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Audyssey;
Games Accessible to the Blind
Issue 26: January/February, 2001
Edited by Michael Feir

Fun, Friendship, Knowledge, Charity

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Welcome
Welcome to the 26th 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.

In this issue, Jay Pellis gives us an excellent article about the ins and outs of emulation. David Lant has vanquished one of the toughest IF games ever to emerge, and has lived to tell the tale. Zform and MindsEye 2 have given us updates on what they're up to. Also, Tony Baechler has provided us with reviews of many games from the IF competition.

 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.

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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 Sympatico address. I will give my home address and my Sympatico 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.

There are now several ways of obtaining Audyssey. Thanks to ESP Softworks, there is once again a distribution list for those who want to receive Audyssey via E-mail. To subscribe to the distribution list so that you receive all future
issues, the direct URL to the subscription form is:
http://www.espsoftworks.com/forms/audyssey_to.asp

You may also refer a friend and pass onto them the current issue as well as an introduction e-mail explaining the magazine in detail.  Then, if they wish to subscribe they
will be referred to this form.  The form is available from the Audyssey Magazine section of the ESP Softworks web-site. To get there directly, go to:
http://www.espsoftworks.com/textonly/audyssey/audyssey.html
The Audyssey section also contains all back-issues of Audyssey if you want to get caught up with events.

Travis Siegel has set up a list to facilitate discussions among
readers between issues. Anyone participating in the discussion list will have issues of Audyssey automatically sent to them via E-mail. Representatives from all major developers of games for the blind are actively participating on the list. All staff members of Audyssey are also participating. If you want an active role in shaping the future of accessible games, this is where you can dive right in. To subscribe to this discussion list, send a message to:
[email protected]
with "subscribe Audyssey" in the body of the message. To post to the discussion list, send your messages to:
[email protected]
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:
http://www.geocities.com/sbobbitt21/audall.html
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:
www.henrichsen.org
J.J. Meddaugh has long been famous in the Audyssey community. He has now started his own web-site called The Blind Community. All issues of Audyssey are there in zipped files in the file centre. The site is at:
www.blindcommunity.com
If you have web access, Audyssey now has an official web-page, maintained by Igor Gueths at:
www.concentric.net/~igueths
Besides having all issues of Audyssey available for down-load, six megabytes of storage space are available for popular games.
Another source for back-issues of Audyssey and accessible games is provided by Kelly Sapergia. He was our first interactive fiction expert, and has put his Internet skills and resources to splendid use for the magazine. Visit his site at:
http://ksapergia.cjb.net
If you have ftp access, all issues are also available at Travis Siegel's ftp site:
ftp://ftp.softcon.com
Look in the /magazines directory.

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

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Contents:
Welcome
Distribution Information and Submission Policies
Contents
From The Editor
Letters
Voices of Audyssey
Reliving the Classics
The Gamers Rescue Unit
Free Game Winner
News From MindsEye2
News From PCS
News From Zform
DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS
Game Announcements and Reviews
Contacting Us

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From The Editor:

Hello, everyone. The past while has been hectic for many of us, myself included. Many plans have been forcibly changed. This is true for the Audyssey staff and for two of the game developers who we've all come to know.

You'll notice a distinct lack of articles in this issue. Three of our staff members had problems coming up with items this month. This is exactly the kind of situation I hope to avoid in the future, and have tried to avoid in the past. It proves just how important it is for you readers to continue to submit material to let me build the best issues of Audyssey that I can. There are a number of areas where I'd like people to become staff members. In particular, I'd like somebody with time on their hands to look into web-based games for us. I'd also like somebody to look into educational games and how games not designed to be educational can be used to teach things. To be a staff member, you must be willing to commit to attempting to have something for each issue of Audyssey. This can either be an article or review. You also commit to becoming knowledgeable about the kind of games you examine for us. All staff members must belong to the Audyssey discussion list and actively try to answer questions pertaining to your area of expertise. Wherever possible, staff members should look for ways to make game developers aware of blind players who play the kinds of games which they are expert in. Paul Silva suggested that we should send reviews of games to those who produced them in hopes of increasing awareness of blind gamers and of Audyssey. I think this is an excellent idea, and hope all of you will begin to do this. For the moment, these positions are strictly voluntary. However, if I can get funding to start the organisation for the blind which I want to set up, staff members will get first crack at being paid writers.

Regarding this organisation, I promised you an update on that. We haven't been able to get together in quite a while now. We all have our lives to carry on with, and personal responsibilities have kept us from making much progress lately. We have done some preliminary estimations of how much funding we need and what we want to do initially assuming that we get it. I have put a lot of time into building the portion of the site that I'll be in charge of. This will be the recreational part of the community. Audyssey will be a large part of this, and elements from the Audyssey Plus plan proposed back when I still had a job at Campus2Day will be used. I hope to be able to tell you more by the time the next issue comes out at the end of March.

I have now switched from CompuServe to my new DSL account. My old E-mail address no longer works, so please use my new one. It is as follows:
[email protected]
The new DSL connection is making things a whole lot easier and speedier for me. I hope I never have to go back to a dial-up connection, and extend my sympathies to all who are stuck using one.

"Where is MonkeyBusiness?" and "When will Shades of Doom be out" are two very popular questions at the moment. No official updates have been sent from either of the game developers responsible for these questions. James North is trying his level best to juggle working on his game with completing Microsoft exams. I have no idea how he has done this without losing grip on his sanity, but he's managing somehow. By staying open and embarking on producing MonkeyBusiness, he has demonstrated a lot of faith in us. I would ask and hope that we can all show him the same courtesy and be patient. David Greenwood is going out of the country for a while. This will explain why we won't hear much about his long-anticipated game for the next while. It is quite cold here, even in central Canada. Despite being as eager as everyone else to play the finished product, I can't blame him a bit unless he goes to the arctic or something. There are times when it can help a great deal to go away and gain a new perspective on things. I hope that this trip gives Mr. Greenwood new ideas and fortitude to continue working on great games.

An interesting site I came across recently is:
www.scotos.com
It is a new company which will offer text-based multi-player games. I have inquired whether these will be accessible to the blind, and received the answer that they will look into how feasible it is to make them accessible. They are a fairly small outfit, but seem willing to at least look into accessibility. Anyone with expertise in making web-sites accessible might want to look into helping out. Brian Moriarty of Infocom fame is involved with this company, and Infocom fans among us know him for a great story-teller. I'd say it was worth any efforts we could make to help them decide to be accessible.

Many new readers have joined us over the past while. I would be remiss in my duties as leader of this community if I failed to welcome them. I hope all of you find this magazine and the growing community of readers to be an exciting and enjoyable one. I also hope that you'll choose to participate in keeping Audyssey going by writing letters, articles, and reviews for your fellow readers to enjoy.

Before I depart, there is one more item to deal with. Until further notice, I would advise gamers wanting to talk to other gamers to use the "games people play" room at:
www.for-the-people.com
It uses the Lipstream audio chat software which seems to be what the majority of people like. Remember to hold down the control key when you want to speak. For now, no formal chats will be scheduled. The room is available most of the time. Dave Sherman is conducting Dungeons and Dragons games in this room on Sundays. Randy hammer is taking a break as dungeon master for the time being. Times for these Dungeons and Dragons games are posted on the schedule at the for-the-people site. Use either the Audyssey discussion list and/or the for-the-people E-mail list to see if anybody wants to get together for a conversation. Eventually, I hope we'll resume having formal conversations again. We'll see how informal chats work out in the mean-while.

With that final item of business taken care of, I'll leave you to enjoy the rest of this issue of Audyssey. May it add splendour to the start of this new year and millennium.

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Letters:

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From Tony Baechler:

Hello all.  Audyssey is now available in a Braille digital file.  This is
the same format used by the NLS for Web Braille and by the International
Electronic Braille Library.  If you have an embosser or suitable notetaker,
you can download the following file and read it directly.  If not, you have
no reason for wanting this file and should read the ASCII or HTML versions
of Audyssey.

This is perfect if you want a Braille copy to read while you are away from
the computer.  It is also perfect for schools and educational institutions
who want to make copies available for students.  Likewise, if you are a
blind teacher, this might be useful to you.  The possibilities are
unlimited.

The inspiration for this project is the NLS and how wonderful the Web
Braille project has been for me.  For the first time ever, I can read books
published in this century.  I can read news magazines within days of
publication instead of months.  I thought that if this can be done so
easily, I could surely do the same thing with Audyssey.  So, I loaded my OCR
program, opened the text version, saved it in brf format and had a look.  I
did not closely examine it, but what I saw looked good enough.  There are
still some formatting issues to be addressed though.  I am interested in
comments.  The file is at:

ftp://baechler.net/aud25.brf

It is probably too big for one volume if you are planning to emboss it.  I
am interested in feedback from someone who is a very good grade II Braille
reader.  I am already looking into some possible reformatting because the
plus signs are not very useful in Braille.  Help with this would also be
appreciated.  If you have software that can work with Braille files that is
a plus but not necessary.

Depending on the difficulty in reformatting, I hope to have all issues of
Audyssey available in this format before the next issue comes out.  Consider
this my Christmas present to the blind gaming community.  I may post updates
to the file already posted without announcing them here, so if you are
interested in following this check the ftp site often.  It takes almost no
time at all to convert and save an issue in Braille, so once the issues
surrounding this are worked out I should be able to convert things fairly
quickly.

One last note.  I did not mention this to our excellent editor, but I hope
he does not mind.  This is just one more way to spread the magazine around.

+
No need to worry, Tony. That was a very thoughtful idea, and I certainly appreciate anything that might expand our audience. By taking this step, Tony has given me pause to think more about the formatting of the magazine than I had previously. As I indicated on the discussion list, I always have and always will be more concerned with good content than good format. However, I have taken some time to figure out how to make a template for the magazine. Ironically, the instant I come up with a standard template, abnormal conditions forced this issue to be somewhat different than others. Despite this, I hope that all of you, as well as Tony, will send feedback regarding anything I can do to make the template better, and whether it makes much difference for you. I doubt that it will have much of an effect in terms of reading with speech synthesisers, but having heard the material often while proof-reading and manipulating it, I could be somewhat biased. Once again, my thanks to you, Tony.

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From David Lant:

Yippee!  Yeehaar!  Woohoo!

Ahem... I'm pleased to announce my satisfactory arrival at the termination
of this long and taxing interactive fiction title.

I'm wondering, if I write a hint file for it, what format would most people
be interested in?  I was thinking about the Universal Hint System, but it
appears you have to get permission from the UHS publishers before creating
new hints, and the source editor is a little quirky.  but it would be my
preferred medium, as it allows gradual hints rather than a straight, boring
walkthrough.

For those of you still slogging through the game, it is well worth it.  That
is, if you are prepared to work hard, and occasionally do things for no
readily apparent reason, other than it gets you further on in the game.
<grin>

I suppose I ought to write a review for the next issue of Audyssey too.
<sigh>  Gaming is becoming *such* hard work these days. <smile>

+
Congratulations are definitely in order here. It's been quite a while since a game produced as much discussion as Harowine's Mantle. I didn't think anybody would solve that thing for a year. Showing both humbleness and sheer generosity, our Mr. Lant has always been ready to offer help to those of us less brilliant. He has also graced this issue of Audyssey with an excellent and thorough review of the game that drove us all to distraction. You'll find it later in this issue. He's also graced this issue with an excellent bit of game-related fiction which will hopefully inspire more interactivity among our readers. Were I wearing one, Mr. Lant, my hat would be off to you.

++
Despite the many advances over the past while, classic games still call to members of the Audyssey community. Unfortunately, it is harder for some of us to play DOS-based games these days. Below, I present you with the contents of two letters sent to the Audyssey discussion list by Brent Reynolds:

HI, There are several good DOS screen readers, and some of them are small
enough that they can be loaded into upper memory.  These include the best
of all of them, ASAP, from MicroTalk.  It is still sold, but you can run
the fully-function demo and occasionally need to shut up the nag message
about registering the product.  TinyTalk is fairly good and uses very
little memory.  Like ASAP, TinyTalk, and Vocal-Eyes, another screen reader
which uses little memory, supports just every hardware synthesiser on the
market.  ASAP even has a "generic" synthesiser control table you
can use to tailor the program to work with synthesisers that might not be
supported.
You can also get Provox, Dr. Charles Hallenbeck's DOS screen reader for
free, including the program source code if you feel really adventurous.

Check out:

http://www.microtalk.com/
ftp://ftp.microtalk.com/asap/asapdemo.exe

http://www.gwmicro.com/
ftp://ftp.gwmicro.com/ve/vedemo.zip

http://www.mhonline.net/~chuckh/software.html

I don't have the URL handy at the moment for TinyTalk.

Another possibility is the DOS screen reader, Flipper, which has been
abandoned by its developer who has told owners that they can do whatever
they like with the program, including giving it away to anybody.  The
source code, however, has not been released to the public as far as I
know.

On the Dolphin Access website:

http://www.dolphinusa.com/

you can find a freely available older version of their Hal screen reader
for DOS, called Hal Lite, and available in a file called hl.zip  version
4.0, I believe, two or three versions back from the last DOS version.  Hal
only supports Dolphin's own synthesisers most of which are named for Greek
and Roman deities like, Jupiter, Juno, Apollo, etc.

It's clunky and kludgy, and clumsy, but if you can put up with its quirks,
JAWS for DOS is free and is on the web and FTP sites of Freedom
Scientific, the current owner of record:

http://www.hj.com/
http://www.blazie.com/
http://www.freedomscientific.com/

With all these screen readers except ASAP, you will need a line in a
config.sys file that says:

switches=/c

to force the DOS component of Windows 9X to send all output through the
BIOS routines like the older versions of DOS did, thus slowing down your
responsiveness.  ASAP is the only DOS screen reader that works with
Windows 95 and Windows 98 native display conventions for DOS output.  It
is just one of many, many reasons why ASAP stands head and shoulders above
and beyond every other DOS screen reader ever written for English language
voice-output systems.

Second letter:

HI, Guys,
The obvious reason that DOS screen readers don't work with software
synthesisers is the simple fact that except for that turkey created by
Creative Labs, there are no DOS software synthesiser programs.  They are
all Windows programs.  SmoothTalker was a bomb from the get-go, even
though the developers of JAWS, TinyTalk, and ASAP and Vocal-Eyes all
experimented with trying to use it.  That SmoothTalker program required
180K of conventional memory only.  Add in JAWS for DOS versions 2.2 and
later with command-line switches needed to support macros and environments
for WordPerfect for DOS, and you've already used up a little over half of
that 640K of conventional memory!, and you still have not accounted for
loading DOS, let alone any actual working application you want to run.
Add to that the fact that Smoothtalker allowed no interactive control of
reading, stopping, starting, or other interactive features needed to read
and scan by word, sentence, or paragraph, and you have a worthless
"software synthesiser" program.

To keep it on topic for a gamers' list, all serious DOS games that went
beyond the original text-adventure models, required a lot of free DOS
memory in order to run, many of them could not be loaded into high memory,
and a large number if not most of them did not like to share memory or CPU
cycles, or any other resources with other running applications other than
DOS and maybe a video driver and a soundcard support service program.
Adding a screen reader already cramps the style of those games, so that
screen reader had better be small, able to be loaded into high memory, and
not be paired with a synthesiser that needs large drivers to be loaded in
order to run the synthesiser.  That basically makes the Dectalk a lousy
gamer's choice for a synthesiser since, with most screen readers, it need
to have large, buggy, inefficient drivers loaded before the screen reader
loads.

Speaking of that DecTalk PC, Artic released a version of BusinessVision,
their DOS screen reader for the DecTalk which supported it directly
without the need to load the DecTalk drivers.  HJ released a beta program
in 1995 or 1996 of the JAWS EXE files for the DecTalk which addressed the
hardware directly and did not require the drivers.  Either that one was
considered not quite stable enough to be ready for prime time, or they
decided to abandon any further development on JAWS for DOS in the middle
of working on that implementation of JAWS 2.31 for the DecTalk.  The
DecTalk direct support is not included in, or available for, the free
distribution of JAWS 2.31 for DOS.

