Quickmenu: Go to content Go to account Go to quicklinks for games Navigation menu: Content starts here:

Audyssey;
Games Accessible to the Blind
Issue 39: Fourth Quarter, 2003
Edited by Michael Feir

Fun, Friendship, Knowledge, Charity

+++
Welcome
Welcome to the holiday issue of Audyssey for 2003. 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 have a lot of exciting material here for you thanks to the hard work of various accessible game developers. Updates can be found from ESP Softworks, BSC Games, GMA Games, and others. Also, we have an in-depth interview which took place on the Blindgamers list with Paul Silva of All inPlay.


 Note: This magazine uses plus-signs as navigation markers. Three plus-signs are placed above any articles or sections. Within these sections, two plus-signs denote the start of a new sub-section. Smaller divisions are marked by a single plus-sign. This allows people to use their search capabilities to go quickly to the next division they are interested in. For instance, the "Letters" section is preceded by three plus-signs. Each letter within it has two plus-signs before it. Answers to letters have a single plus-sign before them.

+++
Distribution Information and Submission Policies
This magazine is published on a 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:
Blindgamers-dige[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.


 +++
Contents:
Welcome
Distribution Information and Submission Policies
Contents
From The Editor
Speculations on how an American football game could be developed
New game development organization - The Freesoft Software Division!
Sounds of Gaming
AeonMud is *OPEN*  for play-testing
Announcing Flight Commander
Monkeys Required!
All inPlay: More Than Games
Free Game Winner
News from Adora Entertainment
News From All inPlay
News From BSC Games
News From ESP Softworks
News From GMA Games
News from LWorks
News From PCS
Enchantment's Twilight Development Diary: Part V
Game Announcements and Reviews
Contacting Us

+++
From The Editor:

Hello again, everyone. Another year has come and gone. A whole lot has changed both in the accessible games world as well as in my own life. This time last year, All inPlay had yet to release their second game. BSC Games was hard at work on Hunter. Esp Softworks was working on a mere add-on pack of tables to its Pinball game. LWorks had begun work on an ambitious side scrolling adventure. Zform had just released an update to its highly successful Poker game. Life has a way of throwing unexpected twists at everyone. Looking at the news from these and other developers found later in this issue is a pretty clear illustration of that. Plans can change in a big hurry. In most cases, these changes have been for the better. For instance, ESP Softworks is going to release a whole new and improved Pinball game with six different tables and a lot of new features. To my immense relief, it isn't going to close down after all as James North was planning to at one point after the release of the next couple of games. Instead, we're in for more detailed and complex games which will take longer to produce. Zform has both a brand new game and a brand new name. This issue gives them quite a bit of coverage which I hope you'll find of interest. However, LWorks's exciting sidescroller was scrapped due to a bad system crash resulting in the loss of the source code already completed. I was particularly saddened by this as I had high hopes for both Liam's particular game and still think that a good sidescroller game of the Mario variety would lend itself tremendously well to being made accessible. LWorks is still alive and kicking however, as you'll see in their update found below in this issue. Things are definitely looking better for accessible games as this year draws to a close.

Fellow gamers, we have what looks to be a terrific year ahead of us. There are a number of projects which will break new ground under development and/or nearing completion. Another good sign is that more people are starting to develop accessible games rather than less. Still others have expressed a strong interest in learning how to develop games. Lastly, but potentially most importantly, there are now two game engines in development which can make it easier for others to develop accessible games even if they don't have the advanced programming knowledge that would otherwise be necessary. I am of course referring to David Greenwood's GMA game engine as well as Robison Bryan's audio adventure engine. Both of these are shaping up into extremely powerful and versatile tools. In fact, they have removed the strongest barrier which formerly prevented me from coming to the decision I have now arrived at.

I've been editing issues of this magazine since July of 1996. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience seeing my initial conception grow from a simple publication into a strong community of hundreds of readers that I know of and probably a whole lot more that I don't. It tought me a lot about responsibility, leadership, and what it means to have an impact on people's lives. Together, we've seen our community, the accessible games industry, and ourselves grow in so many ways. As my life has changed over the past year, I have come to realise that I can no longer serve you, my readers, as I would want to or as you all deserve. There's just too much else going on. This is particularly true now that I've begun work on writing a book and on developing my first computer game. To do these projects justice, I must devote more of my time to them. It's not always easy assembling issues of Audyssey. Over time, I have found it getting harder and harder to get people to write articles and reviews. A number of people have demonstrated remarkable loyalty to the magazine and have given us plenty of food for thought. However, the more varied mass-participation I had hoped for hasn't seemed to materialise. As a result, too much work has fallen on too few shoulders. Also, the strain of never knowing whether I'll have enough material to publish a suitable issue until practically the last minute has taken its toll on me. I have therefore decided to start the process of ending my editorship of Audyssey. I'll edit one more issue which will be published at the end of February. After that, the future of the quarterly magazine depends on whether one of you comes forward to take up the torch. If no editor is found by the time I publish the next issue, there will be no further issues of Audyssey. Although I would dearly love to have the quarterly magazine continue under a new editor, I am more than content with what Audyssey has acomplished over the past years. Regardless of whether the quarterly magazine continues, the community which grew out of it will carry on indefinitely. When I started out on this journey, I never could have imagined arriving at the point we've reached. This whole endeavour has grown so much larger than my own aspirations. To everyone who has contributed to this over the years, I would like to offer you my deepest thanks. I hope that over all, you have found my efforts at community building and leadership as well as in editing Audyssey to be worthy of your own.

Luis Defute has informed me that the web-site is moving to a new and better server and also undergoing other improvements. I informed him prior to this issue's publication about my change in direction and he explained that he was going to make it a lot easier for community members to submit content. It may very well be a better thing for the web-site to become the place where the work begun in this magazine continues as people think of new articles and reviews. Rather than a quarterly issue, content would be updated as it became available. What was ultimately presented to the world and archived for the future would be entirely up to the community. Developers would also be able to use the site as a central point for presenting their information as well as possibly having their game demos available for download.

As many classic cartoon villains have said, "You haven't seen the last of me!" I don't plan on ever leaving the community of blind gamers. I've made a lot of friends and hope to continue doing so. I hope that I'll ultimately be able to serve you all better as a game developer. Thanks to the two game engines I mentioned above, I believe I'll actually be able to create some of the games I have in mind instead of just hoping other developers would make them. I have several ideas for both engines which each lend themselves to different kinds of games. I'll primarily be concentrating on arcade action games, strategy games and adventure games which feature random elements, multiple paths and hopefully multiple players on the same computer or via E-mail. All of the games I hope to produce will be the kind which are as replayable as possible with random elements, multiple endings, and/or infinite play. Once you pay for one of my games, I hope it entertains you as long as possible. I intend to eventually make my living by creating and selling accessible games. Things have now come to a point where I believe that it is possible to do this in the long run. The community has grown steadily larger and will continue to as the news of accessible computer games spreads. The stunning success of All inPlay is further proof that there should be enough interested consumers out there so that I can eventually earn a modest living for my wife and I. If at all possible, I plan to try and market these games to sighted people as well who are seeking a different gaming experience. I don't plan on adding graphics to my games for their benefit. Rather, I hope to benefit them by making them use their ears and give their over-worked eyes a rest. They'll have to come into our world rather than the other way around. I'll never sacrifice greater accessibility for greater marketability. For more about my future plans, read the Enchantment's Twilight development diary found later on in this issue.

Think about what we've all witnessed and helped bring about over the past eight years. Back when I started, there were just text adventures out there. Listen to the stuff we've got now. When I was a kid, my father and I went down to the arcade quite regularly where he'd try to help me participate as much as possible in the video games. He'd describe them to me and then let me operate the fire button or help me to steer the joystick. We had quite a lot of fun doing that, but even then I used to imagine what tremendous fun it would be to truly play those kinds of games completely on my own using my own actual skill. Now, thanks in no small part to the Audyssey community, blind children will be able to do precisely that. Something I started out of pure boredom one summer has now put me in a position where I can seriously hope to make a living creating games. I'd like to offer a special  thanks to all of you who have done more than simply read issues of Audyssey and stepped forward to make it better or participate actively in the community. It doesn't matter whether you wrote submissions or just participated occasionally in the Blindgamers list or its predecessors. It's one thing for game developers to know that there are a whole lot of readers out there. That's pretty important and encouraging. However, to see a large number of these readers subscribe to and participate in the active community giving them direct feedback on their efforts is valuable beyond measure.

Just because I'm stepping down from the editor's chair and working on producing my own games, I'll always be as interested in games developed by others as I've ever been. My game playing days will never be over. Nor will my interest in the larger issues that these games raise ever fade. I've always maintained that games are an incredibly powerful form of art which can effect us profoundly and teach us a lot about who we are as well as about the world we live in. As I gain more insights about these larger issues surrounding accessible games, I'll write them down and share them with the community. Should a replacement editor for Audyssey be found, I'll certainly do whatever I can to help him/her take over smoothly and write articles and reviews when I can.

Before you step forward to be the next editor, bare in mind that you'll likely face the same kinds of frustrations that I have over my editorship. There'll be times when absolutely nothing new happens and you'll be desperately trying to think of material to include in the next issue. Months will go by without anything being contributed. Then, at the last minute, a torrent of things pours in and you'll be working flat out to edit things and get an issue ready. In general, I hope that a new editor wouldn't be afraid of trying new ideas. The magazine certainly need not remain exactly like it is now. I would, however, expect the basic principles and spirit to remain the same. Although I don't have any legal recourse to enforce these conditions, I would hope that the work I've put into getting this going over the past seven years would count for something. My conditions are:
1. Audyssey must always be free to its readers. I don't want to suddenly find myself paying a subscription fee after I have avoided charging anything to readers despite quite a bit of pressure to turn this magazine into a business. I'd like to see Audyssey continue to be a labour of love for fans of accessible games.

2. Developers of accessible games should be able to advertise without charge. After all, this news is at the core of what Audyssey is all about. I wanted to provide a vehicle for developers to announce what they've made to the public and for them to support the community of gamers. Audyssey should remain an independent source of information and opinions on accessible games. All developers should feel that it is to their advantage to support Audyssey and help it carry on. I certainly wouldn't appreciate having to pay for the privilege of advertising my game when it's finally done after providing free advertising for so many other developers.

Anybody who is interested in taking on the editorship of Audyssey should contact me privately. I'll then choose who I feel will best be able to keep Audyssey going in the right direction. This way, there will be no concerns on the part of other developers that any conflict of interest will exist when I finally am ready to sell my games.

I know I'll deeply miss editing this publication. Developers have been extremely generous in providing free copies of games for my wife and I. I hope they are equally as supportive of the new editor and any staff he or she may be able to assemble. Members who help keep the web-site alive and active could also do with some thanks. The free game incentive for the best submissions during a certain period has done a lot of good for Audyssey Magazine over the years and the same sort of thing may serve as a catalyst for good entries for the site.

Things are financially pretty tight for us, and they're likely to get tighter before they get better. We're still waiting for subsidised housing and the rent keeps going up each year. Fortunately, we have good friends and families who are incredibly supportive and behind us every step of the way. After I publish my last issue in February, I can't expect developers will keep sending us free games. Therefore, I'll likely receive new games for my birthday or Christmas. Also, unless I'm sent a game for free, I'll only take the time to play those which are of sufficient interest to me. I'll Certainly appreciate these. Everybody needs to unwind. However, I will no longer be able to take the time to try and master every game which comes out.

Many of you may have heard about my computer failing during this quarter. It happened very suddenly. In fact, the only reason I was able to put this holiday issue out in such good shape is that my family was able to fund me a new computer. If anybody sent me articles or reviews earlier on in the last quarter and don't find them in this issue, this system failure is likely the reason. Fortunately, most of my other data was transferred to the new machine. It will serve me very well as the platform on which I create my games. The system failure certainly threw off my schedule badly, but had I been forced to try for government assistance in getting a new machine, I would have likely taken months to get back up and running.

One outstanding item that I should cover regards my article in the last issue about interactive fiction. Apparently, the new version of Jaws For Windows will handle interactive fiction better than version 4.51 for at least some people. David Lant was the first to share this good news with the community. More importantly, I was very pleased to see the discussion which started on the Blindgamers list regarding solving the problems faced by those who seek to play these games. I hope that a solution or perhaps different solutions to the problems and annoyances people are experiencing will be forthcoming so that interactive fiction can once again be effortlessly enjoyed by all blind people. Also, it appears that Windoweyes users may have an easier time with interactive fiction. I'm a user of Jaws, so I can't confirm this from personal experience. However, a number of people indicated this to me after I published my article. To all who venture boldly into these textual worlds despite accessibility problems, I wish you the best of luck. A couple of items may also be of interest to fans of interactive fiction. First of all, the annual Interactive Fiction competition voting period ends on the vary day this issue is published on November 15th. Assuming you can comfortably play these text adventures, you'll find a whole lot of new short adventures which will soon be judged and rated. Finally, you may also want to keep an eye out for the release of the next game from Malinche Entertainment. Graystone is set in a mental facility where it has apparently already proved to be controversial.

In closing, let me remind everyone that there's still at least one more issue of Audyssey to go. I'll need your help to put it together and make certain it's a good one. I'll need one or more developers to offer a free game to the final free game winner that I'll be awarding. Also, I need a bunch of you to write in articles and reviews. We ought to have a few new games come out over the next while, and don't forget that it's perfectly acceptable to review games which have been reviewed previously. I'd very much like to end my editorship of Audyssey on a high note whether it continues on past February or not. Finally, I'll take this last opportunity to wish everyone happy holidays. Games make marvellous gifts and I hope that this last holiday issue is of service to some gift seekers and to game developers. Enjoy what lies below.

+++
  Speculations on how an American football game could be developed
By Ari Damoulakis

Well, lets start with the background. The only things I know about American football are what I've played on a boring text-based game that hardly got the blood pumping with excitement. In this text game, I think I got the jist of the game (but when I try and watch it on TV, I always think that I'll never get to understand it fully.)
It was when I played the game that I realised that this game could be made much more exciting.
I then came up with an idea about a more strategic, war-like tactical game with a lot of action that developers could try. Firstly I must say that I know nothing about programming so I wouldn't know if the game would work. I also don't know much about the positions and the functions of each player, so I'm hoping the developers could implement that.

1. The field
The length of the field should be divided into 100 lines, fifty in each half. The width of the field could be divided into as big  as the developer likes. The lines will be numbered like this the 1 yard line will be the actual 1 yard line in your half of the field, and the 99 yard line (and yes, I know their isn't such a thing) could be the 1 yard line in the computer's half of the field. The width of the field could be divided by sound. Example if you hear a sound just in your right speaker, you are close to going out of bounds on the right and if you hear sound dead centre of your speakers, it means you're in the middle of the field.
2. Game play
When the game starts, the team who has to receive a kickoff can place the people who have to return the kick on whichever line they like or let the computer do it randomly for them. What I mean by placing a player is, the person presses the tab key to switch from player to player and then, using his arrows and speech from the game, he moves the player to the line  he wants it to be on. He then decides how far to the left or the right to place the player.   He then presses enter to put the player on that line. That is where the strategy comes in. The person kicks off by aiming the kicker in accordance with where he wants the kick to land for example he might aim for the twenty yard line and he moves the width adjuster to decide how far left or right the kick should go. He then holds the spacebar in and when he hears a distinct tone, he leaves the spacebar as quickly as possible to determine the accuracy of the kick.     
 When the kick is travelling in the air, the returner presses the tab key to choose the player who is closest to the ball at that time. If the kick is travelling down the centre the sound is heard in both speakers and if it is travelling more towards the left and right, the sound will come from those speakers. The player moves their and makes the catch. The speech tells the player on which yard line he is on when the catch is made. Now, here comes the tricky parts to try and explain. The player can start using his arrows to run. Your players run from down to up. Now, when you have the ball, you will know how near the touchline your player is because you can hear how much more sound is coming through the left or the right speaker. The more you move to the right, the more all the sound goes to the right and vice versa. Now, as I said before, the speech system (from now on I will say the commentator) will say on what line you caught the ball. As I said, you run upwards. So, what happens is nearly the same thing as in BSC Games game deakhout. When you run upwards, you hear the sound of your steps. Each step you take will be another yard line you cross. You can also move up-and-right or up-and-left together. When defenders get nearer you, you hear another  sound getting louder. You will then have to try and evade the defenders. When you get tackled or forced out of bounds this is what will happen. It will be your time to attack. What happens, is you place your receivers where you would like them to be. What I mean is, the game will say 'place your receivers'. You will then be on the first receiver. You can choose on which line he must stand and the width he should be from the out of bounds lines. He then presses enter when he is finished placing the one receiver, and then presses tab to switch to another receiver, until he is finished placing all of his receivers. Also, for you action-lovers, to skip all this strategy, you can let the computer place your receivers for you. Also, you can press p for punt or f for field goal. I'll discuss them later. After placing your men, you then press enter. The commentator then asks you to which receiver you would like to pass. You then press the tab key to switch from receiver to receiver and the commentator will remind you on which line each one is placed. Then hold the spacebar in to pass to the receiver. The further the receiver is from you, the longer you'd have to hold the spacebar in for. Also, when you start to hold the spacebar in, the defenders can start defending so the longer you hold the spacebar in, the bigger your chances are of being sacked and the further away the receivers are, the greater are your chances of being intercepted. While you are holding the spacebar in, you hear a rising tone. This is for the longer distance of the pass. When your pass is going to be complete, you hear a few beeping tones which says to you that you should leave the spacebar so that the pass could be accurate. When the receiver then catches the ball, the attacking process then begins again.
3. Field goal
To take a field goal, also hold in space. You will then have to adjust your width. For instance, we know that the posts are in the centre. If your kicker is standing way to the left, he will have to press to the right and try and get his kick into as close to the centre as he can he must do this while holding in space. While he does hears a rising tone. The tone resembels distance and you will need a lot of practise to know how far the kick should travel. Something like the golf game I've played on dos.
4. Defending
Defending will work the same as offending, because you will also have to place your defenders. Now, it will work just like before, for instance, you will hear the steps of the player with the ball and you will have to press tab to switch to the defender who is the closest to the ball carrier. Then, if the carrier passes, you will have to press tab again. You will hear the steps of the carrier and you will hear your computer sound to tell you how close you are to the carrier. When you are very near, press space to tackle.

