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Computer Games Accessible to the Blind
by Michael Feir
Issue 1: July/August, 1996


     What's life without a little fun? Just as life would be
incomplete without its pleasures, computers, in my opinion, are
incomplete without games. To find such entertainment, sighted
people need only look as far as their local computer store. There,
they can expect to find high-quality commercially developed games.
Should they need some guidance as to which games are worth their
time and money, they may look to a variety of magazines, friends,
and salespeople for advice. For the blind person, solving the
problem of finding a game is a harder proposition. Games must not
only suit the interests, levels of patience, and intellectual
levels of their players, but must also fulfil another requirement
of being accessible to speech synthesizers or braille display
devices. Added to these difficulties is the dismal fact that
commercial companies are not interested in tapping into the
relatively small market of blind computer users who would buy
games. Finally, the majority of games which are accessible to the
blind are of the interactive fiction type. While the quality of
these games is usually quite high, their one serious drawback is
their general lack of replay value. This magazine will discuss
developed games, as well as those of the shareware/freeware
varieties which, through accident or by design,
are in some way accessible to blind people. Topics relevant to
these games and those who play them will also be discussed. In this
first issue, the opinions expressed will be almost
exclusively my own. However, I do not intend for this magazine to
serve forever as my pulpit. Issues will be published on a bimonthly
basis, on or about the fifteenth of the month. All submissions must
be sent to me in standard Ascii format either on a 3.5-inch floppy
disk, or via e-mail to my Compuserve address. I will give my home
address and my Compuserve address at the end of the magazine. I
will also be happy to accept any games or information on them which
my readers might have. Although I have amassed a sizeable
collection of accessible games, I am always on the look-out for new
ones. Send any games 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. 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. *Never* *ever* send your original disks of *anything*
to *anyone* through the mail. *Always* send *copies!* This
principle may seem like it shouldn't even have to be stated, but
when it comes to just about anything related to computers, there's
always some poor soul who will act before applying common sense.
Disks are *not* indestructible. Things *do* get lost or damaged in
the mail, and disks are not immune to these misfortunes. 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. 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.


From The Editor
Why Audyssey?
The Latest Finds
Replay Value: The Scarce Quantity of Quality
Game Reviews
Adam, The Immortal Gamer
The Eight-bitt Adventure
Coming Soon
Contact Information

From The Editor

Hello to all my readers. Welcome to the first issue of Audyssey.
I'm your editor, Michael Feir. Playing computer games has been my
hobby for the last eleven years or so. They have both entertained
me, and taught me a great deal about myself and the world of
people, places and things in which we live. Almost any kind of game
can tell us valuable things about ourselves, or be inspirational
to unconventional ideas and thinking. Even games of pure luck can
teach us to roll with the punches or to lose with some degree of
grace. I've constantly heard computer games being dismissed as
anti-social, or described as complete wastes of time. These
statements could not be more blatantly wrong, nor more indicative
of ignorance. It is true that a lot of games are designed to be
played by one player only. Just because they are designed for one
player doesn't mean that they need to be played alone. Players can
help each other along, play as a group, have competitions, and
discuss the games that they play with fellow players.

 These days, speech packages are advertised with working in mind,
as they should be. When we spend small fortunes on adaptive
equipment, we want to know that it makes using WordPerfect easy,
or, that it can handle spreadsheets, etc. Only after we have made
our purchases, and have some spare time on hand, do we wonder if
there's anything fun we can do with our equipment. Games are not
only fun, but are also good teachers. They make learning
interesting, and provide motivation to learn how best to use your
speech package. If you need living proof of this, there's me.

     I got my first computer, an Apple II e, when I was about nine
or ten years old. My school teacher happened to have some games for
it, and gave them to me to try out. I took an instant liking to
them, and played them quite regularly. Without my consciously
noticing it, my typing speed increased rapidly. The first time I
was aware of this was when I finished an assignment ten minutes
earlier than anyone else. I also learned more about my speech
synthesizer, and began to find that I knew its controlling
combinations and review features better than the rest of my class.
Games make a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with computers
and special equipment like speech synthesizers. I certainly learned
more about my Artic Transport by playing games than I did by
reading the manual. It's always easier to learn when you're
interested. Although the Artic manual is very well-written, it
shares the boring quality common to technical manuals.

     Retailers have more important things to do than amass
libraries of games. After doing this myself, I can testify to how
much work it is to find suitable games, and, when necessary, write
configurations for them. For me, it was in my own interest to
pursue this goal, and I'll gladly share my experience, games, and
knowledge with anyone who is interested. This is the purpose of
this magazine: To make blind computer-users aware of the vast
potential for enjoyment and exploration which can be at their
fingertips. I'll also be happy to supply any games discussed in the
magazine to any who cannot get hold of them for themselves. If you
want any games mentioned in the magazine, or any particular genre
or type of game, just send me a disk in a returnable mailer. I have
no money to pay for disks or postage, but will gladly put in the
time it takes to help people with games, or fill a few disks with
any games which interest people. The only provision I make is that
I will distribute shareware or freeware games only. These authors
want people to have their games so that they can try them out. It
is your responsibility to pay any registration fees or not.
Shareware works on the honour system. You will not be forced to pay
for shareware products, but you should, as this will encourage
authors to write more games and utilities. Freeware is simply
written for others to enjoy. No contributions are expected for its

