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Audyssey;
Computer Games Accessible to the Blind
Issue 22: March/April, 2000
Edited by Michael Feir

+++
Welcome


Welcome to the twenty-second issue of Audyssey.  This magazine is dedicated
to the discussion of computer games which, through accident or design, are
accessible to the blind.  This issue covers a lot of recent activity in the
blind gamer's universe. Dave Sherman brings us an inside look at the
Audio-Tips Dungeons and Dragons campaign being run by Randy Hammer. Also,
Justin Fegel has interviewed Suzanne Britton, author of the highly acclaimed
Worlds Apart. Bavisoft, a new company producing games for the blind, has
produced Grizzly Gulch, and has thereby given all of us a taste of what the
future holds in sound-based gaming.

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. Submitions for a particular
issue should be submitted no later than two days before the issue is
published. 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/audyssey_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 download, 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
Interview with Suzanne Britton
Quitting the Field
Free Game Winner
News From Bavisoft
News From ESP Softworks
News From PCS
News From Zform
A Look at Accessible Educational Software
Game Announcements and Reviews
Contacting Us

+++
From The Editor:

A whole lot has happened in the past two months as you'll appreciate when
reading this issue. So much has transpired that we had to prioritise and
couldn't cover everything. As many of you know, I found a full-time job with
an Internet service provider. As part of our service to the disabled, the
company wants to include a section for blind gamers. This section will be
known as Audyssey Plus, and will enhance the quality of the magazine as well
as allow people to be rewarded for their efforts on Audyssey's behalf. More
details on this will be forth-coming in the next issue due out at the end of
June. Due to the time constraints I'm now under, I have decided to place a
hard deadline for submitions. From now onward, I will only accept material
for a given issue that arrives no later than two days before the issue is to
be published. Anything arriving later than this date will be automatically
withheld for the next issue. Of course, I would very much appreciate it if
you send material in earlier than this late a stage in Audyssey's
construction.

For a time, it looked like we would actually lose a member of our staff.
James Peach contemplated resigning his position. However, due to a high
level of positive feedback from members of the Audyssey discussion list, he
has decided to remain a part of the official Audyssey team. As you'll see
later in his announcement, he has taken on web-based games as his new area
of responsibility. If you find a particularly helpful or interesting article
or review, it is important to let the staff member or reader responsible
know that you appreciate his/her efforts. Without feedback from our readers,
we cannot improve the magazine.

Due to increased inquiries in educational games, Kelly Sapergia chose to
concentrate on these instead of his usual interactive fiction coverage. His
efforts will be of especial interest to parents and teachers. Unfortunately,
Justin was unable to cover many of the new interactive fiction games which
have appeared since the last issue. Check the Game Announcements and Reviews
section for info on games which have appeared. If you choose to play them,
please submit a review for Audyssey.

With the appearance of Bavisoft and other developments, it looks like the
months ahead will be very exciting for all of us. As long as readers don't
decide to sit on the sidelines, Audyssey will thrive on their efforts.
Seeing increased activity in Audyssey by newcomers to the community will
hopefully inspire game developers to add more fuel to the fire by creating
more games. We are now at a cross-roads in Audyssey's development. This also
holds true for developers of games for the blind. It is up to all of us to
take the right path. Until next time, enjoy this issue and play on.

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Letters:
++
The following two letters are from Stan Bobbitt:

Hello Audyssey magazine,

My name is Stan Bobbitt. I am totally blind. I have been playing
(interactive fiction) - (text adventure) games on the PC for only about 2
years now. I started playing RPG games on the Nintendo (NES) in 1987. After
some initial sighted help, I managed to finish several games, totally on my
own. I believe that Final Fantasy for the (NES) was one of my first. I am
also able to complete (Mike Tyson's Punch-out all the way to the end,
including punching-out Tyson himself, GRIN. As well, I have completed
several games on the (SNES), including: Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat 1 and
2, Super PunchOut,
Final Fantasy 2 and 3, and many others that I can't recall right off hand.
In addition--with some sighted assistance--I have managed to play several
other
games on such console systems as: Nintendo64, PlayStation, and Sega,
including the new Sega DreamCast.
Around 1990, After struggling through game after game after game,
frustrated,
I came up with a few--what I considered, great ideas--for making many
commercial games accessible to low vision or blind persons. At that time, I
was totally computer illiterate and had never played any PC games.
I had no idea how I might go about implementing any of my ideas. The only
thing that I could think to do, was to write to some of the commercial
companies.
So, In 1993, I composed a 6 page letter, detailing some of my "sound" ideas
that I thought would help a blind person to navigate through certain games.
I sent the letter to Nintendo. In 1995, I sent a similar letter to Sega.
Well, as you can probably guess, Nintendo and Saga only sent me a thank you
letter and that was that.
I haven't heard anything from either company since. As far as I know,
nothing has been done within Nintendo, PlayStation, or Sega to make their
games more accessible
and I believe this holds true with most of the other major commercial game
developers as well.

Then, in January 2000, I read the article in Audyssey magazine (issue 19)
about Zform! (Sound-Sight). I was greatly excited! At last, a  company that
might listen to, and perhaps even implement some of my suggestions!
It comes as a great relief to me to hear that finally, there is a company
actually working on creating games that can be played by blind and sighted
people alike.

I am currently working on a comprehensive compilation of some of my better
ideas for using sound to navigate through a graphical virtual world.

My ideas would not inhibit or interfere with any of the visual aspects of
the game, in fact, it is my belief that the added sound would greatly
enhance the game.
Here is one example:

In most RPGs, the player spends a large part of his playing time wondering
through mazes, caverns, countrysides, and inside castles and such. Well, for
starters, let's have a sound when the character bumps a wall. Let's take it
even further by having the sound fit the object that the character is
bumping against.
For instance, in the countryside, bumping against a tree would make a
"wooden" sound.
Bumping a rock would make a "solid" sound.
Bumping a bush would make a "brushy" sound.
Bumping a structure wall would make another "solid" sound, different from
the rock.
At any rate, you get the gist of the thought. These sounds would also be
quite useful for locating towns, caves, buildings, etc. A player could sort
of, build an "audio-map", so to speak.
Let's say you start from the forest: (wooden sound).
Travel west to the rocks: (solid sound).
Travel south to the brush: (brushy sound).
Travel west to the castle: dissimilar (solid sound)
Of course, it wouldn't take very long to put together an audio-map for any
area on the game, provided there were enough dissimilar sounds. This same
technique could be used just as effectively for manoeuvring around indoors.
Another idea to assist in indoor or outdoor navigation and to make more
sense of your surroundings, would be to have the character breathe. When the
character is at a standstill, you would hear no breathing. Should you start
the character on his/her way however, a slight breathing
sound would begin. When the character encounters a solid obstacle and can no
longer move, of course the breathing would stop.
Turn left, still no breath, signalling another obstacle, turn right, the
character begins to breathe again, signalling an open pass, and the
character continues on. This would also be useful  in finding ladders,
ropes, vines, cliff-faces, etc.
When the character makes contact with a climbing area, you would hear
increased breathing and maybe some grunting, letting you know that you were
climbing up or down something. There are  many other situations where the
breathing of the character could assist in identifying areas and objects
within the game.

I would be very interested in hearing from your readers. I believe that
their input could greatly expatiate and enhance my own ideas.

I look forward to receiving the next issue of Audyssey! I always await
anxiously for each issue.

Keep up the great work!

+ I have only been playing PC games for about the last couple of years or
so.
Around 2 years ago, I was able to purchase a computer and  a copy of JAWS
for Windows. At that time, I was unable to attend any classes and I had no
one around to teach me anything about the computer, JFW, the Internet, or
anything, let alone PC games. So I had to just jump right in and learn what
I could for myself.
I have learned a great deal over the past 2 years.  I am now quite competent
with computers in general, I pretty much know windows inside and out, I am
good with HTML, I am familiar with writing frames, tables, forms, etc., and
I am currently learning several programming languages here at home, via the
Internet.
My hope is to someday write an interactive fiction game of my own. To make a
long story short, or to keep from going around the barn to get to the back
door--so to speak--I can remember just what a frustrating time I had at
first, trying to figure out where and   how to download (IF) games. Pulling
my hair out, attempting to open one in DOS, and pounding the old CPU after
every  crash--which was quite often.

Well, it would be nice if there was somewhere that novices--first time (IF)
players--and pros alike could go to get help with these games. The site
could be broken up into several sections. One for beginners--including not
only hints and tips--but information on how to download, install, and play
the games--as well as a trouble shooting section.
Another section mainly covering hints, help with games, and maybe navigation
and mapping. The site could even be set up so that visitors could add there
own content
to the files. That way, it would keep the site current and up to date. I
have been throwing this idea around for some time now. Although I still
consider myself a novice when it comes to Interactive fiction for the PC, I
would be interested in starting such a site.
I believe with help from your Audyssey readers, as well as some of your
contacts, that such a page would not be very difficult to put together. It
is my belief that such a web site would be quite useful to a lot of people,
starting with myself!
I still have trouble getting certain games to run correctly on my PC. I have
adjusted settings and changed configurations both in JFW and in my PC, I
have altered resolutions, wallpapers, backgrounds, colours, etc., but still,
there are some games that just will not play correctly on my computer. Well,
I just wanted to throw the idea about the (IF) games help site your way, and
see what you thought about it. When you get time, let me know what you
think.

By the way, I went and downloaded all issues of Audyssey magazine. So far,
I've read issues 18 through 21 I think that you are doing an outstanding job
with the magazine. I believe that it is a great service. Keep up the good
work!

Sincerely,
yet another adventurer.

+

Well, Stan, you appear to have learned quite a lot in such a short time. I
grew up using computers, and was given at least minimal training by
professionals in DOS, Windows, and my access technology. Such hard-won
expertise as you've obtained will doubtless serve the Audyssey community
well.

I think that a site for novices is a wonderful idea. From my position as a
long-time gamer, it can often be difficult to address the problems faced by
novices trying to figure both the games and their access technology out.
Let's all start thinking about how such a site should be implemented. We
have quite a few readers who are quite savvy when it comes to the Internet.
In the mean time, if anybody wants to write hints or even full-blown
tutorials for novice gamers, we'll publish them in future issues of
Audyssey. Two ideas that spring immediately to mind are a guide to the
If-archive where all the interactive fiction is found, and a tutorial on how
to play screen-oriented games like Adom and Nethack. Let's hear what the
rest of you think on this. If you're already part of the Audyssey discussion
list, send in your opinions and comments on what a site for novices should
have. If you haven't joined the list yet, I would encourage you to do so. It
is an especially good place to ask for help on games.

++      From Daniel Rowe:
Hi Mike and the Audyssey community.

Its Daniel Rowe. I have got some interesting facts  I would like to share
with you all, and I have got a few questions I would like to ask, so put
this e-male in Audyssey. First, I'll get on to the facts. In one of the
issues, I found out the people were saying how they got started with games
for the blind, so I'll tell you how I got started with them. (Until then, I
never new that computer games for the blind existed until last year when I
got a demo copy of Kurzweil 1000 at a trade show  for access technologies
for the blind. I bet your wondering, what's that got to do with games? Well
its got a folder on the CD called Extras, which is almost everything from
Paul Henrichsen's websight! I found some demos of PCS's games  and  the
ifiction.zip collection made by you.
It might be a good idea for owners of this product to have a look in this
folder because  you might have  set out to download a game from  Paul
Henrichsen's sight but you might never got round to it.
Also I noticed that you described Curses as a really crap game or something
on these lines, but you put it in your Rising From Times Ashes collection.
Why is this?

+
I'm glad to hear that people fortunate enough to obtain Kurzweil will also
get issues of Audyssey. Hopefully, more vendors and software companies
serving the needs of the blind will also take advantage of issues of
Audyssey. They are certainly welcome to do this, just as anybody is welcome
to distribute copies to people, schools, or other agencies.

