Games Accessible to the Blind
Issue 24: July/August, 2000
Edited by Michael Feir
Fun, Friendship, Knowledge, Charity
Welcome to the twenty-fourth issue of Audyssey. This magazine is dedicated to the discussion of games which, through accident or design, are accessible to the blind either with or without sighted assistance. Over the past four years, we've seen the universe of accessible games undergo some radical changes. At long last, games taking full advantage of multimedia capabilities inherent in the Windows operating system are starting to emerge. Awareness of such games has also increased dramatically since Audyssey's creation. Many new members have joined our community. You'll hear from some of them in the Letters section of this issue. Celebrating our fourth anniversary, this issue is packed with excellent material and exciting news of things to come. It features a special contest of Audyssey trivia to encourage old and new readers alike to gain a deeper knowledge of where we've come from. As we proceed into a new era for Audyssey with a drastically expanded mandate, such a knowledge of Audyssey's roots is all the more crucial for you who will shape our future as a community. Our new mandate now includes covering all games accessible to the blind either with or without sighted assistance. To officially kick off our coverage of this new and broader field, you'll find articles about console games, the possibility of making jigsaw puzzles accessible, and an ancient game called Wari. As always, the latest news from the people making computer games for the blind is all here.
Note: This magazine uses plus-signs as navigation markers. Three plus-signs are placed above any articles or sections. Within these sections, two plus-signs denote the start of a new sub-section. Smaller divisions are marked by a single plus-sign. This allows people to use their search capabilities to go quickly to the next division they are interested in. For instance, the "Letters" section is preceded by three plus-signs. Each letter within it has two plus-signs before it. Answers to letters have a single plus-sign before them.
Distribution Information and Submission Policies
This magazine is published on a bimonthly basis, each issue
appearing no earlier than the twentieth of every other month. All submissions to be published in an issue must be in my possession a minimum of 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.
Please write articles and letters about games or game-related
topics which interest you. They will likely interest me, and your fellow readers. This magazine should and can be a highly interesting and qualitative look at accessible gaming. To insure that high quality is maintained, I'll need your written
contributions. I reserve the right to unilaterally make changes to submissions if I deem it necessary to improve them grammatically or enhance their understandability. I will never make changes which will alter the spirit of a submission. All submissions must be in English. However, people need not be great writers to have their work appear in Audyssey. Many of our community come from different countries. Others are quite young. Where possible, I try to preserve their different styles of expression. The richness that this adds to the Audyssey experience far outweighs any benefits gained from having everything in prose so perfect as to be devoid of life. Audyssey is a community and magazine built on the need for blind people to have fun. There are no formal structural requirements for submissions. Within reason, they may be as long as necessary. Game reviews should all clearly state who created the game being examined, where it can be obtained, whether it can be played without sighted assistance, and any system requirements or other critical information. Although profanity is by no means banned, it should not be used gratuitously. Submissions not published in a current issue will be reserved for possible use in future issues if appropriate. Those who are on the Audyssey discussion list should be aware that I often put materials from the list in the "Letters" section if I feel that they warrant it. Anything posted to this discussion list that in some way stands out from the common and often lively ongoing discourse will be considered fair game for publishing unless it contains the author's wish that it not be published. Until now, this practice has been commonly consented to. From now on, it is now officially a policy of the Audyssey community.
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 unless you are their creator or have obtained permission to do so. 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. 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.
Due to the closing of ESP Softworks, it will no longer be distributing Audyssey via E-mail as it has done in the past. Until other arrangements are made, anyone wishing to receive Audyssey via E-mail should send requests to be added to the Audyssey distribution list to my E-mail address at:
ESP Softworks will be sending me the list of subscribers as of August 31st. Hopefully, nobody will get lost during this transfer of list maintenance. The next issue will appear at the end of October. If November comes before another issue of Audyssey appears in your E-mail, please contact me and I'll rectify the situation.
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:
with "subscribe Audyssey" in the body of the message. To post to the discussion list, send your messages to:
Stan Bobbitt has made Audyssey Magazine available in HTML format for easy on-line browsing. To take advantage of this, you are invited to visit:
People can easily and quickly navigate through the various articles and reviews, and directly download or visit the sites of the games that interest them. This will be of especial benefit for sighted people who wish to make use of Audyssey and/or join the growing community surrounding it. The Audyssey community thanks Mr. Bobbitt for his continued efforts on its behalf in this matter.
You can also find all issues of Audyssey on the Internet on Paul Henrichsen's web site at:
If you have web access, Audyssey now has an official web-page, maintained by Igor Gueths at:
Besides having all issues of Audyssey available for down-load, six megabytes of storage space are available for popular games.
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:
If you have ftp access, all issues are also available at Travis Siegel's ftp site:
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.
E-mail: [email protected]
Distribution Information and Submission Policies
From The Editor
Editorial: The Trend Towards Self-Speaking Games
The console gaming Phenomenon
The Missing Critical Masses
Sparkle and Shine
Editorial: Accessible Jigsaw Puzzles
Free Game Winner
News From GMA
News From ESP Softworks
News From MindsEye2
News From PCS
News From Zform
DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS
The Game of Wari - A Very Accessible Strategy Board Game
Echoes From The Past: Anniversary Contest
Consoles vs. PCs
Accessibility of Interactive Fiction Interpreters
Game Announcements and Reviews
Free Game Winner
News From Bavisoft
News From ESP Softworks
News From PCS
News From Zform
Game Announcements and Reviews
From The Editor:
We have now gone through the most eventful year of Audyssey's existence. A great many changes have taken place in the Audyssey community. This anniversary is an especially pivotal one since it marks the start of a drastic expansion of what we will cover and discuss. A number of milestones have been reached: The first fully Windows-based commercial games have arrived. Bavisoft has already taken the gaming world by storm, or, perhaps by stagecoach with its Grizzly Gulch game. Robert Betz has set up his site at:
and currently has eight games awaiting purchase. Most recently, David Greenwood has decided to form his own game company and put the first game to be sold under its name up for sale just in time for this momentous issue to appear. You can learn more about GMA games from the "News From GMA" section found later in this issue. PCS has released two new games for our enjoyment.
Sadly, other milestones have yet to be realised. The company who hired me and would have sponsored Audyssey has decided to pull out of Canada. This officially ended the hopes for Audyssey Plus as it was originally planned. To all who have expressed their sympathies and offered continuous encouragement and support, you have my deepest thanks and appreciation. There is also some hope to be offered here. Some of the people who I worked for want to look for ways to make Audyssey a non-profit organisation or charity. Among other projects, this organisation would help to spread awareness of the benefits that games can offer to the blind. Audyssey would be an integral part of such an organisation. Like the mythical phoenix, ideas put forth in the Audyssey Plus plan may still rise anew from the ashes of its former incarnation. I won't promise anything until it actually occurs. If there's one thing my short first full-time job has taught me, it is the need for caution. Whatever happens, Audyssey Magazine will continue to exist in some form. You can be a part of helping that form be a more expansive one. If we're to obtain sponsors for Audyssey, we must convince people that games can have a beneficial role beyond merely being great fun. I know this to be the case since they have had quite a beneficial role in my own life. If you would like to help, please send an E-mail or letter explaining why Audyssey is valuable or important to you, and/or how games accessible to the blind have enriched your life.
We also value your input on what you would want to see as part of a sponsored Audyssey web-site. To that end, I have included a list of ideas from the original Audyssey Plus plan below to stimulate your thinking. Assuming the funds were available, what would you like to have present on a site similar to what Audyssey Plus would have been?
Audyssey Plus ideas included:
1. Articles and game reviews which were updated on a regular basis by a group of regular contributors.
2. Space where articles and reviews from visitors to the site could be posted. Contributing would earn a form of electronic currency which could be used to exchange or bid for games and/or other items.
3. Space for a featured game developer to use for promoting their games and providing the community with interesting content.
4. A "Hot Downloads" section for around thirty files such as popular freeware or shareware games, demos, trailers, etc.
5. A public message board where material found on the site could be discussed along with anything else that is game related.
6. A "Best Games" section where people can vote for their favourite games.
7. Special events and contests sponsored by game developers, other supporters, or Audyssey itself.
8. A boasting board where expert gamers can parade their accomplishments to the annoyance of the lesser adept.
9. A "Gamer's Dilemma" section. Each week, a new dilemma that a game could present a player with will be posted. A number of possible choices will be presented, and community members will be able to vote on what they would choose.
All submitted materials to the site would be fair game for use in future issues of Audyssey magazine.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on all this as we explore whether it will be possible to take Audyssey to this new level of interactivity. Whether or not we succeed in this, Audyssey is expanding to cover more than just computer games for the blind. Due to extensive support in the active Audyssey community, it has been decided that Audyssey will cover any games accessible to the blind. This will include everything from hand-held electronic games to Chinese finger-puzzles. It is hoped that this expansion will breathe new life into our already vibrant community.
You'll notice a number of format changes with this issue of Audyssey. The first of these is our official motto below the title. I believe that it aptly summarises what we're all about here, and what our goals are. You'll also notice the "Welcome" section is no longer its former mammoth self. I have split it into a section which will preview what you'll find in the rest of the issue. The rest of the material that was found in the "Welcome" section is now in its own new section directly beneath it. After you have read it once, you will find it easier to skip. Note that everybody should read the information this time around since there a few important changes to previously given information.
It is customary for anniversary issues to be rather larger than others. It is my way of helping everybody to celebrate another year's passing by offering a gluttonous feast of material for all to enjoy. Future issues will certainly not be as large as this one. I can only hope that you, my staff and other readers, will continue to provide me with such high-quality material as you are about to read. This issue is a testament to what good will and dedication can accomplish. Those who have so generously contributed their thoughts have earned my gratitude and the right to be proud.
Unlike most times when everything comes in at the last minute, this issue was an absolute pleasure to work on from start to finish. My thanks to all of you who decided to get your stuff in earlier rather than later. Your thoughtfulness is much appreciated as it means that I won't be dog tired during my first day away. My friend Stephen will not have to drag me along with copious luggage off the bus, and will be able to play some computer games while he is here this evening rather than be bored out of his mind. In all seriousness though, thank you again for your efforts which were a lot more timely in general than has happened in the past.
During the week of August 26th through September 2nd, I will be away on vacation. I leave it to you to judge whether or not I've earned it, but reserve the right to thoroughly enjoy my time away regardless of your verdict. In my absence, my father has agreed to retrieve my E-mail. The last time I went away for a week, I came back to roughly a thousand messages. I certainly look forward to reading them, but trust that you'll understand if said activity takes a day or two. I leave you all in the very capable hands of the Audyssey staff and each other should you need assistance in your gaming pleasure. Enjoy this fantastic issue, and please allow me to make future ones by providing letters, articles, and reviews. Happy anniversary, everyone.
part directly below
5. for items interviews which were changed except that I will do my best to serve the community we've already established and promote awareness of the accessible games and promote
So here I am. A three week vacation and not much to do. My girlfriend has to work for the first week off of my vacation. So what's a guy to do? Well I figured I'd hop in my 600 MHz computer and see what I could find. Hmm? What will I look for while I cruise on the information super highway? I got it! I'll look for games for the blind. There's got to be games for the blind on the Internet! And hey who doesn't like to play games? Right! OK drop the clutch and here we go! With screeching tires and smoke, I head off on my journey. First stop yahoo.com to look up text games. So I get to yahoo.com and get out to look around for info on text games. What do I find? Snacky Pete's Text adventure site. Whhoo! Text games. Just what I was looking for. Uh oh. "What is this?" Interpreters? Hmm? As I scratch me head. Well how do I do this? I never heard of a interpreter. Gee whiz I thought this would be easy! Just find a game and play it. OK calm down and re group time. Let's see what other sites I have found in this search.
"Well look at this." text games for the blind "this is what I was looking for. Awesome! I am here I hit the mother load. BUZZZ! "Wrong answer!" "Aw man none of these links work." But hey what is this Audyssey magazine? Now this looks promising. I'll just click this link. BUZZ WRONG AGAIN! Gee whiz! Another broken link on this page. This page probably hasn't been updated since Skippy was a peanut. OK dilemma time. What am I gonna do? I can't find anything that I am looking for. No game no magazine this is definitely fruitless. I guess that I will give up now and start looking for recipes or something. Ding Ding uh oh is this a thought that is barrelling through my brain? What's that search for Audyssey? Umm OK well what the heck one last try before I go to Martha stewartsville. OK let's see a u d y s s e y enter. Boom and rolling thunder wow that was loud my ears hurt and what the heck was that anyway
"Vincent!" umm yeah who is that talking in a god like voice "this is Adam!" Umm Adam? Yes I am glad you have found us!" ah umm us? I said. Yes us! OK well where am I? You are in a great community of gamers who have the same interest as you Vincent! Really Adam? They want to play games on their computer with a voice? Yes Vincent! And some with Braille displays! Get out really! Vincent calm down and listen! This magazine goes back four years! Four years! I said yes Vincent four years! Go back and read them and learn from them! This will be your bible so to speak and when you get to the current issue you will have the knowledge you seek! Umm OK I will do that I said. And with another loud boom and rolling thunder he was gone. So I ran back out with that information jumped back into my 600 MHz computer and laid down rubber for at least two whole exits of the superhighway good thing there is no police around. There is the exit I was looking for Audyssey. Then all at once I smiled to myself Odyssey with an o Audyssey with the au now I get it. Well I started to read the magazine from one to 22 with wrapped interest for the next couple of days and realised "wow I am far behind" but that's OK better to be behind than not to be here at all.
Just to let you guys know that this all came together on the forth year anniversary of Audyssey the exact day of it's birth July 15. where I went to the gamers chat room just to see what goes on in there. and in the room was Michael who I chatted with and he told me after patiently listening to my story about how I couldn't find games to play. He told me about "times ashes" and where I could download it and play. Well needless to say I hit the ground running downloaded the file and started to play it right away. But I figured I would write this story. I also wanted to thank mike for his help. and also let you fine people know how I got here.
Welcome aboard, Vincent. You've certainly decided to plunge right into this community, for which I'm ever so grateful. Reading all those issues at such a fast rate could potentially give you quite an edge in our Echoes From The Past contest found later in this issue. It seems that Adam, The Immortal gamer, lives on despite the lack of episodes in recent issues. This is also somewhat heartening. There are a lot of lessons that games can teach us. I hope that in future issues, Adam will rise again and learn more lessons in an entertaining way. This, after all, has always been his purpose. As you and other newcomers grow more familiar with the games out there and the community you've entered, I have no doubt that your creativity and courage to present it will serve us all well. I'm glad we were able to help you enjoy your lonely week of vacation. the purpose of .
From Jak Goodfellow
hi Michael and readers,
just a couple of things from me this month. first, my condolences on Audyssey plus. I can sure tell you, I was really looking forward to winning a free game with that [smile] but I know for a fact that just because this tragedy has happened, it will not stop Audyssey and we will continue as always with our more than dedicated captain at the helm.
next: mudding. I suggest that those interested should look back to Audyssey issues 6 and 18 where mudding is discussed both in reviews, and obtaining the most speech friendly client. I could not find any muds to review hear, because the majority of sites I found that had the appropriate material were inaccessible to screen readers jaws and window eyes.
I would think it best to play at weekends because hear most people are not at work so forming a party should be easier.
if you have any comments or ideas on this, you can reach me buy email at [email protected]
enjoy this issue all!
Having Audyssey Plus suddenly be cancelled was quite a bitter pill to swallow for a lot of us. I would like to thank you and everybody else for their continued dedication to Audyssey and their continued faith in me as your editor and leader. I am, of course, honoured to serve you in both of these capacities. From very humble beginnings, we've all come on quite an incredible journey. The lessons I've learned through being at the helm have not always been easy or painless. However, they have always been lessons well worth learning. For quite a while now, Jak has already been gaining leadership experience with a list for teens that he started and still moderates. With a letter in the last issue of Audyssey, Jak has rekindled substantial interest in muds in the Audyssey community. His call to form a band of textual adventurers has evoked quite a considerable response on the discussion list. Time zones seem to be the largest obstacles to the formation of such a group. I sincerely hope that these can be conquered, and that Jak finds people to join him on virtual expeditions. The experiences which he gains by leading such a group will doubtless serve him well in the real world. On behalf of Audyssey, I wish you the best of luck in obtaining and captaining your brave party. I have every confidence that you and those who join you will do us all proud.
From Jim Kitchen
My provider has changed our web addresses. There is no longer a
/public/ in the address. Thus my new web site address is
For any who have not yet become familiar with Jim Kitchen, know that he has been creating free games for longer than Audyssey has been in existence. His DOS games have added a little something special to a lot of people's computers over the years. Recently, Jim has started programming in Windows and making use of the better sound capabilities it offers. Wintruck and Winbopit are his first two Windows games. Currently, he is working on a Windows Baseball game. This news will no doubt cheer up our many Baseball fans out there. Thanks for keeping everyone posted, Jim. Keep up the excellent work.
A number of topics received extensive discussion on Travis Siegel's Audyssey discussion list since the last issue. One major area of discussion which I instigated was the possibility of expanding Audyssey's scope from that of just covering computer games which were accessible to the blind. I asked the list for their feedback on Audyssey expanding to cover games of all kinds which were accessible to the blind either with or without sighted assistance. The following are some of the many responses on the list: Each letter has a plus-sign before it for easy navigation.
From The Desert Bat:
I honestly think it would be a waste of time to try and find Playstation, Sega, and Nintendo games which a blind gamer could play mainly because there are so few games like this which can be played by someone without
sight. I have played Double Dribble and it was all right but I knew I wasn't getting the full enjoyment out of the game because I couldn't see what was going on. My dad and I could play the Nintendo baseball game with a few
rules such as my dad could not throw strange pitches, only fast balls. It was fun but I could not play very well against the computer. I've also played Nintendo's Punch Out and I did fairly well but many of the opponents had some visual cue you had to see in order to defeat him. I know some
blind people have successfully beaten the game via all the sounds but I'll bet you it hasn't been very many.
I think the energy of the Audyssey staff and the rest would be better directed toward computer games and some of the few hand-held games.
From Phyllis Stevens:
I feel that "gaming" and "accessibility" already is the focus of your e-mag. I don't feel you would be out of line by including types of games other than PC ones. I, personally, would be interested in learning about accessible hand-held games, board games, etc. etc. I believe the primary focus--gaming--should continue, but a secondary focus should, of course, always be accessibility. I see no problem with this proposed direction. To expand, however, into other "technologies,
types of programming, Etc., would, I think, be a bit too much. So, for whatever it's worth, stick to gaming and the accessibility thereof, in whatever format!!
From Steven Cullen:
I have to disagree with you Allen
I think expanding the scope is a great idea, for all you nay Sayers out there I'm completely blind, and I have a Playstation. I have over fifty games for the Playstation and have beaten many of them. there sports games that I have beaten such as NBA live 2000 and triple play 2000. I believe
that I saw a review in one of the last issues of Audyssey on an electronic game called bopit, is this not considered a "hand held game" when I read the review I went and bought a hand held bopit extreme.
From David Lant
Well, my main concern is that any games, whatever their platform, are accessible to visually handicapped people. Although I appreciate the scope for including games playable with sighted assistance, I wouldn't like these to become the majority of games covered in Audyssey.
However, I think it is perfectly valid for Audyssey to look at any electronic game platform or device, that is accidentally or by design, playable by visually impaired people.
For instance, a while back, someone on this list posted a message about a Tiger Tennis game. Intrigued, I visited the web site mentioned, which I think was for the Visually Impaired Boston User Group or some such, and
listened to an audio demo of the game. It sounded so good that I ordered one for myself for Christmas. It was worth every penny of o20. It isn't a computer game in the sense commonly inferred by most. Rather, it is an electronic game that is totally playable by blind gamers, and would probably
even fall in the toy category to some people. But as a stand-alone, hand-held game, I think it is terrific. This kind of thing would be perfectly relevant to the scope of Audyssey too, in my opinion.
My thanks to all of you for your participation in the decisions that have been and will be made over the coming months concerning Audyssey's new scope and mandate. For those of you who read Audyssey off the Web and choose not to participate in the discussion list, there's still plenty of room for your input. Based on the overwhelmingly positive response from active list members, I have decided to go ahead with expanding. However, I have received several messages expressing fear that focus will shift away from computer games that are fully accessible to the blind without sighted assistance. This fear was especially prevalent among those who live alone and/or cannot find sighted people interested in helping them enjoy games. Let me take this opportunity to promise you all that this will not occur. The majority of what Audyssey examines will always be games that are as accessible to the blind by themselves as possible. Coverage of such games will hopefully increase rather than lessen. The current Audyssey staff will retain their areas of responsibility and continue to cover the areas of computer gaming where they have so ably demonstrated their expertise. For now, we'll simply use the experience and thoughtfulness that seems quite abundant in the Audyssey community. While discussing expansion into other areas of games, everything from Chinese finger-puzzles to adapted board games came up. The most noticeable effects of this new expansion will likely be felt in the Audyssey discussion list. I will make certain that issues of Audyssey continue to put primary focus on computer games that are fully accessible to the blind as this is what you, the current readers, desire. This is also the area in which I have the most interest.