Because of computer games, I have learned to use the
full capabilities of all three speech packages I have used over the
years. I have learned to type at a speed around eighty words per
minute largely through playing computer games. My level of patience
has largely been developed as a result of plodding through the more
difficult games, solving their puzzles and unravelling their plots
over weeks or months. Also, games teach us about whatever subjects
they are based on. Playing Poker teaches us about measuring the
odds and also teaches us about guile. Chess teaches logic and
strategy. Adventure games can teach us about such virtues as
persistence in the face of adversity, courage, and loyalty. Of
course, we play games mostly for fun, and I must confess here to
have had a good deal of that. I have
always maintained that games are like mirrors which reflect aspects
of ourselves and those we play with. You'll get to know more of my
philosophy towards games when I explain my choice of a title for
this magazine. This issue is a kind of launching pad for something
which I hope will grow into a forum for discussion of a subject
which has always been dear to me and of interest to many of my
friends. Being the benevolent dictator of an editor that I am, I
will also use this magazine to test some ideas that I have had for
quite a while. The first two of these are a kind of textual comic
strip, and a kind of computerized adventure book which can be
played through the use of any word processor. If you are interested
in seeing this magazine continue beyond two or three more issues,
please send me your articles, thoughts, letters, suggestions, etc.
Although I have a good deal to say about games and their
accessibility, I am by no means an inexhaustible fountain of
knowledge. As I have my own life to live in addition to writing
this magazine, I do not have the time to chase down the authors of
games for Interviews. For this kind of reading, I very strongly
recommend Xyzzynews, available at ftp.gmd.de, as well as on
Compuserve. Xyzzynews always has very interesting articles and
reviews, as well as previews of up-coming games. The contributors
to this magazine are quite knowledgeable and interesting.
Contributions to my magazine must come from you, its readers. This
magazine will deal strictly with what is out there, our reactions
to it, and what you and I would like to see out there in the
future. If you have enough knowledge about games or issues relating
to them, write an article. If you want answers to questions, or
simply want to share a few thoughts on a given topic, write a
letter. I will reserve the right to publish, or not publish any
letters and/or articles I receive. If, for some reason, you do not
want your letter published, please state this in the letter.
Anything without a clear indication that you do not want it
published, I will consider fair game for publication. There should
be no need for concern or embarrassment. Remember also that there
no such thing as a stupid question. Chances are that someone else
may want to know the answer to it, but is too shy to ask. for now,
I plan to simply up-load this magazine in plane Ascii format. If
enough people want it compressed with Pkzip, I can do that. The
size of this magazine should not be too large. My maximum size
limit per issue is around one hundred kilobytes. I might go as high
as a hundred twenty, but this possibility seems fairly remote.
Because of this limitation, I may elect to hold some of what you
send me for future issues. If I don't publish your article in the
issue for which you send it, it doesn't necessarily mean that I do
not intend to publish it. If you are good enough to write reviews
of games which you have played, do not be concerned with any kind
of guidelines or format. Simply describe the game or games, their
good and bad qualities, and their ease of use with speech or
braille access. Remember that all submissions must be in plane
Ascii format. Well, folks, that's about it for this section. I hope
you enjoy the remainder of this magazine, and look forward to
hearing from you.

Why "Audyssey"?

When thinking of a title for this magazine, I asked myself two
basic questions: First of all, what are games to me? Secondly, what
do I want this magazine to focus on? Because the answer to the
second question is more quickly dealt with than the answer to the
first, I will present my answers in reverse order. As I've stated
earlier, I want this magazine to focus on games which are in some
way accessible to the blind. To be largely accessible to the blind,
it is necessary for games to incorporate some auditory component.
Of course, with the use of a braille access device, this is not
strictly necessary. However, any game which can be accessed in the
above manner should be automatically accessible to users of speech
synthesizers, since the games would have to be text-based.

The other question was: What is a game to me? In my experience with
computer games, which has spanned some eleven years or so, they are
journeys of discovery to be taken by the mind. When we play games,
we are exploring their many facets, possibilities, and limitations.
In doing this, we also explore some of our own facets and
limitations. Any game involves challenge or conflict of some kind.
We must learn to face and deal with such things as chance,
strategy, skill, other players, and even ourselves. As I alluded to
earlier, a game can be a mirror, showing us aspects of ourselves
with which we must contend. As with real mirrors, we may not always
like what is shown to us. When we embark on these journeys, we risk
exposing our short-comings. To lose a game can wound the ego,
shake our confidence, and injure our pride. On the other hand,
winning games can boost one's confidence, enlarge one's ego, and
gives one an achievement to be proud of.

An odyssey is a journey fraught with hardships and perils. This
word perfectly summed up what games have been to me. I have gone on
many journeys without leaving my chair, and have discovered many
things. Along the way, I have been frustrated, angered, and have
received some mentally painful wounds to the ego. However, I have
also learned a great deal from the games I have played. As a
traveller may gain a deeper understanding of the world and its
people, so the gamer may gain a deeper understanding of the world,
him/herself, and his/her fellow players. By no means am I
recommending that anyone spend their entire lives playing games. To
do that would be comparable to spending one's whole life wandering,
never stopping in places for long. Such a life would be devoid of
purpose, friendship, and stability. To go on a productive journey,
one must have a home and a life to return to. The experiences
gained on the journey can then be used to better one's life. I look
at games as tools. One goes on a vacation or reads a book, or
builds a house to accomplish something. Without goals to achieve,
tools are useless. I've heard many people talk of games,
particularly role-playing games and computer games, as being
detrimental in various ways. Like any inanimate object, a game is
what we make of it. If we get carried away with them, they can be
harmful. If we enjoy them for what they are, and use them
responsibly, they are either harmless or beneficial. A hammer can
be used to drive a nail into a house, or it can smash the brain out
of someone's skull. We wouldn't entertain the notion of banning all
hammers for an instant. Yet, there are groups who would ban games,
and blame them for any unfortunate consequence which befalls those
who use them poorly. If there is enough interest, I will be happy
to expand upon the lessons I have learned about how to safely enjoy
games, and the best attitude from which to approach them.