Finally, one other DOS screen reader was the SlimWare for DOS screen
reader put out by synthaVoice, the people who do WindowBridge and
WindowBridge 2000.

++
One widely discussed topic this time around was how people kept their bearings while playing text adventures. From a thread called "mapping IF", I chose the following sample letters:

+
Tony Baechler:
Hello.  This question has been of interest to me for awhile, especially with
the recent competition.  I am curious how other people handle this.

How do you go about mapping an IF game?  OK, I think it would be hard to
actually map a game, but how do you keep track of the geography?  What if
you are playing a big game like Curses and get lost?  How do you keep track
of your location and where objects are?  I am really interested in what the
community comes up with.

+ Jak Goodfellow:
hello, when playing large games, I will try and drop objects in rooms that I
don't need. then using such software as note pad, write down the object name alongside the room description, and what course I previously took from that room to help me choose another path. it's not often however that I bother to map if games, as it can be a very tedious process and will only my self do it when necessary.

+
Paul & Gail Nimmo:
Hi all, you know I had to think about this one? I.e., how do I map.
My brain does it. I sort of feel as if I'm there. I remember relational data in big places just as I do if walking around a large city or navigating it by other means, I've always found this relatively easy.
I guess this really doesn't help you since I can't really explain the actual
technique I use but there's my 2 cents worth, <smile.
+
guy vermeulen: hello gamers,

just a little remark about switching between DOS and windows to write down
notes when playing a text adventure : no need to switch to windows and wordpad
or notepad, just use a little tsr utility called noteware.
put it in your autoexec.bat and launch it by pressing control and spacebar from
any DOS text adventure you're playing, and you can take any note you want,
press escape and it's saved and you can play on.
a new control plus spacebar and your note is there, ready to accept new notes,
and you can save them to a file; you can even do a screen capture with it and
save it to a file.
it's a wonderful little thing, and I use it all the time in DOS f.e. when
playing text adventures in DOS.
you can find it at Paul Henrichsen 's site, it's called noteware, and like the
fileid.diz says : "the top rated tsr notepad".
it's one of my absolute favourites when using DOS.

++
From Phyllis Stevens:[discussing an on-line gaming site called Flipside]
www.flipside.com

That was my initial question! Why can't something like this be made
accessible? I wanted to play bridge. I live alone, and can rarely get
enough people to play. I want to play those games online! How can I do
that? This site downloads an interface, someone please explain how to
tell them why it doesn't work and can they, or someone fix it so that
it does?  I played solitaire the other night, cause I had a sighted
friend to help, and while chatting, the screen reader read my words as
I typed, but after the download, I could hear nothing--no status, no
information on screen, or nothing!  I know they use a drag and drop
thing, but couldn't it be changed? Or can't somebody tell me where
else I can go to play games on line with others, such as Bridge?  You
would have to have at least three players!

+
This letter underscores a problem for many of our readers. Multi-player on-line gaming is its obvious solution. James Peach and Stan Bobbette have shown us that there are at least a few multi-player games that are accessible out there. Unfortunately, we have no staff member to take charge of web-based entertainment at the moment. It is quite a time-consuming process to examine and review such games. I hope one of our readers will soon take charge of this area. In the mean-while, I would ask all of you to keep a careful watch for accessible web-based games and report them to the rest of us. More and more inquiries about this sort of thing are coming in, and nobody has been able to address this kind of thing just yet. Robert Betz seems to be pretty well poised to do this in the not too distant future. Starfight has clearly laid the groundwork for this kind of thing. His Accessible Chat was designed clearly with providing accessible multi-player games in mind. Other game developers have stated their intentions to make their games multi-player eventually, but most effort seems focused on single-player games at the moment. Hang in there, Phyllis. 
 

++

Needless to say, the above was but a small sample of what went on in our discussion list over the past while. I strongly encourage anyone who can to join the discussion list. Audyssey will always provide you with a small glimpse into the more interesting, funny, and/or useful portions. However, you won't experience the camaraderie, friendship, and often witty banter unless you're willing to plunge right into the fray. One thing you missed was that two deserving men have found their soul-mates and the courage to let them know that. My congratulations to you both, and to anybody else who is similarly deserving and struck by good fortune. If anything has made me realise what an excellent community I have the honour to lead, it was those threads.

+++
Voices of Audyssey

In this section, we will keep each other advised of any audio items of interest which we may discover during our travels on-line. Sound is becoming more common on the Internet these days, and many of our readers are interested in things they can listen to on-line. Not everything in this section will be strictly related to games and Audyssey. However, since this magazine is essentially about fun, only entertaining items will be discussed. This won't be a place to find out about audio tutorials and such. However, you may find out about audio dramas or shows which feature material of interest to gamers. Also, we'll try and keep everyone informed of any audio material produced by Audyssey readers, game developers, and Audyssey staff.

The first thing we'll do is get everyone up to speed on material that features or is produced by people related in some way to games accessible to the blind. A whole lot of this is featured on programs which can be heard on
www.acbradio.org
This service is operated by the American Council of the Blind. You'll want to go into the "visit our on-demand" section. That link is the best starting point and will give you access to all of the various shows that they keep archives of.

Main Menu is a show on ACB Radio which most frequently features content of interest to gamers. They started doing this with a show on April 24, 2000. It featured an interview with Robert Betz of Games For The Blind. Kelly Sapergia examines Grizzly Gulch from Bavisoft on the May 8th, 2000 episode of Main Menu. Stan Bobbitt is interviewed about Web-based role-playing games on June 26th, 2000. Paul Silva of Zform can be heard getting interviewed in the episode which was broadcast on August 21, 2000. The August 28th show had Kelly Sapergia talking about Robert Betz's Accessible Chat. September 25, 2000 was certainly a gamer's paradise. David Greenwood of GMA Games was interviewed extensively. Also, our intrepid captain Kelly Sapergia can be heard ramming a minefield while demonstrating Lone Wolf. November 15, 2000 features an examination of Robert Betz's Accessible Starfight. Main Menu features a number of multi-part series on a variety of topics. Kelly Sapergia has done several of these including one about designing web-pages. You'll come across him quite often as you go through the archives. If any of you want to learn about making scripts for JFW, Jim Snowbarger has covered this at some length in a series on that. 

Blind Line is a talk-show on ACB Radio which has occasionally featured content of interest to blind gamers. If you've ever wondered about Paul Henrichsen, he is interviewed on September 7, 2000. Mike Calvo is one of our readers who can be heard speaking on the Radio Webcaster in the July 20 episode. You can hear me being interviewed in the March 11, 2000 episode. I suppose I got my points across, but I also did a pretty good imitation of a nervous wreck.

Infotech was a show produced by Brian Hartgen that was similar to Main Menu. While Brian has stopped producing it for now, the archives are maintained and can be heard on demand. The November 3, 2000 show focused on accessible games from Robert Betz. August 25 and September 1 2000 episodes contain parts one and two of an in-depth look at Bavisoft's Grizzly Gulch.

That covers all of the most closely related stuff around that I know of. If any readers or game developers have done audio content that wasn't covered here, please notify me before the next issue is published so that we can spread the word.

To entertain you all on these long Winter nights, I recommend you visit the following places:

www.scifi.com/set
This will get you to the Seeing Ear Theatre section of the Scifi.com site. Anybody who likes science fiction is going to absolutely love the many audio dramas present on the site. All are done with exceptional skill and star some pretty famous voices. The audio quality is astounding, particularly for Reel Audio. I should warn you that the site wasn't designed at all with accessibility in mind. It'll be rough going, but if you take the time to get the hang of things, it'll be worth it. I've sent a letter asking the folks in charge to make the site more accessible, and encourage all of you to do the same.

Electric Playground is a TV show that my father and I like to watch on weekends. It has a web-site with some excellent reviews and articles. Also, they have EP Radio which features continuously playing music from games, interviews with key people in the games industry, and previous episodes of the TV show. You'll need Winamp and a fairly fast connection to the Internet. To get to the EP Radio potion of the site, go to:
www.epradio.com

That should start this section off fairly nicely. I hope all of you enjoy the audio, and that you'll help me keep this section going in the months ahead.

+++
Reliving the classics
Article by Jay Pellis

Games referred to as classic games such as Pacman and Space invaders started
the framework for what is possible in games today.  Developers now have the
ability to create games that will pull the player in to the game world by
playing like interactive movies with full spoken dialogue, music and sound
effects as opposed to the beeps and bleeps of games past.  However, these games that created the video game industry still have a huge following of fans. One thing that is worrisome is how to play these games?  Most
arcades now a days are full of the latest technical marvels of gaming, and
the home system versions just can't capture the feel of the original arcade
games.  If you are lucky, your old atari2600 still works but it may not
connect to your television, and that broken button on the controller won't
help much in playing the games.  So what is a classic gaming fan to
do?

Luckily, the growing popularity of computers in the last decade has spawned a fantastic feet of computer programming called Emulation.  Emulation is the creating of a computer program to emulate or act like something else.  For example, the emulator Rew for windows emulates the nintendo entertainment system and the nintendo gameboy.  Most
windows emulators are quite similar to a word processor or music player, in
that they have a menu bar at the top of the screen readable by a screen
reader.  The menu bar usually includes menus such as file or sound
etc.  The file menu can be used for opening games or saving or loading
them.  Games are known as Roms.  A ROM is a digital representation of the
actual game that is stored on the cartridge.  People can connect the game
cartridges to copying devices connected to a computer, and the game
information is transmitted in to a file, similar to an mp3 music file or
word processing document.  Each system that has emulators has special file
names for the games.  For example, a super Mario brothers game for the
gameboy may be called mario.gb.  For the nintendo entertainment system, it
may be mario.nes, and so on with different file names for each system.  The
games are loaded through a normal windows style dialogue with a listing of
files.  Once you select the game you want to play, just press enter and it
will start.  To control the game, you have a few options.  You can stay
with the default keyboard settings of the emulator, which usually consists
of having the arrow keys as directional movement keys, and the letters at
the left of the keyboard as buttons.  However, you can remap any keys to
simulate any actions on the system controller you want.  The second option
is to use a GamePad connected to your computer such as the Microsoft
sidewinder.  You can then use the control pad as the directional movement
controls, and the buttons on the controller to control the game, making the
feel of playing the systems more realistic then using the
keyboard.  Usually, an 8 button controller is recommended to take advantage
of all the buttons on a given systems controller.

Around 1996 when emulators were first being produced, they did not emulate
the systems that well, and didn't include any sound.  Now however, things
have changed for the better.  Most emulators but for some very old ones have very good if not perfect sound, graphics and overall well done general system emulation.

There are system emulators for ms-DOS, as well as for
windows, linux, and many other computer platforms.  There are also
emulators such as ones that emulate a Mac on a PC, and vice
versa.  Generally, the emulators for DOS have better sound then the windows
versions, although the windows ones are still quite good as sound goes.  The DOS emulators run perfectly in a DOS window under windows95/98, but they aren't accessible to screen readers as some of the windows based ones are.  You will need sighted assistance to configure your input and sound options for the DOS versions, and for most of the windows versions as well.  The only things that seem to be accessible in the windows versions are the menu bars and the file open dialogues.
Emulators have many more features then the original systems ever did, such
as the ability to save your game at anytime with up to 9 or more save
slots, and to load the saved game at anytime also.  There are also various
ways of cheating such as entering the original cheat codes for whatever
game your playing or also using the game genie code option.  The game genie
was a device released for older systems that let you enter in certain codes
made up of numbers and letters, that gave you things like unlimited lives
and such in many games.  Another plus about using emulators is that the
games never freeze or crash like the original systems did a lot of the
time, such as the original nintendo.

The games for whatever system you are interested in are usually available on-line.  It is sometimes hard to find a certain game then it was a few years ago.  Unfortunately, these old games are still copyrighted by there original creators, nintendo, sega etc.  A statement has been released on many emulation sites that state that if you own the original game or cartridge, you are allowed to download a copy of it for backup purposes but if you don't own it, you must delete it after 24 hours  of it being on your
computer.  As usual, with any legal things that happen in the computer world that are game related, these rules aren't followed much of the time.  Luckily, the controversy over the legalities of emulation has died down.  A few years ago, Nintendo, Sega, and various companies were trying quite hard to remove ROM sites from the Internet.  However, new sites keep popping up everyday, so eventually the companies stopped trying to hunt the sites down.  They probably did not want to spend the time that it would
take to take the sites down because the systems aren't being supported anymore, and games aren't being manufactured anymore either.  As the older systems such as the nintendo, sega genesis or super nintendo stop functioning and become harder to find, emulation will be the only way of keeping these games alive, and to stop them from fading in to obscurity.  Sega has taken advantage of emulation by releasing 2 cd-roms of older genesis games, called the Sega Smash Pack volume 1 and 2
collections.  Hopefully, Nintendo will follow in Segas footsteps.

The following is a list of recommended emulators for most of the older
popular systems.  They are for windows, and I've found them to be quite
accessible.  However, if you have sighted assistance, I highly recommend
downloading some of the DOS emulators and getting help configuring them
because the sound is perfect, as opposed to some of the imperfect sound in
the windows versions.

Rew for windows
http://www.zophar.net/Files/rew12STX.zip
This is a gameboy system emulator that also supports nintendo games or as
they are called Nes games.

Gens for Windows
http://www.zophar.net/Files/wgens092b.zip
A sega Genesis system emulator.

Snes9x for Windows
http://www.zophar.net/Files/s9x1.35_.zip
A super nintendo system emulator.

A good website to look at for general emulation news, as well as emulators
for almost anything is
http://www.zophar.net
The site is called Zophars Domain, and it has various emulation sections
for game systems and other products such as calculators or even the Speak
and Spell.
I will not give website locations of where to download roms.  They are easy
to find just by searching on various search engines or if you have no luck
finding the game you want, e-mail me privately and I'll see if I can help.
Emulation is definitely a controversial topic in the computer world, and it
will always be so for a long time to come.  Sony has also gotten in to the
emulation battle of legalities because computer programmers have started
developing Sony playstation and nintendo64 emulators.  In my opinion,
emulation of an old product like a game system from the early 1990's or
1980's is alright because people will have a hard time finding and
purchasing these systems or games, and if they did, there is a chance that
the system will work poorly or not at all.  However, emulation of a product
that is still being heavily supported by the company isn't right.  Granted,
the emulation of such new systems isn't perfect, and you need a powerhouse
computer to run the games, so perhaps it is not as bad as I am making it
out to be. Two of the best playstation emulators Bleem and Connectix
Virtual game station are sold commercially however, so they will have to be
purchased.  Bleem costs $30, and VGS costs $50, however it includes a free
game.  Now these programs are viable if you can't afford a game system or
you want to play games on the road on a laptop computer but they still
can't beat the use of the original system for the best gaming
experience.  Another thing about playstation emulators is that they use the
original playstation CDs to run the games, so you will need an original
game CD to be inserted in to your CD-ROM drive to play the game.  They are
also not accessible in the least, so your best bet is to still purchase a
playstation, which you can read more information about in a previous
article of mine.  The playstation2 is also another option, it can play
original playstation games, plus it is a DVD player as well.

+++
The Gamers Rescue Unit

Kyle sat at his window, looking out on the garden.  Today, he mused, was a beautiful day.  It was peaceful, warm, and all was well with the world.  Frankly, he should have known better than to jump the gun like that.  As he listened to the bird song, and savoured the scent of the flowers, another noise began to infiltrate his consciousness.  A tiny, insistent beeping, that grew in volume until he could no longer ignore it.  With a sigh of resignation, he reached into his pocket, pulled out the pager and read the message displayed on its screen.

"Urgent!  Reality Gate alarm.  Code 2 response."

