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Audyssey;
Games Accessible to the Blind
Issue 37: Second Quarter, 2003
Edited by Michael Feir

Fun, Friendship, Knowledge, Charity

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Welcome
Welcome to the thirty-seventh 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.

This issue has a healthy amount of news from game developers as well as some
interesting discussions which took place over the last quarter. There are
also articles looking at game difficulty as well as replay value.

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 quarterly basis, each issue appearing no
earlier than the fifteenth of the publication month for its quarter. All
submissions to be published in an issue must be in my possession a minimum
of two days before the issue is published. I 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:
[email protected]
I will give my home 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 understand ability. 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.

This magazine is free in its electronic form, and will always remain so. Due
to a lack of demand, PCS Games is no longer making Audyssey 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.

Accessible Game developers should be aware that I very much appreciate
receiving copies of their games for review purposes. Many developers have
treated my wife and I to free copies of their games purely to thank me for
my extensive efforts in keeping Audyssey Magazine alive and well. I
sincerely hope this continues as it makes it all far more worth-while for me
to continue working on Audyssey and for my wife to tolerate the time and
energy I put into the magazine. For the record, my policy on this is as
follows:

I will review any free full version game that I am sent as fairly and
thoroughly as I can. Also, if developers wish and are able to, they can
provide a single registration key or unlocking code to be used by Audyssey
staff and/or reviewers chosen by me from people who have written material
for Audyssey. Another benefit of sending me free full copies of your games
is that I can demonstrate them to interested people and/or special interest
groups when opportunities for this present themselves. Whether or not these
games are of particular interest to me, I pledge to learn to play them as
competently as those games which I am partial to so that I can facilitate
their demonstration and enjoyment for others. I will never give out full
game copies unless you specifically offer me free full copies for
distribution to one or more people in such groups. I may, however, assemble
CDs containing game demos to share with such groups. If any developers do
not want their demos to be given via CD during such presentations, please
inform me of your wishes in this matter. Where time permits, I'll attempt to
keep all developers informed of any opportunities which emerge for me to be
an ambassador for accessible games. Whether or not developers choose to send
free full copies of games is entirely up to them. If they do not, I will use
a game demo to form my opinions of the game and write a review in Audyssey
Magazine. My time is limited, and I will give priority to free full games
that I receive. However, developers need not fear that I will treat their
games more harshly or abuse my editorial powers if they choose not to send
full copies. I believe I've written reviews for long enough that developers
will have a good idea of my sense of fairness in this. For an example of a
review of a demo game, see my comments on ESPSoftworks's Change Reaction in
issue 35.

For people who need help with games, 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.
I can 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 the generous
support of Monarch, Your PC1Source LLC., Audyssey Magazine now has an
official home on the Web. All previous issues of Audyssey can be obtained
from there in several different formats. LVG makes Audyssey available in
MS-Word and PDF formats. There efforts on our behalf are very much
appreciated. Visitors may take advantage of a growing amount of content as
well as submit material. Check it out at:
www.audysseymagazine.org

Those who want to receive issues of Audyssey as they are published should
send a blank E-mail to:
[email protected]

The Audyssey discussion list facilitates discussion about games
accessible to the blind between the publication of issues of Audyssey. All
are welcome as long as they respect their fellow community members and keep
in mind that the topic of the list is supposed to be games. Other topics are
allowed within reason as long as they don't begin to monopolize the list
traffic for too long. Newcomers should be advised that
traffic is frequently fairly heavy. To help those who are swamped with
E-mail cope with this, there is a digest mode available which sends one
large E-mail per day containing the day's traffic. 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 encouraged to participate on the discussion list. There are two
moderators keeping things civil and orderly. Be certain to read the Audyssey
Community Charter as all list members are expected to follow its rules. 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
blank message to:
[email protected]
To post messages to the list, send them to:
[email protected]
Should you wish to unsubscribe, send a blank message to:
[email protected]
To change your subscription to digest mode so that you only receive one
message per day, send a blank message to:
[email protected]
To go back to receiving individual messages, send a blank message to:
[email protected]
There are more options at your disposal. To find out about them, send a
blank message 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 our
home-page. 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.

Another site has recently added Audyssey issues to its resources. We
welcome:
www.blindhelp.com
to the Audyssey community and hope that visitors to this site find our
resource to be of value to them.
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.


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Contents:
Welcome
Distribution Information and Submission Policies
Contents
From The Editor
Letters
Accessible Online Multi-Player Gaming
Handheld Fun
Enchantment's Twilight Development Diary: Part III
Adaptive Techniques in Difficulty Management
Free Game Winner
News From BSC Games
News From ESP Softworks
News From GMA Games
Update on Robison Bryan's Audio Adventure Game Engine
News From PCS
Play it Again, Sam!
Game Announcements and Reviews
Contacting Us

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From The Editor:

Hello to all my readers new and old. It's been quite an interesting three
months. Some new games have been released, and you'll be learning all about
those later on in this issue. What really stands out in this issue, however,
is news of what's being worked on and some very interesting thinking going
on in the minds of our community members. I wish I could have given you ten
times the glimpse into the fantastic discussions which went on. Heavy topics
like game piracy, advertising techniques, and the kinds of games people want
which have yet to be made were all taken up eagerly. Game developers are
doing a great job participating in these discussions when they're able. It
seems that the community has a good intelligence network. A major event
occurred when information arrived concerning a beta-testing version of a
demo of GMA Tank Commander. Dave tells me he didn't exactly plan on so many
people getting their hands on that, but is very pleased at how things turned
out. People pounced on and devoured it as if it were the only cup of water
on a desert planet. There can be little doubt that the full game when it's
actually ready will be successful on a large scale. I'm going to hold off
reviewing the game until that point, but that doesn't stop anybody from
doing a review of the demo.

On that note, we can always use more articles and reviews. I can only make
issues as good as this one when I'm given lots of material. In particular,
interactive fiction suffers from a lack of coverage. To any text adventurers
out there, I'd very much appreciate it if you could review the games you've
been playing. Also, even the popular sound-based games like Dynaman had no
reviews of them sent in for use in Audyssey. It'll be a far better resource
for people if there are more opinions about these games for them to read.
Also, it'll be more interesting for me to put these issues together. Game
developers and I already know what I think of games. What I and they want to
know is what you, their customers and fans, think of their efforts.
Prospective newcomers need a better sampling of what people think of a game
they may be thinking of trying. Let's give it to them, folks.

Unfortunately, we've lost one of our most ardent supporters from the early
days of the Audyssey community. Guy Vermeulen has apparently passed away.
When things were slowly getting started as word of Audyssey and accessible
games spread, he was always willing to share his thoughts on games as well
as what was happening in the growing community. He always demonstrated a
caring and thoughtfulness that made him a superb role model for all members.
When discussions got hot-tempered, he kept his cool and helped others,
myself included to see the value in this. Along with his friend Hugo, Guy
also helped organise and start the popular Mach 1 races which take advantage
of Jim Kitchen's free racing game. He was keenly looking forward to James
North's ESP Raceway which he'll sadly never have a chance to experience. I
would like to take this opportunity to posthumously thank Guy for all his
efforts on behalf of the Audyssey community and for supporting me personally
in what I was trying to achieve. He sent many helpful and encouraging
E-mails my way over the years.

We also learned that ESP Softworks is winding its operations down. James
North has sent along an update with more details which you'll find later in
this issue. However, people can still purchase games as long as the web site
remains open. James plans to develop ESP Raceway as well as a second version
of his Pinball game before closing up shop. Those of you thinking of
purchasing ESP Softworks games should do so over the next while since it is
unclear if they will be available after James pulls the plug. People shouldn
't take that to mean that support for owners of ESP products will stop.
James has made it quite clear that technical support and customer care will
continue after the closure.

On the brighter side, things are gearing up in a number of other areas.
Robison Brian is still hard at work on his adventure engine. This looks like
it could have an absolutely revolutionary effect on the accessible games
community when it's in full working order. It will reportedly allow anyone
willing to learn a method of developing high-quality and complex sound-based
games. The only major question I see is whether people will be willing to
purchase the engine before there are a lot of games developed which require
it. The event taking place when this engine launches commercially will be
the closest thing we've seen to the launch of a new game console in the
sighted world. Read his update later in this issue for further details. BSC
Games is also moving forward with new and exciting plans. I now believe we'
re firmly heading in the right direction as a community and as a small but
growing market. We've just got to keep the momentum going and do whatever we
can to support accessible game developers.

There's a whole lot to look forward to over the summer. Rebecca and I are
celebrating our first anniversary on June 15th, and we already have a few
things lined up for the Summer months. Chances are good that so do at least
some of our game developers. Please keep those articles and game reviews
coming, folks. I'm quite pleased with what I ultimately had to work with
this time around and hope that this continues to be the case for future
issues. This last week before I published what you're now reading has easily
been the most stress-free one I've ever experienced. In fact, I was able to
drop everything and go out on an afternoon excursion. This had a lot to do
with ground rules I've set on how long I work on Audyssey each day. If
married life teaches anything, it's time management. Over the first year, I'
ve learned some valuable lessons in balancing my own ambitions and sense of
meeting my public obligations with the need to further personal
relationships. It also had a lot to do with the efforts of the readers who
chose to spend their time writing such excellent and thoughtful material. It
can be easy for people to dismiss games as a frivolous pastime until they
take the time to think past the fun and see how they can inspire us to
examine ourselves, issues of importance, and how we choose to live our
lives. My thanks go out to all of you who wrote material for this issue.

Please make use of the facilities at our web-site where you can rate
articles, games, and do a whole lot of other things. Luis and Stan didn't
put all that effort in just to have the poles and surveys sit there. Also,
they're always eager for suggestions or comments on the site. This is your
home on the information super-highway, blind gamers. Help it become a more
lively place. Until next time at the end of August, I hope you all have an
excellent Summer.

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Letters:

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From Josh de Lioncourt:

Hello all,
I guess it is time to introduce myself more or less officially. You may have
read my name in the most recent edition of Audyssey.  My name is Josh de
Lioncourt and I'm currently working with PCS on an update of their classic
Ten Pin game.  It has been a fabulous experience so far, and I hope to be
bringing many games to the VI community in the future.

So, here's a little about myself. I live in southern California.  I'm
totally blind and live with my girlfriend.  I have two daughters (twins age
3) who are the most precious
things in my life.

I've been working in the adaptive technology area for a number of
years...first with TVI and Humanware, and later for Marriott International,
who employs a large number of visually impaired persons.  I was in charge
of their "VI Program".  I maintained the computer systems and wrote Jaws
scripts for their reservation software which was terribly inaccessible.

Since a child, I've always been a musician.  I compose primarily, and
prefer to work in popular music, which generally harkens back to the styles
of the 1980's, a decade that i can't seem to escape...not that I want to,
mind you.  My style is something like a mix of George Michael, sting, Elton
John, and many many others.

Another passion of mine is reading and writing.  I love science-fiction and
fantasy.  Some of my favourite authors include Anne Rice, Stephen King, JK
Rowling, Terry Brooks, Harry Harrison, and others.

I'm also a fan of "Masters of the Universe" an epic fantasy.  I've enjoyed
both the classic incarnation and the new revived version of this series
which includes a highly-detailed sculpted action figure line (which I
collect avidly), a cartoon series for both children and adults, and a comic
series geared toward adult readers which I have read to me.  I'm a long
standing supporter and message board moderator of
www.He-Man.org,
the site that is number one in terms of "Masters of the Universe" and am
good
friends with the site's owner, who also is incidentally the writer of the
comic.

In 2001, I produced a charity CD for "Hearts in Action", a non-profit
organization that provided distractive entertainment to seriously or
terminally ill children.  Sadly, the organization had to close its doors in
2002 due to all its benefactors choosing to divert donations to victims of
September 11th, a completely understandable but unfortunate side-effect of
the terrible tragedy.  I hope that one day it will return to its work.

I left Mariott just over a year ago to pursue more creative
endeavours.  Something that i am far better suited for.

Last year, I recorded a CD Single of some of my best songs, most of which
I'd demoed over the last 12 years or so.

And so, my love of creating stories, music, sounds, and programs has led me
here.  This seems to be an arena extremely well suited to my passions, and
I hope that I will bring many of you many hours of enjoyment through the
games I plan to develop in the future.

Have I bored any of you to sleep yet?

Take care,
Josh

++
From Chris Bartlett:

I've been reading the hot and heavy thread on games being released and I
have been moved to write a warning.

Let me begin by putting my biases on the table because they probably inform
my judgments concerning the desirability of game complexity.  I am one of
those  who lives on the end of the continuum that demands complexity and
richness of detail in order to really enjoy a game.  I play Lone Wolf, which
is at or near the top of the complexity continuum for accessible games at
this time, and of all the games I have bought, it is the game I will
continue to play for the longest.  Shades of Doom, while rich in detail
provides fewer options for tactical thinking.  Trek 2K also fails to satisfy
me because I don't like the interface or the way the game plays.  Alien
Outback is enjoyable to me as a beer and pretzels game, but I predict that
it will not hold my interest for very long.  These are the games I have
purchased.  I have also downloaded several of Jim Kitchen's games, my
favorite of which is actually Pong, (go figure.)

I was troubled by things James North has said about the market not
supporting large, complex projects like the Genesis Project, which is why
he's had to concentrate on smaller, easier-to-develop games.  I get this,
and am not criticizing him or any developer for choosing to create games on
the simple end of the spectrum.  I am not criticizing those who derive
enjoyment from these games either.

What I am seeing however is that the contentment with games that are not
comparable in complexity to games available to the sighted computer gamer is
limiting the process of developing titles on the complex end of the
spectrum.  I am selfishly saddened by this fact, because dammit, I want a
game to lose myself in for hours, dealing with minutia, details and where
one decision can effect my play an hour later in a way I might not have
predicted.  I'm worried that the market is dumbing down the development of
what would be for me better games.

I don't know what to do about this.  Others have different expectations of a
game, just as in the board game world where I'd far rather play Fighting
Wings than B-17, or (if I could figure a way) The Civil War board game
rather than the Gettysburg CCG.  Short of asking all of you to join me in my
madness, I can't think of what could be done.  I don't have the time to
develop my own game alone, and while I've had an interesting correspondence
with David Greenwood, this is all still very theoretical and he has said
nothing about going from discussion to design, let alone implementation.
(No problem David, you have enough projects and I had no expectations
raised, just my appetite whetted.
+
The topic presented here is certainly not a completely new one to the
community. Thoughts about the kinds of accessible games available are many
and varied. Charles Rivard wrote the following post which, among other
things, complements the above posting to a degree:

Terrible.  Replying to my own post??  Hmm.  Anyway, after sending it, I
thought about how some people complain about the fact that there are so many
games produced for the blind that are so much alike.  Some people say that
there are too many shooting games.  Look at the subject this thread
discusses.  While Nemesis Factor sounds a bit different, it does sound like
bop it in a way.  Where did bop it come from?  The first game of this type I
remember was Simon.  Then there is also bop it extreme which I mentioned in
my last post.  All of these games are pretty much the same, yet they have
been very popular with sighted and blind gamers.  Maybe what I'm getting to
is that if a game idea works, I see no harm and I have no problem with
several games that are along the same line.  Another readily available game
is from Radio Shack.  I think it is called copy me or something like that.
There are 4 buttons, each with a specific tone.  The game sounds 1 and you
must match it.  The game sounds the same one and adds one.  You copy it.  It
gets faster as you get a longer string.  There are 4 different games chosen
by first pressing one of the 4 buttons.  It runs on 1 9-volt battery and
sells for under $20 if I remember right.

Editor's Note: This post also illustrates why I appreciate it if people send
formal reviews or announcements of games they know about in separate posts.
It can be a lot of work to sift through all kinds of postings for
information needed in different sections of the magazine. However, it also
gives people an incentive to join the ongoing discussions lest they miss
information that slips through the cracks between issues.

++
Piracy has lately re-surfaced for another round of hot discussion. The
prospect of ESP Softworks closing down and its games no longer being
available for purchase seemed to act as a catalyst for both sides of the
debate to speak up. Here is a small portion of the discussion still going on
at the time of this issue's publication:

David Lant:

Hi everyone,

I'm writing to the list to announce that another set of registration keys
for both GMA Games and ESP Softworks games have been found on offer on the
Internet.  These are keys that were sold to individuals by the companies
concerned, and are now being handed around for free.

Let me make it clear.  Piracy is not acceptable behavior.  The companies
know who these people are, and are perfectly within their rights to
prosecute both the individuals, and the owner of the resource making them
available.

Just because ESP Softworks is closing it's doors for business, does not mean
that they are relinquishing their ownership rights to the software it has
sold.  If you have bought a game from ESP, you are *licensed* to use it.  It
is still owned by ESP Softworks, and passing on your registration keys is
still a breach of the license agreement.