Also, I think that this game could be adapted for online play against other people.
For comments pleas email me at
[email protected]
     


+++
New game development organization - The Freesoft Software Division!
By Jason Santa Ana-White

In the middle to late summer, a new accessible game development organization was started. The Freesoft Software Division(Freesoft, SD. for short).
I am the owner of that organization, and let me tell you now that we are commited to high quality game development. Like most other businesses and companies which develop accessible games, we don't believe in low quality sound for smaller download sizes, etc; in the months to come, we will be bringing you high quality games.
If you're on the BlindGamers list, you've already heard about our first project, Self Destruct. Also, let me mention, we were once BASCentral's Visual Basic division, but I, also the owner of BASCentral, decided to make it in to it's own standalone organization. After our first project is complete, we will begin converting BASCentral's games to VB, and adding DirectX support. For more information on our current project, or to leave us feedback, go to: www.freesoftsd.tk.

+++
Sounds of Gaming
By Michael Feir

In previous issues, I've pointed to other game-related resources out there on the Internet which related directly to games accessible to the blind. For the most part, this mainly dealt with the wonderful material found in episodes of ACB Radio's program Main Menu. This show deals with technology from a blindness perspective, and is still going strong under new leadership since Jonathan Mosen has left ACB Radio. I'll take a somewhat different tack this time around and present you with resources which have audio components or are purely auditory in nature which deal with the mainstream world of games. There are quite a number of these just waiting to be listened to. Some of you may wonder why blind people including myself would bother tuning into these. Personally, I have several reasons which I'll outline below.

The mainstream world of games is a billion-dollar industry. That means many games have the money behind their development so that they feature some incredible sounds and music. For quite a while, sound was considered of secondary importance to visual elements of games. This is still true, but to nowhere near the degree that it once was. There are conferences now where those who work on the audio side of gaming gather. Game development companies are paying more attention to how their games sound than ever before. Although we can't actually play these games, we can still appreciate and enjoy some of their story elements, music, and sounds. Hey! If you can handle the envy you may feel towards your sighted buddies and have the time, why not be entertained?

Also, knowing about what's happening in the mainstream gaming world can give us all ideas of what we might want to play in the future. As long as one approaches it with a degree of reasonability, there are lots of interesting things to find out about and ponder. This is true from the player's side of things as well as the business side. Some of the resources I'm going to list for you feature interviews and other information about games past and present. Don't forget that a lot of the reason why accessible gaming has taken the directions that it has is because blind people have learned what their sighted contemporaries are playing and wanted the same kind of experience. Also, there is a lot of naustalgia out there. Blind people want to play games they enjoyed prior to losing their sight or have heard about other people enjoying. Learning about the business of game development has given me a lot of hope for the future of accessible games.

Below, I'll give a link to each resource I've found and then describe it. Each new resource will have a plus-sign above the link so that you can skip to the next one.

+
www.videogameradio.com

This site has a radio show devoted to video games past and present which is broadcast weekly on Live365. Episodes have covered things such as the music in video games, video game villains, and other such aspects. Games are also reviewed.

+
www.gamespot.com

Gamespot is a very impressive site which covers all computer and video games past and present. The focus is mainly on modern games. They have a streamed video broadcast called Gamespot Live which is neat to listen to. It often has detailed game reviews as well as presentations from game developers. The sound quality is quite good.

+
www.retrogamingradio.com

A lot of the classic games were fascinating to hear about as I grew up. From Pac-man to Digdug to Crystal Castles, these games were ones that you could just pop in a quarter and start playing. You didn't have to learn what ten different buttons did or remember a bunch of sequential moves to activate special combos. Shane R. Monroe puts out a long show each month featuring interviews with developers of classic games, occasional reviews of these games, and extensive coverage of any modern products or news pertaining to them. I've found all of his shows to be well worth listening to and have looked forward to a new one each month.

+
www.gooddealgames.com

This site is another excellent one for the older games. The articles and other information it contains has made for fascinating reading. Also, they have a nifty Internet radio station which has all kinds of music, trivia, old commercials, and other neat audio material related to classic video games. To get to this radio station, you first have to go to the "slices off of good deal games" link. Once in that area, you'll find information telling you how to connect to WGDG Videogame Radio. You'll need Winamp or another player capable of playing an MP3 stream. I made a bookmark in Winamp so that I can more quickly get it going when I'm in the mood.

Finally, if you use Winamp, it has a library which has internet radio stations. You can set the maximum number to something like five thousand stations. There don't seem to be many commercials at all, and it's been a great source of music for me to have playing when I need some background sounds to work to. In that library, you'll find a combo box with a bunch of categories. A few of them are game-related. I just use the "game" category. There are a large number of stations such as Total PC Games which feature music from various jenres of game for various platforms.

That should provide you all with some good gamer's listening over the holidays. I hope that it helps more blind people take an interest in the larger gaming world out there. Our accessible games industry is just beginning its journey. I have no doubt that our trip will be a little different in terms of the type of games developed or at least the order they're developed in. We can still learn a lot from where sighted people have gone in their gaming over the past half century. If nothing else, some great music is packed into those games and through these sites and stations, we can at least access that part of the sighted gaming world.


+++
AeonMud is *OPEN*  for play-testing
 by Dave Sherman

 Some of you may be aware that I've been helping an old friend build on a
mud project over the past couple of years.
Well, I wanted to announce to the public that it's open for play-testing
finally.

This is the stage where the big bosses want everyday mudders, from all
levels of experience to come in and give feedback, so the coders and
builders can refine and tune up the mud.
(realize this is essentially like a first generation beta testing stage, so
things are not going to be perfect).

As far as it being blind-friendly -- well, the team has that in mind.
The head forger (builder) is known to some of you as Korial!
Yep, Myrthorn's old partner from a couple of years ago in the pages of
Audyssey. *grin*

She invited a few of us that she knew to aid her in building, and
well, let's just say that even though I've been a tad laggy with my building
lately, A couple of other guys you are all well familiar with have been busy
with their occupations, and have been a bit dormant as well.  I see that
Gelderhart has jumped back aboard the band wagon (most of you will recognize
him as one of the moderators of the blindgamers email list.)  And old Stan
... well, erm, I think his band got stuck in a bar one night, and I haven't
heard from him in a while ... but don't worry, it's nothing Cerius.
*giggle*
 We also Had Terry VanEttinger on the staff for a while, but I haven't heard
from her in some time.  I think she's had some problems with internet
connectivity since she moved up to Alaska.

There are others on the staff who are blind (though not all of us).
And not all of the blind folks on the staff are a part of the Audyssey
community.

Korial  (Maria) is known as Jezraen on AeonMud, and along with the other
gods, has a few desires on her wish-list for the mud, once we get it rolling.  One of
those is to include MSP in Aeon.  If you don't know what that is ... its a
sound protocol ... i.e. - music and audio clips for the mud.

Maria and the mud's owner/head coder have been working on this project
together for over 5 years.  This is the fourth incarnation / attempt to make
this work.  The head coder, Doramagos, has done his best to keep a top-notch
coding team, and turn this project, hopefully, into one of the more popular
muds out there one day. I can testify that Maria has put 110% into this project as the head builder.
If you recall from our days of reviewing muds, she always was a tad more
graceful with her words than myself.  Her room descriptions are exquisite.
(Even Lant had to go and show me up *evil grin*)

If any of you want to go nosing around, please do.  The coders encourage
it -- put the mud through its paces and be sure to give feedback while there.
Some of you might be a tad overwhelmed by the clock speed ... it runs a tad
fast, and the main coder knows it, but he will adjust that later on (though
don't be shy about mentioning it, if things happen way too fast for you).
i.e. - the day goes past too quickly.

Well, enough from me for now, here's the clip from TMC, and the storyline
(which I've copied from the muds homepage -
http://aeon.tdf.ca).

Aeon MUD   [New Addition]
Last Updated: September 28, 2003
Mud Created: December, 2001
Code Base:
Circlemud
v3.0 - modified significantly
Site: aeonmud.tdf.ca 8000 [207.107.54.228]
Admin Email:
[email protected]
Theme: Medieval Fantasy
 . Location: Canada
. Primary Language: English
. Min. # of Players Online: Under 10
. Multi-Play: No
. Player-Kill: Restricted
. Extended Race Selection
. Extended Class Selection
. Multi-classing Allowed
. Equipment Saved
. Ansi Color
. Quests Available
. Character Approval Unnecessary
. Roleplaying Is Accepted
. Newbie friendly
. Skill & Level-Based Training System
. Currently Hiring Builders
. Supports MSP
. Clans Offered
. World is all original
. Medium World (3,000+ rooms)
. Mud is open to players for testing

  AeonMud has benefited from the cumulative development over five years
in various guises.  AeonMud became an official project at the end of 2001,
and boasts the support of staff many with over ten years of mudding
experience.

We understand that many mudders still enjoy a bit of hack & slash, so we
cater for this by offering a wide variety of melee combat skills and spells.
However, we believe that the usual class constraints are fast becoming
outdated so we have introduced a profession inclination approach whereby
you can choose to have accelerated learning in your favourite collection of
skills.  The difference is that you are free to learn any skill you choose,
so warriors are welcome to learn magic, similarly clerics can learn to
pickpocket if you want!

Trainers are placed in various locations in the world.  You visit a
trainer to advance your theoretical knowledge of a given skill.  You gain
practical understanding  of what you learn through doing, in this way we
hope
to make the skill learning process rather more interactive and meaningful.
Of course, with trainers scattered around the world we encourage you to
explore more.

Through years of collected building efforts, we are able to offer a vast
number of areas.  Some of which are immediately available for exploration.
We encourage our builders to be very liberal in the use of extra
descriptions,
so you will find great depth of detail in each room.  Examine carefully
what you see in the room and you will often be pleasantly surprised with
what you find!
===
The Creation of Aeon According to Mythology

In the beginning, there existed the greater gods. They lived in their
celestial palace, knowing little but leisure and pleasure, for at that time
they had not taken up the mantle of their current duties. Extravagant
entertainments were held often to pass the time and alleviate the boredom.
On one such occasion, the holy day of the Lord Creator Doramagos, Jezraen,
who had always been the craftswoman of the family, made a beautiful Sphere
to be given to him as a
gift of love and respect. This Sphere was her most extraordinary creation,
intricate in detail and utterly magnificent to look upon. She told the
gathering that even she didn't fully understand the nature of what she had
crafted, except that its potential was as yet untapped. As the party
progressed, the Sphere was set in a place of honour, and the gods danced,
ate and drank into the late hours of the night.

Now, Satyn had always been a troublesome god, and as always, finding a way
to disrupt and disturb the peace and frivolity seemed like an interesting
course to pursue. He was aided in his efforts by his brother Cerius, who
while not looking for trouble, was always looking for mischief and fun. On
that day, both were quite bored, and when they heard Jezraen's words
concerning the Sphere, they saw an opportunity. Cerius led the others away
with his jokes and
tricks, while Satyn stealthily took the Sphere. Going to the edge of the
palace, (which floated in the middle of nothingness) he sat studying his
prize.
But as Satyn was not the creator, he was unable to probe its mysteries and
secrets. Failing to discover anything of value or interest, he was about to
return to the festivities, when Cerius popped up at his side (as was his
wont). With a cry of surprise, Satyn dropped the Sphere, shattering it into
many pieces. Looking at it in horror, both started sweeping the pieces off
the palace into space.

The gods heard the havoc and quickly went to investigate. Seeing the broken
pieces of the sphere floating in the void, and slowly drifting to the ground
below, all looked at the two in anger and dismay. Jezraen was disconsolate
for she had worked on the Sphere for many a day (the days of the gods are
unknown to mortals so the time is difficult to estimate). Okeanios,
observing Jezraen's despair, sent out a stream of her own tears and Feirha
formed them into
a sphere of water, enveloping the pieces and holding them in place.

Kimorgh remarked that perhaps it was better left in pieces, explaining that
a sphere is too perfect a form, especially when it is comprised of such
powerful and immortal material. Better that the power be dispersed among
many smaller fragments, where no one individual could harness and use more
than a small portion of its massive potential.

And so it came to pass that the hundreds of islands which now make up the
world of Aeon were formed.

Doramagos looked down upon the new land, and saw that it needed beings to
make it vital. He, therefore, cause to be created the human race, prolific
beings, able to learn just about any skill, varied in their abilities,
appearances and demeanours, a race of free will and unpredictability.

Jezraen regained her composure and vowed to build and shape this new world
into a place of beauty and wonder. As her first task, she begged the Creator
a boon, asking him to create her a race of stolid builders to help in the
new forging of the lands. Thus, the Dwarves were born.

Satyn, on the other hand, was determined to spread havoc, discord and
trouble wherever he roamed. With his evil influence and dark arts, he
corrupted many of the humanoid beings, breeding animals and sentient races
with one another, spawning orcs, goblins, trolls, some forms of giants, and
who knows how many
other undesirable races. Despite his best efforts, many incorrupt beings
were created as well, escaping his clutches and spreading out to populate
the islands.

Cerius, truly regretting the role he played in this grave event, promised to
bring joy and laughter to all who inhabited the realm, so that they could
know happiness and be of light heart as they went about their daily lives.
He beseeched the Creator to forgive his deeds and went about the gentle
coaxing and
influencing of the human race, eventually shaping the halflings of the
world.

Okeanios, having given of her own tears to salvage the pieces of what is now
known as Aeon, became the Goddess and overseer of the seas, protecting its
inhabitants, nurturing their growth and maintaining a watchful eye, lest
Satyn seek to gain a foothold in her realm.

In an attempt to give the world enlightenment, Feirha, mistakenly created
the ill fated Cyclops, doomed to foresee nothing but their own death. So
next he created the elves with the long life and patience to discover
knowledge and wisdom for themselves to pass on to the other races.

The Creator withdrew a distance from this new land, though he ever keeps
vigil over all of its inhabitants and life forms, observing quietly,
occasionally making subtle adjustments to the land's development, and always
cherishing all who he came to regard as his precious children. Everything
strives for balance,
and so it is with the world of Aeon, where good and evil both thrive, each
contributing in its own way to the health and vitality of the land.

Editor's note: There are two more items of interest to the mudding community which I have included below:

MuddyList Announcement

This is for those gamers who are either interested in mudding and already
play, or wish to find out more about the genre.

I've been involved with this email list for mudders for about the past six
or seven years. It started off with myself and Travis Seigel starting a list
on his softcon server. It then moved over to James North's server when some
technical problems arose. Jim hosted the list for a number of years.

This past Spring, the list moved over to the Smart groups server.

As it stands right now, Jeremy Gilley, Sean Randall, and myself are acting
as co-moderators/managers of the MuddyList.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Travis and Jim for helping out in
the early years of the list.

OK, so what is this list?

Essentially, it is a forum for those interested in interactive multi-user
RPG's (MUD's, MUSH's, MUCK's, MUX, MOO's,MUSE, social interactive RPG's and
talkers). Currently, no one has approached me about using the list as a
forum for RPG activities, such as the various D&D groups in the community,
but I am not opposed to that being included in the scope of the list. Also,
I'm aware of a number of individuals who enjoy playing PBEM's (play by
e-mail RPG's) anyone willing to discuss these is welcome also.

The list has mainly been a low-traffic list, and has revolved mainly around
MUD's, but people have approached me and asked if things such as "talkers"
are an acceptable topic. Yes, by all means. I use the term MUD quite
loosely, to encompass a large number of smaller niche genre's which have
taken on their own acronyms.