To explain myself regarding Curses being part of the Time's Ashes
collection, I'll recount the goals I had in making it. Basically, I wanted
to gather the most influential and highest-quality games for beginners to
explore. While I personally am not a big fan of that game, Curses was by far
the best game available at the time it was released. Even critics like
myself are forced to admire its technical craftsmanship. It also has major
historical importance, as do the Zork games. It can be quite beneficial to
gamers to play historical works of interactive fiction since they have had
major impacts on other games which have come after them. This will give them
a better understanding and awareness of the traditions that game authors
choose to follow or break away from. It will also engender a deeper
connection with the art form and where it is heading. Curses showed a whole
bunch of great authors that it was indeed possible for individuals to write
the same kinds of games that Infocom produced with the same high standards
of quality. Without Curses, we'd never have seen any of the Inform games we
all enjoy today.

++
From Tony Baechler:

Hello.  I must first start off with a confession.  A long time ago, I posted
a short letter to you which appeared in issue 3 of your excellent magazine.
I completely forgot about it, since you did not reply to me directly, but
recently rediscovered all 21 issues and downloaded them.  I was shocked when
I read my own letter, and, incidentally, I still have the same problem,
which is trying to find games that I, being totally blind, can access that
are not IF or RPG, and hopefully are freeware.

Anyway, this question might be addressed already, I have only read the first
four issues and skimmed through the rest.  What DOS screen reader are you
using?  I am using Vocal-Eyes (VE) for DOS and Window-Eyes and JFW for
Windows.  I am wondering what your solution is to games which use direct
screen writes in DOS, such as Fallthru and "The World is Mine."  I do know
how to use the basic features of VE and the screen review functions, but I
prefer automatic speech as opposed to trying to cursor around the screen for
new text every few seconds.

Also, would you know offhand whether JAWS for DOS or VE works better for the
above types of games?  Apparently JAWS is freeware now, so I have been
playing with it, but know nothing about how to use it.  Similarly, are you
aware of a good Apple II emulator that actually supports an IIE or some
such?  Like you, I grew up on "Great Escape," and the Eamon adventures, and
have disk images for most of them but no decent emulator, the one I have is
very old and only supports 64 k of RAM or less.

Finally, do you know where I can find "Supreme Ruler," mentioned in one of
your earlier issues?  You give the filename of sruler.zip, but a search on
Altavista does not find it.  (Also, I had a very, very hard time finding
"The World Is Mine," so you might want to upload it to softcon or somewhere
where people can find it.)  Also, while I am on the subject, would you
consider providing a complete list of all your accessible games for DOS and
Windows that you are willing to share?  I know about IF and the PCS games,
but I am always interested in older DOS programs which are hard to find.

One last thing.  I would like to thank you very, very much for pointing out
ftp.gmd.de in the first issue of Audyssey.  I remember discovering it in the
middle of June, 1996.  I felt like it was an early Christmas present, with
more IF games than I knew were possible.  I had a similar feeling to what
you described when discovering Great Escape for the first time, a sense of
wonder, amazement, and excitement all at once.  I had always hoped
for such a site, but never found it.

+
Well, Tony, I think you'll find a lot of questions there answered in the
remaining issues of Audyssey. There are a vast number of different
accessible games of many different types. PCS has produced a large number of
them. Also, you'll find the future goals of ESP Softworks, and their
freeware game Shellshock to be of interest. The bulk of available games
still mainly consists of interactive fiction. However, that may change in
the months ahead. I'll be very interested in learning your impressions of
the variety of games out there that have already been covered in Audyssey.
If you find that certain kinds of games are missing or there are too few of
them, I'm certain the game developers in the Audyssey community would be
eager for any suggestions.

For games such as Fallthru and The World is Mine, there is no magic solution
which will work every time. Fallthru has a screen that is neatly divided
into sections. The first eight or nine lines are for status information. The
rest of the screen is for text messages. I use Tinytalk in DOS. It allows me
to easily make speech windows. I therefore made two windows. The top one
covers the first eight lines and is inactive. That means that it won't
always be spoken. Whenever I want to hear my stats, I just hit the alt-1 key
combination. The bottom window is active and set to "echo all". This means
that it will speak any changes that appear on it automatically. The only
thing to be aware of is the delay that happens whenever a warrior or
stranger appears. You've got to give time between moves for any such
characters to appear. I've missed out on a lot of encounters simply by
moving too quickly.

With Jaws for Windows, you can access DOS stuff easily by going into the DOS
box with JFW running and set the insert-s toggle to "all". Just remember to
set it back to "highlighted" when you're done. Fallthru works amazingly
well, as do many other games. It's not perfect, but it is certainly
bearable.

As to a list of all the games I've got, it's something I've thought of
doing. However, I'd never have the time to actually get it done. On the
other hand, I've probably covered at least the better ones in issues of
Audyssey, and plan to continue doing that in future issues.

++
From Kent Tessman:

I am the developer of the interactive fiction system Hugo.  It has been
reported to me that Hugo is more difficult for non-sighted players to use
than Z-machine (Inform) or TADS games, and I'd like to be able to fix it so
that's not the case, and so that people are more easily able to enjoy the
smaller but growing number of games written in Hugo (including my own game
Guilty Bastards).

What are existing play/usage obstacles in Hugo?  It has been suggested to me
that the screen model doesn't get along well with speech software; this may
be due to the fact that Hugo's screen display model is somewhat more
flexible in certain ways (and therefore more complex) than other systems.
Which versions of the Hugo Engine misbehave?  I imagine the Windows-based
engine does, but is the case the same for the text-only DOS engine?  It
would probably be possible for me to build a simple version of the engine
that uses standard input and output without any of the (in this case
unnecessary) text formatting frills, if that were what's required.

Thank you for any comments or feedback--I look forward to hearing them.

--Kent Tessman


+
Until recently, Kent's Hugo system and the games developed with it have not
been given much attention by Audyssey. With all the games made which were
more easily accessible, I suppose this should come as no surprise to
anybody. Kent's thoughtfulness and willingness to correct this situation
will hopefully come as a pleasant surprise to many of you as it has to me. I
certainly plan to give Hugo a look when time permits. There is currently a
whole lot of interactive fiction related material to cover, but I hope that
you, my readers, will give Guilty Bastards and other Hugo games a chance.
I'll also assign one of my staff to look into Hugo as it is and help anybody
else who tries the games out. Let's all pitch in and help Kent make Hugo as
blind friendly as we can. Too few game developers have shown a willingness
to make originally inaccessible games accessible. May it never be said that
the Audyssey community isn't willing to go halfway.

+++
Blind Dungeoneers
by Dave Sherman
and Randy Hammer, DM
[Edited by Allen Maynard, Phil Vlasak, and Adam, the Immortal Gamer]

D&D was the ultimate RPG (role playing game) some twenty years ago. I have
vague memories of staying up all night playing it (on the weekends, of
course ... after all, I was still in high school then). Those of you old
enough to remember this fad are already familiar with the game. For those of
you not so fortunate, let me take this time to give you a very brief
description.

D&D is an RPG which takes place in medieval times.  It's a land filled with
heroes and villains, adventurers and monsters, fighters, thieves, magic
users, and clerics.  There are humans, elves, dwarves, halflings, goblins,
dragons, and hundreds of other races of beings. It's a fantasy world filled
with magic and conflict.  There can be up to eight players or player
characters (otherwise known as PC's). The game is controlled by a person
designated as the Dungeon Master (DM).  It is the DM's duty to design the
adventures, and build the world through which the PC's will travel.

Since its inception, this "board game" has had many computer games designed
around its basic concepts.  I'm sure you're all familiar with a few of
them -- such as ADOM, Nethack, and Rogue.z8.

A couple of months ago, Randy Hammer posted a message to the Audyssey
discussion list saying he was going to start a live D&D game over the
Internet, via the use of the blind gamers voice chat room on Audio-Tips.  He
brought together the two genres; computers and a live multi-player "board
game" RPG.  The computers
are used as secondary equipment, allowing the players to access note takers
to keep track of their character's health and wealth, and small programs
(such as random number generators) for the DM to determine dice rolls.  The
DM also has the ability to type a private message to any of the players
without letting the others know about it.  Putting the technology aside, the
game is played essentially the same way it was twenty years ago. There seems
to be a large interest in the D&D sessions within
the Audyssey community.  So, for those unable to participate, or sit in on
the sessions, we are tentatively planning on including a D&D article each
issue, describing the most recent adventure. With those preliminaries aside,
let's jump into the world of
Dungeons and Dragons ...

ADVENTURE: The Missing Orb

The obvious thing to do at this point is to introduce our four dauntless
heroes:

First is Ardrah Domedread.  Having scavenged for most of her life, she has
developed the skills of a ranger (fighter).  She is quite strong, and
skilled with both sword and bow.  She appears to be human (though not the
most attractive, by far).  She's developed a knack for bartering with
shopkeepers, though she often gets taken
to the cleaners on some deals.

Next is Brik.  Not the most brilliant of humans to walk the planet, but
don't tell him that. He is built like a tank. His incredible strength allows
him to wield a two handed bastard sword in only one hand.  He has spent his
life doing heavy labour (nothing requiring much intelligence).  He spends a
lot of time in taverns, and has been known to go into overdrive, and become
a Berserker.

Muldred is next.  This male elf has started training as a cleric. He is just
beginning his studies, but between his natural and magical abilities as an
elf, his clerical training will only add to his powers. His recent life as
an adventurer has caused some
internal conflict in him.  His natural tendency to gain power and wealth
tends to conflict with the ideals of a true cleric. He wields a war hammer
since clerics cannot use sharp weapons.

Lastly is Myrthorn.  This human specimen was not blessed with the physical
strength to fare for himself very well.  He is both intelligent and wise.
He has undertaken studies in the magical arts, though rather new to it all.
He fancies himself walking in the footsteps of masters like Merlin, but all
things take time -- and Myrthorn needs a lot of it.  He is adept with the
crossbow and a special silver dagger.

As these four roam the countryside, they happen across each other, and join
together.  Ardrah and Brik meet first, and they come across Myrthorn a few
days later.  While staying at an inn, they encounter Muldred, and he joins
the other three.  And thus our
group of heroes is formed.

They overhear some talk of a high cleric in a nearby school in need of some
adventurers.  So they seek out this cleric at The School of Learning.  They
discuss his problem and the cleric is rather vague. He talks of a powerful
student who has turned
Chaotic.  He has stolen an orb from the school, and the high cleric would
like it returned. The student is believed to be hiding in the catacombs
under the old church near the edge of a nearby town called Pendboro.

This is all the information the cleric gives the party about their quest.
He refuses to discuss compensation for return of the orb.  On their way out,
the cleric mentions that he will be sending a second party in search of the
orb.

The four are lucky enough to catch a passing coach which is heading to
Pendboro.  The driver lets them ride for free, since he was going in that
direction anyway.  Once the group gets to town they stock up on supplies,
and ask about the church.  Everyone they talk to merely says, its that old
church near the edge of town, that no one goes near ... you can't miss it".

So, the four head to that part of town, and find a dilapidated old stone
building.  The group of adventurers enter the old church, and search it
until they find the cellar.  They slowly descend the steps leading down into
the catacombs.  Myrthorn is supposedly leading the group, but do to his low
physical strength, he lets Brik and Ardrah "lead" the way.  And Muldred
takes up the rear guard position.

The group encounters a door halfway down the stairs.  There is a key in the
lock, and the party is more than willing to let Brik do the honours in
opening it.  (As it turns out, the party didn't have the foresight to seek
out a thief, who would be able to search
the door for traps).  Brik easily opens the door, and finds that it was
neither locked nor boobie-trapped.  Muldred grabs the key on his way past,
to ensure that the party doesn't get locked down in the catacombs by some
unscrupulous twit.

The group reaches the bottom of the steps without incident. Ahead of them
lies a double set of doors.  Myrthorn again allows Brik the honour of
opening these.  He is assisted by Muldred, each opening one door.