Another topic was unleashed on an eager and unsuspecting discussion list by our esteemed wordsmith, James Peach. In his quest to dispel confusion and mystery surrounding the many baffling terms used commonly in the gaming community, he asked people to discuss exactly what a role-playing game was. In doing so, he livened up our forum and gave the phrase "one step forward, two steps back" a whole new meaning. The empirical answer to this question seems very far off indeed at this point. If there's one thing that this little definition expedition demonstrated, it is that the study and use of words is far from an exact science. As one who appreciates both words and a little chaos in life, I hereby thank Mr. Peach for trying to accomplish the seemingly impossible. May his efforts continue to shed both the light of understanding and the catalysts for many more such jovial and spirited debates on us all. The following was culled from the midst of said debate:
From James Peach
Both yourself and James North are correct, to some degree.
While RPG's do indeed rely on character advancement, an RPG is not solely defined by this. Many games have RPG elements to them, but are not RPG's.
Also, to say that an RPG doesn't consider puzzle-solving and story advancement, is a bit short-sighted (metaphorically speaking). If anything, it's the story element that is shared by both IF and RPG genres that confuses people.
In the end, simplifying a genre by stating that one particular gaming element defines it as such, is unfair, as no genre is defined by one aspect of gaming or another. It is only my opinion that a number of elements, combined and defined, can truly define a genre from the rest, as it has been done since the beginning of time. I believe that this is also true for
Interactive Fiction, though not in the same fashion or in the same degree as role-playing games.
Yes, you both have some rightness to your beliefs and opinions, as do I.
Hopefully with more feedback, we can truly dispel some confusion and misunderstandings about both IF and RPG's.
From James North:
Without getting too cultish, my basic idea of an RPG is anything where you're character is representing a role you wouldn't otherwise normally occupy. I've heard people relate character statistics as contributing to the RPG genre and while I think that's somewhat true, it's not really a good indicator as most games have this feature.
From David Lant
As I said in my post, I wasn't propounding my view as definitive. It was just my way of differentiating between IF and RPG. The problem with saying that RPG is a mixture of various things, much of which is common to IF, is
that it doesn't tell you anything. We need to find something that is the quintessential RPG quality. Not the be all and end all of RPG, but just that little factor which, should it appear in any genre of game, would enable somebody to say, "That's got an RPG element to it." Right now, the whole thing seems to be a free-for-all, with people picking and choosing what they want at the time. In the extremes, you could say that RPGs are just interactive fiction, full stop. Why make any distinction at all?
As yet, I still have not heard anybody come up with what it is that makes them think that something is an RPg, and not interactive fiction. Equally, I have not seen any notes on why something is described as adventure, while other very similar games are described as action. It almost seems like
people are inventing new adjectives on the fly, just to be different.
The following message came from a list for users of the Jaws For Windows screen reader. I trust that Mr. Bobbitt will not think too ill of me for including it here since it amply supports and demonstrates the very real economic benefits that games can have for the blind. Such proofs are always welcome as they allow others to more clearly appreciate the benefits that sighted people all to easily take for granted.
From Stan Bobbitt:
Hello to all,
I just wanted everyone to know that I got that job I was after. I am able to perform the work to the company's satisfaction.
Thanks for all the help concerning various windows and screens that I asked for earlier.
I posted a message to jfwlist sometime back about a web based game called utopia. I received several letters reminding me that it was off topic for this list. Well, I just wanted to say, that by playing that game, I became quite adept at navigating through frames and various tables with JFW, and in turn, those navigational skills were exactly what helped to land me that job.
It just so happens, that the screens I use at work to extract and input data are laid out in frames and tables, quite similar to those used in the web based game, utopia.
One never knows the benefits one may miss, by leaving stones unturned.
For anybody having trouble with playing Adom or Ancient Domains of Mystery, the following letter will prove especially helpful if you're having trouble getting started.
From Paul & Gail Nimmo
Hi, will keep this on the list as questions you ask do not really create spoilers however:
Warning: potential spoiler below:
OK, In the village of terinio, things are a bit different to the caves. People are generally represented by lower case t's, different coloured for different people. I use ASAP and can easily check out the colour in screen review mode. Talk to people and you will get quests from some of them.
The shop is at the bottom of the village, the village elder is usually in the small room in the centre and the druid is a green at sign near the water and trees.
Your race/class combination is not a bad starter because you will have good survival in the wilderness. [Editor's note: This was a high-elven ranger].
In the caves, just move around a while, they're not empty, none of them as far as I know.
In the hills and on the planes, try evading most battles until you become level 6 or higher.
As far as the mountains are concerned, don't worry yet. You need some things and I'm not in the habit of giving too much away...
Games like Adom and Nethack can be especially difficult for beginning players to get accustomed to. Don't be discouraged if you find it to be tough going. They weren't designed to be played by the blind at all. Their authors, however, have been made well aware of their blind audience. They have, for the most part, indicated that they will try to make certain that future versions of their games continue to be as accessible as they are. Remember that you need a good working knowledge of your screen-reader's review functions. Also, it helps to be a good mental mapper. Best of luck to everybody with these challenging but richly rewarding games.
Another topic which has surfaced once again on the list was violence in games. Sparked by a posted article telling of how a judge in British Columbia equated violence in games with pornography, the thread was certainly a noteworthy part of the tapestry of conversation. The following two postings have been chosen for giving a good sense of the kind of very thoughtful debate that is prevalent on the list.
From Stan Bobbitt:
As Dave O pointed out in his post, it seems that society tries to blame the occurrence of violent acts, on the nearest thing at hand, TV, games, movies, etc. What did they blame it on back when there weren't any such media?
My son, now 17, has watched TV, movies, and played games since he was a toddler, and there isn't a violent bone in his body. He is quite clear on the difference between fantasy and reality. I agree that small children should not be exposed to excessive violence in movies, TV, and games, but
trying to blame real acts of violence on the exposure of such media in my opinion is simply a bunch of hog-wash.
I think that using violence and sex in a movie or game simply to capture an audience is ridiculous. It seems that a lot of these shootum-up, good-guy, bad-guy movies has done just that. Granted, some violence may
need to be included to enhance the reality of a story or game, but excessive amounts just to increase sales isn't fair to anyone.
Thought I'd put in my 2 cents on the subject.
From David Lant:
Since we did this one to death back while we were chewing over some thoughts about Shades of Doom, I won't repeat it all again.
However, we do tend to talk about "society" as if that too were something outside ourselves. Yes, society has its faults and problems, but ultimately *we* are society.
The simple fact is that people have differences of opinion. Some are more vociferous about it than others. As long as we can tolerate the differences, we'll get along just fine. It's where intolerance leads to prescriptive regulation that people start to feel unhappy. But if we take stock, we are surrounded by this all the time. It's just the struggle of finding where to put the boundaries that society must have to exist.
A simple example:
You create a computer game, where you are the master of a private school. You are required to run the school as a business, produce the academic results, and maintain discipline. All sounds fair enough so far. Just
another simulation. But one of the requirements of maintaining discipline, in the game at least, is to administer physical punishment to unruly students. Now, is this acceptable in a game or not? That's a rhetorical question. The fact is, this is a debate going on in real life too. Where
do you draw the line?
Frankly, the line will be drawn by those with the most money, and the most influence. The silent majority, as usual, will just put up with it. Government, or administration, by the people, for the people etc. is as much of a myth now as it has always been.
And if anyone says, "well the packaging says it isn't suitable for certain population groups, so that should be enough!" then they are sadly mistaken. What the packaging says makes no difference at all. People will buy things because they know better. Their little kids aren't like all those others
who need protecting. But when they get the product home, and find out that little Timmy is frightened by it, they will *absolutely* refuse to blame themselves. Think about it. People still buy cigarettes, despite all the
advertising, health warnings, and notices on the packaging. That's actually life-threatening, not just entertainment.
Please note, this is written in a strongly ironic British tone. <smile>
From Tony Baechler
Hello all. Awhile ago, Jason Smith announced a DOS version of A2 being available. This is an Apple II emulator which works well with speech. I found it and he contacted the author to port it from UNIX. Our original purpose was to get the Eamon games playable for the blind. They have long not been accessible to us because of a lack of a good emulator.
Anyway, by getting A2 from his site and buying the following CD, you can either discover an entirely new type of RPG and text adventure system or enjoy a long lost part of your Apple memories. I am intending to get the CD as soon as possible and will hopefully be able to write a review of it
for Audyssey. Here is the article from the comp.emulators.apple2
newsgroup. Sorry for the bad formatting from Lynx.
Super Eamon CD Released!
Eamon is the classic Text adventuring series begun in the early 1980's when Dan Brown invented the gaming system. Since then, many authors have created well over 200 adventures with settings and scenarios ranging from D&D
through science fiction.
Tom Zuchowski, editor of the Eamon Adventurer's Guild journal, has announced release of a CD packed with Eamon quests and other goodies.
For details and ordering information see the GS WorldView July 2000 issue at ...
and click on "Super Eamon CD Released!".
Once again, Tony has brought a fantastic resource from yesteryear to our attention.
From Glenn Sabatka
I am a new lister in FT. Myers Florida USA. My question is " How may I find a game: where I can be on line with other players in real time, fight nasties, go up in rank, for no hourly fee"?
I played a game called the shadow world where I began as a 1st level half-elf warrior, I played until I was 12 or 13 level and had magical abilities. This was the most fun I ever had on line. Unfortunately, it cost $3.00 per hour and it was costing me $150.00 per month. I had to quit.
The game was at the GENIE site and must have had over 1000 rooms etc. It was so much fun, I would love to find another to play.
Thanks, and hope to hear from you soon.
Welcome to the Audyssey community, Glen. Your arrival here is quite timely. Thanks largely to a letter in the last issue of Audyssey written by Jak Goodfellow, interest in multi-user dungeons or "muds" has blazed forth once again. There has been a lot of talk lately about forming one or more groups of players to venture into these textual realms. I wouldn't be surprised at all if we were soon regaled with tales of their daring deeds. May their boldness, team spirit, and sense of fair play carry them far. Muds are an area where words and wits can potentially put the blind on an equal footing with their sighted fellow players. To all who seek to form groups and plunge into these shared fantasies, I wish you all good fortune and godspeed.
Editorial: The Trend Towards Self-Speaking Games
By Roger Myers of MindsEye2
For a while now, software developers have been more and more touting that their games and/or programs are able to be played and used by blind persons even without the use of a screen reader. This is especially true of small companies such as those making Windows games for the blind. Some even go as far as to require that one's screen reader be turned off before the game or program will run. At first glance, this may appear to be a special feature added to allow any blind person to use the program even if he/she has no screen reader. This is not always as helpful as it may seem. A deaf/blind person depending on Braille output for access may not be able to use the game or program. I would like to examine here three possible reasons for why this trend has begun and is likely to continue.
At first, we had Window-Bridge and within a couple of years several other screen readers to help us access Windows. Over the past 12 years or so, many other screen readers for Windows have been developed by various companies. In order for each of these screen readers to correctly read Windows screens, they use specially constructed configuration files, set files, scripts, and so on. Each of these are built specifically for one screen reader and one program
to be run. A set file built for Window-Eyes, for example, is totally useless to JFW. This means that if a programmer or company wants its game or program to be accessible by all blind users, it would need to own a copy of all screen readers available and devote the huge amount of time required
to write set files or scripts for each of the screen readers.
Since almost all computers today have sound cards that are easily able to speak when a sound file is sent to it, it has become the defacto standard voicing medium for the program developers. In addition, any blind person can use the program without having to purchase an expensive screen reader which makes for an attractive sales point.
It is time that screen reader companies standardised their set files and scripting languages. Until then, many software developers have decided to bypass all the screen readers.
Many if not most companies creating games and software for the blind are small companies with a very limited budget and few staff. Such companies cannot afford to purchase a copy of all screen readers so as to be sure to have configuration files for any that a blind user happens to use. Also, the great amount of time it would take to design set files for
each screen reader would mean that fewer programs got written which could cause the companies to look elsewhere for programming projects.
Software developing companies needed a standard inexpensive alternative to the many screen readers. Sending speech sound files directly to the computer's sound card is the affordable time saving method they have hit upon.
Even if there was a standard for configuration files and scripts, there is an extremely important reason that a programmer is choosing to avoid using the person's screen reader and instead is trending towards sending
sound files to the computer's sound player. Screen readers tend to speak items on the screen that the programmer does not want spoken and do not speak graphical items and other things on the screen which the programmer wants spoken. The undesirable extra chatter of the screen reader is
hard to control with the set file. Many times, the set files are not able to control the speech in co-ordination with background music or sound effects. The results of this are confusing and not effective. Programs can be told to speak by sending sound files exactly when an event has occurred. This enhances the playing of the game or use of the program.
Also, speech, when recorded as sound files, can express emotion, sadness, suspense, joy, etc. that enhances how fun the game is to play. The quality of speech and the need for tight control over when it is spoken is driving software developers towards the use of sound files for
voice and away from depending on one's screen reader.
The trend towards programs not requiring the use of a screen reader for speech is not a good trend for all blind users.
As previously mentioned, persons who are both deaf and blind and those who enjoy using Braille as a primary means of computer access are being left out of the game as it were. To them, this trend is a trend towards computers
becoming less accessible.
Also, if one does not have a screen reader turned on, what happens when the computer has an error occur in another Window or in the running game or program? These new programs are not being written with the ability to read the whole screen or even what is on their own Window. The result is that when anything goes wrong, the computer suddenly becomes silent and the blind user has no idea what has happened. He might well decide that the computer is locked up and re-boot the PC.
Also, he/she is unable to run the game or program while running other programs such as an email utility or WEB browser in another Window since his screen reader is turned off. This leads to the game or program becoming the only program being run at the moment which limits the usefulness of the computer to its user.
As more and more programs are written to not require a screen reader, the general public may start to believe that programs with their own speech are a sufficient alternative to a screen reader for a blind person. This could lead towards agencies such as schools purchasing such programs
and avoiding the costly but more flexible screen readers.
It will be interesting to follow how this trend develops over the next few years. Will screen readers be modified to allow programs to direct when and how they speak? Could screen readers be designed to accept commands from the
programs they read? Are we going to see screen readers develop the ability to send sound files to the computer's sound player?
What is certain is that the future of computer games is rich with sound effects and realistic recorded sound files for speech. The path unfolds before us filled with exciting adventures and new places to visit. It is a beautiful century that has begun.
The console gaming Phenomenon
Written by Jay Pellis
Console gaming has been around for years. The word console refers to a
video game system that can be connected to a television via special
connector cables. Games can then be loaded in to this system via
cartridges or CDs, and played using a device called a controller. In this
article, I'd like to describe the history behind console systems, give a
description of what a console is, and explain its various parts for those
who may not know.
In the early 1970's, electronic games were becoming very popular in
amusement parks and arcades. Games such as Pong introduced the public to a
new interactive entertainment medium soon to be known as video
games. These games were made up of a machine with a joystick (a handle of
sorts that was gripped by the user, and could move up, down, left, right,
and in diagonal directions), various buttons (which were used to perform
certain actions), a screen (that showed what was happening in the game),
and a speaker. The joystick and buttons were used to interact with the
game, and would do different things depending on
what game you were playing. In a tank game for example, the joystick would
move the tank around the screen, while a button or 2 would shoot at your
opponent. The early games had very primitive sound. A short burst of
static would be used to signify a tank exploding. In 1976, a company named
Fairchild Camera and Instrument introduced the Channel F system which was
the first cartridge based home video game system. The
entertainment industry recognised that these home systems were the wave of
the future. An industry called the video game industry was formed. They
were dedicated to developing games for the home. In October of 1979, Atari
released the Atari VCS (video computer system). This was later named the
Atari2600. This was the first widely popular and widely selling video game
system released. It catapulted video games to a whole new level. Games
had primitive music and sound that was a little better than the arcade
games, and a wide range of titles from sports to shooting games. The
atari2600 lasted up until 1985. At this point, Nintendo released the
Nintendo Entertainment System and changed the video game industry
forever. It's first release, Super Mario Brothers set new standards in
video game development, with it's full electronic musical score, graphics
quality that had never been seen before on any home system, and many sound
effects. From then on, the technology changed every 5 years. Better game
systems were released, each setting a new standard of what video games
are. These systems, now called consoles, are machines that are a little
smaller then a bread box (pun not intended), and they connected to your TV
as stated previously. Games can be played in these consoles by inserting a
cartridge in the machine, such as in the nintendo64
or placing a CD in it like the Sony Playstation or Sega Dreamcast. To
control the game, controllers can be connected to the consoles. These
controllers are similar to how I described an arcade machine layout
above. Instead of having a big clunky joystick, they have a directional
pad. A directional pad is a device that will let you control the
directions in a game by pressing down with your finger on small sensor pads
on the controller. The pads can move up, down, left, right or
diagonally. Also, the controllers have from 2 to 8 action buttons and a
start and sometimes a select button. The start and select buttons are use
for pausing the games, and also for confirming menu choices in games like
whether or not to start the game or load a saved game. In the newer
consoles, games have to be saved because they are so long. For example,
Final Fantasy 8, a role-playing game takes over 50 hours to
complete. Progress is saved on memory cards. These cards get inserted in
to a slot on your console, and they let you save, load, and delete saved
game files. For example, they'll let you save your season progress in a
Baseball game. In the older consoles such as the Nintendo entertainment
system, games were saved via a password feature or they were saved on the
cartridges themselves. The action buttons control the actions in a
game. If you were playing a fighting game, the buttons would kick and
punch, if it was a shooting game, they'd shoot weapons, jump or select weapons.
Consoles now have games stored on the CD medium. CDs can hold a lot more
information then cartridges, which means more speech, music, sound and
graphics. Many console games are fully accessible to the blind, such as
fighting games and sports games. Also, there are many titles that can be
played by the blind with sighted companions.
In conclusion, I hope I have given everyone a good description of what a
console is and how it works. I would like to thank Michael Feir, the editor
of Audyssey, as well as the other staff members for adding me to the
Audyssey staff. There are a broad range of console accessible games out
there which the sighted have been playing for years. I think it's time for
the VIP community to get a peace of the console action. In my reviews and
articles, I hope to convince people to try out these console games as an
alternative to computer based gaming.
Here are some abbreviations I will be using in my writings.
Nintendo Entertainment System (Nes)
Super Nintendo entertainment system (snes)
Sony Playstation (Psx)
Sega Dreamcast (dc)
There are many more which I will be occasionally using.
The Missing Critical Masses
By Michael Feir
As the fourth anniversary of Audyssey approached, I found myself pondering on what stage of development we've arrived at. Over the past year in particular, many things which would previously have been well beyond the possible have been shown to be well within the limits of what can be done with current talent and technology. From our former confinement in realms of text and limited sounds, we have emerged into an era where real-time sound environments can be created and explored. The blind gamer's ears can now literally become his/her eyes. A very similar experience to that enjoyed by the sighted video game player is now possible to create sonically for blind players. David Greenwood's latest game Lone Wolf for Windows, as well as the Shades of Doom joint development project are ample proof of this. ESP Softworks will soon add Monkey Business to the small collection of sound-based action arcade games which take full advantage of commonly available sound technology. On a level more akin to a graphical adventure game stands Bavisoft's Grizzly Gulch. Though suffering from linearity, it nevertheless holds its own and shows what even a simple interface can be the gateway to.
The above games demonstrate that a critical mass in technology has been definitively reached. As blind people across the globe move from DOS to Windows or Linux, the potential audience for such sound-based games can only increase. Given this, what could possibly stand in the way of developers wishing to pursue the creation of such games? As usual, the simple answer is economics.