Over the past couple of months, the traffic on the list has picked up, and
I've noticed quite a few inquiries on various lists in the community asking
, "what is a mud?" or discussions regarding particular muds.

Well, the MuddyList is a forum for anyone interested to come and discuss any
relevant topics related to their interactive RPG gaming experiences.
Examples of topics would be such things as: announcing a new game you've
discovered and think others would be interested in, discussing pros and cons
of these various games, using the list as a forum to gather groups or
parties on a particular game (i.e. - coordinating a time for a bunch of you
to meet), a place to post announcements of games searching for builders or
coders, discussing various coding languages used in designing these sorts of
games, discussing various clients used to connect to these games ... etc.

Most any topic related to interactive multi-user role-play gaming is fair
game for the list.

And yes, coming and asking for help, as a newbie to the genre is more than
welcome. There are plenty of friendly, experienced players on the list who
are more than happy to help out with questions and to log in with new
players and assist them in "getting their feet wet ... or muddy, in this
case *smile*

If you are curious as to what a "MUD" is, myself and Sean have written
several articles for Audyssey in the past, describing mudding basics, and
configuration of certain mud clients.

(contact one of us, or join the list and inquire about these, or go to one
of the sites hosting back issues of Audyssey, and use whatever search tool
that site offers to help find these articles).

Now that the list is being hosted on the Smart groups server, we actually
have a 'group' which you can subscribe to, and the list is the main forum
for discussion of that group. But the homepage for the MuddyList actually
has a number of other features available to the group members for their use.
We've got 20 meg of file space to upload documents, and there are copies of
some common shareware mud clients up there already. over the next couple of
weeks, we will be placing articles up there which describe mudding basics
(for those of you who are new to mudding), as well as articles giving handy
tips on various mudding aspects, including ways to best configure your
screen reader and tweak a muds output, for optimal use and speed -- so that
you can do your best to keep up with the sighted players. All of these files
can be downloaded directly from the homepage. Any of the moderators will be
glad to upload a document or application for you, bearing in mind the space
availability, and legal aspects of uploading a copyrighted application or
document. We have a section for links to other pages, a calendar where group
members are free to post any events they have coming up -- assuming they are
RPG related (we're not interested in knowing when your Aunt Tillie's 98th
birthday is)*grin*, and several other handy tools.

Well, let me give you the pertinent subscription information, and I hope
some of you will find this helpful.

The Muddy List:

To send a message to the list:

[email protected]

To Subscribe:

[email protected]

To unsubscribe:

[email protected]

The groups homepage is at:

http://www.smartgroups.com/groups/muddylist

To contact one of the moderators:

- Dave Sherman

[email protected]

or

[email protected]

-
Sean Randall

[email protected]

-
Jeremy Gilley

[email protected]

Editor's note: A final small item of potential interest to newbies as beginners to muds are frequently called is that the Access Technology Institute has put together a free small tutorial on muds. You may want to stop by their site at:
www.accesstechnologyinstitute.com
 

+++
Announcing Flight Commander
By Nick Adamson

In the year 2150 terrorists held the world government hostage threatening
nuclear war if there demands were not met. These hostages were arrested and shipped out to a
prison planet many light years away from earth. These prisoners took control of the ship
transporting them and colonised a planet where they say there going to take back the
earth at any cost.

Now, 2335 the descendents of the prisoners have come back and your job as a
fighter pilot is to stop them at all cost.

Strap on your space age fighter, take off from your base and protect the
human race

With surround sound whether your using speakers or headphones, totally self
voiced, using actors and synthesized speech, this game will completely blow you away.

Hi, I'm Nick Adamson. A Blind software engineering student in the UK and the
above description is for a game I'm developing as part of my final year at
university.

Flight commander is a multiplayer space fighter simulator where you fly
against players over the web or a network. The first open source accessible
Game on the market, Flight commander will be totally free.

The first version is due to be released in May 2004. This will give players
the ability to play 1 on 1 in a number of virtual environments. This is due
to restrictions in Time. A Second version will be released where up to 8
players can play in teams or as individuals.

To visit the flight commander website go to
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/nickadamson

As Flight Commander is still at the very beginning of development, players
can still influence design. Please feel free to contact me by email or msn
at
[email protected]

Thank you and happy gaming.

+++
Monkeys Required!
Text by Sean Randall: [email protected]

Apes Appreciated! Simians suggested! Baboons baWanted! Chimpanzees cheered!

And yes! You do got to bring your own nuts!

1. ext -  jungle -  day 1.
Birds sing in the background.
Camera pans through foliage   in a jungle... Footsteps on leaves and grass are heard.
2. Ext -  action scene - jungle - day2.
A snarling, growling sound fills the air.
A tiger, fur on end, teeth bared; lunges towards camera as...
3. Close-up - Jungle - day 3.
Extreme pullback, then gradually fade in to...
3A. - Dead Tiger - jungle - day 3a.
The tiger is seen, spear protruding from it's back. It's mouth is still open in a silent, terminal snarl.
The spear suddenly starts to rise, and we pull back to see...
4. Ext - jungle - day 4.
The spear is pulled from the tiger.
Camera moves through the jungle again.  The footsteps are heard - but what picked up the spear is not seen.

5. Ext - Jungle, ground shot - Day 5.
Part of a foot is visible for a moment then camera looks up to...
A vine, swinging from side to side.
Camera lunges, as though it were alive and grabs the vine.
The ground swings by below, then....

6. EXT - Aerial ballet  - Jungle - day 6.
Camera jerks violently.
We see the vine, swinging away - we have jumped.
The ground looms, and the edge of a pit is visible as we hurtle for the opposite side, having swung as far over it as the vine would take us.

6A. Slow motion - swinging - Jungle - Day 6a.
Speed decreases as we fall, closer, closer, closer to the ground.
Eventually it slows right down to about one frame per second.
O.O.S,
We hear a heartbeat and the continuing "swish. swish." Of the vine, left-to-right.  Everything seems frozen and...

6b. Extreme Close-up - Fingers - Jungle - Day 6b.
Fingers,  belonging to someone just O.O.S scrabble for the lip of the pit and...

6c. Snapback - Jungle - Ext - Day 6c.
As the fingers seem to get a grip on the edge of the pit, time snaps back to normal speed. Everything seems to return to normal, including gravity and...
The tenuous grip slips, there is a loud "aaaaaahhhhhhhh!" And with a soft thud, the screen flashes.
7. Final Shot - Computer Constructed - OBL. 7.
"Game Over"
Pulses in giant fiery letters on screen.
Camera pulls back to see, lying in the pit...
You! Sitting at your computer! Reading Audyssey Magazine, having just died... while playing...

"Tarzan Junior. A Beta game."
Looking for testers!

That's right, folks!

Shut up and nut down and read: about a new game on the block that could, just possibly, make you have a good time!

Philip Bennefall  of www.pb-games.com has introduced a wonderfully impressive game to the blind community.

Using none other than a web  browser, you can play (after downloading) this game.

Still in the beta phases and being worked on as you read, Philip wants feedback. Philip wants beta testers.  And I want another crack at swinging over that vine!

Contact Philip Bennefall:
[email protected]
Or go to
http://www.pb-games.com/english/tarzan.htm

To become a beta tester in an always updating, action-packed monkey-mangling version of "Tarzan junior!"
Fade To black.
The End

+++
All inPlay: More Than Games
By Andrea Pitsenbarger

The first time I heard about AllInPlay, (then known as Zform,)  was when I
received, on one of the email lists to which I belong, an invitation to
serve as a beta tester for their first game, five-card draw poker, in the
early part of 2002. Beta testing refers to the period before a product is
released, when people test it and report any bugs back to the company so
that they can be corrected before the product is released to the general
market.  Since I love playing poker, I responded immediately and filled out
the request for some information about myself.  Within two weeks, I
received an email notice that they were ready for me to join, and I was
directed to the Zform website.  I have to say that I have been hooked ever
since!

According to the All inPlay website, this phenomenon began several years
ago, when three guys, Jeremy Paul and Tim, got together and became friends
in the dorms at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Through their
friendship with Tim, who has been blind since birth, Jeremy and Paul began
to realize that there were activities that they enjoyed, but in which Tim
could not participate. Particularly bothersome to them was the fact that
there were no available computer games that all three guys could simply sit
down and play together. So they decided to see what they could do to begin
to remedy that situation. Almost two years later, they have two games and a
thriving community of hopelessly (and happily)addicted devotees.

Their first game, which became available to the general public in the
spring of 2002, is the classic card game of five-card draw poker. For those
unfamiliar with the game, the players, (up to five at a table)are each
dealt five cards per hand.  The object of the game is to try, by once
discarding one or all of their cards and receiving new ones from the
dealer,to make the best hand they can.  There is a hierarchy of hands that
will beat each other, for example, three of a kind will beat two pair, a
strait, five consecutive cards, will beat three of a kind and so on. The
player with the winning hand receives the chips that are in the pot.  The
amount of chips the player wins depends on the particular table ante, that
is, the amount each player is required to place in the pot at the beginning
of each hand, and the amount bet during the hand. If, either before or
after the discard one of the players at the table raises the stakes, any of
the other players may fold, that is, drop out of the hand and relinquish
any chips bet during the hand.  A player usually folds because he doesn't
feel that his hand is worth the amount of the raise.  However, bluffing is
a common practice in this game, that is, players raise as if they have a
better hand than they actually have. With this in mind, a player must
decide if the raise is worth it, in view of what is in their hand. This
game is great fun, especially   playing at a full table, and there is lots
of friendly competition to see who can out bluff whom. Several different
speeds of tables and ante amounts are provided as play choices.  When you
log into a table, you will be dealt into the next hand when it begins.  It
is my suggestion that, for either Poker or Crazy Eights, a new player
review the list of hot keys provided on the site before trying to play the
game. All kinds of help is available, including a complete guide to how to
play poker, and a list of what hands beat each other in hierarchial order.
There is also an email list so that players may ask questions or chat with
other players. When you first start playing, you are given a thousand
chips.  If you run out, two means are provided for you to get more, either
by playing the practice robots and beating both of them or by guessing a
number between one and one hundred, with the amount of chips awarded
depending upon how many guesses it takes to get the right number. The game
designers didn't want the chips to be undervalued, thus both of these
methods take some work and time.

In the summer of 2003, AllInPlay released its second game, Crazy Eights,
after a period of beta testing. This game, based on the popular card games
Crazy Eights and Uno, can involve up to eight players at a table. Players
are each dealt fize cards at the beginning of each round of play, and the
object is to be the first player to get rid of all their cards.  Play
starts when the computer turns over the first card of the round, say for
example, a 4 of hearts.  The first person must have a 4 of any suit or
another heart to play, or they must draw a card.  The one exception to this
is when a player plays an 8. Eights are wild, and allow the player to
select the suit of his or her choice, depending on the cards remaining in
his or her hand, until the suit is changed again by another player. There
are also skip cards which, when played, skip the turn of the next player in
line, and reverse cards which, when played, reverse the order of play. Each
suit also has draw-2 cards which, when played, force the next player in
line to draw two additional cards.  Excluding the 8, all numbered cards are
scored according to their face value.  Eights are worth fifty points and
skip, reverse  and draw 2s are worth twenty each. When a player gets down
to only having one card left in his or her hand, all other players are
notified, so that everyone is aware that someone might be about to go out
and thus win the round.  The first player to play all of his or her cards
receives all points remaining in the hands of the other players at the
table.  By the same token, each losing player has his or her points counted
against them, as points they have given up to other players. The game can
be quite intense with a full table, and all the reverses and skips and
changes going on.  Of course, the more players there are at a table, the
less control each individual player has over what suit is currently being
played. If there are less than three players at a table,  robots will enter
the game to make a minimum of three players.  The robots function just like
actual players, and, if you beat them, you get the points in their hand. If
they win, they get your points.  They aren't great players, but you have to
watch them, as they do win occasionally. Unlike poker, which some may feel is more geared to adults, Crazy Eights is an excellent game for all ages.
Here again, lots of help is available on the site, and there is an email
list for Crazy Eights players. A practice table is also available, so you
can hone your skills against the robots before you try playing at one of
the real tables. My only negative comment concerning this game, and
something for new players to watch for, is that, when you enter a table,
there is no way to tell if someone is about to win, and you may end up
getting stuck with a handful of points without having had a chance to even
play one turn.  I have heard many players complain about this, and hope
that it is something that will be rectified soon.

I must say that, in the main, I have very positive feelings about this
site.  Both poker and Crazy Eights have provided me with many hours of
enjoyment, certainly well worth the subscription price.  On this subject,
the price is very reasonable, at around $8 a month, with substantial
discounts available when you subscribe on a quarterly or annual basis. A
free two-week trial with unlimited play privileges is also offered, so you
can see if you enjoy the games before you actually pay anything.  One of
the many great things about these games is that they're basically "plug and
play"  You simply download and install the software,  and the game should
come right up when you log into the site and click on the game you want.
The AllInPlay website is really well thought-out, with many nice features,
such as the ability for players to create a personal profile, with a few
lines about themselves and their contact information. Another nice feature,
available with both games, is the ability to step away from the table for
up to five minutes without losing your seat. This latter feature is a
direct example of the company's responsiveness to player input.   The games
are designed to function with both popular screen-reading applications,
JAWS and Window-Eyes. They also include neat sound effects that you can
toggle on or off. Sighted players may want to download Microsoft's  SAPI
speech engine, if it isn't already on their computer, so that they can have
sound during play if they want.  The screens for both games are also
visually appealing, so that sighted players have lots of neat and colourful
graphics to look at while they play.

To my mind however, the single greatest thing aboutAllInPlay and its games
is how it has brought people together. The company's motto:  Together,
Community, Experience is truly exemplified by the warm and friendly
atmosphere that prevails at the tables. It is truly a thrill when you
realize, for the first time, that you're actually playing with someone from
across the world! These three guys have truly created an atmosphere where
all, both blind and sighted, can play!


+++
Free Game Winner

Congratulations are due to many excellent contributions this time around. However, only one person can ultimately win the free game handed out to a particularly noteable contributor to the magazine. Ari Damoulakis wins the free game for his contribution to this issue as well as two others which you'll find in the next issue of Audyssey. His eagerness as well as his effort is commendable particularly given that English is a second language. Very well done, Ari. This quarter's free game is sponsored by GMA Games. You can either pick one of their already existing games or wait for their Tank Commander game due out very shortly. You also win a free three month membership to All inPlay which I'll personally send you. My thanks to both of these developers for their participation and support. Enjoy your holidays this season, Ari. Congratulations once again on your win. 

+++
News from Adora Entertainment
         "Even in the name, you can hear the magic..."

Hello all, and Happy Holidays!

Adora Entertainment has been hard at work the last few months.  Here's a
glimpse of what you can expect over the next few weeks.

We've been wrapping up the final development of Ten Pin Alley.  This title
should be available very soon.  You can read more on this in the news
from PCS Games, with whom we have collaborated to bring you this version of
the popular ten pin bowling game.

Also, as Christmas approaches, you can expect to find a freebee game as our
Holiday offering to you.  We won't say much now, but we do expect it to be
an extremely addictive little game which will test your skills of deduction
and logic.  We have always been very impressed by the free offerings of
other company's around this time of year, and hope to take part in the
tradition as well!

In the next few weeks, we will also begin bringing you other accessible
treats that are not necessarily computerized.  The first of these is a set
of accessible rune stones.  For those of you who may not know, rune stones
are similar to tarot cards and are an ancient form of norse writing, in
addition to being used for fortune telling.  The set of 24 stones will
include enlarged symbols for the partially sighted which are also raised so
they may be felt.  The stones also include over-sized braille numbers on
the back of each, indicating its position in the runic alphabet to help you
memorize the symbols.  An audio CD will be included to get you started
learning the many ways in which to use rune stones.  Incidentally, runes were
something Hermione Granger has been learning at Hogwarts since her third
year. *grin*

Again, all of us here at Adora Entertainment would like to wish you a happy
and safe Holiday Season.  Feel free to contact us at
[email protected],
or visit our web site at
http://www.AdoraEntertainment.com
if you have any comments, questions, or
suggestions about our products.

Adora Entertainment
         "Even in the name, you can hear the magic..."
www.AdoraEntertainment.com
[email protected]


+++
News From All inPlay:

Interview with All inPlay

What you are about t                                              o read is the result of an excellent idea cooked up by Paul Silva and seasoned by yours truly. Paul agreed to join the Blindgamers list in order to participate in an interview open to all members of the list. To kick things off, I thought up five questions which Paul answered. I then posted most of these over a number of days to hopefully stimulate others to think of questions. To sweeten the deal, Paul Silva has made vouchers for three free months of membership to All inPlay available to Audyssey. I have awarded one of these to the person who I felt came up with the most interesting question to ask Paul during the time of the event.