So please, will anyone who has been handing their keys around take this as
fair warning.  If I find that any member of this list can be shown to have
been pirating software licenses, I will be approaching the list owners to
request that they be banned.

I don't know about anyone else, but I certainly do not intend to overlook or
tolerate this kind of selfish and insulting behavior.

Yours in outrage,

David Lant

+
David has written numerous messages on the topic of piracy and has, I think,
begun a very crucial development in the community concerning it. I think
developers can take heart from the support list members have shown to David
in his well-begun crusade on everyone's behalf. Kirstan Mooney writes:

    I just want to add here, I think David is an excellent Moderator and I
would want nothing more than a moderator who actively seeks to stamp out
Piracy.  I too would like to help stamp it out and will be doing my best to
stop it.
Just showing my support for David.

+
Robison Brian:
Good word David.  It is sad, but this does validate the practice of
individual demo codes being used to create individual licenses keyed to
each machine, even though it means another step in the registration
process.  Anyone who has licensed anything from InspiredCode knows this
is a quick and painless method.  In fact, the Audio Adventure Engine
allows game authors to encrypt games and use an identical licensing
mechanism.  (Just don't tell anyone the password you used to create the
licenses you sell!).  If any game authors not using the Engine want to
implement similar licensing mechanisms, please contact me off list and I
can share with you the concepts involved.


Editor's note: People should be aware that developers are cooperating both
to protect their own software and help others to develop protection methods.
Personally, I'd rather see developers choose to cooperate to enhance
accessible games and help new developers to learn the basics. It's up to us
to do whatever we can as consumers to be certain that honesty prevails and
that people are compensated for their work. As editor of this magazine and a
community leader, I'll support whatever measures I can to stop piracy.

+
Ryan Peach commented:
You have no right to defame ANYONE regardless of whether they have broken
the law or not.  This is a matter between law enforcement and the parties
involve.

If you want to do something about copyright infringement, get in touch with
the authorities (as I'm assuming you have done) or at least in touch
with their ISP's.  The punishment should fit the crime, and if the law
chooses to publish the names of the guilty, then that is *their* right, not
yours.

A safe is only as secure as the next team to come up with a creative way to
crack it.  It doesn't make it right to crack it, but to place total trust in
the system is idealistic -your system will become outdate and someone will
have found a way through.

I realize that this is no justification, but with the announcement that ESP
is folding, thus game support disintegrating, for pirates, it would seem
like open season.  We should only be so lucky, David, that this isn't a
larger market, or none of you, NONE, would've had their products out this
long without them being openly pirated.  The fact that this has just come up
now *might* suggest either: (a) the protection system is inherently flawed
and needs review; (b) that the software in question is reaching the end of
its profit lifespan; (c) both (a) and (b).

I appreciate the offer to assist developers in developing encryption methods
for their software.  Question: have you done any research into those
protection technologies in current use that have a proven track record for
success?  What about implementing one of them?

+
Tom wrote:
Hey all,

Well I have been reading this thread over the last couple days with
interest.  Let me say from the outset, this is going to be just a bunch of
random thoughts on this matter and I have no clear idea yet where this
message will lead me.

First off, let me say for the record that I own legitimate copies of
Grizzly Gulch, Hunter, Troopanum, and Dynaman.  I am seriously considering
buying raceway, haven't decided on that yet.  Guess I'd better eh?  I have
done some sound engineering for BSC Games as well.  In the last six or
eight months I have gained quite a bit of knowledge from various sources
including this list about how dedicated these developers we have are.  I
understand what James is Saying, this is personal when you are talking
about a market as small as this one is, and yes it is small.  First, you
have to cut it down to the number of people who are blind.  Next, you have
to reduce that further by the number of blind people who have
computers.  Further, these computers need  to be new enough to run
accessible games.  Also, the blind person has to be interested in games,
remember, not everyone is.  Next, the person has to have the skills to
learn to play the game in the first place.  Lastly, you have the matter of
economics.  I don't know how it is in other countries but here in the
U.S.,. the percentage of the unemployed working age blind is between 70 and
80 percent, depending on who you ask.  Many of these people cannot afford
to spend 25 or 30 or 40 bucks on a game, at least not very often.  All
these things serve to narrow the market.

Ok, so much for the small market thing.  Now to the piracy.  From a
personal standpoint, I feel it is reprehensible to pirate these games
particularly due to the small market.  Every copy of these games that is
sold does make a difference.  Having said that, I also have to agree with
the other list member who said that he doubts, and I doubt as well, that
too many of us here are totally lily white as far as this goes.  I think
most of you have probably copied something at one time or another, perhaps
because you needed it and could not afford it.  This is my case and I
freely admit it, if I really need something and the price is unreasonable
and I truly cannot afford it and the only way to get it is to copy it, then
I will do so.  However, I can say with a clear conscience I have never
pirated any accessible games, nor will I do so.  These are a luxury item as
far as I am concerned, and very reasonably priced at that.  If I like the
game I should buy it, otherwise I should not waste the space on my hard
drive.  These developers charge no more, in some cases less, for their
products than games for the sighted.  We can go back and forth about the
different kinds of games the sighted have versus what we have, but that is
for another time.

After this thread got started I have done some looking around to see if I
could find any of these things that people are talking about, keys being
passed around and so on.  I have to say I have not found anything of this
kind yet, and this makes me question how prevalent this really is.  I
realize that a lot of people probably do this personally, they just enter
the keys on their friends' computer or whatever.  I agree with the general
consensus, the only way you are going to stop this or slow it down is to
make the keys machine specific as Justin does with the bsc games.  This is
a pain in the butt for us owners, it also limits the market even more
because many people simply will not go to the bother of doing this for what
they consider a frivolous item, but I fully understand why he does it.

The last thing I would mention is I would be careful about naming anyone
you think is pirating stuff, particularly in any kind of public
forum.  Unless someone has actually been accused and convicted of
something, this could very well open you up to a libel and/or slander
lawsuit, both personally and as an entity.  Now are most of these people
who are doing this going to do that?  Probably not.  However it is
something to consider before you act.

Well that's all for me for now.

+
Tim Chase wrote:
There should be nothing as far as libel or slander goes.  Each developer
who has distributed a software key to a customer should have records,
matching keys to people.  If a person has given away their key, posted it
on a website, or offered it around in any sort of public list/forum, it's
a pretty no-brainer exercise to lookup the owner of that key.  I suppose
it is plausible that the little computer elves peeked over a customer's
shoulder and then scampered off to distribute the key they just watched
the customer type in, or it could be a "friend" or family member.  None
the less, when the license agreement states that the customer is not to
distribute the key, it then becomes the customer's responsibility to not
only to refrain from distributing it, but to prevent others as well from
distributing their key.  Though I'm not on to care particularly for
licensing headaches, it does pay my bills (fortunately, I work for a
company that manages that headache) and pays the bills of many others.  I
prefer to use free software to prevent selling my soul to some of the
entities out there that wield too much power, but if you're willing to
agree to a license agreement on its terms, then you ought best to abide by
them.  Huzzah for the court system (grins).  You do have a choice...agree
or not.  There are a lot of free packages out there, and a lot of free
coding environments.  If you don't think it's worth agreeing to their
terms, write your own and distribute it for free (winks).  My random
ramblings...

+
I couldn't find anybody who openly supported pirates. However, the other
side of the debate went more along the lines of how to deal with it and the
market conditions which provoked it. Darren Harris's message below gives a
good example:

With all due respect, and I really don't care how this is taken, good or
bad, but it sounds to me like you are asking for a sympathy vote here. And,
I don't know how many times we have herd the story about how this is a small
market. It wouldn't be if it was better advertised now would it. How did I
hear about accessible games? By word of mouth, nothing on any of the lists
that I was on, no advertising on any VIP related websites or anything like
that. If you want your products to sell, then you need to market them, not
chuck them out with the "hope", that someone is going to buy them. You make
it sound like this list is the be all and end all of the profit margins.

And do you seriously think that Pirates are really going to listen? All they
will do now is go deeper under ground. If your tactic really was affective,
then Piracy would have been dead and long gone years ago. So that's
testament to say that you can bluster about this all you like, but it's not
going to get you anywhere. Yes Piracy is damaging. Yes it's illegal. But
coming on, giving it the big all, really isn't going to improve things now
is it? Do you really expect these folks to admit that they are Pirates? With
all these programmes like Cazaa around now, there is no real way to prove
who has got what. And no, I haven't got it either. I've got better things to
do with my time than to clutter up my HDD with mP3's and other things. With
a 500 strong cd collection and growing by the month, and yes I buy them, I
have no need for MP3's.

+
James North countered quickly with the following:

Hi, Darren.

With all due respect, you're way off-base where I'm concerned.  I'm not
expecting anyone to come clean or change their ways.  If my post happens
to make someone stop long enough to think about the issue--which is
exactly what we're discussing here; nothing more, nothing less (you
should know that)--then cool.  If not, big fawkin' *shrug*.

It's a fact this market is small.  And, I've always been one of the few
developers to claim that it was a viable market in which to develop full
time.  And, I have.

As far as advertising goes--I've done it.  If you haven't heard about
ESP Softworks via this or the accessible gamers' list, then you're
either obviously new or don't bother reading the posts.  I have
distributors across the globe and not only do extensive marketing to
individuals, schools, organizations, special interest groups, and lists
for transacting products, but I've also spent an exorbitant amount of
time, resources, and generosity toward the community and it's
development outward over the past five years.  As far as 'spamming'
every blind- and VIP-related list out there, it's by and large not
welcomed by the moderators.  ESP products are featured on several
distributors websites and, in fact, the only accessible game company
features in LS&S Online's print catalog.  So, if you think that I view
this list as the end all of profit margins and that I've merely chucked
out hope to bring in sales--as well as looking for a sympathy
vote--you're ignorantly wrong.

There will never be an end to piracy (I suggest re-reading my previous
post).  That's not the point.  The point is that I'll put foot to ass
where I can to satisfy the fact that I can.  If you don't want my foot
to your ass, then you'd better dig deeper because ninety percent of
piracy is done on the surface.

+
Charles Rivard wrote:

Hey, David:  I know that games that I can play are being sold by some
companies, but why the heck should I pay for them when I can get them for
free from someone?  Heck.  It's only 1 copy.  They won't lose much revenue.
It's no big deal.  I know someone who would really get a kick out of this
free game I got from (fill in the blank).  I'll give him a copy to see if he
likes it.  Of course, if he does, is he going to buy it?  Nope.  Why?  He's
already got it.  Well, the loss of revenue has just been doubled.  This is
why piracy must be stopped!!!

++
Advertising and promoting awareness of accessible games was discussed at
some length later on in the quarter. Mostly, this was done in a totally
off-the-wall fashion. Thoughts of posters on busses, commercials for
Audyssey Magazine, and other even more. well, let's just say creative ideas
were bandied about. Elaine Duke came through with some more serious thought
on the problem of spreading awareness. Here is an excerpt from her message:

From Elaine Duke:

...but on my original post about posters, I actually meant for the posters
to be printed.  then as has already been pointed out, if a VI person was
with sighted friends they would point the poster out to the VI person.  how
else do us blindies find out things in this world without someone telling
us?  yes I know there's gadgets to tell us color, yes I know there's
scanners to read print.  but, they can and will let you down.  somewhere
along the lines you need sighted assistance.

also you've other people who work with the VI communities, schools, parents,
government bodies such as RNIB or CNIB in Canada.  sorry don't know the
American equivalent.  but you get my point?

now I'm talking free adverts here and I do know there are places like
libraries for instance, who would and do put up notice boards free of
charge.

I personally feel that it's not just up to the developers to advertise their
products.  but us as consumers too.  mainly because our community is so
small.

especially in the UK, accessible games aren't known at all or very few of us
are aware of the market.  and why?  well advertisement!  you get the likes
of comproom, yes, but where do they advertise?  in specialist magazines or
programmes that only people who are aware of that programmed listen too.

hmm, seems like a catch 22 situation to me, or maybe what came first the
chicken or the egg?

once again though, I feel we are back to the same thing, we need to help
each other.  whether its developers helping each other, developers helping
consumers or visa versa.  sorry folks it's just got to be done.

you cant' have games with out the developers, but then you cant' sell games
without consumers.

right enough said.

+
That's exactly in line with my own perspective on this. I believe one of the
key problems facing the growth of the market for accessible games is that
relatively few people are aware that these games exist and of their
potential to have positive effects on blind youth. Indirect advertising may
prove particularly helpful. If teachers, parents, sighted friends, and
agencies who are connected in some way with blind people knew about these
games, things might start happening at a faster rate. Code Factory has
managed to gain the support of ONSE, the Spanish equivalent of the Canadian
CNIB. It would be good to see more developers backed by such organizations.
I recently did a presentation for a youth group at the church Rebecca and I
attend. The kids loved the games and I believe it gave them a more intuitive
grasp of how blind people can use their hearing and that we can enjoy
similar things to what they are interested in. Here's a message from Michael
Mccarty who is taking every action he can to spread that crucial awareness.
I found it quite an encouraging thing amid all the gloom of the thread on
piracy where it was placed:

    Gentlemen, I am concerned with the great games of ESP disappearing, and
not to be enjoyed by anyone in the future.

    We have so few games, as has been pointed out on the list, and to loose
these great titles would be terrible.  Is there a way to save these titles
for future accessible game players?  What happens after the games can no
longer be purchased?

    I have done some presentations, the most recent at the Kentucky Council
of the Blind state convention, where we gave away a computer, with demos of
all the accessible games, from various companies.  It went over really well.
Many did not know of accessible games for the blind, and were amazed to hear
the quality of the sounds, and at the fun they had while playing the games.
I would like to think that someone registered their copy of the games, I
have no way of knowing, but games like Monkey Business, and Alien Outback
are things that should not simply disappear.  The people love them, once
they find out that they exist.

    I have also done presentations for the Kentucky School for the Blind,
and the teachers love the games, and see them as educational.  One teacher
remarked that Alien Outback was a fun way for a child to begin to quickly
respond to the sounds that come at them from different directions.  The same
was said for Super Shot, proving that the games do have some educational
value!

+
Richard from:
www.soundsupport.net
related his experiences with getting publicity for Drive, their flagship
game. It's nice to see people finding ways to get the word out like these
people are. Check out their site if you haven't already.

Hi...

When we published the Drive Demo and the Sneller Demo we used a press
release for each of them (English and Dutch). Of course this costs a lot of
money
(ranging from $500 - $1000 or more) . We didn't have to pay it ourselves (we
couldn't if we had to!!!) but the Bartimeus Foundation and our University
did. However, that's over 1,5 years ago and STILL we're receiving a lot of
attention through that single press release. We reached the National Radio
in
Australia and Ireland, as well as a Las Vegas Radio show
 and appeared in several Japanese Magazines (with Drive on CD). The last
post about Drive being added to the Game On Exposition was also a result
from the
same press release.
What we did outside the press release was to email every game group,
website, newsletter we could get our ands on (so I agree we didn't get to
email EVERY
newsletter concerning the blind). We've contacted game magazines around the
world, as well as audio designers and websites on sound design.

The thing is, the press mainly wanted to give attention to Drive is because
of the "News Value" of it (not because it is such an incredible racegame
*grin*
), the value being: "Racing Game For The Blind". We received so much
feedback of blind and sighted people saying : "I didn't know this existed"
that I
understand your experience/opinion really really well, Darren.
Basically, for us it was the same thing. We did a project on designing an
accessible website and we decided to put some games on it to get some
traffic.
That's how we got to research accessible games. Otherwise I still wouldn't
know and I'd be doing something else right now. And this was already a
couple
of years after Jim Kitchen originally created the first real audio racing
game.

So if you have the chance to use a press release (maybe get it sponsored by
your local blind foundation or school or use a local newspaper, sometimes
national
newspapers pick it up as well), you might try it, it worked for us. Right
now, "games for the blind" are very sexy for the media.
Again, this is why I think (but this is only my opinion) there should be
more websites on the subject and not just newsletters or newsgroups since
they
are NOT indexed by Google and other search engines.  But I'm glad I notice
more and more people setting up their own websites who link to
AudysseyMag.org,
the developers, AudioGames.net and even refer this list. But I'm not a media
expert. These are just my experiences.


++
Games make wonderful gifts for blind people. Justin Daubenmire sent the
following post to the list about how to go about purchasing one of BSC Games
's products as a gift for a friend. It would be a good idea for all
developers to make such information available particularly when games aren't
available on CD and must be downloaded. For those interested, here is Justin
's posting on this:

From Justin Daubenmire:

Hi All.

Just a quick post since I've recently had a few on the list email me about
how to purchase a game from BscGames.com as a gift for a friend.  A list
member suggested that I put this info on the site and share it with others.
I just updated my web site to show how to do this and wanted to share the
steps with the list since I don't know how often people visit the
BSCGames.com web site.  Here it is...

