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Audyssey;
Games Accessible to the Blind
Issue 38: Third Quarter, 2003
Edited by Michael Feir

Fun, Friendship, Knowledge, Charity

+++
Welcome
Welcome to the thirty-eighth 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.

We've got lots of news from developers who are hard at work on the next crop
of accessible games. There are also a number of excellent articles dealing
with the nature of games, game development, and other intriguing subjects.
We also have a few game reviews for you.

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
National Pastime Revived
Total Losers?:
Interactive Fiction: Former Gamer's Paradise Becomes Arduous Territory
Adaptive techniques in difficulty management:
Free Game Winner
News From Adora Entertainment
News From All inPlay
News From BSCGames
News From Code Factory
News From ESP Softworks
News From GMA Games
News From PCS
Adam The Immortal Gamer
Enchantment's Twilight Development Diary: Part IV
Game Announcements and Reviews
Contacting Us

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From The Editor:

Hello again, readers. I hope you all had a good Summer. In terms of new
games coming out, things have been somewhat slower than expected. Jim
Kitchen, All inPlay and a couple of other discoveries of accidentally
accessible games have kept things rolling. A highly anticipated updated demo
of Terraformers also livened things up considerably. Unfortunately, the
system requirements for the game were quite high and many people experienced
some difficulties with the game. Despite this, Pin Interactive is certain to
have a number of takers for the full version of Terraformers when it's ready
for release.

In this issue, we are fortunate to have a number of excellent articles
contributed by a few very loyal, thoughtful, and enthusiastic readers. We've
even got a visit from a very old friend. As we get closer to the holiday
season, I expect we'll see a number of games being released. I found it a
very hard choice to decide who won this quarter's free game. We have many
excellent contributions who equally deserve to win. I hope for the sake of
the community's continued liveliness that I have to make many more such hard
decisions in the issues to come. To everyone who contributed written
material, thank you very much.

The trip to Lake Joseph was both a much needed time of rest for me as well
as a chance to introduce accessible games to a number of potential new
players. My wife and I had a good time and made a few new friends. The
centre is going through some major changes and may be an even better place
for accessible games if the plans for an eventual computer wing are carried
through.

Parents in North America who are interested in Code Factory's educational
games will be very pleased with the news we have from them this month.
Obtaining games by Code Factory has just become much easier for English
speakers in North America. They may also enjoy the announcement from Zform
who have changed their name as their section will illustrate.

As usual for the fourth quarter, I'm planning on releasing the holiday issue
of Audyssey on or as near to November 15th as possible so that people have a
good idea of what games are out there and have enough time to buy them from
developers for friends and family. Keep the excellent material coming, and
we'll have a superb issue on our hands to enjoy over the holiday period.

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Letters:

This quarter was a bit light on traffic on the Blindgamers list which I felt
should be included in the issue of Audyssey. A lot of help with games was
given through the list and we've had many newcomers join us. One game which
received quite a bit of attention was Pong. A couple of members wanted to
know about how much control one has over the ball in the game. I've chosen
Jim Kitchen's most detailed description of the inner workings of Pong and
have placed it below:

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From Jim Kitchen:

Hi Veli-Pekka,

No the angle of the pong ball is never just a 45 degree angle.  It
all depends on the angle of the ball when it is hit by the paddle
as well as where on the paddle contact is made.  There is also
always a very slight random angle change thrown in.  If you hit the
ball towards the edge of the paddle the angle will be greater.  If
you hit the ball with the edge of the paddle the angle will be
dramatic.  Sometimes the ball will bounce from side to side several
times thus making it difficult to determine where it will end up
when it gets to your end.  The ball like in the original pong game
speeds up a bit on each hit from the paddle.  The higher difficulty
level that you play will increase the possible angles and speed
increase.

++
The idea of developing a rating system for games has re-surfaced again with
some interesting thoughts put forward on the subject. Here are some excerpts
from the discussion:

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Josh De Lioncourt:
Having our own committee may work, but I think most if not all of the
developers are trustworthy enough that if we created specific guidelines,
they could select the rating that applied to their game.  we're a small
market after all.  A committee would likely just complicate things more than
necessary.

Another way to simplify the rating process would be to create a system that
simply consisted of three letters.  The first representing the level of
strong language in the game, the second the amount and degree of violence,
and the third dealing with mature content.  That way, the three main
troublesome areas are accounted for.

Just off the top of my head, we could have the following indicators:

N = None
O = Occasional/mild
F = Frequent/strong
X = Explicit/extreme

If we denoted each of the three categories with a capital letter, followed
by a lower case letter that that category is rated at for this game...it
might look something like this;

PacMan Talks -- Rated LnVnMn)
(That is, no strong language, no violence, and no mature content)

Or...

ESP Monkey Business -- Rated LoVoMn
(Occasional strong language, occasional violence, no mature content)

Just throwing this idea out there.

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Ryan Peach:

I counter that not every game has a beta testing 'team' and not every beta
team or group is a team of open application volunteering (as in an in-house
beta testing).  These groups are hand-picked by the developer, and because
they serve the interests of that developer, can introduce subjectivity into
the ratings system; the developer might hand-pick even more strictly to
build a team of 'supporters' for their games, and thus garner a 'looser'
rating.

the best way, as I see it, is to have a party of 'independent reviewers for
the games to thusly apply an objective rating to each upcoming title.
Whether these committee members should be allowed to beta test these titles
beforehand, or be affiliated with a media outlet is, again, another
discussion.

Either way, the system needs to be objective enough to be considered
credible and fair.

+
Tim Chase:
When it comes to rating games, the standard rating system used by the gaming
industry provides a good start, but I'm partial to the way that the ICRA
(formerly RSACi) system does it.  It gives a hierarchy of categories, and
allows demarcation of items within that category.  That easily allows a game
creator to specify what content is in the game, and thus allow a consumer to
decide based on these terms.  The page detailing the categories can be found
at
http://www.icra.org/webmasters/

The high-level categories are
+ Chat
+ The language used on the site
+ The nudity and sexual content of a site
+ The violence depicted on the site
+ Others such as gambling, drugs and alcohol.

Each of these are broken down further as detailed on the above web page.
Granted, there is a definite visual bias on these matters, but a
modification of this could easily be implemented for a game.  In addition,
there's room for allowable context as well--they describe Botticelli's
"Birth of Venus" painting (which does show a bare breast) but it's context
is artistic, rather than erotic.

This allows a game author to plainly detail the content according to various
parameters.  Yes, it can be abused by underhanded developers, but I think
everybody on this list finds the accessible-game developers out there to be
forthright and willing to call 'em pretty straight-forward. There's room for
interpretation, but game authors want to accurately
represent their game because their ability to evaluate reflects directly on
them and their trustworthiness.  Some may over-rate their games as
potentially more offensive than they are, but it's better than getting folks
miffed for under-rating.  It's not a guarantee that if they rank it as
"graphic gore", that you'll get visceral gibbing noises, but folks can deal
with that.

The full ICRA checklist can be found at
http://www.icra.org/_en/label/extended/

+
John Jeavons:
It occurs to me that maintaining a list of voluntary ratings might be a
useful public service of the Audyssey web site.
The ESRB system and descriptors could be used, with the publishers making
the self-determination, or some volunteer willing to identify him/herself
might
post their rating of a game... which could spark some discussion and
eventual consensus on a reasonable rating for a given game.
Identifying the rater would presumably encourage a high standard for ratings
consistency with the guidelines and highlight or remove any actual or
appearance
of bias for/against a particular genre/game/publisher.

[Editor's note: John posted the following a little later in the
conversation.]

I disagree that all developers must cooperate or it doesn't work.
Whichever developers submit for rating will provide their consumers with
that service, while those who do/will not will not provide their consumers
with
that information.  Any consumer not interested in un-rated games need only
avoid games without rating.
I don't see rating as an all-or-nothing proposition, as it works perfectly
well for the games which are rated, and is simply irrelevant to those not
rated.
 Reasonably intelligent consumers will be able to decide not to buy an
un-rated product if that is their preference.
I see no reason to unify the accessible audible gaming industry into a
monopolistic cartel of cooperating developers who do everything the same way
or collaborate
on content or release dates or anything else.  To do so would be contrary to
a free (if small) market and not in the best interest of consumers. Let
competition
and individual style and the forces of the free market prevail.
Publishers don't join the ESRB because they are forced to; it is a voluntary
organization that they choose to join because it makes good business sense
to them and because certain large retailers through whom they wish to market
their products require ratings.  Until you can buy accessible audible
computer
games at KMart or Target or WallMart it is unlikely that the scale of the
market will require ratings.
What needs to be enforced is the meaning of the ratings given, not that
everyone must get them or else.
Impartiality, as you indicate, is indeed paramount to any ratings paradigm's
success.
John Jeavons.

+
David Lant:
Hi all,

Well, I think that there are two distinct areas that are being discussed
here.

First, the standards and ratings themselves.  These should be agreed, and
understood by everyone for them to mean anything.  It should also be agreed
that there is a single rating scheme, rather than each developer devising
their own.  There is nothing to stop each company doing that, but we as
consumers, and Audyssey as a consumer forum, ought to be able to indicate
which scheme customers prefer.

The second and separate area  is whether developers submit their games to be
rated.  I think, in all practicality, it will *have* to be a voluntary
scheme.  Let's face it, we as a community do not have the legal wherewithal
to *force* a developer not to release a game, just because they haven't
submitted it to be rated.  What needs to happen is for the community to
give the developers an incentive to use the rating system.  If it can be
shown that a company that does adopt the rating system gets better sales, or
better reviews, then they are likely to continue to use it.  If, on the
other hand, developers find that sales fall due to ratings putting people
off, then they are equally likely to cease submitting their work.

For no other reason than it is the only way anything will happen in this
area, I think a body of people should get together, under the auspices of
Audyssey, and set up and publish the rating system.  Then, Audyssey should
use that system within it's web and magazine content.  This is irrespective
of whether there is a democratic vote on the matter among the community.  If
we wait for a groundswell, then I rather suspect we will be waiting a long
time.

Rather than debating the finer points, why not just set up a rating system,
put it out there, and encourage people to use it.  Occasional reviews of the
scheme could happen, in order to keep up with the changing nature and
content of accessible games.  But at least there would be something there
for people to work with.

Have a think on that one, and perhaps Mike and the staff, such as they are,
could get the ball rolling.

++
Another game to garner a substantial amount of interest was one that I
stumbled upon one day during my ongoing search of the Internet for
accessible games of any kind. Sryth impressed a number of subscribers to the
Blindgamers list. As there are two reviews of the game already in this
issue, I'll let those give you an idea of what the game is all about.

++
Despite the Summer season, there were still easily over a thousand messages
during the last three months. People who don't keep an eye on the ongoing
discussions are missing out on quite a bit. One thing to be aware of is that
Mous writes a section keeping track of any hot topics or news happening on
the Blindgamers list. People can also get a daily digest while they're
members of the Blindgamers list rather than individual messages.

+++
National Pastime Revived
By Jason Symes

     You might be thinking I'm writing this article to gloat about the
American League's stunning come-back win in the recent Major League Baseball
All-Star Game. Although I was proud that the AL was able to swipe home-field
advantage away from the National League for this season's World Series
(shameful plug,
I know), that's not why I'm writing this article in a magazine for
blind/visually impaired gamers. The World Series is a pretty good guess--but
as it's been said before, close but no cigar--I'm speaking of the World
Series as cooked up by Jim Kitchen.

Who cares about another one of those free games that's probably not worth
the price I paid, you might be shouting at your screen readers right now?
This is why I personally gave Mr. Kitchen's Win Baseball a whirl:

1. From 1st grade, I'd always been fascinated by baseball--a bunch of older
kids chucking little balls at each other and trying to see if another kid
with an oddly-shaped branch can hit it, and I so wanted to be the guy
tossing that ball.

2. Those guys made plenty of bucks, and hey, they didn't need to learn
particle physics or history to chuck that ball! All they needed to know was
where the strike zone was, how to hold a bat or ball properly, use a glove
to catch that ball, and that kind of easy thing. Now that's the life, they
had it made!

3. One of the last memories I remember of watching tv before I lost my
vision was of the dramatic 11th-inning home run Kirby Puckett slapped in
game 6 of the 1991 World Series, forcing a game 7 and directly leading to
the Twins, my favourite team, winning their second title. And just under a
month later, no more watching World Series for me, and my dream of pitching
at the Metrodome wasn't going to come true either.

     Since then, I've kept up on my Twins' attempts to win another
championship, learned the difference between a slider and a curve, and was
set straight that when a runner steals a base, he doesn't actually pick up
the base and keep it. Sorry! Sorry! I promised to talk about the computer
game, not the other game!

     Now, what I found most interesting about Jim Kitchen's brand of the
World Series is how close it really is. Alright, so you can't see the ball
being hurled at your melon and making you jump, but some interesting 3d
sounds allow you to tell the type of pitch being thrown by it's change in
pitch and volume and associated directly with it's movement up and down,
inside and outside respectively. But that's not all!

1. In the short time I played the real thing and paid close attention to
Twins games, I learned the importance of pitch selection, and it's served me
well in Jim's game. For example, you've got a guy on first and 1 out, you
never throw a pitch up in the strike zone, so you go with a sinker or
slider. The
batter will most likely hit a ground ball, and the infielders have a good
chance of turning a double play. But if you throw a knuckle or high fastball
instead, you're asking for trouble!

2. I was never a good batter when I played the real thing, and I can't say
Jim's game has helped me find my stroke! I can tag a few out of the park,
but I tend to strikeout quite a bit. (In fact, the first game with Win
Baseball I played I managed to go a solid 9 for 12 in strikeouts, and the
other 3 at bats were weak ground balls). I had no clue how to bunt in real
baseball, and I still can put down a bunt for beans!