You'll first find my five questions and Paul's answers to them. After this, you'll find questions and answers from members of the Blindgamers list. As people had no idea what questions might be asked by others, there is naturally some overlap here. However, I have tried to eliminate as much as possible and present you with a cohesive and wide-ranging interview. At the very bottom, you'll find out who receives the voucher. Enjoy, everyone. Each new question or group of questions is preceded by a plus-sign so that you can more easily move to questions of interest to you.


+
Michael Feir: How are each of your games doing financially? Are people renewing their subscriptions to Poker now that it's been out for a year?

Paul Silva: Actually, we bundle both of the games together as a package deal.  We used to charge $7.95/month for just All inPlay Poker.  Then released three free upgrades and began work on our second game, Crazy Eights.  When Crazy Eights launched, we added it to the service for no additional fee.  Needless to say, this was very popular with our members <smile>. 

As All inPlay has grown, I've come to realize that we don't really sell "games" at all!  Really, we're an online community with games that members play together. All inPlay charges a membership fee to cover our costs in maintaining the service. 

As for how successful the service is proving, I'm proud to say that our membership rolls have increased by more than five fold since the initial launch of Poker!  And since the launch of Crazy Eights Beta 1.0 in June (the gold version shipped on September 2nd) we have grown faster than ever before. 

Another critical component of our growth is our 15-day free trial.  The initial guesses proved right, people love to try something out before they buy it, it also gives people a chance to get to know All inPlay and our community. 

Another important reason why we are growing so fast: our members are staying.  In fact, the percentage of our members that renew after a year is one of the highest in the mainstream online games industry. One of the things we like most about being a monthly subscription business is that it puts the company's financial priorities where they should be - on keeping members happy *ALL THE TIME*, month after month.

+
Michael Feir: Is it harder planning and working on your third game now that you have two games ongoing, or are things automatic enough that both running games don't effect development?

Paul Silva: Actually, the success of our first two games is keeping us pretty busy!  One of the vital aspects of our online service is ongoing customer support and community development.  This means that we dedicate some of our staff to answering tech support questions, general service and billing questions, and to building and growing our community.  In addition to our two games, we often organize tournaments, contests, and other special events for our members.  Naturally, each of these takes time and the larger our community the more man-hours are needed to keep the quality of customer and community support at the levels our members have come to expect.

Knowing that a growth spurt after the launch of Crazy Eights was likely, we planned accordingly and have shifted our available team members to ensure the same levels of customer support folks are used to.  Meanwhile we're getting the resources we need for the next stage lined up.  As soon as we have all the right resources in place, we'll be able to start full-scale product development of our third game.
 
+
Michael Feir: For any budding game developers out there, can you share any lessons you've learned by experience?

Paul Silva: I am extremely fortunate that All inPlay has a board of advisors composed of some truly extraordinary people. These folks have proven an invaluable help to the All inPlay Team, helping us avoid some mistakes and make some good moves.  These folks have given be volumes and volumes of incredible advice, far too much to try and provide hear (and I certainly lack their ability to communicate it so clearly!).  But, if I were to try and summarize it into a few, big-picture bullet points, they would be as follows:

* Be ready for the long haul - I thought I knew this coming in, but man, was experiencing it different than I ever could have imagined.  Creating All inPlay has been a major part of my life for over six years, and even after all this time, we're only just beginning!  Six years ago I never would have guessed how long a journey this would be.  So if you're thinking about doing this on your own, then you should know that to make it, you'll almost certainly need to be ready to commit to it for the long haul.  And by commit I mean, give up other career options, probably live below the poverty line for a few years in a row, have a restricted social life, and find yourself babbling about business in your "free" time!  Not that that is necessarily a bad thing, if its your dream then you might not mind at all - I know I don't.  *BUT*, you should know that ahead of time, just so you aren't caught of guard.

* PLAN PLAN PLAN - I have always been afraid that I might spend too much time planning and not enough time *DOING*, All inPlay has shown me that it is much easier to UNDERPLAN than to OVERPLAN, and underplanning is bad bad bad!  If you're going to make a game, create a design document.  Better yet, create a concept document, a proposal document, and *THEN* a design document that you are committed to revising many many times before you write any code. (You can find samples of all three types of documents on www.gamasutra.com in a great article called "The Anatomy of a Design Document").  But don't stop there!  You should plan how you're going to run your brainstorm meeting, you should plan how you're going to go into a presentation or a meeting with someone who can help you. 

* Write a Business Plan - For dang sure you want a business plan!  For anyone who, like me a few years ago, doesn't know what a business plan is, it's a kind of design document for a business.  Any game company is a business, it has to be to survive.  The only way you can afford to spend skads of hours working on games is if you get paid for it, otherwise you'll need to be working a job somewhere else.  So, if you want making games to be a source of income for you, then you definitely should create a business plan and think very hard about the business realities of what you're doing.  How many people are out in the world that would love to buy your game if they knew about it?  How much is a fair price for them to pay for it?  How many of them do you think you can reach with marketing/advertising?  Why will they buy your game instead of someone else's?  Why will they buy your game instead of a movie ticket or a new DVD?  Where will they buy your games?  Is there a middleman?  What's their cut? And so on... figuring out the business of games can be a very long and detailed thread in and of its own!  I better stop now! <smile>

* Find the right people - of all the variables that go into making a game or a company successful, by far the most important is the people.  This isn't just _my_ opinion, this is the opinion of every smart banker, venture capitalists, big-time-game-executive, and anyone else with some experience in business.  To make a game company work, or even to make a game work and to sell it to a middleman, you need a LOT of different skills, more usually than any one person has in their head.  So you need to find people to work with, people who have the skills you lack, who have the same sort of passion you do to your dream, and have the interpersonal skills to work through the inevitable rough patches that will come up during the long and often difficult process of starting a company.

* Create a board of advisors - don't make other people's mistakes, surround yourself with grizzled old veterans who've been there and done it.  Seven times out of ten, advisors will offer you quality advice.  And older folks generally love to help young people follow their dreams, so it can be fairly easy to get an initial board of advisors together.  Of all the things All inPlay has done, I would say the single greatest move we ever made was building our board of advisors early and listening to them as often as we could.

* Commit yourself to constantly improving your communication skills - Of all the skills in the world, the most important one to the success of your game, company, or even of you in life, is your own ability to interact and communicate with other people.  There are incredibly few things one does that do not require it to be communicated to another person at some point.  This is a life-long endeavour, there is *ALWAYS* room for improvement.  At All inPlay, we set this as our top priority at all times.  In the company's beginnings, we moved very slowly forward in large part because of our inefficiency at communicating to others and amongst ourselves.  The company has reaped significant rewards from our investment in learning to communicate better, and so have each of us personally! 
 
+
Michael Feir: How do you see your subscription system working as more games are completed? Will each different game have its own subscription cost, or will subscribers pay one fee to get access to some or all of your games?

Paul Silva: Very good question, and my answer is this: as we haven't even really begun significant work on Game 3 yet, I can't begin to claim I already understand all the issues involved in making a pricing decision.  What I can say is that, just as with Crazy Eights, we're going to weigh several important variables, talk to our members to get their input at every step of the way, and do our best to find a pricing model that continues to offer our members a great value and provide All inPlay the funds we need to keep creating these games and running our community. 
 
+
Michael Feir: What other types of games are you considering developing? Has this changed given the success you've enjoyed so far?

Paul Silva: We have a long list of games that people have requested, we also keep a rough count of how popular each game on that list are.  Some of the more popular choices mentioned to us are: Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, Uno, Scrabble, Name That Tune, Hearts, Spades, Blakcjack, chess, sports games, fantasy sports games, strategy games, multiplayer action games, and many many others.

As you can see, that's a list that could keep two teams of programmers busy for years, and there are plenty more than just those listed!  Our focus is on selecting games that are inherently many-player, inspire heaps of social interaction (we're a community after all! <smile>), have a broad appeal (we want as many people to enjoy them as possible), and are technically feasible to do with our start-up budget.

So the field is still wide open for us.  And as we develop more and more games, I'm sure we'll start to discover new, innovative areas of gameplay that aren't forseeable just yet - all in good time.

+
Shane: We all know that putting a card game together is hard work, but did you find it to be more challenging to put it together for the blind community? did you struggle with speech problems or anything like that, or did it just all flow together like a twig on the shoulders of a mighty stream? How much  preparation goes in to the speech part? Do you need to  pole different visually impaired people to find what works for the
blind community as a whole, or  do you simply have the knowledge it takes to create some of the greatest card games around today? kind of a two or three part question. sorry about that, but I have always wondered about that sort of thing.

Paul: A very good question.  All inPlay uses a design principle known as
"Universal Design", meaning we try to create our games from the ground
up to be as universally usable as possible.  Doing this is certainly
more difficult than building video games the traditional way, however,
it is much easier than trying to retrofit an existing game to make it
accessible!  I wouldn't want to try and modify Bio Ware's Never Winter
Nights to make it accessible, that would be a nightmare!  However,
building a game from the ground up offers the possibility of
incorporating accessibility - but it certainly takes a fair amount of
work.

The sighted world has had the Graphical User Interface (GUI) for more
than twenty years, and in that time they've worked out most of the kinks
and gotten something that works.  But, of course, GUIs are of little use
to the blind, and so programs that use them don't offer much in the way
of accessibility.  What we have found is that we needed to create an
Audio User Interface (AUI) that runs in parallel to the GUI, providing
our blind players the same information and just as quickly to our blind
players.

Of course, AUI technology isn't nearly as advanced as GUI technology.
First of all, it hasn't been in development as long and it certainly
hasn't had megabucks R*D budgets, in fact I think that most of the
pioneering work on AUI has been done by the screen reader and accessible
game companies!  So, that means that every accessible game developer and
screen reader company is on the cutting edge of AUI technology.

All inPlay set out to create an AUI that would allow the blind to play
with each other, *AND* play with the sighted _as equals_.  In order to
achieve this goal we invested a significant portion of our development
time on AUI design, construction, and endless testing (ask any of our
Crazy Eights beta testers!).  It certainly took plenty of work, but when
I keep hearing people tell me they can't tell blind from sighted on our
website, I know we achieved our goal <smile>.

That being said, there is still plenty of AUI work to be done.  I have a
long wish list of improvements I'd like to make to the games we have
out.  And of course, each new game we create will bring its own unique
set of AUI challenges.

And we didn't get here alone.  PCS and Jim Kitchen (along with others)
pioneered the original AUI game techniques.  GMA and then ESP did some
amazing work with creating first-person games, pushing the edge of AUI
in ways no one had before.  Bavisoft did some very clever work with
sound effects and recorded voice that added a new frontier to AUI as
well.  And of course, many others have, and I am woefully behind on my
accessible game playing, so I apologize for any one whom I have missed.

+
Brenda Green: As All inPlay grows and develops other types of games such as board games
and word or puzzle type games will the one membership fee give people access
to all your games or will the fee be broken down to game types?

Paul: Very good question! Selecting a pricing plan is no easy feat.  On the
one hand the blind community isn't a rich one, and so finding ways to
make the service as affordable as possible is very important.  But of
course, the All inPlay team has to eat too!  Our servers, customer
support team, and product development all cost money to maintain. And
I'm sure you can imagine that it takes a lot of people at $7.95/month to
pay just one person's salary!

When we were developing Crazy Eights (our second game), we spent a long
time researching what the best pricing plan would be.  Based on what our
members were telling us when we asked them, charging separately
certainly seemed like a fair option.  However, the more we looked into
what would be good for the community as a whole, we realized a separate
fee would not work.  After talking with our members and doing extensive
research, we decided to add Crazy Eights to our service and leave the
membership fee where it was.

Needless to say, this made all our members very happy as existing
members basically got a new game for free and new members now had two
games to play in instead of just one.  Now, are we going to do that with
Game Three, Game Four, and so on?  You know, I just can't say yet.  I
have found that so many game companies for the sighted like to make
promises long before they know enough to make that commitment - and so
they often end up going back on their promises.  So I don't make
promises about the future until I *KNOW* I can make them.

+
Nick: What section of development do you find,
(A) the hardest,
(B) the easiest, and
(C) the most enjoyable?

Paul: Well, that question would be answered differently by each person on my
team!  But I'll do my best to give a general answer for all of us (Seven
people worked on Crazy Eights, most of those were full time for many
months - just to give you a feel for the scope of the project).  My
answers all have to do with Crazy Eights.

Question 1) What section of development did we find Hardest?

Without a doubt Multiplayer/online.  Making a fully accessible
single-player game would have been MUCH MUCH MUCH easier (did I say MUCH
yet? <smile>).  There are nightmares that programmers and designers need
to keep in mind with online games, things like:
* How the heck do you get the info from all players and keep them all
up-to-date without causing anyone's machine to crash, without causing
your server to crash, and make it possible for 28.8 Modem people to be
able to play competitively with cable modem folks.
* How the heck to you make it so people can play and have fun and
cheaters can't cause trouble.
* How do you find and deal with jerks?
* How do you score the game, how do you present scores to players, how
do you maintain them on the server in a secure and efficient manner?

All of these and more are major issues that caused no end of headaches,
but they were also fun challenges to overcome.

A distant second place, but also something extremely difficult was
determining what the keyboard interface to the game should be, we went
through three major iterations.  I had beta testers practically sending
me hate mail for changing the interface on them, but it had to be done
so we could find the best system - and indeed we found one that has
worked incredibly well.  It just took a few weeks longer than it should
have and was the single biggest thing threatening to make the game ship
late - luckily everything came together in time - whew!

Question 2) What part was the easiest?

Getting the basic rules of Crazy Eights working!  The rules were already
written down (though we did have to experiment and tweak them over time)
and they we're too hard to implement.  What's more, we were able to
reuse much of our code from Poker.

Question 3) What parts of development were the most enjoyable?

Always initial design and brainstorming are the most enjoyable.  This is
when a project is all promise and when negative suggestions aren't
allowed.  It is here that everyone on the team gets to take part in the
birth of the game and in exploring all that is possible.  Out of the
chaos of the first few of these meetings, I end up writing the design
documentation.  Then we work through many many iterations of these to
get a design we can build.

+
Brenda: You currently have 2 card games already developed, does this mean that card
games are less intensive to develop than games like Scrabble, Risk, Clue,
etc?

Paul: Not necessarily.  We chose Poker as our first game because it certainly
is one of the most popular games online (of any genre), is inherently
many-player, had the right demographic appeal, didn't require a lot of
time to play a hand (AKA doesn't have a big time commitment, a VERY
important feature in an online game), and seemed to be a doable
engineering feat for our first commercial title.  Our second game was a
card game because we were able to reuse much of the code from our first
game.  So it was easy for us to do another card game because we had
already done one.  But if our first game had been a Trivia game, then
our second game might very well have been a different kind of trivia game!

Certainly, any game that has "geography" as a part of its core game
mechanics (such as Risk or Scrabble) is a game that presents more design
challenges than a card game.  However, there are many parlour games and
family favourites that are NOT card games but that are probably
comparable to a card game in its ease of programming.  We just went with
poker first and that lead to Crazy Eights.  Where we go next is still in
the air <smile>.

+
Charles Rivard: What features would make a particular game more easily made into an online
game?  The game rules would probably be one factor, I would think.  The use
of and number of dice and how many sides those dice have?  The available
options a player can make at the current point in the game?  How complicated
can the game be before you basically say, "Hey, wait a minute!  This one's
not doable!"  Thanks.  Maybe this will give some insight as to what should
and should not be presented as an idea for a game.

Paul: Here are several factors that make a game easier to make for us:
* Turn based - real time stuff is an extremely challenging (though
doable) feature for us at this time.
* No geography - maps and/or 2D or 3D information is extremely difficult
to communicate accessibly at this time.
* Few Variables - No more than a half dozen to a dozen pieces of
information the player needs to keep in their head at once in order to
play.  Poker and Crazy Eights essentially require you to only remember
what cards you have in your hand and a few other pieces of info, whereas
chess or an RPG require you to remember where any of a zillion pieces
are located and/or zillions of commands and pieces of data.
* Relatively quick game times - Online games work much better if you
don't have to wait to play.  One of the drags to games like monopoly is
that it takes 1-3 hours to play, and so that means you need to really
PLAN in order to get a game going (or you needs skads of players online
at once so that you can get a pick-up game easy).  So we aim for games
that have quick game times so folks don't have to wait long to get into
the action.

And of course, we look for games that are broadly popular (actually,
games popular to dudes and broads <smile>), many-player, and inherently
social.

+
Jacob Elsberry: Here's a question or two for All inPlay:
As an estimate, around how many customers are currently subscribed to
All inPlay; and does that number appear to be growing as steadily as you had
hoped? Also, along with a steady stream of new comers, would you say that
the majority of existing customers are continuing to renew subscriptions as
you had hoped with the current price?

Paul: We now have several hundred paying members, and for reasons I'm sure you
can understand,  can't really get more accurate than that. Our growth in subscribers has been significantly higher than I had
expected for the past five months actually.  Things are finally slowing
down as we hit the pre-holiday lull, but in general growth has been at
comparable rates to that seen by online games for the sighted when they
first launch. The _vast_ majority of our members are
renewing their memberships, something that has made everyone at All
inPlay happy as it indicates that people enjoy playing our games even
well after a year.  I can give you the stats on this area.

