religious power too?  Maybe you want your enemies to feel pain, as you grind them under your boot heel?
Maybe you want it to be easy on top of that?  Well, maybe you want another game then.

This is Age of Kings, a graphically-based, real-time strategy game, and the next instalment of the Age of Empires series.  It takes place in Medieval Europe/Asia, from the Fall of Rome to the 1700's, spanning over seven-hundred years of combat and conquest.  Say, maybe you want the Celts to rule the world, or maybe the Mongols, or the Teutons?  Well, these civilisations and more are at your choosing, when you decide to take on the world.

The reason I'm mentioning a real-time, graphically-based, strategy game in this magazine, is the simple fact that the game can be slowed down to half speed.  This means that, even though it is still real-time, it is not as fast or intense, where decisions, made between blind/sighted teams can
be made easier.  The blind player can become more involved in Age of Kings, where with previous RTS's they could not, by way of shortcut commands and quick keys.  In game sound
can also be used, to tell a player everything from: if a farm has gone fallow, to the completion of a particular building or unit (they have their own sounds) to whether you're being attacked, to the world and activity in you field of view.  For the sighted half, will find that this, coupled with
visual queues and on-screen messages, they can stay very informed, and be able to provide detailed, accurate info to the non-sighted other.  Hell, with a little practice, the non-sighted partner could probably fight their own battles for the most part, though the use of formations, and the ability to pause the game to have time to make decisions (could be done at anytime and at normal speed too, if desired).  It is time to take up arms and dispatch thy enemy; are ye ready?

If you wish to try the demo, it can be downloaded from www.download.com or
www.ensemblestudios.com.  Age of Empires 2: Age of Kings, is well worth giving to a friend, or
to yourself this holiday season; it'll keep you begging for more, and your enemies begging for less!

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Empires
WhiteMask Games

"What are our orders, Commander?" is a common question you will have to answer, in this wonderful, epic struggle for victory.  Empires (no relation to the previously mentioned title), is a turn-based, graphically-based, strategy game, set in a world of soldiers and sorcerers, where you are in command, but not without help.  You are aided by the young Allecia, your battle guide, who will give you choices to make, and pass judgement on your decisions after the fact.  At your
disposal, are various units (swordsmen, macemen, cavalry, wizards, and so on...), represented by playing cards; you choose the units to fight with (must be the same card number), and then choose you course of action.  Defend your territory, make a stand, go on the offensive, seize the
day; these are some of the choices you, the Commander, will have to make in the heat of battle; choose wisely or it could cost you dear.

The AI is tough, the musical score both haunting and touching, and it's adictiveness will keep you playing for hours.  This full version of Empires, version 2.4, is freely down-loadable at
www.whitemask.com or www.download.com so download your copy today, and battle the holidays away!

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Billionaire
Game ON, Sweden

Imagine, Monopoly, a bit of Las Vegas, and the New York Stock Exchange, distilled and bottled for you, and you have a great game!  Well, Billionaire *is* that game, and more.  Billionaire will have you plotting one minute and panicking the next; need I say more?

The first incarnation of Billionaire, was actually a board game, which in itself has undergone changes and improvements, and with that, has reached it's current, computerised version. 

Billionaire is a turn-based, economic building/simulation game, similar to monopoly, but with gambling and the stock market.  You start out with 5 million dollars, and must build yourself an economic powerhouse, and become a BILLIONAIRE!  In some ways, it is far more advanced
than monopoly, because it doesn't simply rely on getting the most or the right properties to gain fortune, but rather relies more on how much cash that property can make you.  Also, if you're a bettin' man, you could play the stock market, or gamble (in cards, Baccarat, or car racing) when
you land on their square.  The one important fundamental, that sets Billionaire apart from the tried and true Monopoly, is that decisions more than luck, can make or break you; all those
stores on Freight won't save Airways from taking a nose-dive, but those 10,000 Banana Computers shares you have are going up by the hour, so you don't care that much.

The game is really quite fun, with human and computer opponents, and will keep you, your sighted companion, and anyone else playing, entertained for hours.  Billionaire is a 15-day trial, but is only $15.00 to register, and it can be downloaded at their site at:
www.gameon.com or www.download.com.  Instead of giving your friends and family money for Christmas, give them Billionaire!

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The Beer War!
Your hard earned work seems to have paid off.  You have the orders.  Your trucks are waiting. You have the competition breathing down your neck, waiting for the verdict.  If you called it right, the ale will flow at your table tonight, or if not, that beer could end up being worth less than the kegs it's shipped in.  There's a war going on, so you'd better be ready, to either taste sweet victory or bitter defeat.  Are you ready for war?

Beer War, is a graphically-based, turn-based, economic simulation, in which you must take your tiny beer company, from the ground up, and turn it into an empire.  There are a host of buildings to build, to expanding your production/management capabilities of your product.  You'd think that it would be a breeze, if it weren't for the competition, right?  Well, no.  The people still have to like your beer, like your prices, and generally like your company, and any mistake could cost you big money and influence.  It's not easy fighting a war on two fronts, but with guile, intellect and luck (none of which hopefully tainted, by consumption of your own product), the battle may be won yet.

This program is shareware, and can be downloaded at www.download.com.  The registration fee
is $15.00, so let the battle for beer begin!

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Kali Online Gaming Service
Kali Inc.

You've probably heard of or played MUDS (multi-user Dungeons), or maybe passed over the Microsoft Gaming Zone (the Zone), but have you ever heard of Kali?  For those of you who like to play visually accessible games, by yourself or with a sighted companion, and real people to
play against are scarce, then something like Kali might appeal to you.

Kali, is an Internet gaming service, like the Zone, where people can connect with other gamers, and play some of their fave games online.  For those of you not familiar with either the Zone or Kali, they are simply environments, where you, the Gamer, can find gamers like yourself, and be
able to play against them over the Internet.  For those you who are familiar with the Zone, you will be pleasantly surprised, as Kali doesn't just have compatibility with MS games, but with nearly any game imaginable; these games must have some multi-player functionality of their own
built in, such as through TCP/IP, IPX/SPX, and/or DirectPlay.  Kali can support having all these games, because it is not just a program on your computer, but rather a huge network, of hundreds of dedicated servers (a dedicated server, is one that only hosts one game for online play), so lag (a serious problem with Net play) is hardly a problem.  For those who are only familiar with MUD play, the ability to play and chat with gamers is a basic, important FUNDAMENTAL; Kali
and the Zone have this and more.

This kind of gaming may seem out of reach of the blind Gamer, but if you continue to ask your favourite game producers, for online support in their games (something as simple as TCP/IP or IPX/SPX would do), then it may not be so far out of reach.  Kali is shareware, and can be downloaded from: www.kali.net; registration is $20..00.  Give your friends and family the online
gaming experience, that only Kali can provide.


+

Extreme Bopit
Reviewed by Allen Maynard

I'm sure many of you know of the popular game known as Bopit.  If not then it is a hand-held game with a big button in the middle, a knob-like thing on one end, and a lever-like thing on the opposite end from where the knob is. The game tells you what to do, that being either Bopit, where you hit the big button; twist it, where you twist the knob; or pull it, where you pull the lever down.  You have a very short time to do what the game tells you. If you take too long or Bopit when you were told to twist it, then you lose.  As you properly do what the game tells you, the speed of the game increases. However, Bopit is fairly easy to get good at.  After all, there
are only three things to worry about.

Now, comes Extreme Bopit.  Two more controls have been added to the original Bopit game.  As with Bopit you can bop it, twist it, and pull it. But now you can also be told to spin it or flick it.  You hold Extreme Bopit by the two handles.  The big button is in the centre, the knob you twist is in the upper right, the lever you pull is in the lower right, the spring-like control you flick is in the upper left, and the wheel you spin is in the lower left.  You can turn the game around or upside-down if you prefer.