3. As a pitcher, you rely on your infield to help you out of jams, but Jim
built you and your infield perfectly--flawed. In other words, your
infielders will make errors, and you'll certainly toss a few over your
catcher's head to the backstop!

4. Just like Major Leaguers on the field, you have to contend with crowd
noises, the annoying organ player blaring somewhere behind the backstop, and
the always-present commercial played over the loud speaker at the end of
each half inning. At least you won't have to deal with that stupid Tomahawk
chop they used to do in Atlanta!

     I guess what I'm trying to say is that he's built in just about every
conceivable distraction or audio cue you'll need to whip or be whipped in
this game!

     Alright, I'm sure Jim's human too! The biggest drawback Win Baseball
has is you're playing against a computer, not against an opposing team with
a mind, but hey, nobody's perfect! So if you think playing a little chin
music might give you more plate to work with, think again; there's no
playing mind games against your pc, you'll be the only one to lose that
one-sided battle! And I've also identified these minor flaws that you'll
have to be aware of
(at least until Jim fixes them):

1. Your pitcher can throw to any base with a runner endlessly. So, if you've
got a guy on second and 2 outs, don't worry about further hits! All you need
do is throw to second until you've gotten the runner out and ended the
inning! In the real game, pitchers run an increasing risk of lobbing that
ball into the outfield if they repeatedly throw to a base, so they only do
it when they want to keep runners from stealing.

2. Major League Baseball has a rule that states any batter that swings at a
pitched ball and then is hit by that very same pitch can not be given first
base. The batter swung at the pitch, so a strike must be called, but I've
already encountered the ump giving my batter first on two different
occasions.

3. You'll tend to have problems hearing the Text to Speech voice you chose
threw your sound card, and when you turn up the volume, booing or cheering
fans, the organ playing, and the commercials will undoubtedly leave your
ears ringing and your speakers begging for silence. Hopefully Jim's next
version will
have either softer ambient sounds or some sort of volume control
(independent of the Windows Volume Control deal) that can adjust the SAPI
voice without changing the volume of your sound card.

     And here's a bit of warning to those of you that played Jim's DOS
baseball! Forget everything you learned! Pitches sound so different that
you'll need plenty of batting practice before you feel comfortable taking
pitches in game situations. Bunting has been changed too, so now you get to
hear every pitch
thrown and you decide when to stick the bat head out. You no longer have to
push a special key to take a pitch, all you do is step in the batter's box,
but instead of pushing a key at the instant you w
ant to swing, you push nothing. He's made several other modifications to
this game since the DOS version, but these are the major ones you'll need to
know.

     Overall, I like this game, and despite my poor batting, bunting, and
some erratic bottom-of-the-ninth pitching, I won my first game 4 to 3. And
now, instead of having to artificially keep track of the games I've won in a
World Series style system, Win Baseball will do it for me. With the DOS
version, I'd swept 5 straight World Series, but I've gone only 10 wins and
two losses in my first 12 games with Win Baseball, so I need some work to
regain my Yankee-like dominance! And for posterity's sake, when Win Baseball
asks for a name of my team, I reply Twins, manager is Tom Kelly, and the
opposing team is the Braves. So, if my Minnesota Twins never win a single
World Series up to the Big Crunch, Jason's Twins should do pretty well, I
hope!

+++
Total Losers?:
Re-evaluating Loss and Defeat in Computer Games
By Bryan McGucken
We get beat by a computer.  What do we do when we get beat?  We may throw a
book across the room, slam a door, punch a wall, or even hit ourselves.
There is no doubt that losing in a computer game, or any game for that
matter, is nothing short of frustrating nay, infuriating!  Yet what does
losing a game tell us, both about the game and about ourselves?
In a previous issue of Audyssey, you may recall that I offered a general
definition of a game.  Any game worth playing by an avid gamer must have
goals or objectives which the player must complete.  There may be smaller
goals or one large goal.  There are usually both in any good computer game.
If the player achieves all goals set forth in the game program, she
succeeds, or "wins".  If not, she "loses" and must accomplish some or all of
the goals over again up to and after the point at which she was defeated.
If I win a game, it means that I did what was necessary to complete all
pre-determined objectives.  How is it that I accomplished this?  Games take
thought, decision-making, quick analysis, memory, concentration, and a
plethora of other mental functions.  These mental functions are vital to
winning the game.  It is not enough to simply physically control a
character, move a car or jet, or fire a shotgun.  We must move the character
a certain way, move the car a certain way, and fire the gun a certain way.
Some may argue that chance could bring about the winning of a game, and I
shall not deny this to them.  Yet games are designed to be enjoyed by their
players, and chance diminishes the enjoyment of a game because the game,
quite literally, becomes mindless.  Enjoyment is mental pleasure or, as
Baruch Spinoza might have put it, psychological empowerment.
Now winning, no one will deny, is also enjoyable.  There is no better form
of mental empowerment than knowing that our minds adequately assessed the
virtual situations set before us, or is there?  When a gamer loses the game
she is playing, what does that mean?  It means, quite simply, that a mental
process either did not present itself to her, or that she did not assess the
virtual situation properly.  This means that her mind will have to perform
more output in order to assess the situation in an adequate way.  Her mind
does this in the interest of empowering itself.  Now it may do this simply
for the sake of the mental exercise it receives, or, what is more probable,
as a means to the end of "winning" and achieving the pleasure that
invariably comes with succeeding.  A good game will give the player a
posterior incentive for this.  In the case of "The Savage Gamut", for
example, when you defeat the final fighter, the song "We are the Champions"
plays and you are told that you have won.  When we lose, we become annoyed
or angry because we want to win, either because we want our minds to do
their jobs properly, or, more likely, we want to win and derive the
enjoyment that comes with it.  If we want badly enough to win, we will
strain our minds to ascertain what exactly needs to happen in order to win
the game.  In this sense losing can be a blessing in disguise because it
forces us to redouble our mental efforts in the interest of what we really
want.  In this sense games bear a mild resemblance to life.  In life, if a
difficult problem arises, it would not serve us well to allow the problem to
fester and not be solved by us.  We thus put in the added effort necessary
to solve the problem.
Now although it should be born in mind that each person's mental capacity
and faculties are different even from her relatives, nonetheless a
particular game may not be enjoyable simply because we won it, either
quickly or without difficulty.  If a game is too easy to complete
successfully, our minds need not put in the effort to complete it.  Man only
does what he feels he has to as a general rule.  If effort is not required
to complete a game, the mind tends to lose power and focus, and the game
becomes less enjoyable because we are not encouraged as strongly to complete
the game.  Without mental empowerment, there can be no enjoyment.
On the other hand, if a game is too difficult, the mind will soon wear
itself out.  Each mind has a different fortitudinal limit beyond which it
cannot proceed.  If a game's objectives are beyond the scope of a particular
player's mental capacity, she cannot complete the game because her mind is
literally straining against itself (its own limit) and yet attains no thing.
Now some may counter that out of nothing comes nothing: a person cannot put
in effort and have no result come out.  This may be true, yet, as Descartes
would have it, there are times when the actions based on choices of the will
move beyond the scope of the understanding.  Now while Descartes would argue
that this amounts to an egregious error, nonetheless it is human error based
on man's finite nature.  One may think she can complete a game at first, and
only later come to find that she cannot do so.  In this case the game is not
good for the player in question.  Thinking takes power, for it is one of
man's faculties as a man, and is proper to him.  However, unlike God, or
many other deities, man's intellect is finite.  This may be said even
without positing an infinite intellect.  Man does not know everything.  If
his power is finite, than it may be exhausted, and in the case of a game,
there is no longer a point to the game because the mind has been drained of
its power.  In this sense, too, then, losing is a blessing in disguise
because we learn that some games are not for us at the time we play them.
The long and short of this essay is that losing is a good thing.  While it
may be true that we can get too much of a good thing, nonetheless we will
all be better off if we realize that games were designed to be lost every
now and then.  A game we win on the first try without losing at all or
making any error is not a game because our skills have not been tested or
challenged.  This also rings true of games we cannot win at a given time.
The skills required are not available which are to be tested by the game.
Understanding these factors will make gaming much more enjoyable for all of
us.

+++
Interactive Fiction: Former Gamer's Paradise Becomes Arduous Territory
By Michael Feir

Long before there were sound-based games, blind people could always turn to
interactive fiction for their amusement. As soon as there were computers
which had either speech or Braille access, these text adventures were
instantly and accidentally accessible. Everything was described in words so
it didn't matter whether you were blind or not as long as there wasn't
piracy protection which made it necessary to read something in print. In
celebration of this, I put together Rising From Times Ashes. This collection
had what I considered were the best fifty freely available text adventures
of the twentieth century. These adventures could be an excellent way to
become proficient with one's access technology and become used to a new
voice synthesizer's reading. Sadly, this isn't the case at the present time.

Something has changed in how speech packages read the screen. All the advice
I so carefully put in the collection's documentation seems to do far less
than it once did. I couldn't recommend that people use interactive fiction
to learn their access technology with. It would simply be too frustrating
for beginners. The current situation has even kept me from one of my
all-time favourite hobbies. Now that sound-based games have arrived in
force, text-based games are suffering a sharp decline in popularity which is
made even worse by the current predicament of people who try to play them.
Some list members have approached their access technology companies for a
solution to this. However, their main focus is on software more connected
with employment. They, like many others, fail to see the potential these
games have for teaching skills which would lead to more blind people being
productively employable. I learned to type around 90 words per minute by
playing interactive fiction. I took typing and computer courses just to get
the easy marks. These games also teach their blind players about many things
they might not encounter in real life. Objects and how they behave, places,
and other things which sighted people might not realise somebody like myself
who has been blind all his/her life wouldn't know about have been made
understandable to me through these games.

Of course, it all depends on what access technology you have handy. People
with older versions of Jaws For Windows may not have the same difficulties
which I experience. Also, anybody who has a hardware speech synthesiser and
a Dos screen reader shouldn't have any trouble at all if they know their way
around Dos. The same may be true for those who have Braille displays.
However, speech access is easily the most widespread and inexpensive method
of accessing computers. Also, due to the ease by which normal computers can
be made to speak without the need for hardware synthesizers, these extra
machines are unlikely to be owned. The average young blind computer user
will have no reason to learn their way around Dos. Therefore, the only way
to make interactive fiction widely accessible again is to develop
interpreters for the games which are self-voicing or develop specialized
scripts or their equivalent for other screen-readers. This latter course of
action would also mean that these script files would have to be updated as
new versions of the screen readers came out. Self-voicing interpreters for
the various languages that interactive fiction is written in would seem to
be the most sensible solution given the reluctance of access technology
companies to take a serious look at these games.

Hope does lie ahead. The developers of the interpreters commonly used to
play interactive fiction are fairly friendly towards blind players and have
taken steps in the past to improve things when the difficulties with speech
technology weren't so hard to surmount. David Kinder, the developer of the
newest incarnation of Windowsfrotz, has made some inquiries of me about
various screen readers and making his software more accessible. Kent
Tessman, the developer of Hugo, has gone to some lengths to make certain
there is a completely text-based version of the interpreter for games
written in the language he created. At present, I'm not certain which way
things will proceed next or how soon anything will happen to undo the
current situation. However, I am quite hopeful that a solution will be
found. In the mean time, it is still possible to play text games with some
inconvenience and fans willing to put in the time can still enjoy this kind
of fun.

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

Part 2.

++ Necessary Conditions

In part 1 of this article I mentioned a proposed integrated approach to
adaptive
difficulty management within a multi-mode game.  There are a few conditions
that have to
be set up for it to work.  Aspects of game play that control the level of
difficulty
need to be adjustable and the effect of each must be distinctly measurable,
even when
they are combined into complex situations.  To describe how this is managed,
I will
start with the basic concepts that build up into such an arrangement.

+ Some is better than all or nothing

In a simple shoot-em up game if you get shot you are dead.  If you shoot the
enemy he is
dead.  This is an all or nothing situation.  One is either alive or dead.
Another
example is a door that is either open or shut, or a lock that is either
locked or
unlocked.  This is like a switch that is either on or off.  A knob is more
interesting
than a switch, because a knob can turn the volume up a little, down a
little, leave it
at low volume, high volume or any particular place in between.  You can set
a knob to a
certain number, while a switch is just one or zero, true or false.  A space
battle can
be more interesting when a direct hit does measurable damage to the
deflector shields.
If the player gets hit after the shields are all gone then he dies, of
course.  The
deflector shield concept allows a player to be seriously affected by the
battle yet
still given a chance to react and do something about it.  The stamina of the
shields is
a parameter (aspect) that can be measured and or
adjusted numerically.  Some very basic games have a player simply die when
hit.  Many
more interesting games use a stamina system to keep a player in the game
longer, even
while taking hits.  Each hit takes points off his health until he bottoms
out and dies.
  The game is more interesting when every parameter is a knob rather than a
switch.  It
is also a prerequisite for adaptive difficulty management.

+ How much is too much

I mentioned above that when a person's stamina reaches zero he dies.  This
is like a
circuit breaker that allows anything up to a certain amount of electrical
power to pass,
but anything over a certain amount will trip the breaker.  That certain
amount or
threshold of the breaker is called a trip point.  Another trip point is how
long you can
spout gibberish and nonsense to a telemarketer before he gets annoyed and
hangs up.
Suppose you have an outcome or decision in a game that has to end up one way
or another,
either yes or no, locked or unlocked, shut or open, dead or alive.  You can
still make
that decision result from a trip point fed by a numeric value.  In this way
you have a
knob controlling a switch.  Many things can combine to turn the knob up or
down, finally
resulting in the yes no decision.  You can also adjust the trip point at any
time, just
like turning up or down the air conditioning thermostat.

