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Audyssey;
Computer Games Accessible to the Blind
Issue 21: January/February, 2000
Edited by Michael Feir

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Welcome

Welcome to the twenty-first issue of Audyssey. This magazine is
dedicated to the discussion of computer games which, through accident or
design, are accessible to the blind. In this, the first issue of the new century, we'll find out what game developers are doing to liven things
up for us. Robert Betz, a new developer, has just appeared on the Windows-based gaming scene with five accessible shareware games which include Battleship, Yahtzee, and a version of Solitaire. Kelly Sapergia and Justin Fegel from the Audyssey staff, as well as Allen Maynard, have given us three independent reviews of the initial work of this new author of fun. Also, at long last, the latest version of Nethack has arrived. The secretive Nethack development team cast off its veil of obscurity to unleash this marvellously enhanced Nethack on an entirely unsuspecting public. Your editor was privileged to be a member of the beta-testing team. I'll give you a glimpse into this famous role-playing game, and recount some of my experiences working with the legendary DevTeam. A number of excellent game reviews have been sent in covering a wide variety of games. Also, the Audyssey discussion list has remained a vibrant and stimulating community. You'll have a peak into some of the highlights of what was discussed.

**Long-time readers of Audyssey may want to skip to the next plus-sign at this point.

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://www.espsoftworks.com/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.

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
My Trip To The Mazes of Menace
Audyssey Magazine Online!
Pinball Action
From Computer Games to Video Games
Free Game Winner
News From ESP Softworks
News From PCS
News From Zform
Audio-tips Allows Gamers to Get Together online
The Future of DOS; Linux
Game Announcements and Reviews
Contacting Us


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From The Editor:

Greetings, everyone. By complete coincidence, the twenty-first issue of Audyssey is our first publication for the twenty-first century. Let's hope that this proves to be a good omen for the longevity and vibrancy of the Audyssey community as a whole. The last few months have seen a high amount of activity on a number of fronts in terms of blind-accessible games. The latest version of Nethack has at last appeared, and your editor was engaged in making certain that it was as accessible as possible. I also completed work on the Rising From Time's Ashes collection of interactive fiction. This can be down-loaded from a number of sites, and features fifty of the best freely available works of interactive fiction of the twentieth century. You can find it at:
www.espsoftworks.com
as well as on Paul Henrichsen's site at:
www.thesocket.com/~henrich
and on Kelly Sapergia's site at:
listen.to/ksapergia
among other places. I designed the collection specifically for Windows95/98 users, and it makes use of long folder names to make it easier to find one's way around. A lot of games such as Worlds Apart and the fiendishly difficult Mulldoon Legacy, have been updated even since the Time's Ashes collection was released. The IF competition might be over, but post-competition releases are still appearing. As you'll see in the updates from the three major games developers, and also in the Game Announcements and Reviews section, a lot is happening there as well. We have an exciting time ahead of us.

One key factor to increasing the size of the Audyssey readership and community is to spread the word that there are computer games for the blind, and also about Audyssey itself. Extensive efforts have been made in that direction by both myself and by ESP Softworks, PCS, and Zform. As a result, accessible games for the blind have received unusually high publicity. We've had an article in the Baltimore Sun and a New York paper featuring PCS games and also mentioning Audyssey and ESP Softworks. During the month of January, I was the guest of the month on Skyclub. This list is run by the library of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and has members across Canada as well as in other countries. I was able to help a lot of folks out about games, and to inform them of the Audyssey community. An article will shortly be available for the press in which myself, ESP Softworks, PCS, and Zform have all had a part in constructing. All this attention will hopefully make more individuals and also more institutions involved with the blind give Audyssey a look.

Audyssey now also has a chat-room on the Audio-Tips web-site at:
www.audio-tips.com
This site allows people with sound cards and microphones to talk to each other over the Internet very easily. Jak Goodfellow has served the Audyssey community well yet again with a very good explanatory article which can be found later in the issue. I hope that people will join our weekly chats in the Blind Gamer's chat-room, and that you'll use it to communicate with each other without paying exorbitant long-distance charges. Remember that aside from the scheduled chats, you're free to use the gamer's room whenever you like for other talks. Arrange times using E-mail or short phone-calls and then talk to your heart's content on Audio-tips for free. My thanks go to Paul Nugent of Audio-Tips for his excellent work building the Blind Gamer's Zone and the chat-room itself for Audyssey. Readers who haven't already done so should give Audio-Tips and the Blind Gamer's Zone a look.

One trend I've been noticing over the last while is that we haven't been getting much from people who obtain  Audyssey from places other than the discussion list. I know that there are a lot of you reading Audyssey off of web-sites and such, and have even heard of cases where people have printed out copies for others. To all of you people, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to also contribute material to Audyssey. A kind of core of fortunately very dedicated people has developed. I am certainly grateful for this, and hope that this core continues to expand and be as active as it has been. However, I'd also like to hear more from the people who don't regularly contribute. You don't have to be fantastic writers or anything like that. Give us your opinions, articles, letters, reviews, etc, and I'll edit them to make certain nobody winds up looking foolish. Thanks to the development of an Audyssey core, we can worry less about actually having content for each issue and turn our attentions to expanding the core and the community as a whole. Variety of opinions and points of view is what I'd like to see more of in future issues. Lets keep those thoughts coming, people. Enjoy this issue, and please do try and contribute to the next one. With your help, Audyssey will continue to get better as we gain more of a foot-hold on this new century.

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Letters:

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From Charles Rivard:

Michael:  As a totally blind credit card terminal troubleshooter for a major credit card company, I need some stress relief during my evenings (when time allows).  I very recently discovered your magazine on PCS games' web-site (www.pcsgames.com) and have spent 2 days reading back issues of which there are about 19!  I'm both excited & impressed by the work by you and the other contributors!  Maybe, once in a while, I can contribute.  Edit as you feel necessary.  I would be interested in Email from any of your readers because I am a novice at computer gaming.  Send all Email to:
[email protected]
I have been working with a commercially available chess program that comes on 2 CDs:  Chessmaster 6000 & have found it pretty much accessible using JAWS for Windows 3.5 & my Creative Labs Soundblaster16 in the Windows95 format.  As far as most DOS games I have found, they can be used from a DOS window with the JFW set to read all.  If interested, I think I can find the time to give more details in an article, but it will take some time.  One thing to note:  The chess game is rated at about 3000! which means I LOSE!  You can play games against human-like opponents ranging from the very novice up to the top level & setting time limits for both isn't much problem.  You can see your skill ratings increase or decrease as you win & lose games in this mode!  There are many other impressive features.  You might have to either use a program such as Openbook Unbound or a sighted friend to read the printed documentation.  Also, Michael, can you send zipped files?  I had a copy of the cannons and catapults game that got corrupted & haven't found another one.  I have a set of Infocom games that came on 10 5.25 inch 360K disks (yes, I can still use them as well as the 3.5-inch high density ones, & I have a 24X CDROM drive.  My PC is an Intel 166meg Pentium with a 2 gig harddrive & 64 Megs of RAM.  I really enjoy PCS games bowling, shooting range, & tank games.  More will soon be on the way.  I'm thinking of sending them the necessary money for all back issues to get the included games.  This should give me a good start to a set of games for the blind, which I didn't even know existed until very recently!  I MUST HAVE MORE!!!  Also, what are these "interpreters" mentioned in your magazines?  I know that I've asked a ton of questions, so you can answer those of general interest to us novices in a future issue, or reply to this Email when you get the chance.  Keep up the good work!  I'll try to find some time to give my thoughts on games I come across, although I'm not anywhere near ready to attempt to become one of your "regular staff".  It's an idea for the future, though!  Thanks again for your fine, informative efforts!

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And thank you, Charles, for such high praise and enthusiasm. We can certainly use more articles and reviews from readers who aren't part of the Audyssey staff. Don't forget that each time a reader who isn't part of the staff submits an  article or review, they increase their chance of winning a free game from PCS. Since you're into Chess, you might want to compare Chessmaster 6000 with Winboard for JFW. That would certainly give you a shot at the next free game. If you have access to the Web, you can down-load all the games on the Audyssey disks for yourself. If you have trouble finding any, just let me know and I'll send them as attachments.

The interpreters discussed in Audyssey are for playing interactive fiction games. These are written to be playable on a number of different computers. The most commonly used interpreters are Winfrotz and Wintads. These let you play Zcode or Inform games and Tads games. The Zcode games have .z5, .z8, and .dat extensions on the end of the file name. Tads games have .gam extensions. I hope this clears that up a bit for you and any others out there who may not know what interpreters were for.

I'm not certain that I have that Cannons and Catapults game, but I'll start looking for it and send it to you if I find it. Anybody who finds it on the Internet should inform the discussion list about where it is.

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From Kenneth Downey:

Dear Mike,
Last week I sent in a review of Jim Kitchen's hangman.
 Since then, I have made a most shocking discovery. Maybe you have heard all about this already, but if not -- here is a great post for Audyssey.

Last week while I was surfing the net in search of good games to play, I came upon a most intriguing sight.  This site claimed that it had software that would enable a blind person to play tic-tac-toe.  Now I am not a fan of that game, which cannot even be won
and is so easy to play, but I downloaded the software
to (see what I could see.)

I ran the program and got a shock.  I heard all these weird sounds.  They started from the left and moved to the right.  I couldn't figure what was going on, so I
went back to the web-site...and here is what I learned.

This package is called the voICe Learning Edition. It's absolutely free of charge to download and install.  What is it?  It is sonification technology. That means that I can take a digital camera, strap it to my head, hook it to the computer, and actually look around.  All the visual input is converted into sound.

Here's how. Let's say that the software is seeing a bright white line on a black background, sloping from the lower left of the image to the upper right.  The sounds
always scan from left to right, so in this case you would hear a low frequency from the left speaker, which would increase in frequency as it swept to the right.

This would be simple for blind people to identify, but
visual content is usually much more complex. The software can input information from a camera, or it can sonify selected parts of the computer screen.  You
can tell it to sonify the mouse pointer itself, the
area surrounding the mouse pointer, the active window, or the full screen.

Before I go on with my thoughts on its various possible applications, let me tell you about the tic-tac-Toe game that comes built-in to the software. When the game first starts, you hear a blipping sound. This tells you where the centre of the board is.  If the blipping comes from your right, you know that you are on the left side of the board.  If the blipping is high, you know that the centre of the board is above you and that you must move up to be in the centre. Then, when you are where you want to be, you hit the space bar and the computer marks your first move with an open (unfilled) circle.  It is easy to identify, because it sounds just as it would look, a sound that goes up and then down in frequency, and, at the same time, a sound that goes down then up. (It all sounds complex, but when you play the game a few times it gets easier.)  Anyway, after you place your circle on the board, the computer places its symbol.  You play until you beat the computer, (in the rookie setting it will actually let you do that,) or there is a tie.  I lost often when I started playing because I couldn't figure out what exactly was happening, but now I hardly ever lose.

As you can see, then, this may very well be a powerful application for us. Now let's consider other possibilities.

You're playing a game of chess.  The computer is telling you what is happening but you want to get a visual perspective of what the board looks like.  Very simple.  Activate the voICe software,  select "sonify the active window," then return to your chess program. You will hear the entire board.  If you are white, you will hear your pieces.  If you are black, go into voICe and select "negative video" by hitting the f5 key and the blacks will appear.  This is so because colour is indicated by the volume of the sound.  You can also adjust zoom settings, the speed of the scan, and ask the computer to tell you in speech what colours are on the screen.

There are so many possibilities surrounding this software that it is incredible.  I even use it to view wave forms in an oscilloscope program I have.  It picks out the wave forms quite well, so I can imagine that an all-visual game would work well.

Are you curious enough to take the ten seconds to access more knowledge about and download this software? You can find it at:
http://www.seeingwithsound.com

After you download it, type voice.exe in the appropriate directory.  When you hear the sound of the parked car scene, which will start automatically as that is voICe's splash screen, hit shift-f11 on your keyboard to play tic-tac-Toe.  It's quite easy once you get the hang of it. This software works for windows 95 and better.

I hope that you enjoy this new visual perspective that we all can gain.  Maybe  this will allow us at last a peek into mainstream gaming.

Play on!

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While I haven't had the time yet to investigate this extraordinary find, I certainly find it encouraging that software like this is being devised. The idea is quite an unconventional one, and those are always worthy of attention. Thanks, Kenneth, for bringing it to our notice. Thanks also for being such an active member on the Audio-Tips chats lately and for spreading the word about Audyssey. For those who aren't on the discussion list, Kenneth has recently plunged into the Audyssey community with a vengeance. A review of Jim Kitchen's Hangman written by him is found later in this issue, and I think a lot of you who seek word-games will find it of especial interest.

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From Jason Smith:
I've just uploaded Blotz, an interpreter based on Frotz that uses
DPMI so it can play large games in low memory situations.  It is a
zip file and comes with a readme file that you should read because
it tells you some stuff you need to know to run it.
http://www.plover.net/~jaybird/blotz.zip
Enjoy!