The rest of the making of the title of this magazine is, I think,
fairly obvious. I took the first two letters from the word audio,
and used them in place of the o in odyssey. This play on words
seems to me to be the perfect title for a magazine dealing with
games for the blind.

The Latest Finds

In this section of the magazine, I will present to my readers any
additions to my collection of games which I find or receive between
issues. For this first issue, I will discuss what I have run across
in the last couple of months. These presentations will consist of
short commentaries along with the basic requirements for running
the game, as well as essential information concerning
accessibility. For more in-depth coverage of old and new games,
the Game Reviews section.

The Nethack Development team has recently released its tenth
anniversary version of one of the best freeware games in existence.
Actually, there are two flavours of this release. The "real" mode
release is the one that performs the best, but if it doesn't work
on your system, you may want to try the "protected" mode version of
it. It seems to run noticeably slower, but appears to be otherwise
equal. In this role-playing game, you must journey into the Mazes
of Menace to recover the Amulet of Yendor for your god. Dungeons
are randomly generated, so no two games will be the same. Choose
the kind of character you want to play from a list of several,
including knight, wizard, rogue, and barbarian among others. Use
your wits, weapons, and magic to defeat the numerous monsters who
will challenge you on your journey. Beware, for many traps lay in
waiting for incautious adventurers.

This game is a graphically oriented game. The only reason that it
can work for blind people at all is that it can display things
using text characters. Vertical bars form vertical walls, and
dashes form horizontal walls. Creatures are represented by lower
or upper-case letters. Your character is represented by an @ sign,
made by shifting the number 2. If you do not get this game through
me, you will need to change the nethack.cnf file to make the game
use text characters instead of graphics. Instructions are provided
to help people modify the nethack.cnf file, but an all-text
character set is not provided. I have created one for myself, and
will include it with any version I send out. I will also include
the entire nethack.cnf file which I use in this magazine. You will
need a screen review system which allows you to view the screen
character by character. You will also need to be able to search for
specific characters on the screen, such as the @ sign, to find out
where your character is and what is immediately around you.

Begin2 is the second version of this well-designed starship combat
simulator. Up to fifty ships can participate in highly strategic
two-dimensional combat. Instead of the grid system used by most
Star Trek games, this game uses actual principles of navigation and
movement. Course, speed, mark, bearing, and range are given for
each ship in combat. Different kinds of ships have different
turning and speed capabilities, as well as various weapons and
defense capability. This game's one drawback is its lack of plot.
It is strictly a combat simulator. However, it is the best and most
detailed simulator accessible to the blind. to run the simulation
in text mode, from the Dos prompt, type begin2, followed by a
space, followed by the word text. It will otherwise run in graphics
mode. Any speech or braille device which allows for the reviewing
of lines on the screen can access this game.

Spiritwrak is a recent unofficial addition to the Enchanter and
Zork trilogies designed by Infocom. Ten years after the magical
cataclysm brought about by a member of the enchanters' guild, an
order of monks dedicated to maintaining the balance between good
and evil, as well as what remains of magic, comes to realize that
their task is ultimately hopeless. In an effort to escape the age
of science which threatens to destroy their order, they
accidentally unleash four evil spirits and a powerful demon on the
unsuspecting world. As the last available priest of the order, you
must journey into the world of science and, with the aid of the
ancient gods, defeat the demon. This masterful piece of interactive
fiction can easily be compared to Infocom's Enchanter and Zork
trilogies. It is humorous, but is not a parody on Infocom's works.
Instead, it is quite a respectable addition to them. This game
needs the inform interpreter to run. The latest version of this
interpreter is called zip204.exe. do not confuse this with pkzip,
which is a commonly used compression program. This game and the
Inform system and interpreter are both freeware. Several other
fantastic pieces of interactive fiction are written with this
powerful system, and you'll be hearing about more of the best of
them later in this issue. To run an inform game in pure text mode
with zip204, use the command:
zip204 -d 0 (filename)
Remember to include the extension after the dot. No special
techniques are needed to access games of this type. Standard screen
review capabilities are all that is required.

Replay Value: The Scarce Quantity of Quality

When sighted people look at purchasing a game, one of the many
factors which they will consider is a games replay value. This is
especially true with the more expensive Multi-media titles which
come out on cdrom disks. Despite their stunning graphics and
incredible sound, they aren't worth very much if they have no
replay value. There are many adventure games which have no real
replay value after they have been won. All their puzzles and
mysteries have been solved. What could be gained by playing them
again? If left alone for a while, these games may be played again
and be at least marginally interesting. There's always a chance of
discovering things missed on the first trip through the game. There
is also the fun of watching others try and solve a game which you
have already solved. However, other than the above, the game has
little left to offer an example of this kind of game would be
Infocom's excellent piece of science fiction called Planetfall. If
games only have a single plot to them, then typically, that plot
will be very well developed. .