+ Measuring a trip point

You can measure a trip point by slowly increasing a parameter until you
exceed it.  You
could actually measure the temperature in a room by slowly turning a
thermostat until it
clicks on or off.  You can measure the trip point of a telemarketer if you
initially pretend to be interested in what he is saying but then slowly
increase the
percentage of nonsense mixed into your speech, until every word out of your
mouth is
completely silly, random and unintelligible.  Thus you will keep him on the
phone until
you exceed a certain trip point that exists within his own mind.  As amusing
and
potentially useful this last example is, it also serves to introduce the
most basic
method of measuring a parameter within a person.  The entire game of space
invaders was
like this.  It was a super shot kind of game where the aliens kept coming
faster and
faster until you could no longer shoot them all down fast enough, they
landed and the
game was over.  Your score was a measurement of how fast
and good a shot you are.  Although there was some additional complexity
mixed in, your
score basically boiled down to a single trip point measurement.  The trip
point was the
speed of arrival of aliens against which the player could no longer resist.

+ Measuring a difference

The next, slightly more complex type of measurement does not take as long to
perform.
It also involves measuring something to come up with a number, but uses a
different
method to do so.  Measuring a difference is done by taking one measurement,
adjusting
just one setting, then taking the same measurement again.  The difference
between the
first and second measurement will tell you the amount of effect that the
adjustment you
made has upon the outcome that you are measuring.  An example of this method
would be to
measure how long a player can resist a swarm of aliens attacking at a
certain speed,
then try it again with the aliens coming a certain amount faster.  By
subtracting the
first value against the second value you can find out how much of a
difference it made
in the outcome.  You could also run two rounds of aliens, where they come at
the same
speed in each round, but in the second round the aliens can only be killed
if you hit
each of them right in the centre.  In this case you would be measuring the
difference
made by aiming, rather than speed.  Another experiment would be to limit the
number of
shots the player can fire off per second, and make it different from one
round to the
next.  Obviously the player would react to these different limitations by
focusing upon
different strategies.  If the player were limited in shots per second he
would try to
aim better and make each shot count.  If the player has a machine gun then
he can simply
spray the sky with gunfire and most likely hit everything up there.  Thus
when you
change the rules, or change the numbers plugged into the rules, the player
performs some
rather complicated routines in his brain to best deal with the situation.
But you don't
have to be a mind reader.  All you need to do is to measure the difference
that a
certain adjustment will make upon the outcome, for whatever reason.

+ Compensating for the player

The main purpose of adaptive techniques is to keep the player challenged
while keeping
him in the game.  This is done by maintaining a difficulty level that's just
on the edge
of the player's ability.  He can stay in the game, but he has to really work
at it.  To
accomplish this, the game must accurately assess how good the player is
within the
present situation, and adjust the difficulty level accordingly.

+ Adjusted Yet Fair.

Care must be taken, however, to keep the player from feeling like there's no
reward for
being really good.  The most direct way of doing so is to award points that
correspond
to how good the player is, even while the game's deadliness is constantly
being adjusted
to keep him hanging on by a thread.  An example of doing this would be to
have five
different classes of alien.  The higher the class, the harder the alien is
to kill, but
for each one of those you get more points.  Then the game keeps throwing the
aliens at
the player, but when the player starts to get overwhelmed, the game notices
that and
diminishes the quantity and nastiness of the aliens.  Of course, the nastier
the alien,
the more points you get for killing it.  Then, to keep from giving an unfair
advantage
to people who have too much spare time, you can have a timer that counts how
long the
battle has been going on.  Every minute that goes by, the game can add
another 10
percent to the normalized (adjusted) difficulty level.  In other words, once
you
determine how good the player is, you add ten percent to that for every
minute that the
battle has gone on, and you use that number to set the difficulty level.
That way, no
matter how good he is, after about twenty minutes the game will end up being
twice as
hard as the player can handle and the round will end.  The outcome from all
this is that
the playing time will be about the same for everyone, yet the score will
still give an
absolute measurement of how good the player is.

+ Single Parameters

In the example above, two things were adjusted: the quantity and the
nastiness of the
aliens.  Each of those aspects can be called a parameter.  But the nastiness
is probably
an average result of a bunch of other parameters that really make up the
alien and how
it behaves.  Some possible difficulty parameters for an alien could be:

1. Target size.  Some aliens die when you shoot their extremities, while
other aliens
must be hit right in the centre.  Thus killing that alien requires better
aim from the
player.
2. Intensity of his deflector field.  This deflector field uses a weak force
field to
push oncoming bullets away from the heart of the alien.
3. Intensity of his deflector field's modulation.  He can modulate, or vary,
his
deflector field's intensity with a waving motion so that it is hard to
predict how it
will behave.
4. Randomness of his deflector field's modulation.  The wave pattern that
adjusts his
deflector field's intensity can be more or less random, making it even
harder to predict.
5. How good an aim the alien has.
6. How many damage points the alien's ammunition hits with.
7. How fast the alien reacts to the player's evasive manoeuvres.
8. How smart the player's ammunition is.  For instance, is it heat seeking?
9. How far off its original course can the smart ammo steer toward a target?
10. Proximity ammo: how close does it need to get before exploding?
11. Intelligence of proximity fuse: you can have different classes of
proximity fuse.
The best kind will explode as soon as it is two inches from the target or
else in the
case of a near miss, as soon as it starts getting further away again, but
after getting
close enough to do some damage.
12. How powerful is the explosion?  You could say that the damage points
imparted is
equal to the explosiveness divided by the square root of the distance from
the target
upon which it exploded.

These are just a few parameters off the top of my head; I'm sure you can
think of more.

+ Average Beta Scores

If you've ever heard the expression "all things being equal" then you'll
know what I'll
be dealing with here.  If you could keep everything else the same, but
change the value
of just one parameter, you could measure the difference made by that aspect.
Now
suppose you run the same test with a hundred people.  In that case you can
know on
average the effect a certain parameter has upon difficulty.  This
information can be
gathered either in beta testing, or else by a very cleverly written score
server that
would gather statistical information about each parameter in order to come
up with the
universal averages.  Such a score server would then communicate back to the
individual
game to fine tune the amount that the score is affected by the difficulty
settings in
each parameter.  Yet even without a score server, and merely making use of
the beta
testing data, it is possible to arrive at fairly accurate average values to
adjust the
points awarded for coping with each aspect (parameter) of difficulty.  That
way, your
game can custom tailor a large variety of monsters on the fly, and still
award an
appropriate number of points for killing each one.

+ Two changes at once (or more)

That is all fine and good if the player has the patience to be tested with a
tedious
assortment of exercises designed to measure his difficulty for each aspect,
one
parameter at a time.  In real life, people want to play, not to work.
Therefore there
has to be some better way of gathering the data.  It is still important to
know how much
each aspect affects the outcome.  But the game must accomplish this while
entertaining
the player.  It has to be fun at all times.  The solution is to change more
than one
parameter at once.  Suppose you have three parameters.  Let us call them A,
B and C.  To
accurately test them you would have each parameter take a turn.  First you
would test A,
B and C at their easy settings.  Then A would get to be harder.  Then A
would be easy
again and B would be harder.  Then B would be easy again and C would be
harder.  You
would end up knowing exactly how much difference each parameter made, and
the player
would notice the lack of originality and be insulted or bored.  But what if
you used a
different method to test them?  You could start by making A, B and C easy
just like
before.  Then your next test would be to make both A and B harder.  Then you
could make
A easy and make B and C harder.   Finally you could make A, B and C harder.
If the
player detects any pattern in this it will be one of increasing difficulty,
along with
some variety.

+ Isolate and Refine

Using the method above, how do you get your data out?  You changed more than
one thing
at once, so how can you tell what each thing did?  The answer is to do some
math.

Let us assume that you changed each parameter by a consistent amount.
Now let us compare the three tests.

Subtract the hard A and hard B score from the easy all score.  Let's call
that AB
Subtract the hard B and hard C score from the easy all score.  Let's call
that BC
Subtract the hard A, hard B and hard C score from the easy all score.  Let's
call that ABC

To isolate the difference made by each parameter, simply subtract:

A = ABC - BC
C = ABC - AB
B = AB - A

You can use this same approach on a grander scale, with more parameters and
more tests.
  You can also recalculate the same isolated parameters later to see how
much the player
has improved regarding each parameter.

In order to make use of such a scheme, you need to be able to measure the
outcome of
each test as a number, not just as a pass-fail.  You also need to be able to
adjust each
parameter by a number, not just as an off-on like a switch.

+ Normalize against world averages

The next step along the adaptive path is to normalize the player against
world averages.
  By using the techniques above, you can adjust the difficulty of each
parameter, so
that each aspect of a game will give every player the same amount of
trouble.  The
better a player is in a certain aspect, he will nonetheless be honoured
accordingly with
a greater reward in terms of the score.

+ Game segments with distinct personalities

Now that you have normalized every aspect, you can create personality in the
game
portions by adding percentages to some normalized aspects, and taking away
percentages
from other normalized aspects, resulting in the same overall difficulty, but
intentionally having a different aspect demanding the primary attention from
the player.
  This way you can still have some scenes or battles being more about aim,
while other
scenes or battles are more about speed.  There are many such trade-offs you
can safely
explore to give your games variety and texture, all the time compensating
for the
individual player's strengths and weaknesses, and yet through it all,
awarding fair
amounts of points for actual player ability.

+ Multi Mode Considerations

One thing that is of value is to consider exactly what kinds of rewards the
game gives
out.  A space invader game can be fair about score while compensating
everything else,
and everyone is happy.  Each player gets to play about as long in minutes,
and the
better players get to post higher scores.  But what if the game is not all
about scores?
  What if the game is an adventure game?  What if the action sequences
punctuate a text
adventure mystery?  There are other kinds of rewards at work, and the game
author needs
to dispense those fairly according to ability as well.  There are ways you
can translate
the benefit of excellence in one aspect to enable the player in another
aspect.  For
instance, a better detective may locate a superior weapon that will be of
great benefit
during the next real time action scene.  Also, vanquishing a foe more
quickly may result
in having the time and energy to look around and find more keys before the
guards
return.  It's really up to your own imagination as to how you can do so, but
care should
be taken to reward the proficient without frustrating or always killing off
the player
who is not as good in a certain area.  Adaptive tools can be used to
compensate and make
everybody equal, but the danger in doing this is that posting scores becomes
meaningless, and it is impossible to reward the player for getting better
and better.
As you decide what to compensate and what to reward, you should think it
through and ask
two questions:

1. Will my player feel like he can cope enough to be willing to keep trying?
2. Will my player feel rewarded for improving?

If the answer is yes for a variety of players, then you have done your
adaptive work
correctly.

This is the end of part two.  I have dispatched the concepts I wanted to
share.  There
is always more, of course, but I feel I have gotten the major points across.
There are
ways that you can improve upon what I have shared thus far.  For instance,
you could
measure how well aspects can combine.  Do they merely add together or does
the intensity
of one influence the effectiveness of the intensity of another?  Is there a
limit above
which they can all combine and it won't make much difference?  What does
this limit look
like? Is it a brick wall or some kind of curve that can be mathematically
graphed? Is
there a limit for each parameter in terms of its ability to make a
difference?  I
suspect that the difference made by any parameter is actually going to be a
curve, not a
straight line.  If you add a little it may make a big difference, but as you
keep adding
more and more of that same aspect, that same amount more that you add may
start making
less and less of a difference.  If you want to get really fancy, you can
start trying to
plot the curve of each parameter you have, as you constantly adjust them
all, providing
endless variety in the game.  If you do go for this kind of accuracy,
however, you will
want to keep measuring the curves again and again, because the player will
improve, and
that improvement over each parameter is in itself going to take the shape of
a curve.
You can accomplish this if you add the results of every single battle and
event to the
body of data you are collecting, and keep processing it to find out where
the player
stands now, with respect to each parameter, and keep plotting the curve of
his mastery
over each parameter.  By identifying the equation that produces the best fit
for the
curve representing the player's history with each parameter, you can then
extrapolate
how you expect the player to improve (or decline, as in the case of
fatigue).  In such
case you should also be on the lookout for sudden leaps in ability.  This
will indicate
that the player has figured something out intellectually, and your game
should then
recalibrate itself as quickly as possible upon detecting such a major event.

That's all for now.

If I receive enough questions and or feedback I will consider a part three.


+++
Free Game Winner

Congratulations go to Patrick Moen who has won this quarter's free game.
This time, we've got two developers to thank for stepping up to the plate
and being willing to sponsor a free game. ESP Softworks has indicated that
Patrick can choose any one of their games including those on CD.
Alternatively, Patrick may choose a game courtesy of Justin at BSCGames.
Please contact the appropriate developer when you've made your choice,
Patrick. I hope to have more pairs of developers team up to offer a wider
selection of games to future free game winners over the coming issues. My
thanks to both ESP Softworks and BSCGames for their generosity and to
Patrick for his outstanding contributions.

+++
News From Adora Entertainment:

Greetings!
         As this is our first issue of Audyssey since we jumped into the
accessible games arena, let me first simply say that I'm very excited to be
here, and Adora is committed to making the highest quality games possible.
It's a great honour to be working with PCS Games in developing Ten Pin
Alley, and to be a member of this growing community and the fantastic
developers that are creating such great games. You can get news updates on
our web site at
www.AdoraEntertainment.com.
We also welcome questions, comments, or suggestions via e-mail at
[email protected].

         OK, that was the boring stuff.  Here's what you're waiting to get
to! Our current projects:

Ten Pin Alley -- This is a joint venture between PCS Games and Adora
Entertainment.  Experience realistic bowling sounds, alley ambience, and a
human announcer in this revamped version of the PCS Games's classic Ten Pin!
This will likely be our first release, as it is nearing completion.  We
thank everyone who has expressed interest in this title...you won't be
disappointed!

Final Defender -- Speed through three distinct areas of entirely different
play, and three levels of difficulty in this arcade-style game, where the
only thing that stands between Earth and the invading alien fleet is you!
We wish to emphasize that this is not a new spin on the Space Invaders
games, and that you'll need more than quick reflexes to defeat these
dastardly foes!