Q) How can I order a game as a gift for a friend from your company?

A) When you place an order for the game using our secure order form, in the
product id box type the word "none" without the quotation marks and then
submit your order.  After your order is processed, you'll be sent an email
that states you did not provide your product id.  Hold onto this email and
do not delete it since it contains a link to our website for the unlock
code.  Email your friend and say "hey happy birthday or merry Christmas..."
and have your friend download/install the game you just purchased for them.
Once your friend installs the game, have them email you their product id.
You then can go to the link in the email you were sent and paste in your
friends product id.  When you are emailed the unlock code, simply forward
the email/unlock code to your friend so they can input the unlock code and
register the game.  Although this seems like a few steps, the overall
process is actually quite quick and easy to do and we have a lot of people
doing this all the time.

++
From Tobias Vinteus:

Hi gamers,
If my memory serves me, the A2 emulator wasn't able to generate the castle
disk for the Bronze Dragon game. I seem to remember reading on this list
about another text-based emulator that actually could do this. What was
the name of that emulator?

+
Sorry to disappoint you, Tobias. However, to the best of my knowledge, no
way was found to successfully play Bronze Dragon completely without sighted
assistance. Apple emulators for Windows were able to generate the castle
disk needed to play the game. However, without this step being accessible,
it's impossible to fully enjoy Bronze Dragon as a blind player. This is a
particularly frustrating situation since the game is completely text-based
and splendidly full of detail and replay value. I could get lost in that
game for hours if it were accessible to blind players. However, short of
somebody coming out with an accessible Apple II emulator which could
generate these disks or porting the game system over to Windows, I don't
think we'll ever be able to dig into it.

++
Content over glitz was the name of one of the major topics of conversation
over the past while. Chris Bartlet opened up a very large can of worms with
the following:

Why must we have yet another first-person shooter?  Why does the sound
quality of a game merit more comment than the content?  This is not
specifically aimed at Justin, and I'm sure that Void will kick butt in many
other ways.  But why are we recycling twenty-year old games as suggested
concepts for the next game?  Where are the games that challenge our brains,
not our reflexes?

I am not terribly interested in arcade games.  I want tactics and
strategy.  I would far rather see heavy investment of time and effort to
model something more satisfying than yet another variation on SOD.  Lone
Wolf will always have more long-term playability than GMA tank Commander
because it is a more cerebral and less reflex-oriented game.  I don't play
SOD anymore, and Alien Outback is enjoyable but a beer and pretzels
game.  I have not bothered with Monkey Business or Hunter, because I don't
want to play another member of the species of game.

There is so much more out there that could be done.  Why is the fixation
for arcade-style games?  Is it the market not demanding anything more
complex?  Is it a failure of imagination on the part of game
developers?  Is it a wish to mimic sighted friends/relatives in the sort of
mindless games they spend hours playing?  Why cannot we be more
diverse?  What is the fascination with trying to reproduce the experience
of a sighted 12-year-old (sorry Josh) when most of us are adults with
brains and imagination enough to participate in something far richer and
more complex?
+
From Adrian Higginbotham

Personally I find g.m.a games although in the arcade style require lots of
strategy.  just because a game falls in to one genre doesn't mean it
shouldn't be challenging on lots of levels, indeed if it isn't it's badly
designed and likely to be boring.
deciding whether to accept one challenge or another isn't really strategy,
or not enough to keep you busy anyway, deciding whether the helicopter or
the fast approaching tank is the more immediate threat demands much more
strategy.

+
Boomerdad wrote:
I think one thing that rings true, especially for those of us blind since
birth who have many friends who enjoy videogames, is the fact that this is
all quite new.

I can only speak for myself, but there has never been a shortage of
"cerebral" games for the blind.  Text adventure games largely fall into that
category, and those have been around for over 20 years.  I, for one, think
reflex- and/or action-oriented games have a lot of lost time to make up.

This isn't to say I don't enjoy the more cerebral games...but I'll admit,
I'm a bit biased because I'm much better at the reflex-oriented games.  I
don't think Monkey Business falls into the same category as something like
Alien Outback or Tank Commander.

+
Christopher chaltain chimed in thusly:

I share Chris's frustration with the lack of accessible strategy games. From
what I've read, I'd love to purchase an accessible game like this X-Beyond
or X2.  LW is also my favorite game, and I'd love to see a LW like game with
a space theme extended into an open ended strategy game.  An accessible
version of Civilization or a sports game with a franchise or dynasty mode,
like NCAA 2003, would also be tops on my list.  I'd be willing to pay
significantly more for these types of games than the ones that are currently
out there.  It's no reflection on the developers effort but just what I'm
interested in purchasing.

+
Charles Rivard wrote:
All this posting about the fact that there isn't much in the way of
different types of games that are accessible in some people's minds.  The
complaint that there are too many shooting games.  A question: Are they
selling?  If they're not, they will no longer be produced and other games
will be put out.  If the shooting games sell well, they will continue.  If
you see a game that you do not like, don't buy it and let the game
developers know what you want in the way of games.  If enough requests are
received, I would think that the games will eventually be seen.  All the
one-man companies cannot obviously produce a game anywhere nearly as quickly
as companies with hundreds or more employees.  That's why our market is not
flooded with games.  I personally would like to see an absolutely accessible
chess program.  Most of them have been fairly OK, but not fully accessible
for all players.  I use a separate board and men to determine my next move,
and some people say that this should not be necessary.  I would like to see
more board games accessible.  Online card games as well, with the option to
play against the PC when nobody else is available.  How many of those are
there?  How about making the games that come free with Windows made
accessible.  Heck.  Everyone has those games, but we cannot use them.

++
All manner of games were discussed at great length as they emerged into
public consciousness. Interest in accessible hand-held games seems to be
experiencing a sharp rise from the occasional attention these games got in
the past. In particular, a hand-held puzzle game called Nemesis Factor
received an incredible amount of attention even after GMA Games put out a
beta-test demo of their Tank Commander game. This demo effectively halted
conversation about pretty much everything except itself and Nemesis Factor.
Despite there only being one level to the Tank Commander demo, it kept a
lively discussion going for weeks as people continued to play it. Also
making noteworthy appearances on the Blindgamers list during this quarter
were Monkey Business, Hunter, Pong, and a demo of Terraformers, a
long-anticipated title gaining a lot of attention outside the blind gaming
community. Despite a number of problems with this last demo, my take on
things is that its release did more good than harm for the prospects of the
full game when it emerges. I have every confidence that people will give it
a second chance.

Editor's note: A tremendous amount of potentially helpful information was
transmitted over the Blindgamers list during the last quarter. I doubt
anybody would have the time to dig all those bits out and put them in a
presentable format. I do my best to provide a good sampling of the more
thoughtful discussion which frequently emerges. However, those not taking
part in the everyday traffic on Blindgamers are missing out on a tremendous
resource. People are usually quite quick to help out when information or
assistance is needed. There is also a lot of friendly banter and the
occasional heated debate. Every community has its good and bad points.
However, thanks to the overall good nature of the people involved and our
excellent moderators, David Lant and Brenda Green, the good points have far
out-weighed the bad. To get more of a feel for what goes on in the
Blindgamers list, those who aren't already members may want to check out the
Audyssey web-site. There, you'll find an update composed by the site staff
which captures the latest news and any currently hot topics.

+++
Accessible Online Multi-Player Gaming
By Justin Daubenmire BscGames.com

Overview:

I have seen it mentioned on the blind gamers discussion list about online
multi-player gaming and have been asked personally by many gamers if I have
ever had any thoughts on pursuing this endeavour. When I mention online
multi-player gaming, I am referring to very large scaled games such as Sony
Entertainment's Ever Quest. Have I thought of doing this flavour of game for
the community? My direct answer to the question is yes! However, in this
article, from both a developers perspective and a business perspective, I am
going to explain to you why at this time, I feel it is an effort that may
not ever work out. However, as the blind gaming community/market grows, and
if we accessible developers team up to do the project, it possibly could.
Let me encourage you to read this entire article so you can get an
understanding of the costs associated with this type of entertainment. If
you opt to not read the entire article I have written, please read the
conclusion of this article to see my proposal to accessible developers and
the community at large.

This article is a general overview of the annual start-up costs to develop a
multi-player online game. All costs mentioned in this article are in US
dollars. They are rough estimates and have not been heavily researched.
However, I do work in the e-commerce business as an internet programmer so I
am somewhat familiar with this type of technology and some of the costs
associated with it. Also to note, the fictitious online game I am discussing
in this article is to be assumed to be a large scaled game and not a smaller
scaled game. When I say large scaled game, I am referring to a game the size
of Sony Entertainment's Ever Quest.

Content:

Many sighted people enjoy hours of playing multi-player style games online
and with friends and family around the world. They grab an installation CD,
install the game, jump on the net and fill out a subscription form. The form
takes in name, address, credit card details, etc. After they subscribe for
about 15 bucks a month, they dive into hours upon hours of game play with
others world wide using their internet connection -- either dsl/cable/or
even dial-up. Talk about lack of sleep! *smile*. I have seen several of my
sighted friends enjoy some of the popular titles and I would love to bring
that enjoyment to the blind gaming community. However, there is no way a
single individual could ever put out an accessible multi-player online game
such as the popular ever quest by Sony Entertainment. It would take
companies like mine teaming up with others to produce such a beast for the
blind. Reason? Funding.

Myself and other accessible gaming developers have the skills and expertise
to make online multi-player games. However, what we lack is what the major
gaming companies have, funding and major amounts of it. They have an
extremely large market.

Lets discuss roughly what the first year would cost us to create the game. A
robust online multi-player game would take nearly 1 year to develop
correctly and would take at least a team of 4 programmers, 2 to 3 sound
engineers, and a project manager, which is my expertise.

Now lets dive directly into the start-up costs. You would need at least 2
game servers to handle the traffic. For a solid, reliable game server, you
would be looking at spending $2000. Times that by two and you are already at
$4000 start-up cost. Certainly you could throw together a few servers each
costing between $800 to $1200 but I'm referring to what most major gaming
companies would probably use -- state of the art server technology. In
addition to the servers, you are looking at paying a solid $50 hosting fee
per month to a reliable hosting company to host the two servers. I realize
there are hosting services for about 20 bucks a month or cheaper but
typically those services are shaky and unreliable and have serious
downtimes. Also with a cheaper hosting company, you are looking at extremely
limited bandwidth, which I will touch on soon. Bandwidth is one of the major
cost factors. So, to be a reliable online multi-player game, you would need
two game servers at around $4000 and $50 per month hosting cost, which is
$480 per year. Looking at our annual cost so far, we are now up to $4480
without even starting on project development costs.

Typically in most major programming companies they pay hourly wages to
programmers/teams of programmers. Those figures usually are from $40 per
hour of development to $75 per hour of development. To be extremely
restrictive, I'll say our team of accessible programmers only make $40 per
hour of development for our accessible multi-player game. A rough estimation
of the number of hours to develop an accessible "ever quest" style
multi-player online game would be 300 hours to 3000 hours. So lets take the
absolute barebones 300 hours of development times $40 gives us $12000 USD
start-up cost for the development of the game. It would actually take much
longer than 300 hours to make the game. Any gaming companies for the sighted
would laugh at that $12000 figure since their development hours are four
times that and their programmers make minimum $75 per hour. The $12000
development cost, larger companies would gross twice that in 1 month or less
off their market of sighted gamers. Ah, market; we will soon discuss that as
well. So the $4480 start-up server fee/annual hosting fee plus the initial
programming fees brings us to $16480. Oh but hold on, we aren't done yet,
lets talk about the sounds for the game.

In the real world, gaming companies have their own full-blown recording
studios to produce game sound effects and have to pay their sound engineers
some good change to make sounds. I.E bringing in people with specific
accents to do voiceovers, making their own background music with real
musicians, to simple things like making their own explosion sounds and death
sounds. I'd say most major gaming companies probably spend around $5500 or
more to hand create the sounds. We accessible gaming developers can't afford
that so we are left to CDs of sound effects. For a decent CD of
professionally produced sound effects, you are looking at $400... price them
online. Certainly you can find ones for $30 or $100 but are those really the
quality we would want in an accessible online multi-player game? Probably
not. I'd say in total we would be looking at paying probably $800 to $1000
for some great realistic sounds that immerse the player in the adventure
whatever that might be. So, we'll say $800 to play it safe. Now our start-up
cost for the first year of operation is up to $17280 and we still have not
discussed bandwidth costs, installation CD creation costs, CD shipping
costs, marketing and advertising costs, nor how much to charge the end user
monthly to subscribe to the service.

Bandwidth is very difficult to judge in this effort since it is hard to tell
how many people would subscribe to the accessible online game. The number of
subscribers would determine the cost of bandwidth. Just a rough guess here
but let's say we have 300 die hard fan/gamers who sign up for the service
and play a minimum of 4 hours per day. So, 4 hours a day times 300 users can
get bandwidth usage up there quite quickly. So to be fair, I'd say bandwidth
costs would be between $500 to $1500 per month. However, in real life they
could probably be as high as $4000 per month since lets face it, many people
stay on the computer for hours upon hours. I know some do not, but many do.
Lets just say $500 to be conservative. So our annual cost to cover bandwidth
would be $6000 ($500 times 12 months). Now our first year of expense would
be up to $23280 without bringing into play installation CD
creation/packaging, CD shipping costs, and marketing/advertising costs. We'
ll let all those go but probably would be around $800 to $2500 or so.

Now lets discuss our market - blind gamers. We all know that not only is the
blind computer market a minority market, but to break it down even smaller,
we are a minority within the minority - blind gamers. Sighted gaming
companies could clear that annual cost of $23280 in one or two months with a
single game. The number of worldwide subscribers they would get would bring
them the funding they would need to financially clear their expenses in 1 or
two months. After that, they would start to make them a serious profit. On
the other hand, our market is very small. I don't know if we could break
even and pay off the $23280 start-up costs in the first year of operation.

Now lets touch on all you great folks -- us developers' faithful customers.
You should know, we appreciate your financial support. Without it, we
couldn't make games. Thank you for your financial support! Most sighted
gaming companies charge from $12.99 to $14.99 per month with some pre-pay
offers but for now lets focus on the monthly cost. Understanding that our
overall market has limited funds, I'd say that most blind gamers would
probably be most comfortable with paying $12.99 per month.

So lets look at each person paying $12.99 per month to subscribe to the
service to play our online accessible Ever Quest style game. Our initial
annual expense would be $23280 and divide that by 1 user at $12.99 and you
would get 1792 individual payments needed to clear our first year expense
and break even. Now lets divide the 1792 total individual payments needed to
clear our first year expense by 12 months and this will show us how many
users would need to pay $12.99 per month for a solid year. And the survey sa
ys bing bing bing bing 149 users per month would have to pay $12.99 for 1
year to keep it afloat. Oops forgot to mention that out of that $12.99
credit card processing costs would probably take it down to $10.00. That 10
bucks would have to be split amongst 5 or 6 team members, hosting fees,
bandwidth costs, CD creation/shipping costs, etc.  Also, not every person
has a credit card so some would not even be able to sign-up and play the
game.

Although on the surface that looks somewhat doable and would clear our
initial expense for the first year of operation, our second year of
operation probably would kill us immediately. First of all, lets be honest,
how many people would keep subscribing to the same game at $12.99 per month
for the first year? I mean after all, there are only so many aliens you can
shoot or lands you can cross or whatever it is before the game gets boring
and you opt to not resubscribe to the game and then developers must hurry
and try to make another online game that is bigger and better and has more
features than its predecessor. Wow, that could potentially mean another
$20000 and we haven't even entirely gotten out of the clear with the
start-up costs associated with the first game.

Conclusion:

Ok, now Justin shoves aside his pessimistic podium and gets rid of all
reasoning. *smile* Now I put on my optimistic ball cap for this last
paragraph. *smile*. could we do this folks? Would it be possible to make
such a game be a success in our market? I say yes! All it takes is all of us
banging our change together and making it stay afloat! We could do it but it
would not be easy at all. In my personal opinion, the only way this type of
entertainment could come to the blind gaming market is a team effort from
accessible game developers. I'd be more than willing to head up such an
effort and take on the role as the project manager. That's a strength of
mine -- managing time, resources, people, etc. Everyone on the list knows
that I meet my game release dates very close to when I say the game will be
live for download/purchase. Sometimes there are unknown setbacks but
overall, my games are released on or near the initial mention of the release
date which confirms my abilities to be a reliable project manager. I am not
bashing any other developers on the list, I don't know their individual
situations or anything with their release dates, I am only referring to
myself so keep this in mind.

If there are any accessible developers on the list or off the list
interested in putting together an online multi-player accessible game and
would like to join the project team I'd head-up, please email me off list at
[email protected] and we can start the ball rolling. Also, any gamers who
would love to see this type of entertainment/game hit our market shoot me an
email and let me know. Can't promise I can reply to all emails I get but it
will more importantly give me a feel for how many would be interested in
supporting this type of game.