In contrast, there are other games which are designed never to be
the same. There are so many variable elements which change from
game to game, that even after it has been won, playing it again
presents enough of a challenge to be worth while. The plots of
these games are often designed around a main plot, which may be
followed in various ways, and subplots which can optionally be
explored. Card and board games also have a lot of replay value,
since there is either enough randomness or room for variation in
them. Monopoly is such a game. So are a lot of war simulations and
multi-player games. Nethack, as mentioned in the Latest Finds
section, is a game which is designed to be drastically different
each time it is played. It also perfectly illustrates the only
major drawback to games designed with replay value as their main
strength. Nethack has an extremely loose and poorly developed plot.
It is basically a journey through a randomly generated series of
dungeons. There is certainly enough plot to hold the game together,
but one doesn't come away from this game with a deeper
understanding of his or her character.

Both Planetfall and Nethack have something unique to offer.
Planetfall gives us a chance to explore a coherent universe and
unravel a well-developed plot. We come away missing our child-like
robot companion. We are made to think about the ethics of our
actions and the dangers and benefits which technology offers.
Planetfall is a nice game to solve, but I wouldn't want to go back
there. I thoroughly enjoyed solving it once, but if I were to play
it again, it would be reduced from the journey it was to a simple
trip down Memory Lane. I might play it again some day, and will
probably admire it as I would a favourite book. Nethack, on the
other hand, will keep me challenged indefinitely. Each game I play
will be a different experience. I'll have to use different
strategies to overcome different circumstances. Playing Nethack
gives a different sense of wonder than does playing Planetfall.
Planetfall induces a sense of wonder through its detailed crafting,
much like a sculpture does. Nethack produces a sense of wonder at
its intricacy, and the staggering possibilities it offers.

Where does this leave us? Are we forced to choose between games
with too little replay value or too little plot? As long as one
understands the kind of games one is getting into, then both of
these games have their own kind of value. Still, is there no
compromise? The answer to this appears to be a definite yes. There
are some games which have both plot and randomness. An excellent
example of this is Infocom's game Beyond Zork. This game has a very
coherent ultimate quest for you, the hero, to complete. However, it
is designed to be fairly open-ended, with many different ways of
doing things and no restrictions on where players may go at any
time. There are also monsters to be fought, providing further
variability. Locations, potions, scrolls, and other things change
from game to game. Fallthru, a game I will review later in this
issue, is another excellent example of a game with both plot and
replay value. Players must journey throughout a fantasy land and
solve riddles and puzzles to ultimately find their way home. I have
recently won this game (after two years of fairly constant play).
Yet, unlike Planetfall, I could play it again today and be just as
entertained and challenged. Unlike Infocom's works, which are
commercial software, Fallthru is shareware and Nethack is freeware.

Games for multiple players, such as Fallthru and The World Is Mine,
which I will review later, provide the most replay value. A
computer's randomness, even when backed by artificial intelligence
routines, such as in Nethack and Begin2, cannot compare with the
unpredictability, deviousness, and real intelligence of other human
opponents. A lot of games that were designed to run on bulletin
board systems are capable of running as stand-alone games. These
games are often designed for many players, and many are text-based.
These games require many sessions to complete, so groups of players
should realize that they are not suitable for a simple evening's
entertainment. Each player should take his or her turn, and the
game can then be advanced one round. I will review one of these
games in this issue. Since players cannot play simultaneously, they
will have to be patient, and a reasonably short time limit will
have to be set for players. Whoever is in charge of running the
game must read the operating instructions in advance

In the future, more games similar to Fallthru and Beyond zork, will
be made. The compromise between substantial plot and optimal replay
value is hard for designers to make. Increasing one element seems
to automatically mean decreasing the other. Also, it is much easier
to program a game which does not have variable factors necessary
for replay value. For the immediate future, despite the growing
demand for replayable games, truly good ones like Fallthru, will be
quite rare, at least in the domain of shareware and freeware.
companies producing popular multi-media packages have the money and
time to produce high-quality games, and have the talented
programmers necessary to implement variability. Shareware authors
and companies are now producing fairly good role-playing games and
war simulations, but the majority of these are graphical in nature.
Besides the latest version of Nethack and Begin2, nothing with good
replay value has been released in the past couple of years as far
as I know. Anyone with games of this type produced later than 1994
are encouraged to send them to me. I would like nothing better than
to be proven wrong in my somewhat dismal assessment of the
availability of games with high replay value combined with coherent


Colossal Caves: Reviewed by Michael Feir

     Colossal Caves was the first adventure game ever written on a
computer. During one of my searches, I recovered this ancient
treasure, and was surprised at the quality of the game. Originally
made back in the 1960's, I found the descriptions and puzzles to be
most entertaining. The game understands simple, two-word commands,
which tends to make things a tad more complicated than one might
imagine. Despite its age, the game is still comparable to text
adventures made in their heyday during the early eighties. This
game has no real plot. Players must simply explore the cave and
collect the treasure in it. Of course, this task is anything but
simple. The puzzles tend to be object-based. That is, using a
certain object will overcome each obstacle. There are also many
magic words which have different effects, and players must contend
with threatening dwarves which appear from time to time.

No special requirements are needed to play this historically
important game. It makes a fine addition to any games collection.
  If anyone plays games and wonders where it
all began, the answer lies here. This game inspired such classic
interactive fiction as Infocom's zork trilogy, and there are many
versions of the game out there. Enjoy!