For a brief second, Kyle considered just switching off the annoying device, and going back to enjoying the scenery.  But with another sigh, he knew it was more than his job was worth to ignore a soul in peril.  He pushed the cancel button, pocketed the pager, and headed out to his waiting car.

As he drove to the Institute, Kyle tried to quell his rising sense of annoyance.  In the early days, he used to get a real thrill from every call.  But now, he was beginning to wonder if there wasn't more to life than helping people who were stuck in computer games.  Of course, being "stuck" as he understood it, was very different from the older times of computers.  Up until one fateful day, people who got stuck, simply meant that they reached a point in their game where they just couldn't continue, or had trouble progressing.  But then there was the legendary Adam.  The story went that he had been sucked into his computer, and had to play his way through several games in order to eventually escape from the digital universe in which he had found himself.  Nowadays of course, nobody really believed that story literally.  After all, how could a mere mortal have escaped from the alternate reality unaided?  Even the name of Adam, had become something more symbolic than real; many people believing that the individual was simply known as Adam because he was the first man through the Reality Gate.  But what everyone now knew, was that once Adam had gone through into the generated existence, it had somehow weakened the interface between the real and synthesised worlds.  As a result, people were disappearing into their games whenever they hit a high stress point.  The commonest reason for this, was just like in the old days, when someone just could not make any more headway, and became stuck.  But now, they were really stuck - inside the game itself!

After the first reports of the adventures of Adam, the scientific community had begun to investigate the phenomenon.  Some concentrated on studying the psychological state of the Adam individual.  Others attempted to emulate his actions precisely, in the belief that it would bring about an altered state of consciousness, akin to a religious experience.  But the most successful avenue was that stumbled upon by the folks at the Institute.  They had, at minimal expense, bought the very computer in which the famous events were supposed to have happened.  They connected it to every kind of detector, sensor, meter and measure.  After long, sleepless hours of fruitless examination, a bored cleaner had started to play one of the games on the machine, and had become hopelessly bogged down in an Andy Phillips interactive fiction game.  To the amazement of the watching scientists, he suddenly vanished in a flash of blackness, and all their gauges went wild.  From that first recorded event, it was a short, if tortuously mathematical journey, to the discovery of the Reality Gate.

The car swung into the lot outside the main Institute building.  Kyle jumped out, handing his keys over to the hovering attendant, and jogged into the lobby.  He no longer felt any sense of urgency about these missions, but he saw that it always created a good impression if he arrived slightly out of breath.  Well, if they wanted to believe he had dashed there post haste, who was he to disappoint them?  After swiping his identity card through several readers, and passing beyond more security doors than seemed possible for the size of the building, Kyle eventually arrived in the laboratory area.  He poked his head through a doorway, grabbing a belt and power unit from the rack mounted just inside the room.  Waving to the young smiling clerk as he left, Kyle checked the contents of the belt.  One Reality booster, one spare power pack, one radio communicator, and a torch.  Strapping the belt around his waist, he proceeded along the corridor toward the main chamber.  Stopping at the door, he punched in a security code, swiped his card yet another time, and kicked the door twice, before it would admit him.  Only the first two actions were strictly necessary to gain entry, but Kyle always felt it helped to burn off a little stress before entering the fray.

The room in which Kyle now found himself was a remarkable place.  Unfortunately, it wasn't because of the massed array of stunningly advanced technology that might have filled the space.  Nor was it due to any cavernous proportion to the cubicle room into which he stepped.  What made the room so extraordinary, was the wall on the right as he entered.  Unlike all the other surfaces in the room, it was not a bland, institutional white, but a deep, impenetrable black.  And even as he stood and watched it, the door hissing shut behind him, he began to notice the subtle changes that indicated the scientists were opening the Reality Gate.  First, although the blackness remained unbroken, Kyle could sense the gradual dissolving of the boundary between himself and the depths of the blackness within the Gate.  His eyes roamed the inky depths, searching for the first sign of his destination.  Initially, it seemed as though nothing was happening, but slowly, a tiny point of light began to grow in the distance.  It swelled, shimmered, glowed and blurred into existence.  As it approached, Kyle could make out vague shapes and colours,  warping and diffusing within the image.  After a few more minutes, the light had resolved itself into another place.  As it drew nearer, the black separation between the room in which Kyle stood, and that other place, became narrower.  Then finally, with an unnerving jerk, the two places joined together, at the boundary where the wall had been.  It now looked just as though the room had extended directly into another location, which Kyle was now studying carefully.  The other end of the chamber had resolved itself into what was clearly the bridge of a submarine.  Glancing at the features, Kyle estimated that it was a vessel of the 1940s vintage.  That would narrow the possibilities down as to what game this was. 

Kyle's hand strayed to his belt, and fingered the holster that contained the Reality booster.  Opening the flap, he drew it out, and checked it for the last time.  For a piece of extremely high-tech equipment, he always found himself smiling at its dramatic design.  It looked, for all the world, like a laser pistol.  He had once christened it the Reality Blaster, but it was now affectionately referred to as the GRU Gun, in honour of the organisation that was about to send him on a new mission.  The Gamers Rescue Unit had recruited him, and others, to go into the other reality, and retrieve lost gamers from their difficult, and often life-threatening situations.  The one crucial piece of hardware, was this Reality Booster.  The nearest analogy that the boffins had given him, was as follows.  If he were to imagine himself as a diver, deep in the ocean waters, and needed to get out to the life-giving air, the normal recourse would be to attempt the long, hard swim up to the surface.  But if someone were to invent a device, that would remove the body of water immediately above him, so that he was then standing within a long column of open air to the surface, he would simply need a rubber raft, and slowly let the water flow underneath him and raise him effortlessly to the light.  Well, it was an incredibly simplistic analogy, and fell down in several technical points.  But it largely got across the idea of the Reality Booster.  Rather than having to keep the Reality Gate open at a set place and time, and to require the agent to return exactly to the correct location when he or she found their quarry, the Booster allowed them to bring the boundary between the real and the unreal to wherever they were.  For this reason, the appearance of the Reality Booster as a gun was completely pointless, as it was not necessary to aim it at anything.  Just pulling the trigger was enough to open the Reality Gate, and allow the adventurers to step back into their own world.  But someone had decided that it didn't look very impressive, for a dashing, or beautiful rescuer to turn up in the nick of time, and pull out a boring little box and push a red button marked "Open Gate".  Purely for effect, the Reality Booster had been fashioned after a gun, to raise the morale of both the rescuer and rescued.  Although Kyle knew all this, he had to admit that the device gave him that little bit more reassurance when he drew it forth.

Returning to the current mission, Kyle scanned the submarine bridge again, and took out his communicator.  "Control?  Are you sure this is the right place?  I don't see any sign of anyone there."

There was a pause, and then the reply came back, "yes, we're pretty sure that's the place.  Maybe the player just moved out of the room as we opened the Gate."

"No," said Kyle firmly.  "I recognise the game.  It's Lone Wolf, and that means there is only one place for the player to be, and that's on the bridge.  I'm going in."

With that, he stepped forward, and entered the otherness, as simply as stepping from the sidewalk into the road.

The bridge was indeed empty.  It was odd enough for a submarine to have no discernible crew.  But what disturbed Kyle most, was the knowledge that this was the only location that the player could possibly be in.  The game of Lone Wolf took place entirely within the control centre of the submarine, using its various detectors and operators to function tactically.  Quickly, he glanced at the controls around him.  The boat was at a depth of 20 feet, and heading northeast at full speed.  Checking the passive sonar, he could see that there were no other vessels in the vicinity.  Strange?  What on earth could have caused the player to get stuck here?  Usually, on arriving at a mission, Kyle found himself virtually on top of the hapless player, and having to take control of the game play to avoid some dire catastrophe.  But this time, there seemed to be nothing amiss at all.  He was about to check the radar, when he realised that he had no idea what difficulty rating the game was being played at.  If it had been started at the highest level, then using the radar would alert any enemy craft, and bring them charging down on his location.  And then, with a jolt, he remembered that there was in fact one other place that the player could be.  He turned around, facing back the way he had come.  He was completely unsurprised to see that the chamber, from which he had entered this game, had vanished.  Instead, the bridge continued back into the boat, and Kyle's eyes fell upon the ladder leading up into the conning tower.  Swiftly he clambered up the rungs, flinging open the hatches as he went.  He emerged on to the top bridge, fully expecting to find the player scanning the horizon for the enemy.  But again, there was no-one.  Kyle frowned, beginning to get an unsettling feeling that something was not as it should be.  As he approached the rail, he started to wonder if the player had somehow leapt overboard and drowned.  But his musing was interrupted once more by an unwelcome event.  Ahead, and approaching fast, was what seemed to be a solid wall of ice.  Icebergs?  No, it stretched for miles to the north and east.  Then the mission briefing for this game flooded into his mind.

"An enemy communications base has been located in the middle of
a North Atlantic ice flow.  It has been situated so as to prevent direct access by sea.
We believe it might be possible to reach the base by diving under the ice sheet, and finding the
open water at its heart, used by the supply sea plane that serves it.

Locate the base, and destroy it.  There may be enemy vessels patrolling, and aircraft arrive and depart regularly.
So be careful."

What should he do now?  Where was this darned player?  Why hadn't he remembered to bring a pack of chewing gum?  Ah nuts!  Kyle turned and rushed down the ladder to the main bridge, closing and sealing the hatches behind him.  The only thing he could think to do, was play the game out, and win it.  Maybe then, he'd be able to find what had become of the unfortunate gamer. 

He adjusted the bow planes, and started the sub on a gentle dive, maintaining full speed.  Watching the depth indicator, and checking his distance from the approaching ice flow, he waited until he was at about 200 feet depth, with over 3000 yards to go to the ice.  Then he reduced speed to one quarter, and eased the submarine down gently.  The depth gauge passed 250 feet, and the depth warning began to alert him.  Kyle ignored it, listening for the telltale sounds of stress on the boat's hull.  At 320 feet, he heard the first creaking groan of the water pressure on the submarine's skin.  Gritting his teeth, he ignored it and pressed on.  The submarine protested again at 333 feet.  This time Kyle smiled.  He new he just had to make it to 340 feet, to be sure to clear the underside of the ice.  As the counter ticked over to 340, he levelled the sub, just as the third grinding sounds began to echo through the ship.  Breathing a sigh of relief, he opened the throttles, and pushed the sub to full speed, trying to get under the ice as quickly as possible.  He kept a careful eye on the battery level, knowing that until he cleared the ice on the inland side, he wouldn't be able to surface to recharge them.  Running your battery flat in this situation was certain death.  He just had to wait, and surface as quickly as possible once in open water again.  Time ticked by, with nothing but the hum of the electric motors, and the water passing the hull, to distract Kyle's mind from wondering where the gamer was.  On impulse, he ducked down, and looked under every conceivable surface, but found no place to hide. Had the player got themselves out again on their own, just as the legendary Adam had done?  No!  That was pure fantasy.  He just had to keep a level head, and all would become clear.

After what seemed an eternity, he saw that the ice was clearing, and as soon as was practical, he started the submarine on a steep ascent.  He was beginning to think this was going to be just too easy, when he remembered the briefing.  There might be enemy ships in the area.  Verifying the battery level once more, he cut back the speed, in order to reduce the noise his sub made as it climbed toward the surface.  Finally, on reaching a depth of 40 feet, Kyle levelled the sub, and raised the periscope.  He gave himself a mental pat on the back, when he saw the enemy submarine dead ahead.  Pulling the throttles closed, he opened the torpedo doors, and loosed off two fish from the starboard tubes.  Immediately closing the doors again, to start the reload, he watched the torpedoes stream toward the stationary target.  With a distant blast, the torpedoes dealt a direct hit, and the enemy submarine began to sink.  Using his last reserves of battery power, Kyle surfaced the submarine, and switched to diesel power, starting the recharge cycle.  He could hear an aeroplane humming in the distance, and hoped it was flying away.  Hurriedly, he re-ascended the conning tower, and scanned the ice all around.  Over to the east northeast, he located the communications base, and deployed the deck gun.  It was now a simple matter to target the base, and lob shell after shell until it began to blaze and sink into the ice.  With a thrill of exhilaration, Kyle knew that he had defeated the game, and that he would soon be on his way back.

"Hey!  It works!"  Kyle whirled around to face the person who had cried out behind him.  A short man, wearing a faded, pizza-stained T-shirt, and grubby jeans, was standing on the aft deck, gazing up at him.

"Who the hell are you?" Kyle shouted at the stranger, reaching instinctively for the GRU Gun.

"I'm..."  The other man's voice faded away as he reconsidered giving away his identity.  "I'm the player." He finished lamely.

"You?"  Kyle was flabbergasted.  "Where have you been?  How did you get down there?  You should only be able to use the bridge and conning tower.  What's going on?"

"Well, you see, I'm a sort of hacker." The other began.  "I like to find out how things work, and what is the best way to cheat at a game."  He smiled, revealing teeth stained with years of Pepsi and beer.  When I heard that the Gamers Rescue Unit would respond to anyone who got stuck in a game, I thought I'd try it out.  All I had to do was write into the Institute's cover organisation, Audyssey, and ask for help with a particular problem, and they would send you in.  And here you are!"  Again, the player beamed with triumph.

For some moments, Kyle just stared at the player, unable to believe his audacity.  "Do you mean that you haven't even tried to win this game?" he asked.

"No, of course not." The other replied, as though this was a ridiculous thing to suggest.  "Why spend time trying to struggle through a program, when someone else can do all the hard work for you?"

"But that's the whole point of playing the game!" cried Kyle in exasperation.  "You are supposed to be challenging yourself.  And another thing," he continued in mounting anger, "our service is only intended for those genuinely stuck in a game.  If you find yourself sucked into this other reality, and just don't know how to break through that barrier, we provided the Audyssey interface so people could be helped out.  Not every crossing triggers the Reality Gate alarm, so we felt it best to offer people a way to call for help.  You are just abusing the system for your own amusement!"  Before the player had a chance to retort, Kyle raised the GRU Gun, and with great satisfaction, saw the fear spread across the gamer's face as he squeezed the trigger.

"But I was just playing -" began the player, but his words were cut off by the flash of blackness from the Reality Booster.  With a start, they both found themselves standing in the Reality Gate chamber, with security guards ready to escort the player out.  Kyle nonchalantly holstered the GRU Gun, and turned to watch the submarine scene withdraw back into the blackness of the Gate.  But before the security guards could step forward to show the player back out to the world outside, Kyle spun round, grasped the soiled T-shirt, and hurled the squealing hacker into the black void that yawned beyond the wall.  As the struggling figure spun away into the darkness, protesting and calling for a Pepsi Max, Kyle shouted one last defiance after him.

"Let's see if you can hack your way out of that!  Unless your another Adam, I guess you'll be wanting us to help you out some time soon!  So if you can find a pen, write to Audyssey!"

+++
Free Game Winner

David Lant wins this month's free game. He has worked very hard indeed to help keep Audyssey going strong, and it shows in this issue. I hope he enjoys his free game, and that we'll see more excellence from Mr. Lant in future issues.
+++
News from MindsEye2
Contact:  [email protected] and visit http://www.mindseye2.bigstep.com

At MindsEye2 we have been busy working on adding Direct Sound
capabilities to our games. Direct Sound will let our games have
multiple sounds play at the same time and control direction of
sounds as well as each sound's volume. Often books recorded on
tape include several layers of sound such as the narrator in the
foreground and music or ambient sounds setting the mood in the
background with various sound effects between to highlight the
events in the story. We will be bringing some of this to our
customers in our upcoming games.

We took some time out and went back to add Direct Sound to our
Magic Match, Christmas Tic Tac Toe, and Christmas Playroom games
which makes them much more responsive. We now have patches for
these on our website for download.

We currently are working on several new games which we will
announce as they become available. At least for the near future
MindsEye2 will be concentrating on making educational games for
younger children. After doing some research we discovered that
little is available for younger children with visual impairments
as far as computer games and educational software is concerned so
we will be addressing this need in our upcoming releases.