The way I see things, there are three critical masses which must be present to make certain that the Audyssey community as well as those who develop games for the blind can thrive. The technological critical mass has been achieved and discussed above. The problem is that to make proper use of such technology and create a game people will pay for demands a good deal of time, resources, and effort. Unlike companies which create games for the sighted, those attempting to serve the blind community are quite small. They have no budget for advertising their products on a wide scale. In fact, as things stand now, they will be lucky to recover what they invest. Awareness seems to be the paramount critical mass to be achieved. According to research done by Paul Silva of Zform, there are around 65,000 blind people who are both employed and use computers in the US. Add to this all of the children, parents, friends, teachers, and other people attached in some way to the blind community, and you have plenty of prospective customers. Apply this globally, and it becomes even more obvious that a potential market is there. What makes this market a potential one instead of a fully realised one is the lack of awareness of what fun is out there. There is also a lack of awareness about what powerful learning aids games can be to the blind. The sighted world is filled with educational games that are used extensively in the classroom and the home. Even games created purely to entertain their players can teach many things. Unfortunately, this fact doesn't seem to have intruded too prevalently into the minds of educators of the blind. I can't count the number of people I've run into over the years who had no idea that their computers could do more than help them to read and write documents. Even the sighted people who only use computers for doing work are aware that if they desired, they could also be used for entertainment. The blind are not nearly as broadly aware of that fact. As a result, they often grow to dislike computers as merely tools of a trade. Meanwhile, sighted children and young adults are busy having fun and garnering skills and co-ordination which will serve them well in this age where information is everything. If we as a community of blind gamers are going to get anywhere, this general lack of awareness outside our slowly growing sphere must be drastically reduced.
Variety is the third critical mass. "Sure, I know there are a lot of games out there which can be played by blind people. Most of them are text adventures though, and I'm not very good or interested in those." I've constantly heard people say things like that over the years. People who are aware that there are games they can play often find that nothing really suits their pleasure. This has also got to change. The good news here is that all of the game developers are currently producing different genres of game. Assuming this trend continues, the problem of a lack of variety will eventually be solved. This assumes that these developers and others have the starting capital they need to support themselves while creating their games. Should these artists not have the capital to hang in there until they create the variety, a state of self-perpetuation will likely never be attained.
To illustrate what I'm talking about here, let's examine what happened in DOS. There are certainly a huge variety of games out there for users of this operating system. By the time folks like PCS and Jim Kitchen came along to take us beyond the text-only barrier and make use of sound capabilities, the rest of the world had moved on. Windows was what everybody had to get used to working and playing in. Funding agencies who helped blind people afford expensive access technology had to go with the flow and teach the blind to use Windows in order to be competitive in the work place. It is now pretty much certain that in order to be supported by such educators and agencies, games will have to be developed in operating systems that are currently in widespread use.
Another interesting case to examine here is that of interactive fiction. Starting out as a mere hobby for students in the late 70's, it quickly became a million-dollar industry when people could play the games on their own personal computers. The technology was there. Also, and perhaps much more importantly, the awareness of interactive fiction was there. It was there to such an extent that despite technical advances, the art form continues to thrive on the edges of the games universe. Enough people are dedicated to playing and creating interactive fiction to keep more of it coming out. Thus, variety has also been achieved. Though interactive fiction will never again enjoy a place in the main stream, it doesn't have to in order to preserve itself.
This self-perpetuation is exactly what the blind gaming community needs to proceed beyond where we are now. We have the technology to realise our dreams of computerised fun in pretty much whatever form we like. Somehow, we have to either emulate or replace the consumer-based funding and other forces which drive and support development of new titles. Unless a major breakthrough is made in terms of awareness of what games are out there and could be out there if economics permitted, it is doubtful that consumerism will be a reliable enough means of financing. This is especially the case since the majority of blind people are unemployed. Developers must take this factor into account when doing any kind of market planning or forecasting. That awareness has always been one of Audyssey's main goals, and will always continue to be. We should all seek opportunities to raise the level of awareness about computer games for the blind. Any chance we get to present them to media, educators, and other interested groups of people should be eagerly accepted.
Are there other means of financing the development of computer games for the blind? Surprisingly, only Zform has so far experimented with finding an alternative economic model. It has been set up as a non-profit organisation and plans to offer its games free of charge to blind players. Those who support Form's efforts will be given recognition for doing so. They have apparently had a good deal of initial success in attracting the support and funding required. However, will this prove sustainable? Will Zform ultimately prove to be a stable and long-lasting producer of games? This may indeed occur. Alternatively, they may produce one glorious game before fading into obscurity. Without improved market conditions, these occasional gems may be all we have to look forward to from the people ready to lead us into a new era of fun. To truly enter into this era, we must, as a community, be ready, willing and able to do our part.
Sparkle and Shine:
Reflections on Trends in Gaming
By James Peach
If you happen to have sighted friends or family who gawk at the latest hardware, or drool over the latest games, you might comprehend this trend in gaming: faster, better cheaper (sound familiar?) The desire for the latest in the "goods" among the sighted community especially, has always been a hard and fast desire. It's easy to damn less than adequate computing equipment and substandard games; the standards seem to change every four to six months, perpetuating the market. With that being laid out, there appears to be a more relaxed stance in the blind/VI gaming community when it comes to such issues; perhaps conservative is the right word. They, for the most part, do not feel a strong need to keep up with technology, and with new releases, creating a separate subculture of gamers within the whole.
Why might this be? Are there two different computing/gaming philosophies existing together? The answer seems to lie in the community itself. Regardless of whether you are blind or not, the gaming community you hang in does a lot to decide how games and complementary hardware/software advance. Regardless of whether your comrades are in person or online, they and you will probably have suggestions/opinions for the "next big sequel" or "expansion pack," and will collectively decide on whether to buy that advancement or not. The difference lies in what kind of content the community is expecting out of the next big release or improvement. making such a dividing line between the sighted and non-sighted alike; the sighted may want the sequel to have compatibility with newer graphics cards. Those that are not sighted, for the most part, seem to simply want bug fixes, or an advancement in a story, and nothing else. One wants revolution, while the other only evolution.
While this is more or less true and fair, one can not help wondering why such a chasm in expectations exists. From observations accumulated over the years, I have come to the conclusion that it's the exposure, the advertisement and popularity that are the deciding factors. Think about it. While a whole stew of games has come out over the years in mainstream gaming, creating new genres and expanding old ones, the blind have been saturated with text-adventures. Many of the best of these are 10 to 20 years old! While I realise that this has been really the most/only accessible type of gaming for the blind, current developments are showing time and again that the restrictions we have are the ones that we put on ourselves.
Why should we not be able to have the quality and functionality that the sighted enjoy in their games? Developers seemed to have asked themselves this question and the answer could only be a shrug; after the shrugging was over, they set to work to bring it up a notch, and bring new unprecedented quality to the blind gamer. I remind you that like blind/VI game developers, commercial gaming companies for the sighted have evolved their games over the years as well. Theirs was a smooth and gradual transition. The advances experienced by blind gamers are giant leaps; in 1996, WarCraft 2 came out. Now regarded as quite an obsolete and simple game, it blew the doors off the Real-time strategy market. WarCraft II raised the bar for quality. Now, developers are taking real-time strategy 3-D (WarCraft 3)! After PCS Games began development in what seemed to be an untapped market, they raised the bar of quality that was held by interactive fiction at the time. Then, David Greenwood came along with his Lone Wolf and Star Trek games. The bar was raised again. Star Trek introduced continuous sounds. Lone Wolf proved that it was possible to have a complex real-time simulation game playable by the blind. Next, out of the mist comes Jeff Gibbons and Bavisoft with Grizzly Gulch: Western Extravaganza. This blows the doors off of all other previous developments, raising quality to a level never dreamed possible a few years ago. No one in this community is chanting anymore, "It can't be done," but are now asking, "What can't be done?"
It's a good time to be a blind gamer. I could foresee a day when standards of sound quality in games, for example, would rival any mainstream gaming package of the day. A day when we could be buying gaming accessories such as joysticks that everyone else was using may not be too far off. We may even be using accessories of our own to enhance our experience that the sighted may not have thought of using. With Grizzly Gulch available now, Shades of Doom on the way, the Genesis Project in development, and whispers of a David Greenwood developed accessible flight sim, truly the sky's the limit. It's a great time indeed to be a blind gamer, where tried and true Interactive Fiction and other text-based games are an option instead of "the" option. Things are getting better every day.
Editorial: Accessible Jigsaw Puzzles
By Roger Myers of MindsEye2 - http://www.mindseye2.bigstep.com
How are you at working jigsaw puzzles? As a blind parent I have enjoyed working lots of jigsaw puzzles with my son.
I have discovered that for puzzles over 40 pieces either I have to let my son select a group of pieces that should fit together, or I resort to only working the edge pieces since there are fewer of them and they are easy to distinguish from all others.
This situation need not be the case for ever.
A game assistant computer program could let jigsaw puzzles someday become accessible to the blind. To be readable, a barcode need only be about 1/4 by 3/4 inches making it possible for unique barcodes to be printed on the
back of every piece of a jigsaw puzzle. When scanned the number from each jigsaw puzzle piece could cause text to be spoken or displayed on the computer's screen to help the person in deciding how to connect it into the
other pieces. For example text could tell the person that a piece is part of the log cabin's brown roof and shows an edge of the roof and green trees beyond. It could also tell the person that the piece is about 1/3 the way down the puzzle somewhat near the centre. Or it could tell him/her
that the piece is two away from the edge of the puzzle near the top. It could tell the person that this piece is in the B5 group of pieces with each group being made up of four pieces and the group being on row "B" and column "5". The text could just tell the person that this piece is one of 7 pieces
that make up the log cabin's front door. It could tell the person that this piece is an edge piece at the bottom of the puzzle towards the right.
The Game Assistant could also let the person know how to orient the piece. There could even be various levels of descriptions so the person decides how much of a hint he/she wants to help him put the puzzle together.
The main thing preventing a company from making accessible jigsaw puzzles, even puzzles of 1000 and more pieces, is that no company currently places unique barcodes on the back of each piece of its puzzles. It would take too long for a small company to place barcode labels on the back of each
piece of a puzzle manually. That task needs to be done when the jigsaw puzzle is being designed, printed, and cut apart. Also the company that prints barcodes on the back of its puzzles needs to make the same puzzles for several
years so that when a company making it accessible to the blind puts many hours into recording and/or typing lengthy descriptions for each piece, it can count on that puzzle being available for several years so profits can
be realised without having to charge exorbitant prices for each puzzle.
Currently, when a blind person works a jigsaw puzzle, much of his/her time is spent randomly testing pieces together--a somewhat boring trial and error method. The reason for this is that the blind person has little information about each puzzle piece. The sighted person has information on the colours and
parts of pictures on each piece and can see the picture of the finished puzzle on the puzzle's box. This allows the sighted person to select pieces that are likely to fit together and helps him/her to orient those pieces. By using a Game Assistant to describe each piece of the jigsaw puzzle, a blind
person may someday have access to similar information and be able to fully join in this popular family activity.
Free Game Winner
Congratulations are in order, Paul and Gail Nimmo! Your letter concerning Ancient Domains of Mystery was quite well written and thought out. Until a full-blown tutorial for blind players is created, it should do a lot to help novices get started in this complex game. I hope you both enjoy your well-earned prise.
News From GMA
GMA is open for business
GMA is an incorporated business with the mandate to create sophisticated, accessible, Windows-based games for the visually impaired community. Headed up by David Greenwood, the game development portion of the business will continue to push to make more technically advanced, interesting and fun games. With two additional programmers added in July 2000 to the group, GMA intends to
accelerate its game development schedule, and bring even better, more accessible games to the market in a more timely manner.
We have just started developing our web site, which you can access at:
The site is only in its preliminary stages, but give it a try. Hopefully, you will come back in a few weeks once the site is completed.
PCS will continue to distribute our DOS games, and we will definitely continue our great working relationship.
GMA has just released Lone Wolf for Windows, which we feel should be a winner. If you like Lone Wolf for DOS, this one will blow you out of the water, so to speak. Check the web site for more details.
Trek 2000 for Windows is scheduled for release in late September, and is a port of the Trek99 game. Check the web site for more details.
We will continue to develop the Shades of Doom game. We expect to release the next version of the alpha in September or October. You will be able to download this version from our web site once the release is ready. A big thanks goes to ESP Softworks for hosting the downloads of the previous
releases of SOD.
What's coming up in the future? Stay tuned!
News From ESP Softworks
What's New @ ESP Softworks - August 2000
It is with great sadness that I give you the following news. ESP Softworks
will be closing it's doors indefinitely as of September 1st, 2000. The
website will be brought off-line at that time and all further development
Over the past year and a half, there have been many developments in the
lives of the ESP staff and many refinements in our processes and goals. Fate
has it, however, that I have several ongoing projects currently and ESP is
but one of them. Due to a lack of time and energy, I cannot fully support
them all and be able to dedicate the quality time they all deserve.
Currently, I'm running ESP Softworks, studying full-time for MCSE+I
certification, and building a web-based business that demands quite a lot of
attention due to the fact that it's formally funded by outside sources.
Since ESP Softworks was the main distribution channel for Audyssey Game
Magazine, we will make every attempt to notify all current subscribers as
well as subscribers to the ESP news of alternate locations where current and
future issues of Audyssey may be obtained.
Finally, I greatly appreciate all the support and enthusiasm since we've
been online and will hope to stay in touch with those friends I've found in
James North, President
News From MindsEye2
Come visit our new WEB site http://www.mindseye2.bigstep.com
and while there be sure to enter our End Of Summer Drawing for a chance to win a FREE copy of our newest release - Crossword Fun For Kids. MindsEye2 will be drawing for a FREE copy of our newest release Crossword
Fun For Kids ($35 value) on September 20.
NOW SHIPPING!! Crossword Fun For Kids - $35 plus $5 shipping/handling
Crossword Fun for Kids - An exciting new computer game on CD-ROM for Windows 95/98, has 70 crossword puzzles designed especially for blind children suggested age 4 to 12. Puzzles include:
Down on the Farm - Old McDonald never had so much fun! Identify farm sounds from tractors to sheep in this fun crossword puzzle.
Trick or Treat! - It's all here - apple bobbing, ghosts, jack
o'lanterns and more. This Halloween themed puzzle is complete with spooky sound effects.
Feathered Friends - Features birds from around the world.
Complete with authentic bird calls and songs. Learn to associate the bird with its song. Solve the clue and hear the birds sing!
Musical Instruments - A concert at home. Hear a clue. Guess the correct instrument and hear that instrument. Learn to identify the sounds of various musical instruments - saxophone, harp, cello, piano, flute, piccolo and more.
Under the Sea - You dive into the briny deep. What's that? An
octopus or a jellyfish? Learn about sea creatures in this
exciting underwater puzzle.
Educational Benefits: All the puzzles reinforce spelling and many reinforce facts from the classroom. Many puzzles, while fun with silly, zany and interesting sound effects, are educational. Children will learn the days of the week, holidays, months and seasons, and important time and money facts. Children will also learn about sea creatures, wild animals, dinosaurs, outer space,
and Ancient Egypt. They will practice spelling common words, such as shapes and colours, in the crossword spelling bees and to spell the numbers from zero to 20. Children will learn to associate birds with their songs and identify musical instruments. There is a special group of 10 puzzles for the younger child that do not require spelling or reading. Beginning words, grouped by rhyming families, are pronounced then spelled as the child is prompted for
each letter. Frequent reinforcement and encouragement is given.
Editor's note: The following information was taken directly from the MindsEye2 web-site. As they have never formally been introduced to the Audyssey community, I have decided to include information on their other two puzzle sets which was not included in their official news release. Whenever a new company graces our pages for the first time, I try and include as much about the games they offer as I can. I would be doing a disservice to all of the word fanatics out there were I not to do so. Welcome to Audyssey, MindsEye2. May you find helpful advice and a ready audience for your work here in the Audyssey community.
Experience the challenge and mental stimulation of Expert Crossword Fun. Work seventy challenging and captivating crossword puzzles using a unique interface designed for the blind and visually impaired. Sound accessible with rich sound effects and optional background music. Runs in Windows 95/98. Two CD-ROMS with instructions and help online. Large print and Braille instructions available upon request.
Experience the excitement of Crossword Fun. Work crossword puzzles with a unique interface designed for the blind and visually impaired. Speech accessible with rich sound effects and optional background music. Complete with 70 quality crossword puzzles.
Includes a special theme puzzle on Birds of the World with authentic bird calls and songs. Runs in Windows 95/98. Two CD-ROMs with on-line instructions and help. Instructions available in large print and Braille upon request.
Price $35 plus shipping
Join the ME2 mailing list to discuss all MindsEye2 products
MindsEye2 has set-up a mailing list for members to discuss all MindsEye2 products.
To join send a message to [email protected]
with this line as the body of your message:
subscribe ME2 firstname lastname
substituting your full name for firstname and lastname.
Route 1 Box 404-A
Bland, VA 24315
Email: [email protected]
News From PCS
Personal Computer Systems introduces Duck Hunt audio arcade game.
It's three AM. grab your shotgun, a box of shells and your
duck call and lets go hunting! In this arcade duck hunting game, you hear the ducks flushed out and flying away to the right and left. There isn't much time to think. You must aim the gun and fire before you lose the shot. Make sure it's a duck or goose or your day may be cut short by the game warden. This game will play in DOS or WINDOWS. It doesn't need a screen reader. P C S uses audio
voice recordings in place of text to give you gaming information.
P C S DUCK HUNT costs $40.00 on CD for WINDOWS and DOS.
SNIPE HUNT DEMO
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. P C S is going to take you on a Snipe hunt like you've never been on before. Not only are the Snipes plentiful but there is a new Demon Snipe who will dowse your light and end the game. This fast action arcade game is sure to have you hopping around bagging flocks of the Elusive
birds! A demo is now available at Paul Henrichsen's FTP site:
Or you can get a list of other games at:
It is 1.3 MB in size.
After down loading it, unzip it to either a floppy disk or a
temporary folder on your hard drive.
You can read the installation instructions contained in Snipe.txt
or for windows just run the setup.exe.
If you have DOS speech you can install in DOS by running the
A complete list of our games can be obtained at our web site:
where demos may be down loaded. You can also
receive a catalogue on disk and demos of many of our games by
contacting us at:
Personal Computer Systems
551 Compton Ave.
Perth Amboy, NJ. 08861
Phone (732) 826-1917
e-mail [email protected]
News From Zform
Hello Audyssey, the past two months have been incredible for Zform. We appreciate your interest and support of our games, and we now have the legal means to accept corporate donations.
It has been a very exciting two months! In brief:
+ We signed our non-profit partner. This was our first major milestone as a company. We now have the economic and legal infrastructure in place that will
allow us to accept donations from our sponsors so that we can provide our game to the world for free.
+ Zform has received some wonderful media attention from Computerworld magazine (article due out in the fall) and the ACB netradio program "Main Menu." With
this attention, awareness of Zform is rising, both inside and outside the visually impaired community.
+ We sent out our "Call to Arms." For those who are not familiar with it, the text of it is attached below. The response to the Call to Arms has been very
strong - but many more responses are needed. If you have not yet responded and would like to, please send your support to [email protected]. The Call to Arms is being prepared for transmission to VI related mailing lists around the
world. Stay tuned to our web site or newsletter for more info.
+ The Zform Newsletter mailing list is established! Subscribers to this list will receive the latest breaking news from Zform, its projects, and web updates. To subscribe to this mailing list send a blank email to
[email protected] or visit the group's web site:
Below are the Call to Arms and the latest Zform Update:
Form's Call to Arms:
I am Paul Silva, CoFounder of Zform Entertainment, a computer game developer with a strong commitment to creating fully accessible interactive entertainment.
We have been working on our first game, and now that we have our plans mostly in place we want to share them with our audience: you. Below is an important message about our game; if you have the time, please read it and let us know what you think. Also, if you think someone else might
find this message to be of interest, please forward it to them or send them to
http://www.zform.com/misc.html. A Bobby approved page can be found at
Our first game, TRE, is designed to include many features that will offer something entirely new to the blind community. Our game will employ parallel audio and graphical user interfaces designed for either single play or multi-player games; multi-player games will be Internet play-enabled. The
parallel interfaces communicate the same information in two different formats, allowing both the blind and the sighted to interact with the game, and each other. Cutting edge sound technology will offer the blind a fully accessible
user interface, while solid graphics will make it possible for the sighted to join the game community.
TRE is a Chess-like strategy game with a Celtic theme. The game concept features several modes of play. There are two levels of play for the TRE board game: A full Tactical Mode, as in Chess where the player controls the movement of every piece, and a Strategic Mode, which allows the player to give generalised instruction to a modifiable Artificial Intelligence
that will control the minutia of game play. The Strategic Mode
will help players learn the rudiments of game play in any one of several included rule sets, which govern piece movement and power.