     If any of you watch Star Trek, you may sometimes wonder what
a battle between fleets of ships would have been like. Begin,
version 2.00, is one possible answer. It is a tactical simulator,
which, for once, isn't totally dependant on graphics. Up to fifty
ships, outposts, starbases, etc, can participate in detailed
tactical combat.  Information
is accessible in textual or chart form. There is a graphical
display if you're playing with sighted friends, but if you aren't,
I recommend setting the scanning range to no more than 2000, and
you must run it in text mode to have it accessible to speech and
braille displays. To do this, type in the command:
begin2 text

This will minimize the confusion which can be caused by hearing all
odd-sounding syllables. Those odd syllables are representations of
ships in the game, and I've found the scanner to be helpful in
determining when ships are within a certain range. You should find
the provided document adequate, if not completely satisfactory. To
get the complete documentation, you'll have to register with the
author. What can I say? You get what you pay for. In this case, in
fact, I'd say you get a hell of a lot more than that. The quality
and atmosphere are absolutely amazing. The only problem is figuring
out where enemy torpedoes are going. That's largely an exercise of
estimation and deduction. This game has provided me with months of
enjoyment, and I hope you find it equally exciting. It taught me
all about using the more simple review functions.

Fallthru: Adventure Defined

Review by Michael Feir, game by Paul H. Deal

     In my experience with text-based computer games, which now
spans around eleven years, I have never come across a more
stunningly original and wonderfully unstructured adventure. The
problem with most text adventures is that they never change much.
Even Beyond Zork, written by Infocom, doesn't vary nearly as much
from game to game. In Fallthru, you can explore a land of millions
of square legions, (the equivalent of kilometres or miles),
forests, farmland, villages, dungeons,and much more, unhindered by
the structure of the game. During your travels, you will encounter
warriors, renegades, and peasants. Various other creatures can be
encountered or hunted. Climate and terrain are taken into account
by the game as well. Players must take care of their characters,
making sure they are well-fed, hydrated, sheltered, rested, and in
good physical condition.

     Apart from sheer scope and randomness, Fallthru stands out for
its originality. There are no dwarves, goblins, orcs, or even
dragons. Instead, a host of original creatures and demons lies in
wait for the warrior. Many treasures, some with special properties,
are either hidden in dungeons, or offered to the warrior as rewards
for charity. Instead of the typical hack-and -slash approach, the
lives of warriors are largely based on honour. Honourable warriors
will not attack you unless you attack them in response to their
challenge. If it is obvious that you are bested in skill, you can
always yield, as long as you have a rall in hand to pay tribute. If
a player is arrogant enough to respond to a challenge without being
ready to pay if he loses, he must fight to the death. Combat seems
almost totally random, until one realizes that the names of
warriors are important. When greeted, a warrior will always reveal
his level of strength. this level will not vary much, so that if
you encounter a warrior you previously talked to, and remember that
he is weaker than you, you have an almost certain chance of winning
a fight. Your equipment and statistics are also crucial to success.
Strategy is also important in the use of missile weapons of various

The puzzles in the game are quite clever, and not to be dismissed
casually. These range from the simple task of mapping dungeons such
as the catacombs under Slavhos, to deductive spacial reasoning and
foresight needed to conquer Blackwater Cave. I have yet to
encounter a truly complex puzzle, such as some found in the Zork
series, except if one counts the task of figuring out the whole
plot of the game from the scraps of information picked up through
conversations with characters. Shopkeepers, warriors, peasants, and
innkeepers will all give information when spoken to, consisting in
facts about Faland, or riddles to be unravelled through thought and

     The other major feature of this game is the ability to play
along with two other companions. Three players may share the
adventure, each taking their turn for any given segment of the day.
Limited interaction between players is possible, in that players
may help each other out by leaving items for others to pick up.
Fighting among players is not allowed. Although this detracts from
the realism of the game, as far as fantasy can be said to have
realism, it forces players to either cooperate, or pursue their own
quests in a kind of friendly competition.

For the most part, Fallthru is a game of risk management. Rewards
and hazards must be measured and stacked in the players' favour.
Careful planning is needed to survive and prosper. Information must
be absorbed and pieced together to form conclusions suggesting
courses of action to take. Descriptions of places and creatures,
though brief, are detailed enough to add life and interest to this
most original world of adventure. I have recently won this game
without the use of any additional hints or documentation other than
those provided, so you should not be worried about finding that the
game cannot be won due to crippling. This is a good thing since all
of my attempts to locate the author of this game and register it
have met with failure. I plan to try again some time before the
publication of the next issue of this magazine, and will keep you
apprized of any developments here.

Jigsaw: Reviewed by Michael Feir
game by Graham Nelson

Jigsaw is an amazing piece of interactive fiction which surfaced
late last year. It takes place, or, should I say "time", within the
twentieth century. The final moments of the twentieth century have
arrived. You start the game at a New Year's Eve party in the year
1999. Lasers flash across the crowded park. The noise is giving you
a head-ache. To top it all off, an attractive stranger, dressed in
black, has vanished into the crowd. You find that she hasn't
forgotten you for good. She has left you a piece of a jigsaw
puzzle. This strange token of affection turns out to be the key to
a specific event in history. During your quest to maintain the
course of history and thwart the stranger's misguided efforts to
change it for the better, you journey via the jigsaw puzzle through
the past that we have all shared. Many ethical decisions must be
made, and many puzzles, other than the jigsaw puzzle which binds
the game together, must be solved. You must also figure out how to
destroy the time machine so that history can never again be re-

This game represents the best in interactive fiction. The plot and
prose are excellent. Also, although no hints are provided,
footnotes, latin translations, and very thorough and complete
instructions are supplied. The game can be solved in a number of
different ways. As with all inform games, no special features other
than basic screen review capabilities are needed to play this game.
the -d 0 command option should be used with the zip204 interpreter
to play this game in pure text mode.