I feel Extreme Bopit is more challenging since you have five commands to react to rather than three.  Also, you can play with as many others as you want by passing Extreme Bopit around when the game commands you to.  If you get bored with the game voicing the controls to hit, you can switch to the
Beat Bop game that gives you associated noises to indicate which control to activate.

Extreme Bopit can be easily played by a blind person with no sighted assistance.  You pull the lever to select the game you want to play which the game voices each time you pull.  You press the centre button to start the particular game and your score is vocalised when the game ends.  You
can also twist the knob to hear the high score before you begin the game or after.

The only thing you will need read to you is the points associated with each noise when your score is given when the game ends.  I do know that the base drum sound is one point and the twisting noise is ten points.  A third indicates one hundred points but I have not scored that high yet.

Extreme Bopit is an incredibly addictive game.  What's nice is that the game doesn't increase in speed too quickly.  This means you can play for a long time as the speed gradually increases.

Extreme Bopit uses three double A batteries, (not included) and retails for about $25.00 US. You can obtain Bopit and Extreme Bopit from any store such as Walmart,
K-Mart, KB Toys, etc.  I purchased my Extreme Bopit game from Target.

+++
Free Game Winner!

For taking the brave and selfless step of writing Dos and Dos Gamers, Jack Goodfellow wins this month's free game. In a small letter he sent with the article, he indicated that even though he looked forward to the new Windows games, he wondered what his DOS-using friend would have to play. This ability to look past one's own happiness to that of others is something deserving of notice and encouragement. Audyssey was built largely through the selfless efforts of others who have donated time and resources to making this magazine what it is today. Congratulations, Jack. You faced some very stiff competition from Mr. Maynard who wrote this issue's Adam: The Immortal Gamer episode. By catching that spark of selflessness and taking a very courageous step, you give the staff hope that at least some readers will care enough to help make Audyssey into the powerful engine of change it can be. Be certain to let us know what you choose and what you think of the game.

+++
"Bringing Down the Wall"
By Paul G. Silva

"Bringing Down the Wall"

A barrier exists in the computer gaming world.  There are the games that are accessible and those that are not.  This is a barrier for two reasons.  First, games made for the blind and visually impaired community are not generally played by the fully sighted.  Second, games developed for the fully sighted are rarely accessible.  It is the author's belief that accessibility means "to remove or lower the barriers keeping the blind and visually impaired from partaking in activities a fully sighted person can enjoy". 

Game developers have done a great job of building accessible games, of lowering that barrier so the blind and visually impaired have computer games they can play.  However, the barrier still exists, a blind player can rarely find a modern game that both they and a friend would be likely to play.  Why? 

A typical game for the sighted community costs between $100,000 and $1,000,000 to develop.  These figures are based on an assumption that there are a large number of copies that will sell.  A very successful games sell over a million copies, for instance.  As there are only about a million blind people in the US, and only a very small percentage of those would buy a computer game, one can see that the market for accessible games is very small. 

Another important reason why there are so few accessible games is that though for-the-sighted developers COULD try to make their games accessible, they (understandably) are unwilling to do so because of the small return on the investment.

These factors have discouraged developers from entering into the field, leaving PCS as the only developer of accessible games.  However, with the introduction of the new companies, things are beginning to change.  These companies are working TOGETHER, sharing knowledge and expertise to help them improve the quality of their games. 

However, while increasing the number of developers will raise the quality of the games produced, it is not enough to bring down the barrier.  The only way to do this is with bigger budgets.  The price of the games cannot go up, they would have to go up ten times their current price to support the kind of budgets needed to even BEGIN to compete with games for the fully sighted. 

So how can this budget deficit be taken care of?  First of all, more people to be informed that there are accessible games available to them.  ESP Softworks conceived this article as a means of informing the community on the current state of affairs of the industry. 

Another way to increase budget was proposed by Zform LLC.  They feel that once the new companies have had several successful games sold to the blind community, they will have enough credibility to go to investors to try and get the funding necessary to construct a game for the sighted.  The accessibly developers would, unlike their non-accessible counterparts, design a game that was blind accessible and then add a graphical interface to make it accessible to the sighted community. 

This technique would allow accessible developers to get the budgets needed to make games of the same calibre as the sighted developers.  It would ALSO create games that both blind and sighted people could enjoy.  The author likes to imagine a time when he can hop onto an online game and play against his sighted and blind friends alike.  While this is possible right now through some of the all-text online games, there are no games outside this genre which are truly accessible to blind AND sighted.  

The developers want to bring down the wall separating the blind and visually impaired from the fully sighted.  They want to increase the quality of accessible games, and they hope to one day build games that let blind and visually impaired players partake in a world that has previously been denied to them. 

Wish them luck.

Paul G. Silva
November 1999


+++
Adam: The Immortal Gamer

Adam-The Immortal Gamer

Rules of Engamement

By

Allen Maynard

(Author's note:  If you haven't played the games mentioned in this story:  Enemies, Mulldoon, and Gothic, and you don't want a few puzzle solutions revealed, then skip to the next section of this Audyssey issue.)