To the groups surprise, these doors lead into a room filled with coffins ...
and eight sword-wielding skeletons!  Brik, Ardrah and Muldred confront them,
while Myrthorn hangs back, holding a lantern, and withdrawing his silver
dagger.  Brik, being as big and
slightly awkward as he is, misses with his first swing, and nearly slices
himself, as his bastard sword swings around. Myrthorn decides to throw his
dagger at one of these skeletons, being as how silvered weapons are supposed
to be very effective
against certain undead monsters.  Unfortunately, his dexterity is not the
best, and the dagger soars past its target, and clangs to the ground across
the room. Ardrah gets in a good slash with her sword, and ducks past the
approaching skeletons, in order to retrieve the dagger.  Muldred swings at a
skeleton, and gets in a decent hit with his war hammer. Unfortunately, he is
attacked by several opponents and one sword strikes home on him.  Brik
manages to deflect a swing at him with his shield. Muldred casts a spell of
protection around himself, and backs up by Myrthorn, to get out of the front
lines.  In the meantime, Brik manages to turn a few of the skeletons into a
pile of bones on the dirty floor.  Ardrah, having recovered the dagger,
sneaks up behind the skeletons, and manages to disassemble a couple of
others.  Myrthorn has drawn and loaded his crossbow, and gets off a shot,
taking out an injured skeleton.  In the meantime, Muldred has recovered from
the shock of his wound, and decides to use his war hammer as a projectile
weapon.  It lands solidly home on its target and the skeleton drops but so
does Muldred's protection spell.  Brik takes a final swing, and scatters the
last standing skeleton.

After catching their breath, the group searches the coffins and their
attackers for treasure, but finds nothing but bones and rusting swords.  The
set of double doors which they initially entered the room in is in the
Northeast corner.  They discover a
passage leaving this room in the Southwest corner, and enter it, in a
modified marching order.  Brik is still in front, but Ardrah has fallen to
the back, to protect Myrthorn and the injured cleric, Muldred.  The party
walks west for several paces, then turns south, following this corridor.
After approximately 20 yards, they come to a T-junction.  One branch
continues South, with nothing noticeable in sight, and the other heads East,
again with no outstanding markings. The group decides to turn and take the
Eastern corridor.

After travelling a fair distance down this corridor the party discovers two
doors.  One on the Southern wall, And the other (about ten feet further
East) on the Northern wall.  The wizard decides to let Brik open the
Southern door, being the strongest --
but not necessarily the brightest.  Brik does so, again without incident.
The door leads into a very narrow room, more like an elongated broom closet.
They enter, and see a shiny metal door on the West wall.  Well, the three
men see it; Ardrah, on the other
hand, has no clue as to what the others are looking at. They discuss whether
or not they should attempt to open the enigmatic door ... with Ardrah
standing there with a puzzled look on her face.  Once again, Brik is the
lucky one.  He reaches for it ... and his hand touches a granite wall!  The
other two try, and they both find nothing there.  Suddenly the apparent
illusion vanishes.  Myrthorn detects some sort of magical aura in the air,
but being a novice in the use of magic, he is unable to discern anything
further.  Of course, Ardrah (being the woman that she is) doesn't let the
fact that she was right all along, slip by without comment.

The party next approaches the Northern door, and once Brik opens it the
group is met by a mixture of sights.  This room was obviously a crypt used
by nobility to bury their dead.  Finely carved shelves and coffins line the
walls.  And there is a skeleton
sitting on a chair, diagonally opposite the door.  This skeleton appears to
be holding a mace.  Perhaps a special one!  A possible treasure?

On the floor, well that is a different story.  This apparently has become
the lair for a group of giant rats.  Garbage, bones, and feces lay scattered
amidst the scurrying rats.  Ardrah and Brik attempt to skirt along the wall
in order to reach the skeleton ...
and ultimately the mace.  As they enter the room however, some of the rather
large rats approach them squealing with teeth bared. Myrthorn loads his
crossbow from the doorway and sends a quarrel flying in amidst the vermin
... only to hit nothing.  Brik and Ardrah are forced to swing, and one rat
is injured, while another is severed in two.  Another rat quickly climbs
over the dead one and attacks them.  Brik manages to avoid them, but Ardrah
is bitten. Brik lobs the head off of that rat.  And Muldred throws his
hammer while Myrthorn lets another quarrel spring free.  The hammer hits the
ground, and so does the quarrel. Brik and Ardrah kill another rat, and
suddenly the remaining mass of rats charge the door.  Myrthorn and Muldred
are knocked aside as the scared rats scurry down the dark hallway.

Ardrah is slightly injured, and hopefully not rabid.  She goes over to the
skeleton to retrieve the mace, while Muldred comes into the room to retrieve
his hammer.  Ardrah hesitantly approaches this skeleton, but there are no
signs of motion, so she bends and
reaches for the mace, just as Muldred is bending to pick up his thrown
hammer. Suddenly a click resonates in the room and six darts shoot out of
the Northern wall!  Brik, being the only one standing erect, and in the
direct line of fire, is struck by one of these darts.  He angrily yanks it
out, and apparently is not poisoned, since there seems to be no effect other
than some muscle damage. Ardrah examines the mace, and it appears to be
nothing special.  No inlaid gems, no precious metals, no special markings,
nothing special at all, except acting as a trigger mechanism for the darts.

So far the party is not doing very well.  Ardrah and Brik are both slightly
injured, and Muldred's earlier wound seems to be having a serious affect on
his ability to continue.  Myrthorn is the only party member not yet injured,
though he hasn't exactly been in the forefront of any battles, and probably
wouldn't last long if put in that position.

Myrthorn removes his pack and retrieves a potion of healing, and hands it to
Muldred.  He tells Muldred to drink it all. Muldred does so, and almost
instantaneously is back to his original health status. Ardrah is disgusted
by the groups bad luck, and strolls back into the corridor with her jaw set
and eyes smouldering.  She waits for the others impatiently.  Brik, in the
meantime, is searching through the garbage, and finds a vial.  He hands it
to Myrthorn, who puts it in his pack and stands.  The rest of the room is
searched, and nothing of value is found.

The three men join Ardrah in the corridor, and continue venturing down it,
about another 20 feet, into a barren room.  It is entirely devoid of
anything, except for a large raised platform directly in the middle of the
room.  It appears as if this room has been stripped clean long ago, by grave
robbers.  In the shadows, a narrow corridor is discovered in the Northeast
corner of this room, heading North.

The group approaches the entrance to this newly discovered corridor, and
peers into it ... Nothing but straight corridor as far as the lantern light
will show. Should they enter?  It's only about three feet wide, so they will
be forced to travel single file.  Is this another trap?

They decide to search further down this narrow passage.  Brik leads,
followed by Ardrah and Myrthorn, and Muldred (being recently restored to
full health) acts as rear guard.  They venture down the passage, and come to
a wider section of the hall and a quite heavy, solid looking door.  Brik
attempts to open it, but it seems locked or barred from the other side.

Suddenly, voices are heard back in the main corridor.  The group sends
Muldred, their elven cleric to inspect the situation. Since Muldred is an
elf, he has the ability to see heat sources in the dark (known as
infravision).  He sneaks back, takes a look and
rushes back to the group and reports that there are at least eight 'things'
approaching. Now the adventurers are really stuck!  What are those 'things',
and are they friendly or not? Is it the other search party? If so, are they
going to be happy to see our four, or are they going to react violently, in
order to get the high clerics reward for themselves?

Meanwhile, Brik (who has a hard time counting to 5) has twice nearly charged
the door.  Ardrah and Myrthorn have had to restrain him, and try to keep him
quiet.

A hasty decision is made.  They resolve that the group stands the best
chance by breaking down the door, hopefully encountering nothing, to find
another passage to escape the voices which are drawing ever closer.

Ardrah and Myrthorn stand back, and Brik gets a big silly grin on his face.
CRASH!  Brik splinters the wooden board, acting as a deadbolt for the door.
He tumbles about three feet into the room. The rest quickly follow.

A fast scan of the room reveals no other exits ... oh yeah, and two ghouls,
and two zombies!  The group is too small to fight two groups of 'monsters',
one from the South, and this other group just discovered. Muldred slams the
door shut, and throws his pack
down.  He retrieves several spikes, and having no ordinary hammer, is forced
to use his war hammer to pin the door shut.

Meanwhile, Brik, Ardrah and Myrthorn face the oncoming creatures. Myrthorn
loads his crossbow, but has no time to use it. The zombies move rather
slowly, but the ghouls are faster. The wizard is forced to drop the bow and
draw his dagger.  Brik, first in the room, has slashed one of the zombies
with his heavy sword. But the zombie is still standing, and fighting back
with its own sword.

Ardrah had her short bow drawn when entering the room, and gets a shot off
at one of the ghouls.  The shot nicks its target, but doesn't hinder it .
She then draws her sword.  One ghoul attacks the wizard, but he luckily is
untouched.  These ghouls seem to bite as well as use their clawed hands.
Myrthorn backs up against the door.  Meanwhile, Brik is not as lucky.  The
other ghoul tries to bite him and misses, then claws at him.  One of the
claws catches a seam in Brik's armour, and Brik freezes in position! That
ghoul slinks backward.  However, the zombie which Brik had struck, now
bashes Brik, and he drops to the floor with a thud. Muldred has now finished
pinning the door, and stands to face the ghoul with his hammer.  They both
get hits in on each other, though Muldred is not paralysed when scratched
(he later informs the group that elves are immune to this effect caused by
ghouls).

A bashing noise has started at the door, and Myrthorn moves further along
the wall, away from the door and the fight.  The ghoul fighting Muldred is
successfully slain, and Ardrah and Muldred work together to attack the
second zombie.  The first zombie has given a few more blows to Brik, and he
doesn't look good.  Myrthorn retrieves the vial found in the burial crypt,
and takes a sip of it -- in an attempt to discern its identity.  For a split
second, his left hand seems to disappear. A potion of invisibility!  Not of
much use right now, except perhaps to save his own hide, if it comes down to
that.

Just as the second zombie falls, the door bursts open!  An elven fighter
strides in.  Myrthorn quickly talks to him, and it is discovered that this
group of 'things' is in fact the second search party. He apparently is their
group leader, and he motions to the passage behind him.

A dwarf rushes in, and buries his battle-axe in the head of the zombie
attacking Brik.  Two halflings follow him carrying bows. They both get off
accurate shots, and kill the remaining ghoul.

The elven leader is named Arnor.  By now, the rest of his party have entered
the room.  They apparently are not hostile towards Myrthorn's party.
(Luckily for our heroes).  Ardrah checks on Brik, and reports that he is
barely alive, if that.  Myrthorn notices a cleric in Arnor's party, and
inquires of his healing abilities.  Arnor gives his cleric a signal, and the
cleric goes to Brik and lays his hands on him.  Brik's body stirs, and the
cleric removes his hands and stands.  Myrthorn takes note that this second
party is much better equipped and more experienced than the four beginners.
Arnor is obviously more knowledgeable about this old church, and explains
the history of this last room, and divulges that there is yet a second level
to this catacomb.

Arnor's group has also suffered injuries.  They apparently ran into a gang
of goblins at the T intersection.  After some discussion, both leaders agree
that the best course of action for all would be to head back up to the
surface and go into town to re-equip, and recuperate.

Before leaving this room they notice a small treasure chest.  One of the
halflings opens it and finds a few gems and gold coins. Arnor allows our
four heroes to keep this hoard rather than sharing it with his party.

When they reach town, the two parties split up.  Not wanting to waste any
time, the four adventurers search out a group of clerical students and pay
them to perform healing spells on the three injured members.  They then go
to the market and re-equip, and finally come back to the local tavern for
the evening.  While staying at 'The Pink Elephant' Bar and Grill, they are
approached by the two halflings from Arnor's group.  They express an
interest in joining the four.  Since our heroes were intending to search for
other skilled adventurers who might be interested in this dangerous quest,
after a few questions, the twin halflings are gladly accepted.  The twins,
Hock and Brock, are a welcome addition to the party, and are able to add
certain skills not mastered by the
others (such as trap detection, and stealth).

The next morning, the party (now numbering six) descend once more into the
catacombs. Time for some light.  Myrthorn reaches for his lantern, then
kicks himself for forgetting to buy more oil while in the marketplace. Well,
there are at least 12 torches amongst the group, so that will have to do.
Having reached the T-junction, the party is certain that they've explored
everything down the eastern corridor, so they continue southward.

They enter a room, which is bare, except for a huge stone coffin. They
examine it, and find no special markings or runes on it.  The lid of the
coffin is a huge stone slab, which will require all the effort of the party
to remove (mainly Brik, Ardrah, and Muldred).

After their last trip into these depths, they are a bit wary of everything.
So they Ask Hock and Brock to search the coffin for any traps.  Hock finds
something and motions to Brock.  The rest of the party back away.  Brock
gets out a hammer, and taps at a point
on the side of the coffin base.