First, for comparison, the retention rates (% of your customers that
renew after a year) for many online services is < 30%.  Most online
games for the sighted have retention rates between 30% and 50%, with
some higher.  We have a retention rate of *over* 80%.  Further, our
retention rate was nearly as good before the launch of Crazy Eights,
with many folks emailing us saying that they were amazed how much fun
they were having after playing the game for over a year already. 

+
Brenda Green: When did you first come into contact with computers?
Was it for games, fun and play; or was it as a tool for education and
research? What led you toward programming then on-line games?
What keeps you there?

Paul: I was introduced to computers at around age seven by my mom, the
computer was a Commodore-64, and she thought it would be a good
educational experience.  Of course, once the fun of learning how to make
the thing say "hello world" wore off, I started looking into finding
games, using the text editors to write stories, and eventually taught
myself how to program in BASIC so I could make my own games.

Online games have always been my favourite types of computer games, so I
was naturally drawn to this area.  However, the more I came to know the
blind community, the more I realized that there was not only a need for
*games*, but a need for fun things people could do WITH other people,
especially things blind people could do with their sighted friends and
family and not feel handicapped.  I have a friend whom I met in college
who is blind, and when I'd invite him to hang with my buddies, I
realized that we just couldn't do a lot of the activities that we were
used to doing because they were inaccessible.  That of course meant that
my friend was left out of a lot of things we all did <frown>.  This was
the inspiration for All inPlay, a place where we ALL can play together
as equals.

What keeps me there?  The community.  All inPlay isn't really a game
company, we're  more of an online community that plays games.  I can't
tell you how many emails we have received from people around the world
telling us how much our community has helped them - we have old war
veterans who have been locked up and mostly alone for decades finally
having the ability to play and have fun again.  We have older folks who
have gone blind later in life who now can play with their sighted
grandkids again.  I have emails from blind kids who now have games they
can play with their siblings and parents - just like any other normal
kid.  It is these stories and the many, many friendships I have made
that keep me here at All inPlay.

I can't say I have a favourite game!  I do very much love games, and
there are many that I play.  However, I'll try to answer your question.

My favourite single player game of all time is Dues Ex by Ion Storm, it
is a game that takes the spirit of Orwell's 1984 and does an amazing job
of making it an interactive experience where YOU are the protagonist.
That game still gives me shivers.  But it's a bit of an "art" piece, if
you know what I mean, and does not lend itself to being made accessible
(though the lead designer was fascinated with All inPlay and how we make
our games accessible, there might even be a cool blind character or two
in the sequel <smile>).

I love to play a game called Combat Mission with my father, it's a WWII
strategy game that uses impressive realism and 3D graphics.  My dad's a
big war history fan and we love getting a chance to beat the Nazis
together, great father-son bonding.  By the way, this is a game that
could be played cooperatively if you have a sighted buddy to handle the
controls (its _completely_ inaccessible).  It would require a fair bit
of "video description", but believe you me, if you're into WWII
strategy, it's the game to check out.

I grew up playing Risk with my family and friends, it's a fun game - not
terribly deep, but darn fun.

And to tell you the truth, I've always been a big Uno/Crazy Eights (they
are practically the same game by different names) fan - I have several
decks in my apartment that I torment my friends with from time to time.

+
Brenda Green: Are you blind, visually impaired or sighted?  What about the rest of your
family: parents, brothers and sisters, wife, and children?  Does this fact
play a part in your insuring that your games are accessible?

How many of the team of All inplay are visually impaired?  What were you
looking for in other staff members when you were putting the team together?

What brought the others to All inPlay?  Did any or all of them have a
background in game programming before joining All inPlay?  Were they aware
of, and/or familiar with the accessibility problems?

Paul: With the exception of thick lenses and bifocals since the age of 10, I
am fully sighted.  My father's eyesight is just barely fully sighted,
but when he was young doctors feared he would go blind.  In fact, he
once told me how, as a kid, he overheard the doctors warning my
grandparents that my dad would almost certainly be blind in a few years.
  This inspired my dad, who was already a very accomplished pianist, to
fall in love with Ray Charles's work and to learn to play without
needing to look.  It turned out that his eyesight stayed at a barely
fully-sighted status and remains there today.

So, there is no blindness in myself, my siblings, or any of my family.
I had never even met a blind person until I met my friend Tim in
College, and meeting him was new for me.  Like many sighties, I wasn't
sure what the appropriate way to act was or what "blind people were
like" - I look back and laugh now (as does Tim).

Tim is really the inspiration for All inPlay's direction.  What kept us
going after the initial inspiration was conversations we had with
members of the blind community, including a few conversations here on
this very list!

Two-and-a-half <smile>.  Tim has been blind since birth and serves as
our audio integrator, chief accessibility designer, and a few other hats
too.  A man named Mark Nelson serves on our board of advisors, he serves
as the director of technology for the foundation for blind children and
has been blind for many years now.  Another gentleman in California, who
has been blind since birth, has served as an informal advisor to us and
done some consulting work with us.

When we started the company, we knew we were going to need to have Tim
on board, he's a programmer, an expert in assistive technology, and
having been blind since birth he understood the problems our future
community members would have with software.  The others we added more
because of their skills and less because they are blind.  Though
certainly their experience as blind men has been a valuable to us when
we seek their advice.

When we really start growing and needing to add customer support staff,
we'd like to hire on primarily blind and low vision customer support
staff.  We feel that if a member calls or emails with a question, we
want the person helping them to understand the accessibility and related
problems - and there is no better way to do this than to LIVE it!  Also,
the blind community has unusually low employment, and we feel that
trying to hire as many blind and low vision individuals to fill
vacancies is the RIGHT THING TO DO, and quite frankly it makes good
business sense!

Just about all of us knew Tim from College, and when Jeremie and I
started the company and it gained momentum, each person saw in All
inPlay a dream that was part their own.  Our tech writer Liz wanted to
be a part of a start up that needed good writing, respected good
writing, and was doing something worthwhile and good for the world.
Matt wanted to work on revolutionary user interface programming (boy has
he had a chance to do that!).  Tim wanted games and wanted a job at a
company creating something revolutionary for the blind, and preferably a
job that was fun.  We fit the bill.  Our lead programmer, Gavin, who is
in his 30s, joined us because he wanted to be a part of a start-up
working on something fun, innovative, and worthwhile.

So many of our people, because of their own friendships with Tim, had
some knowledge of accessibility.  However, none of us were experts by
ANY means.

+
Joshua: What genre of computer games do you most enjoy?  Also, do you have any of
the console systems within your possession?  What are your favourite console
games?
Also, what are your other interests beside gaming and computers?  Have you
been much of a world traveler, or are you more content to spend your time
front of your computer screen dreaming up new things you can do with that
silicon brain?

Paul: In general I'd have to say multi-player strategy tied with first-person
action games. Well, on my income I don't own any consoles - but luckily for me my roommate has a _real_
job <smile>.  We have a playstation 2 in the apartment and a nice
collection of titles for that in addition to PC games for the 4 PCs in
the apartment.

You know, there are many console games that I enjoy playing for a little
while, but few that have really drawn me in.  However, the Grand Theft
Auto games - I must admit - were amazing.  All the truly evil stuff
aside, the game is brilliant from a design point of view, the player has
incredible freedom to do so many cool and fun things (and some of them
are even legal!).  I used to love RPGs, but these days I find I'm too
busy to get into them as they all seem "too slow".  Probably shows that
I'm getting old!  Lol!

I'm flattered that you folks would be at all interested in what my
personal interests are!  I am not a world traveler by nature, but my
business partner is and he has dragged me kicking and screaming to
Mexico and the French Alps (where his family has lived for a few hundred
years) - and once I got there I was in awe!  Man those are big
mountains!  Holy cow!

My other interest outside of games are primarily reading (favourite
author is Orson Scott Card, big lover of Isaac Asimov's work also),
movies (Lord of the Rings, realistic war movies, the matrix), history,
hanging with friends, entertaining my nieces, playing piano (not very
well mind you), and serving on the board of advisors for a few nonprofits.

+
Brenda[five questions and Paul's answers]:
Q1) "I'm fairly new to computers so if I visit All inPlay, is there a
place I can
go to get a list of quick and easy-to-learn key commands for use in the
games?"

Ah, absolutely!  In fact, once you install our games, there is an icon
on your dektop for each one, double-clicking this icon sends you to that
game's home page.  On that home page, right at the top, is a navbar with
links to detailed instruction and help documentation, a hotkey guide,
scoreboards, and game options.

Q2) "I've never played cards so at All inPlay is there a place I can get
basic
instructions for the games or do I already need to know the rules of the
game and how to play?"

You don't need to know how to play at all, the "help" link at the top of
the game's home page will take you to detailed instruction that will
explain both how to play the classic card game and how to play All
inPlay's computerized version.

Q3) "What percentage of the players would fall in the following
categories:  up
to 16, 16-30, 30-50, or over 50?male or female?  beginner, average or
experienced card players?"

Whew!  Well, that kind of demographic information is a bit sensitive,
but I can tell you this: We have about equal numbers of men and women,
we have folks of all ages, and our proportion of expert to not-so-good
players is typical of any game community (in fact, for those into math
out there, the distribution closely resembles Ziff's law!  Ut-oh, my
physics education rears its ugly head again! <smile>).

Q4) "Do most visitors to the site start with beginner and then move on
to social, competitive or fast?"

Our poker game has many different kinds of tables, and there you
certainly tend to find newer, less experienced players at the low-end
tables.  However, you also tend to find experienced players who are less
interested in winning chips and more interested in just having fun.

Crazy Eights currently has only two kinds of tables, normal speed and
fast paced.  Usually you find new people and people who like to chat at
the normal speed tables and you find expert players / players who like
to play fast and chat less at the higher speed tables.

Mind you, these are general trends, and many people act differently than
the general trends.  For instance, you often get new Poker players who
think they are real good and go straight to the top dog tables - they
almost always get wiped in just a few hands sadly <frown>.  However,
that's why we have ways for broke players to get more chips <smile>.

Q5) "I like to play cards but I'm young, hmm, let's say 10.  I play
Crazy 8's but
I'd like to try Poker, can I play or do I need consent from my parents since
this is a form of gambling?"

Excellent question.  And in fact there are some special laws (at least
in the US) that pertain to this area, so its very good that you ask it.

Firstly, there is no gambling on our website - all the chips won or lost
are virtual and no real money is involved.  However, that being said,
the THEME is virtual gambling, and some parents are uncomfortable with that.

According to the terms & conditions of our service (which everyone is
asked to read before they create a free trial account), the person
creating the account must be 18 or over.  This means that minors who
would like to play need to have their parents create the account for
them and check through the site to make sure that they are OK with their
child playing on our website.

I like to think of All inPlay as a virtual playground, and like any
playground, when parents bring there kids there they should check each
of the areas to make sure that the games and people playing the games
are the types they feel comfortable with their kids playing with.  All
inPlay is an open community, anyone can join, and so parents should be
aware of that.  In fact, I personally feel that kids should NOT be
playing on our site without parental supervision - we do our best to
keep it a fun, friendly place full of nice people.  But of course, jerks
do show up <frown>.

If a parent would like their kid to enjoy crazy eights but NOT poker, I
would also recommend that the parent uninstall poker so that the child
cannot easily hop onto a poker table.

+
Cotton Blossom[four questions and their answers]:
Q1) "In future versions of Crazy 8's Would you consider making any of
the following modifications to better accommodate user preference?
allowing a user to choose whether or not they wish to join into a hand
that is already in progress when entering a table with others on it who
are already playing."

That feature is indeed on the wishlist.  We tried to get it into version
1.0, but it proved to be extremely difficult to program correctly, all
kinds of ugly difficulties were cropping up so we had to table it to a
future version.

Q2) "Allowing a user to take a break between hands by doing alt a before
play starts and not penalizing them with drawing cards"

At the moment that feature is not on our wishlist.  Up until now we've
looked at the "away" mode simply as a way of helping someone run to the
bathroom or answer the door and not lose their seat at the table.
However, there are other players who might want to sit at that table,
people ready to play and who would contribute points (or chips) if they
were to do so.  Therefore we decided that making away players pay some
kind of small penalty for being away would allow them to keep their seat
without allowing the feature to become abused by a few folks who would
otherwise do so.

Now, that being said, if the vast majority of members feel I'm wrong on
this issue, then I'll gladly revisit it for our next design.  I have no
guarantee that I'm right!  I'm just going on the bets data I have handy,
and if I'm wrong I'll gladly change the design.

Q3) "telling people at the table only once when someone is not dealt in
cause they rejoined."

That is in fact on our wishlist.  We tried also to get this feature into
1.0, but again, it proved to be technically more difficult than we
anticipated because of the underlying programming architecture <frown>.

Q4) "allowing a person to rejoin the hand they were in the middle of
when they get booted from the table"

For those unfamiliar with All inPlay Crazy Eights, if you leave a table
and attempt to rejoin it while the same hand is in progress, you will be
allowed to sit at the table but you will not be allowed to play for that
hand.  This is actually an anti-cheating mechanism, it prevents people
from exiting the game if they have a bad hand to try and get new cards,
and it also helps deal with a few other cheating issues that I can't get
into because it would give cheaters a little too much knowledge of how
our anti-cheating systems work.

Sadly, our game can't tell the difference between someone exiting a hand
of their own volition and someone exiting because of an external reason.
  For instance, let's say you get disconnected, well, our game can
detect that.  However, there is nothing stopping a jerk from pulling
their modem cable out of the wall when they have a bad hand to try and
fool our computers into thinking they were legitimately disconnected.

Jerks ruin things for many of us <frown>.  We try hard to anticipate
cheating issues and avoid them.  And to date we have seen extremely low
instances of cheating on our site.  There was a spat or two of it (as is
inevitable in any online game), but in each case we found the loophole
and patched it up.

+
Brenda[four questions and their answers]:
Q1) "You have stated that there are currently a couple hundred paid on-line
players at the moment.  How many players can All inPlay accommodate at any
given time?"

Our servers are designed to handle 100% of our members coming online at
the same time.  That being said, we don't have that many tables online
at any given time, but I keep an eye on things and add tables as they
are needed.

Q2) "Pick a time zone and based on that time zone, what would be the
most popular
time of day for players, your busiest time of day?"

I actually haven't checked on this in a while, but Given US Eastern
Time, evenings are the most popular, but you can find people on our site
at almost any hour of the day or night.

Q3) "How many games might be running concurrently at one time in each
game play
area?"

Wow, well, as some of you know, from time to time we run special
tournaments.  This summer GW Micro sponsored a free-for-all poker
tournament.  We had nearly 100 simultaneous users participating playing
on about 25 different tournament poker tables.  At more typical peak
times we usually have a half dozen poker and crazy eight tables running
at any given time.  This means that there is usually a great deal of
variety in types of rules available to you and lots of different folks
to hang with.  Its kind of like going to your favourite bar and seeing
tons of friends at different tables.

Q4) "This might apply more to the social play area but, can a person
choose who
they want to play with?"

Oh, very good question!  Every players has complete freedom over who
they get to play with.  When you arrive at a game's home page, you'll
see a list of all the tables that have folks at them and you'll also see
a list of the nicknames of the people at each table!  That way you can
check to see if your buddy JohnDoe is playing and join his table.

In other words, its just like your favourite bar or pub, you walk in and
you can see/hear what buddies are present.  And so long as there is room
at their table, you can pull up a chair.

We believe very strongly in giving folks the ability to socialize and
chat as _they_ want to.

+
Charles Rivard[three questions and answers]:
Q1) "I forgot to get food out for dinner and had to get pizza delivered.
  Problem is, how can I use a keyboard with greasy fingers?  I don't
want to stop."

While this is perhaps not intended as a real question, I must share my
experience on it.  Here's what you do.  Use one hand to eat, and the
other to type <smile>.  In all seriousness, our games are perfectly
one-handed accessible.

Q2) "What guidelines can we use when requesting a game to be made online
accessible?  Some games, like pinochle, have so many different ways to
play..."

I'd say not to worry about all of that.  Its my job as lead designer to
figure that stuff out.  As a member (or potential member), your job is
simply to have fun and make suggestions of what you would like.  If I
can't do it, I'll have no problem saying so and saying why.  I think
that folks have come to know that All inPlay has very limited resources
(at least when compared to our ambitions!) and always does our best to
make what the community wants.  We can't make ten games at a time, we
can't make every variation and not every game or variation would be good
as online games.

So, don't worry about it.  You make your suggestions and I'll write them
down.  Its okay if every now and then someone says something to the
effect of "Gee Paul, I think that a version of never winter nights that
blind and sighted can play as equals would be great", and I say back
"I'd like that too!  But I can tell you it would take _millions_ of
dollars to make that one happen (I'm not exaggerating)!