 Adam eagerly sat down at his computer anxious to tackle the latest games in the competition99 collection he had downloaded last night.  He hadn't played a game on his computer for so long, at least 47 minutes and 29 seconds, so he was more than ready to plunge in.
 He unzipped the archive and was about to run the first game when he felt an all too familiar tugging on his mind.
 "Augh, man.  Give me a break," he groaned aloud as the image of a beckoning hand wavered into focus on his computer display.  Resignedly, Adam relaxed and a moment later he was drawn almost fluidly through his screen and into the black void.
 "OK," he said into the darkness, his voice not so much as echoing as just drifting away on unfelt currents, "what lesson do I have to learn today?"  Adam crossed his arms and began tapping his foot.  Well, if he had been standing on solid ground it would have made a very satisfying tapping sound, he thought scowling.
 From nowhere in particular came the gentle but firm voice of his computer's soul, or maybe this was the equivalent of microchip flatulence, either way it caused the hairs on Adam's skin to rise.  He felt as if he was being glazed with static electricity.  It wasn't painful, in fact it almost tickled.  "No more training do you require.  Already you know that which you need," the voice intoned.
 Adam visibly sagged.  "Oh, great.  Now I get to talk to Yoda from The Empire Strikes Back."
 "My apologies," said the voice, genuinely sounding apologetic, "but I've always wanted to say that.  In any case you are required to fill a slightly different role."
 Against his better judgement, let alone his will, Adam's curiosity and his head lifted slightly with interest.  "What sort of role?"
 "I knew you'd accept," the computer said quickly.  "Now away we go."
 "Wait, I haven't accepted anything," Adam protested as he suddenly felt himself sliding.  "Where the hell am I going and what is this new role?  Computer, Computer!"  Adam swore under his breath as he slid faster, twisting and turning as if he was on a water-slide.  Adam sensed rather than saw the bottom of this wild slide approaching.  When he got out of this one, he promised himself that he would sell this damn computer and buy a brand new one.  He would sell it to...let's see...Mike Feir.  Good ol', buddy ol' pal, Mike, friend Mike.  Adam couldn't keep a grin from spreading across his face.
 Abruptly Adam's attention snapped back to the scene at hand.  Something was wrong.  He didn't hear the sound of rushing water as he had expected.  Instead, he caught the sound of a dull throbbing or growling.  It steadily increased in volume.  Adam braced himself for the certain impact with whatever was growling, and with a gentle thump he landed on a firm but soft cushion.  No, not a cushion because the cushion was moving.  Something else was strange.  He seemed to be straddling the cushion.  Oh, of course, he was on a horse.  Wait a minute...horses didn't growl or rumble.  For that matter they didn't have cushions on their backs either.  He was gripping something solid and tubular in each hand.  He glanced at his hands and discovered he was wearing gloves; very cool black leather gloves.  He was riding a motorcycle.  Giving himself a quick once-over he found he was clad entirely in black and looking at himself through the visor of his black helmet.  He was cruising slowly down a city street.  Adam glanced skyward and saw a myriad of shimmering stars against a very black background.  Sudden shock nearly caused him to lose control of the bike.  He was in the game, Enemies.  This was impossible.  He was in the role of the enemy.  What purpose could this serve?
 Mentally shrugging, he went where the bike took him.  Presently, Adam pulled up to a rather bewildered looking man holding a cellular phone and standing in front of a movie theatre.  He took an uncertain step backward, eyeing Adam warily, as he pulled up and came to an idling stop.
 "Who the hell are you?" the man asked, trying to sound belligerent, but this attitude was belied by the wild look in his eyes.
 Adam stared, incredulous.  This was not the response the protagonist in this game was supposed to give.  Just what kinda game, no pun intended, was his computer playing?  Sighing in resignation, Adam decided to play this out.
 "I am T...I am T...."  Adam could not form the Enemy's name in the game.  All right, he'd try this.
 "I am Adam the immortal Gamer," Adam said, not sure if this was the correct thing to do, but at least his mouth worked again.
The man visibly calmed.  "You're the first character to actually respond to me without using some line that sounded programmed or something."
 Adam stared all over again.  This was all wrong.  The man had reacted like a real person.  Adam decided to try something.
 "You're inside of a computer game," Adam said and waited for the game parser to cut in with an error message.
 The man just stared at him as if he had just sprouted 3 heads.  Who knows, maybe Adam had just sprouted 3 heads.  "You're nuts," the man said, taking another step back.
 Unbelievable.  This was a real man not a computer construct.  Adam wanted to try one more test.
 "Let me guess," Adam began. "You were just sitting in front of your computer either playing or getting ready to play a game when you were unceremoniously sucked into your computer?  Am I close?"
 The colour drained from the man's face and he dropped the cell phone.  "You couldn't have known that," he said hoarsely.  "This must be a dream."
 "It's no dream, friend," Adam replied.  "The same thing happened to me not all that long ago."
 "Yeah," the man said slowly, stooping to pick up his phone but never taking his eyes off Adam.  "I'm not prone to falling asleep at my computer at one thirty in the afternoon."  He tried to smile but he could only achieve a weak one.
 Adam was beginning to fathom his purpose here.  He was still guessing but he thought he was to assist this newcomer into the gaming world.  "As I said before, my name is Adam," putting out a gloved hand.
 "I am Allen," the man said, gingerly taking Adam's proffered hand and shaking.  "You said you were the immortal Gamer?  Well, I guess that makes me the mortal Gamer," Allen said grinning, the chords in his neck going slack.  But his blue eyes still darted around with a decisively hunted look.
 Allen's brow furrowed.  "The first thing that blew me away was the fact that I could see," he began.  "I just knew that I was either dreaming, insane, or dead.  So, how the hell did I get here?"
 Adam smiled ruefully behind his visor.  "I wish I knew," he replied.  "The same thing happened to me.  One day I was sitting before my computer and suddenly I was sucked inside it.  What were you thinking at the time just before you were drawn inside your computer?"
 Allen chewed his lower lip and ran a hand through his short, blonde hair.  "Let's see, I was thinking about programming my own interactive fiction games.  I have played IF games ever since I got my first Apple computer back in 1987.  I have also done some programming but mainly text-based sports games.  Does that tell you anything?"
 A grin slowly spread across Adam's face.  It did indeed tell him something.  Things were beginning to make sense.  "Yes it does," Adam said, gunning the engine of the motorcycle with a quick flick of his wrist.  "I believe I am here to help you create a good if not great IF game."
 Allen set his jaw.  "Why do I need your help to program a great game?" he asked.
 Adam was about to retort but he bit back a curt response after thinking about how he'd feel if someone told him that they were there to help him when he hadn't asked for any help.  The implication was obvious.  "I'm sorry," he said to Allen.  "I didn't mean it like that.  I have played and beaten Enemies.  If my guess is right, I am here to show you what not to do if you create your own game."
 Allen's hard features softened and he shrugged, smiling.  "I'm sorry for snapping, too.  This whole situation is a little unnerving."  Allen glanced around at his surroundings:  The darkened street, the glitzy lights of the theatre's marquee, the somewhat dimmer street lights, and the black motorcycle, seeming to actually see them for the first time.  He looked at Adam holding out his hands with palms up.  "So...um...where do we begin?"
 "Just one more thing," Adam said, studying Allen's blue eyes and blonde hair.  "What colour are your eyes and hair?"  Adam expected a funny look from Allen, and he got it.
 "My eyes are greenish-brown and my hair is dark brown.  Why?"
 That clinched it for Adam.  Allen was a real person playing the role of the protagonist in this game but retaining his own identity.  Adam had always wondered if he actually assumed the physical features of the characters he played in his earlier adventures.
 "Just wanted to make sure you're real."
 Allen scratched his head.  "You're weird," he finally said.
 Adam laughed.  "It never takes people long to figure that out."
 He gunned the engine again.  "Hop on and we'll get to Joanna's house."
 "Cool," Allen said as he climbed onto the bike behind Adam. 
 "Hang onto my waist," Adam said as he eased up the throttle.
 Allen took hold of Adam's waist.  "Does this mean we're engaged?" he asked.
 Adam laughed.  "I don't see a ring on this finger."
 The two men roared into the light traffic and presently Adam pulled up and stopped in front of a modest and rather gloomy city dwelling.  Allen slid off the back of the motorcycle and stared at the pillars of the porch and the small gargoyle's head glaring down at him from between the pillars.  "Damn, this feels so real," he said stepping onto the porch and reaching out to run a hand over one of the pillars.
 "Well," Adam said, climbing off the bike and engaging the kickstand, "In a way it is real.  Think of it as virtual reality even though I don't know if that is accurate or not."  Adam joined his new-found apprentice on Joanna's porch.  "Let's get started," Adam said.  "What do you see?"
"I still can't quite wrap my brain around this seeing thing," Allen said.  "Son-of-a-bitch.  Maybe I'll stay here."  Allen took a look around, staring at the pillars, the gargoyle, and a gnome in a weedy garden.
 "First rule," Adam said, stepping back giving Allen plenty of room, "examine everything."
 Allen took a step toward the garden then abruptly stopped, glancing back at Adam frowning slightly.  "Is this an SF game?"
 "That's an odd question," Adam replied, starting to think this guy was a few tacos short of a combination platter.  "What's up?"
 Allen put out his hands and looked as if he was pushing against a barrier.  "I can't go any further toward the garden."
 Scowling, Adam went to Allen's side and reached out a hand.  He didn't want to be in this computer prison any longer than he had to and he was a little pissed that this guy was already screwing around.  "What the hell are you..." Adam began, then his eyes widened.  "Holy crap," he exclaimed.  "There is an invisible barrier here."  Adam took a step back and considered, gnawing on a knuckle.
Allen shot Adam a sharp look.  "I'm blind, not stupid.  Did you think I was lying?"
"This is not part of the game," Adam said absently.  "I honestly thought you were just screwing around.  I'm sorry."
Allen grinned.  "No problem."  He looked around.  "Now what?" he asked at length.
"Try the door." Adam said finally.
 Shrugging, Allen went to the door and turned the knob.  The door swung open easily.  "Party!" Allen cried dashing into the house.
 "Wait," Adam shouted but Allen was already inside.  Adam was beginning to have an idea of his actual purpose in this scenario.  He hurried after his apprentice.
 Suddenly, a shadowy translucent form sliced through Adam as it quickly left the house.  Adam just caught site of a motorcycle helmet and black leather gloves before the door slammed immediately behind him.  It was the actual antagonist in this game.  Adam didn't believe in ghosts but that had given him a bit of a start.
 He found Allen sprawled face down on the carpeted floor.  He hustled over and shook his shoulder.  Allen groaned and rolled over onto his back blinking rapidly.
 "What the hell happened?" he asked with a slight slur in his voice.
 "It's part of the game," Adam replied.
 Allen sat up slowly, shaking his head to try to clear the cobwebs.  "This virtual reality thing or whatever we're stuck in is a bit to real for my taste."
 Adam smiled behind his visor.  He helped Allen get to his feet.  "Let's go to the kitchen," Adam said, propelling Allen in that direction.
 Entering the kitchen, Allen immediately spotted the open oven.  He crossed the floor and peered inside.  "Oh gross," he exclaimed.
 "Ignore it," Adam ordered.  "Take a look around."
 Allen did so, only seeing a large knife.  "Yeah, so," he said, looking at Adam over his shoulder.
Adam motioned him to follow as he left the kitchen, went through the living room and entered the bedroom.
 Allen entered right behind him and took a look around.  "Very nice," he said admiring the skylight and the sultry lacey moonlight seeming to drift through the glass.  "Very romantic, but you're not my type."
 Adam was trying to remain serious but he laughed in spite of himself.  He pointed at the vine extending from the ceiling and the pulley system.  "How would you beat this puzzle?" Adam asked.
 Allen rattled off his solution and Adam beckoned him to follow him once again.  Giving Adam a quizzical look Allen followed.  They re-entered the kitchen and Adam turned.  "Besides your cell phone, what else do you have in your possession?" he asked, leaning against a counter.
"Oh," Allen said, looking down, "I have this photograph of..." he stopped abruptly, did a double take, then stared at Adam with a haunted look.  "I really am in a game.  My hair isn't blonde."  Shaking himself out of his momentary paralysis, he continued.  "This is a photograph of Joanne and me, or at least me in this game.  I was told by a disembodied voice that this is a special picture that I'd hate to ruin or something like that.  So what?"