One game in development is a large collection of educational
games for younger children. It will include 12 games selectable
by pressing the 12 function keys. These games will be lots of fun
as well as teaching concepts like counting, rhyming words, animal
facts, habitats, counting money, and much more. We should have
more to share about this and other games by the next issue if all
goes well. We will be selling these 12 games separately or in
small groups for people who want only a small subset of the big
Early Learning Playground game.

Here is a tiny hint: One game includes a real-time simulation of a
steam locomotive the child can drive around the world learning
about animals and plants in various environments. End of tiny
hint. (Smile)

On March 21, Minds Eye 2  will be at a convention of teachers of
the visually impaired in Virginia Beach, Virginia. If you know of
other conferences for teachers and/or parents in the Maryland,
Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee area then
please send information about those to MindsEye2 and we may
consider attending as a vendor.

Contact information:

MindsEye2
Route 1 Box 404-A
Bland, VA  24315

Phone: (540) 688-2170
Email [email protected]
http://www.mindseye2.bigstep.com

Roger
[email protected] - Roger Myers
 

+++
News From PCs
Date: January 29, 2001 4:42 PM
        Windows game demo from P C S Games!
We now have a demo of one of our Windows/DOS games. It is Snipe Hunt.
Go to:
http://www.blindcommunity.com

You will get a page with the following links:
link J-Squared File Centre
Visit our download area to get issues of the Audyssey game magazine and
other great files.

Then hit enter on:
link PCs Directory
P C S Game Demos; Try before you buy!
Then arrow down to a specific game link such as:
link snipe01.zip
ZIP File
Snipe hunt - Grab your flashlight and a sack and lets go snipe hunting
Then hit enter on that link to get:
J-Squared: Files
Select here to download:
link pcs/snipe01.zip
File Size: 3120188 Bytes
Extended Description:
There was a good hatch this year and they are ready for the picking. A word
to the wise, "just be a where of the Male Snipes! They will chase you and attack
your lamp. Personal Computer Systems is going to take you on a Snipe hunt like you've
never been on before. Not only are the Snipes plentiful but there are different
kinds of them! This fast action arcade game is sure to have you hopping around
bagging flocks of the Elusive birds. Has a Windows setup
  or DOS Install.
This is a playable demo. You may purchase the full product from PCS for $40.
Website:
http://www.pcsgames.com
If you don't have an unzipping program, you need one!
You can get it at the same site! It is:
pk250dos.exe
EXE File Pkzip 2.50 archival utility - You can use this DOS program to
decompress .zip files in the archive

This demo has a Windows useable Setup inside the zip file.
You need to unzip Snipe01.zip to a temporary folder.
Then go into the folder and hit enter on setup.exe.
You will get a self voicing installation where you can choose one of three
ways to play the sounds in the game. After you are finished a P C S Games folder will be created in your programs list.
When you hit enter on P C S Games you will find a Snipe Hunt folder.
Inside it you can hit enter on Play Game.

If you want a DOS installation, you will need a hardware synthesiser or JFW
and a multi channel sound card.
For the JFW (JAWS for Windows) USER:
Hold the INSERT KEY down and hit the s key until JFW SAYS ALL.
Then hold the ALT key down and hit ENTER.
Go into the temporary folder where you unzipped Snipe01.zip and type
install then hit the enter key.
Answer the questions and the installation program will leave you in the
Snipe Hunt game folder.
Type SH to run the game.

For both Windows and DOS installation:
To get help about the game hit the F1 key while the game action is
going on. After playing the game type EXIT to return to WINDOWS.

If you would like us to walk you through the installation we will
be happy to do it.
Call us at
(732) 826-1917
or E-mail:
[email protected]


+++
News From Zform

Zform website update January 17, 2001

+Terry Mollner Joins Zform's Board of Advisors:

Zform is pleased to welcome Terry Mollner to its Board of Advisors
(link). Terry is the founder of the Trusteeship Institute, the
umbrella organisation for ZoundZight, Zform's non-profit partner.
Terry has many years of experience on advisory boards, particularly
for socially responsible businesses such as Ben and Jerry's ice cream.
He will be a great help to Zform in business advising and fund-raising.

For complete biographies of Terry and the rest of Zform's Board of
Advisors, please go to the Company (link) page.

+UMass Computer Science Software Engineering Class:

The Zform collaboration with the software engineering class at UMass
Amherst was a great success. The professor and teaching assistants for
the course were very impressed with the students' work and level of
excitement in the class. Zform and the class plan to work together
again next semester.