The Eamon Guild of Free Adventurers -- Eamon will be Adora's flagship
project, and is a wholly new take on accessible role-playing games.  Create
a character and navigate them through a 3D universe where sword, sorcery,
and advanced technology blend to create a world that has limitless
possibilities.  A great deal of information on this series is currently
available on our web site (
www.AdoraEntertainment.com).

         I'd like to thank everyone who has given Adora a warm welcome, and
I hope to be interacting with all of you in the coming months.  Again,
please don't hesitate to contact us!  Take care!
                 Josh de Lioncourt


+++
News From All inPlay:

Contact:
 Paul G. Silva
 Cofounder and Lead Designer
 All inPlay (formally known as ZForm)
 [email protected]
 (413) 585-9692

ZForm Announces New Game, New Name

June 30, 2003 - Northampton, MA - ZForm LLC, the industry's leading provider
of online, interactive games for the visually impaired, announced today the
launch of their second game, Crazy Eights. Following on the success of ZForm
Poker, Crazy Eights translates one of the world's most popular card games
into a fully accessible online game. Crazy Eights remains faithful to
ZForm's charter of developing games that level the playing field, games that
let the blind and the sighted play together as equals. All ZForm games are
specifically designed to work seamlessly with the assistive technologies
employed by the visually impaired to use computers. It works well with all
screen readers and screen magnifiers currently available. Great care has
also been taken to create contemporary graphics to enhance the game play
experience for sighted players.

"We are very excited about the launch of Crazy Eights," said company CEO
Will Coleburn. "It's a very popular, family-oriented game that will appeal
to a wide audience. The initial reaction for our customers has been
fantastic."

More than just a game company, ZForm is a community that brings the visually
impaired and the sighted together in one place. Players come together from
all over the world to sit at ZForm's virtual tables, to have fun, make
friends and enjoy each other's company. Integral to the ZForm experience is
the innovative live text chat engineered into the game. As with all popular
games, much of the entertainment happens through the interaction of the
players around the table. With ZForm games, players can keep up a running
commentary, real-time, in the game.

In a related event, ZForm also announced today that they are changing the
name of the company to All inPlay. "All inPlay does a much better job of
describing who we are," said Coleburn. "Our objective is to be inclusive, to
provide a community where everyone can play. The All inPlay name helps us
communicate that."

All inPlay Poker, All inPlay Crazy Eights and the All inPlay community can
be found at www.allinplay.com.


###

"Thanks for setting the Poker game up, for the first time in my life, I've
been able to play a decent card game with my 2 daughters, who are both
sighted, and unfortunately, better players than me, smile."
 - "Tom Lorimer"

"My family has played games on the net for a good while but Friday night was
the first time ever that I have been able to play with them.  Which is
fantastic to feel a part of the same sorts of things that your other family
members do for entertainment."
 - Scott White

"You play against other people who are sitting at this virtual poker table
on the Internet, and the software does not care - the players do not care -
who is blind and who is sighted."
- Curtis Chong, Former Director of technology, National Federation of the
Blind (www.nfb.org)

"I wrote the email simply because i admire your work and dream tremendously.
And i just wanted people to appreciate what you and zform have done.  And
the fun and friendship I've gotten are living proofs of your endeavors.
Cheers!"
 - "Jaffar Sidek" (Singapore)

"I've played the game since it was an alpha back in February. I've never
gotten bored or tired of playing. The people on the tables are very
friendly. The ZForm team is great."
- Colin

"One thing I can say about Zform poker is that it is one of the very few
accessible games that I can keep playing over and over. Usually, they are so
hard to learn that I quit after fifteen seconds. I've been playing Poker for
weeks now... that should tell you guys something! Keep up the great work!"
 - Aaron Howell (Australia)

"The surgeon general has determined that Zform poker can cause insomnia."
 - "Charlie Richardson"

"I am a sighted person who loves playing poker online.  I've played a lot of
the games out there, and I tell you, accessible or not, yours is the best
I've ever played!"
- Ed Cooper (Ohio, USA)

"I have to tell you, what Paul and Jeremie have done - making ZForm - is one
of the best things that has happened to me.  My wife and I have a whole new
world that is open to us, a world full of some of the nicest people from all
around the world - blind AND sighted.  What they are doing is God's work,
and I hope to help them do it any way I can."
- Lawrence Anderson (Texas, USA)

I want to thank you and the team for bringing this fantastic game in to our
lives, the game is brilliant yes, but the wonderful friends I've made
through means a great deal more to me, so big hugs and smiles
– Mags (Scotland, UK)

+++
News From BSC Games:

Hello Gamers!

I just wanted to give a quick update on what is going on over at BSC Games.
As many of you know, for quite some time on the blind gamers mailing list I
took in lots of suggestions/ideas for a game I am coming up with called the
Void. If you want to read a lot about it, go in the archives of the blind
gamers mailing list and do a search for the word void. The void is a first
person shooter that has began development but has been put on hold until
October of this year. My main programmer is on vacation for the entire
summer and I can't expect him to program on vacation *smile*. So I wanted to
let you know we will be returning to development of that game in October. So
what is the Void?

It's a first person shooter that will be packed with 3d advanced sound
imagery and 3d movement. 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-gen weaponry and
systems to try to seek and rescue the remaining marines and return them
safely to your home world of alpha12.


Hey Troopers! Troopanum version 2 is in the making and promises to bring
some new content to the game! We are aggressively working on this second
version of our popular space shooter arcade style game and Dan and me are
really excited about it. We know many are going to enjoy this second
version. We hope to have it ready to download by late November or Early
December but we all know how that goes with development *smile*. It could be
earlier than that but I don't want to put Dan and me in the deadline choking
rope and hang ourselves too soon *smile*. If you would like some more detail
about the current version of Troopanum, version 1.6,  and a demo to
download, jump on over to www.bscgames.com/troop.asp and check it out.
Version two will have some cool new content in the game.

In case some don't know, I started a BSC Games discussion list, after
numerous requests for one, and To join the BSC Games mailing list, send a
blank message to [email protected] with the word join in the
subject line or the word leave to unsubscribe.

Some may remember that last issue I was talking about doing a military game
called operation blackout, I've decided to not do that game. I've been
working with a new blind programmer who is 37 for the past 2 months teaching
him DirectX and he looks promising. He wants to develop strategy style
games. Since I don't offer that genre of games yet, I thought it would be
nice to get that ball rolling. So, we are working together and his education
of DirectX has just completed. He has earned the Justin Daubenmire DirectX
certificate of absolute nothingness and has graduated with flying colors
*smile*. so we are slowly beginning to start to model a strategy style game.
Nothing major yet at all... just tossing some ideas around but he looks very
promising. He is sharp and has some great ideas. He definitely has the
mindset of a strategy content developer and now he has the DirectX
programming ability to flush out his ideas. Now it's just a matter of him
modeling a game and me managing the project and us going for it. I'll keep
all of you updated on this new endeavor. You can always check under the
What's new section on BscGames.com for quick updates on what's new over
here.

In closing, I'd like to say thank you to everyone who has supported BSC
Games and me. It is your financial support that has kept BSC Games going for
2 years. Without it, we wouldn't be here. I'd also like to thank those who
have emailed showing their support and excitement about the company and
games. So stay tuned, there will be some new stuff on the horizon from BSC
Games.

Warm regards,

Justin Daubenmire
President - BscGames.com

+++
News from Code Factory

Hello gamers,

In the first issue of Audyssey of this year I told you that we were working
on a new Adventure game called Time Adventures. We finished it in March and
it has sold with great success.
This is the plot of Time Adventures:
In the not too distant future, the world is divided between citizens who
lead an ordinary life and those who have signed a contract with the
megacorporations, who offer a happy life, free of problems. However
something sinister is lurking behind all this ....The future of humanity is
in your hands!
These are the characteristics:
- More than 60 different scenes
-  Over four hours of digitalised voices
- Dozens of sound effects and animated drawings
- More than 50 original soundtracks
- Easy-to-access menus
- In two languages: Spanish and English
- New intuitive user interface
- No installation required. Simply insert the CD-ROM and start to play


In September we will publish another game called Alien Invasion.
The evil Octans have stolen the energy supply which regulates the cosmic
balance. As a result, the planets have come out of their orbits and run the
risk of getting lost forever in interstellar space.

You are the best pilot in the galaxy, and the Senate has chosen you to enter
the enemy system and recover the planets. However, the mission is full of
dangers. Dare to accept the challenge!
In the States you can purchase all our games now from Independent Living
Aids. Please have a look on their website:
www.independentliving.com
 You will find the educational games there, as well as Time Adventures or
Alien Invasion. If you do not live in the States but you would like to get
Time Adventures or Alien Invasion please contact me directly and write to
[email protected]

Furthermore I would like to let you know that we are also making other
products than games for visually impaired people now. Mobile Accessibility
is accessible software that makes your cell phone talk. Mobile Accessibility
has got a text to speech synthesizer of the company Svox inside that reads
you SMS messages. The software has got its own interface so that you can
make calls, get calls, have a look on the call list, manage your contact
list, receive and send sms and mms messages, manage and advise ring tones
and a lot more features. If you want to know more about it please go to our
website
www.mobileaccessibility.com
There you will find a presentation and the manual for download. In the
States Ma currently works with the Nokia 3650. In other countries it works
with the Nokia 7650 or 3650. We will adapt it soon to other mobile phones
that will come out.
If you have comments or questions about the games or Ma please send us a
mail to:
[email protected]
 You will also find more information and demos of our games on our website
www.codfact.com.

+++
News From ESP Softworks:

Greetings, Gamers!

A quick update to let everyone know that an unofficial Monkey Business v1.6
Update patch is available via the downloads section of the website or
following the link below:

http://www.espsoftworks.com/downloads/downloads.htm

This update is less than 600k in size.

Also, note that a demo version of ESP Raceway will be available in September
for download.  More information regarding it and the upcoming release will
be given at that time.

Please find below information regarding our current titles.

ESP Raceway
Get ready to start your engines race fans--ESP Raceway is soon speeding into
PC's everywhere!  Sit yourself inside one mean machine and prepare for fast
and furious racing competition against an assortment of computer-controlled
cars for the season championship trophy.  It's only you, the asphalt, and up
to 270 miles per hour of raw speed to achieve victory!
Check out these features of what promises to be one of this years' hottest
titles:
- Wonderfully Realistic Sounds
- Accurate Engine & Car Physics
- Steering Wheel & Pedal Controller Support
- Force Feedback Effects--You're Actually Able to Feel The Car & Road!
- Two Dozen Completely Different Tracks
- Pit Stops With Full Crew Including A Pit Captain
- A Radio Link To Your Pit Captain For Real-Time Information
- Several Weather Conditions Including: Sunny, Rain, Snow, and Ice
- Manual & Automatic Transmissions
- Varied Landscapes & Road Surfaces
- Realistic Spin-Outs, Skids, and Peel-Outs!
- Great Crowd Ambience To Keep You Going!
- And much more!
ESP Raceway is currently in development and will retail for $39.95.
Monkey Business
Get ready for an absolutely fun action arcade-style game in this
first-person adventure against the evil Dr. Wobble! As a net-for-hire by a
scientist who's teleportation invention and plans have been stolen by Dr.
Wobble, you must catch a fleeting group of monkeys across ten levels of
arcade-style insanity and a bonus level!

Dr. Wobble has broken into your boss' laboratory in the middle of the night
and stolen the teleportation device he's invented. But, that's not all.. Dr.
Wobble's also spiked the monkeys' water supply that are used for the
teleportation tests with a drug that has made them extremely smart and
mischievous. Not only does Dr. Wobble have the device, but the monkeys have
gotten loose and stolen pieces of the teleporters! Now, it's up to you to
catch the monkeys, retrieve the parts of the teleporters, and put a stop to
Dr. Wobble!

Monkey Business features:

- Run, Jump, Climb, Crouch and Swim Through Ten Themed Levels of Game Play
With Fun Challenges
- Great Ambient Sound Effects
- Complete 3-D Player Freedom of Movement
- Bonus Level
- Intuitive, Innovative, and Fast-Action Game Play
- Cool Music
- Goodies on CD including: Game Trailers, ESP Pinball Demo, ESP Pinball
Bloopers, and Shell Shock

Chase monkeys and avoid obstacles in real-time through a lush jungle!
Explore the dark torch lit runes of an ancient Aztec temple, avoiding
perilous traps and wild animals! Strap on yer six-shooters for a spell in
the ol' west for slots, suds, and a chance to take down the town's bad boy!
Take a stroll along a sandy beach, avoid crabs and cannonballs, and watch
your step on a creaky bridge! And, much.. much more all in vibrant 3D sound!

Monkey Business is currently shipping and retails for $34.95.
DynaMan
Enter the high energy world of DynaMan and conquer the electron grid in this
fast-paced, multi-level grab n' run style game.  As the main character
DynaMan, you'll navigate several stacked 3D layers of twisting pathways and
transports gathering electrons while avoiding the ever-present and menacing
Spark Brothers who are out to zap you of your precious energy reserves.
Rack up mega points as quickly as possible, but beware of the short
circuits!
DynaMan Features:
- Fast-paced arcade action requiring quick reflexes and good memory skills!
- Multi-level 3D game play with 3D positional audio
- Real-time variable skill setting
- ESP Score Server enabled (click for more information about ESP Score
Server <
http://www.espsoftworks.com/products/ess.htm> )

- Bonus score level
- Lots of cool sound effects
- Great fun for all ages!
DynaMan is currently shipping and retails for $24.95.
Alien Outback
Busha Bob was settling back having a Foster's with Duncan after a safari
adventure when all of a sudden there was a commotion out by the billabongs.
Crikey, Jolly rancher! It looks like the outback's been invaded by alien
vermin! They can take our women and they can take our Foster's, but they
won't be taking our bloody sheep! Throw on your waders and drop your feet
into Busha Bob's world as he takes on alien invaders from out of this world
and help save the outback!