Another introduction to the game of TRE is the Campaign Mode, in which the player enters the story as a young druid in a military campaign to gain control of a rediscovered and ancient city. This legendary city has been buried under
the ocean since the dawn of Celtic civilisation, and is located midway through the Giant's Causeway between Ireland and Scotland. Now the city has inexplicably resurfaced, and many clans from both islands are rushing to rediscover the
fabled secrets of a long lost civilisation.
But the city has its own agenda...
The game is designed around delivering high quality entertainment, and to that end we will have several full-time game developers working on this project for about a year's time. The game concept also features the capacity to save games at any point, to record and play back entire game sequences, and to share those game sequences with other players in the game community.
The best part about our game, of course, is that it will come to you absolutely free. Zform is currently in meetings to establish funding that will allow us to deliver this product free of charge, assuming that there is a desire for it in
the blind community. We need to show our sponsors that adequate interest exists, however. We are asking you if this product sounds like a game you, or someone you know will want to play. If so, please e-mail us at
[email protected]. We need your support to make this project a reality; without your positive feedback, we will not be able to move forward with TRE. So if you
have friends or family that would like to hear what this message holds, please forward it on. We are very excited about TRE, and anxious to hear your responses. Thank you for your time and interest, and please, pass this on!
Zform Update: 20 August 2000
Zform is proud to announce the formation of its non-profit foundation,
ZoundZight. The Trustee Institute, an umbrella organisation committed to the
development of socially conscious businesses, has agreed to assist Zform in its
creation of ZoundZight. The non-profit foundation will allow Zform to approach
corporate gifting foundations in search of funding. That funding will allow
Zform to pursue its goals of creating quality entertainment that is accessible
to both the blind and the sighted, for free.
ACB Radio Interview:
ACB Radio's netprogram "Main Menu" interviewed Zform CoFounder Paul G. Silva.
The 30-minute interview with Zform was at the very beginning of the two-hour
show. The "Main Menu" program began airing on Sunday, August 20th at 9:00
Eastern Daylight Time. An archive of the show should become available for
download from the main menu web site (at the time of this posting it was not yet
available). To download browse to:
"Call To Arms" Email:
In mid-July, Zform sent a message requesting emails to support the creation of
blind accessible games with parallel audio/video interfaces. It was alpha-tested
on a single blind gaming discussion list with positive results. After tweaking
the text slightly, the email was beta-tested with another group, and this time
the results were phenomenal. We thank you, the blind community, and your family
and friends for all the support you have generated. If you haven't had a chance
yet, read the Call to Arms!
DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS
STRIKE, AND COUNTER STRIKE
By Allen Maynard
Editor's note: This story contains graphic descriptions of violence. It therefore may not be suitable for younger readers. On the whole, the position of the Audyssey community on issues of violence in games is fairly tolerant. The fact that there is a clear difference between fictitious and actual violence must never be forgotten. While this story illustrates a readiness of people to engage in a fantasy game which involves said acts, it by no means reflects the characters of the actual people involved in the campaign described below. I have come to know all of them, and can certainly attest that all of them are of a most generous and law-abiding nature. While it is not the policy of Audyssey to condone real violence, it is generally held among the community that violence within games is acceptable as long as it legitimately adds to the game and is not simply there to gratify sadistic pleasure. Dungeons And Dragons has often been maligned as a game with no redeeming values. The majority of active members of the community think this is blatantly wrong and short-sighted, as do I.
This is part one of the second Dungeons and Dragons adventure held in the Blind Gamer's room on Audio-Tips. Randy Hammer runs Dungeons and Dragons campaigns with a group of players who gather on audio-tips each Sunday night at seven o'clock mdt. Those who want to listen in are welcome to do so, but are asked not to interfere with the game in progress.
The group begins their new adventure in a tavern in the town of Pendboro.
Parts two and three will be in the next two Audyssey issues.
Myrthorn, the mage and leader of the group, sat at a table in the Silver Hawk Inn and frowned as he studied his tobacco smoke as it swirled toward the low ceiling. Finally, he sighed and turned his attention to the three other people seated around the table. Myrthorn's frown deepened as his gaze fell on Brik, a large barrel-chested man but whose brawn did not quite make up for his lack of smarts. Brik was on his third tankard of ale. "Brik," Myrthorn said IN exasperation, "how many tankards of ale is that now?"
Brik stared down at the table and counted on his fingers. "I'm drinking number three right now," he said and belched loudly. "Need it, too. Helps me fight." He clenched a huge fist as he said this.
Rolling his eyes Myrthorn looked at Ardrah, a skilled female warrior who had proven herself in the first campaign. "I see you traded in your long sword for a Claymore."
Ardrah's long raven-coloured hair tumbled across her shoulders and down her back as she glanced at the sheathed blade on her hip. The firelight danced in her violet eyes as she looked up. "This is a much more elegant weapon."
"Why would a ranger need an elegant weapon?" Muldred asked from the other side of the table. The only cleric of the group sat in his own cloud of tobacco smoke and looked at Ardrah over the rim of his cup of dark ale. She glared at him and was about to respond with a biting remark when she saw the corners of his mouth twitch with mirth.
"What would you know about it, cleric?" Ardrah took a sip of her wine. "You can't even wield an elegant blade or any blade for that matter."
"Yes," Muldred sighed melodramatically. "It is forbidden by all orders of clerics."
Brik set his tankard on the table and drew his great blade half way out of its scabbard. "I'd bet you'd love to carry this?" he boasted proudly.
"I can't lift your tankard of ale let alone your sword," Muldred said.
Brik grinned, slid the sword back down into the scabbard and took a large gulp of ale.
Ardrah grinned at her two companions but then noticed that Myrthorn had not stopped frowning. "Myrthorn, what is bothering you?"
The mage shifted in his chair. In one gulp he drained the remainder of his ale and dropped the empty cup on the table which hit the polished wooden surface with a dull thud. "We're living well for the moment," Myrthorn said, "but our coin will continue to grow more scarce if we don't find a sponsor soon. Plus," he added with a thin smile, "I am beginning to get bored."
Ardrah opened her mouth to respond to Myrthorn's concerns when a different voice broke into their conversation.
"Excuse me, but I overheard you say that you are looking for a sponsor?"
Four pairs of eyes stared at the figure that had abruptly appeared beside Myrthorn. He was a human male of medium height with bushy brown hair and wearing expensive looking clothing culminating in a genuine dragon skin belt and silver wolf's head buckle. Myrthorn quickly got to his feet and extended his hand. "I am Myrthorn the mage and leader of this small group. And who might you be?"
The man grasped the proffered hand and shook. "I am Masron the merchant. I am leading a caravan through the Dragon's Maw pass, across an arm of the Akra and Sersadek plains, and finally arriving at the coastal city of Coryndia."
"And you require guards to travel with you to ward off..." Myrthorn paused expectantly.
"Possible highwaymen, wolves, goblins, and the like," Masron finished.
Myrthorn noticed the rest of his group appraising the merchant. "Forgive me, good merchant, for my lack of manners." Formal introductions were made and there were handshakes around the table. Muldred shook hands quickly and warily for clerics and merchants shared a mutual distrust. Masron's hand literally disappeared in Brik's huge paw and when he came to Ardrah he held her hand just a little too long. He quickly released it when he saw her other hand straying toward the hilt of her sword.
"What distance are we talking about?" Muldred asked.
Masron considered for a moment then replied, "About one hundred miles. It should take the caravan a week or so to make the trip barring any major engagements," he added pointedly.
Myrthorn took Masron's arm and they walked a few paces from the table and conferred in low tones.
"Why are they talking without us?" Brik asked worriedly.
"I'm sure they are discussing our payment and they don't want any other person in the inn to overhear," Ardrah speculated glancing over her shoulder at the pair.
"Gold," Brik crooned with a broad smile.
Presently the two men returned to the table. Myrthorn spoke. "Masron has offered to pay us five gold pieces per day which we will collect in Coryndia."
Ardrah shook her head decisively, her eyes locking on Masron. "Twenty gold per day. We are proven fighters. Have you not heard of our exploits in the old church of Pendboro?"
The merchant shook his head. "I fear, my lady, that I have not heard of such exploits for I am a traveling merchant not remaining in the cities and towns for any length of time. However, I am a generous man so I will offer your group," he paused and glanced around at the other humans and non-humans in the bar before lowering his voice. "Fifteen gold per day but nothing else."
Ardrah shot a glance at Myrthorn just in time to catch the slight shake of his head. She pretended to be considering his offer, giving him the furrowed brow and appraising stare. Finally she shook her head. "Not good enough," she said. Then as if hitting on a great idea she brightened. "Twelve-and-a-half gold per day and all our meals including feeding and watering of Brik's horse and the mule will be provided each day of the trip." Ardrah shifted her eyes and saw Myrthorn nodding.
Masron looked doubtful. "Your asking for quite an expense on my part for what will probably be a very uneventful expedition."
Muldred spoke up. If it is to be so unadventful then why do you feel the need to hire a fighter escort?"
"Quite so," Masron replied but the doubtful look did not leave his face. He looked at Myrthorn and following his gaze realised that the mage was making eye contact with another merchant seated at a table across the room who was leaning toward the group with growing interest. Hastily taking Myrthorn's arm Masron suddenly acquired a broad grin. "I have considered your offer and found it acceptable."
"Very good," Myrthorn said, removing his arm from the merchant's grip. The mage looked at his three companions and he frowned once again. "We are only a group of four with myself and Muldred only studying our respective magics. I..."
"Could you use another fighter," a gruff gravelly voice suddenly broke in.
They all turned to see a stocky heavily muscled dwarf standing just to Muldred's right. His coal black eyes surveyed the group with interest and a hint of hostility.
"How many battles have you fought?" Myrthorn asked a bit dubiously.
"A few skirmishes with goblin raiding parties in the mines," the dwarf rasped fingering a medium-sized axe at his hip. "I can hold my own in a fight."
"How many bar brawls does that include?" Brik snorted into his ale.
"I've had my share of bar room scuffles and, I might add, I've felled a few humans about your size."
"What makes you think we need another fighter for any reason?" Myrthorn asked.
The dwarf scowled at the mage, then he realised the ploy and his face became creased with a wide grin. "Do not take me for a fool," he challenged. "A mage, cleric and two fighters conversing with a merchant in a inn?"
Myrthorn nodded to himself and smiled. He leaned over the table and extended a hand toward the dwarf. "I am Myrthorn..."
"The leader of the group," the dwarf finished taking Myrthorn's hand in his own meaty fist. With his other hand he pointed to his ears. "Good hearing," he said. "Helps to hear danger in the mines."
Masron noisily cleared his throat and looked at Myrthorn. "Our agreement was only for yourself and your three companions."
Myrthorn crossed his arms across his chest andconsidered. "Ten gold per day, meals and proper care of the horse and mule," he said finally.
Masron opened his mouth and was about to protest when he glanced over his shoulder and spotted the other merchant still studying the group. He looked at Myrthorn and smiled. "We leave just after sunrise tomorrow." He turned and left the inn.
Gathering is supplies and gear Myrthorn started for the stairs leading to the rooms above. Muldred and Ardrah rose and followed. Jarveth stomped along behind whistling tunelessly to himself. Myrthorn stopped with one booted foot poised on the bottom step and glanced over his shoulder. "Joining us, Brik?" he called with a hint of annoyance.
Brik looked up and gave the mage a lopsided grin. "But there is still a little ale left in my tankard. I can't let it go to waste."
Myrthorn looked skyward and rolled his eyes. "Just be sure to get some sleep but before you pass out don't forget to feed and water your horse. By the way, I hope you've given it a name. I am tired of just called it your horse."
"He's got a good name."
"I named him Horse," Brik replied and seemed very pleased with himself.
Ardrah and Muldred burst out laughing and Myrthorn could not keep from smiling. Jarveth just stared at the big man. "I hope he can fight better than he thinks," he muttered.
"That he can," Ardrah said still chuckling as she ascended the stairs.
The next morning the group rose early and ate a hasty breakfast. Brik downed another tankard of ale but didn't seem to be the worse for wear.
They gathered their weapons and supplies and left the inn after paying the rotund but jovial innkeeper.
They stepped into the street and into a storm of activity. A string of eight covered wagons was being furiously loaded and secured with thick rope and canvas. Myrthorn had hoped to get a good look at the caravan and its cargo before the train got underway but he had underestimated Masron's efficiency. The sun was slowly sliding over the eastern horizon and sheets of yellow gold blanketed the cloudless sky rapidly dissolving the night tenaciously clinging to the Keshladin Mountains to the south.
"Let's find our sponsor and see if he has any instructions for us," Myrthorn said.
"I'll go saddle and armor Horse," Brik said and lumbered off toward the stables.
"And I'll go hitch the mule to our cart," Muldred added hurrying after Brik.
Before any of the others could take a step Masron came striding around the last wagon. Spotting his hired guards he greeted them with a wave and beckoned them over to where he stood. "Good morning," he bellowed, obviously in high spirits. "I'll leave it to you and your group to decide how you wish to position yourselves amidst my caravan."
"Very good," Myrthorn replied.
"Be quick," Masron said turning to walk back up the line of wagons. "We're nearly ready to depart."
"I'll ride in the lead wagon," Ardrah offered as she wove through the merchant's men in the direction Masron had gone. "And Brik can scout ahead of the caravan on Horse," she called over her shoulder.
"I'll put myself somewhere in the middle," Jarveth rumbled as he trundled around the corner of the rear wagon. Shrugging, Myrthorn clambered into the last wagon and settled himself on a wooden bench at the back of the wagon.
Presently, Brik astride Horse came trotting up the caravan and Myrthorn motioned him toward the lead wagon. "Take the lead, my friend, and do some scouting ahead of the wagons."
Brik shot him a jaunty grin and he and Horse took their place in front of the lead wagon.
Myrthorn glanced around for Muldred and the mule. Shading his eyes from the rapidly increasing glare of the rising sun he finally spotted a grimacing Muldred in a non-descript cart as the mule came plodding around the corner of the inn. He couldn't suppress a smile. "I hope you will be able to keep up." Myrthorn said.
Muldred shrugged and urged the mule to move faster with minimal success. He spread his hands in defeat. "I'll do the best I can but at least the remainder of our supplies are safe with me."
Myrthorn opened his mouth but his reply was drowned out by a mighty bellow from Masron. The air was suddenly filled with the groans of wagon wheels and hoof beats. The town of Pendboro slowly fell away as the caravan proceeded onto the fringes of the Akra plains.
Ardrah studied the distant Keshladin Mountains. She marveled at the raw beauty as the rays of the sun flashed and glitter-danced off the snow-capped peaks. Briefly she imagined that they were guiding beacons for her companions and the caravan. "Or warning beacons," she said, smiling wryly to herself.
The first day passed uneventfully. The people in the few small towns they passed through hardly glanced at the travelers. Apparently this was not an unusual sight. The road the caravan traveled on was relatively level and consisted only of sun-baked earth. It appeared to be a well traveled road since it was nearly a foot below the level of the grassland. Ardrah saw that even though the road was hard packed she noticed deep ruts in many places.
The caravan did not slow as the sun reached its zenith. Each merchantman ate a light lunch in their respective wagons. Thankfully, Masron had ordered the merchantman to provide food for the members of the guard. Ardrah whistled sharply to get Brik's attention then tossed him a turkey leg. With surprising agility Brik caught the offering over his shoulder and tore into it. He had finished off about half of the meat when he abruptly tossed it away. Ardrah stared, confused. Then she saw it.
"Riders!" Brik cried
Ardrah tensed and gripped the hilt of her blade. The dust cloud, looking like a veil of gold as the sun slanted through it, was still some distance away but it was steadily growing closer.
"Slow your wagon but whatever you do don't come to a complete halt," Ardrah said as she stood and gripped the edge of the wagon.
The merchantman, who was driving, scowled and spat over his side of the wagon.
"What's your name, merchantman?" Ardrah asked sweetly as she continued to study the approaching riders.
"Kogon," he replied sourly.
"Well, Kogon," Ardrah said softly, moving her face mere inches from his, "slow this wagon now or have an arm's length of steel rammed up your ars sideways, and I'm a woman who can do it." The last few words were spoken in a dangerous hiss.
Hastily Kogon slowed his wagon which caused the remaining wagons to follow suit.
Brik had slowed Horse so he could talk to Ardrah without having to shout. "You think we should draw our weapons?" he asked.
Ardrah considered for a moment then shook her head decisively. "If we did that might make us look like we were planning to attack."
The riders had also slowed now as they drew nearer to the caravan. Ardrah and Brik could easily make out five mounted horsemen through the settling dust. Each man carried a spear or a pike, however, at present they were lowered. They wore forest-green tunics over chain male armor. Their leather pants were tucked snugly into heavy black boots.
Bringing Horse to a canter, Brik rode forward to meet the horsemen. "Hail!" he cried heartily.
"Greetings, Good Sir," the lead horsemen shouted as he slowed his chestnut coloured mare.
"Have you any news?" Brik said as he reined in Horse.
The horsemen shook his head. "Our ride through the Keshladin was uneventful. Now I ask you, may my riders and myself pass unmolested?"
"I'm guarding a caravan not attacking travelers," Brik replied with a wide grin.
The caravan was drawing near to Brik and the other horsemen who had finally come to a stop. Ardrah grimaced when she heard Brik mention the guarding of the caravan only because if a caravan needed guarding then there was usually a good reason. Ardrah watched the horsemen's reactions carefully to make sure the mention of guards did not peak anyone's interest.
Brik eased Horse to the side and the horsemen gently but firmly kicked their horses into a gallop. Suspicious by nature, Jarveth gripped the haft of his axe as the band passed his wagon. Not wanting to appear distrustful but casually keeping their hands near their weapons, Myrthorn and Muldred greeted the horsemen with jaunty waves and the riders raised their weapons in salute.
Without encouragement Kogon urged his horse faster and before long the caravan was moving rapidly down the road once again.
Brik spurred Horse into a gallop and they charged off to scout ahead of the wagons. Brik scanned the horizon but only saw the distant Keshladin Mountains. He slowed Horse to a trot and allowed the caravan to catch up with him, then he kicked Horse into another gallop and repeated his scouting once again. Brik, Horse, and the caravan drove hard and uneventfully for six hours or so the Keshladin Mountains were drawing closer but the sun was beginning to slide down their western slopes leaving a violet twilight behind it. At a command from Masron the caravan slowed then formed a circle in an area off the road where the grass was lower. It was a broken circle with wagon-length gaps in its circumference but it was the safest formation affording the best protection during the night. Myrthorn and the rest of his group climbed down from their respective wagons and gratefully stretched. Muldred unhitched the mule from the cart and waited as Brik dismounted and removed Horse's armor. Then he led the mule to where Brik and the other merchants were walking and rubbing down the horses before tying them to nearby trees. They were then fed and watered. Several merchants went down the line of horses and examined each hoof and shoe. But when they approached Horse, Brik refused to stand aside.
"My horse," he growled, "I'll look at his feet." To emphasize his point, Brik drew his huge bastard sword. The men beat a hasty retreat from the big man especially when they saw he could wield that sword easily with only one hand.
The group ate a quick meal then Brik and Ardrah made a full circuit around the encampment to make sure it was secure.
"They seem to enjoy doing this," Jarveth noted, scratching his thick black beard whose length went down to the top of his breastbone.
Myrthorn and Muldred chuckled.
"They are born warriors," Myrthorn agreed looking just a little envious.
"We might as well try to get some sleep," Muldred said. "We'll have to take the next watch in about four or five hours."
Myrthorn gazed at the purple sky as it washed over the mountains to the south.
Muldred stood and stretched. "Well, I'm going to get..." then he stiffened. His infravision, which allowed him to see heat sources in the dark, had just detected a line of somethings coming along the road from the south. "Jarveth," Muldred whispered, pointing, "do you see them?"
Jarveth, being a dwarf also possessed infravision, stared in the direction the cleric was pointing and nodded. "Hard to tell how many of them there are," he rumbled, "but they definitely aren't crawling creatures judging by their height."
Myrthorn stood. "Jarveth, find Ardrah and Brik and warn them. I'll find Masron and alert him as well. Muldred, wait in the shadows of that wagon nearest the road and ready your flail."
The three parted and Jarveth hurried toward the perimeter to locate the other two warriors, loosening the axe at his waist as he went. About a quarter of the way around the encircled wagons his infravision easily spotted a large upright heat source which had to be Brik. Hustling up to Brik he rasped, "Brik, we have visitors approaching from the south coming down the road."
Brik didn't argue and loosened his own weapon in its scabbard. "Ardrah," he barked.
"Keep quiet you fool," Jarveth snapped in an exasperated hiss. "Do you want to warn every man and beast from here to the Keshladin?" Just then Ardrah came hurrying around a wagon hastening toward the dwarf and human. She had grabbed a lit torch and Jarveth grumbled in annoyance as the sudden light ruined his infravision for the moment.