+++
Handheld Fun
By Ken Downey
Here are descriptions of all the handheld games I have ever played and
found accessible, arranged by rating.  Some of these games are probably
discontinued, but if you can find them I strongly urge you to get as
many as possible as they are all worth playing.  I have rated them from
1 to 10, 10 being the absolute best.

The Nemesis Factor
Hasbro has created a wonderful game called Nemesis Factor, a new puzzle
that has stretched my brain to the limits.  Hasbro calls it the first
electronic talking puzzler, and to my knowledge it is.  There are two
new things offered in this game-- first, it delivers the mind-numbing
challenge of solving 100 puzzles, and second it allows you and up to
three friends to keep score.  The object is to solve as many puzzles as
possible.  When they are all complete, whenever your friends press the
colour you chose as your player colour, the game tells them you've won.
This game is 100% accessible.  It is true that the puzzle involves
lights, but they are not necessary for solving any of the puzzles.
There are mathematical puzzles, pattern puzzles, musical puzzles, and
so many more!  I've completed eighty-nine puzzles, having to skip some
because of the frustration of not knowing how to solve them--but it is
great!  Also be forewarned that many puzzles involve light.  The thing
has a light censor just below the buttons.  It's a tiny round hole.
The reason I'm telling you this is so you won't give up when you
realize some of the puzzles hinge on light or dark.  By the way, you
get two hints per puzzle, and you can skip one if you're stumped.  Four
people can play, and it saves game play between rounds, so you and your
friends can compare scores, and work on different puzzles in the same
day.  Let your friend have one colour, you take another, and after the
Nemesis factor has stumped him on puzzle 15 you can choose your coloured
button and go right back to where you were on puzzle 69.  This is the
best handheld game I've ever played, but it does have one drawback:
there are only 100 puzzles, so once you've figured them out there is no
challenge left.  Despite that, though, it still gets a solid ten.

NuJam

In this game, you have to follow the music.  As in the Bop it games,
their is a steady, rhythmical beat that goes faster as you progress in
the game.  So, the guitar plays a high note, and you slide the slider
up.  It makes a low noise, and you slide it down.  It does a riff, and
you twist it.  It plays a power chord, and you strum it.  This game
plays way faster than the Bop it games do, and that in itself would
make it worthy of purchasing today but there is a second game, Rhythm
Jam, in which it plays a series of strums and riffs, and not only must
you match them but you must do it to the rhythms in which they are
played.  Want to know what the more advanced rhythms are like?  You
don't have to beat it to find out, for their is a bonus jam mode in
which, even if you mess up, it saves your score and position in the
game (but does not save your score as the high score).
There is also a free jam where you can just strut your stuff a little
and make up your own sequences.  (This is great when you just want to
mess around, after the game has blown out your brains.)
For the partially sighted, there are lights on the game you can follow
as well, but don't be distressed, you who are totally blind, for before
starting the gameplay with your sighted friend you can tell the game
not to light the lights.
There's still more to this amazing game.  It doesn't just let you beat
it once it's gone as fast as it can go.  For one thing, it doesn't
reach a certain speed and then stop going faster like the Bop it games,
it goes faster until you reach a certain place, then it tells you how
well you did--but don't relax yet because it's time  to go double
time!  You can also set the game to start at the doubletime speed. I
don't know anyone who has beaten this fantastic zinger.  I give it a
ten.

Bird Brain
Somewhere in the world is a man with a very obnoxious voice, and he
imitates the speech of parrots almost perfectly.  You'd recognize his
voice instantly, for he is a famous actor.  Anyway, in this game he is a
bird that gives you seven phrases.  Then the phrases get all mixed up
and you have to match the beginnings of the phrases to their endings.
In the process of matching, you end up with quite a number of funny new
ones,.  For example, "babe in the woods," and "blind as a bat," are two
phrases.  If you match them up wrong, you could end up with, "babe in
the bat!"
I miss this game and would like to find it again.  It gets a nine.

Real Fishing

This is a great little game, especially if you like to fish but are too
impatient to wait for a bite.  There is a motor in the game that pulls
on the line so that the rod actually bends and it looks like a fish is
fighting you.  Their are ten difficulty levels to this game.  You
progress from level to level, and, for instance, once you have beaten
level eight you can play all the levels accept level ten, which I have
never managed to win.  If you're not quick enough to let out some line,
you may have to tell the story about the big cyberfish that got away.
I give this game a nine.

Uno Blitzo

This is a spin on the ever-popular card game, Uno.  Up to four players
can play the game, or one person can play against the computer.  There
are only four cards in the game, numbered red1, blue2, green3, and
yellow4 for all four players.  The computer  calls out a colour or
number, and whoever is currently playing lays down the appropriate
card.  There is an uno button on top, and if the player next to you
lays down the penultimate card without hitting that uno button, you can
press the uno button, making him draw three cards, playing with a full
hand.  Also, from time to time the computer will say "draw," in which
case you can make either of your opponents draw a certain number of
cards, which the computer announces after you've selected your victim.
The game also will play a sound effect from time to time.  If it is
your turn, hit the uno button.  On the first two difficulty levels, if
you hit the uno button on the wrong sound effect you can pass, but on
the latter levels you get another card.
This game is almost completely accessible, especially if you play it on
level 1.  On the other levels you have to take a card if you make a
wrong move, and as sighted players can tell what cards they have left
by the lights on their buttons, they instantly know whether to lay down
the blue or pass, where the blind player does not.  Trying to
concentrate on what cards have been laid, as well as which direction
you have to pass when the game calls out, "reverse," can be a bit
stressful--but I still recommend the game highly.  By the way, there is
a trick to knowing what cards the computer lays down when you get an
instant uno.  It leaves the highest numbered card left in your hand.  I
really like this game, but since it's a bit difficult it only gets an 8.

Bop it and Bop it Extreme

Most people are familiar with Bop it.  It tells you what to do, such as
bop it or pull it, and you do it.  The more points you rack up, the
faster the games go.  Bop it Extreme is a bit more challenging than Bop
it but it also goes a bit slower.  In addition to voice commands, both
games have sound effects you can learn to follow.  To beat Bop it, you
must score 100 points, and to beat Bop it Extreme you must rack up 250
points.  These games are great until you have beaten them and the
challenge is lost,  but though these games are relatively simple and
mindless they  are still great fun.  I give Bop it a seven and Bop it
Extreme an eight.

Brain Bash
This isn't just a follow the commands game, it also messes with you by
making you solve relatively simple math problems on the fly.  The
travel game version is better as the speaker is on top.  There are four
games, and up to four people can play simultaneously.  This is an older
game and may be discontinued.  I give it a seven.

Brain Warp and Brain Shift

Brain Warp and Brain Shift are relatively simple, but still fun, fast-
paced games where you follow commands.  The game will tell you to
turn/shift to a specific colour or number, and, when you do, you earn
points.  In Brain Shift, their is a Simon-like game where it makes a
bunch of sounds and you have to shift the stick to the right one.
Brain Warp has a similar game, but it uses number-colour combos instead
of sounds.  Brain warp  is a ball with six knobs, and you tilt it this
way and that until the right coloured or numbered knob is on top, and a
little ball in the game falls into a hole and you score a point.
Another game is called Code Buster, in which the games come up with
sets of four, five, six or more colours and you have to find the
combination.  Other games include one where two or more people can
play.  The first person selects a colour, then the second goes to the
first colour and adds his own, and so on.
but even after that they are still fun to play at parties and picnics.
I rate them both a seven.

There are many other accessible handheld games out there, like Simon,
Supersimon, and talking Battleship, but they are so well-known that I
have not endeavoured to cover them here.  As I get new games, I will
play them, (for hours, no doubt,) and write a subsequent article
describing them.
By the way, "The Little Lost Puppy," is almost finished.  Go to
www.dreamtechinteractive.com
for details.

+++
Enchantment's Twilight Development Diary: Part III
By Michael Feir

Yes, folks. I came up with that title a while ago and still like it. Things
have changed quite drastically over the past while. I got a copy of Dave's
engine and have started experimenting. Unfortunately, I get some runtime
errors which have blocked me from making too much progress on that front.
Over the next while, I'll be trying to sort all that out. Mostly, I've been
questioning Dave about his engine versus what kind of game I'm trying to
create. Due to this and starting to work with the engine itself, I have had
to alter my overall concept by quite a bit and may ultimately have to again.

One of the hardest and most frustrating decisions I eventually had to make
was to remove sea voyages from the campaign game. This had nothing to do
with engine limitations other than the restricted number of user variables.
It had far more to do with a simple question which I could not answer to my
satisfaction. What would happen if the wizard was away on a voyage when this
or that major event happened? Especially troublesome were events involving
confrontation with enemies or demons on the island. It would require far
more work and variables to have two systems to deal with these events, and I
'd need to do that if the wizard could possibly be away when they occurred.
Now, without sea voyages, I need never worry about the wizard being off the
island. However, I still want to find a way of adding some form of
explorational quest for the kind wizard to do in order to recover artifacts
and especially the six keys to power. I'm thinking of having some sort of
ethereal plane where the wizard must go and have adventures. These
adventures might then result in an artifact appearing in a secret cave for
the grabit to retrieve for the wizard.

One of my main goals for the game is to have something which is infinitely
replayable and which can go on forever. Due to the amount of randomness
inherent in the game design, I'm not all that worried about having limited
replay value. Objects and monsters can be located randomly and events can
also happen randomly. Having things go on forever is a larger problem. Dave'
s engine is designed for more linear games with different levels whereas I'm
trying to have a game which all takes place in a single main level with
occasional trips to bonus levels. At this point, it looks like I'll be able
to have something which goes on endlessly. Another thing I've had to do was
determine exactly what each user variable was going to be for. During that
process, I reconfigured the enchanted island to use up less variables and
removed much of the resource management aspects I was originally going to
have in the game. The overall focus has definitely shifted in the arcade
action direction as it dawned on me how many variables I'd need to add the
strategic elements I had in mind. My primary goal, after all, is to bring a
kind of retro arcade action to blind people with an overarching long-term
strategy element usually missing in those games. Despite the snags so far, I
am still quite confident that I can ultimately deliver a game with real
substance, good story, and replay value at the end of the day. A good part
of this optimistic viewpoint is the number of times an aspect of what I was
attempting to do seemed to be impossible at first. There have been many
occasions where Dave has been positive something couldn't easily be done
only to later realise that it could be handled by his engine. He's had to
put in a lot of work modifying it in order for this to happen, and I
appreciate that a great deal. One interesting stumbling block was that I
wanted certain monsters in my game to be able to steal jewels and escape the
cavern with them. At first, it didn't look like there was a way to have them
actually pick up jewels. The reasons for this are somewhat technical, and it
kept him pondering for some time. Faced with possibly having to abandon this
major aspect of my game, I had to come up with some kind of alternative. I
had two possibilities in mind, but thankfully won't have to lessen the game
by using either of them. It turns out that it should be fairly easy to have
monsters pick up jewels. Something still to be worked on, however, is having
them be able to head for either the nearest edge of the play area or certain
points on each edge. It doesn't look like there's a way to tell them to
simply head for the nearest point on the nearest edge at this stage, so I'll
have to have paths for goblins to follow when they have jewels and happen to
walk on them.

By the next quarter's update, I am hopeful that the major hurdles to
starting serious coding of the game will have been dealt with. Having the
engine has helped me gain a far better understanding of what is and isn't
possible. When my original ideas haven't been possible, Dave has been quite
good at either modifying the engine to make them possible or suggesting
alternatives to consider which would be more within the engine's
capabilities.

Over the summer, I'll be mainly focussed on the voice acting scripts and
story of the game as well as trying to test out and code basic game
elements. I likely won't have it all done any time soon, but would like to
start recording the local talent I'm using during the Fall season. It'll
also let me have a better idea of how many other people I'll have to find to
do voices. I haven't yet sorted out just how far I want to take things in
terms of the number of different roles in the game. Obviously, I'll need
voices for the wizard, archfiend, elves, dwarves, city folk, and other
inhabitants of the island. There will also be a number of evil villains for
the wizard to contend with. Narrating events in the game which may not
otherwise be detectable will be Adam Taylor. Those who have always wondered
what the actual immortal gamer sounds like. may not get to find out since he
'll likely be using a more powerful narration voice. I'll also be starring
as at least one of the villains I've come up with. Ron Schammerhorn will
also be doing some voice acting in the game. Some may have heard his talent
in other games like Monkey Business.

Sound effects are also proving to be a bit of a challenge. I've obtained a
sound effects kit from:
www.sound-ideas.com
a good place for any game developer to check out if they can afford to spend
money on sound. The way I saw it, I couldn't really afford not to. It was
either that or risk getting sued by somebody for using their sound. I still
have to edit and often merge sound effects to get what I'm after, and I'm
slowly getting better at doing that. Game design is something else again. I'
ve been taking in a whole lot of very handy tips and information from
another fantastic resource for game developers:
www.gamasutra.com
I'm eagerly awaiting their next audio guide for producing sound for games.
Their previous one was quite a good read. They also have articles and other
material from game designers which can be quite useful on the larger scale
of things. I've had a clear idea of the game I've been trying to create
since my initial stumbling onto its overall concepts. However, it's always
good to see what others who have succeeded professionally have to say about
designing games. I'm trying not to take anything for granted including my
ability to think of all possible angles while designing my game.

+++
Adaptive techniques in difficulty management:
Do they hold a prominent position in the future of computer gaming?
by Robison Bryan

Part 1.

I will share with you my thoughts on the subject and let you decide for
yourself.  Implementing these concepts could afford your games an almost
human intelligence toward providing the best gaming experience for all
concerned, for as long as possible each time they play, and for as many
replay times as possible.  While I will try to be general about these ideas,
I may use some language you consider to be a bit technical.  I'll also try
to explain my terms in simple language, and you can also probably get most
of it from context.  So if one thing seems odd, keep going and it should
become clear.  And one last note: I am not an expert.  This is intended to
be a theoretical piece, and reducing such to actual practice by necessity
follows, rather than precedes such theoretical work.  With that said, here
goes:

What is your game's replay value?  Does it give certain people an unfair
advantage?  You can control the answers to both of these questions by using
adaptive techniques.  The two basic questions are answered by two basic
techniques that use some of the same methods within them.  This article will
deal with them in a purely theoretical sense, allowing you to utilize them
in any language, whether C++, VB or PEAL (Plain English Adventure Language).

+ Equalizer An equalizer is a method of anticipating and or detecting any
unfair advantages the player might have, and adjusting the difficulty
accordingly.  The most basic equalizer is a "set and forget" system, which
is like saying you wind it up and let it run, instead of constantly taking
measurements and adjusting it.  (Geeks like me would call this an open loop
system).  The advantage of it is that although it compensates for certain
prevailing conditions it allows the player to progress and reap the rewards
of getting better without being penalized for ability.

+ AutoLevel An autolevel is a system that reacts to its own output.  (Geeks
like me would call this a closed loop, or servo system).  A perfect example
of this is the automatic recording level (compressor) that many older tape
recorders have.  You can hear the results of this during commercials on TV.
It keeps adjusting the volume so that the output constantly stays at the
maximum allowable (yet annoying) sound pressure level.  The use of an
autolevel in gaming can keep a player constantly challenged, but can also
give them the feeling that they'll do just as well if they try hard or slack
off.

+ The Best of Both Worlds.
By combining these two general methods together, you can get results that
are much more fun than either method alone.  This becomes possible when you
consider that difficulty in a game is not one dimensional.  You can have
many kinds of settings in a game.  Just as you can have north or south, east
or west and up or down, you can also have things like hot or cold, wet or
dry, fast or slow and so on.  Each of these dimensions of possibility is
called a parameter.  Your stereo has three parameters called volume, treble
and bass.  In your game, you can set up and use a great number of parameters
to control difficulty.  Certain parameters can be treated with an equalizer
and other parameters can be treated with an autolevel.  You can even export
the amount that your autolevel had to adjust things into another parameter
so as not to lose the significance of the parameter that you squeezed with
the autolevel.

Here's an example of an autolevel that still manages to salvage something
extra out of the fact that the player is really good:.

+ The earliest, simple yet effective adaptive technique: increase the speed.
Suppose your game is a first person shooter.  You can have the game adapt to
the player's ability by making the enemies keep getting faster and more
powerful.  But the player might say what is the point in trying when the
game just compensates?  The answer is in the fact that the more powerful the
enemy, the more points you get for shooting him down.  That way no matter
how good or bad he is, the player stays on the edge of his seat in order to
just stay in the game.  But his extra capability is rewarded by the number
of points he racks up against the enemy ships, and perhaps by the ability to
stay in the game for a longer total time each time he plays.  This is the
most simple method of adaptive difficulty control, and was present in early
games like Asteroids.  The enemy ships just kept getting faster, but the
best players were able to stay in the game long enough to rack up the most
points.  Even this simple approach has lots of replay value, because the
player can stay in the game at first and eventually is so challenged that he
falls out of the game.  Those are the advantages.  But the method also has
some limitations.