Alien Outback Features:

- A new twist on the arcade classic Space Invaders with that signature
E.S.P. flair!
- Over 42 levels of out of this world, arcade-style shoot 'em up fun!
- Many way cool, high-quality sound effects!
- ESP Score Server enabled (click for more information about ESP Score
Server <
http://www.espsoftworks.com/products/ess.htm> )

- Scoreboard contests!
- Compete with your friends and foes on the high scoreboard!
- Extra bonus levels!

"Who needs Men In Black when ya got Busha Bob out in the outback?"

Alien Outback is currently shipping and retails for $34.95.
Change Reaction
Looking for a break from the intense action-arcade games and craving
something a bit more cerebral and puzzle-oriented?  Check out Change
Reaction!  It's a race against the game timer in a bid for connecting as
many similar coins as you possibly can to start a chain reaction--a Change
Reaction!
You start off playing above a ten by thirty coin grid and given a coin to
toss amongst the denominations in hopes of starting a chain reaction..
exploding as many contiguous coins as possible.  Clear a row and the coin
denominations are added to your jackpot score.  Reach the bottom for a
bonus!  Try to grab a randomly placed time bomb to set off multiple
reactions to help you in your race against the ever-present clock.  The
faster you play, the more coins you react and the bigger your jackpot!
Best of all.. your jackpot translates directly into ESP Bucks that can be
used toward the purchase of any game title by ESP Softworks if you can top
the competition!
Change Reaction Features:
- Fast-paced puzzle action to challenge your memory and reflexes!
- Lots of cool sound and game effects!
- ESP Score Server enabled (click for more information about ESP Score
Server <
http://www.espsoftworks.com/products/ess.htm> )

- Compete against all the other Change Reaction players to cash in your
winnings toward ESP games!
- Several methods of play and a special bonus level!
- Win back your money, effectively getting Change Reaction for free!
- Hidden Easter Egg--Can you find it??
- Cool music!
The retail price for Change Reaction is $19.95.
ESP Pinball
Since the first pinball game was introduced in 1947, people the world over
have had an obsession with making a little silver ball jump all over a
table, hitting targets and flying up ramps along the way. Pinball has been
one of those true classic arcade games with ongoing appeal to generations
old and young.

While the pinball tables themselves have wildly varied themes, the object
remains the same--score MEGA points by propelling a round, steel ball around
an electronic and mechanical obstacle course bouncing it off bumpers,
flippers, targets, switches, and gizmos at blazing speeds!

Each theme has it's own obstacles and objectives, sound effects and
ambience, and scoring system. ESP Pinball comes with six completely
different themed tables including:

Heist - Shine up your .38 Special and getting ready for a heist! Whether
it's diamonds, cold hard cash, or expensive cars this table rakes in the big
bucks! Great sound effects and lots of bonus jobs on the side!

Haunted House - Take a stroll through a graveyard to the old haunted mansion
on the hill.. think you're brave enough to spend a night there? It'll take
more than nerves of steel to rack up every last ghoulish point this table
has to offer! Complete with spooky music and plenty of cobwebs!

The Jungle - Welcome to the jungle.. now, go home! That is if you can make
it home! Explore the thick underbrush and jungle ambience while hunting wild
animals and escaping quicksand. If you've got a sharp aim and don't mind
mosquitoes the size of Jersey, take an adventure in the wilderness!

Soccer Star - Take to the stadium field and don't forget your cleats! It's
man against machine on the green in this 'goal'-oriented theme. Each round
is timed and it's either your goal or theirs! Score for points, more time,
and to win! Gatorade not included!

Wild West - Trade in your pinball for a six-shooter and bullets and take
down the town's sheriff while escaping the law for horse thieving. And,
after you're done taking out the law, stop in the saloon for an ice cold
beer or brawl with the locals.

Pac Man - Gobble up points, avoid ghosties, and turn the tables on 'em with
mega power-ups in this pinball rendition of the classic game Pac Man.

ESP Pinball features:

- Six exciting and interactive themed tables including the free bonus table
'Pac Man'
- Great Ambient Sound Effects
- Two Modes of Play: Classic and Accessible
- Two difficulty levels: Normal and Insane
- Fast-Action Game Play
- ESP Score Server enabled (click for more information about ESP Score
Server <
http://www.espsoftworks.com/products/ess.htm> )

- Cool Music
- Lots of Cool CD Extras Including:
- Hilarious Bloopers & Outtakes
- Monkey Business Demo
- Free 'Shell Shock' Game
- Audio Trailers For Our Other Game Projects

ESP Pinball is currently shipping and retails for $34.95.
ESP Pinball 2
Greetings pinball fanatics!  Welcome to the awesome sequel to ESP Softworks'
premiere release--ESP Pinball 2!  This title promises to deliver
adrenaline-pumping, hyper-cool pinball like you've never experienced before!
Built on the ESP Pinball second generation audio engine, the sequel to one
of accessible gaming's favourite game promises to deliver non-stoppable fun
for all ages young and old alike!
While the pinball tables themselves have wildly varied themes, the object
remains the same--score MEGA points by propelling a round, steel ball around
an electronic and mechanical obstacle course bouncing it off bumpers,
flippers, targets, switches, and gizmos at blazing speeds!  Each theme has
it's own obstacles and objectives, sound effects and ambience, and scoring
system. ESP Pinball 2 comes with six all-new completely different themed
tables including Home Run, Sudwerks, Top Gun, and three more
yet-to-be-announced out-of-this-world tables!
ESP Pinball 2 starts with the best features of the original game and sports
a cool brand-new interface, a whole slew of new high-quality sound effects,
innovative table designs and many more features such as:
ESP Pinball 2 features:

- Six Very Cool, Brand-New Interactively Themed Tables
- Great Ambient Sound Effects Including Dozens Upon Dozens Of New Ones!
- All New Scoreboard That Allows Multiple Players!
- Two Modes of Play: Classic and Accessible
- Two difficulty levels: Normal and Insane
- Fast-Action Game Play
- ESP Score Server enabled (click for more information about ESP Score
Server <
http://www.espsoftworks.com/products/ess.htm> )

- Includes An Accessible Editor To Create & Share Your Own Custom Tables!
- Several New Table Gadgets & Gizmos
- Quarterly High Score Contests For A Chance To Win A Special Collector's
Edition Copy Of The Original ESP Pinball!
- Cool Music For Each Table!
- Lots of Cool CD Extras Including: All ESP Demos, The Original ESP Pinball
Bloopers & Outtakes, Freebies, And More!

ESP Pinball 2 is currently in development and will retail for $34.95.

+++
News From GMA Games

This is just a quick note to tell you what is going on at GMA Games. First
of all, we are still working hard On GMA Tank Commander. We took a two month
break from the game to rewrite a good portion of Tank Commander's game
engine. Shades of Doom, Pacman Talks, and some other upcoming games are
written using this engine, but it has come a long way since its early roots
with Shades of Doom. With the new changes to the engine we expect that game
writing will be a quicker process, and with the new functionality, we feel
that the engine is much more flexible and powerful as well.

As always, you can look us up at:
http://www.GMAGames.com


+++
News From PCS:
Hi folks. I wish I could announce some finished games in this issue, but
unforeseen circumstances have delayed their development.

I am still helping David Greenwood with,
GMA Tank Commander.
The helicopter circles over your technologically advanced tank, the
whub-whub-whub of its blades clearly audible in your headphones. Your
attention is
fixed on the voice saying target in 350 yards, where you know your opponent
is waiting. Five times before, you've sent missiles hurtling into the
enemy, turning it into a fireball.
But now, you are distracted by the low thrum of a tank in your left ear and
it fires one perfectly targeted blast from a rocket launcher.
You hear a tremendous crash and find yourself tumbling through the air as
your tank flies apart.
Welcome to GMA Tank Commander, where you can die a hundred deaths from dark
until dawn and still have a roaring good time.
You can now join the Battle playing the beta version at
www.gmagames.com

and when the game is finished, at
www.pcsgames.net.

I am also starting development on, a Harry Potter Monopoly computer game.
You've reached the intersection where Park Place crosses Diagon Alley.
The school year at Hogwarts  has just started, so get set to enjoy
excitement and adventure in the Wizarding world of Briton.

Monopoly is the world's best loved board game, and The Harry Potter books
have been thrilling kids and adults world-wide ever since the first book's
1997 release.
You don't have to have a hex cast on you to know that the blending of these
timeless classics will mean hours of fun for you, your friends and your
family.

Develop your magical prowess, your daring, your powers of
deduction and, of course, your ability to cope with
danger."

So concentrate on a very happy memory, and say, "Expecto patronum!"
And, watch out, there's Owls in the Wind!

I am now working on these preliminary rules.
You start the game as a first year student at Hogwarts School
of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  The object of the game will be to circle the
list of properties, for each year you are at the school.  Passing Number 4
Privet Drive, will ad a year to your grade.

You start with gold Galleons from Gringott's Wizarding Bank, and pick your
student name,
Then One of the tokens is chosen at random for you.
For example,
if you start as Harry, you begin with 1000 gold, no spells and no knowledge
points.
If you start as Ron Weasley, you begin with 100 gold, 10 spells and 5
knowledge points.
If you start as Hermione Granger, you begin with 500 gold, 0 spells and 10
knowledge points.
The properties will include shops in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade plus
HOGWARTS   classrooms  and environs. The first one to land on a property
gets double points, then every other person landing on it has to transfer
some of their house points to them.
Your triumphs will earn you house points, while any rule-breaking will take
them away, which at the end of the year, will be converted to knowledge
points.
The first player to complete seven years of school will collect 1000 extra
Galleons.
When the game is over, each player's points and money will be added up to
determine the winner.

At an early stage in the game development, I will try to contact J. K.
Rowling or Warner Brothers to get the rights to release this Harry Potter
game for the blind.

I welcome suggestions on the concepts outlined of the Harry Potter game.
Send any comments to Phil at,
[email protected]

+
We are also selling Pacman Talks that plays on computers with Windows 98,
ME and XP.
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