+++
DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS

SECOND CAMPAIGN

STRIKE, AND COUNTER STRIKE

PART THREE

After accepting a charter from Masron, the merchant, Myrthorn, the human male magic user and leader; Muldred, the male elven cleric; Jarveth, the male dwarven warrior; Ardrah, the human female fighter; and Brik, the huge human male fighter, set out from the town of Pendboro.  The group was charged with guarding Masron's caravan until it and they reached the coastal city of Corindia.
        The caravan, first crossing grass and scrub land without mishap, began the arduous trek through the Keshladin Mountains.  About half way up the steadily increasing slope of the trail, the caravan was attacked by a group of eight highwaymen.  Fortunately, Myrthorn and his group dispatched them with haste and the caravan proceeded into the Dragon Maw Pass at the mountain's crest.  However, after bedding down for the night, the camp was attacked by wolves, one of whom was a werewolf.  A fierce battle ensued which saw Jarveth and Ardrah seriously wounded.  But when the dust cleared the werewolf, in his human form, lay dead amid several other wolf carcasses.  Two more wolves approached, but catching the scent of death lying heavy on the night air, they wheeled around and fled back down the mountain.
Now the group was beginning the task of tending to wounds and trying to catch their collective breath.
Myrthorn knew it would be futile to look for his crossbow bolts in the darkness.  He was about to go over to Ardrah and Jarveth and check their wounds when out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of movement in the darkness.  The mage turned and saw, with relief, that it was Masron the merchant striding purposefully toward the exhausted combatants
"Well done, all of you," the merchant said, beaming.
        Catching his eye, Myrthorn and Masron stepped away from the rest of the group.  "Because of their wounds, we'll need to keep an eye on Ardrah and Jarveth tonight," Myrthorn said in a low voice.
        "I was afraid of that," Masron nodded.  "And if one or both show signs of becoming werewolves?"
        "If we could not restrain them long enough in order to find a powerful exorcist then we'd be forced to..."  Myrthorn trailed off unwilling to give voice to the thought.
        Masron nodded again and both men returned to the group who were now clustered around the dead lycanthrope.
        "Ardrah's found a leather pouch," Brik said to the two men as they joined the circle, his voice tinged with excitement.  "It has four gems inside," he finished, envisioning a jewelled broad sword, gold plated armour, then stacks of kegs.
        "Calm yourself, Brik," Ardrah said as she saw the look on the big man's face.  "They might fetch some gold in the market but not a king's ransom."  She tucked the pouch in her backpack and stood.
        The six of them returned to the wagons.  Myrthorn complimented Masron's men for the nice job they had done to keep the horses as calm as possible.  Myrthorn off-handedly suggested that Ardrah and Jarveth should sleep by the fire where they could keep warm and allow any lingering wounds to heal.  They agreed and when they laid their blankets by the fire, which had been recently stoked, both fell instantly to sleep.
        Myrthorn gave Brik and Muldred a significant look before explaining the brief conversation he had had with the head merchant.
        "So one of us will have to keep an eye on them for the rest of the night," the mage finished.  The other two nodded in grim understanding.  They split up and began the watch.
        The remaining four hours left to the night passed quickly and without incident.  As the golden sunlight cascaded down the mountainsides, a relieved Myrthorn woke Ardrah and Jarveth.  "Breakfast," he said, smiling.  During the night he had debated telling them in the morning what could happen.  But now seeing that it appeared that neither warrior displayed any further ill effects from their battle, he opted to let the matter drop.
        As a small reward for their victories over the highwaymen and the wolves, Masron gave each of them an extra flagon of ale.  Brik looked at the frothing liquid and sighed.  Just a pint, he thought in disappointment.  The others sipped their offerings gratefully but Brik downed his as if it was a mere shot.  He belched loudly.
        The horses were tethered to the wagons as the caravan prepared to continue on.  To compensate for the lost horse, two of the wagons were lashed together.  Myrthorn and the rest of the group took their positions in the wagons they had occupied all during the trek.  The wagons creaked and groaned as they left the rock inlet and turned south and proceeded through the pass.  As always Brik scouted ahead.  After an hour of travelling the caravan crested the mountains and began the long descent down the southern leg of the Dragon Maw pass.  At one point the sun was abruptly blotted out.  Everyone looked up in alarm at a huge black form hovering high over the road.  A Roc.  A huge bird of prey with wings the size of a ship's sails.  Fortunately for the caravan the Roc had just finished lunching on several mountain trolls and it was uninterested in snacking on a horse.  It turned slowly and silently in the sky then it glided serenely up the mountainside               toward the snow-glazed peaks.
Ardrah let out her breath which she hadn't realised she had been holding.
        "You weren't afraid of a little Roc?" Kogon said, grinning playfully.
"I'd hate to see your definition of big," Ardrah grinned back.
At noon the caravan finally reached the end of the pass and paused on the fringe of the Sersadek grasslands.  Myrthorn and Muldred dozed off while the rest of the group ate a leisurely lunch.
        Presently the wagons were rolling once again and they started across the Sersadek plains:  a vast stretch of grassland with the blades of grass nearly six feet tall.  The road they travelled dipped a full three feet below the level of the grass indicating that it was well travelled on.  The Sersadek plains were the big sister to the Akra plains back to the north, but these plains were devoid of trees.
        After several hours of riding, the sun was beginning its descent.  The shadows cast by the wagons and horses were lengthening as twilight approached.  The caravan caught up to Brik who reported, "There's a small town ahead."  The message was relayed to Masron who nodded knowingly.  "We've made excellent time," he called.  "That's the small town of Amron.  There's an innkeeper there who happens to be a good friend of mine."
        "I'll go scout the town," Brik offered.  Before anyone could stop him he was galloping away down the road.
        "If he finds any taverns," Muldred said, "he'll never come back."
        Myrthorn laughed out loud, something he had not done in a long time.  It felt good.
        The caravan trundled onward and they reached Amron with a few hours of muted daylight to spare.  On the right side of the road was the Cloven Hoof inn and across the road stood a nameless general store.  Beyond these lay a smattering of smaller shops which were more than stalls or wagons.  Still further out were homes and small farms.
None of the town's people gave the caravan a second glance as the train of wagons rumbled into the centre of town and came to a grinding stop..  A plump man came out of the inn and greeted Masron with a bear hug.
        "What's the good news, my friend," Masron asked.
        The innkeeper's jovial features abruptly grew serious.  "I've heard several people in my inn say that there's been some goblin raids in the outlying farms, but I have not seen any of the dirty little vermin."  He gazed sadly into the distance, sighed heavily, then turned back to his old friend.  "Come in, come in, you old miser and tell me about your journey," he said slapping Masron on the back.  The two men walked toward the inn.
        "See to the horses and the ass," Masron called, pausing at the inn's door.  "Take them out back of the inn.  There's some shorter grass there.  The rest of you," and he looked meaningfully at Myrthorn, "relax and look about town.  But," he said, his voice dropping an octave, "I want this caravan guarded tonight."  With that he turned and followed the innkeeper into the building.
        Myrthorn and Muldred yawned almost simultaneously.  "The three of you can look around town," Myrthorn said as he climbed into a wagon.  "I'm going to sleep."
        "I could use a nap as well," Muldred said.  He climbed into the cart and settled down.
        "I'm not the shopping type," Jarveth said, tugging on his beard.  "I'll stay by the wagons."
        "Very well," Ardrah said.  "Brik let's you and I take a look around."
        Brik looked around and grimaced.  "I don't see any taverns."
        "Every town has a tavern," Ardrah replied as she walked toward the general store.
        Brik brightened and hurried to catch up with the woman.  They entered the store and stood in the dim light.  There was more dust than items for sale Ardrah noticed.  She moved deeper into the shadows with a dubious look on her face.  A rather rotund man sat on a stool at the back of the store.  He made no move to rise as Ardrah approached.  He wore a leather tunic, leather pants, leather boots.  In fact, he was entirely clad in leather, except for the corn cob pipe he held in one meaty hand.  Rather worn leather, Ardrah thought as she continued to glance around.
        "Whatcha lookin' fer?" he asked, lighting his pipe.
        "Actually," Ardrah began carefully, "I'm looking for a silver dagger or a bar of silver which I could have fashioned into a sword blade."
        The man's booming laughter nearly shook several items off the shelves.  "Silver bar?" he laughed.  "I haven't seen a silver coin in three years, never mind a silver dagger or bar."  He swept an arm in a broad gesture.  "All I have is what you see around yuh, lady."  Ardrah looked at the chipped pottery, the rusted canteens and other utensils, the ratty leather armour, and other undesirable items stacked carelessly on the shelves.
        "Where's the tavern?" Brik asked.
        The storekeeper barked another laugh but not as loudly this time.  "Ah, a man after my own heart," he said and grinned, displaying a mouthful of crooked and missing teeth.  He pointed over his shoulder.  "Out the back door and go down the path to old Willard's.  He makes his own ale.  Quality stuff.  Many a night I've woken up in the grass behind my store after a good spat of drinkin' his brew."  He laughed again.
Brik's eyes brightened and he headed for the back of the store.
        "Brik," Ardrah called in exasperation, but Brik was on the ale trail and he ignored her call.
        Ardrah rolled her eyes, turned on her heel and strode toward the front door.  Breathing deeply of the fresh air as she left the store, Ardrah crossed the street and peered around the rear corner of the Cloven Hoof.  The horses had been tied and many of them were happily munching the thick grass.  She noticed that about fifty yards beyond the horses, the grass became six feet tall once again.  It stretched to the darkening horizon and it hissed as the wind picked up.
        Returning to the centre of town and the wagons she found that the mage and cleric had awakened.  Myrthorn looked about.  "Where's Brik?"
        Ardrah sighed.  "He found his tavern."
        Myrthorn nodded his head in resignation then looked at Muldred.  "Muldred, go get Brik."
        "I'd rather fight a werewolf," Muldred said climbing stiffly out of the cart, "than trying to separate Brik from his beer."
        Ardrah pointed in the direction of the general store.  She told him of Willard and Muldred shrugged and headed off toward the store.
        Myrthorn still looked weary.  He rubbed his eyes and yawned.  "I want you, Brik, and Jarveth to take the first watch," he said.  Ardrah nodded.
        "Very good," Jarveth said.  He climbed up on top of one of the wagons that had a solid wooden roof.  The wooden planks creaked ominously but they held the stocky dwarf.
        Ardrah heard footsteps and she turned, a look of incredulity crossing her face.  Muldred with Brik in tow were making their way toward the wagons.  Brik was carrying a keg of ale easily under one arm and whistling tunelessly as he walked.
        Muldred smiled just a little sheepishly.  "We had to buy that keg of ale," he confessed, "because he flatly refused to return to the wagons if we didn't."
"I am not flat," Brik protested.  "I'm big."
Flat head," Ardrah muttered as she collected her helmet from the lead wagon.  "Come on, Brik.  We have first watch."
        Muldred saw Myrthorn settling down in one of the wagons and he followed his example and climbed back into the cart.
        The swathes of sunlight were swallowed up by the lengthening shadows as Ardrah and Brik began making their circuit around the wagons.  Jarveth, atop the wagon, continuously scanned the horizon. 
        A few hours after sunset there came the distant sound of howling wolves.  Ardrah stopped and stared into the distance.  The howls came again but were coming no closer.  She continued walking around the wagons.  Suddenly Jarveth swore.
        "What is it, Dwarf?" Ardrah called, an icy claw gripping her innards.
        "My infravision is ruined," he grated in frustration.
        Ardrah and Brik hurried around the last few wagons and stopped at the wagon Jarveth was standing on.  He pointed in a general northwesterly direction.  However, he didn't have to for both Ardrah and Brik saw it:  A distant orange spire blazing on the horizon.
        "My guess is," Jarveth rumbled, "that a farmhouse is burning."
        "Should we help?" Brik asked.
Ardrah was mesmerised by the distant tongue of flame.  She guessed it to be about a mile or two from town.  She warred within herself for a few moments, then finally she shook her head.  "We can't."
        "That's damned cold blooded if you ask me," Jarveth said, his eyes narrowing.
        Ardrah wield on him.  "What would you have me do, Dwarf," she snapped.  "Go dashing off only to find a charred ruin?  We'd never get there in time and we'd probably run into an entire raiding party of goblins."
        Jarveth fingered his axe.  "Bring em' on," he said between clenched teeth.
        "Besides," Ardrah said, turning back to stare impotently at the fire, "our charge is to guard these wagons."
        Eventually the fire disappeared and none others blossomed on the horizon.  Along toward midnight Myrthorn and Muldred were awakened and told of the night's events.
        Myrthorn looked in the direction Ardrah was now pointing in and frowned even though there was no sign of the fire anymore.  "Wolves and goblins," he muttered sourly.  "Brik, come with me to check on the horses."
        The mage clambered out of the wagon and started for the inn.  Brik followed, loosening his broad sword.  They rounded the rear corner of the inn and saw that all horses were still there but they seemed to be nervously stamping the ground.  Myrthorn caught sudden movement off in the tall grass to the west.  He wasn't sure of what he saw, especially in the darkness.  He turned and two wolves burst out of the grass.  A goblin was astride each wolf and each rider carried a crude but effective spear.
        "Wargs!" Myrthorn cried.
        Muldred, Jarveth and Ardrah came running at Myrthorn's cry.  Five or six merchants, who were milling around the inn, also heard the cry and came running to try and protect the horses.  Myrthorn tore a quarrel from his quiver and quickly loaded his crossbow.  The wargs and goblins were now about forty yards out but closing fast.  He took aim at the rider on the left and fired.  The bolt whined through the air and slammed into the goblin's throat with such force that the quarrel smashed through the back of the rider's neck hurling him off the huge wolf.
        At the same time, Brik readied his long bow and launched an arrow at the goblin on the right.  But at forty yards Brik's bow just didn't have the accuracy and his arrow went wide.  The goblin came on and lowered his spear at Jarveth.  The dwarf leapt easily out of harm's way and the warg also missed him as wolf and rider streaked past.  The wolf wheeled and charged back toward Jarveth.  The goblin was intent on the dwarf, the despised enemy of all goblins, and he failed to see Muldred off to one side.  The cleric's flail whipped the air as he whirled it over his head.  As the goblin closed on Jarveth Muldred lashed out with a wicked strike and the iron ball connected solidly with the goblin and utterly crushed his windpipe.  The spear flew from his hand as he was thrown violently off the warg's back.  His neck snapped as he struck the ground.
The warg wheeled, almost seeming to hover in mid air before hitting the ground, its claws ripping up great clumps of earth.
        Myrthorn ran back toward the main street and the wagons.  "We have to protect the wagons," he yelled.  "Some of you come with me."  But in the heat of battle no one neither heard nor heeded him.
        Jarveth, Brik, and Muldred spread out and surrounded the warg which snarled in fury.  It suddenly leapt straight at the dwarf who threw himself out of the way.  The warg's jaws closed but only tore Jarveth's leather sleeve. The dwarf was off balance and his axe struck down at the great wolf but the blade slashed just past the warg's shoulder and chunked into the ground.  Muldred whipped his flail around but the warg sprang away.  The huge wolf had leapt right toward Brik to avoid Muldred's strike and the big man, who had drawn his sword, lashed out with a two-handed grip and opened the warg's side from shoulder to hind quarters.  The huge wolf staggered, howling in pain.  Muldred struck again and the metal sphere crushed the warg's foreleg.  The wolf fell on its side, blood pouring from its wounds.  Jarveth had regained his balance and he drove the blade through the great wolf's chest, cleaving its heart and ending the animal's agony.
The first wolf, who was now riderless, charged toward the merchants who were trying to protect the horses.  Ardrah broke into a dead run, knowing the merchantmen could never stand against such a beast with their meagre weapons.  She reached the wolf at the instant it sprang at the group of merchants.  One man went down amidst ripping claws and gouging fangs.  She stopped just a few feet from the huge wolf.  "To me!" she screamed.  The wolf whirled to face this unexpected threat.  Its lips drew back in a deadly snarl and it sprang at Ardrah.  Anticipating this, she lunged to one side and the flat of her blade cracked against the warg's shoulder.  The impact knocked the wolf aside and it struck the ground, great claws scrabbling for purchase.  Gritting her teeth in fury, remembering an earlier battle with a wolf, she slashed fiercely at its throat.  The warg jerked back and the blade past just under its chin.  The huge wolf leapt at her exposed arm but its teeth clamped down on a steel bracer.  It jerked back, stunned.  Ardrah slashed at it with a back swing.  The blade bit into the warg's shoulder but because they were in such close quarters, the chop had no momentum behind it and only opened a shallow gash in the wolf's flesh.
        The other three in the group finally heard Myrthorn's cries.  They shouted at Ardrah but she was so focused on her adversary that her mind had blocked everything else out.  As one, Jarveth, Muldred, and Brik raced toward the front of the inn and the wagons.
        Ardrah kicked out at the warg trying to break a rib or two.  The wolf sprang away and because she was heavily armoured Ardrah was overbalanced and she stumbled forward and fell to one knee.  Keeping to the ground, the huge wolf darted in and slashed at her throat with razor-sharp fangs.  Ardrah saw the attack and lowered her helmeted head, lunging forward at the same time the wolf lunged at her throat.  The helmet struck the wolf crushing its tender nose and snapping off a fang.  The warg fell back on its haunches, its yellow eyes burning with pain and abhorrence.  Ardrah struggled to her feet and regarded the warg warily.  The wolf began to circle her cautiously, feigning lunges, studying its prey.  Ardrah turned with the warg bracing herself for the inevitable attack.  She was breathing very hard, the exertion of two major engagements were beginning to take its toll.  The wolf was also panting, blood dripping from the shallow gash in its shoulder.  Suddenly the warg sprang, teeth gleaming in the moonlight.  Ardrah couldn't get her sword around in time.  Instinctively she threw up her other arm and the jaws raked against her steel sleeve.  But Ardrah was hurled backward with the impact and warg and human went crashing to the ground.  Ardrah rolled as the warg quickly righted itself.  The wolf darted in, seeing its prey on the ground.  Ardrah was on her back and she just got her sword around as the wolf bore down on her.  She stabbed at its left eye but the sword point pierced an ear and tore it from the warg's head.
        Ardrah was tiring rapidly.  She had to end this quickly.  The wolf had fallen back again at the sudden shock of pain.  Grunting with the effort, Ardrah lunged to her feet and hurled herself at the huge wolf.  It threw itself aside.  Ardrah struck again, and again, the warg throwing itself away from the blade.  With the next slash Ardrah lost her balance and fell to her knees, dropping her sword arm.  The warg seized its advantage and sprang.  Anticipating this, Ardrah threw herself back and brought her sword up vertically.  The wolf came hurtling at her, and impaled itself on her blade, the sword slicing through its belly and piercing its spine with six inches of steel protruding from its back.  The warg shuddered then its weight came crashing down on Ardrah.  She grunted as the air was kicked out of her lungs.  Finally she gasped and pushed the wolf onto its side giving her enough room to squirm out from under its weight.  The wolf blinked once, its tongue lolling out of its mouth.  It moved its front paws feebly, trying to rise.  Ardrah got to her feet and with a quick stab drove her sword through the poor animal's heart to end its agony.
Myrthorn had cried out because he had found ten goblins beginning to raid the wagons.  Myrthorn backed away and the goblins turned in his direction.  Then the other three rounded the corner of the inn at a run.  The dwarf and the goblins saw each other at the same time.  Jarveth let out a fierce battle cry and charged all ten goblins.  They formed a circle around the dwarf but Jarveth did not wait.  His axe lashed out at the nearest goblin and its head flew off its shoulders.  Myrthorn fired a quarrel which went wide.  Muldred caved in the side of another goblin's head with his flail.  The goblins attack Jarveth but incredibly he spun, leapt, and dodged and not a blade found him.  He spun and buried his blade in the chest of another goblin.  Muldred stepped forward, flail whipping through the air.  The iron ball missed the goblin but the chain wrapped around its neck, the links digging into its flesh and crushing its windpipe.  A goblin struck again at Jarveth who lunged aside.  The goblin's blade plunged into the stomach of another goblin who screamed and fell sideways.  Stunned, the first goblin couldn't react in time to avoid the dwarf's axe blade as it slammed into its face.  Still another goblin darted in and slashed at the dwarf who failed to see the attack and the blade sliced across his scalp just above his left ear.  The goblin never had a chance to brag about its strike as the dwarf whirled in fury and buried his axe in its skull.  Muldred lashed out again with his flail but the goblin ducked and whirled to face its attacker.  Suddenly Brik was looming over the goblin and his great broad sword flashed.  The goblin's head bounced as it hit the ground.
        The two remaining goblins, seeing their raiding party decimated, dropped their weapons and fled.  Jarveth cursed and pounded after them.
        A weary Ardrah had come around the corner of the inn just as Brik had relieved the goblin of its head.  She approached Myrthorn who was checking the wagons to see if the goblins had fled with anything.  "One of the merchantmen was killed in the warg attack," she said in a subdued tone.
        "We'd better tell Masron," Myrthorn said gravely.  Taking Ardrah gently by the arm he led her toward the front door of the inn.  Stopping before it he wrapped on it loudly.  The door remained closed.  "Masron it's me, Myrthorn," he called.  Presently, the door was opened by the innkeeper who was gripping a butcher knife in one hand.  Seeing it was the mage he lowered the knife gratefully.  "Ah, it is you," he said, wiping sweat from his brow.  "We feared a trap."  He looked over his shoulder at Masron who was wielding a cutlass.
        "It's over," Myrthorn said wearily.  "The last two goblins fled.  Jarveth chased after them but knowing the dwarf he won't stop until those two lie dead,"  He grinned thinly.
        Masron stepped forward smiling.  "When we saw ten goblins come rushing into town and heard the commotion out back, I thought we'd be slaughtered.  But you and your companions have proven yourselves once again."
        "One of your merchants was killed by a warg," Myrthorn said.
Ardrah hung her head.  "I was unable to reach the wolf before it attacked your man," she said softly.  "I've failed you I'm afraid."
        "Let me see the man," Masron said and headed for the door.  The four left the inn.  Myrthorn noticed that Jarveth had returned.  The mage gave him a questioning look.  Jarveth held up two fingers and grinned broadly.
        They rounded the corner and Masron saw some of his men clustered around a huge dead wolf while others knelt beside a body.  Masron approached the dead merchant and looked down.  After a moment he nodded.  "We'll give him a proper burial," he said and turned to return to the front of the inn.
        Ardrah stared.  "But your man is dead because of me."
Masron merely shrugged dismissively.  "All my men knew the risks when they signed on."
        Ardrah gaped.  She opened her mouth to say something else, but all the merchants stood together and began to clap.  Ardrah didn't know how to react so she just stood there and blushed.  Masron smiled and ordered his men to take care of the body.  Then he and the innkeeper returned to the front of the inn.
        Ardrah and Myrthorn returned to the wagons and regarded the carnage in the road.  "Who do you want on watch for the rest of the night?" Ardrah asked.
        "Let the merchants guard their own wagons," Myrthorn said wearily.  "We deserve some much needed sleep."  The mage climbed into his wagon and the rest of his group followed his example.  They all dropped off to sleep, some like Jarveth and Ardrah not waiting to roll out their blankets.
The sun had risen completely over the eastern horizon before Masron roused them.  "My friend the innkeeper wishes to serve you a hearty breakfast in gratitude," he said, "so by all means have a good meal.  But don't take too much time for we'll be leaving soon."
        All five stretched and breathed in the morning air.  They filed into the inn and indeed had a hearty breakfast of sausages, ham, cheese, bread, fruits, and of course, ale.
        After they had stuffed themselves they returned to the caravan and climbed into their wagons.  Masron waved farewell to the innkeeper who waved back and watched as the caravan rolled out of Amron, bound for the coastal city of Coryndia.

THE END


+++
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.

++
The 2000 interactive fiction was truly gigantic this year, and the final results certainly caught me by surprise. Our attempt to cover the competition fell far short of what the IF staff and I would have liked to see due to circumstances beyond our control. However, one of our readers has come valiantly to the rescue. Tony Baechler has generously given me permission to put his reviews in this issue of Audyssey. I very much appreciate this, and hope that all of you find them to be enjoyable.

Here are my reviews and comments on the IF competition games which I was
able to play.  For my convenience, I will reference them by language and
filename so I do not have to try to get the full title of the game correct. I
will also include my ratings. They are in the order which Comp00 placed them in.
There are a few games which I am not able to play so they will not be reviewed
here.

First a few notes on how I grade the games.. I ask myself several questions and
give each factor a grade from 1-10. I then average those grades for a final
score. I try to be nice to new authors and will usually forgive small bugs or
parser problems. If the author has entered before, those things result in a
lower score. I grade on the following. Originality. How creative was it? Had it
been done before? Writing. Were there any spelling or grammar errors? I grade
very strictly on this because, with the number of beta testers now available and
the amount of good spell checkers, there is no reason for less than perfect
English. If the author does not appear to use English as his/her native
language, I take this into consideration. Enjoyment. Did I enjoy the story and
atmosphere? I generally do not like games which are all puzzles and have no
story. Also, I do not like single location or joke games. Parser. Did it
understand everything I tried? Were there enough synonyms etc.? Did I have to
guess the correct verb or noun? Hints/walkthrough. Did it have either one? Was
the walkthrough just a list of commands or did it actually provide extra
information? Were the hints useful and included as part of the game? Multimedia.
Did the game rely too heavily on sounds or graphics? Could it be enjoyed
otherwise? (A quick note on this. I am blind. As a result, I will ignore the
graphics. In the case of TADS games which include resource files, I will delete
those which only have graphics images in them. I only point this out so authors
who spent months on their pictures will not wonder why I did not comment on
them.) Also, here is your spoiler warning. I will not try to include too many
spoilers, but there might be some. If you have not played all of the games, stop
reading now. Without further comment, here are my reviews.

Inform: happy

I gave this game a rating of 3. I would have preferred 2.5, but I could not use
decimals. My main complaint was the poor writing and spelling errors. Also, it
looked like the game had no beta testing or polishing. The author apparently did
not know his directions because he would write "west" when he meant "east." The
game seemed directionless, although it does have a quest. I resorted to the
walkthrough because I really had no idea what the quest was. Even after using
the walkthrough, the game could not be completed because a needed key was
missing to open a door at the end. He used no synonyms at all. If I wanted to
manipulate the crypt, I had to say "marble crypt." Also, the backpack seemed
unnecessary.

My advice to the author would be to use beta testers and have someone else
correct his writing. He does have potential if he includes more of a story in
his future games. Some parts of his writing were good. Except for the problem
mentioned above with the parser, I did not find any serious bugs.

Inform: Got ID?

  I rated this a 4.  There are three main things which hurt this game.
One was that the hints were too vague.  They were more like gentle
nudges.  If the author did not want to spoil the puzzles, that is fine,
but I wish this would have been pointed out or a walkthrough included.
Also, he used a non-standard hint system.  I really prefer the standard
Inform menu system unless there is a good reason for not using it, for
example if the hints were context-sensitive to the current puzzle.