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From Adam Myrow:

Well, I have managed to get the Blotz program that Jason put up on his web
site.  I began trying various things and discovered that you can get it to
automatically read the screen like the standard Frotz interpreter with a
simple switch.  For example, you would type "Blotz -v t advent.z5" to force
the video into "text" mode.    Of course, you would replace "advent.z5"
with the name of the adventure you wanted to play. This seems to work for
me.  I modified the batch file and ended up renaming the executable to
"dosblotz" in order to keep DOS from getting them confused.

I figured this out by typing "Blotz -h" and then "Blotz -d" and reading
their output.  Hope this rambling helps somebody.  Oh by the way, the sound
in Sherlock doesn't seem to work in Blotz, so play that particular Infocom
game with standard  Frotz.  I'd still take Jason's advice to only use
Blotz when a game won't load with Frotz.  At least, there is a way to make
it a bit more speech-friendly.

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From Matthew Bullis:
Dear Michael,
You sent me the collection a little over a week ago, and with the Christmas
holiday, which was a good one for me and hopefully for you, I have just now
got around to opening it up and examining it. I have some comments about
your readme.txt file. By the way, when I e-mailed you that word pad was not
reading the full lines correctly in the file, your suggestion about setting
the word wrap worked. It now works as a constant in the program. If you
still have the e-mail addresses of those who wanted the collection, or you
know how many different places you posted the announcement about the
collection, then you might want to pass on these hints for JFW users. This
probably would be better than resending the collection with an updated text
file. Anyhow, these suggestions have to do with the inform games in the
collection. Upon starting them up, and after setting speech to all with
insert S, I found that it kept speaking the time every second. To resolve
this, I unchecked the status bar in the view menu of the program. Next, when
you make your moves, it would keep going up to the top of the screen and
reading past moves before finally getting to the current text. To solve this
problem, I went into the view menu, then into display options, and checked
the Updates: very frequent. I don't know if frequent would do the trick, but
I figured that very frequent would be good enough.
Those are my comments, so I thought that I should pass them on to you so
that other JFW users can have a little easier time than I had. Even though
it didn't take me long to fix these problems, I figure that others may not
have the experience of navigating the menus.

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My thanks, Matthew, for that helpful information. I've found that checking the "lock window size" box in the "display options" section of the Winfrotz menus helps as well. Remember that if all else fails, you can always use your screen-reader's review cursor or review mode. It's a little more tedious, but it works ultimately. You should also make certain that you're using a regular font and try both the dual and full colour settings to see which works best for you. It seems that later versions of JFW can be helped with the full-colour mode setting. I'm not certain about other screen readers. I hope that everyone is able to enjoy the collection all the better for this information. Keep up the good thinking Matthew.

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One of the major topics of discussion in the Audio-Tips chatroom and on the discussion list was ethics in games. Below, you'll find a few messages from the discussion list to give everyone a sense of the direction and high calibre of the discussion. May more such stimulating thoughts be brought into the Audyssey community as a result of reading these:

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From Paul G Silva:

On Audio Tips the other night the group talked a bit
about violence in games.  And the eight or ten people
that were there all seemed to have the same basic
feeling on violence in games, which caught me
(happily) by surprise.  What people seemed to be
saying was that (and I'll quote myself so as not to
misquote anyone else - I won't get mad at myself
*smile*)

"Violence is a part of human nature, something that is
neither good nor bad in and of itself.  It is the
context with which violence and graphic content appear
that make them 'good' or 'bad'.  An example of bad is
the game 'Grand Theft Auto' where you are a carjacker
who's job it is to deliver drugs, rob banks, and what
not - all while getting points for killing cops and
running over pedestrians.  An example of a 'good' use
of graphic content would be the film Schindler's List.

It is of course within a person's first amendment
rights to make a game (or any other piece of art) with
whatever content they want.  HOWEVER, we get to choose
if we want to but that content, which means that the
box the content is contained in (so to speak) should
tell us what sort of thing we are buying."

It was generally agreed that night that having a lot
of hack and slash and even "gory" sound effect in a
game like SOD would NOT be a bad thing, so long as the
opponents were readily definable as non-human.  In
fact, we universally agreed that there are just those
BAD days when having a video game to blast the hell
out of things helps us blow of steam in a healthy way,
by killing 1's and 0's.

I am wondering how the rest of the list feels about
this, and if people think I misrepresented the
discussion, please feel free to correct me - I am
imperfect.

And onwards...
there are other issues in the world besides violence.
Graphic content can come in several forms.  It can be
sexual, it can be vulgar verbiage, etc.  And while I am amazed we had a general consensus among people on violence, I'd be VERY interested to see what people think on other topics.  The US has a great reputation of having no universal opinion on sexual matters. Instead, we explore ALL possible extremes and the places in between.  So I guess the question is, where does this list lie?  Now, let me just elaborate, by
sexual content, I don't mean THE ACT per say, I mean sexy voices, characters out of a James bond movie, Lara Croft (Tomb Raider's female protagonist, VERY
busty - a little controversial).  I'd be interested to hear how people feel on these issues, I think ALL the developers would like to know where our customers
stand. So, where do you?


+
From Dave O:

<very heavy sigh

Come on people, are we not smart enough to understand the difference between
a game and reality?  Also, a game is not in itself evil.  The person who
plays it, or uses it to their detriment is evil.  Not the game.

Also, if you don't like a game's premise, content, or whatever happens to
possibly offend you, then DON'T play, don't buy it, and send your message
that way.

However, if someone wants to pretend to steal a car in Grand Theft, or do
whatever else in a fantasy role playing game, then let them.  It's fantasy.

Dave

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From David Lant:

Hi Paul and all,

For my own part, I am not one who readily appreciates graphic depictions of
violence, whatever its context.  I am not saying that there is never an
appropriate time to show what war or death is really like.  I just don't
think it is a topic for entertainment in itself.  Therefore, I distinctly
agree with the broad sentiment, that any opponent should be clearly
identified as unreal, or even non-living.  I don't think anyone has real
qualms about blowing up a machine.  Yet what if that machine is an android,
designed to look, sound and behave just like a human being?  Is simply
knowing that it's really a machine enough to dispel the feeling that you are
abusing a life?

During a programming course last year, a sighted colleague borrowed the
laptop I was using, and started to play a game on it that he had
surreptitiously installed earlier.  The game was called "Carmageddon," and
basically involved driving a car as a weapon, killing people and destroying
property.  The concept itself was sufficiently unpleasant to me.  But what
really disturbed my sensibilities, were the gory sound effects.  Doubtless
the graphics were just as bad.  I was perfectly aware that there were no
real people being killed or maimed.  But I completely failed to see how
adding the effects of blood and gore all over the screen and speakers could
possibly make the game more enjoyable.  To me, this is definitely not simply
exercising the violent tendencies within us.  It is pandering to the
psychotic extremes, who are in fact the last group who should be pandered to
in any way.

I fully accept that my views on violence are not shared by a significant
number of people.  Each individual has their own view of what is and is not
acceptable.  My own nature is a very non-violent one, to the extent where I
even find it impossible to lose my temper.  This has been a source of
annoyance to others for years, since some enjoy goading, while others think
that perpetual calmness is a sign of detachment.  Whatever the truth, I am
pleased with the way I am.

So, to sum up on violence, I have no objection to displaced aggression.  Nor
do I object to vivid sound effects for atmosphere and information.  But what
I most definitely do not want is realism.  I know very well what really
happens when you shoot living tissue with a soft round.  It's not something
I'd like to be reminded of.

As for sexual content, I think the same problems arise as for movies and
other entertainment.  How often have we heard the excuse, "it's artistic
license."  Or alternatively, "it's justified by the story."  In my
experience, often neither is true.  Maybe some would say I'm repressed.
However, I prefer to think that I distinguish between sex and emotion.
Despite the romantic novelist, they are independent of each other.  One does
not need sexual allusion to imply emotion.  Of course, just like the
violence issue, we are all human, and driven by numerous urges.  There is
nothing wrong with that.  But again, I'm not convinced it's something that
justifies using explicit, or thinly veiled content for entertainment.

Where does one draw the line then?  There's no answer to that.  Just like in
the desert, as soon as you draw a line, the environment changes and
eradicates it remorselessly.  The best one can hope for, is that people are
sufficiently informed to make a choice for themselves, according to their
own conscience.
+
From James North:

Hi, All. I was going to respond to a lot of the messages already posted, but I figured
I'd just distil a few thoughts and drop 'em in a message.

I don't think gaming ethics should come down to a question of morality since
outside the realm of individual morality, 'morals' have little use across
the board except to create division and self-righteousness.  Some may
believe some sort of basic morality comes into play when most of us would do
what we could to prevent someone being compromised in some violent fashion
or what tells us inside that it's wrong to harm another, but I'd hope that
it's part of our genetics that predispose us toward this way of thinking
rather than learned 'morals'.  I think when too many people try to make
others' business their own it just creates distrust and paranoia and that
can't be good for society as a whole.

I think the bottom line as far as gaming goes is to make the prospective
buyer (or, recipient) fully aware of the game's content in a straightforward
and obvious manner so that there aren't any surprises.  This would allow
someone to choose whether or not the game contains material they're
interested in.  I don't believe in limiting the choices of games because
someone feels it's their duty to have them banned because they personally
find them offensive.  I personally find these types of people offensive, but
I respect their right to exist. *grin*

While we don't have any immediate plans to create games that have any sort
of extreme approach, I think it can be used with great effectiveness as
warranted depending on the situation.  I think we should leave that up to
the creators and the artists.  Whether or not 'artistic license' is a good
excuse or not isn't really the point.  Good books or games tend to average
life in a way that allows the reader or player to observe that which they
normally wouldn't have access to in real life for various reasons.  Fantasy
is an important aspect of human thinking.  It's bad enough to be told what
is or isn't acceptable behaviour in reality, but when we're reprimanded for
fantasy it's a bit much.  Fiction, interactive or print, is an inexpensive
way to immerse one's self into such fantasy.  I think to try and figure out
why certain people endeavour in certain fantasies really shouldn't be an
issue except from a development standpoint.

++
Another major topic of discussion on the list was the ongoing Shades of Doom project headed by David Greenwood. Below are a few messages pertaining to this project to keep everyone in tune with what's going on. The first message is the most recent progress report directly from Mr. Greenwood. You'll doubtless notice that it was done in haste and was not as full a briefing as David would have liked to bring you. Its brevity speaks volumes on just how busy this star developer has become. He is currently converting Lone Wolf to Windows, and is also conceptualising a fighter simulator among other projects. Doubtless, we'll have more from him in the next issue.

+
From David Greenwood:

Hi Michael,

I don't know if you can use this, but here is a quick status report on SOD...

The Shades of Doom - Status Report

Thanks to many people on the Audyssey Discussion list, I received a
considerable amount of feedback and a number of suggestions with regard to
the Shades of Doom prototype.  If the number of non-discussion list e-mail
messages is any indication, the word seemed to go well  beyond even the
Audyssey community.  In any event, thanks to all.

As with most development projects, things are taking more time than I
expected, but I hope, when the next release is out, it will prove to be
worth the wait.  I think I could get more work done if I would do more
programming and less testing.  But as my wife says,  "You're not testing,
you're playing!"

Without giving anything away and not getting too technical, I'll give you a
short status report.  First of all, I have added basic easy-to-see
graphics.  If you have some useable vision, this will help you navigate the
maze. It also makes it possible to play with a sighted friend or family
member.  Next, your character carries a gadget similar to the Star Trek
tricorder device.  This device allows you to find and identify objects,
navigate the maze, and locate monsters, along with several other tasks.

I will be reviewing the previous Shades of Doom e-mail messages again, but
I think most other suggestions have been implemented, and I feel they are
working well.  The World Builder is virtually completed, and I took the
suggestions to heart and made the World Builder as user-friendly as possible.

I feel at this point I can now call Shades of Doom a game, rather than a
prototype.  I plan to have the alpha version of the game out before the
next issue of Audyssey in April, and maybe at that point, we can report on
any new feedback from the discussion list. 

+
From guy vermeulen

Hello, gamers. The proto keeps amazing me because of its fantastic atmosphere, every time I play it. the sounds of the wind and the echo of your footsteps really do the job, so I would suggest : let us only ad other sounds when necessary and, if possible,
when they fit into the atmosphere of the sod world.

personally, I think that a humming sound of an elevator, as suggested by Paul,
would fit in perfectly, as I agree with Allen that a tricorder device is a
  good solution for some general info a player needs, even if this would require some sounds that don't fit very well into the atmosphere.

