As you know there has been a lot of discussion recently about
mainstream games vs accessible audio games. That got me thinking in a
new direction, and a topic I'd like to discuss as an audio game
developer. Basically, the direction I want to stear discussion towards
is converting strictly visual content into audio, spoken feedback, or
some other accessible content.
For example, I think all of you know by now I'm a pretty major history
buff, and I have read quite a bit on ancient mythology as well. As a
result many of the games I'd like to write will have gods, goddesses,
and ancient creatures from mythology. However, many of these things
look very strange visually.
Let's take a few of the Egyptian gods and goddesses as a quick
example. As is pretty common in ancient mythology and religion they
are half-man half-animal creatures. Anubis, one of the Egyptian death
gods, has the body of a man but the head of a jackle. Thoth, the
Egyptian god of wisdom and medicine, had the body of a man and the
head of an ibis. The all important god, Horus, had the body of a man
but the head of a falcon. All of this is fine and dandy if you can see
it, but descriptions mean little if you can't.
What I mean is if you happen to be playing some sort of mainstream
game where Egyptian creatures are in it, perhaps a game based on
Stargate SG1, a sighted person could instantly see what Anubis, Thoth,
Hathor, Horus, etc looks like and it looks pretty cool. Unfortunately,
someone who is blind may not have any idea or clue what these
creatures look like. If they are not really up on Egyptian mythology
and religion they might not even know as much as I described above.
The problem is you can't just add some sounds to a game and say this
is Horus, Thoth, Hathor, Ra, whatever and accurately give someone an
instant idea what that creature looks like.
A practical example of what I mean in Mysteries of the Ancients beta
17 I added a new creature, the Lamia, to level 1. I got quite a number
of questions asking me straight out, "what the heck is a Lamia?"
Which brings me to the point. I'd like to gather some suggestions,
ideas really, how you guys think I can improve my games to more
accurately describe or assist you with the more visual aspects of the
creatures and enemies you might encounter in the games. Yeah, i
certainly can add a section to the manuals giving a verbal description
of each of the enemies in the game, which I'm doing now, but I think
there is more that can be done. What do you guys think?
Another related issue is accurately describing the backgroun seenary.
For example, Michael and I were discussing on list how great the
panaramic seenary was in Tomb Raider. That's something that just
doesn't quite get transfered well to an audio format. Oh, if you want
to do a text adventure you can describe everything down to the last
detail if you want to, but in audio based action games developers just
stick in a bunch of sounds and forget it. That leaves me personally
feeling like something essential is left out.
For example, in a mainstream vidio game there is all kinds of
non-essential stuff to look at. Pictures on the walls, different
colored rooms, stone statues, maybe a window, and things like that.
All of this is purely for the player's visual enjoyment but very
lacking in audio games. To give you a practical example let's take a
level from Tomb Raider Angel of Darkness.
On level 3 Lara Croft has to visit Von Croy's friend who happens to
have a copy of his diary explaining how to find the missing paintings.
One way to get it is to try and speak to her, and ask for it outright.
Another is to sneek into the apartment and steel it. Which is the
setting I'd like to present to you hear.
Now, naturally there are various things in the apartment you would
normally fined in anyone's apartment. Desk, chairs, drawers, a
telephone, silverware, etc. All of this is something you can see, but
there is no exact sound you can slap on some of these houshold items.
Some of the items you can be a little inventive with such as record
the sound of silverware clinking together to indicate there is
silverware nearby. However, for furnature items such as a desk,
chairs, table, etc that's quite a bit more abstract. There really
isn't any sound that works for those items. Of course, some developers
have made do with having a voice speaking the name of the item like
"chair, chair, chair" over and over again, but not only is that
distracting it is a bit weird. Another way to handle this is to have
no sound associated with that item, and use the view command to find
it. That makes it difficult to find the desk, for example, if you have
to constantly have to keep using the look command to locate it. Very
problematic as you can see.
Finally, something else lacking is a way to look at or examine things
you can hear. For example, in Troopenum I can hear all the various
ships. Yeah, i can hear them, but somebody tell me what they look
like. What shape are they? What color are they? How big is this or
I hope nobody takes offense, none is intended hear, but it just seams
to me that most VI game developers often overlook the power of
description. They often just have a sound descriptions menu saying
this ship x and it sounds like this. That's great for learning the
game sounds, but it doesn't give me a mental picture of the alien,
spaceship, monster, weapon, etc the sound is supposed to b associated
with. I don't know if this is because I once had sight and lost it,
but I find detailed descriptions in games highly important to me
In fact, over the past few months I have been playing lots of text
adventures on my laptop. One big reason is that is the most common
accessible games for the Linux operating system. The other reason is I
really enjoy the degree of detail you get from using a look command.
Now, that I've gotten use to that kind of feedback It just started to
dawn on me that audio games totally lack this basic feature, and there
really isn't a really good reason why we don't have something like
It seams to me the only way to sort of resolve this problem is to have
some kind of look command that describes everything in the game. As I
mentioned earlier if you are playing a text adventure written in
Adrift, Inform, etc the look command will give you a great deal of
informationat once. However, this also would add a substantial amount
of work to any audio game, because essentially the developer is trying
to describe everything in the game that a sighted gamer could just
see. So my question to you is how important is a more descriptive
look/view command to you personally? Would you like to have more
Since this is an open topic I'd like to hear your views, suggestions,
and opinions how we as a community can begin conveying completely
visual content in an accessible format. I'd like to draft some general
guidelines or standards perhaps to really give games a little more
depth. I'd also like to know if this is something that concerns
several blind gamers, or just a few like myself who lost his/her sight
later in life and just want something more like the visual eye candy
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