 "Nothing," Adam replied.  "Figure out the puzzle."
 Allen took the knife and left the kitchen, throwing a cocky smile back over his shoulder.  Presently he returned frowning.  Then he spied the oven and his grin returned.  He went to the oven, grimaced, and withdrew the knife, its tip glowing.  Again he left the kitchen as Adam looked on.  He heard Allen swear loudly, then he came stomping back into the kitchen scowling deeply.
 "This is stupid," he snapped.  "There is only one answer but nothing I try works."  He kicked the oven in frustration.
Adam smiled thinly behind his visor as he stepped to the oven.  He took the knife and the photograph from him and as Allen watched incredulously, Adam slid the knife through the photograph lengthways.
 "Hold it, hold it, back up, what the hell?" Allen said staring at the photo stuck on the tip of the knife.  "That's stupid.  It makes no sense especially when that voice told me that that picture was special to me or something.  You've just ruined it."
 "Exactly," Adam said putting the knife down on the countertop.  "When you're designing a work of interactive fiction your puzzles must be logical.  They can be a little beyond logic like putting water in a bottle before dropping the goldfish in, but nothing like this."  Adam picked up the knife again.  "You have to give some clue and you can't tell the player that the picture is important to you or whatever because the logical player will assume that the picture is used for something important later on.  In fact, it is, as you've just seen.  But it's like I was taught in my poetry class in college.  A sidewalk has to remain a sidewalk.  In other words, you can't say it's a snake before you identify it as a sidewalk first because imagery is everything.  If you call it a snake then the reader will picture a snake and not a sidewalk snaking through a city."
 "Tell me about it," Allen said shaking his head.  "I never would have figured this one out."
 Adam opened his mouth but abruptly his stomach lurched and blackness whirled around him.  He opened his eyes, which he hadn't realised he had squeezed shut, and found himself in a locker room.  Glancing around he saw Allen beside him, standing a little bit unsteadily.  Adam reached out to steady him and at the same time he stared at the locker before him.  They were in another segment of Enemies he suddenly realised.  He looked at Allen.  "Are you okay?"
 Again, Allen was shaking his head to clear cobwebs.  "I'm fine," he said, "but I'm getting sick of being spun around like a damn top."
 "Take a look at the sticker on this locker," Adam told him.
 Allen glanced at the sticker and read aloud.  "WE FE CU-SN.  What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
 When Adam saw the locker a few seconds ago he had immediately figured out the purpose of being brought here.  "There are subtle clues for this puzzle but you would need some knowledge of chemistry to get it."
 Adam saw Allen's eyes light up.  "Yeah, I get it, kind of, but this doesn't seem like a fair puzzle even though it would teach you something once you got it, assuming you ever did," he added.  "If I had studied the sticker before you said anything I think I would have thought those letters were initials or something."
 Adam smacked his new friend on the back.  "Exactly.  This isn't too bad because of the subtle clues and it is a good teacher in the end, but it does illustrate a good point.  A little care has to be taken when designing a puzzle.  You can't assume a player has your knowledge."
Allen nodded in agreement.  "So you're saying that games should be programmed the same way the newspaper is written..  The vocabulary used is that of an eighth grade or freshman level so the vast majority can read the stories and comprehend them."
Looking pleased with himself, Allen turned and started for the door.
Adam took a quick step toward the mortal Gamer.  "Hey," he protested, "where are you going?"
"I'm going...ut oh...oh man not again."
 Adam saw his apprentice begin to fade out and his last words echoed into infinity as the corners of his own vision darkened.  The world suddenly pitched and rolled around him.  Just as abruptly, the world righted itself and Adam's vision and equilibrium returned with only a little wrench in his gut.  Allen stood a little off to one side looking around curiously.  Adam did likewise and noted the cluttered stones and artifacts and of course the hoop-like sculpture with a beam of light shooting down out of the centre of the hoop.  "Mulldoon," he muttered under his breath.
 "What was that?" Allen asked stepping over a few stones to join Adam.
 "This is the game, Mulldoon," Adam repeated.
 "Kinda gloomy, isn't it," Allen said.  "And what's the hoopy thing with the light?"
 Adam shook his head.  "Something tells me that that sculpture isn't the point of us being taken here?"
 "What?  It's the only weird thing in this room?" Allen said indignantly.
 "Let's leave this room," Adam said turning to leave.
 "Fine with me," Allen said.  "We can only go west in any case."  He started walking.  Not hearing accompanying footsteps, he looked over his shoulder.  Adam was gone.  "Adam!" he called, hurrying back toward the hoop sculpture.  "Adam!"
 "What do you want," Adam said.  Allen jumped, catching his foot on a stone sending him sprawling.
 "Jesus, don't do that," Allen said, struggling to his feet and brushing the dust off his clothes, glaring at Adam.  "Don't go sneaking around and disappearing like that.  God, give me a coronary.  Where did you go, anyway?"
"Oh, I went south."
 "South?" Allen protested.  "There's no way to go south."
 "Right?" Adam replied.
 "What?"
 "I could just as easily have gone Northeast."
 "Bull," Allen snapped.
 Grinning, Adam strode off to the Northeast, disappearing into the shadows.
 "Get your ass back here," Allen shouted.  "This is nuts."
 Adam reappeared and grinned again.
 "No way," Allen complained, sitting on the nearest stone.  "Those other two exits weren't in the room description.  That's not a puzzle, it's an omission.  I know it was planned that way, but that sucks.  Now throughout the rest of the whole damn game you'll have to check all eight directions to see if other exits have been left out.  That's way too much frustration and it makes the game tedious to play.  The puzzles are hard enough to fathom but deliberately leaving out the existence of a viable exit is a cheap, childish trick.."  Allen snapped his mouth shut and glared at Adam, daring him to contradict him.
 Adam took an involuntary step backwards, taken aback by Allen's vehemence.  "Hey, take it easy..."
"No!" Allen snapped, his eyes flashing.  "This game seemed really cool.  I figured out how to enter the damn museum and I was feeling pretty good.  Don't ask me how I know that, but now I find out that I have to contend with this?"  He turned his back on Adam and abruptly fell silent.
 Adam came up behind him putting a hand on his shoulder.  "I'm not disagreeing with you.  In my opinion, you're absolutely right."
 "Oh.  That's different then," Allen said, turning.  "Pretty good mad, eh?"
 "You were really pissed," Adam agreed.
 "It just made me mad when I first thought you were going to explain why that game device was good," Allen said as he stood.
 Adam liked the fact Allen seemed to have  a little backbone.  Not as much as Adam of course, but he, Allen, was learning.  He was about to tell him so when the lights suddenly went out and the floor vanished.  He and Allen were plummeting into the whirling eddies and writhing currents of darkness.
 The first thing Adam was aware of was a rushing hissing noise which seemed to grow stronger, then weaker, then stronger, in a constant rhythm.  The surface Adam was lying on didn't feel solid either.  It was sort of lumpy and uneven.  He slowly opened his eyes and promptly received a facefulL of salt water.  He rolled over gagging and choking, his lungs protesting violently.  Regaining his breath but still spitting salt water, Adam sat up and furiously rubbed his stinging eyes.  When they finally stopped smarting he was able to survey his surroundings.  The beach stretched for a ways in either direction.  But with the sky corked with a solid mass of grey clouds, all the colour had been leeched out of the sand and surf.  Then he caught sight of a woman standing a little ways up the beach..  She was looking around, seeming to be a little dazed.
"Can I help you, Ma'am?" Adam asked, getting a tad shakily to his feet.
 "Very funny," the woman spat, turning and looking daggers at Adam.  "Now where the hell are we?  I don't quite recognise this game."
 Adam gaped.  Then he collapsed on the beach howling with laughter.  He clutched his stomach as he rolled back and forth.
 "What's wrong with you," Allen asked, taking a few steps toward Adam, breasts swaying slightly as she walked.  Sensing something was wrong, Allen paused and glanced down at herself.  "Oh, my, God," she cried which sent Adam into new gales of laughter with Tears streaming down his cheeks.
 "I've been waiting for a girl like you for all my life," Adam gasped still peeling with laughter.  His stomach muscles clenched painfully but he couldn't stop.
 "Go to hell," Allen said, skirts swirling as she turned away.
 "Be careful," Adam barely managed to say, "you might get a run in your stocking."
 "Bite me," Allen snarled as she stalked away.  The wind blew her long hair into her face.  Swearing loudly she slapped it out of her eyes.
 "Will you marry me?" Adam asked which sent him rolling across the beach in a renewed paroxysm of laughter.
 "I do look rather fetching, don't I?" Allen asked.
 "Oh, God, stop," Adam gasped.  "My stomach...."
 Allen waited patiently until Adam finally calmed down enough to manage to stagger to his feet.  Allen pointed at a nearby darkened cave mouth.  "Now I recognise this game.  That's the cave from a game I've started to play called Gothic.  I have a feeling we're supposed to go into that cave," HE/she said.  "As long as you promise not to try to take advantage of me, that is."
 Adam almost lost it again but at least he managed to stay on his feet this time.
 "I'd deck you," Allen said as they started for the cave, "but I'm afraid I'd break a nail."
 "Goddam, this is funny," Adam said.  "Come on, Baby, let's sneak away into that cave."
 "You WILL pay for this," Allen said as they stepped into the gloomy innards of the cave. Allen stepped carefully among the scattered rocks and had to lift her skirts out of the sand.
"Careful, honey," Adam crooned as he took Allen's arm.  She ignored him and jerked her arm away.
It was too dark in the cave to discern any detail.  Allen found she was carrying a lantern which she quickly lit.  A soft yellow glow dimly illuminated the interior of the cave.  Getting their bearings, they stepped deeper into the cave.  A wall of water came hurtling down the cave passageway from behind them and before they could move, the water slammed into them.  The torrent seemed to slide around and threw Adam with out hurling him off his feet.  Adam quickly realised that he wasn't really a character in this game, but Allen, the beautiful Allen, was.  Adam strode quickly through the swirling maelstrom of water toward his friend, or girlfriend, as she was sent spinning and tumbling deeper into the cave.
"Help me!" Allen screamed.  Her cries were cut off as a surge of water slapped her in the face.  Adam made a wild lunge for her and his fingers closed around Allen's slender wrist but the raging current ripped his hand free and slammed Allen viciously into the cave wall.  The scene flickered for a moment before spinning out of existence.  The two men, Allen had lost his female trappings, bobbed in blackness.  Three large white words blinked in front of them.  'RESTART, RESTORE, QUIT'
 "Wow," Allen breathed.  "I just died.
 "Too bad," Adam said, "I was just getting up the nerve to ask you out."
Allen gave Adam a withering look.  "That death was pretty good in that game," he said.
 "Well, yes and no," Adam replied.  "There's absolutely nothing wrong in having players of games die.  In fact, it is an important part of any IF game.  If there is no possibility of dying then there is no suspense, no anticipation of the consequences of your actions, no feeling of achievement when you make the correct deduction and avoid death for a little longer."
 "So what's wrong with my recent demise?" Allen asked, examining all of his fingernails to ensure that all were the correct male length.
 "There was no warning.  Not even a subtle one like 'You hear a distant rumbling.'  You had no chance to get out of the cave once you lit the lantern.  When programming a game you have to give your player(s) a fair chance to survive or else you risk creating a feeling of futility and loss of interest in playing the game.  If a player's character dies too easily the fun of the game is lost, even with the capability of restoring saved games."
 "I see said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw," Allen said.  "That wasn't an original ditty, by the way."  Allen looked around him.  "I'm getting tired."
 "So am I," Adam agreed.
 Allen reached out and touched the 'QUIT' selection and abruptly all three words vanished and both men found themselves floating in a familiar void.  Adam reached out and shook Allen's hand.  "Take care and good gaming.  I have a feeling I'll see you again soon."
 "It was my pleasure," Allen said.  "I look forward to our next adventure.  Game on, man."
 Adam watched as Allen began to grow smaller and less distinct as he drifted quickly away into the void.
 "A nice job for your first training experience," a familiar voice said out of the darkness.
 "Actually," Adam said, "I enjoyed myself."
"There is still hope for you, yet," the computer intoned.  "But now I have to run some diagnostic subroutines."
 Adam felt the void sliding away from him. Exhausted, he closed his eyes.  When he opened them again he found himself seated at his computer with the scandisk program chugging away.
The words, "TO BE CONTINUED" danced across the top of the screen.