But even if this was discussed before, it was the tricorder or tricorder that made me think of some kind of reward for killing monsters. right now, you kill a monster and you continue your way as if nothing had happened, regardless of which type of monster you killed, and the only thing that may have been changed is your state of health.
  but as David land stated before : you are a blind hero, fighting your way in
  a world where you get nothing for nothing.

so, wouldn't it be normal to get a reward for killing a monster, and a bigger
  reward for killing the faster type of monster than for killing the slower
  kind? one could think of more health for killing type1(the slower one) and
  more ammo for killing type2. so, every time you have killed a monster, your tricorder would make a little beeping sound, and you can check your inventory(f.e. by pressing "I")to control how much your health or ammo has improved, at least if you want to
  check it and if you have the time(probably not when being attacked by
  different monsters at the same time(grin)). and killing type2 at a certain position in the level would give you new armour. this is only an example of rewarding for your efforts to kill a monster, but I think that rewarding and taking into account the sort of monster killed(or difficulty solved)could be useful in the sod world, and feel as "natural" to
  the player.

+
From Mark Hemmings:

Hi al.

Michael raises some interesting issues with regard the nature of a blind
hero in the game. It is of course natural that opponents cheat and I
personally think that we need to explore not just scenarios but also the kind of action which might be included to make a blind hero/heroine more realistic.  After all, we don't want the game to be so incredible that belief is not merely suspended, it is killed.

This is in fact part of the reason I mentioned the acquisition of such things as mobility aids and say cameras.  perhaps we could even invent shields which wile slowing a projectile down, may make it more damaging if it strikes the player.

Naturally we would not expect to last a moment in a fight at the Okay corral and not only because of Michael's points, there is also the natural development of reflexes.  I wonder how many of you would regard your reflexes on a par with sighted people.  It is essential that we take advantage in the game of our advantages in real life, hearing and for most congenitally blind people an excellent memory.  We are also better than most sighted people at absorbing information through speech or one kind or another.

I declare the soapbox free.


+
From Ron Schamerhorn:

Hello one and all. Regarding the "blind" character in the SOD game allow me to point out a few practical problems:

* if you were to use a guide animal or cane would the noise from either not
alarm the monster of your whereabouts?
* Depending on the type of monsters used by this take for example reptilian, snakes don't have good sight and rely on other senses.  This would effectively
put the player and monster on equal footing.
* I recall a movie "Blind Fury" I think was the title.  In which the main
character was blind.  At one point it showed the character using stealth, call
me a critic but like that was a possibility!  The point being that regardless
if I view myself as seeing or not I need the environment to tell me what my
surroundings are.  The method I use to gain various information depends on what
I am attempting to find out.  A Dog Guide will do me little good if I am
determining the location of a discarded weapon [or have incredible
training*smile*]
* If the guide animal or cane were used, is there a chance that the character
will loose the cane or the animal would get killed by a monster.  Either of
which is a possibility.
* It would make sense to find background information in some sort of computer
log entry device.  Data is kept for pretty much everything so it stands to
reason that we would discover some through the game.
* Getting from one level to another could be easy or difficult.  If you have
elevators some may work and others not depending on the power available.  Maybe
the character has to climb out and crawl up the shaft to get to the next level.

+
From David Lant:


Hi folks,

In the subject, I'm referring to materials and interactions within the game
world, as opposed to the objective.

One of the things that greatly impressed me with the prototype, even in it's
embryonic state, is the way in which it has managed to completely immerse
the player inside a sensory world filled with suspense and excitement.  For
that reason, my thoughts tend to follow along the same route.  I note that
several suggestions have lent toward introducing special devices,
contraptions, units and beings, each chosen to particularly generate a sound
that can be uniquely identified.  Well, being the perverse sort that I am,
<smile> I wanted to throw in a few little observations.

First, even in real life, which I freely admit we're not trying to re-create
here, there are situations where different objects make the same, or very
similar noises.  This might be looked upon as unnecessarily confusing the
player.  However, as I've probably begun to repeat ad nauseum, things don't
want to be too easy.  A very simple example of a puzzle, is merely to
withhold information from the player.  That's how conjurers perform card
tricks.  They are not bamboozling anyone with convoluted logic.  they just
don't let you see what's going on.  so, a very straightforward, but
sometimes difficult-to-solve puzzle, is just trying to work out what the
heck you're standing next to.

This is where I'd like to introduce a specific command to inspect an object,
fixture or structure.  How this is done at the detailed level is not
terribly significant.  Provided it fits into the game world, there should be
plenty of scope.  It introduces the fact that direct action must be taken to
learn about things around you.  Sometimes, you may have to make a choice
between checking what's here, and hiding from, or attacking a monster.  No
sane person would bend down and closely examine a metal box on the floor,
while a mutant dog is jumping all over them!  It could be equated to the
five senses available in interactive fiction.  You can look at something;
listen to it; feel it; smell it; or taste it.  You could do all of these
things to the same object, and receive completely different impressions of
what that object is.

On the subject of monsters, I have a pet peeve I'd like to share.  When I
was younger, last century, I used to be the proud owner of an Acorn Electron
micro computer, and a somewhat more useable pair of eyes.  From a magazine,
I pain-stakingly copied the BASIC code for an infinite three dimensional
dungeon maze game.  It took days of patient work, and days more of
debugging, but the finished product was worth it.  One would navigate around
the maze, using the arrow keys, and turn left and right, and the scene would
change before your eyes as though you were actually inside the passages.
From time-to-time, ghosts and ghoulies and long-legged beasties would block
your path, and battle would commence.  Potions, spells and treasure could
also be accumulated as you journeyed.  As you progressed deeper into the
dungeon, down each level, the game would become progressively harder.  Nasty
creatures would appear more and more frequently.  This would be offset by
apparently greater motivation in better spells and bigger bounty.  But I
found that after a while, meeting a monster every few paces just got plain
tiresome.  The suspense was gone.  You had amassed such power and wealth
that there was little triumph in each new acquisition or conquest.  And
finally, I started to hack the program, to try to re-introduce an incentive
to play.  So,  I made the world finite.  I reduced the number of monsters,
and the range of booty.  I defined a specific end point, but a random start,
to add to re-playability.  And hey presto!  The game was alive again.  There
was a goal.  I never knew when I might meet my next foe.  And certainty
became a luxury of the past.

So, what does all that ranting add up to?  Just a plea not to have the game
world teeming with so many monsters, and so many puzzles, that there is no
time to metaphorically stop to smell the flowers.  I spent quite some
enjoyable time, just wandering the prototype Shades of Doom maze, without
monsters, and listening to the sounds and imagining the landscape.  This may
seem overly prosaic to some.  All I can say is, who is easier to surprise?
Someone who is wound like a coiled spring, alert and tense in every sinew?
Or someone lost in a reverie, fascinated by the sensations surrounding them?
It *does* add to the excitement!

Now, back to generalisations.  Although I can understand the wish to
identify objects, and even give them names, I wonder whether there is any
merit in leaving some latitude for interpretation?  Does it matter whether
your attacker is a mutant humanoid or mutant dog?  That's just a label,
which is unlikely to assist you when it comes to fighting for your life.
Similarly, should every object you discover in the passages be familiar to
you?  As with inspecting objects, is there any mileage in leaving some
objects such that the player has to determine what the heck it's function is
for him/herself?  Speculation welcome.

To round off in a totally incoherent fashion, the last sentence of the
previous paragraph made me realise something for the first time.  The player
character in the prototype is incontrovertibly male.  I do believe we're in
an age where the choice should be given.  After all, the ladies have skills
all their own for even the most dire of circumstances! <smile>

+
From Randy Hammer:

        David,

        You bring up a point that is going to be the bone of contention for
the whole group.  It's something that you don't really speak about below
directly, but it's definitely implied.  The question is:  What kind of game
are we creating here?

        How do we want to do this.  Will it be a game of atmosphere like
what David gets into below?  Will it be a hack and slash affair?  Or will it
be full of puzzles (making it basically a live action form of IF)?

        David Greenwood, if you ask me, this is the heart of the next step
questions you've been pushing for.  How do we want this game to develop?  At
first it seemed that everyone wanted this to be hack and slash with puzzles
like getting the red key to open the red door.  Simple stuff.  This is
changing though.  What do we want this game to be?

+
From Paul G. Silva:

Just a brainstorm I wish to share:

What if we present the player with a mini chemistry problem and/or use a little chemistry throughout the game.  For instance, we have some info files that
slowly relate to the player how to distinguish any of - I don't know, say 10 different chemicals (only a few at first of course).  The player does this by smell
and feel (liquid or solid, granular or crystalline)...

Once the player has read a little bit to tell them that the stuff in vile one is a sodium block and the stuff in vial two is probably water, then they can later on combine these two vials.  and when sodium comes in contact with water you get a very powerful
exothermic (hot) reaction... making enough heat to melt / burn things... like barriers.

Combining certain vials might make poisonous gasses, (one of my science fair projects was tampered with back in high school, exposing me to an unhealthy dose
of Chlorine gas - fun).  That gas could kill the player... unless they had a gas mask... in which case it would kill the monsters around them.

If we pick a few typical simple chemical reactants
that can be mixed in a variety of ways for interesting
effects, we would get two things...
1) an educational component to the game that doesn't
LOOK like an educational component
2) an unusual way to create puzzles.

Some typical chemical reactions type things that might
be cool:

1) excessive heat to burn/melt things
2) excessive cold to cool/freeze things
3) strong acids & bases to do what acids and bases do
4) Create poisonous or corrosive gas clouds
5) create explosions to blow stuff up
6) sleeping gas...
7) Nitrous oxide, laughing gas...
8) insert favourite chemical reaction from high school
or college chemistry class here...

This may not be in the scope of what David Greenwood is thinking of, but I just wanted to put it out there.

What do you all think?

+
From David Greenwood:

Hi all,

As I read it, at this point it has been pretty well decided that text will
not be displayed in the game.  Any information needed will be given as
sounds, a voice or beeps from the tricorder thing, or maybe even some
disembodied voices.  Now, we have this big blank screen, which to those of
us with no sight at all, isn't an issue. Otherwise, I was thinking that it
might be worthwhile to display high contrast block graphics that could be
used for navigation.  For example, the entire screen could be used as a top
view of a thirty foot by thirty foot area of the maze, with your position
shown at the bottom and centre.  I can see two advantages.  First, those of
us with some useable vision could make use of the augmented information it
provides, and second, it would make it more likely that we could play with
sighted friends and family.  I don't see it being a big advantage, since
nothing will be displayed that isn't available through sound, but it may be
more accessible *grin* for those who are more sight dependant.  What do you
think?  Will it add to the game or take away from it?

As a totally different topic, here is my take on the story line.  For the
most part, I don't think that the details of  the story are that important,
except in the way it reflects the props and  game objectives, or is that
vice versa. It would seem quite absurd to have an Arthurian theme, while
blasting at black knights on horse back with plasma guns. Thousands of
stories could fit the ideas we have discussed on this list, and it may be
possible to provide the player with more than one story line to choose
from.  In any event, SOD has become a game engine, rather than any one
game.  Maybe once this world has been created, someone could write a Quest
for the Holy Grail type story, or for that matter, any other story that is
based on fighting and searching.

In regards to whether the hero or heroin is sighted, I'm not sure if it
really matters. When I play the game, I imagine dimly lit corridors, with
vague shadowy shapes lumbering down the passage ways.  When I hear the
monster, I can see it in my mind's eye and I turn quickly to face it, or in
some cases, turn away and run.  Personally, I would prefer not to play the
game as a blind hero, but it's your choice, and I can see the attraction. As
for navigational gadgets.  The one thing most people seem to agree on is
the tricorder thing.  We got to give it a better name than that! *grin* If
we get into canes and guide dogs, the hero would obviously be blind and I
feel this would limit the story line for any future incarnations of the
game.  Keep in mind, this tricorder could be used to help with navigation,
find objects, get more information from objects, scan for hidden doors and
traps, locate monsters, and so on.  I think it will be much more versatile
than our usual navigational tools. I may be wrong, but I don't think we
need anything else.  The skill might come into play on how and when to use
this device.  If there is a good number of buttons on the gadget, you could
set it to indicate when you are near certain objects, while ignoring
navigation and monster location. Maybe the battery will be consumed faster,
the more features you have turned on. Just some ideas to think about.