+++
Adam The Immortal Gamer
By Patrick Moen

Adam sat back in his chair, having just finished the zork trilogy for the
third time today.
"Man, playing the same games over and over gets really old after a while. I
need a new game to play, something new to try. I wonder if i could make my
own..." Before he could finish his sentence, the computer screen went blank,
then he was sucked into the all to familiar void.
"Hello again, Adam." said his computer.
"Ok, now what. I've completed every game you've thrown at me so far, even
the ones you found that i had never played." said Adam irritatedly.
"I was just getting to that. Today, you will face your biggest challenges
ever. You will play a different kind of game this time." his computer
replied.
"Huh? A different game? What sort of..." and then he was falling forward,
the sign that he was about to start a game.
Adam, getting used to the falling, landed on his feet, and was surprised at
his surroundings. He was standing in a long and very dark  hallway with a
door behind him. The door was closed, and looked very strange to him. It was
metallic, and had no handle or opening mechanism of any sort on it. He
turned to look at the rest of his surroundings, and began to walk down the
hallway. Then, it hit him. For once, he had a free range of movement!
"What's going on! This isn't a text adventure, in fact, I've never seen
anything like this." said Adam in amazement. He reached out and touched one
of the metallic walls, felt the wind blowing in the passage, realized he
could do nearly anything without a command parser to control him.
"Computer, what is this." said Adam to nothing in particular.
"This is a 3d realtime first-person shooter action game. Your objective is
to collect the right number of data wafers, to deactivate the experiment."
said the computer.
"What's a data wafer? And what experiment?" asked Adam, confused.
"That, i am leaving up to you." said his computer, and said nothing further.
He realized he was equipped with 2 strange objects strapped to his belt, and
some stuff in his backpack. He examined the smaller of the objects on his
belt, and found that it was called an EVA. It told him exactly where he was,
how much of each "data wafer" he had, which read 0 green, 0 blue, 0 yellow,
and 0 white at the moment, and how much amunition he had left. He realized
the amunition must be for the object on his belt. He removed it from his
belt, and yes, it was a type of gun. It was called a bolt gun, and the EVA
read 100 ammo. He put his gun back on his belt and opened his pack. Inside,
he found a strange package, a long knife in a scabbard which he immediately
strapped to his belt, and another object he didn't recognize. The package
was labelled Medkit, he guessed it was some type of tool or something, and
the other was labelled Nightscope. When he looked through the nightscope, he
could see through the blackness of the hallway.
"Hmm, this is going to be useful." he said, keeping it out of his pack. He
put the medkit away, and started to walk down the passage.
He had taken no more than a few steps when the eva started to beep. He
couldn't figure out what was going on. He took a few more steps and the
EVA's beeping got louder. He came to a turn in the passage, and turned
right. He saw another metallic door, but still it had no opening mechanism.
He walked closer to the door, and the EVA's beeping got louder the closer he
got. As he walked in front of the door, the EVA said stopped beeping, and
the door suddenly slid open.
Adam turned toward the open door, trying to figure out how it had opened,
when a growl and a snarl from the newly opened room startled him. He
unholstered his gun and turned to face whatever had made the sound. Standing
before him was one of the biggest dogs he had ever seen. It had huge fangs,
and it stood on 2 legs. It was hideously mutated, and it's claws were almost
too big for it. It stalked toward Adam, intent on killing him.
The first thing that went through Adam's brain was "Run!!!" So that's what
he did. He turned his back on the monster and ran. He heard it give chase,
and he picked up the speed. He failed to notice the EVA beeping until it was
too late. Another door burst open and a second dog ran from the room,
followed by a third. He now had 3 very mad monsters on his tail. He looked
down for some reason, and saw the EVA's screen glowing. He turned a corner,
and kept running till he was safely out of range. He examined the screen and
to his surprise, he got information on the monsters he was being chased buy.
He found that they were called mutant dogs, and they were one of the hideous
creations of the experiment. All they could do is kill, and they can not be
reasoned with. Adam decided he would kill them at all costs, or he'd
probably die.
"Ok, bring it on, you over sized mutts!" he shouted, turning back around and
pulling his gun from it's holster. He aimed at one of the bigger dogs and
pulled the trigger. There was a loud bang, like a normal gun, but instead of
a bullet flying from the gun barrel, a large beam shaped like a lightning
bolt flew from the gun and struck the dog. The dog staggered, but kept
coming at him. He shot it a second and a third time before it fell and the
EVA started beeping. No time, he had the other 2 to deal with, and they were
gaining fast. He aimed his gun at the smaller of the 2 and pulled the
trigger, but he missed! He decided that that one was too fast and he had to
get rid of it before it got any closer. He shot 10 shots, in the vicinity of
the area, taking it down and wounding the big one.
"So that's what it's like to be trigger happy." Adam laughed, his adrenalin
still pumping. He aimed at the biggest of the dogs and easily downed it with
a well placed shot.
After his first 3 kills, he walked over to where the corpses of the dogs
would be. But they were not there. Instead, there were only a few objects.
Among them, he found some strange chips, 1 coloured white, 1 coloured
yellow, and 1 coloured blue. As he picked them up and placed them in his
pack, the green, blue, and white on his EVA switched to 1! Those must be
data wafers, said Adam, then searched the rest of the stuff. He found some
ammo for his gun, another medkit, and another smaller chip. He put all of
them in his pack and then walked out of the room. He walked down the
passages, turning  and weaving through the maze and killing more of the
mutant dogs until he came to another door. He opened it, and a different
sight greeted him. It  was the normal room, with a monster in it. Only this
time, it wasn't a dog. A large human stood before him, walking around like a
zombie and moaning like one too. He knew this wasn't anything friendly, so
instead of alerting
it, he looked down at his EVA. His EVA read Mutant Human, no further info...
He wondered then, if maybe he could reason with it, since his EVA said no
further info.
Walking to the human, Adam said in a normal voice, "Hey, you know where any
more of..." He couldn't even finish his sentence. The mutant drew back it's
fist and knocked Adam to the ground. It hurt, and drew some blood. Standing
up, Adam drew his knife and with a deft slash, cut into the human's chest.
"So, you wanna play that way? well 2 can play at that game." he growled.
When the human didn't fall, he was not only surprised, but shocked. He had
just slashed it's heart out. Then he realized it was gushing blood
everywhere. He began to wildly slash at it, taking a lot of blows in the
process. Finally, the human fell and disintegrated, leaving only a few
objects in his place. Adam immediately grabbed a large suit of metal plates
that looked really nice. There was a label on the back that read Body
Armour. He immediately slipped into it. He found he still had the same free
range of movement, even in the bulky armour. He reached down and picked up a
green data wafer, then noticed he had many wounds and blood all over him.
When he
looked at the eva, it said Life: 15 percent! He knew he was dead if he
didn't do something fast, the monsters would kill him in seconds. Suddenly,
he remembered the medkit. He had no clue what it did, but he pulled it from
his pack and ripped it open. A piece of paper fell out, but nothing else. He
grabbed the piece of paper and realized it was instructions. He put the
medkit to good use in no time, and was almost back to full health. Then, he
closed his pack and began to walk down the passages once again. .
Adam found another door, hidden deep within the first level of the base, and
tried to open it. As he walked in front of it, it didn't open as it should.
He walked right into it and it still didn't open. It was then that he
noticed the small button and slot for a small chip on the door. He reached
out and pressed the button, but still nothing. Then, he remembered the small
chip he found and wondered if this could have to do with any of this. He
grabbed it from his pack, placing it in the small hole. The chip was sucked
into the hole and the door beeped. He pressed the button, and the door slid
open. He looked into the room, and saw a strange computer, with a mutant
human sitting at it.
"Hey!" shouted Adam, unholstering his gun. The human turned slowly to face
him, and then, without warning, pulled out an exact replica of Adam's gun
and levelled it at him.
"Oh crap..." said Adam, preparing for a messy fight. He shot at the human 3
times, hitting it 2 out of 3. Then he was rained on by a barrage of bullets.
He looked up and saw that the human had a semi automatic, where he just had
a manual bolt gun! He fired as fast as he could, cocking his gun every time,
and hitting the human most of the time. Suddenly, he felt the urge to look
down, and glanced a 5 on the eva. Only a 5. He didn't know what that was,
but he decided to finish the human as fast as he could. He fired off 2
shots, one striking down the human, and one exploding the computer! As the
computer exploded, he noticed a strange door behind it which also exploded.
There was a small room behind the door, but nothing in it. He decided to
turn around and go back the way he came. But first, he had to get that gun!
He ran over, and yes! it had been left. He grabbed the semi automatic, and
another white data wafer. His EVA now read, 5 white, 2 yellow, 1 blue, 1
green. He turned around and with a trigger happy finger, ploughed through
anything in his path with the new gun he had. He came to a door, and it
opened, and he didn't even notice the hole in the floor in front of him. He
stopped right on the edge, lost his balance, fell straight forward dropping
his gun, and fell through the air with a scream. As he fell, a disembodied
voice said, "Thank you for playing... Goodbye." Then, he hit the floor.
When he awoke from unconsciousness, he was floating in the void, gasping for
air. "Computer? Computer! what just happened."
"Well, you finished the demo version of the game known as Shades of doom."
You could have finished by a different root, but you blew up your exit..."
his computer said in a tone of amusement.
"Hmmm... that was fun. Computer, we have to play more of these..." Adam said
laughing.
"Yes, they are quite amusing. Now i think you'd better get back home." And
with that, Adam was sitting back in his chair, staring at the ending screen
of Zork trilogy. He immediately exited the game and, with great excitement,
went to the internet, and found a few other games. He soon found out that
text adventures weren't the only games that were fun to play... Even though
the game was sound based, Adam bought Shades of doom, and spent a long time
playing the game.

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

While things have certainly moved forward, the Summer months have definitely
slowed my work down. Rebecca and I have been quite busy having various good
times and making up for quite a hard and inactive Winter. This has had an
unexpected effect on the story aspects of Enchantment's Twilight. Even as I
thought of the story often before, my focus has been on the arcade game
aspects and making certain that there were no show-stopping snags which
couldn't eventually be overcome. Dave has been working hard on the game
engine and has made numerous key changes. Even more are on the way. I no
longer have any doubts at all that it will be possible to make exactly the
kind of game I'm aiming for with his engine. It won't be easy and I'll
likely be asking Dave many more questions over the months, but it will be
possible.

If all goes well, I would like to start recording some of the game's
extensive dialog in November. I don't have any delusions that I could have
it all written by then. I'm just beginning to come to grips with the
difficulties of writing an epic plot with room for different sub-plots and
paths which all lead to the same climactic battle with the archfiend. A
major goal I have for the game is that it has an epic feel to it. What makes
a good epic fantasy? I've re-examined a few of the series which have had the
most powerful effect on me over the years. I also took time to search for
and read some interviews and articles from the authors of these series. Of
course, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series scores very high on my meter for
good epic fantasy. Don't be satisfied with just watching those nifty movies
coming from New Zealand. All kinds of extra material is on those DVDs and
being shown on TV. Learning about Tolkien's own life and beliefs has added a
lot to my understanding of his work. The DragonLance Chronicles are another
excellent example of the genre's power for good in the world. Margaret Weis
and Tracy Hickman have taken a long hard look at life's trials and
incorporated a high degree of morality into their saga. Lloyd Alexander's
Prydain Chronicles explores the process of coming of age and finding your
own identity. Taran's adventures and the wisdom of those who try to help him
can do a lot of good in real life. This is particularly true for teens and
young adult readers. Of course, these readers must choose to let these books
be more than mere entertainment and learn from them. That same choice is
even more critical in a game. There are times when we're just not in the
mood for learning and  want only to have fun. Like teachers, educational
games tend not to take the value and need for "mere entertainment" into
consideration. Out of all my English professors, I think there might have
been two who acknowledged that some writers wrote merely to entertain and
tell a good story.

Good epics like those I cited above are always about conflicts between good
and evil. Fantasy worth reading must always have conflict of some sort. The
characters in the story must have clear goals. While all good fantasy epics
feature magic, this magic is not without its associated costs and underlying
rules. Without a clearly defined system and well-reasoned limits, readers
would wonder why the good or evil magic users would hesitate to cast the
ultimate spell which instantly grants victory. Ethics and morality are also
key ingredients. In all good fantasy, protagonists must make ethical choices
and live with the consequences of their actions. One misdeed has often lead
to far-reaching results spanning whole volumes.

These are the major literary influences guiding me as I write the script and
nail down the major and minor plots. I also plan to incorporate as many
ethical dilemmas and moral lessons into the game as I can without the game
seeming to be less fun. That is, all such lessons must either be
incorporated into the game's story or into the game mechanics. Fun must
always be the primary objective if Enchantment's Twilight is to have any
kind of staying power. An example of how lessons might be incorporated right
into the game is as follows: The grabit will often have to kill monsters who
are either trying to kill it or trying to steel jewels from the kind wizard.
The grabit will score points for doing this, but will score far more points
for filling the kind wizard's treasure chest with jewels as quickly as
possible. Also, if the grabit concentrates on killing monsters, goblins may
be able to steel jewels. This will give the archfiend more power to cause
life to become harder for the grabit. Also, if the grabit can summon
helpers, more points will be scored if they kill monsters than if the grabit
does. The grabit will score additional points if these helpers survive their
time underground and can return to the surface after their tour of duty.

Hard core gamers need not fear that the game's action will be stopped every
five minutes to teach some lesson or other. I always check what I'm
incorporating into the game against whether or not I would have been turned
off by it as a teenager. I always learned ethics best when I could choose
whether or not to apply them or was shown the consequences of following them
or not. Being rail-roaded into doing the right thing or preached at never
cut it for me. Of course, one can get away with a degree of this in a good
story. In fact, ethical struggles are a key ingredient in good fantasy. One
appreciates tagging along with the protagonists as they make their choices
and wrestle with temptation. The author of a novel has absolute control over
all aspects of this. All through the Dragonlance chronicles, the group of
heroes must confront suspicion of each others' motives, competing loyalties,
and overcome prejudices. These issues are built right into the series from
the beginning. The author can control how much time is spent illustrating
various things. However, a game must go that one step further and let the
player ultimately make these ethical choices whenever possible. The player
must have as much true control over events as possible while still
maintaining a cohesive plot and a degree of randomness.

These choices cannot be illusory ones either. Games are no fun at all if
there's only one right move and all other choices lead to instant failure or
a drastic and completely unreasonable arbitrary consequence. This is
precisely the problem Christians run into with the bible and why you don't
see more attempts by Christians to use it as the basis for some grand
adventure game. There are plenty of nifty stories which might at first
glance seem perfect for adventure games. However, these stories are written
down to teach specific lessons rather than to illustrate how things tend to
work in the real world. There's either God's way or drastic and immediate
punishment for not following God's way. Look what Jonah and the sailors went
through. One never gets the sense that any of the people in the bible could
have actually chosen to do things at all differently without things coming
to a screeching stop. They couldn't go anywhere else or simply decide to
behave differently. No matter how interesting the stories of biblical heroes
are, there's always the distinct feeling that one is being fed yucky moral
medicine along with your spoon full of adventure. Things have that stagnant
feel of being too contrived. Many attempts to make games based on the bible
turn out to have a very low fun quotient and very high degree of didactic
linear play. To give the player the freedom that his or her biblical
character would have had in real life would be to set yourself up
immediately for a storm of criticism. Taking too much license with a book
taken so seriously as the bible is by so many people is asking for trouble.
Interactive fiction commonly falls into a similar trap. Graham Nelson's
Jigsaw is one of the best games of that type which I've played. However,
there is only one path through the story. You have to preserve history at
all costs and this is very quickly driven home to players. The game ends
abruptly as soon as the player does anything which alters the past. It's
still a good game, but one does get that constricted feeling. Altering the
past is certainly opening Pandora's box, but would changing things really
always lead to a worse history than what we've had? I'm going to attempt to
avoid that sense of moral constriction in my game beyond what is reasonable
given who the main character is. The kind wizard is an intrinsically good
and moral man, but there will be times when aggressive enemies must be dealt
with by force. He will often have to use destructive magical powers against
these enemies or else permit these enemies to kill his people and cause
destruction. As much as is reasonable, I'm going to steer clear of
situations where courses of action are always clearly right or wrong. After
all, real life doesn't always behave that way. If I steel my favourite
chocolate bar from a candy store, I may get away with the theft. Assuming
I'm not seen in the store, I may be able to go somewhere and eat it before
anybody notices. Being a conscientious fellow, I'd have to contend somehow
with feelings of guilt. However, the reality is that others might not. They
might enjoy the chocolate bar and think nothing more about it. They aren't
likely to then suffer a direct hit from a lightning bolt. In fact, it's
highly unlikely that they'd even suffer the more natural and fitting
punishment of an upset stomach. By the same token, it's possible to do good
deeds without necessarily being rewarded all the time. I'm therefore going
to have good deeds give a probability of getting a reward when circumstances
are appropriate. Fallthru has given me a nice insight into that. In that
game, one must be charitable without expecting to be rewarded. It truly
teaches that good deeds lead to eventual reward.