"What's out there?" Ardrah asked in low tones.
"To early to tell but there are a line of human-sized things coming down the road from the south," Jarveth said.
"OK," she said, "let's hurry but not run to the road and see what we're up against."
Brik drew his sword.
"Sheathe your sword," Ardrah hissed.
"Gotta be ready to fight," Brik said. "They could be skeletons, ghouls, or even goblins."
"Jarveth?" Ardrah asked.
Jarveth shook his head. "The light source was too bright to be the undead and too tall to be goblins."
Bowing to superior logic, Brik reluctantly sheathed his sword and followed his companions. Ardrah jumped as Muldred abruptly stepped out of the shadows frowning at the torch Ardrah carrying for it had ruined his infravision as well. The four reached the road and stopped in the middle of the dirt lane. Ardrah shone her torch light down the road, and presently, a hooded figure stepped into the circle of light and stopped. It was definitely a man and he was wearing the robes of a head cleric.
"Hail," Ardrah called, not lowering the torch.
'Hail," the cleric replied in a weary but deep rich tone.
Not sensing any malice, Ardrah moved forward, the torchlight illuminating the rest of the group. They all wore the robes of an unfamiliar cleric class; well unknown to Ardrah's untrained eye.
Brik counted the number of clerics on his fingers, but quickly became confused as he ran out of fingers. "There are at least ten of them," Brik announced.
"We are fourteen in number," the head cleric replied. "We are returning from our temple high in the Keshladin Mountains. Pray, how far to Pendboro it be?"
Muldred stepped forward. "It is about a four or five day journey to Pendboro on foot, Master Cleric," he replied. "I am a young cleric myself. My name is Muldred."
"I greet you," the head cleric said. He clenched his fist and extended it toward Muldred with his index and third fingers extended in the sign of his order. "I am called, Lodenico."
Muldred extended his own hand toward the head cleric in the splayed finger palm down sign indicating that he had no cleric order as yet. "The Master Cleric does me honor with his presence. How may I serve?"
Lodenico looked at the circle of wagons and the small, carefully tended cook fires. "We have traveled long these few days and we are weary. May we take shelter and safety amidst your caravan?"
During this exchange, Ardrah was studying the clerics and she saw that each man possessed a mace. She frowned slightly. "The decision is not mine," she said, handing the torch to Jarveth. "If the good merchant agrees," she paused, "However, I fear I will have to take your maces, but you have my word that they will be returned to you in the morning."
Muldred looked shocked. "Ardrah, do not insult Master Lodenico and his clerics."
Lodenico held up a hand and smiled. "Easy, young cleric, Muldred. Your companion is wise. We take no offense and await the head merchant's judgement."
As if on cue, Masron stepped into the light and greeted Lodenico. "As long as your intentions are not hostile we will welcome you."
Muldred blanched but the master cleric calmed him with another smile and slight nod of his head.
"I thank you, Good Merchant. We are honored by your generosity and we will surrender our weapons as a sign of good faith as long as they be returned to us on the morrow."
"It shall be done," Masron said. "Please, follow me."
Masron turned and strode back toward his wagons. Lodenico followed. As he passed Ardrah he handed his mace to her. Quickly, she realised that she could not carry fourteen maces even in both arms. She motioned Brik over and he collected the remaining thirteen weapons, carrying them all easily under one arm.
They all returned to the wagons. Jarveth extinguished the torch and Ardrah handed Lodenico's mace to Brik who, with an uncharactoristic use of his head, placed all fourteen maces in their cart rather than simply dumping them on the ground.
Brik and Ardrah continued their watch around the outer boundary of the circled wagons while Jarveth climbed into an abandoned wagon and fell asleep almost immediately. Muldred studied the clerics at a distance. He desperately wanted to speak to Lodenico about all the things he, Muldred, still had to learn and understand. However, the master cleric and Masron were talking on the far side of the camp and Muldred knew enough that if he interrupted a master cleric or any other higher cleric than he without being summoned first, it would be a terrible insult. Even interrupting a higher cleric as he or she was dining would be offensive. So with a sigh, Muldred followed Jarveth's example and fell asleep after climbing into the mule cart. Myrthorn, made nervous by the arrival of so many armed men, had remained on the outskirts of the camp. After discovering that the men were clerics, he still did not feel comfortable approaching them. So since there was no battle, he crawled under the nearest wagon and fell into a light slumber.
Time passed and the moon rose high. An exhausted Ardrah and Brik reentered the camp, awoke their companions for their turn at guarding the wagons. It took a few minutes to locate Myrthorn but he dutifully rose and began a slow, methodical circling of the wagons trailing Muldred and Jarveth.
The rest of the night passed slowly but without incident, and as the sun began to rise, life returned to the camp. The grateful clerics collected their maces, thanked Masron, and in single file they proceeded down the road toward Pendboro.
Breakfast was eaten quickly and the fires then smothered. With impressive efficiency, the merchantmen hitched the horses as the sun fully crested the eastern horizon.
Horse and Brik galloped out of the camp and headed down the road toward the foothills. The rest of the guard assumed their same posts as the day before and the caravan squeaked and rattled into motion.
"Good morning, my lady," Kogon greeted Ardrah. He seemed in high spirits this morning, Ardrah noted, but she also caught a wary glance at her Claymore. She grinned to herself then turned her attention toward the route ahead. As on the previous day, Brik was about a quarter of a mile ahead of the caravan and the wagons caught up to him. Glancing over his shoulder at Ardrah he shook his head then galloped off again.
After two hours of travel the gradient of the road began to noticeably increase and hills rose on either side of the caravan. At first these hills were grass covered and dotted with majestic oaks, maples, and elms among others. But after two more hours of riding, the slopes steepened, the grass thinned, and the earlier deciduous trees gave way to large conifers. Spiky shrubs struggled to grow in the gaps between the pine trees and the soil became more and more choked with stones. The caravan had entered the fringe of the Keshladin chain.
The next time the wagons caught up to Brik, Ardrah suggested that he not range so far ahead.
"Don't go more than one hundred yards in front of us," Ardrah said as she scanned the sides of the narrowing trail. "That way you will remain within my sight and shouting distance."
"OK," Brik replied. "But how far is a hundred yards?" Horse whinnied softly and shuffled her hooves impatiently.
Ardrah fought the urge to roll her eyes, so instead she said, "Just be sure you can always see us clearly."
"OK," Brik grinned then he and Horse raced off.
The wagons slowed as the horses found it slightly more arduous pulling the wagons up the road in the foothills. It wasn't long before the sun had reached the peak of its climb but as before, the travelers ate as they rode.
About mid afternoon Ardrah noticed that there was a growing number of rocky outcroppings and clusters of boulders on the slopes of the trail. She guessed that some of the rocks and boulders had probably tumbled from the mountainsides in the near distance to the east and west, rising up like mighty cathedrals. Behind her eyes she could easily see avalanches caused by the torrential rains of the last few years. "It would be an ideal spot for an ambush," she said under her breath. Then her stomach tightened. Brik and Horse had halted abruptly. She saw Brik reach up and scratch his left shoulder which was the group's prearranged sign of trouble.
"We've got trouble," Ardrah said to Kogon. "Tell the rest of the wagon drivers."
Kogon repeated Ardrah's warning to another merchant seated at the rear of the lead wagon. The message was then relayed down the line quietly. This strategy had been devised since shouting a warning would alert the enemy that the merchants and guards were alerted to their presence. Apparently Brik had forgotten that earlier when he had spotted the riders whom, fortunately, had been benevolent.
The caravan ground to a halt mere feet from Brik and Horse who stepped aside giving a false impression of submission. A tall man stepped forward. His scraggly dark brown beard did nothing to improve or hide his grizzled features. He wore a threadbare coat which was crudely patched in several places. His trousers were held up with a rusty chain and dirty broken toenails protruded from a large hole in the toe of his left boot. "You are surrounded," he said in a voice that reminded Ardrah of a rusty key grating in an equally rusty lock in a dungeon. "Surrender your weapons and turn over all your goods." The last statement was emphasized by the highwayman drawing a surprisingly shiny longsword.
"Or else what?" Brik challenged.
"We shall kill you, all of you," the man grinned exposing yellowed crooked teeth.
Myrthorn caught only the last part of the conversation but that was enough. He loaded his crossbow and stood. An arrow chunked into the wooden bench right where he had been sitting only moments before. The sudden noise startled him and he jerked just as he fired. The bolt snapped past the highwayman's right ear missing it by six inches.
Eight more highwaymen leapt down the embankment around the fourth and fifth wagons, four on either side. Each man wielded a gleaming short sword.
Brik wielded Horse around and charged up the slope toward a cluster of boulders where he had caught sight of the bowman, ripping his blade free of its scabbard with a satisfying sing of steel. The bowman's eyes bulged as he saw the huge man and warhorse bearing down on him. He frantically knocked an arrow. Brik and Horse came flying over the boulders and the bastard broadsword sliced threw the air in a vicious downward arc cleaving the bowman's skull just as he released the arrow. The highwayman's arm jerked spasmodically as the arrow leapt from the bow striking a boulder and dropping impotently to the ground.
Brik wield horse around to face the caravan on the road below. He saw Myrthorn, with only his silver dagger, battling desperately with one of the highwayman. He and Horse were racing down the slope in an arc so as to hit the road charging up it alongside the wagons. He had to help his leader. Then with horror he saw the highwayman swat Myrthorn's dagger arm aside and ram his blade into the mage's side and up under his ribs. Myrthorn gasped, his eyes widening in surprise and sudden agony. Nerveless fingers dropped his dagger which thunked point first into the wooden bench. Then he crumpled, falling across the bench, his upper body draped over the back of the wagon with blood gushing from the grievous wound.
Brik roared with fury, the sound echoing high into the mountains. The highwayman turned, his face draining of all colour as he saw a horse and enraged rider thundering toward him. The shock of the inevitable turned his blood to solid ice. His brain only had time to issue one command. His jaws parted and he screamed as the horse mashed him into the ground, crushing every bone in his body. His scream was cut off as a hoof smashed his face.
When Brik had charged up the slope to attack the bowman, Ardrah, in one fluid motion, drew her claymore and vaulted off the lead wagon. Her blade flashed as she struck at the highwayman's head. He jerked back blades ringing as he barely got his sword up to parry her attack. He drove his sword at Ardrah's throat but she nimbly spun away. The momentum of his thrust caused him to step awkwardly forward but Ardrah's spin had also thrown her slightly off balance. She swung, intending to catch him on the side of his head, but instead her blade bit deeply into his shoulder. He grunted, staggered under the force of the blow, but he surprised Ardrah by chopping at her sword hand. His blade gashed her wrist and she gasped at the sudden pain. He followed up with a backhand swing at her neck, but Ardrah ducked and the blade rang off the side of her helmet. Spinning again, Ardrah weakly swung at the highwayman's head. The ploy worked. She saw him smirk as he ducked, but then with a lightning fast move, Ardrah reversed her blade and brought it down in a savage arc. The mouth gaped open erasing the smirk as his head thudded into the dirt.
She quickly tore a strip of cloth from her sleeve and wrapped it around her slashed wrist which was still dripping blood. She scanned the area and saw Jarveth in the centre wagon fighting for his life. She broke into a run.
Jarveth was completely on the defensive. On the right side of the wagon two highwaymen were hacking and slashing at him. Brik had taken care of one of the attackers courtesy of Horse. Jarveth hadn't seen Myrthorn fall. Three other men were on the left side of the wagon, their blades flashing and whipping through the air. Jarveth spun and dodged using his axe to smack blades aside. Sparks flew from the impact of steel against steel. Jarveth's light armor allowed him some protection but too many of the sword slashes were getting in under his armor. Blood was running freely down his arms, legs, and face. Jarveth saw two blades slashing at his head. He ducked and threw himself to the side, but an attacker on the opposite side of the wagon took advantage of Jarveth's exposed left side. His blade flashed slicing neatly through the stout dwarf's armor and biting deeply into his leg just above the knee. Jarveth grunted with the sudden pain and staggered but he did not, would not go down. However, his stamina was beginning to wane. Even a dwarf with the constitution of three humans could not stand against five armed attackers.
Suddenly, a battle cry split the air and Ardrah came at a dead run toward the group of three highwaymen engaging the dwarf. The men were startled by the unexpected sound which gave Jarveth the opening he desperately needed. His axe head was a blur as he delivered a savage, two-handed strike. With a sickening chunk Jarveth buried the head of his axe into the skull of one of the three attackers on his left. The man nearest to Ardrah turned to meet the enraged fighter bearing down on him. Their blades crashed, and that plus Ardrah's momentum, drove the man back. But Ardrah was unable to stop in time and that same momentum carried her a few steps past the highwayman, giving him an excellent opening. He delivered a vicious slash which struck Ardrah in the lower back. She staggered. The attacker pressed his advantage and chopped at her neck but she brought up her shield just in time to deflect his blade.
At the same time Ardrah engaged one of the highwaymen, Jarveth tore his axe from the ruined head of another highwayman and in a beautiful spinning move he leveled his axe as he spun toward the left side of the wagon. His blade sliced cleanly threw the first attacker's windpipe. There was a gurgling hiss as the man fell back and collapsed. The power and fury of Jarveth's swing caused the axe blade to be unimpeded as it passed through the first man's throat. The second man started to duck but the abruptness of the dwarf's attack had caught him off guard. Actually if he had remained standing erect the blade would have only taken off the tip of his nose. But his motion carried him right into the path of the axe which caught him full in the temple and splintering a good portion of his skull.
However, Jarveth paid for his sudden assault. One man was still battling Ardrah but the second highwayman found Jarveth's back to him. He lunged forward and drove the point of his sword into the lower back of Jarveth in the area of the kidney. It wasn't a clean strike since the man had had to lunge over the side of the wagon. Jarveth cried out and finally went down. Fortunately for the dwarf, the highwayman's reach had not been longer. The sword point had pierced thick muscle but did not find any vital organs.
At about the same time, the two remaining highwaymen saw their two companions fall. There were no other men from their group standing. The man fighting Ardrah gave her a vicious crack on the side of her helmet then both men broke and ran up the slope into the pine forest.
At the outset of the battle, Muldred found himself bracketed by a two men, one on either side of the cart. He only had time to stand and raise his war hammer before the two men fell upon him. He deflected the first blade with his hammer but the second blade caught him cleanly in the back of his head, staggering him. The man who had struck him swung again but missed badly. The first man underestimated Muldred in his injured state and did not swing his blade with all of his strength at the cleric's head. Muldred brought up his shield and the blade rang off the steel. Taking advantage of the man's surprise at not cleaving Muldred's skull, the cleric swung his war hammer. The iron head of the weapon slammed into the man's chest crushing his breastbone and sending the attacker hurtling backwards.
Muldred straightened in time to see Myrthorn fall. He also saw Myrthorn's attacker pounded into the dirt of the road. Moving his hands in a curious fashion, Muldred was suddenly engulfed in a translucent blue aura. He had invoked a spell of repell evil. This would protect him from any more attacks until he rejoined the battle. "Brik!" Muldred cried. Brik Wield Horse around at the sound of his name. "I'll get Myrthorn, take care of him," and he pointed at his remaining attacker who, seeing Brik, dropped his sword and ran. Brik charged after the fleeing man.
Muldred quickly felt the back of his head. There was a deep cut but his skull had not been fractured. He tore a strip of cloth from his garments and fashioned a crude headband which he tied tightly around his head. He then scrambled out of the cart and ran to Myrthorn's inert form half-dangling over the back end of one of the wagons. For an instant the world spun and tilted due to the loss of blood but Muldred clutched the side of the wagon and took several steadying breaths. When the ground righted itself, Muldred climbed into the wagon and pulled his leader's body back into the wagon. He felt Myrthorn's neck and was relieved to feel a weak pulse. He brought out a bottle containing a potion of healing. Popping the stopper he parted Myrthorn's lips and slowly poured the clear elixir down his throat. Moments later Myrthorn coughed, gasped, then groaned. His eyes opened and he looked around.
"You must have taken a brutal slash which nearly cost you your life," Muldred answered. "Now stay down we're both in no condition to fight."
Jarveth saw the two highwaymen fleeing into the pine forest. He'd be damned if he'd let these slime puddles escape. Gritting his teeth against the pain, he got to his feet and jumped to the ground. He gasped as he struck the ground but he managed to keep his legs under him and he pounded after the retreating men.
Brik easily caught up with the fleeing highwayman. He casually reached down, gripped the collar of his tunic, and hauled the man off his feet. The highwayman struggled, legs churning in mid air but going absolutely nowhere. Brik bellowed with laughter at the man's threats. He had dropped his sword when his feet left the ground and Brik thought he looked like a lizard caught between someone's thumb and forefinger. He had sheathed his sword when he had begun the chase and now he reined in Horse and swung down from his back.
"You!" Brik suddenly heard coming up from behind him. He turned and was surprised to see Ardrah running flat out toward Brik with her sword raised high over her head. Her eyes blazed with hatred and he realised that she was intending to skewer his captive. Still holding the highwayman in the air, Brik stepped into Ardrah's path. Startled, she slowed which gave Brik the opportunity to reach over and grip her sword arm.
"Brik!" she screamed. "You fool! What are you doing? Protecting him?" She stabbed at finger at the highwayman. "He's lower than a snake and deserves to die," she fumed, spittle flying from between clenched teeth.
"He might have some answers to some questions or other valuable information," Brik calmly replied.
Ardrah struggled and thrashed but Brik's grip was like an iron bar wrapped around her wrist. After a few seconds more of struggling, she actually saw the pathetic man in Brik's other hand. She lowered her head and sword in shame. Brik released her and she took a few steps back. "Bloody hell, Brik. I'm glad you're on our side."
Off among the trees to the left there came a sudden crashing of steel and a scream. "Jarveth!" Ardrah cried breaking into a run. The deep gash in her lower back burned like fire and her vision was beginning to blur at the edges due to the loss of blood which was still dripping from the wound, but she gritted her teeth and plunged on. Suddenly she heard a dull thud and another scream. Abruptly she came upon a man whose breastbone had been totally smashed even through his leather armor. She spotted another man casually sitting against the trunk of a nearby pine. She whirled to face him and rammed her blade clean through his chest.
"He was already dead," Jarveth said from beneath another pine tree.
A bit sheepish, Ardrah freed her sword and turned. The dwarf was leaning against the trunk of another pine tree a few yards from where Ardrah stood. He was splotched with blood and red streaks even criss-crossed his thick beard, but he grinned in spite of it all. "Quite a battle," was all he said.
Ardrah started trotting back to the wagons but the pain lancing through her back brought her up short. She winced as she touched the wound for the first time. She took a deep breath and gingerly walked through the pine trees with Jarveth following right behind her.
The Game of Wari - A Very Accessible Strategy Board Game
Article By David Greenwood.
The Game of Wari goes by many names, such as Mancala, Awari, Awarri, and a few spelling variations.
I came across this board game not too long ago, which I found totally accessible, not to mention, a whole lot of fun.
Let me start by first describing the rules:
Each player has 24 playing pieces on the board. Four pieces are put in each of the six bins on each player's side of the board. The two larger bins at each end of the board are called Mancala. These are left empty at the start of the game. Your six bins are in front of you, while your opponent's are just behind your bins. Your Mancala is to the right of your bins, and your opponent's Mancala is to your left. Since you sit across from your opponent, he will view his Mancala and bins exactly as you view yours.
The player whose turn it is takes all of the pieces from any bin on their side of the board. Moving counter-clockwise, the player drops one piece into each bin that they come to. This action is also known as sowing the pieces.
If the player comes to their own Mancala, they drop a piece into it. Sowing proceeds around the board with pieces dropped into the bins on the opponent's side as the bins are reached.
If the player comes to their opponent's Mancala, they skip over it without dropping a piece. If the player's last piece lands in their own Mancala, they get to go again. Otherwise, it becomes the opponent's turn.
If the last piece that a player drops goes into one of their own empty bins, they capture any of the opponent's playing pieces in the bin directly across from theirs. When pieces are captured, they go into the Mancala of
the player who captured them, along with the piece that was responsible for the capture. Following a capture, it is the opponent's turn.
The game ends when all six bins on one side of the board are empty, or when one player has more than half of all stones on the board in their Mancala. If game over is achieved by emptying one side of the board, all of the stones remaining on the other side are swept into the Mancala owned by the player
with the empty bins. The player with the most pieces in their Mancala after the board is swept wins.