 Next, Michael discussed his questions or concerns about the difficulties
that may be involved in blind melees.  I hope that when I get all the
aspects of melees in place, there won't be a problem, but I think it's best
to discuss any possible problems now before it gets put into code.  To
start with, I can't see any major road blocks.  Of course in a real life
situation, you may expect your opposition to be silent when it's in their
best interest.  But this is a game, and so we can have the monsters
growling, hissing, or stomping around all we want.  We can assume, if you
like, they are stupid.  We can also assume they have just found their
weapons and are relatively bad shots.  After all, in games for the visually
able, this appears to be  the assumption.  I have used the example of
Wolfenstein and Doom several times in the past.  In SOD, the opposition
won't be any smarter or dumber than the characters in these games.  As an
example, in the original Doom game, I might have this experience. I can see
a monster in the distance.  It happens to be shooting in my direction.  I
am on the first level of the game. I stand their and do nothing, the
monster slowly comes forward, shooting all the time, I get a minor injury,
and the picture of my character's face in the corner of the screen looks a
little ill.  Whoops, I just got shot again, and at this time the monster is
just a few feet away.  My health looks a little worse.  It works out that
the monster is almost on top of me before it strikes the mortal blow.  From
this example, you might see how it could be similar to the way SOD could
work. Even in the visual version of Doom, you cannot dodge bullets, so
sight doesn't help you here.  To succeed, you must hit often and accurately
to move forward in the game.  In SOD, I have written in some logic on the
chances and damage that might be incurred when being fired upon, but it
still needs  some work.  When the monster starts shooting, they shoot on a
regular basis, say every three seconds.  If you time their shots, you could
do a Shift left or right arrow, a side step, to minimise the chances of a
hit.  As suggested by someone on the list, I am playing with the idea of
using Shift down arrow to duck, and Shift up arrow to jump.  The latter
could be used when jumping over narrow trenches and pits, and the former
could be used to avoid hits. In close combat, I do not see long protracted
battles. Most will end quickly based on the type of Armour and weapon.  You
will have the option of side stepping and ducking, but if you are not going
to run, the best tactic is to get the largest number of accurate blows in
as fast as possible.  As with distance weapons, you will want to centre the
sound of the monster before you strike.  Although, not ruled out, I don't
see SOD as a marshall arts game.  There won't be blocking of blows or
prescribed defences for particular offensives.  To keep the pot boiling,
all interactions will be short and decisive with emphasis on offensive
speed and accuracy.

As usual, I am very interested in your thoughts.
David Greenwood.

+++
My Trip to the Mazes of Menace
By Michael Feir

The game of Nethack has been around for well over a decade. Its ancestors have been around for a lot longer than that. Despite its age, it is still regarded by many in the gaming industry as one of the most detailed computerised role-playing games in existence. In a recent article in Sallon, the creators of such popular graphical games as Diablo told the author how Nethack inspired them. I have been a fan of Nethack since discovering it in 1993. Despite more hours of play than I'd care to admit, I have yet to come anywhere near winning. I don't expect to win for years, and it doesn't much bother me. Simply playing such a wonderful game is fun enough for me. It is, however, comforting to know that were I ever to win, the next game would be completely different.

Unlike other game developers, the Nethack DevTeam, as this secretive group is often called, have a habit of fading into complete obscurity until they are absolutely ready to release the latest version. Nothing will be heard from them for months or even years. This time around was no exception. The newsgroup devoted to Nethack receives hundreds of messages per week. As editor of Audyssey and a fan of the game, I kept a careful watch for any news of further efforts on the part of the DevTeam. The first I heard of the new version was not on the newsgroup. It was via an E-mail message from a team member. I had sent in the configuration that Adam Taylor and I had worked out to make certain that everything was represented by text symbols. They invited me to join the beta-testers and look for accessibility problems which might exist in the new version. Of course, I accepted the invitation and down-loaded the first version of Nethack3.30.

My initial impression was not very favourable. The first time I ran it, I was greeted by a number of less than signs everywhere instead of floor-spaces. It looked like there were hundreds of upward staircases. I reported this, and it was quickly determined that the fault lay in my modified configuration file which had not included some new symbols in the version. Fortunately, the old configuration was not required. I learned that all I had to do to get everything represented by text symbols was to change a few settings in the configuration file. There was never a need to go hunting through an old printer manual for ASCII symbols as my friend and I had spent hours doing. Section 8.5 of the guidebook for this version of Nethack details what is necessary. I present it for your benefit below:

8.5.  Configuring Nethack e
 
 

 y
 
 


  
 for Play by the Blind

               Nethack can be set up to use only standard ASCII  characters for  making  maps of the dungeons. This makes the MS-DOS versions of Nethack completely accessible to  the  blind  who  use  speech and/or  Braille access technologies.  Players will require a good working knowledge of their screen-reader's review  features,  and will  have  to  know  how to navigate horizontally and vertically character by character. They will also find the search capabilities  of their screen-readers to be quite valuable. Be certain to examine this Guidebook before playing so you have  an  idea  what the  screen layout is like. You'll also need to be able to locate the PC cursor. It is always  where  your  character  is  located. Merely  searching for an @-sign will not always find your character since there are other humanoids represented by the same sign. Your  screen-reader  should  also have a function which gives you the row and column of your  review  cursor  and  the  PC  cursor. These  co-ordinates  are  often useful in giving players a better sense of the overall location of items on the screen.

While it is not difficult for experienced users to edit  the defaults.nh  file  to accomplish this, novices may find this task somewhat daunting.  Included in  all  official  distributions  of Nethack is a file called NHAccess.nh.  Replacing defaults.nh with this file will cause the game to run in a  manner  accessible  to the  blind.  After  you have gained some experience with the game and with editing files, you may want to alter settings to  better suit your preferences. Instructions on how to do this are included in the NHAccess.nh file itself. The most crucial  settings  to make the game accessible are:

          IBMgraphics
               Disable IBMgraphics by commenting out this option.

          menustyle:traditional
               This will assist in the interface to speech synthesisers.

          number_pad
               A lot of speech access programs use the number-pad to review the  screen.   If  this is the case, turn off the number_pad option and use the traditional Rogue-like commands.

          Character graphics
               Comment out all character graphics sets found near the  bottom   of  the  defaults.nh  file.   Most  of  these  replace Nethack's default representation of the dungeon using  standard  ASCII characters with fancier characters from extended character sets,  and  these  fancier  characters  can  annoy screen-readers.

Those of you familiar with my writing may have guessed that I helped out with that section of the guidebook. I hope it will encourage more blind people to give this game a chance. The Roguelike games are still the most unconventional kind of games accessible to the blind. Since the dungeon is displayed in symbols rather than sentences, this is not surprising. I hope, however, that people will have the patience to learn this game and see past the lack of verbal descriptions. Nethack's elements are quite intricate and offer endless possibilities. The game is turn-based, so there is no need to rush when examining your surroundings. Extensive on-line help is available, and players should take advantage of it. Particularly useful is the "slash" command. Entering a forward slash will activate a symbol identifier which will allow the player to either enter a symbol on the keyboard or point to one with the cursor to find out what it is. There is no need to memorise all the various symbols or commands since the help can be accessed whenever the player is in doubt.

Before I was convinced beyond all doubt that Nethack was completely accessible via speech and/or Braille technology, I played down to the Gnomish mines. This is the first highly irregular series of levels which aren't all rooms and corridors. Had I been less constrained in terms of time, I would have gone further before passing final judgement. However, the holiday issue of Audyssey was being constructed. Originally, I had hoped that the new release would have been made in time to be announced in that issue. However, as the last issue was being wrapped up at the end of November, the beta-testers were still finding bugs to be squashed by the prompt and thorough DevTeam. In a game so complex and variable, this should have come as no surprise. A condition attached to the privilege of participating in Nethack's development was that I had to remain silent about it until the version was released to the public. A number of you were wondering why I was pre-occupied for some of that period. The reporter in me screamed to tell all, but I would have then breached the contract I had agreed to and potentially forced a more hurried release before a host of bugs could have been fixed. To lessen the quality of such a splendid game would have been an absolutely unforgivable act. This is why I held my peace until they gave us authorisation to let the word out. Those on the Audyssey discussion list at the time will doubtless remember my hurried message that fateful day. Soon after it, the newsgroup exploded with activity about the new release.

During the process of beta-testing, I asked Paul Winner, a member of the DevTeam, about whether they had considered the possibilities of blind people playing Nethack. He explained that they indeed had gone to a group of blind fans during the course of Nethack's development. There, they learned the importance of keeping memory requirements as low as possible so that screen-readers could be used in addition to the game. Like other players, this group wanted hints and tips on how to play better. They are still interested in access issues relating to their game, and would welcome the help of any programmers who wanted to work with them. They can be contacted at their site at:
www.nethack.org

A number of interesting trifles were brought to light by the process of testing this new adventure. Two of these have stuck in my mind as being of particular interest. The first of these concerns the floating eyes. These creatures have been the undoing of many a brave adventurer since their gaze can paralyse those who attack them hand to hand. This gives other creatures time to attack the helpless player with impunity until the effect wares off. In an earlier test version, this was not the case. Due to an error in the code, floating eyes were bereft of their deadly power. Their gaze was their only capability. Without it, they could be sliced and diced with neither caution nor mercy. As a totally blind person, I found it poignant and funny to think of the lack of sight in a floating eye. The second trifle concerned religion. Priests were under discussion by the beta-testers when the question of the choice of religion for priests was brought up. Showing an uncommon amount of forethought considering the genre of game, the DevTeam had gone to great lengths to avoid using gods and goddesses from any modern religions in Nethack so as not to risk offending any potential players. For me, this epitomised how attentive to details these ingenious folks actually were. This attention to details, no matter how small, has, I believe, added much to the splendour of the game.

Another amusing if morbid thing which happened during beta-testing was that everyone suddenly seemed to be obsessed with robbing graves. I myself was not immune to this, and spent around two hours searching hither and yon for a shovel. Finally, I broke down and asked how to go about opening graves. There are actually a number of ways to do this, but I'll leave them for the reader to discover what these are. After all, as editor of Audyssey, I have a moral responsibility not to support such hideous behaviour as grave-robbing. I'm fully aware that not practising what I preach puts me in the dubious company of... well... a lot of people.

It was indeed a privilege and an honour to be a part of such a grand enterprise as Nethack. I certainly look forward to future versions of the game. I can do this with more confidence than ever that any new versions will be accessible to blind players. The DevTeam is well aware of its blind audience, and has shown a willingness to take steps to make certain that their adventure is as accessible to all as they can make it.

+++
Audyssey Magazine ONLINE!
Announcement from James Peach

It's finally here! Audyssey's official online web-site! James Peach, with the assistance of Kelly Sapergia, have put in many hours to bring you, the blind gaming community, a concise resource of Audyssey information. The web-site is broken into nine sections, such as Site News, Discussion Forums, Related Links, and the Latest Audyssey issue to bring you the best and easiest method for finding the info you want.

What it Isn't

This web-site is not simply another issue download archive, but rather, a repository of data, directly and indirectly relevant to the blind gaming community; don't worry, we will still have downloadable copies of Audyssey Magazine on our site (Issue Archives). It is also not going to shorten the distance between each issue either (sadly), but hopefully instead, provide you, the interested blind gamer, with a means to keep yourselves occupied between issues; info on contests running (ours and other's), special offers, and links to relevant web sites are just some examples. Kelly and I hope that once we get settled in with the page, more of the sort of stuff mentioned above will be available to view and indulge in.

Lastly, Audyssey Magazine is *not* the be all and end all of all Audyssey-related sites; this one will be the most official and recognised one, but that doesn't mean that your fan site should not exist! There are so many things that the site will provide for the enjoyment and entertainment of it's visitors, that to mention all the things that it is would be inaccurate and premature; the site may change (for the better) in serious ways, as time passes.

To What Ends, James?

Well, it's like this people. We had the proverbial crap beaten out of us when J. J. Meddaugh disappeared, consequently taking the distribution list with him. This means that a lot of readers and possibly others who posted it on their sites suddenly stopped getting Audyssey and could have concluded that it simply ceased to be published. This site will be a good central point for people to find out what's happening in the Audyssey community if they aren't as heavily involved as the rest of us. Also, through discussion with Michael we had determined that finally having an online identity for Audyssey was a good idea. I personally felt that we had so many things related to Audyssey, so detached from each other (the Discussion List, Distribution List, The Blind Gamer's Room, and the many archive sites), that to bring much of it together would be a great idea.

Enter Audyssey Magazine Online (Also known as Audyssey Online). The discussion and distribution lists, the downloadable Audyssey issues, and bits and pieces of related info, could/would coalesce here, at this site. As I said before, your Audyssey archives/info sites are still OK with us; a good strong fan-base is key to the success of any publication! At Audyssey Online, it should be even easier to find oh say, that elusive Begin2 review (goto Content Listings), or maybe a little information on a fave staff member? It's all here! Consequently, if you have a fan or mirror site that you would like us to link to, or at least acknowledge, then drop us a line (check the site or the Contacting Us section in this issue), and we'll get right to it.

Can We Go to the Web-site Now?

Sure you can! Unless for some unforeseen reason (we forgot to do something important to the site, or the Net crashes, take your pick), we can't deliver the goods, then just check about a week afterwards (unless the Net crashes...). As usual, you can send your questions, comments, complaints, and so on, to Michael Feir, and he'll fire then at us, or you can send directly to either Kelly or myself (our email addresses are at the end of this issue). Keep surfing the Net, enjoy the new year/computer millennium, and please keep Audyssey Magazine alive! Cheers and good surfing to all!.

+++
Pinball Action!

Article By: James Peach

You may have heard the song "Pinball Wizard" before, and thought to yourself, "How can someone play pinball with scent of smell?" Well, I don't think that anyone could play *that* well, but I think I've found the next best thing.

We've discussed Interactive Fiction, strategy, role-playing, sports and simulation games, within past issues of Audyssey, but next to nothing concerning pinball. Why is this so? Some of you might hazard to say that, it's a matter of accessibility, but I will argue that point later. In the case of the previously mentioned classic song "Pinball Wizard", the pinball player is described as someone with almost inhuman ability to play the game despite not being able to hear, speak, or see. As we break into the new year, with 2000's first issue of Audyssey, I would like to introduce a new genre to the community; pinball arcade games.