+++
The Great Gammon Hunt

Some time ago, I received a message from a person who wishes to remain anonymous. This person was asking about whether an accessible Windows-based game of backgammon was available anywhere. When I reported that no such game has been noticed by the Audyssey community, this mysterious individual was rather vexed at this state of affairs. Not much is known about this unhappy Gamer, but his/her experience and skill with Backgammon are such that he/she can regularly defeat a player who has been at it for some forty years. A user of Jaws For Windows, this player wants somebody out there to track down an accessible version which will challenge his/her vast abilities. This version should be easy to access, requiring no scripts or other special efforts on behalf of the player in order to access it. Needless to say, it must have very good artificial intelligence. No trivial implementations are going to fit the bill. Speaking of which, bounty hunters; This desperate player has donated twenty dollars in US funds to the person who finds a version of Backgammon which will pass his/her test of high quality. Such testing will doubtless be rigorous. Since I have received numerous inquiries over the years for such a game, and will likely receive more as more elderly computer users emerge, I have decided to double her prize to forty dollars US. Do not expect payment right away, as I will only give out the prize after this veteran player indicates satisfaction with what is found. Yes, folks! Our first official bounty hunt has begun in earnest. Go to it, cyber-hounds.

+++
Competition Coverage!!!

As many of you are aware, the past couple of months saw the 1999 IF competition take place. There were thirty-seven entries this year, making it the largest competition yet. Due to time constraints, the Audyssey staff were not able to cover all the entries. However, both Justin and Kelly have selected their favourites and have reviewed them for you. Justin also sent along the ranked list of winners which I have included below for everyone's benefit. Below the list, you'll find Kelly and Justin's contributions.