The plots and sub-plots of my game won't exactly be earth-shatteringly
original. Most fantasy games feature an evil arch-villain, a brave do-gooder
or more likely numerous such people, a damsel in distress, etc. Truly
original over-arching plots are getting more rare all the time, and that's
not what I'm after here. I want Enchantment's Twilight to be a kind of blast
from the past for those of us who love those fantasy cartoons and movies
from the eighties. The characters will be somewhat shallow archetypes and
the atmosphere will be midway between cartoons like He-man and the Masters
of the Universe and the movie Willow. The kind wizard must save the citizens
of the world from losing the ability to imagine. To do so, he must defeat
the archfiend he has inadvertently awakened while attempting to find the
power he needs to cast the ultimate spell. To cast this spell, a number of
conditions must be satisfied. The wizard must have attained the necessary
spellcraft, gathered the seven keys to power, and defeated the archfiend.
The harder difficulty levels add a few more conditions onto these basic
ones. There will also be major enemies who must be thwarted. Whenever
possible, there will be more than one way to deal with these enemies. There
will be a "best" way which will be harder to achieve but will yield
especially good rewards and bonus points. However, there will also be one or
more ways which lead to the wizard achieving a draw against the major enemy
rather than out-right victory. One often sees this in cartoons where the
enemy's plan is stopped but he/she is still able to escape. There may also
be a less palatable method of defeating the major enemy. At times, just as
in real life, one must choose the lesser of two evils. While the wizard has
incredibly destructive magic at his command, using it decreases his
spellcraft depending on the relative strength of the destructive spell.
Therefore, players will be encouraged to use these spells with more caution
than in many games where it is always best to use the most powerful spell
you have. Enchantment's Twilight isn't so much a game about obtaining power
and resources as it is about how one uses these to achieve a good end. It
will also explore what ends are justified to achieve the ultimate goal.

Although I'm happy to give you a window into my thinking as this game
develops, I likely won't reveal too much detail of its various story and
quest elements. I'm going to build as much flexibility as I can, but there
will still be a majority of this which will be played through during each
game. I wouldn't want to spoil the impact of the story portion of
Enchantment's Twilight for first-time players. I'm not as worried about
revealing more about the arcade portion since it will play differently every
time. Although I'll mostly be working on the story and dialog, I'll still be
experimenting with the engine. I look forward to writing the next of these
diaries for the November issue of Audyssey.

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

This announcement was sent into the Audyssey site by Tjeerd concerning a new
game coming up. It's a perfect example of why people should register with an
d visit:
www.audysseymagazine.org
now and again to make certain they don't miss out on things.

writes "Another arcade game is coming up! At the HKU Utrecht School of The
Arts were also the Dutch racing game "Sneller" (www.soundsupport.net) was
created
I now intend to release Starbase Defender within one or two months. The
deadline for the beta release is august 22nd 2003. It will then be tested by
a
group of blind children for initial feedback and after that released. It'll
be freeware. Download size around 35 megabyte.

Starbase Defender is a game for anyone who can hear and speak English. It is
similar to the game "Raptor" from Apogee software. You have fly your fighter
and live through levels of overwhelming amounts of aliens trying who are
trying to destroy you. The goal is to shoot as many down as you can.
Features
are: fifteen minutes produced background music, clear professional recorded
sounds, no need to setup a game before you play, huge variety of sounds (310
in total), onboard computer to assist you during your missions, large array
of weapons, bonus multipliers, upgrades, etc. For now the site is Dutch, but
an English version is coming once the game is finished. URL:
http://www2.hku.nl/~tjeerd/programmeren/starbasedefender/starbasedefender.html .
Comments
and questions are most welcome, just send them to:
[email protected]

Another new discovery announced on the Blindgamers list was made by Patrick
Moen who informed everyone of a site called:
www.ffproject.com
This site has Fighting Fantasy gamebooks on it which you can play online.
The software keeps track of your status, inventory, and other things for you
as well as performing die rolls. All you have to do is choose what to do and
when to use resources. Aside from the inability to use luck in combat, all
the strategy and elements which make Fighting Fantasy books so nifty are
there. Thanks for digging this one up for us, Patrick.

+
Jim Kitchen sent the following posting to the Blindgamers list about his
latest activities:

Hi,

I have put version 2 of my baseball game up on my site.  File name
winbase2.exe.  In this version I fixed a couple of bugs, lowered
the volume of the commercials and now have the game save the speech
settings.  The file can be found under the free windows text to
speech games link as can a windows version of Star Mule.  My
galactic drug sales game.  File name winmule.exe.

BFN

                            Jim 

      I said "no" to drugs, but they just wouldn't listen.

[email protected]
http://www.kitchensinc.net

++
Review of Sryth: The Age of Igtheon (tm)
By Bryan McGucken
Fantasy RPG (role-playing game)
Game available for free by visiting
www.sryth.com
Produced by Epic Imagination and hosted by Crocker Communications
Game is fully playable without sighted assistance
As many of you may remember from previous issues of Audyssey, I am an avid
fan of role playing games, especially turn-based ones.  I had mentioned my
desire to see one produced which could be played by both blind and sighted
computer users.  One is in fact in the works from Adora Entertainment, but
that is a review for another issue.  In fact, a game has been produced and
is being continually updated which is not only playable without sighted
assistance, but is being made available to the general public!  This
browser-based role playing adventure is called Sryth: The Age of Igtheon.
The game, which I shall henceforth refer to as Sryth, was first discovered
in the accessible games community by Michael Feir, which proves his
dedication as a pioneer in the realm of game accessibility.
Put simply, a browser-based role playing game, of which there are a number
on the Internet, is one in which all actions are performed within the
browser window, whether by clicking buttons or activating links.  In this
sense the game itself is like a mud, because, as with a mud, you do not move
continuously but from "room" to "room".  I put the word "room" in quotation
marks because, while you may be out in the open, you will be in one section,
choose to go north, and be in another section.
In addition to links that move your character (who may be male or female)
around Sryth, links may be provided which allow you to perform special
actions.  For example, there is one section of the game in which you stand
before a mysterious slab of stone and are presented a link to touch the
stone.  Although this renders your character unconscious for what seems like
several hours, you awaken and stand before seven stone statues and a plinth.
You are given links to examine the statues or the plinth, and subsequently
to examine each statue, which comes alive as you do and challenges you to a
battle.  Matthew Yarrows, Chief Executive Officer and Senior Programmer for
the game's publisher, Epic Imagination, claims in the game's online (and I
use the term "online" loosely) documentation that his goal in producing the
game is to liken it to the "choose your own adventure" style of book popular
in the late seventies and into the mid-eighties, of which I was a fan
briefly.
The game's story line is not altogether clear-cut, but what the player is
told is that she is in Sryth, during the second of three ages (called
Igtheon), in which magic has begun to emerge from the Nevernus.  Your goal
is to set out from the small village of Hawkler and seek adventure, fortune,
and experience.
In addition to the links in the fmain frame of the game, there are several
utility buttons available in the fbottom frame.  These include skills,
items, stats, notes, rest, save, and quit.  "Rest" allows you to fully
recover all hit points lost during a combat.  You may only do this in a
"safe" zone.  To determine whether a zone is "safe", check in the
fbordertexttop frame located just above the fmain frame.  If the word "safe"
appears, you may rest, save, and quit, otherwise you may not.  "Save" and
"quit" do exactly what their names suggest.  "Stats" gives you a list of
your attributes, including agility, luck, experience, stamina (hit points),
nevernal (magic) reserves, among others.  "Items" of course lists your items
and allows you to use them.  "Notes" allows you to keep a written journal of
what you've accomplished so far, but does not save your game.
When in combat, the game becomes dice driven and shifts to a different
window.  Here you may "attack to kill" or "run quick combat" or "flee".  In
"attack to kill" mode, you play out each "round" of combat, where you and
your opponent each attack and the results are displayed.  You will be told
the lowest number you can roll on a 20-sided die without taking damage.
This will vary depending upon the opponent, some of your attributes, and the
weapons and armor you have, which may be bought in shops around the country.
If you choose "run quick combat", all rounds are played out, and you are
shown the last round first, in which either you or your opponent is
defeated.  Choose this option only if you are certain you can be victorious
over a given opponent.  You cannot flee in quick combat, only in standard
combat mode.  If you win, you gain experience, and if you lose you are sent
to the last place you saved, and a quarter of your gold and experience are
deducted from the total you had at your last save point.
To buy or take an item presented in the fmain frame, click on its name.  To
obtain a description before taking or buying an item, click on the question
mark above the name of the item about which you wish to inquire.
To play Sryth, you must sign up for free.  You will be asked for some basic
information such as e-mail address (they don't spam you), and other things.
You can create a password which you will use to log in and play Sryth
whenever you like.  Once you are sent an e-mail with instructions on
activating your account, and have successfully complied, click "Play!" to
resume your game.  The staff at Epic Imagination have indicated that, to
further their project, they plan to release very large expansion modules, or
new sections of the game to explore and conquer, which they will charge $5
to users to access.  For now, though, there is much to be done in Sryth for
the beginner.  One thing I would strongly advise new players to do is
purchase a dwelling in Durnsig to store gold attained during the game so
that the death tax does not drain your wallet.
When you gain experience in Sryth, you can spend it to train the skills
which you will have selected during the character generation stage of the
game.  Among the skills to choose from are: archery, woodsmanship,
seamanship, diplomacy, weaponry, and others.  When you gain the required
experience, click the "skills" button to bring up your skills.  You will see
each skill, with a link to its description, followed by an indication of how
much experience it costs to raise that skill one level, and a link to train
that skill.
New players should be prepared, as I had to be, to restart their character
perhaps once or twice.  I did not save often enough, nor did I store my gold
nor take certain items that were presented.  Once a player has a good
working knowledge of the game play in Sryth, the game will become much more
user-friendly and enjoyable.
Overall, I would rate this game 10 out of 10.  The game is very easy to
learn, and the writing is superb.  Each room is very nicely crafted, and
even battles are beautifully described.  These two aspects, combined with
plenty of items and places to explore, make for an absolutely stunning
narrative tale that is sure to keep any player on the edge of her seat.


+
Sryth: The Age Of Igthian
Available free from:
www.sryth.com
Fully playable without sighted assistance.

Reviewed by Patrick Moen

Sryth, the Age of Igthian, is a very nice rpg game. It may not be real time
or fast action, and heck, it's not even multiplayer, but it's got some of
the best quests I've ever seen in an rp game, and the game master is willing
to give you all the hints you need if you can't figure them out. They are
constantly adding new quests and modules, which are the game areas, and the
game is improving rapidly.

How To Play
You start by going to:
www.sryth.com
Once there, click signup and create your own account. You don't have to put
what you want your player name in the game to be, you will have that option
later. Once you have an account created, log in and then click on Create New
Character. Here's where you want all your player information. You start by
rolling your stats. Quoted from the site, "Be careful when clicking re-roll,
as many a roller has cried out in anguish when clicking past a monumental
set of stats." We as blind players don't have to worry about that much, as
we can't really do anything fast on the net with jaws, lol. One thing about
re-rolling: If you want to start out with magic, make sure your aura,
spirit, and mind are above 12. It is good to have every stat above at least
10. Also, make absolutely sure you watch your melee rating!!!!!!! This is
the
one single most important part of the game if you ever have any hopes of
fighting in combat. Make sure it is at least above 20 to start with. If you
start out with melee rating, you will die, more about the combat system in a
second. Re-rolling may take a while to get the right set of stats, i spent
nearly half an hour trying to roll a nice set, but then again, the first
character i made got a nice set on the very first roll! So it all depends.
After that, you put in your player name, just pick anything you want, as for
the most part, it won't matter. Then you pick your skills. You get to pick 4
skills, and put up to 5 points
in each. You can pick any ones you want. But be careful choosing, and choose
wisely, as you only get 20 points. Also, so far, I've only found 3 places
where you can learn new skills, and they usually cost a lot of gold, so use
these points like you can't learn any new skills.

Magic:
If you got high enough aura, spirit, and mind, in other words, if you were
willing to take the time to roll your life away searching for a good set of
stats, lol, then you will have the option to choose magic. In this, you only
get to choose 1 spell, and it starts out on level 1. Choose very carefully,
don't treat this like the skills, you'll regret it if you do.

Events:
When certain events occur in sryth, you will just have to choose what you do
next. Lets say you were in a cave, and you were trying to decide what to do.
Here would be an example of that event.
You are standing in a large cave. The air is chilly and the cave is very
dark, so dark that your light source barely penetrates the blackness.
Explore deeper into the cave...
Leave the cave...
Then you would pick an option from the list of options below the event
description and click on it, which would trigger the next event. Sometimes,
you will have to do certain stuff to get affects on event. For example:
You are lost in the woods, everything looks familiar.
Try and find your way out...
Call for help...
If you select either choice, you would have to select a random number
between usually 1 and 100, if it's a stat check between 1 and 20, to
determine what happens next. Lets say it was a stat check verses your mind,
to see if you were smart enough to find the way out. Standard difficulty, no
penalty. You click the x and it selects a number for you. Lets say your mind
stat was 12. If you rolled under 12, you would find the way out. If
not, you would remain lost in the woods, and perhaps trigger another event
trying to find the way out. If you called for help, it probably wouldn't be
a stat check, you would select between 1 and 100 to find out if anyone heard
you. You have to watch out for this, as several things could happen. Lets
say you selected 96. Someone hears you, and they are friendly, they help you
find the way out, easy, i know. But if you were to select 75, for
example, by calling for help, you may have just woken that large dragon
during his afternoon nap. I don't think mister dragon will help you find the
way out, he might invite you over for dinner though, lol.

Combat:
The combat system, unlike most role-play games, is very unique and lets you
play a nice roll, instead of just matching you up and doing the fighting for
you. You roll a random number, you know how this game is based on luck?
based on the eneny's number, and if you roll higher you will do damage, if
you roll lower than the number your enemy does damage, and you do really low
damage. You can use your magic and skills, and some items, and you can pick
an attack style. Aggressive lets you do more damage when you roll higher
than the enemy's number, normal is even even, and defensive lets you take
less damage when you roll too low. The enemies sometimes have special skills
that allow then to deal direct damage no matter what, sometimes those can be
a real pain. Also, at the beginning of combat, you have the choice,
sometimes, to attack to kill, attack to subdue, flee this combat now, and
run quick
combat. Attack to kill is self explanatory. Attack to subdue, in some cases
lets you disable or harm your opponent to teach them a lesson or get info
from them.