The game's rules are very simple, but there is quite a bit of strategy involved. The board I use was purchased from a local Toys R Us, with the brand name Wari, but the board could be made very easily from stuff lying around the house. Since the game is several hundred years old, there isn't any problem with copyright infringements. The pieces could be buttons, pennies, pumpkin seeds, or what have you. The playing area could be a collection of small saucers, rounded pockets chiselled into a board, or any collection of shallow containers.
If you have any questions, or you are interested in other game variations of Wari, contact me at [email protected].
Echoes From The Past: Anniversary Contest
By Michael Feir
It has long been traditional on anniversaries to reflect on and learn about the past. At the end of each year, the key events of the previous one are taken stock of. Previous issues of Audyssey have featured articles which I have chosen to re-print. However, in keeping with our drive to become a more interactive publication, I think it is time to start a brand new tradition. The purpose of this tradition will be to reward readers who take the time to learn about where this community has come from that they may better guide its future development. It will also reward one of the companies who develop games that are specifically made accessible to the blind. From this year onward, it will be an annual event. Below are questions about ten different items and/or events whose answers lie in past issues of Audyssey. Anyone who successfully finds all of the answers will have proved him/herself a diligent and devoted reader of the magazine. Staff members and game developers are not eligible to win this prise. And what is "this prise"? You, the readers, will know that better than I. Simply put, I will purchase for the winner any single game they choose as long as it is created by a game developer that designs games specifically to be accessible without sighted assistance to blind players. If the winner wishes to, he/she may even choose as his/her prise a game which is not yet available at the closing of this contest. Should plans for a chosen unfinished game be cancelled, the winner may, of course, choose a different game. The contest will run from August 28th until the 15th of October. Any entries received outside these dates will not be considered. The first reader to correctly answer all questions within the allowed time will win the first annual Echoes From The Past Prise. The winner will also be announced in the next issue of Audyssey along with the correct answers to the questions. It is my sincere hope that all who choose to take on this voyage into Audyssey's past will find it an enjoyable and enlightening experience. It has been said that without a past, there is no future. By participating in this contest, you will, at the very least, gain a better sense of that past. Through this better sense of our shared history, I hope that participants will feel better equipped to help shape our shared future. The questions await your pleasure below: Best of luck to everyone.
Item 1: Many sports fans have joined the Audyssey community over the years despite the slim pickings for them. There are still relatively few sports games for enthusiasts to enjoy. Two very different Baseball games sparked a historic moment where readers finally started reacting to each other's writing. Who were the antagonists in the debate? What contribution was its initial cause? What was its final outcome? Which issues of Audyssey contained the back-and-forth exchange?
Item 2: Personal Computer Systems Inc. have long been a part of the Audyssey community. Over the years, they have shown an innovative and generous spirit which has added much to our enjoyment. Long may this continue. In which issue of Audyssey did PCS first appear?
Item 3: The fifth issue of Audyssey was the least satisfying and enjoyable issue I've ever worked on. It has always stood out as being the lowest point in Audyssey's four-year history. What factors contributed to this?
Item 4: Adam, The Immortal Gamer has been a cherished part of many issues of Audyssey. Which game did this esteemed obsessed gamer get sucked into in the very first episode?
Item 5: Multi-user dungeons or "muds" have continued to bounce in and out of the keen interest of Audyssey readers for quite a long time. These worlds forged from words make for excellent places for the blind to hang out and participate in thrilling adventures. Who was the first to write an extensive article about these on-line communities? What was this article called? In which issue did this article appear?
Item 6: For quite a while now, each issue of Audyssey has seen somebody receive a free game from PCS for their contribution to that issue. This generosity on the part of PCS has rewarded many fine pieces of writing, and will hopefully continue to do so. Who was the first winner of a free game from PCS? Which issue of Audyssey did this happen in?
Item 7: Those who have chosen to become staff members have given very generously of their time, thoughts, and efforts over the years. Also, they have offered me a very much appreciated reliable source of material to construct issues of Audyssey with. In doing so, they have earned my gratitude and that of the Audyssey community as a whole. In which issue did I first put forth a call for staff members?
Item 8: David Lant has proved to be one of our most prolific and resourceful contributors over the years. He is ever at the ready to join in discussions, and has offered us more than one excellent article. This community and I personally owe Mr. Lant much thanks for a lot of delightful reading. Any advantage he gains by being the subject of this part of the contest has been well and truly earned. In which issue did he write an article where he mentioned a fountain of youth? What was it called?
Item 9: Letters have been the glue that has held the Audyssey community together. This was even more the case prior to Travis Siegel's starting up the Audyssey discussion list. Letters from all of our readers both on and off this list are of vital importance to Audyssey's growth and survival. Rob DeZonia wrote one such letter. In what issue did it appear? Which unfinished game from PCS was he eagerly awaiting? To what did he attribute a loss of brain cells?
Item 10: Everybody makes mistakes, and I am certainly not the exception to prove that rule. One of my first truly infamous mistakes was made at the expense of a member of the Audyssey staff. Who was this unfortunate soul, and what was the mistake to which I refer?
Consoles vs pc's
Article by Jay Pellis
In 1972, huge computers called mainframes were invented, and were able to
perform short tasks such as math calculations. Soon after, Adventure, the
first text adventure was created, and people realised that computers were
more then oversized calculators, they realised that games can be created
and played on them. At about the same time, electronic arcade style games
such as Pong and tank were becoming popular at bars and in amusement
parks. These 2 events gave birth to the powerful game playing capabilities
of today's computers, and also to the game playing devices known as
consoles. In this article, I would like to discuss the advantages and
disadvantages of the computer and the console. I also hope to answer the
question "is it better to own a computer, console or both?"
Most if not all computer games made today are distributed on the CD
medium. They use to be on floppy disks but companies found that the CDs
could hold much more information then disks. The same can be said for
console games, they are now on CD, where as they use to be on
cartridges. Cartridges were almost the same as floppy disks, they didn't
hold much information or storage space for sound, graphics, and music. On
occasion, floppy disks are still used to hold software, as are
cartridges. The only cartridge based system now a days is the nintendo64,
which is the lowest selling system of recent sales. One reason for this is
it's use of cartridges to hold game information. The quality of the n64's
games is close to but not exceeding the quality of the high selling Sony
Playstation or Sega Dreamcast systems, which do use CDs for there game
information. Also, the cost of developing a cartridge is much higher then
the cost of making CD based games, so more and more game developers are
stopping production of n64 games.
When buying games for the PC, there are many factors to consider. Most
importantly, the system requirements. Most gamers know everything there is
to know about their computer system specs. For example, my system
specifications are windows98, a pentium500 processor, 128 megabytes of ram,
a 12 gigabit hard drive, and a 32-speed CD-ROM drive. The above example
is listed on the back of every game box. If you or someone reads it, and
sees for example that the game requires a pentium90 processor and 32mb of
ram, and you have a pentium200 processor and 64mb of ram, then you will be
able to run the game with little or no problems encountered. Many games
when they are first released have some problems that are found in the game,
such as the game abruptly exiting back to windows when you are in the
middle of playing it. That means if you haven't saved your progress in the
game, you must spend 3 more hours or however long you've been playing
progressing to the spot where the game exited to windows or in computer
terms, the game crashed. To fix these problems, game companies release
downloadable updates that are called patches. These patches fix many
problems encountered in games, and the games then usually run better then
they did before. Imagine if you will, a plumber fixing a leaky sink, well,
the patch for the game fixes problems associated with that particular game.
There is also the problem of having computers that are so fast, the games
will run faster then they are intended to. I have ran in to this problem
myself with games for MS-DOS, so I have an old computer with a Pentium75
processor, and I use it to run MS-DOS games. CD based games aren't
confined to windows only, some great games have been developed for
DOS. When a game is run in DOS, it usually will never crash, and you will
have smooth game play throughout. Of course, your computer must be
configured properly to run DOS games, and that can become very complicated
to complete. So if you'd like to play old DOS games, either run them in a
DOS window in windows95/98 which works most of the time, play them on an
older computer or why not play them on a console?
The console I will be speaking of is the Sony Playstation, since all I own
is a Playstation and PC. The Playstation is a bit different then a PC. It
has a CD-ROM drive like a PC but it doesn't have any other PC components
except a mouse that must be bought separately, and that is only if you'd be
playing adventure games. There is no need to worry about system
requirements for consoles, if you bought the system in 1998, and the Newest
Final Fantasy game is released next week, you can still run the game on
your system. Instead of using a keyboard to control the game, you use a
controller, which was explained in a previous article. The genres of games
for the Playstation are as numerous as for the PC, spanning such genres as
sports, adventure, and RPG. In fact, many PC games are ported over to the
Playstation, and they play exactly as they would play on a PC. Since there
is no way to download updates to games, the games released for consoles are
usually problem free. Very rarely have I encountered games crashing on
consoles, and if they have crashed, it is because I did something that the
game wasn't expecting. Games on consoles require no installation, you just
place the CD in the system, and turn it on. The system will start, and the
game will then start. So no worries about hard drive space either. To
save your games, you will need a memory card. This small device gets
placed in memory card slots that are on the Playstation, and they allow you
to save your progress in games such as adventure or role playing games. A
downside to the console however is loading times. Since the games run
directly off of the CD, the system must access the CD all the time. It
does load some of the game in to it's memory but most of it runs directly
off of the CD. This means mostly short but sometimes long waiting periods
with in the game. For example, if you are moving from one location to
another in an adventure game, you might have to wait a few seconds for the
game to access the CD to load up that location. Also, many great games
were only released for the Playstation and other consoles, however they
were not released for the PC. These games consist of mostly very well done
turn based RPGs that are great to play with sighted friends. I feel that
they would sell well if they were released for computers.
It seems with today's computers, you can do so much more then with just a
console. You can watch movies, and use the Internet for example. Well
that is about to change with the newly released Sega Dreamcast, and the
upcoming Playstation 2. These consoles will have the ability of letting
the user access the Internet, download game updates, and play other players
online. The Playstation 2 will also have a built in DVD player, so you can
now watch DVD movies. There are no such things as screen readers for
consoles, so to browse the net, you'll need sighted assistance. However,
games, and DVDs will likely be accessible by people memorising the menu
selections. For example, if the DVD player appears on the screen, and the
play control is 3 down, you'd move the directional pad down 3 times, then
press the start button, and the movie will play. An example of this
accessibility is the Sony Playstation CD player. Whenever an audio CD is
inserted, the Playstation displays an audio CD player. Each function of
the player is assigned to a button. For example, the X button will play,
the start button will pause, and the l1 and r1 buttons will move from song
Computers have jumped on the console bandwagon as well, with there use of
controllers. Controllers can be bought for the PC, and be connected to the
joystick port in the back of your PC. They can then be used with games in
windows or DOS such as action or sports or RPG games, just like a
console. Certain programs also support a controllers use such as the
winamp media player. This player lets you use your controller to play,
stop or pause a song.
I hope I have educated everyone about consoles and computers. As you can
see, they each have there advantages and disadvantages. It's your choice
what you want to use to play games, either a computer, a console or both.
A Sony Playstation is available for around $90 US. The price is now
dropping because of the upcoming release of the Playstation 2. Games for
the Playstation cost around $40 when they are first released but the prices
drop gradually, until you can find the same game a few months later for $20
or lower. The same applies for the PC. Also, there are usually sections
in computer stores that sell used or previously owned games for very cheap
prices, usually between $10 and $20.
Accessibility of Interactive Fiction Interpreters
by Justin Fegel
There is no question that Tads and Inform are the most widely used interactive fiction development systems. How good the resulting games are really depends on how well the respective author has mastered the syntax, but most of today's top IF authors choose one or the other of these two fantastic development packages. The Audyssey community seems to prefer Tads and Inform games as the interpreters needed to play these games have been found to be quite accessible with screen readers.
Recently, I received a question from a reader regarding the accessibility and where to locate games for some other game systems on the if-archive at ftp://ftp.gmd.de. In the programming directory of the if-archive there are quite a number of game packages and it took some time to narrow down my choices of what to cover. I decided to stay away from software that hadn't been updated for some time, software that was obviously not run in DOS or Windows, and software that was designed to write and run games in languages other than English.
The game systems I will be covering are Tads, Inform, Agt, Hugo, Alan, Quest, and Adrift. When playing games in Windows using any of the Windows versions of the following interpreters, you need to set your screen reader's screen echo to all. In JFW, which is my screen reader, you can do this by typing insert-S. This keystroke will toggle you through the three states of screen echo: none, highlighted, and all. If you own a screen reader other than JFW, consult your documentation for how to change your screen echo.
Tads, the Text Adventure Development System, has been around for about the last ten years. It has become one of the top two IF development systems today. It was originally shareware until about 1996 when its author, Michael J. Roberts, made it freeware. Mr. Roberts has continued to maintain the software however, and should soon be releasing version 3.0.
Early versions of the Tads run-time, the program that reads the compiled game file, did not work well with speech. I remember playing Deep Space Drifter, an early Tads adventure, and it was bundled with a version one interpreter. My screen reader would not read automatically, so I had to use my review keys to read the screen, and this is no fun when playing a text adventure. Since version two however, accessibility has been perfect. I remember reading some years ago, soon after version 2.1 came out that one of the improvements had been to make it work better with screen access software.
Games that are compiled with Tads end with the extension .GAM. The best place to find Tads games is at ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/tads. Which of the interpreters you download will depend on your system and what you are comfortable working in. If you prefer DOS, you will download one of the DOS-based interpreters. If you would like to play some of the newer games that offer multimedia graphics and sound effects and you are comfortable with Windows, you will want to get the HTML Tads interpreter. You can also use WinTads, which is a text-only version of the run-time for Windows. JFW works great with both of these interpreters. To download Tads, go to ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/programming/tads/executables.
The Inform system appeared shortly after Tads. The unique thing about Inform is that the file format of a compiled game is the same format as the game files produced by Infocom. The files Inform produces are more commonly referred to as story files or zcode files. Inform files usually end with a .Z5 or .Z8 extension. Occasionally, you will find a file with a .Z3 or .Z6 extension, but there aren't many of these.
There are a couple interpreters available that can run Inform games, but the two that are the most accessible to screen readers is DosFrotz for DOS and WinFrotz for Windows. DosFrotz works great with DOS screenreaders, but WinFrotz does require a little tweaking. If WinFrotz is not reading correctly for you, you can do the following. Go to the view menu where you will have several options. In the display options, set the program to use dual colour, lock the window size, and set the screen updates to "very frequent." You should also make sure you are using a regular font. Note: This helps the program work much better with JFW. I'm not sure how it works with other screen readers.
One thing you should be aware of, especially those new to all of this, since the games that Inform creates are in the exact same format as Infocom's old games, DosFrotz and WinFrotz can actually play games by Infocom. The only difference is that Infocom games end with a .DAT extension. All of the Infocom games, with the exception of the Zork trilogy, still have to be purchased. Activision sells a CD-ROM called the Master Pieces of Infocom. Otherwise, you can find inform games at ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/zcode. To download one of the Frotz interpreters, go to ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/infocom/interpreters.
Agt, the Adventure Game Tool Kit, has been around since the late eighties. Originally shareware, the entire system was released as freeware around the mid 1990's by the authors. There are many Agt games available as, for a long time, Agt was the development system of choice for many IF authors before Tads and Inform came in to their own. Agt games can be found at ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/agt.
A compiled Agt game consists of several files. In most situations, an interpreter program is included with each game. One reason for this is that there are about three editions of the system. They are the Classic Edition, The Big version, which I believe, allows for more locations and objects, and the Master's Edition, which allows for the inclusion of graphics and multimedia sounds. The run program for the Classic version is called run.exe, for the Big version the program is called runb.exe, and for the Masters edition the program is called mrun.exe.
The run program is a DOS program. In order to have your DOS screen reader read automatically when playing an Agt game type the following at the command prompt:
run <gamename> /b
The /b switch causes the run program to send the output through the BIOS, which works beautifully with DOS screen readers. If you do not include the /b option, the program will write directly to the screen and you will not hear the text automatically spoken.
Hugo is a freeware IF development package that has been available since around 1995. Even though it has been around for quite a while, it has only been over the last few months that there have been efforts to make the interpreter more accessible. Hugo's author, Kent Tessman, has become aware of the Audyssey community and the fact that his system has not been very accessible to those of us who use screen readers and he has shown a willingness to remedy this problem. Recently, he has released a text-only version of the DOS interpreter and that file can be downloaded at ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/programming/hugo/executables/hugov25_16bit_simple.zip.
The Windows 9X version could use a little work though. I had some initial trouble with Jaws reading the text correctly. Words were broken up and overall, it sounded very choppy. I was able to correct this problem by tinkering with the font settings and Jaws reads much better now. The problem I have is Jaws reads the entire screen, including new information that has just appeared, plus any previously information. There is a command that will clear the screen, but that will only last for one turn.
A temporary work around, at least for Jaws users, would be to assign a keystroke to a script that you would call after you typed in your command and before you press enter. The script could do a ctrl-d, which is the command for clearing the screen, answer "yes" to the dialogue that asks you to confirm, and then send a "enter" keystroke to Hugo to execute the command. Any script writers want to take a crack at this? Hopefully, Mr. Tessman can address this problem. The Windows version of the interpreter is at ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/programming/hugo/executables/hugov30_win32.zip.
Game files compiled with Hugo end with an extension of .HEX. The selection of games is still small, but you can find Hugo games at ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/hugo.
Alan has been around since about the mid 1990s and is short for, appropriately enough, Adventure Language. A compiled Alan game consists of two files. One file has an extension of .ACD and the second file has an extension of .DAT. Both files are needed in order to play a game. There is not a large selection of Alan games, but you can find some at ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/alan.
Both the DOS and Windows versions of the Alan interpreter are very accessible. The Windows version is actually a windows console application, which means if you launch the program it will take you in to a DOS box. If you use the Windows interpreter you will still want to use your DOS screen reader. The DOS interpreter is at ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/programming/alan/executables/arun281dos.zip. The Windows interpreter is at ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/programming/alan/executables/arun286bwin.zip.
Quest is a totally Windows-based interactive fiction system. You will have to be running Windows 95 or later in order to play Quest games. Games developed with Quest will either end with an extension of .ASL or .CAS. There are no Quest games on the IF archive. Instead go to http://www.axeuk.com/quest/games.htm.
Quest is shareware, but if you are only interested in playing games and not developing them, you don't need to shell out the $20.00 registration fee. In the evaluation version, the game editor, where you actually create the game, you can only create .ASL files. ASL files can be read and executed by the quest run-time, but people can also view your source code and thus cheat. The full version, called Quest Pro, will allow you to create .CAS files which are compiled versions of .ASL files so your source code is hidden.
When I first began playing with Quest, I was having many of the same access problems that I used to have with WinFrotz and am still having with Hugo, meaning that far too much information on the screen is being spoken. I was unable to resolve this problem through Quest's options menu, but I was able to do some customisation with Jaws and things are now working much better.
Before I mention what I did, let me describe the main game screen a little. After you have selected and started your game, you go to the main game window where you are placed in an edit field where you type your commands. The main part of the screen will contain the usual descriptions just like a normal text adventure. If however, you hit your tab key, you will find that you can tab around the screen. You will encounter a couple list boxes, some buttons, and a couple of read-only fields. The list boxes list the objects and characters in a particular location and other fields display your current location and the items you are carrying. The buttons are "quick action" buttons. A person could highlight an object or character, click on one of the buttons, and perform an action without having to type it in.
My point in discussing this is because, with your screen reader set to echo all text, when you execute your command you will hear the description but you will hear everything else on the screen as these various other fields are updated. This is not fun when you are trying to listen to a room description and in the middle of it you suddenly hear the list of quick action buttons. What I have done is built frames around the various screen areas where these items seem to be and I have made them silent. This has proven to be very helpful, as the screen reads more fluently now. Also, the couple of games I have examined so far don't seem to have implemented an inventory command, so for my frame near the top of the screen where the list of items in your possession is, I have set up a hot key to read it. To download Quest, go to ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/programming/quest/q217full.zip.
Adrift is a last minute edition to this article as I kind of stumbled on it a few days ago. Like Quest, Adrift is a rather new IF system and also requires you are running at least Windows 95. The Adventure Runner program, which you need to play Adrift games, reads files that end with .TAF short for, appropriately enough, text adventure file. These files are produced with the Adventure Generator program. There are no Adrift games at the IF archive. Instead you can download games from http://www.tardis.ed.ac.uk/~jcw/adrift.
The adventure runner program seems to work pretty well with JFW. I have noticed though, after about five to ten turns, you will start to hear previous information that you have already heard being read again. At this point you will have to go to the options menu and select the "clear screen" option and your back in business for a few more turns. One could probably write a Jaws script that could, with a single keystroke, go and click the clear screen option. After about five turns or so, you would just type this keystroke and keep right on playing. I'm still exploring the features of this program and so I don't have much else to say about it. To try this program out yourself, go to ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/programming/adrift/adrift38.zip.