+ Dead heroes don't solve puzzles.
Suppose you want to influence future text role play by the outcome of a fast
paced battle scene?  Then it is not very convenient to guarantee that your
player will die in battle either sooner or later, depending upon his
ability.  Tron would never get to hack the operating system if he got killed
on the game grid.  In the movie he actually ran away through a crack in the
wall.  But if your player's text adventure character is someone else other
than his battle character that might work out anyway.  An example of this
would be if in the story the player were controlling a fighter robot by
remote control.  Two more examples would be Angels fighting demons overhead
on behalf of the praying player, or else a general dispatching troops who
can win or lose the battle by various quantities of casualties.  The above
technique is not the only way that a game could adapt to the player's
ability.  This method also adapts in only one way, that of speed.  Thus the
person with the fastest reflexes will more often win.  Also it gives an
unfair advantage to the player who can visually see the enemy.  Furthermore,
since the player temporarily becomes someone else for the duration of the
lethal battle, you could not really call it a first person shooter in the
truest sense of the term.

+ Better adaptive techniques needed.
It can be seen from this that to successfully mix first person action with
an ongoing puzzle, text adventure and or mystery saga, what is needed is
more detail, more intelligent control over the difficulty level, without
sacrificing the rewards obtained by playing well.  The player must get a
sense of reward that is proportional to his progress in how well he plays.
I had at the beginning of this paper talked about two basic techniques, the
equalizer and the autolevel.  The space invaders approach is almost entirely
an autolevel.  The game reacts to how long the player stays alive by
compensating with faster enemies.  Only the number of enemies shot down
preserves for the player the benefit of how well he plays.  The simplicity
of this approach also can allow certain players to leverage their own
advantages, fair or otherwise.

+ The simple equalizer in action An equalizer can be used to compensate for
a certain specific known advantage.  For instance, what if you wanted to
write a game that the sighted and the visually impaired would find equally
challenging.  To provide the stimulation of all senses available without
allowing the presence of certain senses to yield an unfair advantage
requires an intelligent method that does not give the visually impaired
player an easy way out or the baby treatment, either.  The simplest way to
do that is to honestly evaluate what areas the sense of sight yields an
inappropriate advantage.  In other words, which of the game's parameters are
influenced by the presence of that sense.  Then to the appropriate degree,
adjust those parameters to compensate.  The result is that if the sighted
player were to turn off the visual display and he would rack up the same
number of points, or gain the same measure of success, whatever the
challenge is.  This is a simple "set and forget" concept.
The steps are simple.

1.  Determine whether the sense of sight is being used.
2.  Have a preconceived notion about which game parameters are affected, and
how much, by this sense.
3.  Adjust the difficulty settings along those parameters in the opposite
direction by that said amount, before any playing has even occurred.
Thus the outcome will be similar whether or not the sense is used.

But this is not the only possible source of excessive advantage.

+ Compensating for various kinds of individual strengths and weaknesses As
previously mentioned, a player might have lightning fast reaction time.  If
the only way to influence certain adventure details is by means of how well
he does in battle, the more normally paced players may never get to the
place where their analytical skills would pay off for a more consistent
challenge all around.  Likewise if the lightning fast player is not a
Sherlock Holmes by any stretch of the imagination he may never get to the
battlefield where he could show his stuff.  Rather than insisting that the
player be good at everything in order to really enjoy any of it, it would be
helpful to allow the player to progress using what he has more or less
successfully, by the outcome of his labours in any endeavour (whether on the
battlefield or on the beat as a detective)
would yield quantifiable rewards that can be leveraged to his benefit when
he is challenged in his particular area of weakness.  For those players that
are not very good at any of it yet, there can be different general
difficulty levels that can be selected from the menu, such as bantam weight,
lightweight and heavyweight.  Any scores would be within that particular
difficulty group or weight class and would be understood to apply to such.
But getting back to the adaptive aspect, within each difficulty class, the
different parameters of a person's ability should be compensated so that he
can stay in the game and get a sense of his own improvement overall.

+ A new fly in the ointment Before proceeding to describe how to compensate
for many parameters at once, there is another aspect that should be
considered, as it will have to be dealt with at the same time.  The new
consideration is the answer to the first question at the top of this paper.
What is your game's replay value?  This is best answered by making the very
structure of the game different every time it is played.  This can be
accomplished by allowing random numbers to dictate the generation of maps,
of locations, of tools, of monsters or any combination thereof, as well as
all of the properties of such items.  I recognize that it is a good thing
also to save a game that is in progress and continue playing it later, much
as one would put down a great novel and continue reading it later.  I will
ignore the mechanics of doing so and consider such to be merely a
continuation of the same playing of the game.

+ Let the numbers decide In order to accomplish this versatility, as well as
to adaptively control difficulty, everything in the game must be controlled
by variables.  Rather than having a monster always living at a certain
precise location, and behaving in exactly the same way each time you
encounter him, it would be better to assign details according to variables
that are modified by rules of logic that depend upon arbitrary numbers, and
then seed them with random values.  If there is no way around certain preset
values, then have a table of all such possible preset values that you can
assign, like a spread sheet.  Then have a variable index each dimension of
the array and the result that gets grabbed from the box at that address will
decide how to make the world you are setting up.  In this way you can create
a number of monsters, enemies, towns and even situations the player may
encounter.  You can specify their personalities and write in plenty of
detail about them as text.  Thus the descriptions can be quite vivid,
complete with behavioural tendencies and detailed kinds of capabilities to
match, while at the same time never being expected by the player.  The
unpredictability can also be enhanced by mixing and matching whenever
possible, assigning certain attributes randomly from each list, complete
with detailed descriptions of just that attribute.  A different random
number would select a different detail from each list.

+ An example of replay variety that points to difficulty management For
example, your monster might be randomly issued a weapon from a list of
twenty possible weapons.  There is detailed description of what the weapon
looks like, what the damage it does looks like, and there could even be wave
files associated with the firing of it.  Furthermore, the weapon could have
rules associated with what it can and cannot harm, as well as what kinds of
defence are effective against it.  Additionally, any time numbers are used
in the weapon's details there is an opportunity to modify them by random and
or adaptive means.  The random means can help to make each monster truly
unique.  The adaptive means brings us full circle back to the topic at hand.
Every number involved in the details of a monster can have an effect upon
how difficult he is for the player to deal with.  For every monster, each of
those numbers can have an allowable range, which is how far the number can
be stretched in either direction.  This allows the monster to retain his
personality.  It is also possible to specify that for a given monster if one
of his numbers gets stretched in one direction, a different one of his
numbers will be stretched in the same or opposite direction, whatever will
allow him to be modified in difficulty while maintaining his unique
personality.

+ Parameters of Monster Challenge After a number of potential monsters have
been created, they can be classified according to type and difficulty, by
prediction and or testing.  Their unique qualities will present varying
challenges to various players.  Player 1 may have more trouble with Monster
A rather than Monster B.  Player 2 may have the exact opposite experience.
He may find that Monster B is more difficult than Monster A.  All things
being equal, why did one player have more trouble with one Monster while the
other player had more trouble with the other monster.  Each player thinks
that his favourite monster is simply tougher.  What accounts for this
difference?  The difference is that the monsters are not the only ones that
have different parameters and aspects.  The players are also unique monsters
in their own rights!  Each player is stronger according to certain
parameters and weaker according to other parameters.  It is as if the
aspects of each human player were also randomly selected from a table,
complete with detailed descriptions and number ranges.  This may be LOL
hilarious but it is also true.  Each person is not only uniquely responsive
to various monsters, but also to various other kinds of challenges or
partial aspects of challenges.

Having carefully set the stage in Part 1, I will share in Part 2 my own
proposed integrated approach to accomplishing near infinite replay value and
adaptive difficulty management within a multi-mode game.

+++
Free Game Winner

Sean Randall wins the free game for this quarter for his reviews and efforts
on behalf of blind gamers. He also participated in many discussions on the
Blindgamers list. This time around, BSC Games has sponsored the free game.
Congratulations, Sean. Don't forget to contact BSC Games to claim your
prise.


+++
News From BSC Games:

The Future of BSC Games

Greetings Gamers!

For those of you reading this who may not know me, my name is Justin
Daubenmire and I own www.BscGames.com. I am an accessible game developer and
I love making games for the blind! With that said, a lot of change is going
on at BSC Games so I wanted to share with you some of these changes.
Recently, after joining the blind gamers list, I have found out that gamers
want more genres of games from developers. I'm certainly well known for
arcade action games -- producing titles like Troopanum, Hunter, Pipe, and
some educational games. After hearing the desires of the community on the BG
list, I have decided to refocus my company and the types of games I produce.

In the future, BSC Games will be creating various styles of games. Ranging
from first person shooters, to strategy style games, to simulation style
games, to mention a few. However, I still have plans to put out an
occasional arcade or educational style game since many enjoy them.

With producing larger style games, like first person shooters or strategy
games, this has also encouraged me to redesign our game engine. These styles
of games need richer content across the board including 3d sound and 3d
movement. So, Igor and myself will be redesigning our 2d game engine to be a
3d sound/movement game engine. We have already started with this and it is
progressing nicely. For those programmers interested in what we are coding
the engine in, the engine will be written in c++, c#.net to be specific, and
should yield some good code execution. Hopefully. *smile*

Some, but not all, future titles from BSC Games will have 3d sound/3d
movement in them if we feel it is appropriate. Some games we may just
produce using our 2d engine. It just depends on if the project really
requires the rich 3d sound or not. I.E if we do an accessible Dig Dug arcade
style game, for example, I don't think that would merit 3d sound but an
accessible jet fighting simulation game certainly would.

In our new 3d game engine, we are hoping to put the ability in to use
DirectPlay, the networking component in DirectX that lets you multi-play
with other gamers online. You know folks, I'd love to develop accessible
games full-time but it just wouldn't feed my family and get me a case of
diet Pepsi once every 1.5 weeks. LOL But seriously, Igor and myself both
work full-time and have families to raise, time is a resource that is
limited to us as is for most accessible developers. However, I have a goal
that really would require a lot of time -- being the first company to bring
in multi-playing to the BG community. Let me rephrase that, specifically a
multi-player first person shooter using DirectX and DirectPlay technology.
To be honest though, if it is not me, that is ok, but it is a goal I am
after. It currently is a dream, due to time limitations, but lets hope it
could be a reality for the future.

So what games are in the making over at BSC Games? Well, me/Igor are working
on our first 3d sound game called Operation Blackout. It actually will be an
arcade sort of game with 3d sound. We are hoping it will not be the true
sense of an arcade game and will bring some further content to the table.
Operation blackout is giving us the ability to transition our current game
engine into 3d sound but not 3d movement. We do have a game starting
production in the near future called the void that will have both 3d sound
and 3d movement in it.

So what is Operation Blackout all about? Jump in your apache helicopter and
fire it up. Take off and communicate with your base as you attempt to narrow
in on the coordinates of one of your recently overtaken military bases. If
you are lucky enough to avoid all the enemy fire by using your radar and
weapons, actually locating and landing at the overtaken base, your mission
has just begun! You are in a special operations unit and have been chosen to
fulfill this operation yourself. `Simply put, find the terrorists, eliminate
them, snag your homeboys, and blackout the terrorist operation. Thus,
operation blackout. Operation Blackout will have lots of 3d sound and
fighting and other bells and whistles in there so stay tuned. I'll post more
info about it as me/Igor get further with it. Customers who do not have
surround sound speakers will still be able to play the game.

Another game I have in the making is called the void. It is not being coded
yet at all. I am developing the story line with a game storywriter that I
have contracted with. It is going to be the largest game I've ever done. The
blind gamers list has been packed full of posts about the void. Initial
brainstorming for the game was opened up to the community. Many on the list
offered great suggestions for the game. It was a really fun time for
everyone involved. A developer listening to consumer input. Wow! It was
awesome folks! Thank you for all the awesome input you folks offered. I'm
taking a lot of it to the table and will get some of the content in the void
you are wanting. Such a wealth of talent out there man. It's exciting!

For those reading this for the first time, as explained on the list, I
wasn't taking exact suggestions for the game but was looking for concepts to
extract from the suggestions to put into the void. I want to get some of the
content all of you are wanting in a game into the void. I.E if a person
suggested that you pick tulips and eat them to survive, I looked at the
concept of eating and would use the concept of eating in the game. Not
saying eating will be in the void, this was just an example of how I am
using the suggestions people offered. No one really suggested eating tulips
LOL, I'm just letting you better see where I am coming from when I say I
primarily extracted concepts from suggestions. The void will be a 3d sound
and 3d movement first person shooter that promises to bring a lot to the
table. I personally feel it will set a record for BSC Games as being the
best title I've done yet. I posted a description about it to the BG list so
here it is again.

It's a first person shooter that will be packed with advanced sound imagery.
You'll find yourself and your ship docked at the last remaining human
starbase that hasn't been completely overtaken by The mysterious and deadly
alien race called the Void.

The starbase, at one time, was a marine outpost that was in charge of
monitoring interstellar travel among the outer worlds. You'll immerse
yourself in several back-to-back missions using modern next-gem weaponry and
systems to try to seek and rescue the remaining marines and return them
safely to your home world of alpha12.


And more in the news at BSC Games. another game? Another game in the making?
Yuppers. Well, for those troop fans; troopanum v 2.0 is in the making!
Daniel Zingaro is on break from university and has contacted me about doing
v2.0 of troop. I toss him some ideas, he comes up with some, and off he goes
coding it. It promises to bring a lot of fresh content to the game and we
think you all will like it. There is no projected release date for it at all
but it will have some really cool additions to it so stay tuned for this
upcoming release. As we get further with it, I'll post some information
about it. I'll be releasing Operation Blackout, then Troopanum v2.0, and
then work will actually begin on the void! As always, I'd like to say thank
you to all of you for your faithful support. I appreciate it!

Best wishes
Justin Daubenmire
www.BscGames.com


+++
News From ESP Softworks:

Dear Customers,

Please note that it's been decided that the ESP Softworks Co. website
shall remain open until the release of both ESP Raceway and ESP Pinball
2.  Demos of both games will be available for a limited time thereafter.
For those who weren't able to place orders yet, you may still do so
while the website is available.

We appreciate the comments, suggestions, and well-wishes that have been
extended in the past month and will miss greatly the opportunity to
serve the accessible games market once the current development queue has
been completed.

To show our appreciation, we will be releasing a final freebie for your
download (to be announced).

In other news, the ESP Pinball 2 beta testing program will be announced
shortly and the ESP Raceway beta team will be opened up once again for
applicants.  More news about this soon.

Release dates are currently still speculative at best.  Everyone will be
notified when the releases are about to occur as well as when playable
demos are available.

Best wishes,

James R. North, President
ESP Softworks Co.


+++
News From GMA Games

We have just released a generally available demo of our upcoming GMA Tank
Commander. Try it out and let us know what you think. It is a beta, but we
are still making changes based on the suggestions we receive. We hope to
release the full version before the next issue of Audyssey.

GMA Tank Commander puts you in the seat of a modern day tank. You have two
types of shells, two types of missiles, and an armour-piercing machine gun
to help you complete your missions. The game uses surround sound to create
the realistic environment of a battle command. This may be the best
accessible game of 2003!

A new version of Trek 2000 has just been released. This brings us up to
version 5.1. Although Trek 2000 is the oldest game in our fleet, this new
version includes many changes that should renew or surpass the excitement
created during its initial release. The Major changes include much smarter
enemies and the ability of your star bases to fight back.

You can find out more at:

http://www.GMAGames.com


+++
Update on Robison Bryan's Audio Adventure Game Engine
by Stan Bobbitt and Robison Bryan

Last fall, in the thirty-fifth issue of Audyssey magazine, I interviewed
prolific programmer Robison Bryan concerning a concept for a self voicing
adventure game engine that he had begun work on. This audio game engine is
unique because of the simplicity of the language, its ease of use, and user
friendly interface.  Robison set out from the very beginning to make this
game development tool as easy to use and as accessible as possible, yet be
able to create complex games.  He has also been very open to suggestions and
advice from many members of the blindgamers list since day one.

In the short few months since its inception, the game engine has certainly
come a long way.  Especially considering that Robison is only a one-man
operation.
The beta version is now available and Robison has set up a discussion group
for the beta testers.

-----------------------------------------

Following is a report from Robison on where the engine stands to gamers.