As I've said earlier, some of you might think that it is undoable, as nearly all graphically-based games require sighted assistance, and that pinball is too fast-paced to play in teams. This is partially true, and is a common problem for all arcade-style games, with a simple solution in pinball gaming. Why not simply eliminate the sighted player? Sure, you might think, well how the Hell am I gonna play a graphically-based game without sighted assistance?! All right, all right, it's a little more complicated than that, but I'll get to that, just wait and see.

Granted, we can't use sense of smell, like the "pinball wizard", but we can sure use our ears, and there's not much more to it than that! In the case of some pinball games, they have 3D sound, so that you can hear left and right channel movement. As the ball whips, around the table, you could hear it hitting bumpers, flying up ramps, blasting through tubes, and more, but it's still not quite so simple; a person always has to realise, that no matter how much that ball is being smacked around, it ALWAYS wants to travel generally in the "toward you" direction, so always remember that.

Aside from keeping track of where your ball(s) are heading, using sound, something a bit more serious could potentially sink the genre right out of the harbour. Some of the tables in these computerised versions of the real thing, are very confusing, and some damn near hard (even for the sighted), as there are so many twists, turns and passages, it can be daunting; to hit a particular ramp or high-point card (hit the card, the card goes down, you get points), sometimes the ball has to be rebounded off the flipper at a certain angle or something, or is damned near impossible to reach or hit.

Due to some of the afore mentioned problems, yes some sighted assistance will be required, but ONLY to describe to you what the table layout is (and this could be done up in a text doc, so that you always have that info), and should not be required for anything else. In the end, there are simply some tables that can't be played by the blind (mostly because there is no 3D sound or the table is just too confusing), and thus they will have to be passed over for other tables; don't feel bad if you simply are not able to play a table, as the marketing idea here (and with most companies) is to take the experience to the next level, which usually means hard tables. If you *do* attempt to play a pinball game that DOES NOT have 3D sound capabilities, don't feel discouraged if you don't get very high scores, as it will be the 3D sound capabilities that will give the genre accessibility to the blind.

I love to play pinball, and from talking to some of the people on the Audyssey discussion list, I don't seem to be the only one. Expect to see more reviews and previews done in games of this genre in the future, as done by either myself or by Randy Hammer. Happy belated new year to everyone, and enjoy the pinball!

+++
From Computer games to Video games
Written by Jay Pellis-

Hello everyone, I would like to take this time to tell you a little bit
about myself.  My name is Jay Pellis, and I live in Pennsylvania, in the
US.  I am totally blind, and I love all kinds of games.  I've been playing
games for many years now, all kinds, from text based to graphical.  I also
have the uncanny ability to play video games.  As in the many games out for
the video game systems such as the Sony playstation, and Nintendo64.  I
started playing these games many years ago, back when the Atari2600 first
came out.  I just picked up a controller one day, started listening, and
everything just clicked in to place.  I play games by sound, timing, and
reflexes.  I've played every system, from the nintendo entertainment system
to the new Sony Playstation.  My favourite games to play are sports games
such as the Triple Play baseball series.  I also like fighting games, such
as Streetfighter 2 or Mortal Combat.  I've gotten very good at fighting
games, and I've beat many a sighted person, who thought I would be easy as
pie to defeat.  I also play RPGS with sighted friends such as Final Fantasy
7, and also adventure games on the computer such as myst.  I play a very
diverse lot of games.  As well as games, I like to play music.  I play
the saxophone, piano, and I am learning guitar.  I have perfect pitch, and
I love to memorise and play music from games.
Anyhow, enough about me, now on to the rest of this article.
I would like to discuss the possibility of console games being accessible
to the blind with or with out sighted assistance.  By the word Console, I
am referring to gaming systems that get connected to a television, such as
the popular Sony Playstation.  The games for that system are on CD, so they
contain lots of speech, sound, and music.  I have been playing them for
years, so I would like to try to describe how they are accessible to the
blind.  The playstation controller is rectangular in shape, with a
directional control pad on the left, Start and Select buttons in the
middle, and 8 gameplay buttons, 4 on the right side, and 4 on the top of
the controller.  I will pick a game to describe, Triple Play 2000 by EA
sports.  At the beginning of the game, there are menus to select options
from.  PreSeason play, Season play etc.  When you move the control pad up,
down, left or right, a cursor moves across the screen, and highlights an
option for you to change.  Also, a sound is heard when moving the control
pad in these directions.  By counting how many times you moved the
controller, and in what direction, and by the sound, you can tell where you
are on the screen.  At first, you'll need sighted assistance to memorise
how many times it takes to get to a certain option.  For example, in the
team selection screen, the New York Yankies might perhaps be 10 down.  So
you push down on the pad 10 times, and you're on the yankies.  Over time,
and the more you play, the easier it is to know what you are choosing on
the screen.
Now for the pitching and hitting parts.  When you are up to bat, the
announcer usually announces the batter.  He might say "Next up for the
Yankies, Tino  Martinez."  When you are batting, there are some
combinations of buttons that do different things.  One button is a normal
swing, while another is a power swing, and one more is the bunt button.  Up
on the pad, and a button is a line drive, while down is a grounder, and
left and right are 2 other kinds of hits.  The sound is excellent for
hitting.  You can hear a whooshing sound, as the ball travels from the
pitcher to the plate, and you must time the push of the hit button just
right.  In the middle of the sound, if you do it right, you'll hit the
ball.  With the normal hit button, you might get a line drive but with the
power swing button, a double, triple or homerun is more likely.  You can
also hear the bat whoosh through the air, so if you miss, you'll definitely
hear it, and the umpire say "Strike!"  Pitching is pretty much the same
thing.  One button per pitch, 3 or 4 pitches to use, depending on your
pitcher.  And the auto fielding option makes the computer get the ball when
it's hit, so all you have to do is throw to the appropriate base, right
first, up second, left third, and down on the directional pad home
base.  Also, the announcing is good, performed by Jim Houston, and Buck
Martinez.  You might need a bit of sighted help during the game but not
much, since the announcers tell you everything that's happening on the
field.  Also, there are games labelled with the phrase action
adventure.  Usually, in these games, you control a character with the
control pad, and you walk around solving puzzles, talking to people, and
usually having to kill monsters or bad guys.  You will need a sighted
companions help with these kind of games but the stories are very good,
with most of them narrated.  A game series that I highly recommend is the
Resident Evil series.  It places you in the role of 1 of 2 delectable cops,
and you are in a city overrun with zombies.  The basic mission is to stay
alive, and not be eaten by the monsters but many side quests are there to
move the story along.  Then of course, you've got the RPGS such as the
final fantasy series.  They have no speech what so ever, all text but the
stories are very well written.  I've spent many hours with sighted friends
playing games such as these.
In conclusion, I think a video game system is very accessible to the
blind.  At first, you might be frustrated because of having to memorise
certain sounds and stuff but it'll soon become very easy to do.  If you
know a sighted friend who has a Sony Playstation, ask them to show it to
you, and maybe help you try to play some of the games.  Especially Triple
Play 99 or Triple play 2000.  However, I don't recommend looking at the
Nintendo64, since the games aren't on CD, they are in cartridges.  More
information can be stored on a CD then on a cartridge.  I have not tried
the recently released Sega Dreamcast but I've heard that Segas NFL2000, and
NBA2000 have good play-by-play commentary.  Also, a bonus is that the
Triple Play series is also available for the pc.  They are exact replicas
of the playstation versions, the only thing is that in TP99 and TP2000, the
options must be selected with the mouse but the keyboard is still used to
play the game.  Also, screen readers tend to freeze when run with these
kind of hardware intensive games, so be sure to turn them off, and have a
sighted buddy near by to help.

+++
Free Game Winner

It was a very hard task indeed this time around to select the winner of a free game from PCS. A number of excellent contributions were made by a number of individuals to this issue and the Audyssey community as a whole. Due to his enthusiastic plunge into action and the sheer number of high-quality items of interest, Jay Pellis wins the free game. A number of people came very close to beating him, and this should encourage them to keep trying for future rewards. Congratulations, Jay, and thanks for a wealth of interesting and thought-provoking material. Enjoy your well-earned free game.

+++
News From ESP Softworks

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:

Free Stuff!
-----------

We're now introducing our new Freebie Zone!  This is where you'll find some of our smaller games to download and use for free.  New Freebie releases usually occur without notice and may mysteriously pop-up occasionally so you may wish to check back from time to time.  So--you may be thinking--what's the catch to downloading free games??

Here's how it works.. all we ask is that in exchange for our freebies, if you haven't already filled out our online survey, that you do so after your download.  Sounds easy enough, right?  So, get going!  Also, note that if you've already filled out the survey once, there's no need to fill it out again.  So, fill it out once and forget about it no matter how many freebies you grab!

Following are the Freebies available at this time:

Shell Shock

An 'artillery' style game that can be played by two players or one player against the computer. It features cool stereo sound effects and is easily accessible to play.  Requires Microsoft Direct X to play.

Check back occasionally to see if any new Freebies have been released.  If you have an idea you'd like considered to be produced as a Freebie, drop us a line at [email protected].  Ideas that are fun, quick to implement, and accessible will be considered and if your idea's used, the freebie will be dedicated on the web-site.


Scheduled Release Dates for Upcoming Titles
-------------------------------------------

Due to dynamic rescheduling of our releases, we don't have release dates for upcoming titles.  However, we do have a release order schedule and it is as follows:

Shell Shock - Released and Available!
Monkey Business - First Quarter
Battle Chess - Second Quarter
Genesis Project - Third Quarter

These are rough estimates and not including smaller Freebie releases.


ESP Softworks Celebrates Own Millennium for 2000
-----------------------------------------------

The ESP Softworks Web-site welcomed it's 1000th guest on February 8th, 2000!  The web-site has been online since September 9th, 1999.  We appreciate your patronage!


Refer-A-Friend Incentive Program
--------------------------------

A little short on cash?  Looking for a cool deal?  Beginning the second quarter of 2000, ESP Softworks will set up an online referral program that could provide you discounts towards our games.  With enough discounts, you could even take one away for free!  Check our web site in April for details!


ESP Softworks to Attend 2000 NFB Convention in Atlanta
------------------------------------------------------

ESP Softworks is planning to once again attend the Annual NFB Convention in Atlanta, Georgia.  We are planning to demonstrate our game products, hand out information about our company and products, offer current and past issues of Audyssey Magazine, promote the web-site, and offer freebies and give-a-ways.  Stay tuned for developments as we come closer to convention day.


+++
News From PCS

As you may imagine, the folks at PCS have a whole lot on their plates. Before we get to the latest update, Baseball fans may find the following announcement to be of interest: It came in late December and was therefore not in the holiday edition of Audyssey.

World Series Baseball Special Edition  1999
It is the bottom of the fifth.  The other team scored two runs and
there are two outs.  Do you make a change or stay with the veteran
for one more batter?  Hear the ball come off the bat, and the crowd
roar as you try to manage your team to victory in every World
Series in history.  Even the organist gets into the game!
In collaboration with Harry Hollingsworth, P C S has added real
sounds to his World Series Baseball game.  It comes with 269 teams,
including the 1999 pennant winning Yankees and Braves and the 1999
All Star teams.  You will feel even more like you are really at the
baseball game.  The sounds include ball meeting bat, ball hitting
glove, vendors in stands, and music, including star spangled
banner, oh Canada, take me out to the ball game, and home team
charge music.
World Series Baseball Special Edition cost thirty five dollars.

P C S New Web Site!
At long last, Personal Computer Systems has it's own web site.
http://pcsgames.com
For the past two years Louis Scrivani has been hosting our pages and he
will continue to update the new site.  We are planning some exciting things
for this place and will keep Audyssey informed about them.

P C S in the News.
There was an article about P C S games and Carl Mickla in THE BALTIMORE SUN
January 3, 2000, and the New York NEWSDAY January 12, 2000
http://www.newsday.com/tech/techmain.htm
The head line was:
Audio Paints the Picture The blind become gamers as a few
programmers heed their needs
By Michael Stroh. THE BALTIMORE SUN

P C S was also featured in the January 2000 ACB Report that is on the ACB
Forum cassette edition side four.

Carl and Phil are making plans to be at the NFB convention July 2 through
July 8 2000 in Atlanta Georgia.

As of now we are selling twenty one DOS games and five Windows games.  We
are working on several new DOS and Windows games and hope to announce their
release in the next Audyssey.