Well, I hope this article was informative. I had to cover quite a few gaming packages and try not to be too lengthy. If you would like more information on using some of the programs mentioned here, you should read the Playing the Interactive Fiction Archive Games FAQ found at ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/info/playgame.faq. If there are any questions I can answer, I can be reached at the e-mail address listed in the Contacting Us section of this magazine.
Happy fourth anniversary Audyssey!
Game Announcements and Reviews:
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.
Jay Pellis has stumbled across the following game which has not yet received any reviews:
I'd thought I'd let everyone know that I found another text based RPG on the IF archive. It's actually an old game, I remember playing it a few years ago. It's called ShadowLands 1: the Tower of Iron, and it's in the games\tads directory. It was released in 1993, and it seems to have been
part of a trilogy in progress but it was never completed. However, this game is much like Legends, another text RPG out there. I enjoy it very much so far, it has a nice blend of fantasy with modern weaponry. Have fun
Also on the interactive fiction front, there are still a lot of games which have not received formal reviews. Mulldoon's Legacy lies in waiting for the intrepid puzzle-solver. Ballerina, Augmented Fourth, and all of the Hugo games still have not been examined by the Audyssey community at large.
The NetHack DevTeam is pleased to announce the release of NetHack 3.3.1.
NetHack 3.3.1 is an enhancement to the dungeon exploration game NetHack. It is a distant descendent of Rogue and Hack, and a direct descendent of NetHack 3.2 and 3.3.0.
This version fixes many, many bugs and focuses primarily on
stabilising the features and changes introduced to the game
in 3.3.0. A security fix is also included as well as a few extra
Here is a brief overview of new additions and changes to the game. To give
more would be cheating, wouldn't it?
o New warning system that is more pleasant than the old one
o Restored Amiga port functionality courtesy Janne Salmijarvi
o Restored Atari port functionality courtesy Christian "Marvin" Bressler
o The Gnome toolkit interface is now offered as an experimental option
that was recently rolled into the NetHack source tree
The NetHack 3.3.1 source code supports many different platforms including most Unix versions. In addition to source code support, we've supplied
binaries for DOS, Win32, Apple Macintosh (tm), and Linux (tm). Binaries for OS/2 (tm), Atari (tm), and Amiga (tm) will be available shortly.
To download the game, go to the NetHack website and download from the downloads page at <http://www.nethack.org> . There are two mirrors
of the sources and binaries available to reduce the load on our server. If you are outside the USA or Canada, you can try either of the following:
For the DevTeam...
Tony Baechler has brought the following site to the attention of the Audyssey community. Despite some initial interest, a more formal review is still unavailable.
Hello. Well, this might interest some of you, so here goes. Sorry about the bad formatting. I looked briefly at the site and it has potential. I have not listened yet. Maybe someone can review this for the next issue of
From: Curt Siffert:
Some of you may remember that I launched a website a while back that lets groups of authors write "branching fiction" (kinda like choose-your-own-adventure)
together. It's fairly well put together, at least compared to other sites I've seen.
Since then a buddy and I have started doing audio dramatisations of some of these stories - narration's, character voices, background music, etc. We put
Them up on mp3.com. It's very cool, you listen to the first episode, make choices, etc. So the story is different every time you listen to it (unless you're silly
enough to make the same choices every time).
Please come check it out at
if you think that sounds cool. We're adding more episodes and stories all the time. The
current story is still in progress but we give updates often about new episodes -
soon we'll be uploading a larger story that is actually complete - 75 episodes total
and countless storylines that weave through it.
If you listen enough then mp3.com will actually pay me, which will be nice since I like the support. :-) It's all free for you, of course - it just means you're supporting me by listening.
Thanks, hope you enjoy it!
A New Dope Wars Version
Published by Beermat Software (www.beermatsoftware.com/dopewars/)
Announcement by: James Peach
Well over a year ago, I had announced the creation of the politically incorrect Dope Wars, in Audyssey Magazine. Since then, many changes and improvements have been introduced into the game, and the community surrounding it, including it's move into the Windows OS, and the
various ports to other OS's.
For those of you either new to the community, who haven't read or don't remember, my preview
of Dope Wars for DOS, allow me to explain. Dope Wars, based on the DOS-based classic Drug
Wars, is a narcotics buying/trading simulator. You, as an upstart dealer, could move about six
neighbourhoods, peddling your wares, all the while avoiding mugging, competition and the
police. If you're into guessing stock prices, gambling, and like to be less than lawful sometime,
then Dope Wars might just be your thing. Ever since the title was created on April 20, 1999, the
title has gained a cult following, with the most devout devoting much time to porting the
simulator to operating systems like: Linux/Unix, MaxOS 8, and even to Palm OS! Below is a
complete listing of all the current ports and their version numbers:
DOS 6.0 - version 1.0
WIndow9X - version 2.0
Mac OS 8 - version 2.0
Linux/Unix - version 1.4.2
BeOS - version (unsure)
Palm OS 2 - version 2.2
As you can observe, the support for this type of entertainment is quite strong; nobody goes and
ports software for the helluva it, unless they either like it a lot, it's popular or both, with the last
seeming to the most truthful. It's popularity has even spawned an imitator (the highest form of
flattery?), in the form of Narcotics, another Windows-based software entertainment piece
developed by MG Interactive. Also, Dope Wars 1.2 (Beermat's moved to Windows), was voted
a Cnet "Top Pick," and not many titles make that kind of cut at Cnet's Download.com site. Can
it get any better?
Well, the developers down at Beermat obviously think that a good thing can be improved, in
order to make it better. With this in mind, on August 1st of this year, they released Dope Wars
2.0! With vast improvements and additions made over their last Windows release, it appears
that they've achieved their goal: don't change a good thing, unless it makes it better.
It would be performing an injustice on the game, if I didn't at least inform you of the changes
from the DOS version, for the 1.2 Windows version. Below is a listing of the said new and
improved features, so as not the keep you ill informed:
Version 1.2 (v220.127.116.11)-(Including Beta v18.104.22.168)
'New Game' and 'Exit' button added to game window.
Purchase price of drugs now displayed in trenchcoat window.
'Trade City' data moved to file to allow updates to the City list.
'Finish' button appears on last day, to close trading.
New web site created to automate registration of scores.
Sound added to certain events, plus menu item to enable/disable sounds.
Score encryption method changed from insecure 'white noise' generator to a more secure 32 bit
'Finances' button added to game window. You can now manage your finances at any time at no
'New Game' menu item, to allow restart of the game after 5 days if you are on a bad run.
NOTE: There is obviously a predecessor Windows-based version, that I had failed to mention,
but then again, that might simply be the beta version.
Compared to the DOS version, it would appear that this new version for Windows is a huge step
forward. But wait, there's more! Since August 1st of 2000, there has been a new release
(version 2.0), which promises even MORE and better, than what has already come to pass. The
above listing, was only mentioned, to give you an idea of the program's progress, and mostly
because I had missed that update before. Again, the following is a list of the new features, as
taken from the Beermat Software website:
Version 2.0 (v2001)-(Including BETA v2000)
15, 60 and 90 day game length (registered version only)
Price History window (registered version only)
Loan Sharks, to borrow money off during the game
'Flatter' and more varied drug pricing model to increase the skill factor
Dope Wars Super Store, for purchasing guns and ammo
More useable interface - less clicking around closing windows!
Stronger encryption of score keys, to help deter cheating in the World Tables
Ability to download top 5 scores from the website for each game length
Hospital button, to buy some healin' when the cops or loan sharks hurt you too much
More options for fighting, running and staying when Officer Hardass comes a-calling
Fly to new cities during the game, as well as travel within your current city
Think you could live without kneecaps? If you don't really wanna find out, you'd better pay off
your loan sharks in this game; loan sharks can make it happen, so don't tempt them. Such
obstacles aside, the ability to visit other cities, and their respective neighbourhoods is a very nice
feature. Expanding your "empire" is one thing, and running from Officer Hardass is another,
and so therein lies the advantages of city-hopping. My only quirk, is the Databank box, which
displays amount of days remaining, cash on hand, in the bank and owing, and weapons rack; it
doesn't seem to be accessible, due to non-standard formatting of number (looks more link a
graphic than text), and there's no other way to gain this info that I can find. This could pose a
serious problem, but we'll wait and see what develops.
Stan Bobbitt has no doubt thrilled blind sports fans everywhere with the following on-line find: If any of such fans give this site a looking over, please send your impressions to us as well as any helpful information for others who might care to strut their stuff on the Internet.
Hello Audyssey list,
Since I became a member of the Audyssey mailing list, I have seen a lot of posts concerning sports games, especially, football. As well, while reading and HTML-lizing Audyssey magazine, I have noticed the mention of football in at least 6 issues.
Last night I had some free time to surf around the Net.
I was playing one of my accounts at swirve.com. As I was logging out, I noticed the link:
so I clicked it.
Believe it or not, I found not only web based football, but basketball, baseball, and hockey as well.
I signed up for a "fantasy Football" account to see if it was
accessible. So far, it is!
The game is played using frames, links, combo boxes, tables, and forms, quite similar to utopia. I haven't checked out the basketball, baseball, or hockey, but I'm sure that they are the same.
The remainder of this post was taken directly from the swirve.com web
If you're interested in one of the other sports, go to one of the addresses
COMPLETELY FREE TO PLAY - JOIN TODAY!
Interested in owning and running your very own NFL team? Well, now you can!
Start with $50,000,000 and put together your dream team... Cut players who aren't performing; sign any real-life professional player to your team.
Join Swirve.com's 2000 Football season coming in July and experience the most unique and exciting fantasy gaming system on the Internet! For those of you
who are new to fantasy sports, it's extremely easy to learn. For the experts, Swirve Fantasy Football provides something different from the same old stuff you'll find elsewhere!
Many of you are probably wondering just what Fantasy Sports really are. You may have heard the term (or, maybe not), but until you've played a game, it's
difficult to understand just what they are - and how exciting they can be for the average sports fan!
Essentially, Fantasy Sports are a way to take your interest in watching professional sports to an entirely new level. Lots of us fans have our own opinions about players and teams - who should be traded, how we could improve our
Regardless of your favourite teams & sports -- MLB, NBA, NFL, or NHL --
Swirve Fantasy Sports games offer you the opportunity to step into a General Manager's shoes and make the tough decisions. Create your own team; add and release
players throughout the season; manage your team's payroll and watch as your team competes with tens of thousands of opponents. In the end, the top teams standing will win thousands of dollars in prizes!
The unique Swirve Sports design offers a diverse array of strategies, and is friendly to new players. Even better, it's never too late to join. Even if the season is already in progress, you'll have an opportunity to catch the
leaders -- of course, it will take some shrewd decision-making, but anything is possible!
To get started, simply select a sport, read the rules, and create your team! You can compete with friends and family in a private league while also pitting yourself against tens of thousands of other managers from around the world.
Absolutely FREE. Join today and find out why Swirve Sports has become one of the premiere providers of online fantasy sports!
Editor's Note: Your browser needs to support Cookies in order to play any Swirve.com Sports games. All of the more popular browsers, including Netscape 3.0+, Internet Explorer 3.0+, and AOL 3.0+ will work just fine. If they were
turned off on your browser for some reason, you may have to look in your options to reactivate them. (You may get a "Team Not Found" error if cookies are not enabled).
Those who have long wanted crossword puzzles which were fully accessible to the blind have finally gotten your wish. Roger Myers has managed to start a new company which will concentrate on educational games for the blind. Their first offering will at last fill the void for all those who enjoy word play but are not fond of interactive fiction. There are three sets of crossword puzzles that will collectively satisfy all ages. Check out the "News From MindsEye2" section for details on all three puzzle sets if you haven't already done so.
"ME2 Crossword Puzzles"
Game by Roger Myers of MindsEye2
Reviewed by Kelly Sapergia
Fully accessible without sighted assistance.
Crossword puzzles have been popular for many years. You find them mostly in magazines and newspapers. In the past, there have also been computerised versions of these puzzles. The problem was that the software wasn't accessible, or easy to use to solve puzzles. However, if you're interested in crossword puzzles, I
strongly recommend trying Roger Myers's "ME2 Crossword Puzzles" collection. (ME2 stands for "Mind's Eye 2".)
Note that the version I'm reviewing is a beta version.
This crossword puzzle set is provided on two CD-ROM's.
One contains the files that have to be installed on your hard
drive, and the second contains the actual game.
Installation was easy, but I prefer to have everything on one CD if possible. You then insert the Program CD and if you have the autoplay feature turned on, the CD will automatically start the program for you. When you first start the program after installing it, you'll be asked for the letter of your CD drive. After this, the program brings up a dialogue box with some buttons: "Play", "Cancel", and "Uninstall". Clicking on the play button brings up another dialogue box with a list box for the puzzles you want to try, and another list box for the player you want. One interesting feature of this program is that pictures are displayed for each puzzle. For instance, I chose "Kids' Sampler 2", and a picture of a Jack-O-Lantern was shown. If you use your screen reader's cursor, like the JAWS cursor for instance, you can also read a description of the picture.
While I could get the list box for the puzzles to work, I
couldn't get the list box for players to speak with JFW 3.5.
You can, by the way, rename the player if you want to.
There is also a button that allows you to choose whether or not to have background music. (You need a MIDI-compatible device for the music to work.) I personally enjoy listening to the various MIDI files play while I'm playing a puzzle.
Playing the puzzles was easy, but it may take awhile to get
used to the interface. You're first put into an edit box where you can enter your guess. You have to use your screen reader's mouse keys to read the clue. (I wish that the program would automatically read the clue for you.)
If you get an answer right, you'll hear a bell ringing, and a
sound will play corresponding to that clue.
You're then put into another edit box where you can type a
command, or tab through some buttons for going to the next across word for instance. There's even a button to solve the puzzle, which solves the puzzle, then quits.
The program also includes some keyboard commands for such tasks as going to another song (if you have the music turned on), turning on the clock, going to the Down words or the Across words, etc. Note that to activate a button, you have to press Enter and not the space bar.
In conclusion, if you're looking for a program that allows you
to complete crossword puzzles in an entertaining and easy way for visually impaired users, this is the product for you. On a scale of 1 to 10, I rated this program 8 out of 10.
For more information about this program, contact Roger Myers at:
Crossword Fun For Kids
Game by MindsEye2
Available from: http://www.mindseye2.bigstep.com
Reviewed by Stan Bobbitt
Fully accessible without sighted assistance
(About the Game:
Crossword Fun For Kids, a crossword puzzle game for Windows 95/98, is an exciting new educational computer game for children ages 4 and up. Designed especially for the blind or visually impaired child, this game uses a unique
speech accessible interface. The game contains hundreds of sound effects,
optional background music, and 125 songs, including 25 traditional children
Filled with a variety of images and, an option to use buttons, the sighted
child will find this game very user friendly as well.
(About the Puzzles:
Crossword Fun For Kids contains 70 puzzles especially designed for children.
(Down on the Farm), is a fun puzzle where your child must correctly
identify farm sounds, from tractors and sheep, to pigs and horses.
In (Under the Sea), an underwater puzzle, they will learn about sea
creatures like jellyfish and octopuses.
(Outer space), is a neat puzzle where they'll learn about the solar system,
the galaxy, and other interesting facts relating to outer space.
In other puzzles, children learn to associate birds with their songs, and
identify musical instruments. They will learn about wild animals,
dinosaurs, and ancient Egypt. They can practice spelling common words, such
as shapes and colours, in the crossword spelling bees, or learn the days of
the week, holidays, months, and seasons, and important time and money facts.
The last ten puzzles are a special group of puzzles for pre school children,
that do not require spelling or reading. Beginning words, grouped by
rhyming families, are pronounced then spelled as the child is prompted for
each letter. Frequent reinforcement and encouragement is given.
(Installing the Game:
Crossword Fun for Kids is a two CD-ROM program that runs in Windows
95/98. Instructions and help are available on line. Large print and Braille
instructions are available upon request.
Set-up and installation is quick and easy.
Insert the "set-up CD-ROM first, it should start automatically. This is
to make sure that your computer has all the Windows files it needs to run
There are five prompts, choose the default answer for all prompts by either
pressing ENTER or selecting OK. This done, you can now insert the second
CD-ROM, which is the game itself. It too, should start automatically.
The first time you insert this disk, it will ask you for the drive letter of
your CD-ROM drive. Confirm that drive letter choice.
Installation will be finished when you hear a child's voice welcome you to
Crossword Fun For Kids. You will hear this introduction each time you
insert the game.
(Playing the Game:
At this point you are on the splash screen on the play button. Basically
select PLAY on the splash screen (default button) to go to the puzzle and
player selection screen.
Once on the puzzle and player selection screen use up and down arrow to
a puzzle then tab once to the PLAY button and press ENTER to select it.
This will take you to the working puzzle screen where you work your puzzle
On the working puzzle screen press ENTER to move to the next across or down
word. To enter a guess, type the letters of your guess. Backspace deletes
recent letters, typed one at a time and the delete key wipes out your whole
guess to start over. The space bar repeats the clue for the current word.
The F1 key displays help, and the escape key exits to the puzzle and player
selection screen. From there, hitting escape again will quit the game.
If you use Window Eyes, the clues, image descriptions, and your place in the
puzzle will automatically be announced. Users of JFW will need to go to,
"say-all", (insert-S, to have this information automatically read. For other
r screen readers, you will need to use the review mode.
Other features include:
(Selecting other players and renaming them.
(Using right and left arrow and the number keys to jump to words that cross
the current word.
(Using the F6, F7, and f8 keys to give up on words, solve the whole puzzle,
and reset the puzzle to its unworked state.
(Select the set options key on the puzzle and player selection screen
to turn on/off options like showing of buttons, playing of background music,
displaying word co-ordinates, etc.
(If background music is turned on, then with set options, you can select a
of music to be played.
(When working a puzzle the F12 key starts a new song if background music is
(If the user wants to limit the child from giving up on words, having the
solve the puzzle or reset it, then change the first line in the
c:\me2kids\parent.ctl text file.
(The file custom.txt in the root directory of the CD-ROM is
for people who want to customise the game by doing things like
adding their own pictures and picture descriptions, adding their own
music, replacing or adding to sound effects, and so on.
Mostly people will not need to use custom.txt unless they want to change
things like these.
Crossword Fun For Kids is very easy to install and a lot of fun to play.
Children will get hours and hours worth of fun learning from this game.
Roger Myers, the creator and owner of (ME2), has done an outstanding job.
Although this is basically a children's game, older teens and adults will
find it to be quite fun and enjoyable as well.
I'm giving this game a thumbs-up, and a 10 out of 10.
The program can be ordered directly from:MindsEye2 for $35 plus $5
shipping and handling at:
Route 1 Box 404-A
Bland, VA 24315
Or visit their website at
New Offerings From PCS
Games reviewed by Randy Hammer
A couple of issues ago I said I would review the new titles that PCS is producing. They are calling them hybrids of DOS and Windows games. This means that the set-up for the games can be done from Windows or DOS, no screen reader is required during game play. Even the help files are spoken. The set-up creates shortcuts to the games in the start menu. Both of the newest titles are simple, and may even be familiar to some.
The first game has one of the longest histories in computer gaming. Space Invaders was written back in the dawn of computers. The player attempts to shoot down spaceships that are bombing targets on the ground. Armed with missiles you move across the ground attempting to pick off the invaders as they swing across the sky. The game is point-based, meaning that there is really no end, you just keep playing until you run out of lives (you lose lives by losing all your cities or letting the invaders touch down.)
Game play is simple, though there are a *LOT* of different sounds to listen for. This game would really do better in a full-blown Windows format where multiple sounds can be played at the same time. This really isn't a problem until you hit higher levels, where the invaders speed up. Again, everything is spoken, so no screen reader is required.
The second game of this class is Snipe Hunt. Snipes are supposedly flightless birds that can be found in the woods. (If anyone asks you to go snipe hunting in real life agree as long as you get to keep the car keys.) The idea translates pretty well into a cute quick action game.
The game looks a lot like Packman (see my article two issues ago for a review.) PCS does supply a map for this game, but the area is pretty small, and in the heat of the moment you don't have a chance to keep up with the map. Still, it's a nice touch.
So you're running around this map trying to catch female snipes (the males attack you and try to put out your lamp.) The more females you catch the higher your score. As with all point-based games you can gain extra lives (lamps), and progress through increasingly difficult levels. No screen reader is required.