CRASH!  A granite block, about half a meter on each side suddenly drops from
the ceiling, and smashes onto the floor right next to the coffin lid!  The
original four members are beginning to grow ever more thankful that they
encountered these two little guys.

Not knowing what lay inside the coffin, Myrthorn, Hock, and Brock ready
their missile weapons as the other three heave on the lid.  It seems to be
stuck, then starts to give way ... it is pushed back a couple of feet, and
inside ... a staircase is discovered!

The three holding the weapons continue to watch even more carefully now, not
knowing what may lie at the bottom, waiting to charge upwards.  The lid is
completely pushed off, onto the floor, and shatters into smaller pieces.
Nothing rushes up, so several torches are lit, and the party descends the
stairs, with the cannon fodder in front (that's Brik if you're wondering).

As the group descends, they discover a couple of zombies in the room below.
The staircase has no railing, so several party members jump to the floor
before reaching the bottom of the staircase.  The zombies are rendered
lifeless rather quickly, with little damage to most of the party.  Ardrah
does however, take some serious injury to her leg, but can still function as
an archer.

The staircase lines the southern wall of this room.  In the middle of the
Northern wall is a doorway.  The party starts to proceed through this door,
when a group of eight or nine sword wielding skeletons approach from the
North.

Suddenly Brik goes wild, and charges the on comers!  Oh no, he's gone into
Berserker mode! The first skeleton he blitzes scatters into parts all over
the corridor. Hock and Brock charge behind him, taking up positions on the
right and left.  Muldred falls in behind Hock, on the left side of Brik,
swinging over Hock's head.  Ardrah, still recovering from her recent wounds,
holds the torch providing the much-needed light. Myrthorn stays back by
Ardrah, and uses his crossbow to send quarrels whizzing over Brock's head.
After most of the skeletons are eliminated, Brik suddenly falls back from
exhaustion, and pulls out of the battle. Hock and Brock take minor wounds,
but the walking bones are no match for these adventurers.

The party regroups, sets Brik down and gets him some water and nourishment.
After resting, Brik is ready to forge ahead.

The group continues north, coming to a four-way intersection. To the east, a
door is seen on the southern wall.  North and west reveal nothing from this
distance.  The party splits into two groups, to explore the corridors and
see what lies beyond.  A few minutes later, they meet back at the
intersection.  To the west lies a double door blocking the hallway, while
the northern path takes a westerly turn.

It's decided to head north, and explore that area first.  The group turns
the corner, and approaches a door, which is run down, and slightly ajar.  A
hissing sound is heard from inside the room. Hock and Brock search the
doorway for traps, and find none.  Brik
opens the door, and the party enters.  They are in a fairly large room at
the southern end.  Looking to the far north end, a large chest is seen!
Finally, perhaps some serious treasure!  However, between the chest and the
group lies a trough which is level with
the floor.  It spans the entire width of the room, and is eight or nine feet
across. In this trough is a black liquid bubbling and steaming. And on the
ceiling on the northern end of the room is some sort of fluorescent green
fungus.  Muldred, the cleric, has a particular interest in trying to bypass
these hurdles to get at what might be in the chest.  He takes a piece of
bloody cloth from Ardrah and raps it around a stone then slings it into the
liquid. It sputters and sizzles like acid.  The rest of the party decides
they liked life too much to mess with this room.  So, they back out for now,
... perhaps they will come back later ... better prepared.

The next choice is the double doors to the west of the intersection. Again,
Hock and Brock search for traps, and listen for sounds inside. Nothing.  So
both doors are opened, and a small room is revealed. It is only about 10
feet by 10 feet, empty except
for another door to the west.  The party approaches, Brik opens the door and
then closes it again.  Myrthorn asks him what is wrong. Brik says, "people".
Myrthorn says, "What people?", and Brik just shrugs.  Myrthorn has Brik open
it again.

Inside is a table with an orb sitting on it.  Also, quite alarmed by the
intrusion are three men.  One is obviously the astrayed cleric. The other
two seem to be lesser clerics, who are quite large, well armed, and well
armoured.  They approach, inquiring of the groups intentions. Myrthorn, as
leader, speaks for the group.  However, being fairly young, Myrthorn has not
yet developed a knack for spinning fanciful tales, such as those heard from
wizened mages.  He blurts something about searching for treasure, and is
told by the cleric to leave at once.  When the party doesn't move, one of
the bodyguards rings a bell, summoning two additional guards from the east.
Myrthorn can see that the party has no chance of surviving a (fair) fight
with these five. The cleric says that the other four 'clerics' would escort
them back out.  (It is fairly obvious that they aren't true clerics, judging
by the sharp blades they wield.)

And so, the party grudgingly lets themselves be directed back to the
staircase leading to the coffin above.  They take their time, trying to find
an opening in the guards defences.  None comes, so the group ascends the
stairs, and the guards stay at the bottom, not following. The group heads
north, into the hallway, to at least give the pretence of their surrender
and retreat. Of course, this is the last thing they have on their minds.
The question is: How do they get back down stairs, past the guards, and
steal the orb from the evil cleric?

The group quietly discusses differing approaches, and finally decides to
send Brock down to survey the situation.  Being a halfling, Brock exhibits
infravision, as do the elves.  And to add to this, halflings are extremely
stealthy, and are rarely noticed when spying. So Brock removes his armour,
and carefully descends the stairs.  After several minutes, he returns, and
reports that there seems to be only two guards left in that first room, and
they are not using any light sources for some reason.  Not willing to give
up, after having come this far, the group decides to try to bait the guards
into ascending the stairs, and ambush them.

Brock is sent down once again; this time with a bow.  The rest of the party
has quietly taken offensive positions in the room, surrounding the coffin.
A 'twang' is heard from below, and is quickly followed by a thudding sound,
as that of a heavy person falling down.  Brock appears at the top of the
coffin, and leaps over the side then runs toward the hallway, where he left
his armour.

The others wait a few seconds, and don't see or hear anyone in pursuit of
Brock.  So much for the ambush plan.  The guards are obviously going to know
that the group hasn't left yet, so they take the offensive, and head down
the stairs. Brik, followed by Myrthorn, then Hock, Muldred and Ardrah.
Brock will join as soon as he has gotten his armour on.

Brik meets the second guard on the staircase.  The guard is starting to
climb, just as Brik lurches down on top of him.  His bastard sword cleaves
into the guard's neck -- completely severing his head from its body.  A
quick scan of the room finds the other
guard lying dead, on his back, with an arrow imbedded in his skull.
Apparently Brock got in a lucky shot also. The other two guards rush into
the room as the party descends the stairs and jump for an attack.
Unfortunately for them, these guards are caught unaware.  Between Brik,
Muldred, Hock, and Ardrah's lucky bow shot, they are all lying dead before
Brock even finishes his descent.

That just leaves the evil cleric against all six!  Time for some dirty
tricks.  Myrthorn quickly gets out the Potion of Invisibility. Normally, if
one quaffs the whole potion, the spell lasts for an hour. But this potion
can be drank in sixths, and work in ten-minute intervals. Myrthorn,
realising that Brik is not a genius when it comes to mathematics, merely
hands the potion to him, and tells him to drink half of it, then set it on
the floor
(so the wizard could save the rest).  The effect of this potion wears off if
an "invisible" person attacks someone. But that's all the advantage they're
hoping for.

The group heads up the northern corridor, turns left, and flings open the
double doors.  The door to the cleric's room is closed again. Myrthorn tells
Brik to sneak in behind the cleric, and attack.  The last door is opened,
and Brik slips in unnoticed. Myrthorn and Hock slip in and stand to the
right of the door, while Brock and Muldred enter and stand to the left.
Ardrah (still injured) hangs back with bow drawn at the doorway.  There is a
surprise for the entire group. Inside the room, with the cleric, are two
large and tough zombies. They stand from a sitting position at the far end
of the room, and approach.  One nearly bumps into Brik, but misses, and Brik
goes unnoticed.

Myrthorn asks for the orb.  The cleric laughs and draws his mace. Too bad he
had the last laugh.  Brik raises his sword and slashes the cleric with it
from behind.  The cleric is stunned, and knocked off his feet onto the
table.  Simultaneously, the others engage the zombies.

Myrthorn yells to Muldred to use his natural clerical ability to turn the
undead.  Hock and Brock swing at the zombies, and the zombies return blows,
before Muldred has the opportunity to cast his spell.

Hock is stabbed and knocked to the floor, and the spell is cast. It affects
one zombie -- the one who struck Hock.  Normally the spell would cause
undead to run away, but being as how the exit is blocked, the zombie merely
cowers in a far corner.  Ardrah shoots a couple of arrows at the other
zombie, but they go wide.  Myrthorn, seeing Hock fall, grabs him, and drags
him back to the door.  Ardrah takes Hock and pulls him back into the entry
room, to examine him. Myrthorn takes Ardrah's place with his crossbow.  The
cleric attempts to fight back against Brik, now that he is visible, but the
cleric has been taken by surprise too quickly for him to react effectively.
Brik swings three more times, with his powerful arm, and the cleric slumps
to the ground!

Muldred and Brock, in the meantime, have been attempting to disable the last
fighting zombie.  It is injured, and a quarrel to the head from Myrthorn's
crossbow finishes it.

Ardrah announces that Hock is dead!  In a fit of rage, she grabs her sword
and charges the remaining cowering zombie.  She runs it through with her
blade, and it ceases to move.

The orb is examined by Muldred and Myrthorn.  A spherical object about the
size of one's palm, with many different coloured lights inside. The lights
dart here and there, and neither can detect its purpose.  Myrthorn  places
the orb in his backpack.  The rest of the room is searched, and nothing of
value is found.

Brik picks up Hock's limp body, and the party hurries towards the surface as
fast as possible.  Ardrah and Muldred grab a few souvenirs from the dead
guards on their way out.  Worried about the other party searching for the
orb, Myrthorn gets out the Potion of
Invisibility and takes the rest.  They reach the surface with no more
encounters, and debate what to do next.

Ardrah and Muldred head into town to pawn their mementoes, while the others
wait near the church.  After visiting the marketplace, the two stop by a
stable, and rent a coach to carry the party to the School of Learning.

The group reaches the school some eight hours later.  They meet with the
high cleric, and have a difficult time bartering with him. They finally turn
the orb over to the cleric after  having Hock resurrected.  The cleric
reveals that the orb is nothing more than a complex form of entertainment.

The group arranges for compensation with one of the high cleric's aides.
They also inquire further about the orb.  After a hesitant description, the
party realises that they risked their lives over a magical Rubix orb!  A
mere game!

They collect six thousand gold pieces total, and a potion of healing for
each member of the party (plus the resurrection of Hock). They stay at the
school, another few days, until their wounds are healed. They divide the
gold equally, and Hock and Brock leave the original four, and head back to
their homeland.  The other four bid the halflings farewell, and head back to
Pendboro. Perhaps they will meet again in the future.....

*******
Weekly sessions of D&D are held in the blind gamers chat room
on the Audio-Tips website every Sunday evening, starting at 9 p.m.
EDT (6 PDT.  That website is:
http://www.audio-tips.com/blind-gamers.html
Anyone interested in participating in the adventures should contact
Randy Hammer at:  [email protected].
--   One final note: Thanks go out to Randy Hammer for starting
these sessions and devoting his time as Dungeon Master, and
developing these adventures!

+++
Interview with Suzanne Britton
by Justin Fegel

Since Worlds Apart has been so well received among the Audyssey community, I
thought it would be interesting to interview the game's author, Suzanne
Britton, and find out a little about the background of this incredible game
and how it came to be. If you would like to read a review of the game, you
can find two excellent reviews in the Game Reviews section of issue 21. If
you haven't tried Worlds Apart yet, you really must download a copy. You can
download it from:
ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/tads/worlds.zip
Worlds Apart is also included in the Rising from Time's Ashes collection,
which was compiled by Audyssey's editor Michael Feir. You can download this
collection from:
http://www.espsoftworks.com
Now, on with the interview.

JF: Well, I guess we'll start with that universal question that seems to
begin every interview. Could you tell us a little about yourself?

SV: Lesse. I'm a 26-year-old happily married Roman Catholic computer geek.
I'm an
idealist. I'm asocial (usually). I have a somewhat hyperactive imagination.
I program computers for a living and for fun, and have had a passion for
writing since adolescence. These two loves are combined in my interactive
fiction work.