  The second thing which was a problem was the puzzles.  OK, I
understood the quest just fine, and as I would expect it is not as easy
as it looks.  However, why was I wandering around underground?  Too many
of them felt contrived and did nothing to advance the plot.  The game
felt directionless and I really was not sure what I was supposed to be
doing since the too obvious solution did not work.  I finally quit
because I seemed to be at a dead end and could not retrieve the boots.

  Finally, this type of game had been overdone before.  It felt like a
modern Zork (R) trying to gather "treasures" and the like, with no clear
quest pointed out.  See above.

  What did I like about the game?  I really did enjoy it and wanted to
rate it higher.  If there would have been less puzzles or a better
explanation for them, and if the hints would have been better, it would
have earned at least one more point, and probably two.  The writing was
funny and had few detracting errors.  The store and surroundings was
obviously fantastic, but I did not mind.  I do not usually like humorous
games but this kept my interest.  I had about 20 minutes left of my two
hours because of the problem with the boots and because I felt like
either I was cut off, there was a bug, or I had somehow put the game in
an unwinnable state with no warning.  With some more work, I think this
author has potential for good IF output.


  Inform: what_if

I rated this a 2.  Well, what can I say?  I felt like I was reading a
textbook, only with some spelling and grammar errors.  I really did not
enjoy this at all.  It is not interactive except that I could pick what
history I wanted to read about in which order.  It was putting me to
sleep.  Some parts felt like a textbook, while others felt like I was
reading someone's high school or college paper.  He had an interesting
idea, though.  Unfortunately, the same type of thing was already done in
Jigsaw, including notes on the events.

  I do not think the historical fiction genre has been overused, quite
the contrary.  However, I think that anyone who wants to do this needs
to take a good look at Jigsaw.  However, there are many historical
events not covered in Jigsaw that would make good, short competition
games.  If I could have had any control over the events presented, this
game would have got at least two more points.

  My advice to the author is to write an essay instead.  Also, I would
suggest trying to come up with an original idea rather than copying
others.  (See his previous entry, Spacestation, for example, which was
based on the sample Planetfall transcript written by Infocom.)  If he
does produce any more games, make them both interactive and fiction, and
find a proofreader.  The only reason it got a 2 is because the writing
did not have an abundance of spelling errors and I have never seen an
essay done in Inform before.


  Inform: comp00tr

Why am I plagued with the worst games at the beginning?  This got a
rating of 1.  The last game (see above) was wonderful compared to this!
I do not like to be harsh to new authors or games, but I really can
think of nothing about this game which I liked.  The joke was funny for
about the first room and it got old.  This is just begging for MST3K
treatment.  I have no advice for the author.


  Inform: masque

Well, this is finally an improvement.  I rated this a 6.  The writing
was usually good with only small errors.  The hint system was adequate,
although it was not complete.  There was a good story and lots of
background.

  My only major complaint is that it relied too much on talking to NPCs
and piecing together details.  My other complaint is that it left me
with too many unanswered questions at the end.  Just when I was about to
find out what was going on, it stopped.  Also, while the hints were
adequate, they did not cover all portions of the game and left me with a
low score with no idea what I failed to do.  Also, the "amusing" did not
seem to work correctly.

  My advice to the author is to flesh out the hint system so it gives an
idea of how to get the full score.  Also, there were some small bugs,
like one wrong direction in a room description and not being able to
return north right before the endgame.  Other than that, this is a very
good game.  I would really like to see an updated version so I can try
to get a full score.


  Inform: enlisted

I rated this a 5.  It was a fairly average game.  It would have rated
higher but for the difficult space movement puzzle.  I really liked the
beginning of the game.  Obviously the author had beta testers and the
game had a polished feel to it.  However, it did not break any new
ground and reminded me very much of "Deep Space Drifter."  The beginning
was excellent but gradually went down hill.  I did not see the end of
the game because the walkthrough was not working for me and I got
frustrated with the space movement puzzle.

  I would advise the author to concentrate more on story and atmosphere
and less on puzzles.  Also, provide built-in hints.  Other than that, I
have no complaints.  It was written very well and I would like to see
more from this author.  I would describe this as a classic in it's own
right.  It was obviously inspired by Infocom.

  MSDOS: OTOS

I rated this a 3.  It would have got higher if it had a better AI
engine.  Well, what can I say?  It is certainly unique, and with some
work could be used to help programmers in coding and playing their new
games.  However, I think it is more fun, especially as a judge, to
actually play the games instead of writing them.

  Because of the simple engine, it had a very hard time with even basic
puzzles.  For example, I had it start out in a locked room with a door
and window.  All it was supposed to do is examine the window, find the
key and open the door.  However, it kept trying everything else instead,
like "give door to door."  It finally gave up, but if it had a little
better mind that would not have happened.

  My advice to the author would be to improve the engine and release it
as a programming tool and not a game.  Learn Inform, TADS, or both and
have it generate code on the fly.  Better still, try actually writing a
real game.


  Inform: never

I rated this a 7.  This was a truly excellent game.  I really have no
complaints about this game.  The writing was almost perfect, with only
one slight spelling error that I could find.  The hints were good, but I
had a hard time finding some things.  Although the walkthrough was only
a transcript, it did a lot of unnecessary optional things for
background, which I liked.  The author made good use of the Inform
language and synonyms.  This type of game is perfect for the IF medium,
adapting a published poem but letting the player experience it's full
meaning.  It also allowed exploration of the tower and experimentation
in the laboratory.

  So, why did it not get a 10?  It lost some points for my enjoyment.
The reason was because I had a hard time finding things and the hints
were not helping.  I kept putting the game in an unwinnable state
without knowing why, even after looking at the hints.  Secondly, it lost
a couple of points for originality because a similar type of thing was
done in Christminster.  It was a different atmosphere, but the things
done in the laboratory were similar.  Finally, it lost a little because
of the difficulty in finding things in the hints and no formal
walkthrough.  These were smaller problems though and really did not
detract greatly from the game.

  My advice to the author is simple, keep up the good work.  I would
like to see other works of literature and poetry be adapted in a similar
format.  This is definitely one of the best uses of the medium I have
ever experienced.  Thanks for entering it.


  Inform: dinner

I really enjoyed this game and also rated it a 6.  While not being
realistic, it was done for laughs and it worked for me.  My only
frustration was a timing puzzle which I had to play through several
times.  However, everything was done well enough that I did not mind
reading the same text over again.  I also liked the end and the nice
connection to a different game.

  If I liked it so much, why not rate it higher?  Firstly because of the
timing puzzle.  While I did not mind playing through it a few times, and
while I did quite a bit of it without hints, I still got stuck a few
times and had to keep restoring my game.  It was forgiving, but it was
not totally clear at first what to do.  Also, I kept finding out that I
needed items which I had no idea I would need that I would have to
restore so I could get them.  Also, the writing was good and worked
well, but had at least one spelling error.  The hint system seemed to
have a weird bug also.

  I liked this game.  My advice to the author would be very little,
since the game is good enough already except for the above.  The bug
with the hints was odd, though.  I would exit a hint menu and suddenly
end up in a completely different section of the hints which I did not
want to read.  This gave away mild spoilers without warning.  Also, keep
up that game and writing style.  I would like to see later events about
this group of characters.


  Inform: punkpnts

  I rated this a 3.  The only thing which rated it that high is it's
originality.  It came with no help really and no walkthrough.  I was
able to solve the first puzzle just fine, but got tired of fighting with
the parser.  It did not understand anything I tried.  Also, there was an
unnecessary amount of profanity which really added nothing to the game.
I would rate it as adult just because of the language.  I felt too much
like I was trying to read the author's mind.  I am not sure how I solved
the first puzzle, I just guessed and the next thing I know it was solved
and I got points.  Also the lack of any real story hurt this game.

  I would advise the author to improve his vocabulary.  I took off two
points because of the writing.  Also, make more of a story and include
some sort of help or hints.  Add more synonyms and responses.  Make it a
little more clear what the player is supposed to do.

  Inform: my_angel

  I rated this a 7.  I am not really sure how to review this game, so
here are my random thoughts.  The writing was absolutely excellent!
This is the best writing I have encountered thus far.  Also, I
appreciated the work which went into enhancing the default Inform parser
and responses.  I really liked how well the story was told.
Unfortunately, I had a hard time using novel mode but I would strongly
recommend it for anyone who can use it.  It helps the story flow better.
While there were no built-in hints, the walkthrough was very good.
Because of the type of game this is, I do not think hints would really
work very well.  Also, it has a lot of replayability.

  The reason it got a 7 was that it lost some points for originality.
This is normal, as almost every game borrows from something.  However, I
was reminded of "For A Change," and "So Far," as well as "Worlds Apart"
as I was playing.  There are differences though, like not using a
compass.  However, this proved to make the game confusing and I really
could not figure out where I was going.  Also, especially at the
beginning, I felt like I was being forced to follow the story whether I
wanted to or not.  Nothing I did could deviate from the actions which I
was supposed to do.  This could be more my fault though as I did follow
the walkthrough and I had a hard time trying to figure out what I was
supposed to do.  In other words, I just did not get it.  After it was
over, I read the afterward and thought about it, but I am still confused
and have no idea what the story is supposed to be.  Because of that, it
brought down my enjoyment score quite a bit.  The only thing I can
really suggest to the author is to consider my above comments.  He is
obviously trying to tell a unique story and does an excellent job
writing it, but I wish it was clearer.  I really felt lost long before I
was done with it.


Inform: letters

This game also got a 6 rating from me.  There were some things very good
about it, but others which brought the score down.  First, I think this
game would be hard for anyone who is not a native speaker of English as
it requires a good knowledge of language to solve the puzzles.  Even at
that, there were quite a few solutions which I really did not
understand.  I used the walkthrough so I could complete it in time, but
there are a very good set of hints.  Unless you are very good at these
types of puzzles you will probably also need the solution.  The writing
was very good with no spelling errors that I noticed.

There were two things which brought the game down a lot.  One was
originality and the other was the somewhat confusing solutions to some
puzzles.  This game is very much like "Nord And Bert" in the types of
language puzzles which made up the game, however the puzzles and
concepts themselves were quite different.  I was reminded too much of
the Infocom original though, so it lost some points.  The second thing,
as mentioned before, was the complexity of the puzzles.  Some of them I
had no problem understanding and thought were quite clever, however I
have no idea how or why a lot of them were solved with the actions
listed in the walkthrough and hints.

  I would like to commend the author here for a very good job of
implementing the hint system.  I have encountered other games before
with context-sensitive hints but I never found them to be very good.  Of
course part of the reason why they work so well is because there is
something in every room to look for, and in most normal games this would
not work as well or at all.  My suggestion would be to have a little
better explanation for some of the puzzles and to better clarify the
newspaper.  Also, it would have been nice to figure out towards the
beginning of the game what I am supposed to do.

TADS: Kaged (8)

This game was excellent.  I really liked it and was very impressed.
If at all possible, I _STRONGLY_ recommend using the HTML TADS
interpreter to enjoy the outstanding music.  If you are blind or
otherwise do not want to be bothered by graphics, the Windows
interpreter still works well with speech and graphics can be turned
off.  This is the best game I have encountered thus far and I hope it
gets first or second place.  Of all the games I have played this year,
I would recommend this one the most.

Ian knows exactly how to use music and writing to create a perfect
atmosphere.  He can tell a chilling story without profanity.  I point
this out for those who insist on writing adult games.  I liked
"Photopia" but it would have lost a point because of the unnecessary
language in the first scene.  Anyway, Ian mixes just a pinch of horror
with a little comedy (old woman) and a lot of paranoia for a perfect
recipe.  He has mastered the art of fear and time limited puzzles.  In
corresponding with him, he confesses to being a bad programmer.  That
may be, but his writing certainly makes up for it.

The music got a 9 out of 10.  The only reason for not getting a 10 is
because of it's repetitive nature.  Do not misunderstand, the music
itself must be experienced to get the full effect of the story, and an
element is missing without it.  However, it only adds to it, and is
not absolutely necessary.  I was impressed by his use of multimedia.
I noticed that the music was a little flat or muffled, but I did not
knock points off.  It is possible this could be a TADS issue.  I
certainly hope he includes more great music like this.

You are probably wondering why, if the game is so wonderful, it only
got an 8 rating.  The reason, in part, has to do with the hints.
Although the hints are very good, they are not built-in.  For a game
of this size and complexity, built-in hints are a must.  I got really
tired of flipping back and forth from Notepad.  Also, while the hints
were excellent, the walkthrough was minimal.  It would have almost
been better to not include it, which might have helped the rating.
The other reason why it got lowered was the originality.  I really
enjoyed playing it and experiencing the writing, but it reminded me
too much of recent games.  To reveal more could possibly spoil it.
Again, do not misunderstand, there is a lot of original content here
which should not be missed or looked over.  Especially try talking to
anyone whenever you can.  This helps add background.

My only serious complaint to the author would be to PLEASE include
built-in hints in the future.  I already wrote to him about this.  I
realise that TADS does not do this as well as Inform, because there is
not a good menu system for it.  However, even an adaptive hint system
would help.  Also, although others may object, I do not mind big games
like this and I would like to see more of them.


AGT: void (1)

I could not complete this game and was only able to see the first
three rooms.  The walkthrough did not help and only got me killed
every time.  The writing was good though.  I would suggest to the
author to use a different game writing system and check his
walkthrough for errors.  Also try beta testing thoroughly.


Inform: amnos (3)

I did not complete this game.  I think there was at least one serious
bug, not being able to eat the powder as described by the hints.
Also, this game was very unoriginal and could have came from Infocom
except that it was not polished.  The author does not seem to have
used beta testers, or if he did they were not used enough.  A lot of
the room and hallway directions were confusing.  The elevator did not
work correctly, requiring me to hit the "four" button twice to work.
This game came with no walkthrough and the hint system had a similar
bug to Dinner, in that quitting one menu would launch me into hints
for another section of the game which I might not have visited yet.

I would have enjoyed this game a lot more if the above problems would
not have been present.  I would advise all authors, especially this
one, to please beta test their games first.  If it would have been
fixed, I am sure the rating would have been at least a 5.  Oh well.


TADS: ttl (5)

I was not really sure how to rate this game.  I gave the writing an 8,
enjoyment a 4, originality a 6 and the parser a 4.  Averaged, this
gave a score of 5 as listed above.  Because of the TADS and Inform
parsers being so advanced, I usually do not rate them, however I made
an exception for this game.  I found that sometimes it had a problem
understanding me, and ordinary commands like "score" worked and gave
the default responses.  Since so much of this game revolves around the
parser, this caused it to lose a point in this category.  Another
problem was it's originality.  Yes, this has been done before in
"Space Under The Window," by Andrew Plotkin.  True, TTL advances this
concept, but still it is not really original.  I still gave it a 6
though because this concept is still fairly new to IF.

The writing really shines in this game, which is why it got a high
score.  There were no spelling errors at all.  I am sure I would have
rated the writing higher except it really did not convey the
atmosphere the author was intending.  Although I really tried to get
into this game, I felt a little like I was fighting it since I had to
guess the right word to use to move the story along.  In one case, I
had to repeat a word which I had already tried.  I was about to give
up until I happened to stumble on the right combination.  This is also
why enjoyment was dropped to a 4.  I was originally going to give it a
3, but I liked the concept and was starting to enjoy the story
experience when it suddenly ended.  If nothing else, I would recommend
playing this for the writing.  It can easily be completed in 15-20
minutes or less and is not a bad play.

Here are my comments to the author.  I would like to see a greatly
expanded version of this.  This is a fine start but needs more.  The
writing was excellent.  However, I felt the author was trying too hard
with one of the paths to convince the player to like the game.  Also I
thought there was some unnecessary ambiguity in some spots, trying to
guess the words to use.  I cannot say more without spoilers.