Both games are interesting, and definitely worth looking into. Space Invaders is a classic and every hard-core gamer should have it on their shelf. Snipe Hunt is cute, fun, and keeps you playing. I definitely recommend both these games for children. Snipe Hunt in particular appeals to the younger crowd (and the holidays are coming remember.)
Bavisoft's Grizzly Gulch game has continued to excite players both in North America as well as the UK. During a games workshop for teens I recently ran, the game was a huge hit. There is no news section from Bavisoft in this issue of Audyssey. They are still working on a patch which will improve the game. No release date for this patch has been set. The E-mail discussion list they set up for people to talk about Grizzly Gulch has continued to be quite active. Through this, they have doubtless received and acted upon a lot of constructive criticism and suggestions. Below are two reviews of this unique game:
Grizzly Gulch Western Extravaganza
Developed by Bavisoft Inc.
Available at www.bavisoft.com
Requires no sighted assistance
Reviewed by Jay Pellis
Grizzly Gulch is one of, if not the first fully windows based accessible game for the blind. It has many pluses and many minuses, but one thing is clear. It has paved the way for what the future of blind gaming could be like.
In Grizzly Gulch, you play a stranger who has just entered the old west town of Grizzly Gulch. There are many places to explore in the town, from a saloon where you can play gambling games such as Blackjack and Poker, to
a visitors centre where you can get full spoken help on any aspect of the game. So you can either choose to throw away your money in the saloon or foil bank robbers who will try to rob the local bank or perhaps uphold the
law against some old west outlaws, the choice is yours.
Bavisoft has chosen a simple control interface for this game. The only keys used are the 4 arrow keys and the space bar. When you are interacting with characters or choosing options, the left and right arrow keys cycle through choices/options, while the up arrow key selects the option. During
the game, you will encounter enemies, and you'll have to attack them with your gun. During these sequences, you can move your gun to the left, to the right or the centre. As it is being moved, a clicking sound indicates what position the gun is in. The gun always starts in the centre position, so you'd press the left arrow to move left, the right arrow to return to
the centre again, the right arrow to move right, and the up arrow to fire the gun. The enemies will taunt you. Depending if the taunt is on the left speaker, in the centre or the right speaker, you must quickly move your gun to where you heard the enemy and shoot them before they shoot you. The game is in full stereo sound, so the use of headphones or a good
set of speakers is essential.
If you aren't really in to action, you can go to the saloon and play 4 different games of chance. They are Blackjack, slot machines, poker and the shell game. The gambling games themselves are worth at least half of the price of the game alone. The entire game uses spoken dialogue, so no
screen reader is required to play it. This is especially evident in the gambling games. For example, in Blackjack, the dealer tells you absolutely everything you need to know, from how much money you've bet to what cards you have. Also by pressing the space bar at anytime, you can get audio help in most situations that you find yourself in during the game. The help in the gambling games is well done, giving you details of how exactly the game is played, from the objective to betting rules.
As I stated before, the interface is very simple. This means that the novice computer user as well as the experienced computer user can learn how to play the game quickly and easily. A plus to Bavisoft for making the
game very user friendly.
However, the game does have it's flaws. I have been playing graphical computer and console games for years, and unfortunately, I noticed some flaws in the game right away. First is the save/load function. When you start a game, the only way you can save your game to come back to it at a
later time is by exiting the game. So for example, if you managed to win $500 in the slot machine, and saved your game, if you come back and lose half your money, the only way to restore the game with your original $500
is by closing the program manually, not to use the exit feature, as your $500 will be lost. I think that in the future, there should be a separate save/restore option in the game, so you can save and if you mess up in the game, you can easily restore to your previous saved game. Also in many
graphical adventures, there are usually an unlimited number of save slots, so perhaps a choice of about 10 different saves would be nice. Also, there is an option in the game that lets you skip dialogue you already heard by
pressing the down arrow when a voice is speaking. However, not all dialogue is skippable, and some of the more repetitive parts can't be skipped.
The final gripe I have with the game isn't really a gripe but sort of a warning. With all computer software, the better computer you have, the better software will run. What is also true of some games is the faster your computer is, the faster games will run. I ran the game on a Pentium 500, and found it to run fine with out any loading times or game
lags. However, I recently had the chance to try it on a pentium233, and it also ran fine but the speed was drastically decreased. On my p500 during the gunfight sequences, many enemies attacked me in rapid succession. Luckily, I am pretty fast on the keyboard so this really wasn't a problem. On the P233 though, the speed was slowed down enough not
to be too slow but just enough so I wasn't having to shoot enemies one after another after another with out having time to relax my fingers. In the game, there is a way to slow down the gunfight sequences but a little more slowdown for faster computers would be a greatly appreciated option.
All in all, Bavisoft has outdone themselves with Grizzly Gulch. A simple interface, and excellent use of sounds and spoken dialogue makes this game great for the new visually impaired computer user who hasn't had much experience with games. However, for experienced gamers like myself, the
experience was sort of lacking. Now this might be wrong to do, but I sometimes compare Gulch to the likes of the graphical adventure greats Myst, it's sequel Riven and the Kings Quest series. For me, the first few
hours of the game was quite impressive but then after that, it became quite repetitive. Even the gambling games lost their charm. Since I am use to playing commercial graphical games, that is what I sometimes compare gulch
to. If I had to compare it to a commercial game, the 1993 CD-ROM adventure Return to Zork comes to mind. It was one of the first CD-ROM adventures that used voice acting, and it was a revolution for it's time period. Along with Myst, it opened up the adventure genre to the possibilities of CD technology, and spoken dialogue instead of text. Gulch is the same way. It is a first attempt at a fully accessible game for the
blind, and it is a revolution. Hopefully, it will open up the gateway for developers to make these kinds of games better and better as time goes on. For the new blind gamer, it will simply blow you away with everything it
has to offer, and it will be a great experience. However for the
experienced gamer who has played many other CD-ROM games with voice acting, sound and music, it will still be great at first but will perhaps soon become repetitive. For the inexperienced gamer, I'd say buy this game as
quick as you can. It is a great way to start your game
collection. However, for the experienced gamer, I'd say wait and see if the price ever drops. The game costs $50 US, and that is definitely a lot of money to spend on a computer game. Most games in computer stores are around $40 when they are first released, and they gradually drop in price over a period of time. I think $30 would've been a good set price for this
Again, a big thanks to Bavisoft for using the windows operating system to it's fullest potential in developing this game. It shows what can be done with accessible games for the blind, and I can't wait to see what is offered in the future from Bavisoft and other developers.
Grizzly gulch western extravaganza!
Produced buy Bavisoft
Available from www.bavisoft.com
Fully accessible without sighted assistance
Reviewed by Jak Goodfellow
Want to settle in to the saloon for a quick game of blackjack, poker, slot machine or the shell game. Or do you want to make a name upholding and tracking down the meanest outlaws in town? It's all up to you in this fairly new game from Bavisoft, a specialist company developing game titles accessible to the blind.
Well, what can I say? The thirst day I received this game in my mail, I was more than enthusiastic to play it. I found the installation instructions to be real easy, and had the game running on my PC in next to no time.
The user interface of the game consists solely with the arrow keys, which are used to fire the gun and to respond to questions asked buy your faithful friend: Sherman who will stick with yah threw thick and thin.
This game undoubtably needs a quick hand, and a reasonable amount of mobility skills to pre-judge coming attacks. It takes some getting used to, but you don't half get a feeling of satisfaction once the bad guise are back with the old martial and locked away!
Now for the bad part:
I am fairly near the end of this game after playing it solid for the past few days and can't get past some rattlesnakes. Personally, I would say that this challenge, [unlike attacking robbers and gangs] is unfair because there is a very [and I mean very] short amount of time to kill the snake before being bitten and returned to the start of the whole mission and being asked if you want to start again. Matters are also made worse buy the fact that the arrow keys seem to lock up before your bitten so you can't necessarily do anything to prevent it.
This game is available from Bavisoft for a price of 40 dollars. 'bit pricey' I hear you all gasp, but apart from the above problems I had, this game is well worth it.
"The Great Gerbil Riot of '67"
by Simon Avery
File name GerbilRiot.z5 from GMD Archive
Reviewed by Ron Schamerhorn
You live in a home. Not your average, middle of the street home, but a home for the confused. I.e. an asylum. You were put there after being found guilty of instigating The Great Gerbil Riot of 1967. A heinous crime. You have a hobby - escaping. To date you have been unsuccessful but you decide to give it one last try.
As the game begins, you find yourself in the treatment room but you are not alone. A total of two people, one of whom happens to be lying on the floor dead. From this point onward, you will need common sense for some puzzles, and utter lunacy for others. All this to culminate in deceiving the guard who prevents you from reaching the outside world.
As I mentioned, some of the puzzles are straight forward. You have a given problem and an easily deduced solution. On the other side, I thought some could have been improved by having a little better phrasing. For example, in one case, you need to "Spill", you can't "Pour", or "Tip". Also I didn't like the [for those who have played the game] the item you need to solve the above mentioned situation. I
agree with the outcome, but the second object [at least in my opinion], doesn't seem to fit.
Now before you all think it is doom and gloom, its not. There are only a few times when it is just far fetched. Solving this one is pretty quick, so you won't have to invest hours and hours to finish it. The game isn't big something around 77k. I found some of the descriptions humorous, and the other characters in the asylum to be unique, though one could ask what else would you expect?
Overall, I would say that this game isn't going to become monumental in the realm of IF, but how often do we see one come out that would be? I'll admit that Gerbil Riot was kind of fun at times, and better than some games I played in the past. On the 1 [being bad] - 10 scale, it would rank 4.5
Above and Beyond
by Mike Sousa
Reviewed by Justin Fegel
Game system: Tads
Above and Beyond was developed with Tads, (the text adventure development system.) You are Alex, an experienced programmer who is starting a job with a new company. Unfortunately, your first day is not starting out so well. In your rush to get to work, you have remembered the package you are planning on mailing to your uncle, but you have forgotten your employee id card. Now you must find an alternate way in to the building. As you explore and try and find another way in to the office you overhear two FBI agents talking about some recent employee abductions and something regarding some kind of hostile takeover of the company. You begin to realise that something strange is going on here and decide it's time to begin your own investigating.
This game is about medium sized in terms of locations and features quite a large collection of npcs, non-player characters, to interact with. I believe I counted somewhere between 25 and 30 npcs. The plot is good although a bit linear. Puzzles have to be solved in a particular order in order to progress to the next section of the game. If you get stuck on a certain puzzle you'll just have to think about it for a while. you won't be able to go and try solving an alternate puzzle until you come up with a solution for the one you are currently stuck on.
The puzzles themselves are not very difficult. What might make some of them seem harder is that there are several areas in the game where you only have a certain amount of time to solve a puzzle. This can make what might normally be a fairly easy puzzle seem harder. For example: There is a section later in the game where you are in an abandoned underground army base near the office complex. There is a guard stationed in a room that you need to get through and so he needs to be dealt with. You manage to scare him off, but he's not gone for good. He's going to get reinforcements. You now have to get back to the entrance and lock the doors before the guards he brings back can get in and catch you. This does take some timing. It took me a couple tries before I was able to succeed.
If you should get stuck, there is a simple hint system built in. I personally didn't find it very helpful as it would never tell me anything I didn't already know. I would have liked to have seen a better hint system, but the author did mention in the help section of the game that he didn't have the time to implement a more sophisticated hint system.
There are several ways this game can be put in to an unwinnable state. Fortunately there is a very nice feature which allows you to check the state of the game. By typing the word "winnable" at the command prompt a message will be displayed which will tell you if the game is still winnable or if it has become unwinnable. This is a feature I would like to see implemented in more games as it would save a lot of frustration.
Overall I thought the game was good. It's got a good story line, lots of Npcs to interact with, and quite a climactic ending. My only real complaint is that it's a bit too linear for my taste. Just make sure you save often.
you can download this game at ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/tads/above.gam.
Broken Sword the Shadow of the Templars A.K.A Circle of blood
Developed by Revolution Software
Reviewed by Jay Pellis
Available at computer stores
Available for the PC as Broken Sword Circle of Blood
Available for the Sony Playstation as Broken Sword the shadow of the templars
Reviewed version on Sony Playstation
Requires sighted assistance
Have any of you had the experience of playing the graphical adventure Zork
Grand Inquisitor? If you have, then you know that it's story, music and
sound made it one of the best selling adventure games of the 90's. Well,
in 1996, Revolution software tried their hand at a mystery/adventure game,
and it is also a classic. Here is why.
You play the role of George Stobbart, your average everyday person who is
taking a vacation in Paris France. One morning while enjoying the outdoors
near a restaurant, he witnesses a violent bombing that leaves one man
dead. Luckily, George escapes alive and starts gathering information about
the explosive start to his day. His snooping will lead him across the
world to uncover a mystery and a conspiracy that dates back centuries.
The interface is like many of the mouse-driven graphical adventures on the
market today. A cursor is presented to the player which changes shape or
colour when it is moved over an object that can be clicked on. An added
bonus to this game is the use of the right mouse button. When clicked on
an object, George will describe the object in detail by speaking about
it. From a scrap of newspaper on the sidewalk to a man sitting at a bar,
George will give full descriptions of the item in question. This adds a
lot for the blind gamer playing with a sighted person, the story is much
more understandable with full item descriptions. This descriptive feature
was also used in Sierra's Kings Quest 6, a
game that I previously reviewed for Audyssey.
The puzzles vary in difficulty, from using a credit card to pick the lock
of a door to trying to open a safe with a combination lock. However, most
of the puzzles are inventory based, meaning get an item from somewhere, and
give it to a character or put it in a certain place to advance the
story. The locations are also many in number, one minute you are in a
house in Paris, and the next, you're in an Irish pub in Ireland. To go
from one place to another, there is a convenient map of locations that are
available to George. All that is needed is the location to be clicked on,
and you are transported there. The characters add much to the game, as you
can choose from a number of dialogue choices when you speak to them. For
example, at the beginning of the game you are interviewed by a police
officer. Depending on what questions you do or don't answer, events will
take a different course later in the game. There are even a few times
where if you say the wrong thing to a character, they will attempt to kill
you, so you must be careful of what dialogue paths you take.
The music is performed by the London symphony orchestra, and adds a very
cinematic quality to the game. Where ever George travels, the music
changes. For example, a quiet relaxing song plays in Paris, while a brisk
Irish jig plays in Ireland. The sound effects aren't much to speak of,
they just add a little background ambience. On the other hand, the voice
acting is what makes this game. It is of a very high quality, and there is
a lot of it! The story is made up of some long and interesting dialogue
conversations that really give you a feel for the characters.
If you want a mystery that will take you a month or more to solve, this is
for you. The voice acting and item descriptions feature catapults this
game in to the must play category for blind gamers and sighted companions.
The PC and Playstation versions are exactly the same except that the
Playstation version is contained on 1 CD, while the PC version is 2
CDs. In the PC version, the music can be listened to with any wav file
player, which is another added bonus. This game can be found at your local
computer store for $10 US or less. A great deal for a great game.
Broken Sword 2 the Smoking Mirror
Developed by Revolution Software
Reviewed by Jay Pellis
Available in computer stores
Available for the PC or Sony Playstation
Reviewed version on Sony Playstation
Requires sighted assistance
The sequel to the classic Broken Sword circle of blood came out in
1997. It finishes a great adventure game series with another classic
Again, our Hero George Stobbart is about to get himself wrapped up
in another mystery. George and his girlfriend Nico, who he met in the
first game are on there way to a professors house, to talk to him about
some research that the 2 were doing. However, something goes wrong very
quickly. George gets bonked on the head, and when he comes to, Nico has
been kidnapped, the house is on fire, and poor George is tied up in a room
with a spider who wants some dinner! If George can escape the burning
house, he must go and rescue his girlfriend, and along the way, solve
The interface in this game is the exact same as the
previous broken sword. The item description feature is still intact, and a
twist to this game is after you rescue Nico, you get to control
her. Throughout the game, you will be switching between George and Nico,
doing various tasks, talking to characters, and solving puzzles.
The music is not as atmospheric as in the first game, the
game relies on sound and story to drive it forward. The voice acting is of
the same quality as in the first game also, with well done dialogue moving
the story along, and the great ever present item descriptions.
You don't have to have played the first game to enjoy this one
but it is recommended that you do so. All in all, a great ending to a
great adventure game series. Play the first game, then play this one, and
you'll have yourself a month or 2 of great mystery solving!
This game is available in your local computer store for $10 US or lower, the
exact same price as the first game. Twenty dollars isn't a bad deal for 2
Developed by Cyan
Reviewed by Jay Pellis
Available at computer software stores
Also available for the Sony Playstation
Reviewed version on Sony Playstation
Requires sighted assistance
Reviewed by Jay Pellis
Myst is one of the best selling, if not the best selling CD-ROM game of all
time. It incorporates great ambient sounds and a medium puzzle challenge
to create what all graphic adventures use as a basis of development.
This game is a first person perspective adventure, which means there is no
character on the screen. You look at the game as if you were actually
inside the gameworld. You start the game by opening a mysterious book,
which transports you to the equally mysterious Myst Island. While there,
the creator of the Island tells you that someone is destroying the worlds
that he writes in to creation, and he suspects one of his two sons. He is
not sure which one is guilty, so he imprisons one in a red book, and one in
a blue book in the Myst library. He charges you with travelling to the four
worlds that he has created. By finding clues and solving puzzles, you must
discover the guilty destroyer of worlds.
This is a mouse driven interface. It is similar to almost all other
adventure games. There is a cursor on the screen that moves around when
you move the mouse and turns different shapes when an object can be
interacted with. A left click gets you a closer view of the object so you
can examine or manipulate it. Many puzzles in the game are object
oriented, for example, there is an organ puzzle in which you must play a
sequence of notes from a previous area of the game to open a door giving
you access to new areas of exploration. Also, there is a maze that must be
navigated but every direction is indicated by a sound. When you memorise
which sound represents which direction, you can navigate the maze. There
is no character interaction in the game. The only way you talk to
characters is through video sequences, where the characters tell you what
to do next. You can't ask them questions or get in to conversations with
them. This might turn some gamers off but I felt that the sound, and
puzzle challenge were enough to keep me going through the game.
The sound is great in this game. Most of it is ambient, environmental
sounds, different sounds are heard in different locations. For example, if
you are in a forest, you'll hear birds chirping, and wind blowing through
the trees. If you're in a cave, you might hear water dripping. The music
is well done but there isn't much of it. Mostly it is played when you
discover a new location in the game, and it plays a part in some of the
locations in the game. The voice acting in the video sequences is well
done, with the major roles played by the 2 sons. Each one is played very
well, and they both successfully make you believe that the other is guilty.
This game isn't for everyone. There isn't much speech content. Most of the
game relies on ambient sounds and atmospheric music to drive it. A lot of
text must be read. Also, the puzzle
difficulty is quite high. On the other hand, the story is excellent. Give
this one a try if you'd like to play the best selling adventure game of all
This game is available for as low as $10 US at computer stores or as part
of the Ages of Myst collection. This collection includes Myst and it's
sequel Riven. Also, a release called the Myst Masterpiece edition has
recently appeared which has updated graphics and stereo sound as opposed to
the original 1993 release. Also, a soundtrack of the music is available
for $10 US. It can be found in the included catalogue that comes with the game.
I can be reached in three ways. The easiest is through CompuServe.
My e-mail address is as follows:
You can also call me via telephone. I have voicemail, so you can leave a message if you fail to catch me at home and off-line. I'll do my best to return calls, but won't accept collect calls. My number is as follows:
Alternatively, you may correspond with me on 3.5-inch disks,
provided you be sure to send them in returnable disk-mailers. I don't have the money to pay for postage. My mailing address is:
5787 Montevideo Road
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Postal code: L5N 2L5
Adam Taylor, star of Adam, The Immortal Gamer, and our resident ADOM guru, can be reached three ways. You can send him e-mail at:
Or, you can check out his homepage on the web:
His page is dedicated to providing help, cheats and solutions to many games. Send him a request, and he'll do his best to find what you need. He also has sections on ADOM and Nethack available. Also,
you can download the magazine from his page.
Finally, if you wish to contact him at home, his address is: 3082
Canada L5N 3L1
Jay Pellis is an avid fan of graphical adventures and console games. For those of you wondering which Sega or Nintendo games are at all enjoyable to the blind, he's the one to turn to. He can be contacted at:
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:
Kelly Sapergia is another expert in interactive fiction. He is a
well-established reviewer of games for Audyssey, and has an
interest in developing interactive fiction as well as playing it.
He can be contacted at:
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:
Randy Hammer 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: