Thomas is correct, IMHO. Having self-voicing in a game ensures its audio interface is present and works the way you want it to, without the idiosyncracies of JAWS, etc.

However, a colleague at the Carrol Center for the Blind long ago convinced us that a game without JAWS won't sell to U.S. blind gamers.

I'm not a marketing person so I don't know if he's right or wrong there.

I'm certainly not qualified to join the which-screen-reader-is-best wars.

But as a sighted programmer, having to code for any screen reader is excellent discipline. It forces me to have at least a basic grasp of some of audio display issues and results in a better audio user interface.

However, coding for a screen reader is a lot of work. In order to make a user interface that is pleasing to a blind gamer, a visually-impaired gamer, and a sighted gamer, we often speak stuff that isn't displayed on the screen. That takes not only extra plumbing, as Thomas and other coders know well, but sometimes changes the user interface architecture. And sometimes takes pure magic.

JAWS has a clunky, but workable interface to the Java language we use. It also has a Braille interface. Something I'd like to pursue some day with the folks at Helen Keller or SENSE in the UK.

The folks in Fort Wayne haven't yet added a Java interface to Windows Eyes, though I suspect that I could access their API via Java's C/C++ interface. But that would take a lot of work, add to the complexity of the code, and increase the probability of bugs.

I think Dark at one time told us that he tried one of our games with HAL and it seemed to work. Maybe they use the same Java API as JAWS. However, getting a copy, learning it, and designing and coding for it have the same issues as for Windows Eyes.

So self-voicing plus JAWS seems the optimal solution to an audio interface.

That being said, I'm personally not satisfied with Kevin, our voice. Though as the real Kevin says, "It's free. Don't complain." I know enough now to make the Free-TTS code work with SAPI. However, that's probably over a month of analysis, design, and coding; more for testing and debugging.

I'm pushing management here to include SAPI in our summer work.

But we're a small mainstream game company with small margins. And the iron jaws of capitalism dictate profit or die.

John Bannick
Chief Technology Officer
7-128 Software

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