In our interview on Nov 25th, 2002, Stan Bobbitt asked me some great
questions and reported the best answers I had at the time.  Since that time,
numerous features and capabilities have been added to the Engine.  At the
time of the interview, I had expressed certain limitations for the Engine.
After some hard work I have done away with a lot of those limitations.  To
get the full scoop on all the cool new things in the Engine, please see my
site:
http://InspiredCode.net/Adventure.htm

Here are the main limitations that no longer apply:

+ Powerful yet intuitive math added

I had said that the math would have to be simple.
Now, the math can be as elaborate as you like.
The Game Engine contains an extraordinarily talented Expression Evaluator
that likes to eat up the craziest equations you may want to throw at it, and
gives you just the answer that you would naturally expect.  It is very
intuitive and easy to use.

+ "Advanced" type Programming Tools, yet still in plain English.

I had said that there was no advantage for the advanced programmer.  The
thing that made those really hard programming languages so great to use was
all the powerful features and capabilities.  Now those powerful abilities
are available to you in plain English.

+ Background Sounds and random soundscapes

I had said that the best I could do for sounds was to give the ability to
loop a longer wave sound.  Now you can create audio sequences made of midi
and layered wave sounds, creating realistic, non repeating textures of
sounds.

+ Shareware Authors can powerfully protect their work

I had said that the best I could do was to provide a check sum to verify
authenticity.  Now the engine can protect your program code's secrecy.  You
can encrypt your game files, and they will play just fine encrypted.
Unregistered users can play your game for five minutes at a time (or any
other time period you specify) to try them out, but to keep playing for more
than those minutes they have to register.
When they register they will send you their demo code and you can send them
their permanent code for the game.

If you want to keep your games open source, however, you can still
authenticate your work as well as letting people learn from you.

+ NEW: 3D Navigation and collision detection I couldn't resist adding
something really important to the Engine.  As a result the public beta date
was pushed forward just a little bit...  ok, a lot.

A powerful real time gaming mechanism has been added that you can use to
allow the players to navigate with (keys like)
a joystick, encounter wandering monsters, have access to rooms if doors are
open, bump into walls, fly over but not into buildings (except perhaps
through a window) and have aerial dogfights like fighter jets or even play a
good game of quiddich on broomstick.

That makes it possible to have an audio text adventure mystery game with
some intense action scenes along the way, what I think is the best of both
worlds.  (Of course, if all you want to do is the action you can do that
too.)

You will find most of that stuff at the end of the language document,
starting with "+++ Real Time RPG Motion".

The radar, compass, flight instruments and other noise makers are made of
functions written in the language, so they can be modified and or replaced
by the author.  That should also ease the transition to the DirectX version
when it comes out.

The language supports several simple ways to set or change the player's (and
other objects') position, orientation and movements, either in an absolute
sense or in terms of the directionality experienced by the player however he
may be facing.  It lets the player steer and move like a car or jet, and you
can let the Engine worry about untwisting all the directions, and whether
the movement finishes or gets stopped by bumping into something.

The first release will definitely be a beta version, since the program is
already well over ten thousand lines of code and I am the only one working
on it.

+ AdventureEngineBeta group

As the purpose of the Engine is to empower a new community of game
programmers, each of you is just such an expert who can make a big
difference by your testing and feedback.

Since there are so many people deserving and qualified to be in on the beta
release, I have decided to release a public beta that won't expire for
months.  I will appreciate all the help I can get in testing it under
various conditions.  That way I can get this into your hands sometime this
year!

The address of the BetaGroup is
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AdventureEngineBeta

+ What is the present status?

What it's come down to is loose ends.  I've just finished coding the main
navigation and collision.  It turned out to be a huge mass of integrated
code with major steps taken to optimize performance throughout.  That
includes player movement, automated routes of wandering monsters,
determination and detection of collision, monsters giving chase, players
wandering into new locations when allowed by access or else collision
(bouncing against walls) otherwise, collision angle (for accurate bounce
sound panning), among other things.  Still to be coded are the hit-miss
detection of weapons extension, radar, instruments, bounce and new location
noises and other loose ends.

Once the last of the coding is done, I'll test each of the routines, run
some simple game files to test certain aspects, and then post an alpha.

The alpha will not yet have the ability for the player to save paused games.
Once I have fixed all the things you folks find in the alpha, then I'll make
up my master list of all the things I have to save to disc so the player can
save and resume partially played games.  That approach will save a lot of
time by my not having to keep rewriting the SaveGame routines.

+ What lies in the future?

Because of the user friendliness of the language, the time table for the
wizard has been pushed rather far into the future.  The next major focus
will be to create a body of tutorials, instructions and examples on the web
that will enable anyone to almost instantly master this language.  But
before that, we still need to finish beta testing this thing to life, going
from the simplest commands and moving out to the most complex, making bug
reports and posting updates as needed throughout.  In a manner of speaking,
our beta testing forces have securely taken the beach and are now hacking
our way into the jungle.

-----------------------------------------

Hi, Stan here again:
In closing, I would like to say that I am impressed with Robison's work so
far.  I am a member of the beta test team, and I must say that I'm excited
about this game engine!
I have done a bit of programming in the TADS language, which is similar to
(C) and have even come up with a couple simple games, but the language for
Robison's engine is so much easier to understand and work with that there is
hardly any comparison.  In the words of another beta tester, "this language
is straight easy, right out of the box!"
Check out the beta page at:

http://InspiredCode.net/BetaPage.htm

I can see that this is going to be a powerful game development tool, and
will indeed be what Robison Bryan set out for it to be:

"A self voicing game engine that will enable any and every user to create
their own good quality games; A programming language that is so straight
forward that anyone could read down through a source file and understand how
to modify it; A wizard that will converse with the user to create a new game
within this easy to understand language"


+++
News from PCS Games

Hi Folks, In brief, this is a sneak preview of coming events, with several
games in production but no fixed release date on any of them.
+ GMA Tank Commander Phil Vlasak is working on the sounds of GMA Tank
Commander and sometimes goes to bed with explosions and the Ride of the
Valkyries echoing through his head.
What is GMA Tank Commander, you may ask, This is an accessible Windows game,
where you can blast Your enemy to Pieces!
In the world of armored warfare, a tank commander's split-second decisions
can make the difference between life and death.
This exciting Tank Simulation is no different.  All the action happens in
real time.  Unlike other strategy games, there are no turns - only furious,
lifelike combat.  It's fast, fun and easy to start playing.  But it's so
addictive, you won't be able to stop.
Full surround sound makes you feel like you're really sitting in a modern
tank in the middle of the action.
So, put on your helmet, and battle to the death against the enemy.
For more information and to download the beta demo of this game go to GMA
Games.
www.gmagames.com + We'll now give you a peak at the development of a new
game.

Phil Hi Justin I created sort of a duck hunt game from your Bobby's Revenge
by changing the sounds to have ducks flying by instead of Santa.
I had two ideas about it.
First, it could be developed like my Duck Hunt game so that when you hit the
duck, it doesn't continue across but if you miss the duck it does.
You still won't aim the gun.  The duck flies over you and your gun shoots
directly upwards from the center.
And you'll get one chance to hit the duck each time it passes over.
My second idea is that This could be a free game with credit to you and me.
We can give the game to schools and commissions for the blind so they can
have something fun for their students to play.  And like TV shows, which you
get free entertainment at a cost of watching or listening to the
commercials.  The end credits would be a commercial for PCS and BSC games.

Justin Sure, that would be cool.  Before releasing it, did you want to let
the duck fly off the screen if you miss it like you suggested?
Do you get 3 ducks to fly off the screen before the game ends?
Do you just keep earning points each duck you shoot in an attempt to rack up
as many points as possible before 3 ducks fly off the screen?  Let me know
what new features should be in the duck game and I can see if I have some
time to fix the program.

Phil What should we call it?
Shades of Duck?
One flew over the Duck's nest?
All the President's Ducks?
Apocalypse Duck?
Lose Your Duck?
Duck Business?
Duckanum?
Puck A Duck?
Duck Talks?
Duck gone it?
Faster than a speeding Duck?
The Duck, Reloaded?

Justin How about, duck hunt?
hunt for duck?
duck splatter?
bullet of duck?

Phil Since I already have a DOS Duck Hunt game, I didn't want to use that
name again.
Someone suggested Elaine's Revenge.

Justin No Kidding, I can guess who.

Phil Ya, she's trying it out but I think it's giving her a head ache.
I got it!
Why don't we ask Elaine?

Justin Geesh, that's a lot of pressure to put on one person.

Phil Ya, I guess so.
I've created wave files using the A T and T British Charles voice to do most
of the talking in the intro and end.  I've also used it for the numbers and
points.
When I put it all together, it all sounded great, except for some of the
duck quacks, so I'll be changing a few of them to work better.

And by the way, I thought of the title, Quacker Blaster.
What do you think of it?

Justin LOL I love it!  quacker blaster it is!
BTW I think human voice overs for the score speaking sound a little more
understandable but that is just my personal opinion.
This little game will be cool.  BTW were you able to beat the game with 55
ducks and the ducks being a little faster?

Phil No, my highest score was 40 ducks but I think there are those out there
who have faster reflexes than I do so I would leave it like it is.
I do think we should warn those who didn't like Bobby's Revenge that this is
another novelty game and nothing more.
I went through the comments on that release and think we should say that
they may have fun for about thirty seconds.  In fact, it probably will take
longer to download the game than the amount of time they'll get any
enjoyment from it.
On the other hand, that doesn't mean it's not a good game if you just want
to blow a few minutes while you're waiting on something or just have nothing
better to do.  Or you just want to procrastinate but can't afford to do that
for too long.
It wont cost you anything but time to download, and it won't be as detailed
as games you pay 30 to 40 dollars for.
So for those who didn't like Bobby's Revenge, keep in mind that this will be
a "Simple two key game that might keep you entertain for ten minutes."

Justin Hey Phil.  Sounds good.  Give me a while to work on the source code
and get your sounds downloaded and then I'll get back with ya so we can put
it live on both our sites.
It'll be a BSC/PCS games combined effort game.  Will be cool.  I'll send
along a beta copy of the duck game file soon as I get it ready to go.

Phil Great, I knew you could do it!
What would you like the game to say in the opening title and end credits?

Justin How about, "Quacker Blaster, a BSC Games and PCS Games production.
Copyright 2003 Justin Daubenmire and Phil Vlasak"
And at the exit, after the duck flies past or whatever, do a voice over with
"Thanks for playing Quacker Blaster.  and visit our companies web sites.
It doesn't matter whose company or name is listed first.

Phil OK, I think I may have someone who can do the human voice over, but I
need to talk to them.

Justin Thanks Phil!
I think the human intro and exit will make it hyper-nifty!
But it may be *a long time* till I get quacker blaster finished up since I
am working on 2 games with Igor.  I'm concerned that people will want the
game way too quick, and I'm totally pinched for time.
I.E.  doing 2 games with Igor and having to code a game for the hunter
winner.
Quacker blaster will certainly get done, just depends on when I get that
break to finish it up.  Could be a week, a month, or several months.
People need to know that up front.  smile

Phil:
Cool,and I may have the start of a game promo, Quacker Blaster Look, if you
had one shot, one opportunity, To blast every duck you ever wanted, Would
you download it or just let it slip?

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, There's mosquitoes on his
sweater already, his guns steady He's nervous, but on the surface he looks
calm and ready.

and by the way, no Ducks were hurt in the production of this game.
+ Tenpin Alley, the Windows bowling game, is still in development by PCS
Games and Josh de Lioncourt, a visually impaired computer programmer and
musician.
Send any comments to: Josh at, [email protected] or to Phil at,
[email protected]

+ We are still selling Pacman Talks that plays on computers with Windows 98,
ME and XP, and plan on a future update that will fix the foreign keyboard
problem.
It uses the GMA Games engine and has an MSRP of $30 US.
For more information, and to download the demo, visit the PCS Games web site
at http://www.pcsgames.net Pacman Talks is the first PCS game created for
Windows.
You can find out what is in store at PCS Games by joining the PCS games
list.
To subscribe to this discussion list, send a blank message to,
[email protected]

Our mailing address is, PCS Games 666 Orchard Street Temperance, Michigan
48182 phone (734) 850-9502 Call us between the hours of 8:00 A M to 10:00 P
M Eastern time, Monday to Saturday.
E-mail Phil Vlasak, [email protected] We make games that tickle your ears.

+++
Play it Again, Sam!:
Toward a New Understanding of Replay Value
By Bryan McGucken
It is commonly accepted that any good game needs as one of its crucial
elements a high amount of replay value.  Naturally enough, this factor is
one of the most important in reviewing and, for that matter, enjoying a
game, and I am in agreement with conventional wisdom.  What, then, is replay
value?
At first glance this may seem like a rather ludicrous question.  Further
consideration will reveal, however, that replay value is actually a bit more
than what it appears to be.  I believe that most people will adopt the
notion that good replay value simply means that a game can be played over
and over again, even when it has been completed: all of its puzzles solved
and objectives fulfilled.  Many will say that if the same steps are taken
each time one plays a game to complete it, then it has very low replay
value.  There may be those who shall contest the point, but it is not my
place to debate them here.  It is my main contention that, while objectives
and puzzles rarely change, except perhaps in the case of games such as
Nethack, Ancient Domains of Mystery, and most other role-playing games,
nevertheless a game can still be said to have high replay value.
If this revelation shocks you, you are justified in feeling this way.  After
all, what is there to be derived from going through the same routine time
and time again?  Consider this, however.  What exactly is a game?  This
question is not as simple or as flippant as it seems.  For the purpose of my
discussion, a game is the combination of goals and objectives and the
environment in which they are found.  It is this environment that makes a
game intelligible to the player.  If there is no environment to be found in
a game, the goals, few will object, seem pointless and empty.  An
environment likewise seems pointless and empty without goals.
IN the world of accessible games, an environment is, more often than not,
built upon what some will call "sound imagery."  For example, we know that
we are in the saloon because of the background noise that we hear when we
are in it.  This background noise, both the voice acting with which we
interact in the course of playing the four games and the sound of people
talking in the background or engaging themselves in goofy antics is what
makes the saloon what it is rather than, say, the bank or hotel.  If the
sound imagery of which I spoke earlier is composed in such a way that a
certain feeling is aroused while in the saloon, then, in a certain sense,
our understanding of the way the "world" should be and our reflective
aesthetic judgment are in accordance, and a feeling of quasi pleasure
ensues.  I use the term quasi pleasure because pleasure is not always the
way one ought to feel as in the case of the battle with Murdering' Sam.
I have used the example above because I think that the sound imagery used to
create the saloon section of "Grizzly Gulch: Western Extravaganza" is so
well-constructed that I play the game because I not only want to play the
four saloon games, but I actually enjoy listening to the voice acting and
background noise that makes the saloon what it is.  Though not fully
conscious, a reflective judgment of taste has been passed by me in this
case, and in every case.  Bavisoft had the presence of mind not only to use
panning and volume to create its environments, but also simply created
completely normal background noise without all the proverbial bells and
whistles to give the saloon that added sense that it has.
To avoid this becoming an exposition on "Grizzly Gulch: Western
Extravaganza," the same can be said of "The Savage Gamut" developed by
Fantasy Storm (or whichever game strikes your fancy in this regard, for that
matter).  Like "Grizzly Gulch: Western Extravaganza," "The Savage Gamut"
immerses the player in a certain environment.  Though not as developed as in
the previous example, the sounds you hear in the ring do give the impression
of being in a sports arena, from Allen Maynard's voice to the normal crowd
noise to the cheering of the crowd, rife as this last is with the type of
reverberation that makes the feeling such a realistic one.  This is why I
will give the game such a high replay rating in my review of it later in
this issue of Audyssey, even though once one has mastered the moves it takes
very little time to complete the game over and over.
I think the same theory can be applied to graphics in gaming.  For years I
played Nintendo games over and over again not just because my family had
less than sufficient funding to purchase new ones every month or so, but
also because the colour and polygons used in many of the games I played were
bright and very sharp, and, as someone with only a limited amount of sight,
I found this aspect as gripping as anything else, even though I had
completed the objectives scores of times.  I may use the same rules in the
case of music, but I shall attempt to do this in a separate article.
If the preceding arguments do not revolutionize your way of looking at
computer games, I do sincerely hope they drastically alter it.  I firmly
believe that Michael Feir and I share one voice in asserting that games are
all about traveling, if for a short time, to a different world.  Until last
fall, I thought it was a sign of how alone I really was that I actually
thought games were a portal to other places and situations.  Our illustrious
editor has been promoting the ideas expressed in this article in one form or
another since he started editing Audyssey seven years ago, and I think that
the only way we can really enjoy games and promote them to a wider gamers'
community is if we throw into sharp relief the fact that games are more than
a string of linear objectives, and I hope that my article is, if not the
first step toward this end, then at least a fairly important one.


+++
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.

First up is an announcement from Phil Vlasak of PCS Games.