Inform: Transfer (5)
This was a very average game.  Without revealing too much of the
story, it had to do with a mad scientist.  I did not really dislike
this game, but I did not really enjoy it either.  The writing did have
a few small spelling errors which knocked it down a point, but was
mostly very average.  The parser also lost a point, not because of a
lack of synonyms but a lack of pronouns.  For example, I examine and
push a gurney.  I try "push it n" and I get a message about not being
able to move the machine.  I just had to type full object names.  As
you probably guessed, this was not very original either, having been
done numerous times before.  However, it had a twist to the hints and
was not a bad play.

My suggestion to this and any other author who wants to use a hint
system like this is to forget it.  First, I turned on free hints as my
first move.  Second, all I would have to do is restore a previous
game, get my hints, and go back to my current position and it would
not bother my score.  Finally, I ended up using a walkthrough which
did not cost anything.  Also, I found his hints too vague and
confusing.  Part of the reason for using the walkthrough is that I
wasted a lot of time trying to figure out what I was supposed to do.

I had a problem with the timing puzzles as well.  I wish it would have
been clearer that I had a time limit, as I had to replay a few scenes
over multiple times to get the timing correct.  In one case, I had to
rely on what I had learned earlier to solve the puzzle, requiring
future knowledge of the game.  I much prefer a good story to good
puzzles, so this did not help my enjoyment factor.


Inform: prodly (5)

This is another very average game.  I did not really enjoy it, but I
did not dislike it either.  It was cute in it's own way, and it was
obvious that it was based on a cartoon.  There were some basic
spelling errors and the writing was uneven in spots which is why it
lost a point for writing.  It's originality got a 6 because games of
this type have been done before, but it was still unique in it's own
way.  The hints were also average, not good or bad.  There was only
one area which was vague.  The only thing I can suggest to the author
is improve the writing and maybe add a little more to the story.
Sorry for making this review so short, but I really do not have much
to comment on except that this game is very average.


Inform: adverbum (9)

As you can tell from the above rating, I really enjoyed this game.  I
thought it was much better than Nick's previous efforts.  I really
like language and word puzzles.  While "Letters," got close to this,
it did not do as good a job.  The parser was exceptional, supporting
most word combinations I tried.  The writing was excellent, with only
a couple small errors.  The reason why it lost a point was because of
those errors and unnecessary profanity.  While it was not totally
original, it was certainly a refreshing change and was very different
from the Infocom title it was modelled after.  The hints were very good
but did not always give an exact or full solution as they should
have.  This however was an outstanding game and I hope to see a lot
more from this author.  I wonder what his next offering will be.


TADS: uux (6)

As someone wrote in one of their reviews, (I am sorry, I do not
remember who) sometimes you want a snack and sometimes you want a
meal.  "Kaged," is definitely a meal, adverbum is a snack, etc.  UUX
is more of a light meal.  It is definitely bigger than a snack but not
as full and heavy as "Kaged," and the like.  It is very true to the
style of previous Unnkulia games, and could have easily been written
by someone from Adventions in disguise.  While I am not a real fan of
the UU series, I did not mind it and some parts were enjoyable.  The
writing was good and even, however I could see some problems towards
the endgame.  I had a couple of fights with the parser because
synonyms were not supported as they should have been and some objects
which could be acted on did not seem to exist when examined.  Also,
there was a bug right before the endgame, but this was after two hours
so the rating was not effected.  Probably if I would have just
followed the walkthrough I could have finished it in time.

My only serious complaint was the hidden profanity in product
descriptions.  Yes, this is part of the UU series, but it was a bit
much even for that.  There was nothing really offensive about it, but
I can understand the warning about mature readers.  I wish more
authors would realise that "adult" games are really not necessary for
a good score and really do not add much enjoyment.  Also, there were
no hints at all, but this is also common for the UU games except
"Legend."  The other factor which hurt this game is a lack of
originality.  This could have just as easily been UU1 or UU2 with
almost no difference.  It has a very rich environment which was a nice
touch, and a lot is to be gained from looking at everything.
Expanding the body of established works seems to be one of the themes
this year, with another game involving Zork.  I guess my only
suggestion to the author would be to fix the serious bug and perhaps
not use as much unnecessary swearing.  Also, I like the author's
writing style so I would like to see a new work not based on anything.


Inform: guess (5)

This is another snack-sized game, like most of the competition games
usually are.  Not bad, but nothing special here either.  One feature
of this game is that you can pick how much of a snack you want.  There
are five verbs, and a miniature game that goes along with each of
them.  I personally liked "undo" the best, although it is, by the
author's own admission, a little misleading.  This by itself would
make a good game.  I thought "fasten" was just a little too contrived,
and thrown in for good measure.  I waited for the dwarf to give up,
but he never did, at least for me.  Considering the puzzle and verb
involved, I see no reason why "tie" should not have worked.  I finally
gave up because it seemed like there was a bug.

The writing was fair/good.  It did not have any serious problems or
spelling errors, but did not totally convey the atmosphere either.
Also, part of the fun of each verb was taken away by that verb showing
up on the status line.  Finally, probably what ruined the writing more
than anything was the frequent appearances by the game author.  First
when exploring the circus, then in "reconfigure."  It finally got to
be a bit too much.  The dialogue in "reconfigure" was not random enough,
with too many repeated responses.  Although it had a built-in
walkthrough, it had no hint system which I thought was a little odd
considering the menu layout.  Even when following the walkthrough, I
still could not complete "fasten."

This is something I would not normally do in reviews, but here is one
amusing thing to try.  Try "score" in every section of the game.  Even
following the walkthrough, "fasten" did not work for me, so have a
saved game ready.  There is a certain, seemingly random object you
need to get from each area.  Grab everything in true IF fashion.
"Scrutinise" has a time limit.  Remember when looking at the status
line that these games are not complete.  Here is one last amusing
item.  Try "X ME" in all five sections as well as the beginning.

I would suggest to the author to not be as forceful in directing the
player.  Give the player more freedom and let them wander around
more.  Also, do not put the name of the verb on the status line.  Put
in some sort of hints.  Fix the "fasten" bug or make it more obvious.
Finally, allow normal commands like "restore" on the first move.  I
got tired of typing my sex and name every time.  While you are at it,
allow "b" and "g" for abbreviations.  For that matter, you could even
expand to allow "m" for male and "f" for female.


Hugo: scourge (1)

Be warned!  This game contains an extreme amount of profanity and is
definitely for adults only.  I am offended by this type of game, so it
got an immediate 1 rating from me.  Nope, I did not finish it.  Yep, I
just read the transcript which the author is calling a walkthrough.
Too bad, because I have really wanted to see this type of game in IF
for a very long time.  Oh well.  Hey, Rob, why not try writing a
normal game that is not so offensive next time?


TADS: clock (5)

This is another light snack.  It is also not particularly outstanding
in any way.  It is not good or bad, and the writing is adequate.
There are some annoyances but no serious bugs or problems.  The
walkthrough did a good job but left it up to the player to do a lot of
looking around.  One nice feature was that the "x all" command
worked.  Authors, please do not disable this.  It can provide clues
sometimes and certainly does not hurt the game.

Most of the problems were in the writing.  There is a cat in the game,
but the word "cat" is not recognised.  Also, the score and rank are
always in the past tense, as though the game is over.  You may only
ask each NPC about one or two objects, and most of them are not
obvious.  Some actions described in the walkthrough did not make sense
to me, and did not appear to affect the story or score.

My advice to the author is this.  Fix the bug with getting messages
about the cat in the dream.  Give the NPCs more things to talk about.
Make some things like the make-up, screw and sausage clearer.  Change
"were" to "are" in the score.  Provide some different text when
studying the books besides most of them not being important.  Fix the
bug that happens when asking about the sausage.


Inform: asendent (3)

I got the idea of the game from the beginning.  Judging by the opening
quotes, the authors were purposely trying to write the way they did.
I guess they were trying to get a message across but I am not really
sure what.  Maybe it is to stay away from drugs.  Anyway, do not
bother trying to find the blue raspberry because it is not there.  I
see no problem with spoilers since the debug flag is on.  Doing a
"tree" reveals only a few objects, and it looks like the game was not
finished.  I guess the only "ending" you can get is entering the bored
room.  Not satisfying, but there does not seem to be much else to do.
Oh, there might be offensive content here because you have to seduce
the receptionist to get the key.

Inform: code (1)

I really do not have much to say about this game.  It apparently
involves two programs, one on a large piece of paper which seems to be
the actual C program and one on a small piece of paper which could be
a header or something.  I have no idea what they are supposed to do
but I think they involve cracking DVD codes or something.  I did not
enjoy it and only spent a few minutes with it.  There did not seem to
be much to do.  My suggestion to the author is to remain anonymous.


TADS: trip (2)

I did not like this game.  I never left the hotel room, and found two
spelling errors and too much profanity.  It did not seem like it was
going to stop, and in fact kept getting worse.  I will not continue
games with extreme amounts of profanity, no exceptions.  I did not
see enough of the game to give suggestions or opinions to the author.


Inform: bestman (6)

I really liked this game.  I wanted to give it a higher rating but
there were some problems.  Note that most of them came after the two
hours so they are not reflected in the above rating.  The premise and
story were good and I liked the writing.  While the puzzles do not
remind me of Infocom, the writing does.  I felt like I was playing an
unreleased Infocom game.  Most of it was obviously well tested and had
no serious problems.  Some puzzles had multiple solutions while others
did not.  For those which did not, there was a good reason why.

So, what did I not like?  The end was really not tested enough, and I
ran into several bugs which I could not get around.  I finally gave up
because of too many problems.  One of them involves doing a certain
reasonable action which should work with multiple enemies but does
not.  I sent the bug report to the author.  Also, while not a bug, one
critical puzzle is a real pain and was made more difficult than
necessary.  It involves getting several objects from all over the
train, but there are limitations on travelling and how much can be
carried.  Also a lot of moves are wasted adding one solution to
another to get a certain result.  I suggest using the hints when
encountering that puzzle so you can get it right in one turn.  The
background magazine was nice but not necessary.  It did not add that
much to the game and what it mentioned was not clear enough anyway.
However, it got a bonus because of the effort the author put into the
background material and trying to do a nice game package.

I have one suggestion for all authors who include background
material.  Please, please use either plain text or HTML, not PDF or
other formats.  HTML can still do nice page designs, and actually
would allow better linking to articles within the magazine.  Also, for
the blind like myself, I have to try to convert the PDF to text or
HTML, and this usually does not work too well.  For example, the final
article in the magazine was split up so only one word appeared on a
line.  Over half of the file was this way.  I almost took off points
for this but I was not sure if it was a conversion issue or not.


Inform: 123 (3)

This was certainly an unusual game.  The trend seems to be on games
involving disturbed characters, and this is no exception.  However, it
did a good job of scene and player changes.  The writing was fair, but
interaction with the characters was poor.  Also, "x me" did not always
change when the player changed.  Although the walkthrough suggested
talking to various people, "talk" was not implemented.  Considering
the type of game this is, it should have been, somehow.  The writing
was not bad but did not flow well in parts.  It appeared that the game
was not tested at all, and if nothing else I would suggest having beta
testers to at least improve the writing.  I guess the reason for the
lower rating was that I just did not enjoy it.  Initially, I was going
to give it a 4 but did not feel it deserved that much.

This is puzzleless as far as the story, but there are still other
puzzles which the author had not intended.  You really may only follow
one path through the game, and the author usually gives you very
obvious clues which path that is.  The puzzles come when trying to
interact with characters and the parser.  The parser does not always
recognise objects when examining them.  Here is a brief sample (made
up) of the problem with talking to people.

talk to bob
(parser does not recognise "talk" verb)
bob, hello
"Huh?  I think you meant something else."  You think you should ask
him about cheese.
ask bob about cheese
"It is very good.  An essential part of life."
(The walkthrough at this point would say you should ask about bread.)
ask bob about life  (for background)
"Huh?  I think you meant something else."  (see above)
quit

My suggestion to the author would be to fix the NPC interaction and
give them more to say and do.  Also, try to be a little clearer who is
who.  Finally, explain the introduction a little more since it appears
to have little to do with the rest of the game.


This is the end of my reviews for this year.  If I have offended
anyone, sorry.  Also, I would probably be considered hypersensitive by
some because of my very low opinion of profanity.  However, as the
voting results indicate, "Kaged" did very well this year but had no
profanity that I encountered.  Likewise, "Ad Verbum" did very well
and had almost none.  I think the only instance which I can recall was
in one of the quotes, not written by the author.  There was also a sex
reference in one of the books in the library, so I still feel
justified with my score.

Editor's note: I'd like to extend my thanks and appreciation to Tony Baechler for giving his kind permission to use his reviews in Audyssey.

++
If anybody needed proof that interactive fiction could still captivate blind gamers, Andy Phillips's most recent gift to the IF community has provided it on a silver platter. Despite recent advances and anticipation of more sound-based games on the way, Harowine's Mantle has certainly garnered its author the lion's share of traffic on the Audyssey list. It's been a long time since I've seen a game so widely and thoroughly discussed in all its facets. I believe it's fair to say that David Lant has proven himself worthy of a medal for sheer mental prowess by defeating this game. He has also earned my deep gratitude by providing us with this review of the game below:
 
Heroine's Mantle
Game by Andy Phillips
Text Interactive Fiction
ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/zcode/heroine.z8
Review by David Lant

Looking back at the Audyssey archive, I think I may safely say that this game has generated as much, if not more, discussion than any other topic on the list.  Andy Phillips is a well-known, and much criticised author of Inform interactive fiction games, so any new release from him tends to receive a great deal of interest.  In this case, the discussion was started by David Sherman, raising two of Andy Phillips's most commonly identified failings.  First, his rather inconsistent use of the English language, and secondly, because he is renowned for excruciatingly obscure puzzles to solve.

Once a few more of us had downloaded and started playing the game, it became clear that there were further elements to this game that might set it apart from many other titles.  Andy Phillips has shown a tendency of late, to introduce more and more adult material into his games.  In his previous offering, Enemies, he included a large amount of graphic physical mutilation and horror.  In Heroine's Mantle, there is much less of this, but a marked increase in what could only be described as gratuitous sexual perversion.  Well, I suppose there may be many people out there who wouldn't find Mistletoe's antics to be perverted.  However, I think most would agree that they are hardly run-of-the-mill, and indeed are possibly unnecessary with regard to the game itself.  Yet I would imagine that it could be classified as part of the whole deviant characterisation of the main adversaries that you, the player, are pitted against.  At the very least, players should be aware of the adult nature of several scenes in this game, and so should think carefully before playing, or allowing vulnerable people to play.  Indeed, if you are at all bothered by a lack of political correctness, this game does reinforce some common stereotypes about women, disability and criminality.  But it is just a story.

The game is set, appropriately enough, at the end of the 20th century.  The place, Atlantic City.  The New Millennium festivities are interrupted by a criminal's announcement that he, and his "children" are going to create havoc, in a crime wave to end all crime waves.  The only person the people of Atlantic City have to rely on, is their resident superheroine, the Crusader.  But as in so many of Andy Phillips's publications, things are never that simple.  You start the game, at a flashback of eight years before, where you, the female protagonist, first encounter the Crusader.  From there, you progressively learn more and more about this mysterious saviour.  At first you are motivated by revenge and justice.  But soon you find yourself driven by even higher principles, learning to become a selfless servant of the people.  By the end, you are forced into having to make the most difficult choice possible.

Like most of Andy Phillips's other games, which include Time, All Things Come to an End, Heist and Enemies,  this game does in fact have a very gripping storyline.  Compared to several interactive fiction titles, it has good scenery, and some very detailed puzzles and interaction.  Although there is much in this game that is anachronistic, considering the time period being referred to is in fact contemporary, the nature of the story allows it to be entered as though in a comic strip.  That is probably a good analogy for the type of story here.  Some of the dialogue is every bit as corny as the old 1960s Batman TV series.  There is also some reasonable humour, particularly in response to invalid or nonsensical instructions from the player.