"Worlds Apart" is my first real work of IF. Before that, I wrote a
teach-myself-TADS, Tolkien-themed game called "Journey to Lothlorien". I had
fun with it, but it will probably never see the light of day.

I've been a lurker in the IF community for some time now--since well before
the first IF competition. Every now and then I poke my head up, usually to
help with TADS questions on raif. I can be found on ifMUD periodically as
"Tril". But for the most part, I keep to myself, listen and learn and
occasionally offer something back to the community.

JF: When did you become interested in interactive fiction and what are some
of your favourite games?

SV: I was 12 when I had my first encounter with IF: a split-screen Apple IIe
adventure game called "Death in the Caribbean". It was a straight puzzle
game which boasted a primitive two-word parser, an imp that followed you
around stealing your inventory, and various types of Instant Death (e.g. a
chasm that you must jump across, with a 50% chance of surviving). I fell in
love with it. When I was playing "Death in the Caribbean", the outside world
might as well have ceased to exist.

The Real World and I never got along very well in my childhood, and from as
early on as I can remember, I was inventing alternate ones (Worlds Apart is,
in fact, the fruition thereof). IF became part of that escapist passion. And
as I grew and the computer gaming industry matured, I became more and more
demanding, favouring story-rich interactive fiction with good writing and
smoothly integrated puzzles.

Some of the more memorable games I remember along the journey, in
chronological
order, are In Quest of the Starlord, Caladuril II: Weatherstone's End (both
CoCo III graphic/text adventures), King's Quest III and IV, Bureaucracy,
Wishbringer, Trinity, Loom, Gateway and Gateway II. You may notice these are
all commercial games. But since the commercial gaming industry began to shun
text and the parser interface (which I believe to be by far the most
flexible and immersive interface), I've drawn away from it and become
increasingly engrossed in and loyal to the modern text-IF movement.

Some of my favourite works of modern, text-based IF are Curses, Shelby's
Addendum, Delusions, Tapestry, Babel, Sunset over Savannah, For a Change,
and LASH. But the king of them all is Photopia: I feel it's the greatest
masterpiece the IF community has ever produced, and I don't think it will be
surpassed any time soon.

JF: Worlds Apart is certainly a very large and detailed game. In fact, even
though I have played it a couple times, I still don't feel I've found
everything yet. How did you come up with the idea for the game and was it
intended to be this large?

SB: The universe in which Worlds Apart takes place has been with me,
evolving in my
imagination, since I was very young. It almost seems to evolve on its own,
and its denizens feel very emotionally real to me, so it seems strange to
talk about "coming up with ideas", as if I sat down one day and thought,
"let's write a story about a healer". I never did.

You might say the whole thing started with Yuri: he was the first Dyrana I
ever knew, coalescing when I was 14 and evolving from there. I knew that
someone in his past had affected him deeply, transforming his whole
personality and outlook on life, but I didn't know who or how or why.  The
seed of "Worlds Apart" was in those questions. The game design, prose, and
puzzles were all consciously created, but the *story* was more of a
discovery.

Was it intended to be huge? Definitely. In fact, there was a time I wanted
to tell the whole story in one game (instead of splitting it up into WA and
its sequel), in which case it would have been unreasonably huge. But the
bulk of the game's size is in its depth. I don't think any one person will
*ever* find everything unless they find a way to disassemble the TADS
binary. Over 50% of the game, I'd estimate, is optional, and finding the
hidden surprises is intended to be one of the pleasures of playing it--and
replaying it.

JF: How long was Worlds Apart in development?

SB: There were three years of writing and programming, plus some preceding
months of "gestation"--letting ideas bounce off each other and scanning
design discussions on raif.

JF: Are there any other interactive fiction games that had an influence on
Worlds Apart's creation?

SB: Quite a few. The most influential were my favourite games of the 1996
competition, since around that time I started programming in earnest. These
included Delusions, Tapestry, and Fear. Each introduced powerful tools for
player immersion, and immersion was one of my foremost goals in "Worlds
Apart". Delusions' self-discovery theme, Tapestry's forcing of the player to
make a difficult decision, and Fear's vivid representations of the
subconscious: these three were a big influence on my imagination and my
design decisions.

JF: I understand that there are colour changes that take place in certain
parts of the game. Of course, blind players will not be aware of these
changes unless they are playing with a sighted friend. How crucial is it to
know about these colour changes and are there any parts in particular that
blind players should be aware are in a different colour?

SB: Colour is not heavily used and is not crucial to understanding--it's
employed mainly in a few special instances (e.g. the three section title
screens) for setting mood. A more important but related detail is font: I
use italics to represent Lyesh's thoughts, bold for others' thoughts, and
bold italics on the rare occasion that her thoughts sync with someone
else's. It's an important distinction and sometimes the font is the only way
to tell whose mind is speaking.

Perhaps the most crucial instance is the curse at the end of the
locket-vision within the statue. That was Kitara's mind speaking, not
Lyesh's, a detail which even one of my (sighted) beta-testers missed.

JF: Since the game was developed with HTML tads, have you considered adding
graphics, or for us visually impaired players, sounds?

SB: I'm not planning much further development on Worlds Apart. I'd rather
make
room for new endeavours. The sequel may have graphics and/or sound,
though...

JF: I also understand you are working on a sequel. Can you tell us a little
about that and how it's coming along?

SB: It's gestating. There was a burst of activity towards the end of "Worlds
Apart"
development, during which I wrote about 60,000 words of prose, but no code.
Things have quieted down since then. I'm bouncing ideas around, and also
waiting for TADS 3 to mature.

"Full Circle" will be fairly big, but unlike "Worlds Apart", most of its
size will be in breadth rather than depth. There will be less optional
material and therefore less for the player to miss, though as with "Worlds
Apart", they will have to read carefully to understand what's going on. This
change is somewhat dictated by the subject matter: the base story of "Full
Circle" is so far-reaching that there is little room for optional
embellishments. Also, while Lyesh remains the player-character, "Full
Circle" is not a story about Lyesh. The focus is on someone else.

The endgame/epilogue will be an exception to both of those statements,
however, and my hope is that it will help to resolve the "left hanging"
feeling that many players had at the end of "Worlds Apart".

A final note: "Full Circle" will be a story told from up to three viewpoints
at a time, and my current plan is to divide the screen into three scrolling
frames. Since becoming aware of Audyssey and the IF fans among its
readership, I've started to give some thought to how I can adapt this plan
to vision-impaired players.

JF: What are your thoughts on the future of interactive fiction? Can we
expect more games like Worlds Apart that focus more on telling a story
rather than puzzle solving?

SB: Absolutely. Like me, the IF community as a whole has grown demanding and
a little jaded. Its collective reaction to Lunatix (a quite solid old-school
adventure game, well above that old Apple IIe game that so enchanted me as a
child) alone shows this. Most IFers, certainly in the newsgroup-based
community, are no longer willing to forgive arbitrary puzzles, sketchy
plots, or sub-Infocom parsers. There's been a movement
towards story-rich, prose-rich IF starting around the 1996 competition, and
I'm enjoying every minute of it.

On the other hand, puzzles will always have their place. I decided early on
that "Worlds Apart" would not be puzzleless--but the puzzles (although
"problems" is perhaps a better word) are woven into the story as seamlessly
as possible, and are designed to aid immersion rather than thwart it. Part
of it is the old cognitive dissonance trick. After struggling to help Lia
transform her nightmare, or to make contact with Echo, the player will
hopefully think something like: "If I put in all that work, I must be a true
healer." And
hopefully, they won't stop to think, "Nah, I put in all that work because it
was the only way to finish the game."

JF: Worlds Apart is a fine game and I'm certainly looking forward to the
sequel. Do you have any final comments? Any words of advice for any
potential interactive fiction developers?

SB: Advice: Worship your beta-testers. Without my testers, "Worlds Apart"
would not
be half as rich and detailed as it is. Many of the optional discoveries
originated from tester comments. Also, without my testers, the game would
have sported several hideous game-killing bugs despite all of my own careful
testing (actually, one such bug managed to make its way to release, but one
of my testers, Vincent Lynch, caught it and alerted me soon after),
including one which put Lyesh into a self-repeating time warp when she came
out of the jinna tree. You won't catch all of these yourself--guaranteed.
Most of them turn up when the player is prying at a difficult puzzle,
something the author never has to do.

And one other note about testing: ask for full transcripts. You'll find out
all sorts of things this way that your testers might not otherwise report.

Final comments: Many thanks to Audyssey and its readership! I didn't know
about this magazine until recently. As a new author, I'm somewhat starved
for feedback, so finding the reviews in Audyssey came as a very pleasant
surprise. If you have any suggestions on how I can make "Full Circle" more
accessible to you, let me know.

Thanks Suzanne for taking the time to do this interview. We certainly are
looking forward to Full Circle when it is released.

+++
Quitting the Field?
Announcement by James Peach Hello all! I know that it seems like a
never-ending saga; will I stay with Audyssey, or will I quit the field?
Well, while such a decision could not be made alone, it was a choice I had
to make for myself in the end. I put the question to the Audyssey discussion
list. I think I'll let some of my "loyal fans" do some of the talking here,
so you can get a sense of what the majority feel about the issue:

HI James

I've been an avid game player for years, I get a great deal of information
from your reviews. I have bought a great many of the games that you have
reviewed in Audyssey. occasionally I do get sighted assistance when I'm
playing games. I think I speak for most of the Audyssey community when I
say, that you will be greatly missed if you do decide to leave the Audyssey
staff. I hope you will take some time and reconsider whether or not you want
to leave. In my personal opinion I think you contribute a lot to the
Audyssey community.

Thank you

Steven Cullen

Wow! This is a fine example of how much they read Audyssey and especially
the work that I do. Steve, I really appreciate what you've said; it is very
inspirational, as it gives me a reason to continue. Knowing that I've
affected the gaming of one person so dramatically makes it all seem
worthwhile. Unfortunately however, this would be about the only completely
positive feedback I've received; there seems to be mixed feelings about the
issue as you'll soon read below.

Hi, gamers and James,
I don't have any objection to your work, Mr. Peach. The simple fact is I
can't give you any feedback because I can't play any of the games you review
because I live alone. I have a few friends but they are married and they
either have little interest in such games or they are working 8, 9, or 10
hour jobs. I work a full-time job myself so we just don't connect.

I do think your work is extremely valuable for those who can use the
information you provide to the gaming community.

Allen
The Desert Bat

Hey Y'all
I would also concur with Allen's opinion. I find myself in similar
circumstances, that is living on my own. My friends don't take the same
amount of interest in computer games as I do. Thus if a game is not
virtually blind friendly, unfortunately, I gain nothing.
Now that out of the way, I still read your work and find it interesting to
know that there are commercial games out there that are playable. I am
unable to benefit from those that require a team effort, though it is good
to know we as gamers can take part in game play to some degree. Also since
there are games out which blind people can play solo like You don't Know
Jack [in it's many reincarnations] or Star Trek The Game Show, with news of
this type of game, then it is time to consider going out and spending like
there is no tomorrow! In short, you are making a valuable contribution and
it would be a shame if you decided not to continue. I hope you keep up the
superb work.

Ron

As you can see, some people are generally uninterested in my articles and
reviews, but for practical, real-world reasons, of which I can understand.
With this said, however, I didn't get the feeling that they wanted me to
stop whatever it is I was doing (sometimes I don't know myself, staying up
till all hours, typing...); I hope they can eventually find the
time/companions, that will allow both David and Ron, to play some of the
games I've covered. I was a bit untruthful, when I said that Steve's was the
only one who sent positive and uplifting comments. S. Bobbitt has also
offered high praise, and so I thought I'd save it for last. Here's what she
had to say:

Hello James,
I have read all of your work in Audyssey. I think you are a fine writer and
that what you write about is very important to the magazine and the game
community in general.
I would certainly miss your contributions to the magazine if they were to
cease. Please, do not let them cease!

I know exactly where you are coming from when you talk about getting neither
positive nor negative responses to your work. You begin to second guess
yourself. Am I going about this the wrong way? Are people simply not
interested? I think that most real gamers are most definitely interested,
but like myself, they may feel either that their responses would go
unnoticed or they think, well, there's probably a half a dozen other people
sending in letters just like mine, so I'll just let them submit their
response and let mine go for now.