Hi Folks,

Because of the announcement about Harry Hollingsworth in the most recent
Audyssey magazine,
I have uploaded two versions of his World Series Baseball Game to my web
site.
One is the full version of the game Harry released in 1989 and includes
sixteen teams.
The second is a demo of his 1997 version that includes sound effects.
Both of these are dos games and would need the dos that came with Windows
95 or 98.
I do not recommend the games for people with Windows 2000, ME or XP.
The games will play better if you also have a hardware voice synthesizer.
Goto:
http://www.pcsgames.net
Then click on the DOS demos link.

Sincerely,
Phil

Phil Vlasak sent along this news which may be of especial interest to
parents of younger children:

Hi Folks,

The TIM Project is working on Games for the Blind.
Dominique Archambault and Sébastien Sablé will be giving a talk at the CSUN
conference this month.
The Tactile Interactive Multimedia (TIM) project intends to develop and to
adapt children's computer games, making them accessible.
There are no games available yet, but they are working on these:
Reader Rabbits, an adaptation of a mainstream discovery game for young
children.
MudSplat, where you squirt water at mud throwing monsters.
Tim's Journey, where you solve a mystery by exploring a sound environment.
X-tune, a musical game where you can play with different sounds.
You can find the project at:
http://inova.snv.jussieu.fr/tim


Jim Kitchen has been quite a busy fellow over the past quarter. Here are
some announcements he has posted concerning his games. To get any or all of
them, go to his site at:
http://www.kitchensinc.net


Hi,

I have put a new version of my golf game up on my web site.  The
file name is wingolf5.zip.  The file size is 3.3 meg.

In this version it now keeps your speech settings, has a text log
file of how you did on each hole and other text files in the golf
sub menu.

I have put two new games for windows up on my web site.
The games are the board game of life and my hangman game.
These games use the free Microsoft sapi5 text to speech engine.
You will find the games under the free windows text to speech link.

This version of life has an optional computer player and values
adjusted for inflation.

This version of hangman besides the 12 thousand word list and the
over 350 word adult word list allows you to use your own word list.

If you don't have the sapi5 text to speech engine I have a link to
the sapi5 section of Robison's site where you can find the correct
version of sapi5 for your operating system.

Editor's note: I've lost Jim's announcement for this, but there's also a new
and improved version of his Pong game on the site. I have found it far more
responsive and smooth than the old version. If you haven't already gotten
the update, it's certainly worth grabbing.

For all you interactive fiction enthusiasts, a new company is in town.
Malinche Entertainment's first release is an epic fantasy adventure filled
with magic and intrigue. Here is some information on Pentari: First Light
taken directly from their site at:
www.malinche.net

Shattered trust,  murdered innocence and dark pacts have plunged the Kingdom
of Pentari in chaos.
Rogue wizards have captured the city of Delphin and hold kingdom nobles
prisoner. They conspire to overthrow the Kingdom itself but they won't stop
there.
 You are sent into the turmoil to strive against unknown foes and dangers as
you re-take the city and restore order.

First Light is a huge game; You have nearly 300 rooms to explore including a
city to be searched, an underground complex to explore, as well as monsters
and wizards to contend with.  The friendly folks you'll meet can be a
handful too!
Pentari: First Light is multi-faceted; this isn't simply a
gather-the-treasures and solve-the-puzzles text adventure.  There are nobles
to rescue, murder
to avenge and ultimate evil that can only be confronted in the place of
their greatest power. You'll experience a wide range of emotion as you make
your
way in and around Delphin. Some things you'll see will charm you while a few
characters may infuriate you.  Not only that, you'll probably be laughing
a good deal of the time also!
Executed in the traditions of Infocom, Pentari: First Light utilizes the
latest development tools to render an immersive experience that delivers
Interactive
Fiction that reads like a compelling novel but rivets you to the game as you
decide what your next move should be.

Editor's note: I'm having a tremendous amount of fun with this game and will
give it a full review when I've gotten somewhat father than I have at
present. The game is extremely large and involving and should give starved
text adventurers out there a good deal to chew on. Already, Howard Sherman,
the self-described implementer is hard at work on the second commercial
release from Malinche. This one will excite you horror buffs out there when
it's ready.

+
Talking Maze Game
Available commercially for $22.95 US from
http://www.talkingsoftware.gothere.uk.com/
Fully playable without sighted assistance
Reviewed by Michael Feir

As a company's first entry into the accessible games market, this product
exhibits a good deal of polish. It will doubtless find a welcoming audience
particularly among those looking for uncomplicated educational games. It's
about as simple a concept as you can get. Find your way through the mazes in
as few moves as possible colliding with as few walls as possible. There are
sounds for your footsteps as well as wall collision. Each maze has a par or
expected number of collisions.

A lot of thought has gone into the layout of mazes and their order in the
game. Difficulty seems to progress nicely from maze to maze. Instructions
are built right into the software and are available with a keystroke. Arrow
keys move you through the mazes in the direction they point. You don't have
to think about turning as you do in games like Shades of Doom.

Being accustomed to far more complexity, randomness and strategy in games, I
got bored fairly quickly with Talking Maze. Not being a maze fanatic to
begin with doubtless has a lot to do with this. Those who love the challenge
of solving mazes will certainly find this in abundance. The trouble is that
there isn't anything to make it more interesting for those less inclined to
patiently form a mental map of a maze and solve it. Educators may have a
hard time of it keeping kids interested enough to complete the more
difficult mazes. To their credit, Talking Software doesn't pretend that this
isn't the case. What you get is exactly what is advertised with no frills or
complications.

While doing this review, I took a peak at their company information on the
site. They have developed an impressive and varied collection of software
which is self-voicing as this game is. No screen-reader is required.
Although I wasn't exactly bowled over by their first game, I am hopeful
about their future offerings should they decide to develop more games.
Richard has certainly demonstrated good programming skills, and Bernadette
is a writer and graphic designer. Combining these skills could produce some
very good games if they choose to focus the time and effort it takes to
develop more complex games. There is certainly room in the market for
story-driven entertainment or educational titles. Code Factory has proved
that beyond a doubt. I hope we'll see more from RWF Talking Software in the
future.

++
b.o.t.s.2.
an addictive text-only semi-real-time web-based robot-managing fighting
game,
designed and developed by Rolf 'floR' Raven in DHTML, JavaScript
and PHP, using vi, notepad and Photoshop.
Half reviewed by: Sean Randall.
Don't get confused, folks. It maybe an addictive text-only semi-real-time
web-based robot-managing fighting game, and you may wonder what that means?
I did: and then I decided to read the documentation.
This game is just that, a game.  But a game of robots and battles unlike any
I've played before.
Quoting from the instructions ...
"The objective of the game is to train your bot by practicing and ultimately
fighting others' bots. This results in experience. This experience can be
used
to advance typical fighting skills. It is your choice on which skill to
focus. Another way to excel in battle is your choice of equipment."...
This basic outline sums up rather well the objective of the game.
you create a bot (signing up with a nickname, email address and password(
and of course a bot name), and then voile, you can start training.
I haven't had an actual battle yet - that is with a real live person, I have
just trained, and improved my stats, and bought something from the showroom.
So, you ask: when  can I go?
It isn't as simple as that, I'm afraid.
Listen to this...
To ensure you are a living person, instead of a script-using cheater, please
type in the number you see in the field below.

 And the technical concern is, naturally, we don't "see" anything much at
all.
The creator seems to be unhelpful, at a glance, on this point. for he says:
If that doesn't help, I can't (okay, I won't) help you. There is no way for
me to know that you are not a cheater. Don't blame me for having no trust in
humanity, blame the cheaters.
The big question now is if he had thought of the blind and vi population at
that time or not...  I have emailed him a bout it so don't y'all go
bombarding
him with messages just yet.
I'm sorry to disappoint you all here and now but there isn't much more I can
say without actually playing again.  I can't actually play again because it
wants me to enter the  numbers and I haven't got sited assistance for at
least another nine days as they are all on holiday...
So here, ladies and gentlemen, is what I will do
What I will do is this:
I will keep the blind gamers on the blind gamers list informed.
But for those of you who happen to be blind gamers and not on the blind
gamers list,  you can either:
Email me at:
[email protected]
Or go to
http://www.shwatscoff.fsworld.co.uk/bots2.txt
if you get an error message saying the page doesn't exist, then I have know
news.  if you get information, well done... If you are reading this months
and
months later and the page isn't there, I think you'll have to resort to
having to contact me...
The game itself is at
http://www.bots2.net
and going to:
http://www.bots2.net/about.html
will get you to the about page - where you can read the FAQ and all that
stuff...
Well it's been a pleasure not telling you everything I can because I can't
play.
it's my job to tell you when I find a game: it's not my job to  play it for
you.
This is Sean, saying... play bots and prepare to be crushed by my bot!!! I
will rule the worrrrrllllddddddd!  ha ha!!!

+
Hunter:
Available commercially for $30 US from:
www.bscgames.com
Fully playable without sighted assistance.

As usual, I'll be honest with you. Hunter's advertisement description found
on the BSC Games site left me expecting far more from the game than it
ultimately delivered. Advertised as "Hunter is an action packed arcade game
with heavy overtones of an adventure/role-play game", it only truly lives up
to the first part of the claim by all but the most loose definition of
role-play elements. I was eagerly anticipating a game with an ongoing story
truly relevant to the action-based challenges, stats which could be
improved, or at least items to be collected which might help in later levels
and/or improve your character's abilities. These would fall under what I
would expect from a game with role-play elements. What hunter ends up
delivering are ten completely separate mini-games with only your score and
the number of lives your character has transferred with you between these
mini-games. Once I had gotten over my initial disappointment, I began to
enjoy these well-executed mini-games for what they were.

*Game Play:

Those who do not read the manual before trying a game should not take such a
plunge with Hunter. As I indicated, each level is its own mini-game and has
different keys used for controlling your character. Mastering all the keys
will take a while unless you take each level individually and only try the
whole game once you've gone through each of them and have remembered most of
the keystrokes. There's no help or quick method of looking at the manual in
between levels. On their own, the controlling keys for each level are well
thought out and don't take long to get the hang of. Players don't have to
worry about getting lost or anything like that. Some levels force players to
keep track of more than one element on occasion. For example, the valley of
the tigers level has players trying to avoid tigers stampeding through the
valley by moving either left or right. Sometimes, a wacky rhino will charge
at you and you must leap over it in time. You cannot leap over tigers
though. Things seem always to have that similar one solution to one
challenge feel. Beginners will doubtless find this lack of complexity
appealing. When I have a few spare minutes to kill, that's when I find
myself turning to Hunter.

*Sounds:

I'm not certain whether my computer or sound quality are to blame. However,
there are times when things seem quite choppy. This is particularly
noticeable in the level transition scenes and doesn't seem to happen much
with the actual game sounds. These are, in a word, odd. The sense is not of
realism but more of a kind of surreal arcade game. I get the same sense I do
when I hear part of a cartoon show from the 1980's. Justin has clearly taken
some pains to make certain that sounds don't mask each other unless he wants
them to. As I said, the mini-games were all well executed. I particularly
like the first level in the jungle and the final vine swinging level. There'
s nothing which objectively sets these two levels as better than others.
They just have the right kind of vibe which smacks of vintage arcade action.
The jungle level does have a particularly neat fantasy feel to it.

*Conclusion:

If you find yourself with brief periods of spare time where it's hard to
find something fun to do, hunter provides ten stimulating but short options
to fill that time. People will doubtless find their favourites in this
collection and become masters at these levels. No bugs brought themselves to
my attention, and sounds were used quite well overall.

Those who seek a more involved action adventure like I was originally hoping
for from Hunter should definitely look elsewhere. Even after playing all ten
levels in a row, I was left feeling more like I had participated in ten
completely separate events than that I had gone through an actual adventure.
ESP Softworks's game Monkey Business is a closer example of the kind of game
that fulfils Hunter's description. Credit should be given to Justin for
including the Hunter story as an extra item along with the game. That's a
trend I wouldn't mind seeing more of and plan to incorporate in my own game.
Clearly, Justin is still in the process of finding his stride. Each game he
has completed has incorporated different elements and has doubtless taught
him valuable lessons. The skill with which Hunter's mini-games were executed
along with the writings he has contributed to this issue of Audyssey leaves
me quite optimistic about his future projects. He'll find his true direction
soon, and we'll see some even better games from BSC Games.

+
Decwar
Online, multiplayer, telnet interfaced and just a little more fun than your
singleplayer Star Trek text-based game.
It is accessible with a few problems.  Being totally blind, I thrive on
winning even though I'm at a disadvantage...
The authors say:
"I didn't know anyone was still interested in it!" - one of the Authors
"No, I don't have the source and don't know where to find it!" - The other
author
But despite that, I'm interested in it. You should be too!
Why?
1. It is a Star Trek game: we like Star Trek games, yes?
2. It is multiplayer.  Documentation states that it is able to hold a max of
eighteen players but I have only ever played with two.  This game isn't
played
much: can we rectify that, gamers?
3. It is very accessible.  Limitations include the scan feature which we do
have a little difficulty accessing - apart from that we can fire phasers
with
the rest of 'em!
The game is called Decwar or Decwars or whatever you want to call it.
It is running on a klh10 operating system or something which I don't
understand.  I don't understand it and, furthermore, don't need to.
Now the reason I don't need to is because I emailed this dude, this guy,
this swell person who's letting us play the game.  His name is Harris S.
Newman
 and his website, for all interested parties, is at:
http://home.austin.rr.com/hsnewman/
So how do you play this game?
well the first thing you must understand is that Decwar was one of the first
multiuser games ever written.
You should also know that
The game was originally based on a very limited, single job, single
terminal, two player Star Trek type game known as WAR. This game came from
the CDC-6600/6400.
I know these things because I have been to the Decwar homepage, which is a
helpful thing to do if you want to play - and I will now tell you how to do
so.
What you will need
The things you will need include:
A screen-reading program -
A telnet client -
The ability to use the telnet client and the screen reader in conjunction
with each other -
And a hot cup of coffee as you digest the instructions and complications of
the game.
Having played the game for only about three hours I can safely say that I am
not an expert.  Of course that doesn't mean that I can't play the game and,
startlingly, I destroyed a ship belonging to a friend of mine.
This friend was slightly less of an expert than me if that is possible and I
was able to blow him up with glory!
 Which I honourably took back to the Klingon empire...
I am  not going to go into detail on the instructions because the
instructions are perfectly capable of going into detail about themselves.
I will, however, tell you how to log on to the game because that isn't
explained very well and I had to have it very well explained to me by the
brilliant
Mr.  Newman.
So here is what you must do.
Step perhaps one:
Go to the Decwar homepage.  I stress that this is a necessary thing to do if
you want to learn the instructions and commands.  of course it is optional
here because when you are at the page and you click to try out the dec 20
emulator (in plane English - launch the game), your telnet program will put
in an appearance already connected or connecting at least to the server.
This is a time-consuming process - finding the URL of the page which I
haven't given you yet, going to it, finding the link, clicking it...
so here is -
Step alternative one.
Go to start, click run and type:
telnet Newman.hn.org 2020
into the box if you are on windows 95, 98, Me, or perhaps Xp which I am not
particularly certain about.
The basic idea is that you connect to the host being
Newman.hn.org
and the port being
2020
Now thinking on it if you haven't used telnet before you may wish to get in
a little experience before engaging your warp drive and trying to use your
torpedoes.
Simply put: this game ain't easy to learn.  it requires an understanding of
how to use your computer before you can dive into its mysteries.
I will pause in my ramblings just here to give you the URL of the Decwar
page which if you have read this far you are probably interested in. The URL
is:
http://home.austin.rr.com/hsnewman/decwar.htm
Instructions and general ideas and the of course necessary login procedure.
Well after you have connected in either of those ways, proceed to do the
following...
Step two
In the telnet window, type this:
log 5,30
I don't know why, I don't understand what the number 5,30 has to do with
anything and I'm happy to not cloud my mind with unnecessary technobable.
Step three
After typing that log 5,30 thing, hit enter. You'll get a screen saying:
Type help for help, news for news, or <Cr>
it may not use those exact words - or it may.  You can type help if you
wish: the <cr>  means a carriage return so just hit enter.
Finally you will have one of two things happen.
You will either be asked for a regular or tournament game.  if you are it
means nobody else is playing and that nobody else has chosen.  If you
proceed
you will be alone unless you are arriving before somebody you are scheduled
to meat.
The second option is being told that you will join the forces of this, that
or the other - being the klingon empire or the federation.
In either case, you'll join an active game and be in a ship at coordinates.
Well, that's it. after getting that far your logged in.
I advise you to read the manual and learn the users command which will tell
you who is in existence.  then learn the tell command to tell that person
something
and if it is me, ask for help if you need it.
Quitting is another concern: procedure is:
type
quit
then choose
yes
after reading the stats type
kjob
(that is K, J, O, B.)
Then exit safely (alt f4) or whatever.
Note that this game is commandline driven, no dialogs or menus.  And also
remember that if I see you and you do not respond to my communications or
say
offensive things ... I will not hesitate to unleash my photon torpedoes at
you.
But deadly truths aside I'm happy to help you in as far as I can. I'm only a
player too, you know?
And I'm not helping you  with demands such as:
'I've just logged in now what'.  Because you'll need to learn some commands
first. After you've done that, that's fine.  Send me an intergame message
and
I'm gonna be happy to help....
Of course if you really want to  send me an intergame message saying 'you
will be destroyed!' and i'll be happy to run

+
More on starfleet: the first era!
By Sean Randall

After my initial review and rant in general about Starfleet: the First Era,
I did get a lot of feedback.