*****
Results for 1999 IF Competition

Place
Name
Avg. Score

1
Winter Wonderland
7.41

2
For A Change
7.25

3
Six Stories
7.08

4
Day for Soft Food, A
6.89

5
Exhibition
6.80

6
Halothane
6.69

7
On the Farm
6.46

8
Hunter, In Darkness
6.43

9
Beat the Devil
6.30

10
Jacks or Better to Murder, Aces to Win
6.29

11
Erehwon
6.07

12
Insanity Circle, The
5.64

13
Bliss
5.45

14
Stone Cell
5.44

15
Four Seconds
5.38

16
HeBGB Horror!, The
5.16

17
Only After Dark
5.08

18
Moment of Hope, A
5.03

19
Chaos
4.92

20
Strangers in the Night
4.91

21
Lomalow
4.80

22
King Arthur's Night Out
4.70

23
Calliope
4.67

24
Music Education
4.53

25
Spodgeville Murphy and The Jewelled Eye of Wossname
4.47

26
Life on Beal Street
4.41

27
Remembrance
4.36

28
Thorfinn's Realm
4.27

29
Death to my Enemies
4.25

Water Bird, The
4.25

31
Chicks Dig Jerks
4.22

32
SNOSAE
3.88

33
Pass the Banana
3.35

34
Outsided
2.94

35
L.U.D.I.T.E.
2.38

36
Guard Duty
2.23

37
Skyranch
2.02
 ****
+
THE 1999 IF COMPETITION INFORM GAME REVIEWS: Part 1
by Kelly Sapergia

   The 1999 IF Competition is now over, and the winner has been decided. I'm going to review some of the games in the Inform category, starting with my favourite game.
Note that I haven't tried all the games, so I'll write more reviews of them for the next issue.
To play these games, you'll need a Z-Code interpreter to play these games. I recommend DOS Frotz which can play most games.

"Winter Wonderland"
by Laura A. Knauph

This game won first place in this year's competition, and most deservedly in my opinion. In this excellent story, you play the role of Gretchen, a girl who goes into town to find a gift for her sick friend. When she leaves the town, a snow blizzard comes up, and Gretchen wakes up later to find herself in a land of talking trees, snow sprites, and other creatures.
This game is, in my opinion, one of the best from this year's competition. The writing and story are both excellent. The puzzles are a bit hard, but there are built-in hints in the game.
With the holidays in a few weeks, I think this would make an excellent gift for those of you who like playing games of this nature. Most of the games in this year's competition were, I think, mostly intended for adults, but this game is great for the whole family! I highly recommend downloading it! I give it a rating of 10 out of 10.

"The Jeweled Eye of Wossname"
by David Fillmore

   Have you ever played the author's first game "Perilous Magic"? Well, "The Jeweled Eye of Wossname" (to be referred to as "Wossname" for the rest of this article), is similar to "Perilous Magic" in that it is short. The only problem I had with this game was that after you survive getting killed by a falling ceiling, a ledge is supposed to be exposed. It's there, but it's not included in the description because of a bug. This has been fixed after the competition. (Sorry about revealing the solution to a problem). I gave this game a rating of about 7 out of 10. It's interesting, and there are a few funny points in the game. (Hint: type "ZORK".)

"Chix Dig Jerks"
by Robb Sherwin

   This game is definitely NOT  for children! If you don't like games that contain sexual content, then you might want to forget about this game. I personally hate games of this nature, but I played the thing anyway. The basic object of this game is to meet two girls at a bar, for obvious reasons. There is a lot of sexual content in this game, and some violence.
I gave this one a rating of 3 out of 10.

"Hunter in Darkness: an Interactive Crawl"

   "An Interactive Crawl" describes this game well. You're a hunter who's trying to hunt the famous wumpus, but you must also try to survive. I haven't completed this game yet, and I stopped trying, because I couldn't find any hints or a walkthrough. This game has just about everything that reminded me of the classic "Hunt the Wumpus" game. There are caves with bats, pits that I personally find hard to get across, etc.
I didn't really care for this game because I got stuck easily. For instance, there's a section of the game where you come to a pit with some rope tied to something, but the only problem is how to get the rope. On top of that, you find out about the rope after you jump into the pit and land on a ledge!
I rated this one 3 out of 10.

"LUDITE"
by Rhybread Celsius

   This game was, in my opinion, the absolute worst game I've ever played from this year's competition. This game has no real storyline, there's no real plot or anything that would make this a good game. This game's text is basically made up of sentences that don't make any sense, and are not funny at all!
I gave this one a 0 out of 10.

   Well, that's all for this issue, but I'll write some more reviews of the other games for the next issue of Audyssey.

+

My Favourite Competition Games
by Justin Fegel

This year's Interactive Fiction Competition contained 37 games making it the largest competition to date. As usual, games developed with Tads and Inform stole the show, but there were a couple Alan games, a couple DOS executable games, and even a web-based game. With so many good games to choose from this year, it was kind of tough to decide which ones I would like to review, but I picked a few which I really enjoyed. Since Kelly is doing some of the Inform games, I decided to concentrate mainly on the Tads games.

I should note that two of the competition games contain bugs that make them unwinnable. The first is Guard Duty, an Inform game which has you in the role of a security guard who must guard the treasures of a wealthy death lord from bold adventurers. The second game is a Tads game called the Water Bird. This is a game based on native American folklore and casts you in the role of a young boy who must save his village from a man-eating giant. Both of these games looked good and I'm really hoping that corrected versions are released soon.
And now, on to the games!


*****
Bliss

This is a rather chilling, but kind of thought provoking, game. At the beginning it seems like it's going to be your standard fantasy game. You are on a quest to slay a dragon when you are captured and thrown in to a cell. After I got about three quarters of the way through the game however, it dawned on me that this was not a typical fantasy adventure. It turns out that you were put in to a mental asylum because after suffering years of abuse from your father, you retreated in to your own fantasy world. In one of your delusions, you escape from the hospital. In your fantasy, you end up killing several enemies including the dragon. In reality, these were actually innocent people, which you realise when you are able to come out of it. There are even instances during the game when you briefly are aware of the real world around you. I believe the author was trying to show the fine line that can sometimes exist between fantasy and reality.

Despite the "dark" aspect of the game, I thought it was well developed. The text was well written, the transitions between various parts of the story were good, and the puzzles, even though there weren't too many of them, were quite simple. There really weren't very many puzzles in the game at all. The hardest ones were near the beginning and middle. The end of the game primarily consists of just watching what happens. This, however, doesn't seem to detract anything from the game's enjoyment.

*****
Exhibition

Exhibition is not really a game. It is, in the author's words, "an experiment." This is a new way of trying to tell a story.

An art exhibition is taking place at a local gallery and is displaying the works of a Russian Artist who recently committed suicide. Before you begin, you are asked to choose the character to listen to. You can pick from four characters, the artist's widow, a deaf art critic, a teenage boy, and a college student. Once you have selected a character, you just walk through the galleries, examining everything, but especially the paintings. Use your other senses as well, like listening or smelling. Everything is also described in the first person. It should be noted that you are not really the main character. Instead, you could say that you are a quiet observer travelling with the character, in tune to his/her thoughts.

Since each character is very unique from the other, many descriptions will be different depending on which character you choose. Descriptions of people and locations may be altered somewhat since each person perceives things in a slightly different way from the other. This is more noticeable when examining the paintings. Each person has a different idea and perception of art and will have a different reaction to a particular painting than someone else. For example: Each painting that the widow sees triggers a particular memory of her husband. The critic, on the other hand, picks each painting apart, finding its faults and trying to explain what the artist was trying to express.

It is possible to change to a different character while in the middle of the game. I suppose if you wanted to you could get one character's perception of a painting and then change to a different character and get a different perception of that same painting. I would not recommend doing this however. You should play through the entire exhibit as one character and then start over again as another character. There are supposedly twelve possible endings. This is a work I would encourage everyone to at least give a try. It really is something new.