Galactic Warzone: reviewed by Michael Feir
Game by Scott Baker

This bbs door is capable of running as an excellent and involving
multi-player game. It is fully functional, but is shareware. The
premise is that you are a merchant ship in a universe at war. The
federation has come under attack by a ruthless race of aliens known
as the Cabal. You must forge your own empire and ultimately defeat
both the federation and the Cabal, in order to be able to recreate
the universe in your image.

Many options in the game, such as prices, production amounts,
limitations, and universe size are configurable by the game master.
The documentation is quite well-done. In fact, the only thing which
might confuse people a good deal is the status line on the bottom
of the screen. Just make sure that that line is outside the active
reading area of your speech review when playing. Basically, this
game boils down to a souped up version of Tradewars. This original
concept has sparked a whole wave of clones, as people tried to
improve on the basic theme. Galactic Warzone has two major
advantages. It is completely text-based, and is fully functional.
Enjoy this exciting game.


      has made by a dead inventer 




Adam, The Immortal Gamer: A textual comic

Episode 1: From Eternal Death to Immortality

Adam sits in front of his computer. He is a young, lanky man. He is
in the middle of a game of Fallthru. His character is an insanely
well-armed and well-equipped warrior. A herd of six pack animals
trail behind him, laden with hundreds of pounds of food, and two
dozen canteens filled with water. He carries a scimitar, a spear,
a knife, and wears a suit of armor. Adam has recovered all three
amulets and all three rings. He has only two of the three keys.
Reviewing his statistics and massive inventory, Adam is relatively
pleased with his progress to date, but lusts after the final key.

"Adam!" His mother screeches, the sound fit not only to wake the
dead, but also to shatter every window for blocks in every
direction. "Have you cleaned up your room yet?"

Adam sighs in resignation, and briefly glances at the room he has
spent the majority of his waking life in. It is in its usual state
of disarray. Disks and tapes are scattered about wildly. Clothes
are tossed on the floor. Getting up from his desk, the only neatly
organized place in the whole room, he happ-hazzardly picks some
things off the floor and throws them into disorganized heaps on
various shelves in his closet and cupboards. He hardly notices the
fact that to move about, he must wade through a knee-high layer of
scattered objects. Sitting down at his desk once more, he resumes
playing the game.

Adam's character stands on a trail atop a thousand-foot cliff.
Pulling a diamond and locatrix from his pack, he reads the
information on it. It reveals the location of the golden key, far
away in the rain forests. Adjusting his flyr, he races off across
the lush farmlands towards an unmarked patch of earth. Adam, the
human, is completely caught up in the game, typing furiously and
almost flawlessly. He Is going so fast that he is not checking his
character's statistics, which are steadily dropping.

"Adam!", His father bellows, almost failing to attract the
attention of his son, but receiving an immediate answer from every
sheep from farms within fifty miles, "Have you done your homework?"

"I'll do it later!" Adam yells back. He has a powerful voice, a
kind of pre-requisite for long-distance parental communication. Why
move unless it is absolutely necessary? To tell the truth, Adam
hasn't done his homework for weeks, ever since he started playing
this exciting game. If he started doing it now, he would not only
destroy his reputation as a gamer, but would take weeks to catch up
with his class-mates. He continues playing.

Adam, the warrior, races through a forest of tall pines and other
evergreens. His six pack animals thunder along behind him at break-
neck speed. They move so rapidly that sweat is blown off of the
rapidly tiring warrior before it can collect. Mistaking the sounds
of thundering hooves for a harness race, many peasants stand along
the way and cheer the animals on. They are hungry, poor, and
thirsty, and have much advice to offer, but Adam isn't interested.
Who needs them? The warrior moves so fast that the peasants don't
even notice him. Adam's statistics are plunging. His hunger is at
two, and his thirst is at three. His fatigue is at one. An eagen
swoops down out of the sky. This large bird of pray emits a shrill
and ominous cry. From its point of view, the warrior's face can be
seen. Exhaustion is etched into it like letters on a tombstone.
Death is very near for Adam, the warrior.

Adam, the human, heedless of three of his friends pounding at his
door, continues to play the game. They are getting more and more
angered with him as time passes. Adam barely hears their yells
through the door. "Hey! Adam! Let us in already!"

"Come in!" Adam yells back. Hearing this, the friends try and open
his door. So much stuff is on the floor that the door is
effectively blocked from movement. The stench caused by old pop
cans and wrappers from various kinds of junk food wafts into the
faces of the three comrades in arms. They gag in unison and back
away to rethink their assault plans. Adam, oblivious to all,
carries on.

The warrior takes a final step, and cannot go any further. His
hunger, thirst, and fatigue are all at zero. He is dead. This
tower of strength and prowess collapses slowly to the ground. His
six pack animals start to cry. Peasants finally succeed in catching
up to the fallen warrior, and one of them plays Taps on a noisy
trumpet. An auctioneer appears and Adam's possessions are bargained
off at a rapid pace. Animals gather to feast on his body. Finally
noticing that something is seriously wrong, Adam, the human,
quickly types in the restore command. Briefly, Adam's warrior re-
animates. He starts to rise from the ground, to the accompaniment
of music from Rocky. However, the effort proves too great for the
exhausted warrior, and life fades away from him once again. Again,
the restore command is issued. The warrior is brought back to life
again. This time, he does not get up, but rests instead to regain
his strength. However, he dies again of starvation.