Peoples only concern was what they were getting into and they feel I didn't'
give enough general examples and procedure.

Before I try and atone for that shortcoming, let me just briefly state with
st: TFE is for those of you who haven't read the first thing mentioned
above.

Star trek: the First Era is a collection of starships and starbases where
crew (us) send logs, describing our actions which can be anything from
walking
from somewhere to somewhere else to combating an enemy ship.

I should note that this is a Star Trek thing and that currently we are in
the year 2153 in the Star Trek timeline.

This means that in the context of the new series, Enterprise, the Enterprise
herself has been launched about two years ago: this game caps on that and
puts
you in other NX Class ships of the fleet.

Let's go over some things that people wanted to know more on now:

What's a log?

A log is just an email sent to the starship (usually a yahoo! group):

In it you become whatever character you are supposed to be.

I'll back this up with an example:

This is part of a log: sent by a regular person - but playing a Chief of the
Boat and exo-biologist in the game. Current story in brief:

Starfleet Officers are on earth undercover hitching a ride to Washington:
the Chief of the Boat (COB) writes:

David pulled into the gas station and the group filed out of the

Van, into the sunny, rather hot day. Everyone was stretching their

legs. Donavan signalled that he'd pay for gas this time.

Donavan felt they were making excellent time, while stopping two

other times for gas. He gathered Shwatscoff & Ponary together,

"See if you can find a radio...hopefully it'll be on the news. See if

anything's changed in the timeline. Here, give me your canteen,

I'll refill it." He motioned to Shwatscoff.

While the two officers when to do their thing, Donavan went into

the gas station. To his surprise, there was a deli inside. He

ordered sandwiches and bottles of coke for everyone.

- - -

After he sent that log out, the rest of the away team would respond in turn:
The Doctor, for example, with this writes:

As he reappeared he noticed the team wandering through the small

store. Donavan seemed to be buying food for the group, which was an

added bonus as breakfast was definitely a long time ago. Thankfully

no one had asked him about his accent yet. He had gotten a few odd

looks, but that was the worst. The Vulcan was the one that stuck out

the most. He chucked to himself as he remembered the Donavan had

explained he was from Canada.

He followed the rest of the group back to the van and then helped

Donavan and Naran hand out drinks and sandwiches. He took a bite of

his food as he listened to Shwatscoff talk. So things were quickly

going from bad to worse... wonderful... He did a little bit of

mental calculations. They were in New Jersy now... which was a lot

closer to Washington then they had been. Hopefully they'd be in

Washington by nightfall tonight. He looked around at the sober faces

of the crew and wondered if they were all thinking what he was, what

if they were to late?

- - -

I purposely left the spelling and grammar mistakes in there this time just
to show you that not everybody is perfect.

So these logs get piled on and on and on and a story comes out of it all.
This mission here Donavan, the COB, is in charge.  He received his orders
from
the Captain of the ship - who's still there while the away team is on earth.

But that is basically how you rp (roll play) here.

By requirements, you are obliged to send in a max of 1 log per week on a
generally quiet mission, and sometimes 2 or 3 on a big one or in the Jupiter
Academy
which all applicants go through.

All you need is to be creative, to be able to read and write English, and to
have an email address.

Joining up and what to do after that

When people talk to me about joining the first era their biggest complaint
is "I have the time, sure.  But it's all this business of joining up in the
first
place that takes for ever."

The basic theory behind joining is:

1.  Go to a website and fill in a form.

2.   Wait for a responding email.

3.  Confirm it.

4.  Send your first log to the Jupiter Station Facility, sort of Starfleet
academy for us in this age.

5. Read the sim guide and answer the ten questions on it (you will receive
both via email).

6.  Log a couple times following the storyline your commander has set out:
note that this will be told to you: what to log about, who to talk to, and
what
to do.

The only thing to fear in a star trek game is the borg, is a common analogy
I hear.

And after you've logged and completed the mission at Jupiter station (Js)
you will be sent on to your ship, whatever you chose.

the website for Starfleet: the First Era in general is at

http://members.shaw.ca/starfleet-thefirstera/index2.htm

There you can either join, view what ships are joinable, see vacancies for
the various ships (positions available), and just generally read up on
things.

I will say know more now, and hope that you join up: intership communication
is fine, but between ship chit-chat is not often done.

Still, I'm contactable if you are either on the Intrepid as I am, or on
another starship somewhere in the universe and want to do a sub-space
communication
with me, people do that sort of thing to catch up on gossip and just talk
about the fleet, the mission, etc.

And now I'll say good by, Live long and prosper: I leave you with a news
report from Jim collens of the Sol news network.

- - -

The Intrepid was called into battle after having a nasty encounter with a
Naucasian battle group at a mining colony.  The Intrepid soon entered the
Sol

system before it encountered the Suliban ship.

They exchanged fire but to a surprise, the already battle damaged Intrepid
lost helm control and slid to a temporal displacement cloud as scientists
are

now saying.  Soon fire was exchanged again, and communication being soon
lost with the Intrepid.

"What ever it was, it did take the Suliban ship with them.  We hope they are
still alive and well, the rest of the earth is thankful for their efforts to

protect our way of life" Commodore Star stated today at a press conference
VIA Commnet.

Jim Collons

Sol News Network

Starfleet Command, Earth

+
Dynaman
Game available commercially for $24.95 from
www.espsoftworks.com
Fully playable without sighted assistance
Reviewed by Michael Feir

Although its premise and rules are simple, this game packs a lot of action
and replay value. It also makes excellent use of quadraphonic sound if the
player uses quadraphonic headphones or has a suitable speaker setup such as
the 4.1 surround sound speakers I have. It also works just fine with a more
common two-speaker setup. It is a non-violent game suitable for all ages,
and is also one of the few accessible games which go on infinitely as long
as the player is skilled enough to survive.

*Game Play:

The basic concept is something like Pacman. Run around three grid levels
stacked on top of each other collecting all of the electrons. Preventing you
from doing this are four sparks which can kill you. Each corner of each grid
level has a capacitor which can give Dynaman a charge which gives protection
against one impact with a spark. Besides sparks, Dynaman must be careful of
broken circuits which are lethal obstacles unless a coil of wire is being
carried which will fix the circuit. Warps allow Dynaman to transport between
levels and also do the same for coils and sparks

I've always had a tendency to want more elements in games that I play. There
are always one or two things which I'm left thinking should have been
present but weren't. Dynaman is no exception, although I should stress that
it works very well with the elements it now has present. Nothing is really
missing from the game. Each obstacle has a means of dealing successfully
with it and one isn't left feeling that things are unfairly stacked against
Dynaman. Unlike Pacman's power pills which are gone for good once they're
eaten, capacitors recharge and can be re-used after a brief while. You're
never left without a means of defending yourself from the sparks. However, I
've had situations where a broken circuit blocked me and there were no coils
around to fix it with.

So then, what would I have added? For one thing, it would have been good if
something required the player to think about all three grids at once. The
centre of each grid has a navigational beacon sound, but I've often thought
that there should be something in the centre such as a switch which could be
thrown. Each switch on each grid would have to be hit in a correct sequence
to award bonus points or do something else. Another idea might be to have
bonus items appear for brief periods on a randomly chosen level. Finally, I'
ve run into situations where I was confronted and/or trapped by multiple
sparks. The one charge from the capacitor would eliminate a spark only to
leave me defenceless against the other spark and/or two sparks close enough
not to be able to escape from. A bonus weapon which would, for instance,
neutralize all sparks ahead of Dynaman might have been nice as long as it
was only rarely obtainable and/or cost points to use. Being able to earn
additional lives would also have been nice.

Like I said before though, the game is quite nifty as it is. I've been drawn
into playing lengthy games of it quite often despite its repetitive nature.
The hard level is particularly fun with the sparks hunting you down
aggressively and the coils much harder to obtain. Also, the variable speed
control adds a lot to one's ability to customize the game's difficulty.

*The Interface:

You can't get much more simple or intuitive than how Dynaman's interface is
laid out. The arrow keys control Dynaman's movement with the up arrow
starting him moving ahead, the left and right arrows turning him 90 degrees
in their respective directions, and the down arrow reversing Dynaman's
direction. The "p" key will pause the action. Going up and down warps
requires holding down the right control key and using the up or down arrows.
Menus are easy as pie with the usual up or down arrows moving between
options and enter key selecting them. To get a sense of where things are on
the grid you're on, the home key causes the grid to be scanned row by row
with each row panning left to right in descending order. Every item has an
identifying sound such as "yum" for electrons remaining and a spring sound
for the coil. The scan will not reveal the location of the sparks though,
and I think that's a good thing.

*Sound:

As I indicated earlier, the game makes use of quadraphonic sound in quite a
spectacular way. The overall atmosphere is very much like that of the movie
Tron. In fact, I recognised one of the sounds from the movie. Each grid in
the stack of three has its own background sound which prevents confusion as
to which grid Dynaman is on. The sparks make an appropriate electrical
zapping noise as they move towards you. You can also hear the coil and
sparks warping between levels and whether they warp up or downward. Short
circuits make an alarm sound. All sounds move relative to your position so
that you can hear things happen off to the left or right. If you use
quadraphonic sound, you also hear things behind you which is very nifty
indeed. Sound-wise I can't think of a single thing to find fault with. You
even get a choice of whether you want the upcoming passage indicators to pan
in the direction of the openings from the centre outwards like arrows, or
whether you want them to be all the way over in the left or right. You can
also choose whether or not you want Dynaman to make a sound as he turns in a
given direction. Not bad at all.

*conclusion:

Even as I'm writing this review, Dynaman is being improved again by James
North. The next version of it will have a level editor letting people make
their own grids for Dynaman to play on. I have no idea what other
improvements, if any, will be added. Only one bug in the game drew itself
forcefully to my attention. The bonus level map can't be accessed by the
game due to an error in where the game thinks it is. James has indicated how
to fix this, and it will doubtless be rectified in the new version. It's a
simple matter of copying the bonus.map file into the game's main folder.
Other than this, the game had no other errors that I've detected. It's
elegantly straight-forward and right up there in entertainment value with
ESP Softworks's other games. The game editor will add even more re-play
value to a game which already has plenty of it making it well worth the
price.

Despite the differences, I would have to say that Dynaman gives blind
players more of a feel for what playing Pacman is like due to how things are
presented sonically. I can get a better overall sense of my surroundings and
where game elements are. As usual, James has given us a game which doesn't
leave you feeling that things have been simplified for blind people or
because only so much can be communicated to the player via sound. I give
Dynaman  a full ten out of ten, particularly since it will soon include the
level editor. Although I might personally think it could have used a bit
more complexity, I still find it a very satisfying game to play as is.
+
The Savage Gamut
Game reviewed by Bryan McGucken
Available for Download or on CD for $8
Developed by Fantasy Storm:
www.fantasystorm.net
Fully playable without sighted assistance
Life has a funny way of throwing the strangest ironies in one's direction.
Around the beginning of March (a Sunday, to be precise), I was ambling about
my parents' house here in Portland, Connecticut, thinking about what it
would be like to develop a boxing computer game that blind computer users
could play without sighted assistance.  I thought of how great it would be
to make a game based on the popular Nintendo game Punch-out.  As seems to be
the case so often these days, I got beat to the punch yet again.  As if I
really want to dignify your unasked question with an answer:  Yes, the pun
was most definitely intended!  Insert chuckle here.  Allen Maynard, Senior
Programmer and Chief Executive Officer of Fantasy Storm, has delivered for
us all a boxing game to rival the best of them.
The Savage Gamut and its sequel, The Savage Gamut Redemption, deliver
perhaps the most realistic boxing simulation for not only the blind, but
maybe the sighted as well.  Your opponents can deliver hooks to the head or
midsection, and to your left or right, and jabs to the head or midsection,
again to your left or right.  Additionally, your opponent can throw an
uppercut at you.  If you stop and think carefully about this, you have nine
moves to memorize and evade!  While you cannot actually move your character,
named Dane (or Dangerous if you play the sequel), I would have to say this
is about as close to real boxing as you can get.  There is a different key
combination to learn to avoid each move.
As if that were not enough, you must plan your counterattack as well!
Unfortunately, you cannot hook your opponent, but you can jab or uppercut
him.  For example, if Congo throws a right head hook, you must dodge it and
counter with a low right jab.  Not even a low left jab will be successful
when counterattacking your opponent (he will just evade it by blocking or
moving away from it).
Based on this information, I would say that the game has a very high
learning curve, but I do not think this is an accident.  Rather it is an
asset!  Allen has taking great pains to program the game so that it works
just right and so that no one can fudge their way through a match, which can
consist of twelve real-time rounds of one to three minutes inclusive.  Oh,
and by the way, I would not suggest trying to dance your way out of a match
by avoiding all of your opponents punches in the original game, because you
will automatically lose the fight if twelve rounds transpire without your
opponent getting knocked out.  Allen made the sequel such that you
automatically win if you survive twelve rounds without being knocked out,
but it almost takes luck to do this, especially against the final
challenger!
You have the option to save your game between fights, and novices should
probably take advantage of this feature, because if you lose a fight you
drop back two levels.  A level is simply which bout out of nine (or eight in
the sequel you are currently playing).  As for sound, it is a bit
repetitive, but realistic nonetheless, which is why I still play it, even
having completed both versions of the game some time ago.  Another nice
touch is that a sound effect plays in addition to Allen speaking each option
as you move to it.  As for music, the background music at the title and
options screens is the same and somewhat repetitive, but this is not a big
issue for me.  Also, though it is quite obvious the music that plays when
you secure the championship (or retain it in the case of the sequel) was
programmed using a keyboard, nevertheless it is a nice touch, and actually a
decent rendition of the immensely popular song "We are the Champions" by
British rock sensation Queen.
The only drawback, if one can call it that, is that, while playing the game,
I noticed that in the sequel version a round would start, followed by its
immediate conclusion without any time expiring.  I inquired into its
meaning, and it turned out that the clock was not being reset for each round
once a game had been restored.  When a saved game is restored, the amount of
time for each round that was selected initially is loaded into the game's
memory.  Allen was, however, gracious and programmed a time patch
executable, which is available for download at his company Web site, which
is:
www.fantasystorm.net.
Fear not: the download is only 288 kilobytes (you have two or three extra
minutes to spare, don't you)?  Novice players should start with the original
game to familiarize themselves with the controls.  This is a good training
tool because the boxers are fairly easy to knockout and do not move very
fast, allowing the new player to plan her moves.  In the sequel,
contrariwise, the boxers move much more quickly, are much harder to knock
out, and hit harder.  In fact, in the eighth and championship bout of The
Savage Gamut Redemption, one punch from Core will send Dangerous sprawling
to the mat, likely for a ten-count.  Those looking for a true challenge are
encouraged to try this version (it took me three weeks) to complete the
version, including two weeks to defeat Core).  Also, try completing the
sequel without saving your game at all.  Can you get through all eight bouts
without doing so?
All in all, I would rate this game at 9 out of 10.  The sound environment is
well-crafted, the game interface is a challenge to learn, and the game will
even appeal to folks like me who do not follow the actual sport in real
life.  So, ya think you're pretty hot stuff, do ya?  Huh?  Well, wanna make
somethin' of it?

+++
Contacting Us

I can be reached in two ways. The easiest is via my Cogeco E-mail address.
My e-mail address is as follows:
[email protected]
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:
350 Lynnwood Drive
Apartment 103
Oakville, Ontario
L6H 1M8

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

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]

Kelly Sapergia is our 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]

Luis Defute and Stann Bobbitt are in charge of the official Audyssey
homepage. They can be contacted at:
[email protected]
and
[email protected]

David Lant has long been an active member of the Audyssey community. He is
now one of our two moderators keeping things pleasant and orderly on the
Audyssey discussion list. He can be contacted at:
[email protected]

Brenda Green is the co moderator. Her efforts on behalf of the Audyssey
community are very much appreciated. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]

Paul Nimmo is a long-time resident of the Audyssey community who maintains a
Frequently Asked Questions or faq file for Audyssey. When it is updated, it
gets posted to a number of sites. He can be contacted at:
[email protected]



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