Quests:
Talk to every one of the npcs you can find, most of them will have a quest
for you. Some have to be triggered by an event, like buying ale at a bar...
hint hint, lol. You can also get quests by exploring areas. Some quests are
boring, but most are action packed and fun. Watch for new ones constantly,
updates usually happen every 2 weeks or so depending on what is being worked
on, you will usually be told in advance.

Where to start:
Right now, you can only start in 1 place, Tysa, kingdom of the griffon. They
are working on more, but for now when you are asked where to start click
this one.

Help:
If you need any help, feel free to contact the following people:
Me:
[email protected]
Me again, although i check my yahoo address more often.
Game master:
[email protected]
Or post to the list.

+
X-men, next dimension: When sentinels attack, you need fast, fast, fast
relief! We recommend the ingredients found in... MUTANTS! ...Okay, that
didn't come out right at all...
Rancid's Verdict:
I can throw people off buildings in this game? Hell yeah! This game rules!
Whoooa, look at those alternate costumes for the chicks!
Mahatma Gandhi's Verdict:
[puts his face in his hands] What mad, delusional fools make games like
this? What is the matter with this society, they spend so much time on such
heedless, senseless violence? This game made me lose my will to live. Again.
Are you happy, Activision? ARE YOU?!?
My Verdict:
...Can someone give me the number of the truck that Juggernaut hit? Thanks.
Oh, and if that random civy over there could hand me that spine, I think its
Forges. Hey, great. I'll get you, Sentinel A, I'll get you... just one more
match... ARGH! I hate you, cheap scrubb player! HATE! HATE! HATE! *HATE*!
Game Type:
3D Fighting Game. It's "3D" due to the fact that you can "dodge" moves by
sidestepping. This can amount for really,
really cheap and annoying fights, because your opponent can just sidestep
your projectiles all day. But anyway.
Author Info:
Created by Activision, Marvel, and a couple other companies I can't
remember. That's all yer gonna get outta me.
This, first off, is a review of a commercial fighting game available for the
Playstation 2, xbox, and probably gamecube. Note that this voids the
warranty, making you responsible for any subsequent repairs. I'm not going
to go over what a "fighting" game is here, but suffice it to say its like
Mortal Combat,
Street Fighter, or just about any game made from SNK of Japan such as
Samurai Showdown, Art of Fighting, or Fatal Fury. Before I get to the actual
*review*,
since this is a blind games magazine, I shall quickly go over accessibility.
Now, I'm not gonna lie, if you can see, you'll have an advantage. However,
no sight is actually *required* to play. You may need to know what side
you're on to perform special moves and the like, but if you can't tell that
by performing the directionals for a move, then even the most fractional
amount of sight will allow you to figure that little problem out quite
quickly. And
move lists can be gottten off of the internet (try
www.gamefaqs.com
; if you're a mainstream gamer and don't know about that site you are not a
mainstream gamer. Thank you.) On the other hand, you won't be able to use
the options screen without help, not that you should need it for very much,
and you'll have to figure out where the characters are on the select screen
either by trial and error or sighted assistance. So, yeah, sighted
assistance can really help in some areas, but it isn't *required*. And now,
onto the review...
I have to say, this game is pretty solid. I think that other game developers
could take clues from what this game does in a few places.
The gameplay is very good in this game. There are several different modes of
play:
Arcade: The standard fighting game mode (TM), where your character goes up
against a group of randomly-selected fighters and is supposed to beat the
stuffing out of them, one by one by one.
Versus: Friend getting on your nerves? Feel the need to dispense some
indiscriminate fireball justice? Don't use a steel chair; that'll get you in
trouble later on, and it isn't good for the chair. Instead, challenge your
''friend'' to a 1-on-1 grudge match!
Survival Mode: Run the randomly-chosen gauntlet in this endurance match
rip-off! One player. One life bar. Unlimited opponents. One mission: go as
far as you can until you die. This is the main way to unlock secret
characters--and believe you me, there are a bundle of 'em.
Practice Mode: Here you can hone your skills and moves. If you feel like it,
you can also battle your opponent to the death. Or not. Because no one can
die in practice mode. If you feel like dispensing some pent-up rage, than
this is probably a good choice.
Story Mode: In this mode, you can select from a pre-selected list of
characters to fight pre-selected enemies in-between hastily-stitched
together cut scenes to sort of give you your motivation, or something. Story
mode is the most interesting aspect of the game and provides most of the
gameplay, though there are some negatives: the fights sometimes make no
sense. For instance, there is one point where you must fight a big robot,
called a Sentinel. Who must
you fight him with? I don't wish to spoil the game, but if you really care
that much about the plot of a one-shot obscure fighting game you should seek
professional help, and if you can look hard enough you'll find the same plot
in the X-men comics. So I'm going to go ruin it for you anyway. Xavier's
School for the Gifted picked a particularly apt pupil for this matchup.
Namely: Magneto. And yet, you will get creamed. Several times. Yes, that's
right, the Master of Magnetism and controller of all things metallic is
powerless before the towering might of the giant, metal robot. Quiver in
terror, puny mortals! The gigantic aluminum attack robots of death are after
your blood!
Some fights seem like they have been put there just to annoy the player. An
example of this is when you must fight the giant robot (TM) as Forge. And,
even worse, Magneto, for the same reasons as will be described presently:
You must do it in fifty seconds, or you will lose. Adding aggravation to
this is the fact that said giant robot, thanks to what must be an error in
the
game's design document, can disrupt your super moves with a single
projectile. Oh, and the robot blocks almost everything you throw at him. And
he can turn around faster than is humanly possible to throw you (the longest
move in the game) after you try to jump over his head. And all of his moves
are based on taking time, juggling you in the air, and so forth. Oh, and
disabling all your super moves with one projectile, so you *can't perform
one* for, oh,
15 seconds or so. Even if you block it. And he's, in general, too fast for
something that *huge*. And on at least one occasion, not only was all *that*
against me, but the *hit detection* favoured him as well. What's
particularly aggravating  about the *Forge* fight is that after you've
finished clobbering the metal monstrosity (TM), a cut scene begins showing
four more of these beautiful creatures coming out of the shadows and
carrying you off. So, the fight that you just sprained your hands to win is
completely pointless, because you got captured anyway. Urge to kill...
rising!
Another gripe about story mode is that it's far too short. The pace was fine
up until the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and X-Men unite, but after that
things get kicked into a completely different gear. They could have
seriously stretched the game out by throwing in a few more of the X-men like
Bishop and Psylocke, by adding a few enemies (Lady Deathstrike, for
instance) and perhaps even tossing Dark Phoenix into the mix to make the
Story Mode require days to complete. There's plenty of characters in X-Men
lore, and it's not as if Marvel will only license you a few of the X-Men,
you get them all. Even the Mimic. I realize that the developers were really
just turning the plot of a few comics into a fighting game, but come on now!
Put some effort into making it interesting
for those who've read the books before, will you?
Regarding the controls, you have a "punch one, punch two, kick one, kick
two" system. Those expecting to be able to use Street Fighter punching
styles from X-Men Mutant Academy are going to be very sorely disappointed.
Oh, and just to add that extra-special flavah, Activition kindly switched
the button configurations on us. Now, throw is r1 instead of l2, and so
forth. The special moves are kind of interesting. Many of them are rather
complex, involving such moves as ''right, square, square, square, triangle,
circle'', and they must be performed at a certain range or else. And since
there's no such thing as ''strong weak medium'' attacks anymore, you can't,
say, get x and circle confused and have it be all right. Also, we still have
super moves, but they're different now. You must get your ''power meters''
charged up. The more you charge them, the more moves you can perform. For
instance, a ''level 4'' super move can only be done when all three meters
are filled. How do you fill these meters? By crunching the snot out of your
opponents, of course! Except, y'see, you can just as quickly punch the air
to build up your super meter. Aggravating this is the fact
that you can "switch" your super meter. That is, you can drain all of the
energy from your level one super bar into your level 3 super bar to fill it
up quicker. This tactic can make for a lot of unfairly-frequent level 3
supers.
The counter system has been modified from Academy. Originally, you could
push a button and if it was within about a half a second of the hit you
would do a flashy little teleport flash kick shot thingy (TM) that damages
your opponent while not allowing a strike in return. This used to work on
anything except command throws. Now, instead of being able to just mash the
counter button and watch with mounting amusement as your opponent beats the
crud out of himself, you have to specifically block which kind of attack is
being happily visited upon you. And they don't include the projectile
attacks, some of which *coughcoughcough* CYCLOPS!! *coughcoughcough* hit you
at the same time they're shot, meaning you don't have a chance to know
they're coming so
you can block them. which wouldn't be so incredibly bad, except that the
computer, even on very easy mode, is rather cheap. (This is probably the
reason why I have never performed a successful counter in this game.) Also,
now people can get stunned or knocked up into the air when they are hit. I
guess its good for realism buffs, but lets face it: being hurled off of a
skyscraper and falling on top of a light post before being run over by a
Winnebago and than getting up again with about a tenth of your health gone
is not all that realistic either. (Okay, mad props to the developers for
letting you do that, but still.) Subzero's magical ability to break every
bone in your body sixteen times over and not have it impact your character's
ability to stand is OK,
because playing a fighting game with a broken spine is no fun. So, I would
appreciate it if such ''realism'' factors would be chucked out the window.
Violently.
The graphics in this game, not that you particularly care, are superb. The
backgrounds have nice detail, and can sometimes be used to your advantage.
For example, you can suplex people through tables. Or, if you're Geene, you
can telekinetically throw said tables at your opponent. Loads of fun.
Especially
pleasing is the Danger Room, as occasionally the surroundings will
completely switch around you. This game gets major nostalgia points for
letting you fight there. My only regret is that there is no way to pull an
MK4 and start chucking severed heads at your opponent. That is you can for
*Phoenix*, but the point is you can't pick them
up yourself, like, with your hands and whatnot, and chuck things at your
opponent.
Regarding audio, let's just face it: this game has some of the worst voice
acting for any game without Japanese dubbing. Wolverine's attempts to
emulate the real Wolverine's badassery (TM) are truly sad to listen to. I
felt bad for the guy. Cyclops is the most arrogant sod I have ever heard in
the history
of video gaming. Forge is not nearly into his lines enough, (he sounds like
Harrison Ford. Only bad.) and Mystique & Lady Deathstrike are way too into
theirs. Juggernaut sounds like he has been created by Microsoft
text-to-speech SSAPI version negative 3.7, and considering what a flop 5.0
was that's quite a statement. And don't even get me started about Rogue. As
for the lines themselves... absolutely terrible. Let me just give you a few
examples of the ''taunts'' thrown out by the characters.
FORGE: ''Cannon primed.''
CYCLOPS: ''For a better tomorrow!''
CYCLOPS: ''*Heart*... is what wins battles.'' (Cyclops, incidentally, is the
cheapest fighter in the game. I know that lasers shouldn't be avoided due to
realism and all that, but please... Anyway, it isn't all that uncommon to
have been beaten by Cyclops because he wouldn't stop shooting you, scrub
player
that he is, and then have him say ''heart is what wins battles'' in that
arrogant manner of his. I mean, okay, Capcom did the same thing, but at
least they had the sense to have him
yell "Optic blast!" first, so you have *some* chance of getting out of the
way. )
NIGHTCRAWLER: ''I'll turn you into schnitzel!''
JUGGERNAUT: ''Juggernaut rules!'' (ph34r his incredible chi p0wrz and his
1337 ninja crush skills!)
TOAD: ''Toooooad is the grrrrrreatest!''
TOAD: ''Quit horsing around!''
There are two shining points, however. First of all, of course, is Patrick
Stewart, who plays the part of Xavier during the cut scenes. But considering
he doesn't actually have to fight, I say he doesn't count. The second is
Magneto. Fighting-wise he got completely screwed over, but in all other
respects he is the leader supreme. Magneto is so cool that they actually
programmed in some CGI where he makes a stairway out of metal plates for him
to walk down, before he delivers a line like "Let none stand before my
might." or "Humans... your time, has come." followed by
"Muahahahahahahahahaha!", which, right,
looks really dumb up here, but sounds awesome in the game before making the
plates circle him and then fly out of the stadium. (Can you say "blatant
X-men 2 plugging? Can you? Can you? I *knew* you could!) Magneto has an aura
of cool that will not be penetrated by anyone, except for possibly Bishop.
Not Havoc,
not Betsy, and certainly not those idiot poser wannabes Sentinel A or
Juggernaut. (In Juggie's defence, though, his voice acting improves
noticeably during the story cut scenes. Magneto, incidentally, gets
noticeably worse, although that may be because the lines for him are
ridiculously fruity. Basically, his problem is that he has the only
"monologue" in the game, and he seriously
rushes his lines. This is a lesson several voice actors all over the
artistic spectrum could learn to benefit from. But anyway, I'm rambling.)
While I'm on the subject, Sabertooth's voicing is all around good. He has a
voice actor who knows what he's doing, and the lines for him rock. ("You're
gonna SCREAM for me!" Jeeze, are you people done ripping off the x-men
movies yet? Come on!)
The music, on the other hand, is pretty good. The audio is very clear, the
sounds aren't too bad (except for Forge's spider bomb, which I have
nicknamed the pumpkin bomb for no reason whatsoever, and which sounds like
someone blowing bubbles in a swimming pool) and the music doesn't detract
from the fight, which is always good.
In conclusion, true believers, this game is very good, overall. The parts
that are bad are abhorrent, but somehow I find myself able to obtain an
immense amount of enjoyment out of the game as a whole, regardless. As a
final note: kudos to Activision for making their game rated E. Now get on
over there and do something about Spider-Man, will you?
rating scores:
Gameplay
7 / 10
Graphics
9 / 10
Audio
4 / 10
overall
8/10

+++
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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