Hi Tom and all.

This is indeed a very fascinating topic Thomas.  I too am an historian by
education, my B.A. and M.A. are in history although I'm currently an access
technology instructor.  I am also very fond of mythology and classical
literature.  I see I have a couple of kindred spirits on here.

But back to your topic.  I remember having some very fascinating discussions
with my art teacher in high school, she was very interested in finding out
how a blind person perceives the world and how it differs from that of a
sighted person.  I frankly don't recall all the details but suffice it to
say that as you are of course very aware yourself there are some very
significant differences.  Just for one example, there is the matter of
perspective.  When a sighted person views an object say from a couple
hundred meters versus a couple of meters, the object in question appears to
be smaller.  As someone who has never had sight that would not have occurred
to me at all.  The closest thing we have is that as we get further away from
a sound source the sound seems to get quieter.

I like your idea of being able to examine objects and of adding more things
and more atmosphere, I too used to enjoy things like text adventures because
they provide more depth, but they just do not provide the live action of a
video game which I find my tastes have kind of shifted to over the years.
You are right to think that you are not going to be able to describe these
things adequately very easily if at all.  One thing you have to keep in
mind, it's well and good to say that this creature or god has the body of a
man and the head of a jaguar, but again as someone who has never seen or
felt a jaguar and is not likely to, this is still not going to mean a heck
of a lot to a lot of your players.  Ditto for colors, you can say that this
creature is covered with blue and green scales and that is fine for someone
like myself who used to have good light perception and color perception but
for someone who has never seen colors there is simply no accurate way to
convey that information. You can use all the adjectives you want, a color is
warm or cool or what have you, but as someone who has seen before you
certainly know how inaccurate that is.

Please do not misconstrue this message, in no way am I discouraging you from
pursuing your goal as you know I am one of the mainstream gamers on this
list and that is one of the reasons why, ven with the limited types of games
we can play on consoles the degree of complexity and depth are amazing so I
am all for that in audio games as much as possible.  This message is just to
mainly try to convey and hopefully clarify the difficulties you are facing
in this quest you are on to provide richer content and I hope it will give
you some more ideas because the ones you have so far are pretty darn good.

Best regards,

Tom

-----Original Message-----
From: gamers-boun...@audyssey.org [mailto:gamers-boun...@audyssey.org] On
Behalf Of Thomas Ward
Sent: Thursday, February 10, 2011 8:16 PM
To: Gamers Discussion list
Subject: [Audyssey] Converting Visual Content into Audio


Hi everyone,

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 that ship?

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 personally.

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 that.

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 descriptive messages?


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 etc.

Thanks.

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