Phil from PCS Games
[email protected]
Personal Computer Systems
551 Compton Avenue
Perth Amboy, NJ 08861
Phone (732) 826-1917

+++
News From Zform

3- TRÉ -
Yes Folks, 3- TRÉ - (the game formerly known as Hexis) is ready!  You
can go to the 3 - TRÉ - home page right now,
but I must warn you that if you have a lot of work to do... let's just
say I warned you.  3- TRÉ - has three modes of
play: 2, 3, and 4 player.  The game dynamics vary requiring you to
develop a different strategy to win in each mode.  Play
them all and send us email at [email protected] and tell us which one
you're best at, for one day you might play the
creators of the game!  And hey, you might get win a game or two.  I
don't think so, you never know, every dog has its day
:-).  If you are partially sighted please let us know if we have
successfully made the game accessible to you.  We are
currently looking into the feasibility of making 3- TRÉ -  VI
accessible.  Don't be discouraged my friends.  The best is
yet to come,  games for us all, the blind and the sighted.  Please let
us know if you have any problems or any suggestions
for us about the game drop us a line or two at [email protected].

--
Paul G. Silva ([email protected])
Cofounder and Lead Designer,
Zform LLC (www.zform.com)

+++
    Audio-tips Allows Gamers to Get Together online
By Jak Goodfellow

As the majority of you will be aware, we have been holding live talk
sessions in the 'blind gamers zone' a virtual chat room provided by audio
tips, [www.audio-tips.com].
All that is required: a microphone and speakers though some people prefer to
use headphones.

If you are not on the Audyssey listserve, you will no doubt not know about
this truly excellent idea but you are on the internet, so come join us! Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10 PM Eastern standard time, [2 am GMT], as well as Saturdays and Sundays at 3 PM eastern standard time[8 PM GMT].
It's very simple.
Just go to the audio-tips web-site, then click on 'enter audio-tips. now
click on excellent chat rooms, and make your way to the blind gamers
zone. Your browser will ask you if you would like to install the lip stream
control.
lipstream is your main interface to the chat room. It passes what people
have said to your stereo speakers, and provides graphic icons and names of
the people in the chat room.
Once asked this, click 'yes' and agree to the terms and conditions.

You will now be asked to enter a handle or name, just type your name.
So be ready for some interesting discussion.

+++
The Future of DOS; Linux

Article by: James Peach

By this time in computing history, we are saturated by the Windows Operating System and the Microsoft influence. This has caused some concern for those of the blind gaming community who want neither a part of Windows or Microsoft (albeit DOS is a Microsoft OS). While the DOS universe is dissolving around them, there may be a solution to this problem. This solution is the Linux operating system. I know you might think, "My computer can word process, play my games that I have, and still works; So why bother?". Well, it's actually quite simple; people get bored of what they have and wish to have newer or better games to play or more versatility in their computing experience. In such cases, nearly anyone would say, "I guess I'm gonna have to get a new computer and learn Windows.", which can be a big step forward, and a very expensive one (when Jaws for Windows can cost more than some of the better computers, you have to wonder); it doesn't have to be this way! Sure you should get a new computer; One at least from the 1990's. Therein lies the ability to process data faster, store more and run more, but it doesn't need to include the Windows OS, and there are a number of quality reasons for this.

For those of you who are in this pre-Pentium group, the fact that the most expensive Linux distribution is at least $50.00 less than a copy of Windows 95/98, might give one pause before rushing out to buy Windows; where Linux is a versatile, server/client OS, similar to Windows NT (multiply cost of Win98 by 5), Windows 95/98 is a consumer OS, not as flexible. Also, Linux can be run on a 486 with 4MB of RAM, as a standard, whereas these are Windows 95 minimum system requirements (try running Windows 95 on this, and you won't get far, and don't even try Win98 on that). While Windows is completely graphical, which makes it quite a trial to use and understand with text-to-speech, Linux, in it's "native" or text-based form, is far more user-friendly in this way (even if the OS is a bit unwieldy). Finally, thanks to DOSEmu and other emulation products, Linux can run DOS applications and games. With the help of such emulators, even without DOS on your system, you can still play your fave DOS games and use your other DOS-based stuff.

Given all the argument against Windows, you might wonder why the blind gaming community hasn't embraced Linux. Well, there are a few serious problems that need to be overcome before it can be fully viable. There is the problem of the installation process not being accessible. Their doesn't seem to be a screen reader that will work during this time. There is also the problem of the OS itself as it is far more complex than DOS ever could be. This could intimidate some; once some of the basics are learned, it's rather flexible. With only text, it should be an easier OS to settle into than Windows. Finally, there are simply far more mainstream games supported by Windows than with Linux at the moment (there are just as many other programs supported under Windows 9X and Linux, so this is not really an issue). This is mostly due to the implementation of DirectX, but this is slowly changing.

For some of you who are still fervently holding onto that computer you bought seven years ago, this is news you may have not wanted to hear. It threatens your current way of life concerning your computing and computer gaming. This is not advice to be taken completely anyway as only YOU can decide whether it is really worth it for you to move forward. In the Windows NT market, DOS no longer exists. This will soon be the fate for the consumer versions of Windows. Linux might be your only option for retaining the past.

In the end, only the users can truly decide what is right for them concerning Linux, and will make a decision eventually by either force of will or force of market. Once developers realise that they are missing out on an easier to use, cheap, relatively untapped OS, then Linux may indeed become *the* best choice for the blind gamer. Only time will tell.

+++
Game Announcements and Reviews:

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

One game that hasn't been widely examined by Audyssey readers is Fortune's Call. I recently completed writing the game to be played in a word processor, and also hope that somebody will take a crack at programming it. Up to six players may participate, and all you need is four six-sided dice and the file containing the game. It is proving difficult to play with JFW since it doesn't let you move up and down and read only the character you move to. JFW always seems to want to read an entire line when one moves up or down. If anybody knows of a way to get around this, please share it with the rest of us. In the meantime, I suggest that those trying the game should make a board and pieces to play it. If anybody wants the game and hasn't already received it, please let me know and I'll send it over to you via E-mail attachment.

It may startle some of you to know that despite their long history of producing games and involvement with Audyssey, PCS games have only occasionally been formally reviewed in Audyssey. If you have a favourite PCS game, why not write a review of it and share your opinions with other readers? Is there a game that you feel they could have done much better with? Again, let us all know. With your feedback, developers like PCS, ESP Softworks, and Zform will be able to bring better games to you. Well, without further delay, let's get into them there reviews.

+
Jim Kitchen's DOS Hangman
Reviewed by Kenneth Downey
Available as freeware from:
http://users.nowonline.net/jkitchen/
Fully playable without sighted assistance.


While you and your friends watched Wheel of Fortune,
have you ever thought, "I could do better than those
idiots
on TV if I could just see the letters?"  Well, it's
time to knuckle down and take the challenge.
Jim Kitchen's "hangman," (doshman.zip), is a perfect
way to do just that--and it's free so there are no
excuses now!
When you run the game, the first question you are
asked is about the sound setting.  Choose the
appropriate one and prepare to enjoy yourself.  You'll
hear Tigger bouncing around or some other great
cartoon sound effect.
Next, the game will ask you what you want to do.
There are three  sets of instructions: macro
instructions, game instructions, and dictionary
instructions.  This may seem a little daunting at
first but the game is so simple you'll learn it in no
time.
After starting the game, pick a difficulty level.  You
can choose from beginner, easy, or regular.  After you
choose, the game will tell you whether the word is a
person, place, or thing and how many letters it has.
After that, start guessing.  Just type the letter you
want to guess. 
Blank spots are represented with dashes, so you'll
know exactly how many there are between letters.  A
bell rings every time a letter falls into the word, so
if you type s and hear two bells you know there are
two ses?--two of the letter s in your word.   The game
also tells you where the letter lies in the word, for
example you type s and it says that it's the fifth
letter in the word.
That's all there is to it.  Guess the word before your
entire body is on the screen--hanging...  If you're
close to hanging, you will hear a warning sound.  If
you're hung, you will hear that too, as you will hear
a sound when you get the word right.
Pretty simple, eh?  The only difference between this
game and Wheel is that you're not on TV, you don't win
the new car, and you don't get to shake Vanna White's
hand.. and okay, there's not even a wheel--but this is
hangman!
One problem I encountered in the game is this:  I am
using JFW 3.2--an antiquated version I know, but
sometimes it reads dashes where there are none.  This
gets confusing because you see three blanks after the
e where there should only be two.  This problem can be
resolved by simply refreshing the screen from time to
time.  Using Vocal-eyes or some other DOS screen
reader resolves this problem.  Hint:  You must set
config.sys for this to work properly. Just write
SWITCHES = /c at the bottom of the file...and that's
all folks!

++
Robert Betz's Accessible Games
Reviewed by Kelly Sapergia
Available as shareware at:
http://www.jokerdog.com
Fully accessible without sighted assistance.

I've been asked by some people if there are any games that can be played with speech for Windows 95 and 98. I've also been wondering the same thing. There are a few, but not many at the moment. There's the game "Winboard" which is designed for JFW (JAWS for Windows) 3.3 or later, but I personally have never played chess before. There's also the "Shades of Doom" prototype by David Greenwood that has continuous sound support with the DirectX system. In the prototype, you move around a maze shooting at monsters. I can't wait to play the new version when it's released.

In this article, I'm going to discuss some games by Robert Betz, that can be played in Windows. Note that you need JFW to play these games.

I've tried three of Mr. Betz's games: Accessible Memory,
Accessible Simon, and Accessible Battleship. The object of the "Accessible Memory" and "Accessible Simon" games is to try to match different sounds. The "Accessible Memory" game is slightly different than the Simon game, in that you use the arrow keys to move to a square on a grid, such as "A4", "b3", etc. Each square has a different sound. For example, you move to square A5 and press Enter to hear the sound associated with that square. You then have to move to another square to try to match the sound you just heard. Think of it as the game "Concentration", only this time you match sounds, and there are no "guess the number" puzzles.

The "Accessible Simon" game plays a sound first, then you must
press a key that corresponds with that sound. This game features different categories for the various sound effects, such as cartoon or space sounds.

The "Battleship" game is similar to the Memory game in that you select a co-ordinate to try to hit one of the computer's ships, an aircraft carrier, etc. After your move, the computer will try to target you.

I gave these games a rating of 10 out of 10. If you've been looking for some recreational games for Windows that can be played by visually impaired people, I highly recommend these games. Mr. Betz has some other games on his web site, such as an accessible version of the popular FreeCell game. If you'd like to download his games, go to:
www.jokerdog.com.

+
Accessible Games at Jokerdog.com
Reviewed by Allen Maynard
Available as shareware at:
http://www.jokerdog.com
Fully accessible without sighted assistance.

Currently, Jokerdog has five accessible games available to download and
try.  These games are FreeCell, Battleship, Simon, Memory, and Yahtzee.

I have downloaded and tried Accessible Battleship, Simon, and Memory.
I was impressed with the multimedia sounds of all three games.  Battleship
was the game which had the fewest sounds and the sound of the ships firing
was a little weak in that it sounded more like a shotgun rather than a
cannon or torpedo firing.  One major aspect of the Battleship game I
didn't like was the fact that you could not place your own ships.  This was
done by the computer.  Using Window-Eyes V3.1, it was difficult but not
impossible to play this game by the use of the numeric keypad to control
the mouse.  However, even though I could move the mouse pointer around the
grid, all I heard was "space, space, space," unless I came to the left edge
where the row letter was voiced or the top boundary where the row numbers
were voiced from 1 to 9 all at once.  To play the game I had to count the
spaces to determine where I wanted to fire then click the left mouse button
with the slash on the numpad.  What was nice, however, was an M would
appear in the space you selected if the shot missed and the letter
associated to the type of ship hit if you were successful with that shot:
C for cruiser, B for Battleship, etc.  Overall, I found the game too
frustrating to play using Window-Eyes.  This game is only for Windows 95/98
but I'm not sure about Windows 3.x.

Memory was an equally difficult game to play with Window-Eyes.  You
manoeuvred around the grid the same way you did in Battleship.  What was
strange was the choice of the programmer to place the entire word "done" in
a square when you made a match.  This made it necessary to move the mouse
over the entire word to get to the next empty square.  I would have thought
that just placing the letter D would have been much more effective and less
annoying.

Simon was the only game of the three I tried that I could play with any
ease.  You had a choice of sound groups such as animal sounds, space
sounds, etc.  You use the home row keys as Simon's buttons to push and
before you started the game you were allowed to strike these keys to hear
and memorise the associated sound.  If I remember right, you did not use
the g or h keys for anything in the game but I may be mistaken.  My biggest
complaint about this Simon game was that you were allowed to choose the
number of sounds to eventually work up to as you progressed through the
game, but the sounds never became faster the better you played.  You were
just allowed to have more sounds hence more keys to test your ability.  So
the game, in my opinion, was too easy even though you could choose to have
24 keystrokes to remember in one sequence for the final test.

Overall, these three games seem to work much better with JFW V3.3 or better
as the web-site suggests.  The games require Windows 95/98 but I'm not sure
about Windows 3.x.  You also need the Visual Basic 6.0 Run Time Library
installed which is also on the jokerdog web-site. Requiring the use of this
VB 6.0 software leads me to believe that Win 3.x users cannot play these
games.  These games, in my opinion, are good starts but they lack
sophistication and general ease of use with all Windows screenreaders.
Each of these three games did have levels of difficulty which was very nice.