Admittedly, for nearly a year, I did just sit on the side-lines--so to
speak. I read every issue of Audyssey, played the games, but I never
contributed anything. I suppose one of the reasons that I never submitted a
letter to the magazine or posted to any of the news groups was that I was
afraid of sounding ridiculous. I have come to the point now to where I don't
really care whether I sound foolish or not. I enjoy playing games of all
kinds. Always have, and always will. I have an opinion just like everyone
else and just because I can't express that opinion quite as well as someone
else might, doesn't mean that I shouldn't express it.

Not to be redundant but, my opinion in this case is that your work is VERY
good and is VERY important! I sincerely hope that you decide to stay on as a
staff member of Audyssey magazine.

Come on people! Let's all let James know just how much we do enjoy his work.
If you have a different opinion, well, let him know that, too.

Sincerely,
S Bobbitt

Well, what can I say? If this is a good representation of the community at
large, then I guess I'll have to bow to public opinion and stay. Oh, but
wait, I think I'll have to throw a little twist into this supposedly neat
and tidy conclusion. You see, since I seem to do so much work, concerning
web-based gaming, and websites devoted to gaming and games development, I've
decided, that I'm going to move as Head of Web-based Entertainment and see
how that goes. Hey! It's a win/win situation; Commercial Games still get
covered, but now exclusively by Randy Hammer, our newest member, and a new
division at Audyssey opens up! The future holds endless possibilities, and
it can truly only get better from here! Enjoy Audyssey, now with a Web-based
Entertainment division, and keep on playing the games you love.

[Editor's addition]: James has shown a fair degree of modesty in the
announcement he submitted above. There were many more positive responses,
and none which were completely negative. I only wish it didn't take such a
crisis to provoke action out of people who don't usually contribute to
Audyssey or the on-going discussions surrounding it. A part of Stan
Bobbett's letter which James did not include is below: I've chosen to add it
since it illustrates exactly the kind of mutual benefit that partnerships
between blind and sighted gamers can have. I hope it encourages more blind
and sighted people to seek out such partnerships.

[Stan Bobbett]: My son who is 17 now, has been a great help to me in playing
normally
inaccessible games such as Nintendo, PlayStation, and Sega. We started
playing video games together when he was only 4 years old. Not only was he
helping me with the games, but by reading the text to me from an RPG, he was
improving his reading skills. He learned to read very well at an early age.

So yes, I do value your reports on games that are accessible with a sighted
partner.

[Editor]:If you're in school and having trouble making friends, games can
make for wonderful ice-breakers. I was the only blind person in secondary
school, and have found an excellent friend by the name of Adam Taylor. I was
playing a game on my computer which intrigued him enough to introduce
himself. It's been over ten years, and we're still excellent friends. A lot
of folks have very narrow impressions of what blind people can do and are
interested in. Not many of them realise that computer games and other
activities like sports fall within our capabilities. Once they realise this,
they'll be less likely to cling to beliefs that we're too narrow-minded or
un-intelligent to be interesting companions. I started Audyssey so that
others could benefit the way I have from computer games. A large part of how
they benefited me was that they gave me something in common with my sighted
peers. James was willing to take on a very difficult task to help bring that
about. I hope that you'll enjoy Randy's efforts to continue what James began
to be helpful, and that you'll offer him your help when you can. James Peach
will also need your help in his new role covering web-based games. With only
one staff member covering such wide areas of the gaming universe, we can
barely scratch the service without your help. Contributing your articles,
letters, and reviews to Audyssey will allow me to direct my staff members to
cover more unexplored territory.

+++
Free Game Winner!

For his outstanding efforts in bringing the excitement of the Dungeons and
Dragons campaign to Audyssey readers, David Sherman wins this month's free
game from PCS. Readers will no doubt appreciate his attention to detail in
recounting the journey undertaken by himself and the brave companions who
went with him. It is hoped that this and future adventures will prove of
interest to the Audyssey community. Congradulations, Dave.

+++
News From Bavisoft

4/18/2000
Bavisoft Releases Grizzly Gulch Western Extravaganza!

Hello, Audyssey readers. I would like to inform everyone of a new company
named Bavisoft. We are a software company dedicated to creating computer
games based purely on sound imagery. Our first product, Grizzly Gulch
Western Extravaganza, is an exciting mix of action and adventure set in the
Old West. We are extremely proud of this game and we hope you enjoy it.
I would very much like to thank everyone involved with Audyssey, as well as
the other developers and companies producing games for the blind and
visually impaired for making us at Bavisoft feel very welcome to this
community. The months ahead promise to be very exciting for everyone, and I
look forward to them.

Jeff Gibbons
President, Bavisoft

About the Game
--------------
Grizzly Gulch Western Extravaganza is a virtual world set in the Old West
created purely from sound imagery. You will have the chance to meet and
interact with many crazy characters as you explore the town of Grizzly
Gulch. Would you like to settle into the Saloon for a game of chance, or try
to make a name for yourself upholding the law against some of the baddest
outlaws in the West with your trusty six shooter in blazing arcade style gun
battles? It's all up to you.

Featuring:
Simple 4 key control interface
CD quality stereo sound
Original music
Professional voice talent
Over 1000 digitally recorded sound effects and dialogue lines
Full stereo environments for each of the many locations
Complete audio help which can be accessed at any time with the "Quick Help"
feature
An interactive evolving story line
4 different games of chance in the saloon
Gun fighting
Action Sequences
...and much, much more!

For more information and the latest news, we invite you to stop by our web
site at:
http://www.bavisoft.com
We will be more than happy to answer any questions you might have about us,
or the Grizzly Gulch game.

Have fun!

[Editor's note]: For those living outside of the US, you can obtain the game
by check or money order. Be certain to check out the web-site for full
details.

+++
News From ESP Softworks

What's New @ ESP Softworks - April 30th, 2000

Greetings, Gamers!

This section is designed to help keep everyone up-to-date as to what's going
on at the ESP Softworks' website 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 explored the web site, now would be a *great* time to find
out!
ESP Softworks is an up and coming game and entertainment software company
that specializes in the development of software that's completely accessible
to those with low or no vision.

What's New at ESP Softworks' Web Site:

Monkey Business News
--------------------

The Monkey Business demo and open beta will be available on the website
within the first two weeks of May.  Shortly thereafter, a retail version
will be available on CD for purchase.  Monkey Business is a real-time action
arcade game using stereophonic sound effects and music.  Check the web site
soon for more information, the demo, and pricing and availability.

ESP Partners with PCS Games for Space Invaders Conversion
---------------------------------------------------------

ESP Softworks and PCS are working together on a preliminary project to port
PCS' new Space Invaders title to the Windows platform.  Stay tuned for new
and upcoming information regarding this joint project on the PCS website at
http://www.pcsgames.com as well as the ESP Softworks website.  We look
forward to working with the cool guys at PCS!

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

In the last What's New @ ESP Softworks, we announced our Freebies Section
with the introduction of Shell Shock.  Shell Shock has since gone through
four revisions since it was put on the web site for download including an
update to the computer opponent intelligence.

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 website.

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

As usual, our release order has shifted once again with the following order
at the moment:

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

These dates are subject to change and, as we know, will. *grin*

The information above reflects the current news of ESP Softworks.  For all
news, please visit the news section of our website at
http://www.espsoftworks.com/textonly/news/whatsnew.html.

+++
News From PCS

P C S on Enable Link
Personal Computer Systems games will be included in the Enable Link Shopping
area. Enable Link has a Technology news section, an Arts and Entertainment
section and an on-line Shopping section where you can purchase hardware and
software. The shopping section gives P C S customers the ability to click on
a game and purchase it with a credit card.
http://www.enablelink.com

Here is the article we submitted for their Arts and Entertainment section:

Personal Computer Systems creates fast action, fun and exciting computer
games for the blind community.  In our arcade games you aim by using your
ears to hear a tone or a series of beeps to hit a target.  Thus, the
impossible to play eye hand video game becomes an easy to play ear hand
audio game.

P C S now has games playable from Windows without needing any adaptive
equipment.  The games are completely audio, all information is spoken by a
human, not a synthesiser, played through your computer's speakers.

Personal Computer Systems is operated and maintained by blind programmers.
You can contact P C S in any format at:
PERSONAL Computer Systems
551 Compton Ave.
Perth Amboy NJ.  08861
phone (732) 826-1917
E-mail [email protected]

+
PERSONAL COMPUTER SYSTEMS GAMES 2000

P C S SPACE INVADERS

Thump, thump, a flash of audio peeps, chirps and blips alert you that one of
the six columns of invaders is directly over head.  You hold down the fire
button, chupe, chupe, chupe and three enemy ships are destroyed.  They move
off to the right, thump, thump,
thump, thump, and you try to get ahead of them.  Again they come into your
sights and you let loose with another burst.  Chupe, chupe, chupe, the last
three of six invaders in the column are vaporised.  With no time to waist
you move right again to try getting a bead on the first column of space
invaders.  You hear a high tone and before you can react, Ca-Boom, you run
into a bomb. Its all over for you, and a tremendous explosion takes out your
fortress!
P C S Space Invaders is a game of awareness, concentration and quick
reaction.  You listen to the sounds from the PC speaker, where information
about the column at the current location is given.  The stereo speakers will
give you additional information about your position and the invaders, the
remaining columns and how far apart is the first
column from the last.  Even the occasional UFO will enter the fray from the
left or right side.  You try to blow away thirty six invaders before they
reach the planet, and then do it again, again, and again.  This is by far
the most audio intents game Personal
Computer Systems  has made to date.  There are many things going on at the
same time, invaders moving back and forth and down, you can move right and
left faster then the invaders, bombs are falling and missiles are flying.
As if that is not enough an occasional UFO enters worth fat bonus points and
as you reduce the columns of invaders they move faster.  Our help screen is
there to decipher what the sounds represent.  Once you understand what is
going on, how the sounds are relaying information and after a little
practice, the sounds and action become second nature
and you can concentrate on racking up high scores.
Are you up to the challenge of this arcade game?  Do you have what it takes
to save Earth from the hoards of space invaders, threatening your survival?
Well if so, try this one!

SNIPE HUNT

Grab your flashlight and a sack and lets go Snipe Hunting! There was a good
hatch this year and they are ready for the picking.  A word to the wise,
"just be a where of the Male Snipes! They will chase you and attack your
lamp.
Personal Computer Systems is going to take you on a Snipe hunt like you've
never been on before.  Not only are the Snipes plentiful but there are four
different kinds of them!
This fast action arcade game is sure to have you hopping around
bagging flocks of the Elusive birds.

PERSONAL Computer Systems
551 Compton Ave.
Perth Amboy NJ.  08861
phone (732) 826-1917
E-mail: [email protected]

Our P C S Games web site:
http://www.pcsgames.com

+
P C S game demos are on the Internet!
Ever since Paul moved our demos the links to them on our site do not work.
Until we get that fixed, here are the updated links:

Shades of Doom
P C S Games and ESP Softworks agreed to share resources and offer a Windows
game prototype developed by David Greenwood of P C S Games and the readers
of Audyssey magazine.
You can find a link to it at the bottom of the E S P main page:
http://www.espsoftworks.com
or read information about it at:
http://www.espsoftworks.com/textonly/sod/beta.htm
You will get information on what types of computers can play this
prototype and that it is in one zipped file of 3.4 Mb.
Or you can down load it directly at:
http://www.espsoftworks.com/downloads/sod/sod.zip

Thanks to Paul Henrichsen,  You can download the following
DOS games from his new site.  All but the football game have multi
media sound and they are all speech friendly.