Some of the puzzles are very difficult indeed.  However, for the most part, they do end up being fairly logical.  I think my greatest criticism of the puzzle element in this game, is that some of the problems have slightly far-fetched solutions.  Before anyone jumps up and says, "Hang on.  If this is comic strip stuff, then surely far-fetched is OK?" I'd like to qualify that.  The vast majority of puzzles are ones in which you can see the objective, and once you have explored the available rooms, and found all the objects you need, it is fairly clear that certain things are related in a way that lead you to the answer.  But there are in fact a couple of puzzles, where I can honestly say that I only found the solution through trial and error.  Even after solving them, I'm still not sure how the player was supposed to work out what to do.  Even allowing for the odd occasion where you feel you are really playing "hunt the verb", I still think this game is one of the best I have played in a long while.  It is not of the literary standard of Worlds Apart, but is by far superior to most of the entries in the 2000 Interactive Fiction Competition.  ON a scale of 1 to 10 for difficulty, I would rate this game about 8 or 9.  Personally, I would have rated Enemies about 10, but I know others disagree.

All in all, this is a very enjoyable game, provided you are prepared to persevere.  Don't expect to be able to sail through in one go.  There are 400 points to gain, and you have to work hard for most of them.  At the end, I felt much as I do when finishing a good book.  Quite satisfied, but a little sad the dream was over.

+
Timeline
Game by Michael Crichton, Timeline Productions Inc. and Eidos
Requires sighted assistance to play
Review by Michael Feir

Being an avid reader of Mr. Crichton's books, and having absolutely loved the novel, I had very high expectations for this game going into it. The novel, afterall, was easily one of the best I've read in years. The basic premise is that an archaeology professor becomes trapped in medieval France and it is up to his students to rescue him. Overall, I'd have to say that Crichton has put together quite a good interactive experience. When thought of as a game, however, it has some shortcomings.

Though the story told is quite good, it does some major injustices to the novel. The most critical of these is that one of the more interesting characters of the novel is never met in the game. It could best be compared Bavisoft's Grizzly Gulch if you add more story and richer dialogue and take away a lot of the gun-fights. While you're relatively free to move around the environment, you are basically imprisoned by the story. It is absolutely linear with no optional parts or branches. Also, as far as I've been able to tell, there are no alternative ways to solve puzzles. A lot of the puzzles in the game are real-time action-based puzzles. Also, the game is very visually oriented.

My father and I took around two weeks to solve the game, but this was mostly due to not being able to see how we had to do things. Also, some sort of bug with getting food eventually forced us to start over from scratch. Strangely, this bug did not interfere with us after we restarted, nor did it strike when Adam Taylor managed to win the game in under two hours. I should point out here that in doing this, Adam did not take time to appreciate much of the excellent dialogue. This is particularly true of the wonderfully informative and interesting tour that Michael Crichton personally narrates. 

The controls to the game are very intuitive and lend themselves to a team effort. While my father used the mouse to jump, turn, look around and attack, I used the keyboard to duck and move our character. Thankfully, the game had excellent quick-save and restore features. This greatly reduced the frustration factor of having to do things over and over again. I should point out though that this frustration was still very much a part of the game. My father and I found several areas of the game to be rather difficult. The mill with all of its gears and things to jump on was a particularly trying section of the game.

While interaction, plot and story could certainly have been improved upon, the music and sound were absolutely fantastic. The voice-acting was perfect. When you turned or moved, the sounds took it all into account. They helped my father and I avoid getting lost on several occasions. It was exactly like being in the middle of a movie. One part of the game that all of us treasured was the ride out of a village under attack. In game terms, you just had to choose which path to take and know when to duck. However, the vivid portrayal of battle and destruction all around added tremendously to the excitement. It was probably the only case where I didn't mind having to do something several times before we succeeded. You could hear the arrows and swords flying past as you sped through. Falling beams and other things like that were used quite effectively. Also, the music was worthy of any adventure movie. It makes for excellent listening, and is all in MP3 files. The main theme and the music for the burning village are my personal favourites, but all of it fit the game nicely.

If you're looking for a true challenge and replay value, Timeline isn't the game to get. It ultimately has neither to offer. However, if you think of it more as a movie than a game, one couldn't do much better than Timeline. While scoping the game out, I stumbled across some discussion of making an actual movie of Timeline. Provided that they don't wreck the story as happens all too frequently with books made into movies, I certainly hope this eventually occurs. Overall, I'd give Timeline a rating of five out of ten. Had there been more actual control over the story and more solutions to puzzles, I could have rated it much higher.

+
The Longest Journey
Game by Funcom
Reviewed by Michael Feir
Available in computer stores and on-line
Requires sighted assistance to play

Like pretty much everyone else who's reviewed this game, I can't recommend it highly enough. It easily deserves all of the many awards it has recently earned including that of best adventure game of 2000. My father and I are definitely getting our money's worth out of this one.

The main character of the story is an art student named April Ryan. As might be expected, April is not without her problems and demons from the past. As the game begins, she is quickly made aware that strange forces are at work in her life. She is the focal point of a struggle between the forces of order and chaos. It is up to her to stop chaos from destroying the balance. April has the ability to shift between two worlds that were once the Earth. One of these worlds is based on science and technology. Despite its futuristic time, players will quickly realise that it is basically our world. Despite technological changes, life on Earth is much as we know it. The other world is based on magic. Strange creatures, customs, and people abound. Unable to control her shifting, April is tossed between these two worlds while she tries to maintain the balance and fight those in alliance with chaos.

The game comes on four CDs, and all of it is installed on your hard drive. It takes up at least two gigs, so make certain you have plenty of space. According to what my father and other reviews tell me, the graphics are unbelievable. Details right down to random pictures on TV screens and moving people are done quite skilfully. The music and sound is stunningly well done. All of the characters speak their lines, and voices were obviously chosen with care. April Ryan, the adventuress with an attitude, could not have been better portrayed sonically. This is true of even minor characters in the game. Sounds are done in a fashion to make you believe you're actually there. Nothing is taken for granted. No corners were cut at all. The music is orchestral and movie-like. It is also available for free at the game's Internet site:
www.longestjourney.com

Reviewers have indicated that the ending of the game does not tie up all the loose ends. While not a disappointment, it leaves players wanting more. After around four weeks of play, I don't think we're even close to winning. The story is divided into chapters which gives the game the feel of a novel. The writing and story of The Longest Journey are first-rate all the way, right down to the diary your character keeps.

Some of the puzzles have forced us to give in and seek hints. However, for the most part, they have been challenging but fair. If any graphical adventure can be compared to Infocom's interactive fiction, this one can. Dialogue is crucial, and so is an adventurer's mind. Like most graphical adventures, it is often too obvious what a player has to do. Another drawback as far as puzzles go is that there is only one way to do something. We haven't come across a case where an alternative way to solve a puzzle has presented itself.

On the whole, The Longest Journey's strong points go far beyond making up for its weaker areas. It might be a linear story, but it's a story worth experiencing and thinking about. I would rate this game an eight out of ten. All it really lacks are multiple puzzle solutions and/or branching points in the plot. Though many elements of the game are visual, enough attention to detail and story have been given to more than make up for this from a blind person's point of view.

+
The Curse of Monkey Island
Developer Lucasarts
Available in computer software stores
Requires sighted assistance
Review by Jay Pellis

The Monkey island series of adventure games is regarded in the same way as
Zork or Kings Quest, being called one of the classic adventure game series
of all time.  It is made by Lucasarts, the company responsible for games
such as the Dig and Grim Fandango.  Lucasarts games are known to have a
very high content of speech, and this game is no exception.  Also, in all
lucasarts adventure games, you can't die no matter what you do, so
exploration and experimenting is part of the fun of these games.
*The story*

This game is the third instalment in the humorous Monkey Island
series.  You play the role of Guybrush Threepwood, an all around average
guy who's ambition is to become a pirate.  In the first 2 games, his
adventures led him in to nothing but trouble.  From accidentally dropping a
sword in the middle of a mock swordfight, to giving away pirate treasure
instead of keeping it for himself, he manages to mess up anything he
attempts to do in a very humorous fashion.
At the beginning of this third instalment, he is adrift in a small boat
lost at sea.  As he writes in his journal about what might become of him
next, he spots a battle going on between a fortress on an island, and a
ship trying to destroy it with a cannon.  It turns out the ship belongs to
none other then Guybrushes old nemesis, the Zombie pirate
LeChuck.  Guybrush killed him in the first game but LeChuck keeps coming
back to life as a skeleton, and his mission is to try to mess up Guybrushes
adventures even more then usual.  Guybrush is unfortunately captured, and
thrown in the hold of LeChucks ship.  The prologue has you helping Guybrush
to escape, and when he finally does, he proposes marriage to his love,
Elaine Marley, who is the governor of several islands that are locations in
the game.  The ring Guybrush got from the hold of the ship just happens to
be cursed, and when Elaine puts it on, it turns her in to a gold
statue.  The local pirates love gold, so they immediately steel the statue,
and it's up to Guybrush to get Elaine back, and break the curse.

*The interface*

The interface is mouse driven, so a blind gamer will need sighted
assistance to play the game.  However, it is very easy to control, with the
right mouse button accessing the inventory item screen, and the left button
being the way the player interacts with the game world.  When you highlight
an object and hold the left button down, you get 3 different icons that let
you talk to, look or take/use an object or person or just about
anything.  When you release the button over one of the icons, Guybrush will
do whatever action that was associated with that icon.  If it is a person
and you want to talk to them, various dialogue choices will appear so you can
select what you want to say to the person.  If you look at something, even
in your inventory, Guybrush will usually describe it in great detail.

*the music, sound and voices*

As usual with a Lucasarts game, everything is top of the line when it comes
to music, sound and dialogue.  The music is performed by a Caribbean island
sounding band for the faster more upbeat pieces, along with high quality
synthesisers for the more quiet sounding orchestral pieces in the
game.  The sound effects are also quite authentic, from the creaking of a
ship when you are in the hold, to the sound of the ocean waves when you are
standing on the shore, it brings the island atmosphere to life. Another
staple of lucasarts games is the astounding amount of dialogue, and this game
is full of it.  Most non player characters that you can talk with have a
lot to say.  A lot of it is information you will need to progress in the
story but there is also a lot of dialogue that gives information about the
character you are speaking with, Guybrush himself or just about any item or
location that a certain character may know of.  This is where the game
really shines because the dialogue provides much of the humour found in the
game.  In one section, you can get an entire story about a giant 6-foot
tall chicken that terrorises the populous of an island, and the story goes
in to great detail, and lasts about 10 minutes.  However, only a little of
the information is needed for a later puzzle in the game but it is still
great to listen to just for the fun of it.
Speaking of puzzles, this game has ones that are in the easy to medium
difficulty of challenge.  Most of the time, the items for a required puzzle
are located somewhere in the puzzle area, so there is no need to wander all
over the place trying to figure out what to do.  In one part of the game,
you must recruit some pirates to join your crew so you can sale to another
location.  One of the puzzles is a duelling banjo puzzle, where you and
another pirate get in a banjo fight.  The pirate will play 2 or 3 notes on
his banjo, and you must repeat them in the same exact order as he played
them by clicking on banjo strings representing the notes.

*conclusion*

This may not be as good as a game as Grim Fandango but it's one of the only
pirate themed computer games released in the last few years.  I'd recommend
it if you're a fan of pirates, and because of it's high speech content.
This game can be found in stores such as Electronics Boutique for around
$15US.  It is also featured in the Monkey Island Bounty Pack collection,
which includes this game plus the first 2 monkey island games.  The first 2
games in the series don't have any spoken dialogue but the music is well
done, and the storylines are still quite good.

+
Full Throttle
Developer Lucasarts
Available in computer software stores
Requires sighted assistance
Review by Jay Pellis

Full Throttle was one of Lucasarts older adventure games from 1994.  It was
their first ever to be released fully on CD-ROM, and it was able to use the
emerging CD-ROM technology quite well for it's time.

*the story*

Lucasarts games are known for quite strange subject matter, from taking
place in the world of the dead, to a pirate adventure, one never knows what
this company will release next.  This game is a bit stranger then usual
however.  You play the role of Ben, leader of the Polecats biker gang.  In
the futuristic world of this game, motorcycles are being replaced by hover
cars, and the fictional motorcycle company Corley Motors is the only
company still making cycles.  Business man Adrian Ripburger wants Corley
motors for himself.  So after the owner of Corley gets murdered, Ben is
framed for the murder and his gang thrown in jail.  Luckily, Ben escapes,
and he's out to save his gang and the fate of his favourite motorcycle company.

*The interface*

The interface is quite similar to the Curse of Monkey Island, which was
released 3 years after this game.  It is mouse driven, and the right mouse
button accesses your inventory, while the left interacts with the game
world.  When you highlight something and hold the left mouse button over
it, you can select from various icons like look, talk and use.  An
interesting feature is the attack icon, which you might have to use to get
out of some situations in the game.  For example, at one point, you are
locked in a garbage dumpsite, and after you pick up some items from it, you
have to kick the lid open with the attack icon in order to get out.

*The music, sound, and voices*

As this is Lucasarts first adventure on CD-ROM, it's a toss up on how good
or bad the audio is.  The music is quite interesting, some rock and roll
performed by a SanFrancisko based rock band who Lucasarts hired to compose
the music, which has lyrics to it.  The sound effects fit the game well but
their really isn't anything groundbreaking to speak of.  You can hear Ben's
footsteps as he walks on different surfaces, from crunching snow to wooden
steps, and also various effects like the sound of wind blowing snow around
a parking lot.  The voice acting is again what takes this game above
others, as it is in most Lucasarts games.  Ben's voice is what you'd expect
from a hero who's the leader of a motorcycle gang, tough, gruff and
deep.  However, he really adds emotion in to the game, just by the things
he says and how he says them.  When talking to characters, there are also
dialogue choices that let you choose what you want to say.
One more interesting feature is a few arcade action sequences thrown in
near the end of the game.  One of them has Ben driving along a road on his
cycle, and other cyclists approach and attack him.  This sequence involves
the player clicking the mouse on the enemy until he is knocked off his
bike.  Ben needs various items from each biker he defeats, and after
getting them and using one in a specific way, the sequence ends.  The whole
action sequence is sort of repetitive and annoying, however you can't die
in any way whatsoever in the game.  If you get knocked off your bike, you
just start over again from where you left off.

*conclusion*

Full throttle is a very short game, and experienced adventure gamers will
get through it in about 3 hours.  For the novice gamer though, it's a fun
introduction to adventure gaming, and in what other game can you play a
rough tough biker?
This game is quite hard to find since it is quite old.  However, many
stores that sell used computer games may still have it for under $10US, and
it is also available in a collection called the Lucasarts archives Volume
3, which also includes the adventure game the Dig.
It is also available from the Lucasarts company store in the Original
Classics section.
http://www.lucasarts.com/companystore


+++
Contacting Us
I can be reached in three ways. My e-mail address is as follows:
[email protected]

You can also call me via telephone. I have voicemail, so you can leave a message if you fail to catch me at home and off-line. I'll do my best to return calls, but won't accept collect calls. My number is as follows:
(905)-814-0608
Alternatively, you may correspond with me on 3.5-inch disks,
provided you be sure to send them in returnable disk-mailers. I don't have the money to pay for postage. My mailing address is:
5787 Montevideo Road
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Postal code: L5N 2L5

Adam Taylor, star of Adam, The Immortal Gamer, and our resident ADOM guru, can be reached three ways. You can send him e-mail at:
[email protected]
Or, you can check out his homepage on the web:
Blade's Armory
http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/Arcade/9111
His page is dedicated to providing help, cheats and solutions to many games. Send him a request, and he'll do his best to find what you need. He also has sections on ADOM and Nethack available. Also,
you can download the magazine from his page.
Finally, if you wish to contact him at home, his address is: 3082
Bartholomew Crescent
Mississauga, Ontario
Canada L5N 3L1

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

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

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:
[email protected]


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