Demos of these three games mentioned above plus FreeCell and Yahtzee can be
found on the web at:
http://www.jokerdog.com

+
 Review of Jokerdog.com Games
By Justin Fegel
Games by Robert Betz
Available as shareware from:
www.jokerdog.com
Fully accessible without sighted assistance.

Over the last several months we have seen some fantastic developments in the creation of windows-based multimedia games that are fully accessible to the blind and visually impaired community.  PCS has ported five of their games to windows featuring recorded human speech making it unnecessary to use a screen reader. We can most certainly expect to see more of their games in a Windows format soon. We also have Winboard, an accessible windows chess game, David Greenwood's Shades of Doom, which is still in the prototype phase, but looks very promising, a prototype of a pinball game from a company called Eargames, which also looks very promising, and companies like ESP Softworks and Zform who's main focus is on developing windows games that are accessible to the blind and visually impaired.

We can now add one more name to that list of developers.  Robert Betz and his company Jokerdog.com kind of just appeared out of nowhere it seems.  In the last couple of months or so, since Mr. Betz started advertising his games, he already has five fully functional games available.  The games currently available for download are FreeCell, an accessible version of the Windows solitaire game, Memory, Simon, Yahtzee, a Windows version of the classic dice game, and Battleship. All of these games were designed to work best with Jaws for Windows version 3.3 or higher. If you use a different screen reader, I'm not sure how well they will work. You will also need the Visual Basic run-time to play these games. You can download it from the jokerdog web site, but if you have Windows 98 or Internet Explorer 4.01 or higher, I believe it should already be installed on your system.

I haven't had a opportunity to play all of the games yet, but I believe the interface for each of the games is pretty much the same.  The games I have played are Battleship and Memory.  If you have played Jim Kitchen's DOS version of Battleship then you should have a pretty good idea about how the game is played. It is a one player game with you versus the computer.  You each begin with six ships strategically placed on a 9 by 9 grid.  To win the game, you must sink the computer's ships before it can sink yours.

You can aim and fire at co-ordinates ranging from A1 to I9.  You highlight each co-ordinate by using the standard cursor keys.  For example: You begin the game aiming at A1. To move to A2 you would hit the right arrow key. To move to B1 you would hit the down arrow key. To go to the last co-ordinate, which is I9, you would do a ctrl+end.  As you move between co-ordinates, Jfw will speak the highlighted co-ordinate. If you have already fired at that co-ordinate, you will also be told if you missed or hit a target.  To shoot, simply hit the enter key or select the shoot option from the pull-down menus.  The game also has some fantastic multimedia sound effects like the sound of the missile launching and the sound of an explosion if a ship is hit.  These sound really good if you have a good sound card and a good set of speakers.

There are some improvements I would like to see in the game.  First, I would like to have the ability to manually set up my ships besides having the computer do it all of the time.  One way this could be accomplished is at the beginning of the game, a dialogue box could appear asking the player if they would like to manually place their ships.  If no is selected, then the game begins as usual.  If yes is selected, then another dialogue box could appear where you would have a list box for selecting the order you would like to position your ships and a couple edit fields for entering start and ending co-ordinates.  Once you have set up your ships the game would start.  A second feature I would like to possibly see added is the ability to play against another human opponent besides the computer.  I think it would make things much more interesting.

Memory's interface is very similar to Battleship's.  You use the standard cursor keys to move around the screen and match up different sounds while being timed.  You hit the enter key to hear the sound.  Jfw will speak the highlighted item.  Memory has four skill levels ranging from beginner, where you only have to match up eight sounds, to rocket scientist, where you must match up 50 sounds.  I haven't played the other three games that are available yet, but from reading their descriptions, the interface seems to be pretty much the same as in the two I have discussed.  I am amazed at how easy it is to navigate around the game screen.  But as I said before, these games were designed with Jfw in mind and I have no idea how well they might work with other screen readers.

The installation is also kind of neat.  When you install the first game, a submenu, called Accessible Games, is placed in the programs group off of the start menu.  As you install more of these games they will appear under this menu.  So all you have to do is open your start menu, select programs, and then select accessible games.  Battleship, Memory, and all of the other Jokerdog.com games will be in this menu.

The Battle Ship, Memory, FreeCell, and Yahtzee games are 15 day trial versions.  In order to continue playing, you must send 10 dollars to the address provided with the games in order to receive a registered copy.  Simon is an unlimited version, but there is a screen that will pop up each time you start the game encouraging you to register.  The fee for registering Simon is also 10 dollars.

I'm hoping to see more games from this author in the near future.  To download the games, point your browser to http://www.jokerdog.com.  According to the site, more games are to be added on a regular basis, so we should keep our eyes open.


++
Worlds Apart:
This new and extremely detailed piece of interactive fiction has drawn widespread praise from the interactive fiction community, and has also impressed both of the reviewers who submitted the following for Audyssey. I also have been drawn deep into the game, but am nowhere near winning yet. I've so far resisted the temptation to use the excellent hints. Enjoy the reviews below, and grab this wonderful game.

Worlds Apart
Game by Suzanne Britton.
Reviewed by David Lant
Available as freeware from www.igs.net/~tril/worlds
Fully accessible without sighted assistance.  

A mark of the impact of a game, or a book or film come to that, is the
immediate urge to tell others about it.  I have literally, just this minute
finished playing Worlds Apart, by Suzanne Britton.  It is a piece of true
interactive fiction, written using TADS.  And after that introduction, I can
only say that none of this serves to convey the smallest part of the wonder
and joy of the prose.

As in many works of this kind, you play the part of a character who has, for
the moment, lost their recollection of who they are and what is occurring.
But the one thing that lifts this story above all the others, is its
extraordinarily captivating narrative, and the reality which becomes
inescapable, even when you discover how much is indeed unreal.  Excellent
scenes, beautiful characterisation, and a subtle and seamlessly woven story,
all bring an entire fantasy world into your mind, just as happens to the
participants in the tale.

I will not go into detail as to what events take place, as the whole reason
for the story is to experience and discover.  One feature of the work, which
endeared itself to me, was its lack of mere delaying tactics.  Some games
place puzzles and obstacles in your way, almost as if for something to do,
rather than in furtherance of the story.  In Worlds Apart, however, each
problem, each new revelation, leads you on a step-by-step journey to recover
yourself, and complete a promise.  No slaying of monsters, in the
traditional sense.  There are adversaries to defeat, but you rarely need to
resort to weaponry, and sometimes, your aim is to heal, not destroy.

There is much diversion to be found.  I know of a couple of optional events
that I have not yet explored, but those that I have, are pure enchantment,
having no function in resolving the plot, but deepening your involvement in
the world around you.  This freedom to venture in your own directions, gives
a sense of life that is sadly lacking in many other games.  Indeed, there
are points here, where you are free to choose the course of events, without
fear of "losing" or not following the intended path.

There is no scoring whatsoever in this work.  Given the nature of it, there
would be no sense in such detraction from the illusion.  If you feel the
need to discover whether you are progressing in any significant way, you can
either check the status line, which changes to different times of day as
certain scenes are completed, or you can consult the hints.  The hints that
are available are dynamic, in that you only see hints for events that you
have encountered.  It is possible to just follow the story by going through
the hints, without attempting to resolve the situations yourself.  Although
you may feel a sense of cheating or non-achievement by doing this, you will
not lose the excellence of the prose or the satisfaction of its ending.  In
this way, you could treat this just like a book, progressing passively into
the story.  However, I strongly recommend getting completely immersed in the
character, as the delight and excitement will be more fulfilling.

I feel I ought to make this somewhat longer, in order to do Worlds Apart
justice.  Yet I can only think of more superlatives, which starts to get a
bit repetitive after a while.  I could describe things in the story, but
there's no way I'd do it as well as the author.  So all I can say is, go and
get it!  There is a sequel planned, and for my own part, I can hardly wait!

+
Worlds Apart
Game by Suzanne Britton.
Reviewed by Kelly Sapergia
Available as freeware from www.igs.net/~tril/worlds
Fully accessible without sighted assistance.

"Worlds Apart" is a new science fiction game written in TADS.
It's also one of the largest TADS games I've seen yet since the
games from Adventions came out.
   In this excellent game, you play the role of Lyesh, a Hesidjan
woman who has telepathic abilities, such as being able to sense
what other people are thinking or saying. When you start the game
you can't remember who you are. I've played this game twice so
far, and I'm still not sure what you're supposed to do.
   I classify this game as an interactive novel. The story is
great, and the characters are well-designed.
The puzzles are somewhat hard, but there is a built-in adaptive
hint system in case you need any help.
   I gave this game a rating of 9 out of 10. You need the latest
version of the TADS interpreter, 2.5.1 or later. This game was
designed to be used with HTML TADS, but it works fine in DOS with
the new TADS interpreter.
You can download this game from the IF-Archive:
ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/tads.
The file is worlds.zip.
  
+
Jim Kitchen's Play-By-Play Football
Reviewed by Adam Myrow
Available as freeware from:
http://users.nowonline.net/jkitchen/
Fully playable without sighted assistance.


As many of the long-time readers of Audyssey know, Jim Kitchen has produced
games for the blind for years.  Many of them come with tons of sounds and
other goodies.  However, most of the well-known ones were later works.  The
game I am reviewing here is one of his earliest works.  It was written back
in 1996 and unlike most of his other games, has no sound, but is still
entertaining.  It is called Play-by-Play Football.  It is a simulation of
American Football, not European Football (AKA Soccer.)  This game is
radically different from his later games.  As I said, it has no sound
except a beep at the end of each quarter and several beeps at the 2-minute
warnings, and unlike most of his games, is more passive.  It puts you in
the quarterback's position and it is your job to manage your chosen team
through a 16-week season and hopefully the play-offs and Superbowl.
Basically, it starts out the first time by asking you what team you want to
manage and listing all the NFL teams that existed in 1996.  Note that since
that time, the Oilers got their name changed to the Titans and of course,
played in the Superbowl this year.  Anyway, you pick your team and are
given information about what week this is, who you will play, and what your
record is.  You then have 4 options.  1: you can play a game.  This will
start the game.  2: you can see standings of all the teams.  The other
teams play games too and this will eventually decide who goes to the
play-offs.  3: you can see your schedule.  This shows all the teams you
will play over the 16-week season and which games are away and which are
home games.  This doesn't matter to the game, but is there for a bit of
realism.  Lastly, you can quit.  This saves the results of any games you
have played thus far and exits the program.  You can come back later and it
will pick up where you left off.  Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a
way to exit in the middle of a game.

Once you select to play a game, you get asked to pick heads or tails for a
coin toss.  The team that wins the coin toss gets to decide whether they
want the ball.  If you win, you should probably receive.  You do want to
start off with the ball don't you?  Of course!  Anyhow, after that, you get
to pick your plays.  There aren't a lot to pick.  If you have the ball and
are on offence, you have 7 plays to choose from.  There are only 6
defensive plays.  It is very simple which suits me as I do not know a
tremendous amount about Football and only began to follow it recently.  You
pick your play by typing a number and hitting enter.  That seems normal,
but there is one thing that threw me at first.  If you type a wrong number,
you don't have to hit the backspace.  All that will do is list the possible
plays again.  If you type the wrong number, just type a new one.  For
example, if you are on offence and it's the fourth down and you are on your
 own 10 yard line, you probably want to punt.  If you type 6 (field goal)
by mistake, just don't hit enter and type 7 then you can hit enter to do
what you really wanted.  Like I said, this confused me at first.  So,
basically, the game consists of typing numbers for plays and seeing what
happens.  It's similar in type to PC's Anynight Football (which I've played
the demo of,) but doesn't have as many plays.  So, what makes it so fun?
Well, Jim Kitchen shows his since of humour by poking fun at television
sports announcers.  Any blind sports fan has probably been driven nuts by
such announcers who seem to assume that everybody can see the game and they
don't have to talk about it.  The main announcer is constantly talking to
his companion named Jipp and saying silly things like "so Jipp, what do you
think of the price of rice in China?"  There are well over a half dozen of
these comments sprinkled in with some great play-by-play.  These little
comments still occasionally evoke a smile or chuckle out of me even though
I have had the game for almost a year.  They exaggerate something that I
can identify with.  Another thing I like about the game is that the players
have names unlike the PCS game.  The names are, I think, those of people
that Jim Kitchen knows.  You can opt to be the quarterback and your last
name will be used when you call a play.  This makes it fun unless you get
sacked.  Trust me, it's not fun to hear "Myrow is slammed to the ground by
Shandrow.  There was a 5 yard loss on the play."  In any case, the game
goes on like this with the teams playing by NFL rules.  There are overtimes
and the stats so far are shown after each quarter.  At the end of the game,
you get final stats and the scores of all the other games that week are
shown followed by the updated standings.  You then return to the main menu
where you can again select from the four options listed above.  That way,
you can play as many (or as few) games as you want in a single sitting.  I
usually play 1 or 2 as they take about 20 to 30 minutes each depending on
how fast you hit numbers.