Star Trek- Let the battle begin.
Trek99.zip 1,226k
ftp://ftp.outofsight.org.nz/pub/henrich/trek99.zip

Red Dragon kick boxing challenge.
Kbx99.zip 1,222k
ftp://ftp.outofsight.org.nz/pub/henrich/kbx99.zip

Pack Man, Eat fruit and avoid ghosts.  Live action arcade game.
PM99.zip 919 k
ftp://ftp.outofsight.org.nz/pub/henrich/pm99.zip

Lone wolf, Command a WW2 sub and reek havoc on shipping.
LW99.zip 913k
ftp://ftp.outofsight.org.nz/pub/henrich/lw99.zip

Cops catch the bad guys before they leave town.
cops98.zip 1,230k
ftp://ftp.outofsight.org.nz/pub/henrich/cops98.zip

Walk through a maze and try to find your way out.
maze98.zip 863k
ftp://ftp.outofsight.org.nz/pub/henrich/maze98.zip

Monopoly game.
Mn98.zip 946k
ftp://ftp.outofsight.org.nz/pub/henrich/mn98.zip

Car racing game.
Car98.zip 730k
ftp://ftp.outofsight.org.nz/pub/henrich/car98.zip

Breakout, smash objects arcade game.
break98.zip 757k
ftp://ftp.outofsight.org.nz/pub/henrich/break98.zip

World War 2 Tank game.
Pz97.zip 1,277k
ftp://ftp.outofsight.org.nz/pub/henrich/Pz97.zip

Shooting gallery with sounds.
Shoot97.zip 904k
ftp://ftp.outofsight.org.nz/pub/henrich/shoot97.zip

Bowling game with sounds.
Tenpin97.zip 853k
ftp://ftp.outofsight.org.nz/pub/henrich/tenpin97.zip

CARD CLUB,  Play the game hearts with real sounds.
Cards97.zip 1,405k
ftp://ftp.outofsight.org.nz/pub/henrich/cards97.zip

Mobius Mountain math game for children.
Mobius97.zip 814k
ftp://ftp.outofsight.org.nz/pub/henrich/mobius97.zip

Fox and hounds catch the fox game.
Fox97.zip 1046k
ftp://ftp.outofsight.org.nz/pub/henrich/fox97.zip

World Series Baseball, Special Edition.
Wsbb11.zip 1,343k
ftp://ftp.outofsight.org.nz/pub/henrich/wsbb11.zip

Scavenger hunt game, not a demo!
Map96.zip 530k
ftp://ftp.outofsight.org.nz/pub/henrich/map96.zip

Any night football game.
Fan95.zip 146k
ftp://ftp.outofsight.org.nz/pub/henrich/fan95.zip

Paul Henrichsen's new home page is:
http://home.pacbell.net/paulh52/

We are also in another FTP site:
ftp.softcon.com/textgames/pcs/

+++
News From Zform LLC

18 April, 2000
TR update: Version 1.10 of TR is out and ready for downloading.  This
newest version includes a totally new style of gameplay, better
accessibility for those with low vision, and easier installation.  If you
have questions or comments on TR, please email us at: [email protected]
GDC (Game Developers Conference):
We just came back from the GDC 2000, and we feel obligated to report a
smashing
success!  There were a lot of enthusiastic responses to our game plans,
especially in the VI field.  Many companies expressed interest and desire to
work with us on future projects.  Many thanks to all those at the GDC for a
wonderful convention!  Special Thanks to Aureal, Inc., who provided us with
top of the line sound cards for use in our development!

Funding Update:
Our first grant has come in, from the Lemelson Assistive Technology
Development
Centre (LATDC).  This grant provides us with the critical resources to begin
development of our first fully-accessible game.  Many thanks to the people
at LATDC!

+++
A Look at Accessible Educational Software
by Kelly Sapergia

It's too bad that there isn't much in the way of educational software for
blind or visually impaired students these days. Sure, there are some great
games like Jigsaw, a text adventure where you travel back in time to
historical events in the 20th century,, or Mobius Mountain, a math game by
PCS in which you answer questions as you try to get to the top of a
mountain. Overall, there aren't enough in my opinion. There are a lot of
math games that use sound, but they're not, in my opinion, accessible.
Either they use a mouse, or the sounds don't tell you what's going on in the
game. I must admit, I was upset by the fact that the sighted kids at my
school were playing games like Math Blaster, and I couldn't find any GOOD
educational games that I could play with my access equipment. I also
remember having to use a recorded textbook in our typing class, instead of
software like FasType, or other typing tutor programs. A few days ago, while
looking around on the Internet, I decided to look for some educational
software for DOS or Windows 95, and came up with a few programs I thought
I'd review in this article.

DOS Games

Note- The following games were written by DareWare, Inc. They are shareware,
but I don't know if they're supported. These programs are designed for kids
aged 1-7.

123-TALK

This is one of a few programs that use digitised speech to teach your child
how to say numbers, remember their phone number, count, etc. There are two
versions that you can download on the Internet, at sites like shareware.com,
hotfiles.com, etc. The first version uses the PC speaker, and the other
version is designed for sound cards. Both versions are easy to use, and just
about all the activities talk. You may want to try the sound card version
since the speech quality of the PC speaker version isn't the best, but the
program is good. Another advantage of using the Sound Card version is that
all the sound files are in .VOC format, so you can load them into your
favourite sound editor and overwrite them with your own voice. The only
activities that aren't suitable for visually impaired kids are the "counting
game", where you have to count balloons on
the screen, and "Easy Draw", which allows you to use a mouse to draw on the
screen.

ABC-TALK

This program is the same as 123-Talk except that this teaches your child the
alphabet.

Windows 95/98 Games

THE SPEAK AND SPELL SIMULATOR

The "Speak and Spell" toy was created in the early 80s, and was the first
toy that used speech. As it's name implies, this program is a simulated
version of the Speak and Spell. It's keyboard driven, and I personally found
it easy to use once I read the README file that contains keyboard commands.

APH Programs

Note- The following programs were created by the American Printing House for
the Blind (APH), and are intended primarily for use at schools.

MATH FLASH

This is a new educational computer game that functions like math flash
cards, but is designed for visually impaired students. If you're a teacher,
you can also use this program to create tests for the student. The student
can answer all the questions, but he/she won't be told if the answer is
right or wrong. At the end of the test, you can use the Page Up and Page
Down keys to move through the various questions, and will be told if the
answer was correct or incorrect. This program is a self-voicing application,
that uses your sound card. You don't need a screen reader, since all the
menus
are spoken using the Microsoft Text-to-Speech synthesiser, or any SAPI
synthesiser on your computer. This program uses digitised speech from APH's
narrators to ask questions, say numbers as you enter them, and comment on
your answers. You can listen to, or download an audio overview of this
product in Windows Media format, and you can also download a playable demo
of this program from APH's Technology page at:
www.aph.org/tech
Note that the playable demo is 37MB.
You can order a free demo CD from APH that contains demos of Math Flash,
Talking Typer for Windows (see below), and Learn Keys (a program that speaks
the names of keys on the keyboard without interfering with your computer),
by calling 1-800-223-1839.

TALKING TYPER FOR WINDOWS

This is a new typing tutor that's specifically designed for visually
impaired students. It's
similar to APH's DOS-based typing tutor called PC Typer, except that the
Windows version uses Microsoft's text-to-speech synthesiser, or any other
SAPI-compatible synthesiser on your computer. The program will speak the
letters you're to type.
After you type the letters and press Space, a bell will sound if you got the
sequence right. A beep sounds if you get a letter wrong, and the correct
letter you're to type is spoken. This program also comes with a game called
Hurry Scurry. In this game, you have to type sequences of letters correctly
before the letters fall off the screen. This game plays a MIDI file that
gradually speeds up as you get the letters right, and will slow down if you
get letters wrong.
This program costs $79 US on CD-ROM, but you can get a demo either by
downloading it from www.aph.org/tech, or you can order the free CD-ROM from
APH discussed in the Math Flash review. An audio overview is also available
both on the web site, and on
the demo CD.

I hope to have more educational games to review in the future. If you have
any comments or suggestions about this article, feel free to e-mail me at:
[email protected].

+++
Game Announcements and Reviews:

This section is where you'll find announcements of new games not covered
elsewhere in the magazine as well as reviews of new and older games. 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.

A gap in our interactive fiction coverage has resulted in a number of new
games not being covered. Several games have also been updated, so those
having trouble with particular games may wish to check for updated copies to
them. Two large Zcode games have appeared. They are Augmented Fourth and
LASH. Both are .z8 files and can be found in the /games/zcode directory at:
ftp.gmd.de/if-archive
You may also want to go to:
www.if-archive.org
if you feel uncomfortable navigating ftp sites.
Mulldoon's Legacy has recently been updated yet again. No new game elements
were added, but more bugs were fixed. Worlds Apart is now at version 2.0.
Again, only minor changes and fixes have occurred. Reviews of Augmented
Fourth, Mulldoon's Legacy and LASH would be very much appreciated.

We also need reviews for Grizzly Gulch, [see my review below], and Jim
Kitchen's Winbopit[See below].

+
Grizzly Gulch Western Extravaganza
Game by Bavisoft Inc.
Available as commercial software from www.bavisoft.com
Fully accessible without sighted assistance
Reviewed by Michael Feir

In one fell swoop, Bavisoft has appeared from nowhere with a game which
clearly demonstrates the potential of the Windows environment to the blind
gamer. Making fabulous use of sound and real-time action, they have plunged
their audience into an over-the-top version of the wild west. The town of
Grizzly Gulch is chalk full of goofy characters and places.

If you're looking for realism, this game isn't for you unless you're
prepared to lighten up. In a recent discussion, Bavisoft's president, Jeff
Gibbons, acknowledged that this cartoonish style was intentionally made and
not at all an accident. Anybody who plays the game will easily understand
the wisdom behind this artistic choice. Characters in the game are basically
stock characters. There's a marshall, a hotel owner, a banker, a saloon
owner and his four nephews, and a host of others. Going for the cartoon
approach allows otherwise predictable characters to acquire a depth they
otherwise couldn't have. It also makes sound depictions such as bottles
flying through the air less jarring to one's suspension of disbelief. If the
whole reality is tilted out of true, changes made in the interests of
playability seem less far-fetched when you're caught up in the action.

The sound work and voice acting in Grizzly Gulch is excellent. Stereo sounds
are used throughout the game, and each place has its own sound environment.
For instance, in the centre of town, you hear people walking around greeting
each other and horses going along the cobblestones. The bank has people
talking quietly and the clinks of coins. Music for the game is all original
if somewhat cliched, and lends itself well to the overall atmosphere. Audio
help is also quite well-executed. You can skip help you don't want to hear,
and navigate through the sections easily.

As far as interface goes, Bavisoft went for the simple approach. Everything
is done with the four arrow keys. The left and right arrows let you move
through the options and the up arrow selects an option. In action sequences,
the left and right arrows aim your gun left and right. The up arrow fires
the gun. The gun fights are done in a somewhat un-realistic but playable
fashion. Characters will taunt you before they shoot. You have to line the
click of your gun up with the taunt before the character shoots and shoot
him first. To complicate things, characters often appear simultaneously.
Also, innocent by-standers may sometimes appear. I shot one of these when
trying to stop a bank robbery, and Cecil was not all that happy with me.

The saloon games are quite well-done. Careful attention was obviously paid
to details such as making certain that players have the information they
neeD&Don't have to tax their memory too hard. This is done in such a way
that players shouldn't feel too self-conscious of things being done to cater
to their blindness.

The only complaint I have is that there aren't enough optional things to do
that aren't related to the main plot of the game. One can't, for example,
visit any farms or houses in town or earn money doing labour. Only people in
charge of games at the saloon may be spoken with. I couldn't just decide to
strike up a conversation or get into a bar-room brawl. Such additions could
do a lot to give Grizzly Gulch a more open-ended feel. Bavisoft plans to
release patches for their flagship game over the coming months, and concerns
such as this may well be addressed in them.

Now that Bavisoft is ready, people from all over the world can order this
game. Only US residents can order it directly from the web-site at this
time, but Bavisoft plans to rectify this in the future. International orders
can be made via money-order or check. The price is $49.95 US, and the game
is certainly well worth the money.

+
Jim Kitchen has recently released his first game ever for the Windows95/98
platforms. It is a version of the popular Bopit game he made for DOS users.
Just before Audyssey's publication, he announced that he had released an
updated version of the game. For those wondering what kind of game Bopit is,
it is a fast and furious version of Simon Says. The game will tell you to
"twist it", "pull it", or "bop it", and you have to hit the appropriate key.
The hand-held version has actual parts for you to perform these actions on.
Here is the message he sent describing his recent changes to the game.
You'll also find his web-address and other contact information. A full
review of this new game would be much appreciated.