Realizing his tremendous folly, Adam, the human, starts to sob.
"Please! Give me another chance! I've got to win this game! I've
got to!" Faintly, from the other side of the door, a rhythmic
pounding can be heard. Adam's friends have returned with a two-by-
four, and are attempting to ram down his door. "Charge!" Adam's
mother shrieks, causing the three friends to wince and cover their
ears. They charge the door, and the wood cracks. However, so much
junk is piled up against it that it still can stand and block
access to his room.

Adam's computer suddenly displays unfamiliar characters. "Adam! You
have been quite foolish in your use of games. Games are not a
replacement for life, but are only a part of it. You must use the
knowledge and skills that games teach you to further your life in
the real world, instead of playing games all the time.

"I don't care about life! I want to win the game!" Adam feels
slightly foolish talking to his computer, but then, it's never
tried to give him advice like this before. "Please, can't you just
fix up my character so I can try again?"

The computer flashes, and prints: "Alas, that cannot be done. it is
time that you learned your lessons and ended your folly. Turn this
computer off and see to your friends and family. This is your last

Last chance? A part of Adam's mind which has somehow escaped the
numbing effects of continuous game play is alerted by the ominous
quality of that phrase. However, Adam is still set on winning the
game at all costs. "I'll restart from scratch if I have to! I'll
win this game if it's the last thing I do."

"In that case, since you care so little for the real world, you
will leave it until you see its value. You will travel into the
universe of games which are on your hard drive, and learn the
lessons which they have to teach you. You will be given the power
of immortality, but each time you return from death, you will be in
another game. When it has been decided that you have paid for your
wanton squandering of your life, you will be allowed to return to
the world of humanity." Before Adam can even begin to think of how
to respond to this, there is an odd and powerful flash from his
monitor. He is bathed in the strange glow, which seems to penetrate
to his very core. Adam's friends see the odd flash and pause in
their next ramming attempt in a moment's wonder. They are all
experienced gamers, and have never seen anything like this. Adam
gives a brief cry of surprise as he is dissolved into incandescence
and drawn into his computer.

"No! Adam! Are you okay?" Adam's mother shrieks in concern. The
walls crack from the sonic bombardment, and one of Adam's friends
falls to the floor, holding his head in agony. Adam's mother and
the other two friends race into the room, vaulting over piles of
junk. Looking into his chair, they stop in amazement. Adam has

What has become of Adam? How will he fair in the strange universe
of games? What will he learn therein? Find out in future episodes
Adam, the Immortal Gamer



                     An Eight- Bit Adventure
                         by Michael Feir
(This was originally done as a secondary school assignment.)

     Anyone who knows me at all will tell you that I have a decided
interest in computer games. They've become a large part of my life
over the last eleven years or so. People are always asking me,
"What started it all?" The game that began my journey through the
eight-bit universe of computer games was called "Great Escape".
This is what I remember of it, and the impressions it gave me.

     I ran the program, thinking I'd either win, lose, or get
bored, in under twenty minutes. I had no idea how long I would
actually play for. The game took place in a maze of a hundred
rooms. The object was to get out. The instructions said nothing
about an armed villain, a gorilla, or any of the other players in
the game. I found out about those the hard way. The rooms were all
numbered from one to one hundred. Moving north brought me ten rooms
closer to room one. Moving south took me ten rooms closer to one
hundred. I didn't know that until my father explained it to me a
day or two later. All I knew, was that the exit was north.

     Before I made my first move, I heard about a "villeon", and a
leprechaun. I knew what a leprechaun was. They were those little
creatures who either had pots of gold, or bowls of Lucky Charms
cereal. But what was a "villeon"? I didn't know, but it said that
he was trying to find me, and he always seemed to be moving closer.
I figured it might be wise to avoid him, until I got a better idea
of what he was all about.

     After about ten moves or so, I had found a substantial amount
of gold coins. I believe the amount was somewhere around thirty. I
equated a gold coin with ten dollars, since all the stories I heard
which mentioned gold, seemed to suggest that it was very valuable.
As I had no really expensive hobbies back then, thirty gold coins,
(three hundred dollars), seemed like enough money to live on for
the rest of my life. Too late, I found out what the "villeon" did.
He finally found me, moving into the same room I was in. He
captured me, stole all my gold, and threw me into a "secret
passageway". This transported me to a random location. The game had
told me that if I ever got stuck, I could use a "secret passageway"
to get free again. Since my first experience with one was negative,
due to the villain's ("villeon" was some kind of typing error),
robbery of my gold coins, I was reluctant to use this option.

     From then on, I was much more careful to avoid being captured
by the villain again. I kept getting closer and closer to the
leprechaun, but could never catch him. The computer would tell me
how many rooms away from me the leprechaun was, but he would always

     This made me even more determined to catch him, since I was
firmly convinced that if I did, either a pot of gold would appear,
or a bowl of Lucky Charms. I had visions of enormous cauldrons full
of gold, enough to bury someone in. Strangely, the gold pot, and
the bowl of Lucky Charms attained the same value for me. Gold would
be nice, and having never felt a gold coin before, I was curious as
to what they were like. I was hungry, however, so the Lucky Charms
were equally attractive.