In summery, while this game is not nearly as complex as PCS Anynight
Football, nor isn't heavily statistically based, it does give you some
feeling of being a quarterback and also adds some humour to the mix.  It is
a fun little game to play.  I am about half-way through my second season of
on and off playing and may finally end up with a winning record.  The best
strategy seems to try and outguess the computer.  For example, when you
would traditionally pass, try a running play.  In fact, running plays seem
to work quite well a lot.  I do suspect that different teams play
differently as I noticed that the Cowboys pass a lot and the Giants almost
always pass on the first down.  However, I have not even begun to figure it
all out.  In any case, I hope football fans who perhaps are looking for a
simple introduction will enjoy this game.  It should be on Jim Kitchen's
web site.  The only things I wish it had were a two-player option and
penalties.  While more plays would be nice, I like it for its simplicity.
Anyway, have fun!

Adam Myrow

+
You Don't Know Jack
Games by Burkely Systems Inc.
Reviewed by Randy Hammer
Available from computer stores.
Not fully playable without sighted assistance.

So you didn't make it onto Jeopardy.  You always get the busy signal
when trying to call and get on Regis's "So You Want to be a Millionaire."
You even tried to get onto Family Feud but found out it's been in
syndication since '94.  YOU *MUST* GET ONTO A GAME SHOW!!!!!!

 So go out, spend $20 and get "You Don't Know Jack."  Why put up with
Alex, Regis, and Bob Barker.  They have nothing on this host.  His Zany
antics and witty banter keeps the audience rolling throughout the show.
Just two warnings: First, don't let this game near your children, and second
keep spare keyboards handy.

 You Don't Know Jack (YDKJ) is probably the most fun party game ever
coded.  Berkeley Systems first developed the game back in the early '90's,
and after it's first release was found to be a success (storekeepers
couldn't hold on to their stock.)  Volume I was quickly followed up by
several more, equally successful releases.  The whole series now contains
some 7 volumes.  Volumes I to IV have questions on general trivia.  Three
other releases focus on sports, movies, and television.

 Despite all these different versions the main controls of the game
are simple, and perfectly accessible.  There are only a few places where
visually impaired people will have problems with this game.  Between each
question it asks what category you would like to choose.  You select a
category by hitting the corresponding number key on the keyboard.  The
categories are not read.

 This is easily fixed if you are in a group.  Just have someone read
the categories.  Once you are on to the question there are no problems at
all.  The questions and answers are read by the host, and when someone rings
in you hear who is answering.  Realise that sometimes the answers are
spelling problems, so you may want to have someone look over the answers.
If nothing else just pass by those questions and take the competition out
with the next one.  (Everyone has their weaknesses.)  Also realise that the
final round is not read.  I've had little trouble working through these
rounds with sighted assistance.  Make sure you let your partners know what
needs to be read so it's easiest for you.  If you're in a party session
consider turning the screen so only one person can read it, and have the
three competitors play like you do.

 Okay, so those are the technical problems with the game, now come
the real problems.  A little anecdote here.  I had a friend who was having a
party.  YDKJ has a tournament mode where you play a round robin style game.
Everyone (up to 20) has a chance to play.  In this instance the 15 people at
the party were switching off.  Two problems occurred during the game:
First, the keyboard had to be scrapped.  The game uses Q, B, and P as
buzzers.  Yes, these aren't used a lot in the English language, but they are
kind of essential for the game.  When they gave up the ghost from incessant
pounding the game was over.  This was a good thing because around the same
time that the collective roar was going up from the crowd (which was angry
at the premature end of the game due to the keyboard's untimely demise) the
neighbours were calling the landlord and asking to have the inhabitants of
the apartment evicted, tarred, and feathered.

 In all seriousness though, YKDJ is not for children.  I'd put a PG13
rating on it for suggestive material and mature subject matter.  No, YDKJ is
not overly crude or lewd, but it's a little mature than I'd like my kids to
hear.  Adults will love the game.

 Oh, and one more thing.  If your Christmas spendings broke your
piggy-bank don't worry.  Jack is available on the web for free.  Check out
http://www.won.net and play for free.  There are some serious problems with
this version though.  First you have to put up with ads.  Second, there is
no tournament mode, and you can't save your winnings.  The sound quality
isn't that good (it's sometimes difficult to understand the announcer.)
Finally, the initial download is a real pain unless you have a cable modem
like me.  It's definitely worth a look though to find out if you like the
game.

+
The Dig
Developer Lucasarts
Reviewed by Jay Pellis
Available from computer stores
Requires sighted assistance.

Science fiction stories have been around for years.  Spanning such subjects
as aliens, telepathy, and artificial intelligence.  Then came the movies,
StarWars, eT, and Independence day.  Now, the first high quality science
fiction adventure has made it's way to the computer, thanks to Steven
Speilberg.  The dig was suppose to be a Spielberg movie but at the last
minute, he decided to get Lucasarts to develop it in to a game.  The
finished product is a classic adventure game that should be in everyone's
game collection.

The story.  An asteroid is on a collision course with earth, and if not
stopped soon, it will destroy the planet.  You play the role of Commander
Boston Low, as you head your team of 4 astronauts towards the asteroid in a
space shuttle.  Your mission?  To knock the asteroid off course with
explosives, there by heading it away from earth, and off in to the vacuum
of space.  The bomb does it's job but in the process, it opens up a huge
hole in the asteroid.  NASA gives the OK to go exploring, so Boston and 2
of his crew head down to the surface.  They find a strange device, and
after some time, they mistakenly activate it, and it transports them to an
alien world.  Now, Boston and his 2 crew members are stranded on what looks
to be an uninhabited alien planet with no way back home.  Or is
there?  Only time will tell.

The interface.  As usual in a graphical adventure, the interface is mouse
driven.  A cursor is present on the screen, and as the player moves it
around, the cursor will blink, light up or turn in to different shapes when
there is something to click on.  When an item is clicked on, Boston will
either pick it up, use it or comment about it.

The sound/music.  There is a decent amount of spoken dialogue in this
game.  The items are described pretty well but what makes this game is it's
story.  There are many things to say to people, and much background
information to uncover.  The music score is simply amazing.  It is very
much based on the classical music genre, and it fits the ambient sci-fi
atmosphere of the game perfectly.  There is also a separate soundtrack of
the music that can be purchased from Lucasarts.  The sounds are quite
ambient.  From wind rustling through the trees, to the sound of the ocean,
it's all done very well.

Conclusion.  A great science fiction concept, with a worthy story to back
it up.  Also, a magnificent musical score, and great sound effects create
the mood of a gloomy, forbidding alien world. This game is based on a novel
by Alan Dean Foster, which is available in print or as an audio book.  The
novel does not have to be read to enjoy the game but I would advise reading
it before playing.  It gives you lots of background on the characters, and
it's just a great book to read.  The game is available at software stores
for $19.99, a great deal.

+
Zork Grand Inquisitor
Developer Activision
Reviewed by Jay Pellis
Available from computer stores.
Requires sighted assistance.

Zork has been around for years, the text adventure trilogy is a
classic.  Now activision has jumped at the chance to put Zork in a
graphical medium, as an adventure game.  So how did they do?  Read on to
find out!

The story.  The evil Grand Inquisitor has banned the use of magic in
Zork.  Your goal is to recover 3 magical relics that will restore magic to
the land of Zork.  During your Journey, you will face many dangers but
humorous companions will aid you in your quest.

The interface.  The interface is mouse driven and easy to use.  Like many
of the recent adventure games, there is a single cursor on the screen,
which highlights by changing shape or colour when something is
clickable.  Not really much more to it, very easy to get use to.

The sound/music.  This is where the humour of the game comes in.  This game
heads back to the humour of the first 3 Zork text games.  Early in the game,
you will find a lamp, and the spirit of a dungeon master happens to be
living in it.  He will be your companion throughout the game, giving you
hints, clues or just general comments about your surroundings.  All of his
comments are spoken, as are the other character voices in the game.  The
sounds are good, and a nice feature is that they sound closer as you
approach the source, and get further away as you retreat.  But the music
takes the cake.  It is beautifully orchestrated, even though it is
synthesised.  The piece that plays when you are in the great underground
empire is particularly well done, with a haunting quality to it.

Conclusion.  A great descendent of the text Zork games, this game is one of
the best adventure games you can get.  It has humour, great sound, and
puzzles that aren't difficult but fun.  The game is sold at your local
software store on CD rom or DVD rom for around $24.99.
Any questions about my reviews?  Any comments?  Feel free to e-mail me at
[email protected]
Or if you have AOL Instant messenger, my screen name is ftealucard.

+
Police Quest 4: Daryl F. Gates Open Season
Developer Sierra On-line
Reviewed by Jay Pellis
Available from computer stores.
Requires sighted assistance.

Police Quest 4 is another graphic adventure game from the developers of the
Kings Quest, Space quest, and Quest for glory series, Sierra on-line.  The
interface is identical to Kings Quest 6, 5 icons that let you control the
character with the mouse.

The Story.  You play John Carey, a detective in the LAPD.  Your partner Bob
Hickman has been murdered, and you are called to investigate.  You find
that he was tortured and mutilated, and another body was found near
his.  You must find Bob's killer, and arrest him.  When other people start
being killed, the killer is revealed to be a serial killer, and the story
heats up from there.

Voice/sound/music.  The same quality voice acting that was present in KQ6
is also here.  The narrator still describes everything, and the character
voices are of exceptional acting quality.  Again, not much sound but the
music and speech make up for that.

Conclusion.  A great simulation of a police investigation.  To complete
many tasks, you must use police procedures, such as filling out certain
forms or getting certain information from people.  Also, 1 or 2 shooting
sequences are here but they are fun and easy.  A cursor will help the
sighted player aim, and a click shoots the gun.  This game is available in
the Police Quest Collection for $19.99, with 4 other games.  Not as good of
a game as Kings Quest 6 but still a fun game to play.

+
Kings Quest 6, Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow
Developer Sierra On-line
Reviewed by Jay Pellis-
Available from computer stores.
Requires sighted assistance.

The Kings Quest Series was the series that started the graphic adventure
game genre rolling, way back with Kings Quest 1 in 1984.  Kq1 had a text
parser but graphics added to the game much.  From KQ1 to the recently
released Kq8, each game in the series rose above the last in terms of
technology.  In 1993, CD-ROM games were few but Sierra decided to try there
luck with KQ6, Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow.

The story.  You play the role of Prince Alexander, Prince of the land of
Daventry, son of King Graham.  In KQ5, he rescued Princess Casima from an
evil wizards castle.  He's been wondering about her, and one day, while
looking in his magic mirror, he sees her.  She is locked in a tower,
calling for him.  He sees the stars behind her tower, and he quickly sets
sale to a far away land to rescue her.  Just before reaching the Land of
the Green Isles, his ship is crushed against rocks in a storm.  Alexander
is washed up on a strange island, with nothing in his inventory.  Now, he
must travel throughout the land of the Green Isles, hopefully rescue
Princess Casima, and somehow find his way home to his own land.

The interface.  The interface to this game is very simple, and mouse
driven.  The right mouse button switches between 5 icons, walk, talk, use,
pick up, and look.  The left mouse button executes an action, depending on
what icon is selected.  It is easy for sighted players to pick up, since a
graphic is used for each action, a mouth to represent talk, an eye for look
etc.

The sound/voice/music.  The voice acting is what makes this game
shine.  Every character has their own voice to add to their
personality.  An off stage narrator describes every action you do.  For
example, if you look at a book, you might hear--
"This book is very old and tattered.  It appears that some pages are missing."
The narrator makes the story completely audible for the blind.  Plus, if
something couldn't be heard clearly, the game also has accompanying text
that the sighted person can read.  The speech content contained on this 1
CD is really amazing, and I compliment Sierra for doing such a good job
with the narration and voice acting.
There is really no sound in the game, just little things, such as if
Alexander moves a box, you'll hear the box moving.  The speech makes up
most of the game.
The music however deserves special mention.  It is midi music, so depending
on what kind of soundcard you have, you will get different music
quality.  If you have a Soundblaster awe32 or 64 or an SbPCI64 or 128, it
will sound fabulous.  However, if you have an older soundblaster16, the
music will sound very electronic and synthesised.  I can provide a software
program, that plays midi files with it's own software instruments, that
will sound great on any soundcard.  The music is some of the most beautiful
music I've ever heard.  You just have to hear it for yourself, the
instrumentation is just amazing.  The complete soundtrack can be downloaded
at--
http://www.queststudios.com
Along with other soundtracks and songs from Sierra on-line games.

Conclusion.  This game has no words I can think of to describe it, it's
that good.  It's a perfect game for first time adventure players, with
sighted companions.  It is available along with the rest of the games in
the Kings Quest Series, in the "Kings Quest Collection."  The collection
includes the first 7 KQ games, plus 7 more games by Sierra on-line.  The
price has recently dropped to $19.99, so it's quite a deal.  I can't
recommend this game enough, so go out and get it!


+++
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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