I just put a new version of the bop-it game for windows 95 or 98 up on my
web site.

I fixed a couple of bugs, reversed the arrow keys to match the DOS version
and added difficulty levels.

Also if you are using the sound card for your synthesiser the game will now
work better for you.

The file name is winbop2.exe  It is 2847k bytes in size.

My web site address is below.

Jim

Lot's of bugs fixed in this version !!!

[email protected]
http://www.simcon.net/public/jkitchen
1-440-286-6920
Chardon Ohio

+
During the past two months, David Greenwood brought a web-based game called
Utopia to the attention of the Audyssey discussion list. It is reported to
be a cross between Civilisation and Sim City. No full reviews have come in
for this game yet. However, we've had two fairly revealing letters from two
bright and bold explorers. These are Guy Vermeulen and Dave Sherman. I have
included both of their letters below in the hopes that others will try this
game out and provide more thorough feedback. It is important that this
feedback include information on how accessible Utopia is with different
access technology and/or web-browsers. Unfortunately, Mr. Peach doesn't have
access to all of this access technology. It is therefore up to you, the
readers, to help him with this one.

Guy Vermeulen's letter:

Hello Paul, I've been playing utopia for five days, and can report the
following:

1. I was very excited to be finally able to play a civilisation sim, having
watched my sighted brother play age of empires(and it's successors), and not
being able to participate.
2. Even if I always used the "graphics off" link in the game, it was not as
accessible as I hoped it would be: I had to use many times my navigation
keys (I use hal95 as my screenreader), and even then I had the impression
that I could not access everything I should be able to access to
successfully play the game.
f.i. for growing my province, I could indicate that I would like to built
and even built in a faster way then normal, but I could not indicate which
type of buildings I would like to be build first : there was a list of the
type of buildings with the stats of these types, but I could not access or
influence the stats, didn't even know if the stats had to be  influenced or
not. and this is just an example, the same goes for the other activities
like
military, science etc.
3.so I was not surprised that after a few days, during which I could not
develop my province like I should have, the protection time for my province
had run out and my beautiful little province was taken over by someone
else(grin).
4.despite these accessibility problems, I very much like this type of game,
only: I sure would like to know what the options are for the gamer with
every menu choice, right now I am sure I miss some actions I could undertake
without knowing which they are and if I can access them.
so a detailed review of a sighted reviewer indicating the actions to
undertake with the different menu selections would sure be helpful. of
course, making the game itself more accessible would help also, but I don't
think that a game with that many sighted players cares about the few blind
or VIP players that try to access it. still, it is a fun game to play, I
sure would like one of the commercial game makers like PCS or ESP or your
own firm, Paul, to consider making a game like this, be it a normal version
and not a web based version like utopia. would it be possible to have an age
of empires for the VIP ?

guy vermeulen

Dave Sherman's letter:

Hi Paul, I've been messing around with Utopia since Dave Greenwood posted a
message about it.  (That's about two weeks).  [Thanks a lot Dave!] I
unfortunately have an addiction for these type of strategy games. I'm using
JFW 3.5, and I have no problems navigating around the Utopia site.  It's all
just links, buttons, edit fields, and combo boxes.  It's
divided into frames, but that's no prob. with JFW 3.5.

(I noticed you didn't divulge your province's name or location).  Come on
... give it up ... be a little more forth coming.

I'm running Dimsdale (20 : 8).  Could be doing better, but I'm holding my
own.

I haven't tried the other game -- Earth 2025 yet, so I have no clue if the
interface is the same, easier, or more difficult.  But from the docs I've
read, the two games seem to be basically similar in nature  -- just one is a
medieval fantasy world with Dwarves and Elves, and such, and the other takes
place in the future (I'm assuming with phasers and things of that nature).

I'm spending about an hour a day playing (which means I log in about once
every month in game time).  [At least I've started to catch the hang of this
game, and am not spending as much time with it as I was the first week.]

Anybody into multi-player, real-time strategy games should check it out!

-- Dave Sherman

+
Monopoly PC.
Author: Len shepherd.

This computer version of the popular bored game monopoly, is very speech
friendly.

The game uses simple menus, to enable the player to make decisions, e.g., to
buy and mortgage properties.

In my opinion, the only disadvantage of the game is that it can only be
played against the computer.

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

+
SASS. (Speak And Spell simulator).
Review by Daniel Rowe.
Some sighted assistance will be required in some aspects of the game. SASS
is a speak and spell simulator. For those who don't know what a Speak And
Spell is, I'll give you a description. The speak and spell is a hardware
game made by Texas Instruments in 1978.  When you press go, it speaks a word
and you have to spell it. The game has 4 levels: a, b, c, d. Also the game
has a hangman game and some other features.

Unfortunately, it uses a touch pad, which is a flat surface with the letters
and icons printed on. The speak and spell has a pretty weird voice which you
might have to get used to. For instance, wrong sounds like rung, p sounds
like key, swimming sounds like swimilion (or something like that) It is
aimed at people aged seven or up.

Now back to the present. SASS uses your computer keyboard or mouse for
operation, (both give full access to the programme). Other than that, It is
just the same as the real thing. You cannot use the mouse simulator on your
screen reader to navigate the game so shut it down before running SASS. Mike
Green, the person who wrote this software has released a beta version of an
American Speak And Spell simulator, which at the moment has a worse voice
than the English version. Mike Green says it sounds like it is coming from
the toilet, so don't download it yet. SASS V 1.2 sounds like the real thing.
If anyone wants to download this game, go to:
http://sass.retrogames.com

++
PCS Games Examined In-Depth
By Randy Hammer

It's been a while since anyone reviewed any PCS games.  In this issue I've
chosen to do a review of several.  We'll be taking a look at five games this
time, all the old DOS classics.  Next issue I'll be covering the upcoming
Windows releases.  In most cases these won't change much, they are actually
a hybrid of DOS and Windows.  However, a few games (specifically Lonewolf
and Shades of Doom) are actual Windows-based games.

The first offering we'll look at is Arthur's Quest.  PCS has attempted to
create a game and back it up with little to no marketing.  It's unfortunate,
but they flopped completely.  The game is very playable, once you learn the
tricks.  However, so many things stay cryptic that it's almost impossible to
win.

Problem number one is that the game comes with almost no documentation.  I
didn't have to pay for my copy as a reviewer, and I'm lucky.  Had I paid for
the game I would have been terribly disappointed, since the learning curve
of the game is somewhat difficult.  The included documentation does have
examples, but these are canned and not sufficient.  There is no test arena
in which to hone your skills before attempting the real thing, and the
documentation gives no assistance with real-life situations.

Once your playing with the game the problems really start to annoy.  The
game is based on a half-RPG half-action scenario.  There are quests that you
are to go on, though they do you little good.  Your ultimate goal is to
defeat enough opponents that you can obtain Excalibur and take on the evil
Lord.  Thus, the game is basically a hack and slash, with you wandering
around the map in between fights.  Realise that it will take you over 160
fights to even think of reaching the state where you can complete the game,
and the first 20 are extremely difficult.  I couldn't figure out how to tell
what fights would give more experience, since sometimes fighting weak
enemies gave me more experience than tough ones.

The fights are quite difficult to win, many scenarios are drawn out severely
with extraneous sounds, and there are several features that need to be
added, or that don't work as a normal user would expect.  For example, the
game requires you to rest and eat every now and then in cottages or castles,
which regains "Fatigue".  However, while doing so the player does not see
his fatigue score change.  Therefore it's impossible to understand how much
healing is required.  (The number actually doesn't change until after the
next fight.)  The game also lacks retreat options in fights, and doesn't
allow you to see the health of your enemy.

This game requires a stereo speaker setup with a decent sound card.  I want
to specify that I played this game extensively, putting about twenty hours
into it before coming to the above conclusions.

Fortunately Arthur's Quest is the only game I'm going to give a truly poor
rating on.  The next game up the scale that I reviewed was Packman.  this is
almost exactly like the adorable (annoying to some) little creature that
chomped his way through 1980's video games.  The premise of the PCS game is
the same:  Run through the maze eating pellets and keeping out of the reach
of the ghosts.  It even includes the ability to obtain powerups that scare
away the ghosts.

The sound quality in this game is quite good.  The powerups are random so
play stays interesting, and it's relatively easy to stay away from the
ghosts.  However, one of the draws of the original suite of Packman games
was that you could see the maze and knew where to go.  The blind community
obviously doesn't have this option, and it's pretty difficult to complete a
board.  You can tell where you have been by the lack of pellets, but it's
still relatively easy to go in circles.

The first two games are relatively new to the PCS catalogue.  My next review
was of Panzer's in North Africa, a World War II tank game that was produced
in 1997.  Despite it's age this game is still quite entertaining, and has no
major flaws.  There are a wealth of options within the game, mainly in the
form of different tanks.  Added to the variety of vehicles is the option to
raise and lower the difficulty in two different ways, giving no end of
playing options.  Though not completely easy at all the lowest settings this
game is extremely difficult at the most difficult settings, challenging all
players.  I recommend checking out the demo.

The final two games were developed by David Greenwood, and produced/sold by
PCS.  The first I will review is Star Trek.  This is a turn-based game like
all the others, but brings to the table excellent sound, complex strategy,
and the ability to play over and over again with every game different.
David Greenwood always adds a difficulty option to his games, something that
is lacking to almost all PCS games.  The continuous sounds option adds a bit
of realism to the game, while the option of either running the game in menu
or prompt mode allows ease of play for all.

At the beginning of the game you start with four Federation ships, facing
off against the three evil races of the galaxy.  You must defeat all enemies
and make the galaxy safe for humanity.  Each race that you face has the
objective of knocking you out of the game, and they all have strengths that
make the game difficult.  Each game starts with your ships in different
locations, so it's extremely unlikely that you will have two games that are
exactly the same.  I recommend this game for purchase, even without checking
out the demo.  Should the sound not work you can simply shut it off and play
the game with only a slight disadvantage.  (With sound you get warning
alarms when the enemy is close to one of your ships.)

Top honours for all these reviews goes to David Greenwood's Lonewolf.  This
is the first ever game to be created for the VIP community that is not turn
based.  This means that while you are sitting there thinking about whether
you should dive to escape the destroyer, or stay on the surface and get off
a shot at your target the destroyer and (sometimes) the target keep moving.
The destroyer bears down on you and begins firing, and if you don't react
you will be sent to the bottom.

The game is set in World War II, and you are the captain of a submarine.
For some reason you always get these missions that send your sub in alone
against sometimes impossible odds.  You have to depend on your wits and
quick actions to keep your sub moving towards the target.  The game comes
with 17 missions.  The missions start fairly easy and progress up to very
difficult.  First time players should definitely work through the early
missions a few times, increasing the provided difficulty ratings.  Realise
that you don't have to successfully complete a mission to progress on to the
next one.

The game is fairly complex at first, and uses about 35% of the keys on the
keyboard for all the required tasks.  However, the documentation is
excellent, and after a few missions players should have no trouble
understanding what is necessary.  I've put probably 100 hours in to this
game, and driving the sub is second nature to me now.

So this is my top rated pick, and you would expect me to recommend you run
out and buy it immediately, right?  Nope, if you have a DOS-based system,
and never use Windows then, yes, I recommend this version wholeheartedly.
Go out to the PCS web site and pick it up immediately.  However, for those
who use Windows I'll have you hold off a month or so.  David Greenwood is
almost finished with the Windows-based version of this game.  It will be a
full blown Windows application, and will have more weapons and flexibility.
The best feature of all is that David will be allowing a few the ability to
create new missions, and distribute them to registered owners of the game.
At the writing of this article it is expected that these missions will be
provided free of charge.

I am aware that there are several parents who read this magazine, and are
interested in games for their children.  All these games are playable by all
ages, unless you have reservations about violence.  Each one of them deals
with violence, and may not be suitable for all children.  I would probably
place an age of 8 on all five games, mainly due to difficulty of play.  I
would encourage teachers to buy Lonewolf, as it teaches graphing, would be
easy to work into a history lesson, and shows the relation between velocity
and distance.

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

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 web-based games expert, will do his best to advise those
seeking accessible games played on the Internet. 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 conducts an 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]

Michael Feir
 Editor of Audyssey
E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: (905-814-0608

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