     Computers were a mystery to me. I didn't know, nor did I much
care, how they worked. As long as they did, I was satisfied. This
game had a mix of modern and medieval things in it. There were
magic lamps, a locked treasure chest, a time bomb, a flashlight
that needed batteries, a first-aid kit, a gun, a wicked witch, etc.
I believed that some of the things were real, or, could become
real. If I caught the leprechaun, I was convinced that a real
reward would appear somewhere in my bedroom. I was afraid of the
villain, because now that I had a gun, I was convinced that he did
as well. Of course, the villain would easily shoot me. He couldn't
miss. He could see, and I couldn't. How could he possibly fail to
shoot me?

     On the other hand, the gorilla, the robot, all the tools, the
mad gambler, never seemed to have that same sense of realism. They
were more distant, more abstract. I thought that, in some plain of
existence, I was controlling a real person's actions. If certain
conditions were met, I might somehow journey into that plain of
existence, or a part of it would find its way into mine. It was a
strange, magical feeling, that we probably all experience, but
never really appreciate until we can only remember its quality.

     It was like being on the edge of a loud thunder storm. The
danger seems surreal, due to the thin screen that blocks your
window. This thin piece of material, although filled with holes,
seems to provide plenty of protection. But even when most of you
feels safe behind it, a small part of your mind realizes that a
gust of wind could blow the rain in, and a bolt of lightning could
dance its way right through into your room, your reality. This
thrilling edge between fantasy and reality always has, and probably
always will intrigue me. I'm always on the look-out for games that
bring me into that altered state of consciousness, where reality is
so flexible, and nothing is anchored down by rationality and
reason. I got the sense that anything could happen at any time, and
loved it.


     My first game lasted about two and a half hours, by my dubious
recollection of time. During this span of moves and minutes, I was
bitten by a snake, bargained with an evil merchant, was forced to
play the Mad Gambler's game, and, yes, I finally did catch that
leprechaun. I took a break at this point, and searched my entire
room for the pot of gold, or bowl of cereal. I was disappointed
when I never found either. Finally, I gave up, and went back to the
game. I realized that the leprechaun had given me fifty additional
gold pieces, and was somewhat consoled, but still bore a grudge
against the little fellow.

     Near the end of my game, I was trying to find the key to a
treasure chest in the maze. The villain was getting closer all the
time, but my greed kept me from leaving. I had to know what was in
that chest. Then, it hit me. I had a gun! I could shoot the lock
off. I raced for the chest. This bit of recklessness took me within
three rooms of the villain, but by some miracle, I got by him.
Finding the chest, I shot at the lock three times, and would have
shot a forth time had it come to that. I had enough sense to leave
one bullet for shooting at the villain. The chest opened, and
inside it was a staggering four thousand gold pieces. I was

     I raced for the northern edge of the maze, with the villain
only a step behind me. Each time I had shot at the chest, he had
gained precious distance. I was almost at room number seven, where
I knew there was an exit out of the maze. At the last moment, I
fell through a trap-door, and ended up in room number six. I had a
saw, and was told I could use it to cut an exit. Unfortunately, I
pushed the wrong button! The villain caught up with me again.

     The tension was both agonizing, and exquisite, at the same
time. "The villain enters the room. Do you shoot at him? (Y/N)" I
had too much to lose without doing something to defend my fortune.
Unfortunately, there was no (R), (RUN!) option. I realized I had to
shoot. I hit the final button. Time seemed to slow to a crawl. An
image of myself, a very young, frightened kid, standing next to a
calm, sinister villain, laughing wickedly, appeared in my mind. At
last, it happened. I fired first, the word "BANG!", spoken by the
computer, was transformed in my mind to a blast straight out of one
of those war movies. I was sure I had hit him, until the computer
dashed all my hopes by saying: "You missed." The villain's shot
killed me.

     In a way, I still won something. The lesson that winning a
game was not as important as having fun, was my first realization.
Until that moment, it had never really hit home. I learned to value
my imagination, and make the most out of my free time. Perhaps, the
most valuable lesson I was taught, was that having fun, learning,
and self-discovery, go hand-in-hand.

Coming Soon:

In the next issue, there will be a review of a game of Chess which
seems to be fairly speech-friendly. For those who can't wait, it is
Gnuchess, version 3.0. Initial testing done by me, a profound
stranger to the ins and outs of good chess programs, indicates that
this game may be the long-sought-after opponent for those lusting
after a computerized Chess game. A good friend of mine happens to
be quite a chess buff, and he will look into the program further
and have a review for us in the next issue. Another version of
Chess is called Crafty. It requires the use of a math co-processor
to run, and is therefore currently inaccessible to my friend. It
runs fine on my computer, but knowing less about Chess than I do
about colours, I'll leave the reviewing of this game to heads wiser
than mine. If someone out there gets hold of this game and can send
me a review of it, I would very much appreciate that.
Articles for the next issue will cover how to play screen-oriented
games like Nethack, as well as playing games with sighted people.
If there is sufficient demand for it, I'll also discuss the lessons
I've learned concerning a healthy attitude to take towards games.
Of course, Adam's adventures through the universe of games will
commence in earnest in the next issue.

Contacting Me

I can be reached in two ways. The easiest is through Compuserve. My
e-mail address is as follows:

alternatively, you may correspond with me on 3.5-inch disks,
provided you be sure to send them in returnable disk-mailers. I
don't have the money to pay for postage. My mailing address is:
5787 Montevideo Road
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Postal code: L5N 2L5

I have recently acquired a copy of UUencode and UUdecode for dos,
so you may send files to me via this means.       

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