Q3)"Any thoughts of making games such as head-to-head baseball or
basketball, or other games where we battle one another been considered?
  Thanks."

Absolutely those are games we'd like to do.  However, for the
foreseeable future they probably aren't high on the list because they
are a) not very social (you ACT in such games, you don't TALK much) b)
very difficult to make equally accessible (and if it isn't equally
accessible we're not interested in building it) and c) it would be
extremely expensive to develop at this time.

+
That's all the questions and answers. It took a bit of jentle goading on my part to get things rolling, but once they started, there was an incredible response. I tried to add up a total of all the questions and answers and failed miserably. Moments like this when things catch on and the community gets on board are what have kept me at this for the past seven years. I hope this illustrates to other developers what a powerful vehicle Audyssey can be for them.

Picking a winner was an extremely hard task. Many contributors asked multiple questions, and I don't think we had any which didn't yield entertaining or informative answers. Shane's question got things off to an excellent start and was put forward before I had to resort to the wip of guilt pressure. Charles and Brenda both came up with tons of excellent questions. Brenda wins the free three months of membership at All inPlay for her multitude of excellent questions. Congratulations, Brenda! You're an excellent moderator and have just proved how great you are at online interviews. I hope you have other opportunities to use that talent for the good of our community. You'll find instructions in the E-mail I sent you on how to use your voucher. You can also pass it on as a gift to one person of your choice if for some selfless and knobble or utterly strange reason you don't want the three months for yourself.   

+++
News From BSC Games:

Introduction:

In 2004, BSC Games will be releasing what promises to be one of the most revolutionary games to impact the VI market.  We will be releasing a complete 3D, first person perspective Role Playing Game called Castle Quest.  If you don't have a surround sound speaker setup and a sound card that supports surround sound technology, you may want to get one prior to the release of Castle Quest to fully immerse yourself in the game. 

A World of Intrigue and Adventure:

Castle Quest unveils a complete 3D adventure to VI gamers through the Kingdom of Nivora, home of King Tiras.  Plenty of items, quests, and encounters will keep even the most avid players challenged and enthralled.  In Castle Quest, a portal has been unveiled that leads to a 3D world unlike anything anyone has ever heard.  Players can quest in this extraordinary 3D discovery as they fight to bring justice back to Nivora and help King Tiras regain his rightful reign.  Veteran players will face fresh challenges as they voyage through the various regions of Nivora, while novice players will enjoy scores of new and challenging quests along the way.

Players will battle fiercely against the followers of Raamah, the evil knight who has overtaken parts of Nivora with his minions and allies.  Raamah and his apprentices, battle knights, warriors, devilish creatures, thieves, and many other adversaries join efforts to try to gain control of Nivora.  The fabled Dragon of Tagarma watches over the hidden treasure of Magog, the resource that King Tiras desperately needs in order to turn the tide against Raamah.  Will you be a skilled enough player to help King Tiras regain control of Nivora?

In Castle Quest, you will have:

* Option to play as different classes such as Knight, Assassin, Ranger, and Monk
* An interactive kingdom, with many lands to explore and many items to gather
* Experienced based levelling
* Skills to acquire and develop throughout the adventure
* Equipment that you can loot, as well as purchase
* The ability to train in different weapons and items
* Quests to embark on and accomplish

The Castle Quest Character:

When you start a character, you can choose what class you want to play as in the game.  The design of the game is not finalized yet, but some classes you may find available upon release may include Knight, Assassin, Ranger, and Monk. 

Among the things that are affected by which class you pick will be your character's basic statistics.  Examples include strength, dexterity, constitution, and intelligence.  Strength affects how much you can carry, what kinds of armour and weapons you can use, and how hard you can hit with them.  Dexterity effects how fast you learn weapon skills, you're ability to thwart incoming attacks, and how often you can swing a sword, throw a weapon, or fire a bow.  Constitution affects how much of a beating you can take, and how long you can run or swing your sword without growing tired.  Intelligence affects how quickly you learn certain types of skills, and how effectively you use them.

In addition to various weapon and armour related skills, here are just a few of the other types of skills we have planned:  An ability to move quietly in the shadows without being detected, to feign death so aggressive creatures will leave you alone, track prey, make poison, sense and disarm traps, use certain kinds of special weapons, and employ special attacks.

When will Castle Quest be released? 

Castle Quest is scheduled to be released in either the first or second quarter of 2004. The first release will not have multi-player capability, but we do have plans to release a multi-player expansion pack.

Castle Quest will be one of the most revolutionary games to ever hit the VI market.  You don't want to miss out on this game!  To keep up to date on Castle Quest news and events, visit the cq web site:  www.castle-quest.com. That is spelled with a dash between the words castle and quest as in castle-quest.com.

We are already taking beta testing applications for cq over at the cq web site. After the first of the year, we will be selecting beta testers who have lots of time on their hands and will want to quest for hours at a time in a 3d
adventure. Is that you? If so, jump on over to the cq web site and fill out our cq beta testing application.

When Castle Quest is released, the Castle Quest community will be able to chat and mingle via the Castle Quest mailing list and perhaps a few other ways that are not yet finalized. However, while Castle Quest is in the development stage, we would like to invite everyone to submit your own ideas, suggestions, and comments about the game to us. We would love to hear from you. Although we can not promise to use any of the suggestions you send us, we will certainly read each one and keep them in mind. If you would like to drop us some of your ideas about Castle Quest, feel free to email us at [email protected].


+++
News From ESP Softworks:

Greetings, Gamers!

Here's a quick update on what's currently going on here..

ESP Pinball 2 is almost finished and should be released in late November
or early December.  We still don't have a release date for ESP Raceway,
but hopefully it'll be ready in time for Christmas.

The ESP website is undergoing both a face lift and updated content as
well as allowing online registration.  This will allow you to have
complete control over things such as your current personal information
(shipping address, telephone number, e-mail addresses that have changed,
etc.), ESP list subscription management, the status of ordered items,
etc.

This has been the main reason why the online order form has been
offline.  You may still order from us using the following means if you
don't want to wait until the new site is available:

1. Order from an authorized distributor.  Check our website for a list
of the currently authorized distributors and their contact information.

2. Call us via telephone at 916-359-2224 and order over the phone.  And,
yes, I'll be answering the phone so you'll have a chance to bug me about
ESP Raceway. *grin*

3. E-mail
[email protected]
to request an order.

4. Use the offline order form at the link below to use the old style
order form:

https://hestia.ntsecure.net/espsoftworks/orders/secureorderoffline.asp

The new website will also feature some cool stuff to be announced.  So,
be sure to check it out when the new site goes live.

For those of you who'd like to give the gift that keeps on giving
throughout the year, check out the ESP Five Pack which includes ESP
Pinball, DynaMan, Monkey Business, Alien Outback, Change Reaction on a
single CD at a discount savings of twenty percent.

Finally, ESP would like to wish you all a wonderful holiday season and
look forward to stuffing your stockings with upcoming releases.  See you
next year with the evolution of Max Shrapnel!

As always..

Best wishes,

James

Editor's note: The following information was taken from previous updates for the benefit of people who might not otherwise have been informed.

The Monkey Business update has been fixed to correctly up the game engine as
well as allow you to select the 3D Virtualization mode using the F5, F6, and
F7 keys (refer to the instructions as to their function).  Alien Outback has
been updated as to not generate an 'Overflow Error 6' during initialization.

The updates can be found in the downloads section of our website.


+++
News From GMA Games

Christmas is coming and we expect to be ready for it. GMA Tank Commander is
in its final round of testing, and if all goes well, we hope to have Tank
Commander out by the beginning of December.

For those of you who have tried the demo from several months back, you will
be interested in some of the new features.

  1.. Your tank can now release smoke. This will make it harder for the
enemy to spot you, but in turn, it will make it harder for you to target
them.
  2.. You now have a list-based 360 degree scan. This scan makes it much
easier to quickly browse your surroundings, and in addition, you can also
select your target from the list.
  3.. The game allows you to control other friendly tanks.
  4.. You now have cruise missiles at your finger tips. They can target 360
degrees, and they certainly have a large blast area.
  5.. Optionally, an arcade mode is available. This gives you endless ammo,
and three lives, but to make it interesting, there are one or two
restrictions to game play in this mode.
The retail price is set at $35. You can contact us at
http://WWW.GMAGames.com

+++
News from LWorks:

LWorks Update:

site:

Do to fun technical reasons, the site is currently down.  It should be fixed by mid November if not sooner.  The shopping cart system should be functional
by December in order to purchase Christmas goodies for the family, friends, and Grandma Edith.

Super shot:

Do to more fun lille crashes, super shot will no longer be in development.  Bugs can not be fixed, but the game is still for retail.  Do to the loss in
code, we will move the price down to 10 dollars.  We are still able to manufacture keys and get them out, so if you need a replacement key, hit us up,
yo.

Sphere

Battle for the points, battle for the win.  It's sphere.  This ain't your grandpa's pong game.

Pong is simple and boring, we know.  but what if it were played in an arena, in front of thousands of fans, with a cyber ball, and offensive and defensive
weapons.  what if we told you there was some such league.  You wouldn't believe it, or would you?  Well, you better.
2004 brings a fun, challenging and addicting game.  sphere.

planned features include:

fast and heart pumping game play,
3 levels of difficulty
season, play off, and tournament play
full stereo sound
8 unique players
cool crowd ambiance
play by play announcer, and possibly color commentary
cool rockin techno music
hidden arcade mode also known as prototype mode
hidden Easter eggs and cheats
projected price at 15 dollars
and more

Sphere will be availible in mid 2004.

Production work:

Do you have a website that needs an intro,
an internet station that needs some IDs or promos to make them sound better?
Then, check out the up and coming production section on l-works.net
Just check it out, e-mail us, and we'll produce ids, comercials, sweepers, and more for you to make your multimedia sound better.  More as it becomes available.

for more on L-works.
check out our website for the time being at.
www.l-works.net/backup

The site will be fixed soon, and, no more lost source code.  I promise.  grin.

Liam Erven


+++
News from PCS Games
We are working with GMA on Tank Commander
Game written By David Greenwood, sounds by Phil Vlasak.
It is unwise to be too sure of one's own weapons.
It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest
might err.

You're a commander controlling the "TC17, a super-tech, turbo powered tank.
It's your mission to wipe out the competition with
your seventy ton vehicle equipped with a deadly array of weaponry. Then
spend your time exploring the sectors and collecting more ammo.
Do you attack with the precision of your surgical missile strikes?
Or do you take advantage of the wide blast impact zone of your standard shells?
Do you hide in the forest stealthily picking off the attackers?
Or do you move like a bat out of hell from the starting beach,
cloaked by smoke, shooting everything in your way, simply leveling,
conquering, and occupying the country?
And now, you've got a secret weapon, a cruise missile with you, so you can
hurl that beast at multiple targets and wipe them all out.

Welcome to GMA Tank Commander, where you can die a hundred deaths from dark
until dawn and still have a roaring good time.

Mission 1 Operation Dumb the Enemy Down.
The first mission is Easy. A walk in the park.
Knock out those three intelligence bases and head to town.
In the beginning a couple of targets are pretty straightforward, but soon
the burning hulks become an obstacle course
with their Debris piled high in every direction.
A helicopter circles over you,
the whub-whub-whub of its blades clearly audible in your headphones.
And when you hear your spotter yell, "In coming!"
launch  your missile interceptors!
There's a copter gunnin' for you and those babies are real tank busters!
It's a good idea to shoot the helicopters, and destroy them when you hear
them cause their rockets come at you relentlessly. It's easier than trying
to dodge the rockets or defend yourself with your interceptors.

as you get to the bridge, other nasty surprises are
in store for you that will send you flying!

Mission Two Operation Restock and Reconnoiter.
Chase ammo trucks through the streets, and when you catch them,  try
to  knock them out quickly, but be careful not to hit them too hard.  You
can hall in their goodies, but watch out for enemy tanks peaking out at the
next intersection.
When you've accomplished your objective, head north to find that illusory
gate out of town.

Mission Three Operation Rail road Rumble.
The train is coming an it's not going to stop!
You go to deal it a heavy blow but before you get there, you must evade a
massive on slot of enemy shells trying to prevent you from completing your
task.

Mission Four Operation Follow Then Fight Like Hell.
You've got a mine field to pass through, hopefully in one piece, then get
ready for the fight of your life!
You won't believe the slew of shells that rain down on you!

Mission Five Operation A Bridge Too Close.
Shoot any hidden enemy. Especially shoot the ones who carry tank busting
weapons. They like to aim those your way. Just keep shooting them, even as
you're avoiding the swamp. Then get to the bridge and keep those baddies
from crossing it at all costs.

Mission Six Operation Lead and They Shall Follow.
 From now on, you aren't just on your own.
You've got some friendly tanks to help you out in the final Mission, but
you've also got to keep them from harms way.
You'll have to stay on your toes to survive a whole missile barrage from
the sea.
Don't worry, you'll get your chance to fight with them and help your side
get back to safety.

Then when you've had enough, try the new arcade mode, where you get a huge
arsenal of weaponry,
so you can blast all those suckers to smithereens and back!

With six completely different missions, five skill levels, tremendous
computer shaking explosions, a multitude of enemy opponents and more, GMA
Tank Commander will give you many hours of enjoyment, crushing your
enemies, driving them before you; and reducing their weapons to ashes!

Projected release, beginning of December
at a cost of thirty five dollars US.
Get the game that really kicks!

And now a word from our sponsors...

bud light presents Real American Heroes.
Today we salute you, Mister Ten Pin Alley game designer.
Real men don't go to run down old bowling alleys.
Real men load bowling games into their Pentium Fours.
Why?
Chicks dig guys with fast fingers.
Just ask Elaine waving from the lain next to you.
You bowl with sweaty palms.
one wrong move, and you're on the fast train to blister Ville
So crack open an ice cold Bud Light,
Mister Ten Pin Alley game designer.
When it comes to balls you really lock and load.

Click.
Phil: "Ten Pin Alley voice overs, take, uh, one hundred twenty."
Josh, uh, lets use the name, Charles, as the player name in this one."
Click.
"woh! Charles' ball hooked. Stopped. And then kind of hooked again just
missing the mark."
Josh: "Uh, Phil, How about using Chuck, or Charlie instead of Charles?"

Click.
Phil: "He asked for Charles not Charlie."
Click.
Josh: "OK, why don't we do both?"
Click.
Phil: "I wanted to get this game out by Christmas!"
Click.
Josh: "I'd like to have the beta to you this weekend. I'm sorry I can't get
it to you tonight. But I am working hard even as we speak.  I think that we
can easily promise before Christmas.
I'm hoping we can start shipping around the first of December or sooner if
possible.  The twenty eighth of November is my own personal goal.

Twenty four dollars and ninety five cents is the price I suggested, if
you're comfortable with that.

Click.
Phil: "That sounds OK, Josh.
Now lets get back to work on the game.
take, uh, one hundred twenty one."
Click.
"woh, Charles' ball hooked but stopped when it hit a dry patch. And then
kind of hooked again just
missing clearing the lane.

"Uh, Phil, why don't you tell the folks more about the game?"
Click.
Phil: "OK, here is something I just came up with.
Ten Pin Alley Bowling Game.

It is unwise to be too sure of one's own balls.
It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest
might err.

You're a bowler controlling the alley, with a super-tech, turbo powered ball.
It's your destiny to wipe out the competition with
your powerful right hook that sends the pins smashing to the boards.
Then spend your time drinking  your favorite brew and collecting more chips
for the dip.
Do you bowl with precision, not hooking your ball generating those
difficult straight strikes?
Or do you take advantage of the oil on the lane to maximize the impact zone
of your hook?
Do you concentrate on completing those spares?

Or do you go like a bat out of hell from the starting line
using your intuition to tell you when to throw your ball?

Welcome to Ten Pin Alley, where you can bowl a hundred frames from dark
until dawn and still have a roaring good time.
Click.

Josh: "Uh, Phil, doesn't this text sound familiar?"

Click.
Phil: "That's OK. I don't think anyone will notice."
Click.
Josh: "Why don't you tell them what they will find?"
Click.
Phil: "Well, the main menu has Let's go bowling, which is the game itself.
You can pick from a list of players to bowl against.
These are not computer generated opponents, it's your friends and family
that you bowl against.
You each get to take turns bowling and the game figures your scores and
declares a winner after the tenth frame.

Once you reach the bowling alley, the announcer Bo Lingball, will tell you
what's going on, who's up and what's your score.
You may be distracted by balls rolling down other alleys to your left or
right and the cheers and groans of your fellow bowlers.
Music is playing in your left ear and announcements of importance come over
the intercom occasionally.

Then there is the actual aiming and swinging your ball,
but I think we'll wait for you to discover this one out for yourself.
After all we don't want to reveal all the surprises!
Next there is Create a new player
It asks you what your first name is and then a list of them pops up for you
to pick from.
Then you get to pick your bowling hand, lefty or righty.