*****
Six Stories

This was a great game! It was one of my favourites in the whole competition. The game itself is not very long or difficult at all. In fact, it only contains one puzzle. What makes the game unique is its features.

Six Stories was written using HTML Tads. HTML Tads is basically a much more improved version of Tads. It allows the developer to imbed HTML tags in his/her code or text. This makes it possible to create fonts, banners, tables, etc. What's even more exciting is that the developer now has the ability to include graphics files, and more importantly for us blind gamers, sound files in their games. To get the full effect of a game developed with HTML Tads you need the HTML Tads Interpreter. The latest version is 2.2.51. In fact, you can't play six stories without this version as it uses some features only implemented in this version. The HTML Tads Interpreter is a windows application, so you will have to use your windows screen reader. I use it with JFW and I set my screen echo to echo all text sent to the screen and it works great. The interpreter can play wav, midi, and mp3 files. To get the best sound quality you should have Direct X installed on your system.

In Six Stories, your car stalls out on a back road in the dead of winter. It's cold, so you look for some shelter. You enter a seemingly deserted shack and sit down to rest. You fall asleep and wake up to find yourself in some sort of labyrinth. While walking along you enter a room where you meet five strange creatures. They tell you that they have been brought here and trapped and they cannot get out. It was told that you would be coming to help them. They then proceed to each tell you a story and they give you objects to assist you.

This game uses both graphics and sound. I believe there are illustrations for almost every location in the game and for the creatures as well. Also, over half of the game was audio. The entire prologue up until your car stalls was narrated by a human voice with some background effects. There is also some audio description when you fall asleep in the shack and are transported to the labyrinth. When each of the creatures tells you their story, there is someone voicing the part of that creature. There are also a small scattering of other sound effects throughout the game for atmosphere.

This is a game you all should definitely try. This game really impressed me and I really expect to see more games like this developed in the future. I think we're on the threshold of seeing more multimedia based interactive fiction games especially with a development system like HTML Tads available.

*****
Well, I realise these are just three games out of 37, but these are the games I enjoyed the most.
The competition was full of some excellent games this year and I encourage all of you interactive fiction fans to try them all when you get a chance. For more information and to view the full results of the competition, visit http://www.textfire.com.


 


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Game Reviews:

+
 Monopoly PC.
 Author: Len shepherd.
  
This computer version of the popular bored game monopoly, is very speech friendly. The game uses simple menus to enable the player to make DECISIONS, e.g., to buy and mortgage properties. In my opinion, the only disadvantage of the game is that it can only be played against the computer.

You can download the game for free from
ftp://ftp.clark.net/pub/poehlman/ 
That site also contains many more speech friendly programs and games. I my self give this game 7 on 10. I like many of the simple to use features such as the DECISIONS menu, and also the sounds that work via the PC speaker.

+
Return To Krondor-- Sierra Studios
Review by Michael Feir

My father and I have enjoyed many games over the years. However, none have impressed us both more than Sierra's Return to Krondor. This sequel to Betrayal At Krondor made for an excellent adventure. My father and I played for around a month before we finally managed to win. Normally, we play for around an hour or two. However, this game was so intriguing that we ended up spending many four to five hour cessions in our living room by Dad's computer.

There is a lot of spoken dialogue in the game, but also a fair bit of reading. Most of the dialogue lines in the game are spoken, although there are some annoying exceptions to this. Item descriptions, stats, and other text is not spoken, and will have to be read by a sighted assistant. The combat system is turn-based, so you have plenty of time to discuss strategy. There is a bit of an imbalance between combat and other game elements. We spent a lot of time fighting. As enjoyable as the combat system is, constantly doing battle becomes a bit annoying after a while.

While the first Krondor game left the entire kingdom open to players, most of Return to Krondor takes place in the city of Krondor itself. The city is threatened by an evil mercenary wearing an amulet making him immune to physical harm. The game has many sub-quests and plots to keep players busy going to different parts of the large city. Towards the end of the game, you travel on expeditions from the city into new areas in order to complete your quest.

Though fairly linear, the story is quite well-crafted. It features classical fantasy elements of vengeance, justice, and good versus evil. The music and sound effects are amazing, and so is the voice-acting. Sighted companions will not have too much trouble with the game's interface as long as the manual is read through. Although inaccessible without sighted assistance, I still give this game an eight out of ten. You can find it in retail stores or order it on-line from Sierra's site at:
www.sierra.com

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Starcraft: Blizzard Entertainment
Reviewed by Randy Hammer

 Why is it that every time some little outpost gets in trouble they
call on you for support?  After all, you know for a fact there are better
commanders, and some even have better troops.  Maybe it's just your lot in
life to bail out backwater planets.

 Enter the world of StarCraft.  It is a world where three races
strive for dominance, each attempting to beat the others one planet at a
time.  Each race has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it's your job
as the commander of a small group of one of the races to defeat the others.
What kind of player are you?  Do you like to build massive armies quickly
and cheaply even though they may take heavy casualties?  Do you like to
build up more slowly, with units that are expensive, but have a lot of
power?  Or are you in the middle of the road?  The races in StarCraft are
pivotal, and will dictate how you play the game.

 The easiest to play, and in my estimation the most fun, are the
Terrans.  Think of these as humans.  They are the "middle of the road" race,
meaning that their units are strong, not cheap and yet not expensive, etc.
Their main strength is scientific advancement, eventually giving them
everything from heavy tanks to nuclear missiles.  It will be this race that
you will start out playing, because they are the easiest to control.  Check
them out then move on to the more polarised races.

 The Zergs are the second race that usually is tried.  They are a bit
more complicated than humans mainly because they can only build their
buildings (which produce units and resources) in certain areas.  They are
also the "cheap race."  Their insectoid forms easily morph into one type of
unit or another.  In fact, the Zergs even build buildings through morphing.
A worker becomes the building.  So Zerg soldiers are cheap, but they pay a
price in hardiness.  The typical Terran marine (the basic Terran soldier)
can sustain 50 points of damage.  A Zergling (the basic Zerg) can sustain
half that.  In other words, Zergs are for those that wish to attack early in
the game, but don't forget that you will probably not be able to live
through a prolonged battle.

 The final option is the Protoss.  A strange and almost magical race,
the Protoss resemble humans.  They are extremely advanced, and use their
amazing powers of the mind to win battles.  The downside of the Protoss is
that not only are their units expensive, but they take a long time to train.
However, should you be fortunate enough to train even a small army of
Protoss units you will be more than a match for most Zerg (and even a few
Terran) players.

 Play in StarCraft begins with a single player mode.  In this mode
one can learn the strengths and weaknesses of each race, and get a feel for
the game.  Later network/Internet games can be arranged, and more scenarios
can be downloaded from the Web.  There really are no limits, as new
scenarios are always being posted to the web, and the game comes with a "Map
Editor."  The editor allows you to build your own scenarios, either to play
or to post.

 Game play is fairly straight forward for those who have played
similar games (Age of Empires and Command and Conquer, for example, are
almost exactly the same.)  Unfortunately for the players with no sight this
game relies on mouse use, and is almost totally sight dependent.

 So why am I reviewing the game?  Because Odyssey readers will *LOVE*
the sound effects.  Yes, you may not be able to sit in front of the monitor
and play the game on your own, but you will have no problem playing this
game with a sighted assistant.  For example, my typical sighted assistant
has trouble keeping track of what's happening outside of his immediate view.
He also has trouble gaining a "big picture" view of the campaign.  I have no
problem with either.

 A more specific example?  Okay, I'm playing Terrans, and we decide
to build a barracks (barracks produce soldier type units, marines for
example.)  We designate a builder to build the barracks, and it happily does
so.  We then switch to a different part of the screen and begin an assault
on a Zerg fortress.  After a few minutes I hear through the explosions a
little voice say "Job's finished."  That is the builder finishing the
barracks.  We can now produce marines, and the builder needs to be told to
do something else.  I notify my assistant and he switches back to our base.
The builders when not doing anything have a bad habit of standing around and
picking their noses (literally.)  We tell him to stop pickin' and put him to
work gathering resources.  We then open up our new barracks and build some
marines as replacements.  About this time I start to wonder what's happening
to our forces.  I mention to my assistant that we might want to check them
out, and he clicks to the opposite part of the screen just in time to see
the last of our forces die with a blood curdling cry.

 StarCraft is not for the feint of heart.  If you aren't into
violence, war, death, and destruction this isn't your game.  The sound
effects, like I said, are very realistic.  The graphics aren't half bad
either.  If any of this doesn't appeal to you look somewhere else.
Otherwise, this is a great game for sighted/blind combos.

+++
Year 2000: Who's in the Way
Article by: James Peach

It is so close, so imminent, so ready to hit us where we least expect it, our computers!  Ha ha ha. Seriously though, the year 2000 is near (just over a month away, wow!), and there are many things to consider before downing too much egg nog (rum and egg nog for some) and worrying about last-minute shopping.  We, the world, have been trying to picture, plan and anticipate the negative effects of year 2000 (Y2K), before it could ever happen; it's almost here, and it's only a matter of time before we find out. What will happen when the odometer of time rolls silently from 1 to 2.

We all know how the media has done the whole issue of Y2K to death, and then resurrected it so that it could be done again and again.  Anyway, the only real angle left, is to look at it from the perspective of the blind computer user, as they may be the ones the most affected by the possible "explosion" of Y2K, let alone everyone else who uses a computer.  I know I know, it so far sounds like another Y2K disaster warning article, but looking at who's involved, it may be closer to the truth.

It may simply be common knowledge, or simply a good assumption, to say that many blind/visually impaired folks are still using old computers (i.e.: 386/486/Pentium 60/75MHz, etc.). This may have made sense in the past, as DOS was most accessible, and really never changing much, so the desire for a newer computer wasn't there; as people come to understand the need to use Microsoft Windows, and come to understand the problems associated with Y2K and old computers, this assumption/fact is changing.  The only drawback I can fathom from this upgrading of the blind community, is the disappearance of the five-year PC for them; it simply doesn't exist outside of DOS, as new standards in hardware, and higher system requirements keep the old PC upgrading a bit every two or three years to keep up or stay ahead (maybe you should be downing too much egg nog to continue reading this article).

Wait wait!  Don't panic just yet, there are still a few things to know first.  From what I understand, most hardware used by computers that was created after 1997 is Y2K compliant, and most software that's noticeable (i.e.: well-known brand name stuff), will be compliant, though their developers' respected pages should be visited to find out.  If you've had the chance to buy a new computer (in this case, anything 1997 or later), then you probably only need to worry about that important software being compliant (like Windows95/98, which are not; get the patches at
www.microsoft.com ).  If you can afford it (computers are dropping in price all the time), then consider either upgrading your existing computer, or simply purchase a new one.

You might be wondering, as this is a gaming magazine, how does this whole thing affect me and my games?  Well, to tell you the truth, games should be completely impervious, as for the most part, none of them rely on dates for any reason.  With that being said (bringing great relief to one and all), all that should be needed is a simple updating of the hardware that you run the said games on, and you WON'T have to stop playing your fave DOS-based games (or Windows-based games while we're on the subject).  Personally, I'll be playing my fave games, even if the power goes out on New Years Day, for whatever reason (the benefit of a laptop computer).

In the end, the whole thing probably won't be that big of a deal, as our basic services, our banks,
and our respective governments have generally assured us that things will run like clockwork when it's all said and done (lets hope that my digital clock radio will work on January 1st).  With that said, those of us who haven't upgraded simply need think about that (a new PC or iMac
under the tree maybe?) and the rest should take care of itself.  Though there is much we still can't predict, and even less we can do if something seriously nasty happens, panic over the
whole thing can only cause negative results.  So sit back, relax with some of that egg nog, and simply slide into the year 2000, as if it was any other year.

+++
The Heat is On: Commercialising Linux
Article by: James Peach

In the Linux article of the previous issue, a little bit of everything Linux was laid before you simply to give you an idea of what Linux and it's world are like.  There is a lot to be
said, for and about Linux, that could not simply be compressed into one article.  This series of articles, from here on in, will be the solution.  In this article, we're going to take some of it. Namely, Open Source Software (OSS), and expand upon it here.

The world of Open Source Software is a dynamic one indeed.  It can best be viewed as more a community of programmers and developers, and less a type of software.  This type of software is free to download, update and modify, and with the source code freely available, it is the most dynamic of environments for software development.  This kind of knowledge/skill sharing can bring about major program advances, better programs, increased personal knowledge and skill, and even help people create friendships, all through the world of OSS.  When compared to the cut- throat world of Commercial Software, Open Source Software is about community, whereas Commercial Software is mostly about competition.

The Linux Operating System has, is, and always will be, open source; it is in it's very nature and is one of the basic fundamentals of Linux development.  One of the largest problems of this kind of development though is that if you want to make money off of your developments, it is
very difficult with this kind of open-natured development.  That being said, it seems like anyone with the time, and a CD stamper/burner, can create their own Linux distributions (distros), and then sell them to the public; this is completely legal, so long as all the source code is included.
With everyone trying to make a fast buck (say, maybe this is how Michael can afford new games every month...), one might think that no one company could generate any kind of serious profits around Linux: enter RedHat.  With brands like: IBM, Corel, Netscape, Adobe, Intel, Sun, and
more, supporting and developing for RedHat's Linux products, they have become the Microsoft (without the monopoly) of the Linux community; they are just one example of the companies
who have been able to rise above the backroom burners.

After knowing all this, you might still wonder how anyone could forge a stable company, with such an unstable foundation.  Well, it goes back to one of the oldest fundamentals of production and marketing; if people want a service/product badly enough, they are willing to pay
for it.  (Linux distros are freely available on the Internet; the people pay for the labour and service for having it on CD). If your products and services are good and reliable, then they'll come back for more.  This is what many of the home-burned distributions don't have, and thus will make little money.  If you can do it right, like RedHat, Caldera Systems and others have, you can have a good thing, in Open Source Software.

Microsoft realised this "good thing", fairly early on in the Linux Revolution (1997 onward), and
are ready for war.  As Linux network servers (Linux is a network OS) were gaining in use, surpassing WindowsNT servers, Mr Gates has gone on an offensive of sorts, avoiding the Internet mistakes he made in 1995.  As Microsoft readies itself for it's release of Windows2000
network operating system, it will be interesting to see who can attract the businesses and companies to their product.  In the end, it's not about minimum requirements, or which one is
the better OS. What will ultimately sway people in one direction or the other is product value, usability and price.

The battle lines are drawn, with one objective in
mind: create a good product, that companies will want to use, at a price companies will want to
pay; oh the heat is on.


 


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Contacting Us

I can be reached in three ways. The easiest is through CompuServe.
My e-mail address is as follows:
[email protected]
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:
(905)-814-0608

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

Adam Taylor, star of Adam, The Immortal Gamer, and our resident ADOM guru, can be reached three ways. You can send him e-mail at:
[email protected]

Or, you can check out his homepage on the web:
Blade's Armory
http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/Arcade/9111
His page is dedicated to providing help, cheats and solutions to many games. Send him a request, and he'll do his best to find what you need. He also has sections on ADOM and Nethack available. Also,
you can download the magazine from his page.

Finally, if you wish to contact him at home, his address is: 3082
Bartholomew Crescent
Mississauga, Ontario
Canada L5N 3L1

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:
[email protected]

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

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

Randy Hammer is the latest addition to the Audyssey team. Those on the Audyssey discussion list will have seen many posts from this seasoned veteran of the gaming world. He joins James Peach in the ongoing search for worth-while mainstream games that can be enjoyed by blind players with sighted assistance. He will also review commercial games and shareware produced specifically for the blind, such as that from ESP Softworks, PCS, and eventually, Zform. He can be contacted at:
[email protected]


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