You can even View your player's statistics.
In this choice you can arrow through the players who have played.
It gives you the play method, aiming or
aiming and swinging
and your average on five skill levels.

And finally you can Leave the alley.

Uh, Josh, so people will be able to download a demo soon I trust?
Click.
Josh Sure, After the beta team gets it and runs it through its paces!
Just let people know this game is a
collaboration between PCS Games and Adora Entertainment.
         "Even in the name, you can hear the magic..."
www.AdoraEntertainment.com

Click.
Thanks Josh!
Click.

We are also selling Pacman Talks that plays on computers with Windows 98,
ME and XP.
It uses the GMA Games engine and costs  thirty dollars US.
For more information, and to download the Pacman Talks demo, visit the PCS
Games web site at
http://www.pcsgames.net

You can find out what is in store at PCS Games by joining the PCS games list.
To subscribe to this discussion list, send a blank message to,
[email protected]
You can e-mail any comments to Phil at,
[email protected]

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

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

It's been a very hectic time since last I wrote one of these entries. You've already heard about my computer failure unless you were so tired of my rambling as to skip over the "From The Editor" section. I've been hard at work on the game's story elements and script. While I'm nowhere near as far along as I would like to be, I have come to some very key decisions over the past quarter regarding the overall direction and scope of the game. This mainly concerns the story aspect of the game. However, as readers of my previous diaries will recall, the action and story components are to be integrated so that the player's decisions in each area have effects in the other.

From the beginning, I wanted to create a game which had as much replay value as was humanly possible. I also wanted my game to have an emotional impact. In my quest for infinite replay value, I accidentally overlooked a fantastic idea which has finally come to me. The story element was originally going to consist of a number of vignettes where the wizard would have to choose how best to handle a situation. There would be a large number of randomly chosen situations and events and a more limited number of key events which took place and advanced the game's overall plot. As I started trying to conceive of these events, I discovered that it was very hard to do this in such a way that things had as much of an impact as I wanted. Pirates might occasionally attack the island, storms would strike suddenly, etc. This kind of thing will still happen in the game and be an important part of it. However, a whole new dimension has been added which will actually make it a whole lot easier to come up with events for the game.

Previously, the kind wizard would be who would be heard and interacted with directly. Now, we'll still often be dealing with his perspective on things. After all, he is the ultimate leader of the people on the enchanted island and there are lots of nifty issues surrounding good leadership and the use of power to be explored. However, we'll also be dealing with other major characters on the enchanted isle. These characters are mainly members of the island's ruling council. When events happen effecting their particular areas of interest, you'll be hearing from them. These characters each have a destiny which players must help guide them towards by making wise decisions given current circumstances. Wrong decisions will result in them making no progress or potentially moving farther away from their destiny. They may also result in harm to the island and its people. As the player gets to know these characters and whoever they interact with on the island, I hope to convey through this a deeper epic sense to the game. Like a good book, I want the player to care about the characters and hence the choices they make for them.

As Dave Greenwood has continued to improve his engine, I've gained more and more of an ability to add back in elements which I previously didn't think were going to be possible. Sea voyages are now back in the game albeit in a more simplified form than originally. Thinking up a bunch of other characters to help the wizard in his quest solved my major hang-up with voyages. When you embark on these, you'll be doing so as Captain Barnavin Rigo. The kind wizard will never leave the enchanted isle. Captain Rigo will act as his staunch friend and ally. Also, the simulation of altitude for objects and for jumping over pits has been more thoroughly thought through. Combat on the surface of the island is still in need of being worked through. I've already taken a number of tries at coming up with a system that satisfies my requirements for maplessness, ease of play, and complexity. Land combat certainly isn't a major element of the overall game, so I want a system which doesn't require a whole lot of effort to master but still requires some strategic thinking.

By far, the largest and most momentous decision I've made is to try to become a fulltime game developer and start an actual business. This changes some of my outlook on Enchantment's Twilight which has changed from a hobby into what will be my first of hopefully many products. I'll be more focussed than I otherwise would have been on looking for partnerships or ways to minimise my costs and benefit others at the same time. For the foreseeable future, I won't be able to financially compensate people who assist me in making games. I'll therefore look for other ways to compensate them for their efforts or ways which people can help me and themselves at the same time. For instance, Kelly Sapergia is composing the music for Enchantment's Twilight. When everything's all finished, he'll be able to sell the music as a separate CD. Any people who end up doing voice acting for my game will have their names in the credits and may also have any contact information included so they can possibly be hired by others who liked what they heard.

The way I see things, it is vitally important to take as much time as is necessary to make Enchantment's Twilight as high quality a game as is possible given my economic constraints. Also, whoever eventually becomes betatesters for it will be in for a large commitment. I'm going to try to make certain that my games ship only when they have been rendered as bug-free as possible. Until I start selling Enchantment's Twilight, the financial clock doesn't start ticking. My wife and I are supported by government assistance due to our disability. It is my hope that we'll eventually be able to say we don't need it anymore, but it's a great comfort to know that it's there for us given the risky nature of starting a small business. I mean to take full advantage of that. So many games are shipped before they've been properly debugged due to marketing pressures. One trap I don't want to get caught up in is that people will expect me to keep working on games once I've completed them. You shouldn't have to worry about any bugs large or troublesome enough to warrant a patch or update when you buy my games. I want to be able to call them done when they're done and move on to working on new ones. After all, when you buy old-style cartridges for consoles, you didn't expect that a patch would come out for it later. What you bought is what you're stuck with. I mean to run the same kind of operation. If that means waiting extra time before putting a game out there, so be it. For their painstaking efforts, every tester will receive a free copy of the finished product they helped to test. Of course, they'll also get their name in the credits.

There are a whole lot of things I'll have to learn over the next while in order to bring Enchantment's Twilight and other game ideas I have to market. There's the GMA engine to become proficient at. That in itself will likely prove time-consuming. There's also sound effects editing, something I've barely begun to get a grip on. Writing is my best strength, but completing the scripts and story will likely take at least a year as it will be done concurrently with other aspects of game development. I also have to become more familiar with the economic side of things and learn how to run a small business. I know that once I start selling my first game, the treadmill effect will set in and I won't be able to take as long producing my next game. To that end, I plan to release a few smaller games between the large epic ones like Enchantment's Twilight. I have a number of ideas for both kinds of games. Replay value and brain bite are my two main concerns. What's brain bite? Basically, you're going to have to do some thinking to be good at my games, even the action arcade ones. My smaller games will likely be infinitely replayable like old arcade games used to be. The larger epics will have as much replay value as I can pack into them. As random as I'm going to make Enchantment's Twilight, it'll still have ultimate limitations in its story arcs. There's a definite overarching plot and there are only so many situations I can randomly have occurring. Still, with situational correctness built in, I think even the story elements will have sufficient replay value since the correct or best choices will depend on variables which may be different each time the game is played or the situation is encountered.

One of the things I will try and make a bit more progress on is in writing guidelines for the game's music. Poor Kelly has been waiting for some further direction from me as to the kind of music I need. As I get more of the script written out, I'll have a better idea myself. However, over the next while, I'll try to give him more of a basic guideline than I have previously. Back when I gave him my initial thinking on it, the game was mainly going to be a glorified arcade game. Epic adventure changes things a bit, although the game's arcade component will still require a kind of 1980's arcade game music feel but done with more modern and better sounding instruments. The cinematic scenes will be more orchestral. In the next issue of Audyssey, I'll keep everyone posted with another diary entry.

 

+++
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.

Our first announcement concerns online games playable over the Internet:

Hi all.  First, Let me introduce myself.  My name is Jaffar, and I own a
website,
http://www.justwan.com
which is my home site.  I have, up there, 3
online games or muds which you might like to try.  Browse over to the
address given above, click on the games blind people play link and
enjoy.  You will find the following games; Hammurabi, Legend of the green
dragon, and, promisance, a space adventure game.  Cheers!

Jim Kitchen hasn't been idle over the past few months either. People will find a new self-voicing version of Snakes and ladders, Trivia, and likely one or two other new games up on his site at:
http://www.kitchensinc.net

A day before publication, a new programmer bearing a gift for the community decided to make his presence as well as a free game and news of even more on the way known to the community. Here is his posting to the Blindgamers list:

Hi gamers!
I am an accessible games developer. I am author of puzzle 15 numbers and programmer of arcade game Hunter. Now I have created my site
www.vipgameszone.com
A new free game "Crazy tennis" is available for download.
Your suggestions, opinions and tips are very interesting to me.
Welcome to
www.vipgameszone.com

We also have this newsletter from the folks at Pin Interactive working on Terraformers. Holiday shoppers will want to snap up this game assuming everything goes as planned with its release. Here is the newsletter:

Terraformers Newsletter
November 2003
--------------------------

CONTENT
- Release date and price announced
- New web server and design
- New demo available
- Lower hardware requirements
- Handling crashes
- Support
- Services

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

RELEASE DATE & PRICE ANNOUNCED
Date for full release is set to December 4. The price will be 38 US$

NEW WEB SERVER AND DESIGN
We are changing web server for terraformers.nu, so if you have trouble getting to the site there is a copy of the site at
http://www.pininteractive.com/terraformers
as a backup until everything is finished. We are also working on a total redesign of the website.

NEW DEMO
There is a new demo available for download at
http://www.terraformers.nu/us/download.htm
It contains updated and optimized 3D graphics, bug fixes, new sounds, some new game objects and more.

LOWER HARDWARE REQUIREMENTS
Blind gamers playing the official demo released in July with 3D graphics turned off have reported to get the game running very well with much lower specifications.
Hence we decided to make two recommended specifications, one for 3D graphics on and one for off:
http://www.terraformers.nu/us/download.htm

HANDLING CRASHES
There has been reports regarding crashes on some systems which happens occasionally when using menu based game objects (GPS, Backpack etc). If you experience
this problem with the new demo please edit the file "pinTFUserPrefs" in the Terraformers/Prefs folder. Change the text line to "UseOverlays, FALSE", i.e
change TRUE to FALSE. The graphical menus (and other camera overlays) will then be invisible (as a workaround) but the menus work anyway with voice feedback.
We are working on fixing this issue to the full release.

SUPPORT
Please send support mail to
[email protected]

Include all necessary steps needed to reproduce the problem

SERVICES
Pin Interactive AB, developers of the award winning Terraformers game, is also consulting. Our business concept is to produce interactive media fφr a wide
group of users which creates increased value for our customers. By using creative ideas and new technology we seek new ways of supplying information in
a pedagogic and intuitive way. Please contact
[email protected]
to get more information.

+
Achaea, Dreams Of Devine Lands
Reviewed by Zachary Kline
web page:
http://www.achaea.com
telnet achaea.com 23

From the start, this game looked interesting.  It apparently was rated number 1 mud in the world, according to the website.  This is, of course, subjective. I didn't really believe it.
Nevertheless, I thought it surely had something going for it, so I decided I'd log in and maybe create a character and look around. I'm happy I did.  This is no ordinary game.
Its more like a world of its own, to be perfectly honest.  It has an epic history, notable personages, etc.
But that's not all.  Its a completely custom mud, and they really mean custom.  Everything is different.  Combat, for instance. You don't fight people by doing a command like "kill person" and waiting while you die, instead its a lot more tactical and fun.  You actually have abilities such as swordplay, avoidance, etc.  And you have attacks based on these abilities.

The combat system was designed for player verses player fighting.  You can apparently get a lot more thrill out of it that way because of the sheer number and varied type of options you have.
Beyond combat, though, is a world worth exploring.  You'll find cities, all of which are player run.
For the record, I am a citizen of shalom. Then the guild system comes into play.  Not just an excuse for a training hall and guild master npc.  These are far from it.  You'll find a close nit, generally
friendly organization of real players who really believe in things.  I am a mage, and forbidden from advancing the cause of evil or darkness.  Really.

Skills, abilities, everything is here.  But to list them here is impossible.
A few warnings though.

The mud is truly popular.  I swear I have never seen a time when their were less than 300 people online.
This all adds up to spam.  But the good news is that you can turn off certain things, and besides.  Most people don't really hang around, they zip into a room and get out again.
This applies to everyone, but blind users particularly.  Combat requires aliasing.  Or better yet, triggers.  You have to be fast!  Slashing at an enemy can only be done when you are perfectly balanced, and if you get hit you can lose it.
Also, the guilds may appear fanatical at some times.  Talk to them.  Explain that your blind.  They'll listen.
Overall, I recommend that you stop in, and make a new home here.
I hope that Alensin, being the trollish mage that he is, doesn't meet with any evildoers.  I'll be quick to dispatch you!
<Grin>
See you their!
Alensin

+
Campaign For the Cosmos
Reviewed by Darren Harris
Fully playable without sighted assistance

Campaign For the Cosmos (CFTC), is an online empire strategy game.

The basic idea, is to build an empire that is strong and well defended and ultimately, win the battle for the Cosmos.

You build buildings to manufacture certain materials, which you will need. Mints for money, Farms for food and Refineries for minable materials. The 2 materials that are used here, are Oriem and Argentum. You also build Science Facilities, so you can gain science points which help with various aspects of the game:

A. Income.
B. Food production.
C. Construction.
D. Science.
E. Military.

Your empire also needs a population which require food and homes. If you don't have enough food, then your population will go down.

In order that you can build, you need to have to have found or captured Planets. You can find planets by the building of search ships and sending them out. Please note, that you can only use the search ships that you have built once. In addition, each time you buy search ships, they will get more expensive. For example, if I purchased 10 search ships for 20000, the next lot that I purchase and build, might cost 30000. I only plucked those numbers out of the air, it can get 10 or even 20 times more expensive than that. Alternatively, if the search ship option got to expensive, you can capture planets by using your military forces to attack another player. Providing you have strong enough a military force, you can get some planets. But be wary, the more military that you build, the greater your weekly expenses will be. In game time, 1 hour or tick, is a week in game time.

The features of this game are:

1. Real time playing. It can take up to 8 weeks or hours to build something, depending on what it is.
2. The ability to perform intelligent gathering operations to see what your enemy has in terms of resources, search ships, Military and anything else they have.

3. The ability to perform self-operations to boost your current production.

4. The ability to steel resources from your enemy including kidnap population.

5. The ability to cause famine and kill military from your enemy with the use of operations. Please note, that you can only do this if the battle group you are in is at war with another battle group that your target is in.

6. To be able to form a battle group. A battle group, is where if you are in the top 50 rankings, you can form a battle group and all your members will pay up to 1% of their weekly earnings to the battle group which goes into the battle group bank. This has the advantage that if one of your members is strapped for cash, they can ask for a loan from the battle group bank, so that they then have sufficient funds. This might prove necessary for example, if you have spent quite a bit of money on Military, and your expenses then became greater than your income. You could then use the loan money to build more mints to generate you more cash.
Note, you don't have to be in the top 50 to be a member of a battle group.

7. A Bank. You can put money into an account, with in reason any amount although there are restrictions. You put money into the account to earn interest. You earn it every tick at a rate of up to 5%. Each account that you open will earn money for up to the maximum of 120 weeks or ticks.
8. Market. You can trade resources on the Market. Food, Oriem and Argentum. You can either buy or sell. If you are selling, watch that you don't charge to much, or nobody will purchase your resources. Again, this is very useful for generating money, although you would use this later on in the game, when you can make several million per transaction.

9. Council. This allows you to get a breakdown of everything that is happening in your empire. It shows you what your income and out goings are, it can tell you what special operations you have running at that time and much, much more.

10. In game messages. You can send messages to either members of your battle group, or to other players.

11. Aid. You can send and receive aid. You can send any of your resources to another player. Note, you can only send a percentage. For example, 10 percent.
In addition, if you belong to a battle group and you send aid to someone outside the Battle Group, then part of what you have sent will be deducted as tax.

The game itself is all text and link based, there is absolutely no problems in terms of accessibility at all.

I've been playing this now for just over a month and I think it's brilliant. I would definitely give this a 10 out of 10.
The sight has web based forums that you can register with and you can talk about the game, ask questions about the game and get help with parts of the game that you may not understand. I personally have found them very helpful.

Now, to get to play this game, please go to
http://cftc.woodzy.com/
and register an account. It's free to join. Once there, you can Campaign For The Cosmos.

+
Ashes of Angels
Reviewed by Darren Harris

(Please note, that currently, this game is under going Beta Testing. Because of this, there are new features being added on a regular basis.)

Ashes of Angels, is an online space trading game. It is based on the classic game Elite. You fly around in your ship, trading goods for credits, or you can take on missionswhere you will be paid upon completion of the mission.
I have to say that as a player, it feels very much like Elite. I posted a message to this affect on the message board that is on the sight and the game developer replied and said that it was his intention to give Ashes of Angels an Elite style feeling. As an avid player of this classic game, I must say that he has done very well.

The features of this game are:

1. Real time playing. For example, when you are traveling to somewhere, if, the journey takes 15 hours to get from point A to point B, then that's how long it will take. Do not be to concerned about this however, the better the ship you purchase, the faster an engine you can purchase, which will get you there quicker.

2. Market. This is where you can purchase tradable items.

3. Mission board. Where you can pick up jobs to do that are legal.

4. Under Ground Mission Board. This is where you can smuggle, or become a Mercenary.

5. Most wanted list. Pick up a bounty hunters licence and go take out some criminals. Be warned, they probably won't be in little fighter craft.

6. Ship Yard. This is where you can buy new ships. You have over 20 ships to choose from, ranging from small fighter craft to big battle ships. This list is soon to grow.

7. Bank. You can take out loans here. You pay the loan back weekly, or if you have the credits, you can pay it back all at once.

8. Mining. When it is permitted, purchase a mining licence and go and mine a planet for certain materials and then sell them off.

9. Collecting gass from Gass Clouds. Pick up a gass converter and scoop up some gasses from clouds in space that you can then sell once collected.

10. Stock search. Why not check where you will make the best profits before buying or selling goods? Use this option to find out where the cheapest purchases can be made and the best sales can be made. Why not maximise your profits?

11. Internal messaging system. Use this to send and receive messages to and from players. Also, pick up market information and other useful automated messages.

The game is completely open ended. You can choose your own career path. If you decide to become a criminal, then you will receive a criminal rating and a bounty will be placed upon you and you may end up on the (most wanted list.)

Or, become a Pirate and blow up ships and scoop their cargo and take it and sell it.

Or, become a simple trader and make some honest money.

Become a Miner and go about mining planets for goods and then sell them off.

Scoop gasses from gass clouds with a gass converter and your scoops and then sell off the contents.

There are a number of career paths that you can choose in this game. Although at this time, there are only around 28 planets, the game still feels rather big. This mainly is because of the real time element that the game bosts. But, as was mentioned at the top of this review, this game is still in development stages, so that will soon be changing.

In addition to the above, the game developer is very VIP friendly. When you register for the forums, there were those imbedded images where you had to fill in what was on the screen but the screen readers can't obviously read them. I have made him aware of this and he is going to remove them. Now, to play this game. Please go to
http://u1.ashesofangels.com
and register an account. It's free.

Happy Trading.

++
One of the more exciting offerings to come out just before this issue was published is the vastly improved version of BSC Games's hit Space Invaders-style game Troopanum. Charles Rivard has written a review which you'll find below. I have also written my own review and placed it below Charles's.


Troopanum Is A Blast
Game available from
http://www.bscgames.com
Fully accessible without sighted assistance
Reviewed by Charles Rivard

The game is playable by everyone.  It is self-voicing, so no screen reader is required.  Fact is, disengage your screen reader if you have one before running the game.  No sighted assistance is needed to play the game.  I was on the beta testing team, and I think you'll like this game due to it's wide range of settings to set your skill levels.  In this article, I'll take some of the selling points found on the web site and comment on them from a player's view.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

You must be running Windows 98 or higher and
DirectX 8.0 or higher
to play this game.

Troopanum 2.0 is a fast action packed arcade game similar to old school video games such as space invaders and missile command. Your mission is to defend
your star base with your laser gun and fight off the evil space commander, Lord Vector, and his many breeds of ships. Shoot through 16 back to back levels
of intense play grabbing as many points as possible while protecting your star base. Are you a skilled enough player to make it to level 16 and shoot it
out with Lord Vector himself? Fight Vector's bomber ships, fleet ships, lunar lifters, pods, moon rocks, and his new breed of ships called gorbians. Pick
up special items along the way like smart bombs, ground nukes, portals, moon rock shields, and others.

While this does sound complex, it really is not.  On higher waves, a lot goes on.  The play is fast and furious, but fun.  It will keep you busy.  There are, however, not a lot of keystrokes to remember.

Some Troopanum 2.0 features are:

• Extremely accessible game documentation.  The documentation is, by default, opened in Notepad.  The documentation first gives an overview of the new features for those who have a registered copy of version 1.6 or who have tried it.  The documentation is well written and methodically layed out.  It does not jump around and can be read straight through and, if there is something you do not understand, it will become clear during game play once you see how the game works.


• Optional joystick or game pad support.  I cannot comment on this feature because I do not have either a joystick or a game pad, but they are not necessary to play the game.

• Use our joystick utility program to remap the buttons on your joystick or game pad to your personal liking.  Here again, I cannot comment, except to say that other beta testers had no problems with these 2 features.

• Play through 16 action packed levels.  Version 1.6 only had 12.  These are not actually "levels" but waves of ships.  It gets more furious, and ships with their own distinct sounds and behaviour patterns are introduced as you progress through the game.
 
• Choose from 6 different missions to accomplish.  These range from the Baby Black Hole mission which is the easiest to the Resurrection mission which is basically the game in reverse, or from wave 15 to wave 1 followed by wave 16, which is you against Lord Vector himself.  This is the most hectic of the waves.  You'll see what I mean when you play it.

• Enjoy our fully produced techno music that accompanies each level.
• Each level has its own set of rich stereo sound effects.  The music and ambience are nice to add flavour and atmosphere to the game, but I turn them off in order to concentrate more on ship and other game sounds, but this is strictly a personal choice.

• Post your score on any difficulty across the internet from within the game to our Troopanum top 10 score charts.  This shows how you're doing compared with other gamers.  See if you can make, and stay in, the top 10 scorers.

• Select from two different speed rounds to play -- normal ships or gorbian ships.  This might be a good way to practice and get used to how to destroy ships.  Also, you can use these speed rounds to get a quick few minutes of fun rather than play a full game which can take half an hour or more in some cases.

• Post either speed round score across the internet from within the game to the BSC speed round top 10 score charts.  Here's another way to challenge other gamers.  Can you stay in the top 10 by destroying 100 or more ships before the end of the round?  By the way, the speed rounds end when you lose a life, and the longer it lasts, the faster the action becomes.

• Play the game on three difficulties - easy, normal, or insane.  The skill level names say it all.  In conjunction with the setting of which size of playing area you want from normal width, wider, or widest, you have a game that can quickly and easily be set to your playing skill.

• Play two different bonus rounds in the game -- lander ship and shoot sets of ships.  Both bonus rounds are different from the bonus round in earlier versions.  In the first one, you control a ship as it descends to a pad in the center of the screen.  Steer the ship and keep it airborne to increase your point total.  In the second bonus round, shoot ships.  First, 1 ship falls.  Then 2.  Then 3.  And so on.  There are 6 types of ships.  Be prepared to destroy them all.

The game costs $15 in U.S. currency if you are a registered user of previous versions of the game and $30 if you are not.  This game is approximately a 55 meg download.  More can be found on this at the site.  The demo allows you to play 3 of the missions through the first 4 waves and the first bonus round on the easy difficulty level and does not allow the playing of the speed rounds or posting scores to the site.  Registration is easy, and is fully explained in the documentation.

Enjoy the game.

+
Troopanum v2
Game available commercially for $30 US from:
www.bscgames.com
Fully playable without sighted assistance
Reviewed by Michael Feir

The concept of Space Invaders is certainly a familiar one to blind gamers. Both Troopanum and Alien Outback from ESP Softworks give blind players a good feel for this arcade classic while throwing in new and interesting elements. It's hard to think of truly original elements in the context of the overall concept. Each game features power-ups, different enemies, and bonus levels. Despite these similarities, there are plenty of differences between these two takes on a theme.

Veterans of previous versions of Troopanum should definitely pay to get the latest version of it. At the time of this writing, a fifty percent discount is being offered by BSC Games for users of older versions. the list of improvements has already been offered in Charles's review, so I won't include the full list again here. I'll simply go through the game's elements which have most impressed themselves upon me and give you my overall take on things.

The first thing that struck me was the fantastic improvements made in the game's sound effects and music. It has really gained an excellent overall atmosphere and style now. From the speeches Lord Vector makes during the game to the ambient background sounds to the up-beat music, the spirit of the arcade has really come alive in Troopanum. I can't think of a single complaint about how sound was employed in this game. At first listen, people may find the background sounds and/or music distracting. There are actually options to turn these off if desired. However, in my judgement, they do a lot to add to the appeal of the game and people will do themselves a favour by sticking with it long enough to play with full sound and music. In my opinion, this is one clear area where Troopanum does better than Alien Outback in terms of pulling no punches. James North was rightly concerned about background music proving too great of a distraction for players who had to hear so many other things to succeed in playing. The music chosen didn't add a lot to the game overall. In contrast,  Daniel Zingaro and Justin Daubenmire have just made certain that the other sounds were louder than the music and not likely to be too obscured by it. They chose nifty pumping tunes which add a whole lot to the game's overall rush and intensity.

That arcade sense is completely realised in the game play. The six different missions and three difficulty settings gives the game a tremendous amount of replay value. There are also three board sizes. I've only played missions on the easy setting and using a normal board size. Frankly, I don't dare try the other settings yet. I'm not good enough. I've beaten the game's missions on the easy setting only with extreme diligence and effort on the higher levels. Things get absolutely frantic when multiple ships are falling and moon rocks appear. The final battle against Lord Vector is magnificently fast and furious, a fitting conclusion to the Troopanum experience. Justin and Dan pull no punches at all, and I wouldn't have it any other way. The game truly tests your listening skills and quick thinking.

I very much appreciated the clever idea of having a bonus level be a Lunar Lander game done completely in audio. That could be made into a completely separate small game, or a great free game to add to BSC Games's collection of those. It took numerous attempts before I was able to successfully land the ship and gain an extra life. That's a great tigh-in with the rest of the game as is the other bonus level where you have to shoot sets of ships for a special item and then for extra points. It might have been nicer if this shooting four sets of ships were replaced by a more original bonus level idea. That is the one and only constructive criticism I can offer Justin and Dan. In both bonus levels, your performance could earn you advantages making it easier to win. This is as it should be, I think.

The different enemies are quite well thought out. While none of them actually attack you as they do in Alien Outback, they all behave differently. The moon rocks were also neatly implemented. I liked the temporary loss of firing capability as a penalty for running into a moon rock. The liquidators are easily the most innovative enemy. You and they have to be in the exact middle of the field to hit them. The bombers raising their pitch as they were hit was a good idea and worked well.

In conclusion, I have no hesitation about recommending Troopanum to people who want a solid arcade game with a surprising amount of replay value. It's well worth the price. The testers for the game are to be commended as I haven't heard of or encountered any bugs at all. A terrific gift for that blind gamer in your life.     

          

   

++
All Inplay has scored a major goal with its latest offering, Crazy Eights. Here are two reviews of the new online game for both blind and sighted players:

+
Crazy About Crazy 8's
By Donna Williams


Hello, today I'm here to review All inPlay's crazy 8's.  I have been playing it for close to 4 months now and I love it.  For those of you who aren't familiar with All inPlay, they used to be called ZForm and their specialty is online games.  Prior to releasing Crazy 8's they were well-known for their online poker game which blind and sighted can play alike.  Now they've done it again with Crazy 8's.  This version is a combination of Uno and traditional Crazy 8's.  Like Uno you have Draw Two's, Skips, and Reverses.  Eight's are wild, and are worth 50 points, the draw two's reverses, and skips are worth 20 points, and all the rest of the cards are face value.  Ace being 1 and so forth.  At the beginning of the hand you are dealt 5 cards, and your object is to get rid of all your cards before your opponents do.  Any cards that you are left holding at the end of the hand will be added up, and these will be points that you give up to your opponent.  If you are successful in getting rid of all of your cards first then the other player's points will be added up and given to you.  Your goal is to win 1888 points. 

At each crazy 8's table there are no less then three players, and there can be up to eight at one table at one time.  If you are first to join a table you will be greeted by two friendly bots which I'm sure you will grow to love to hate like the rest of us do.  When other players join you, the bots leave the table and the new players are dealt in.  Play then continues till someone is out of cards, or their aren't anymore cards to shuffle. 

A hand of crazy 8's can be quite exciting.  You can have fun while trying to beat the bots, but, personally I think it's more fun to play with live people.  If you like to talk to others as I do, you would want to stop at one of the social tables, but, if you wanted to just play cards and were looking for some fast action, then you would want to check out the faster action tables.      

All you have to do to play this game is to go to www.AllInPlay.com.  You will have to sign up by providing a nickname and password.  You will be able to play both Crazy 8's and Poker for 15 days for free before you are asked to become a paying member.  All inPlay has made it as affordable as possible to play their games by offering both games for one price.  They also have different payment plans so if someone cannot afford a year's membership then they can pay either quarterly, or monthly.  In my opinion their prices are very reasonable, and the games are well worth paying for.  Once you have signed up and downloaded the game pack then you are ready to go.  It should work just fine on your PC with no problems.  It is compatible with screen reading software and doesn't interfere with other applications on your computer.  Any experiences I have had with getting technical support from All inPlay have been positive ones.  Requests for help that have been made by myself or friends of mine have been answered in a timely manner.  So in the rare instance that you would encounter a problem, you would be able to count on someone getting back to you rather quickly. 

Like everything else though, this version of Crazy 8's has it's drawbacks too.  First of all if you come to a table where people are already playing, and you enter in the middle of the hand, you will be dealt in, and if someone goes out and you didn't get a chance to play then you still have to give up those points anyway.  Currently the game doesn't give you the option to decide if you want to be dealt into the hand that is in progress, or if you want to wait until a new hand is begun.  I do understand that the folks at All inPlay wanted to provide this option, but, ran into technical difficulties.  I believe they are still trying to work on it though.  Another disadvantage is being kicked off the table for no apparent reason, but, not actually losing your internet connection.  When you leave the hand either voluntarily, or by being kicked off the table in the way I described above, you again give up points.  If you are able to get back to the table when the same hand is in progress, you will be able to sit at the table, but, you won't be dealt in.  It appears that because a few jerks would cheat things have to be set up this way.  Another thing I'm not real happy with is the away mode that they have built into the game.  Don't get me wrong, I'm glad they have it, but, if you decide to step away from the table be prepared to find yourself with a whole handful of cards upon your return.  If something calls for your immediate attention during a hand and you are a strategist like myself, you'll spend more time trying to figure out whether you would be giving up more points by leaving the hand immediately, or stepping away for a few minutes.  In my opinion there could be two solutions to the problem of unwillingly gaining points, which would still make the game fair.  The away mode could be set up one of two different ways either it could be set up so that if a person left at the end of a hand, but, before any cards were dealt for the next hand they would still be dealt in, but, when it came to their turn, they would be skipped until they returned to the table to play.  If they didn't come back to play before the hand was over then they would lose their spot at the table.  In this way a person could neither cheat in any way, nor take up space at a table for an extended period of time.  If a person must step away in the middle of a hand then the computer should still play for them, but, they shouldn't have to draw cards unless the person playing before them plays a draw two, or they don't have any playable cards. 

Regardless of what All inPlay decides to do about their away mode in the future, I will share with you a tidbit of strategy that I had to learn the hard way.  Having a wild 8 in your hand is not the time to decide to step away from the table, cause if the computer is playing for you and the wild 8 is the only card you can play, it will play it for yu and it will keep the suit the same as what it was before you played the wild 8. This of course gives you a big disadvantage that you wouldn't have if you had been there to pick the suit you wanted to change it to when you played that wild 8. 

But, all this having been said, Crazy 8's isn't just a game, and All inPlay isn't just another online game company, it is a community where people get together to laugh talk and play games.  I'm crazy about Crazy 8's, and I'm sure you will be too.

+
Review by Sue Slater

Do you want to play cards and there is no one there?

Can you no longer read Braille or large print cards?

Do you think you are taking too much time to read your Braille or large
print cards when playing with friends?

Then All in Play's Crazy 8's community and web site is the place for you.

Jeremie Spitzer and Paul Silva have designed a web site where sighted and
visually impaired people can play in the same community.

They have designed the game of crazy 8's to be played on line.

To sign up for a free demo, all you do is go to
www.allin
play.com and sign
up and download the software to play the game.

After you sign up, you pick a nickname for yourself and put in a profile
telling other people about you.

There are many tables of crazy 8's to choose from ; from social playing
where you can take your time between turns and talk to the other people via
hot keys and typing in your messages to fast and wickedly fast where you
only have seconds to make up your mind and take your turn.

You can even play by yourself against robots

Once you enter a table everything is spoken to you.  You are told what cards
are in your hand.  You are told what cards are being played and what cards
you pick.  You are given options as to what cards you can play in a turn.

If you do not have any playable cards, it will say draw a card and once you
pick a card it will let you know whether you can play it or pass your turn.

It is fun, exciting, and addictive!!

My husband now teases me and says he has to make a reservation to use the
computer.

So, if you miss playing cards and want to get into the habit again, then all
in play and crazy 8's is the card game for you.

Click on the free demo today and see what all the hype is about and you will
become part of this exciting community

Sue Slater is a blind cruise agent who plans cruises for the visually
impaired  She can be reached at 314 726 6893 or e mailed at
[email protected].

+++

+++
Answers to Puzzles:

Answers to Puzzles and Games

+++
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]



End of content, go to quickmenu