Hi Thomas,
That sounds fantastic and was definitely interesting to read.  If
anyone deserves a decent break and a great time with family, you do.
I'm loving the ideas for g3d as it should hopefully bring audiogames
up to the next level.  also, i'm a huge wrestling fan, so superslam
sounds fantastic, especially if you can create wrestlers such as tna
or ring of honour guys if they arn't in the game.  have a brilliant
halloween and I hope you continue to enjoy what you're doing, as it
sounds like you are.

On 10/31/11, Thomas Ward <thomasward1...@gmail.com> wrote:
> USA Games News
>
> October 31, 2011
>
> Introduction
>
> Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of the USA Games News.
> As we haven't put out a press release in quite some time and today is
> Halloween we thought now would be a good time to bring the community
> up to date with the latest changes and news.
>
> First, an apology is in order. Late in September we mentioned we were
> considering putting out a game for Halloween. At the time it was
> something we could do fairly quickly, and because we weren't going to
> market the game we were not going to add all the features we could.
> Which means the game probably would have not been up to our usual
> standards to begin with.
>
> However, early on in production we realized that we did not
> necessarily have all the music and sound effects necessary to create a
> game of the type we had in mind. We were looking at investing a few
> hundred in music and sounds, and since we had just purchased new
> 64-bit laptops there was no money to speak of for sounds and music for
> this production. The end result would have been cheaply done without
> it, and to do the game right we would have to end up charging for it.
> So that didn't square well with us.
>
> The other issue was time. Once October got started my wife and I were
> constantly busy with one thing or another. Halloween parties, a fall
> cookout, antique festivals, or just sitting back and watching
> Halloween movies on TV. Basically, it came down to a choice of working
> on a game for little to no money, or spending that time with our
> family and friends. In the end the family/friends won out, and before
> we had time to really get a serious start on it there was no time left
> to work on the project before Halloween was upon us.
>
> So at this point the Halloween game  is not completely abandoned but
> has been postponed. Since there is only about two months until
> Christmas we need to get things back on track in terms of our
> commercial projects. Mysteries of the Ancients is nearing
> completion---as will be discussed at further length in this news
> letter---and Raceway still needs a lot of work to be completed before
> we can have any kind of public beta or demo. So our development
> schedule is pretty full until the end of the year on our main titles.
>
> We would like to apologize for not delivering this game as intended,
> and we hope next year we will be able to have more time to spend on it
> for next Halloween. Until then though we have our hands full with
> other projects.
>
> Genesis 3D
>
> One of the projects that has been getting a lot of work over the last
> month or so is our Genesis Engine, G3D, which we think will help
> improve all of our projects. It will speed up development time in the
> future as well as add some more flexibility in the kinds of games we
> can create.
>
> For instance, we've been looking at creating an RPG style game for
> quite some time, but unfortunately with that type of game prerecorded
> speech is totally impractical.  There is no way to add custom names,
> classes, or weapons to a game without recording the files and having
> the game load and playback the wav file. Not to mention with that kind
> of game its easy to have hundreds of weapons, special items, and
> several characters and places all that would have to be prerecorded.
> It goes without saying that recording and editing hundreds perhaps
> thousands of speech clips take a very very long time to do.  Finally,
> the worst part is because all of the speech clips are prerecorded
> there is no way to change the pitch, rate, volume, or voice on the
> fly. If that needs to be changed it requires rerecording, editing, and
> testing  everything from scratch. Its such a time consuming process
> that it is not really ideal for any kind of game let alone a large RPG
> type game.
>
> One thing we briefly looked at was some kind of text-based user
> interface. We wrote a simple blackjack game, drew a standard window,
> added a textbox, and printed text to the screen. It worked, but wasn't
> a good solution to the problem mainly because in order to read the
> text on the screen the player constantly had to review the screen with
> the Jaws, Window-Eyes, or NVDA review cursor. If a gamer wanted the
> text to be spoken automatically they'd have to use frames, user
> windows, or write scripts to capture the new text and speak it aloud.
> Needless to say it really wasn't a good option either.
>
> This, of course, leaves us with something like SAPI support. SAPI
> support is fine, but there are a few issues that make it less than
> ideal as well.
>
> The first issue is available voices. A lot of people--including
> myself---have recently purchased new 64-bit computers running Windows
> 7. Unfortunately, most of the voices out there from AT&T, Cereproc,
> etc are 32-bit voices only. While most 32-bit voices will run on a
> 64-bit version of Windows 7 it is still problematic to get some games
> and applications to use them. I've actually had applications and games
> crash when using a 32-bit voice where the same application or game
> runs fine when using a 64-bit voice like Microsoft Anna.
>
> As you might expect the recommended solution for this problem is to
> purchase 64-bit voices from Ivona, Cepstral, or use Microsoft Anna.
> The problem is that it could get expensive purchasing all new 64-bit
> voices and speech engines. That's not precisely a desirable solution
> either.
>
> The second issue is licensing. Over the last three/four years or so
> we've noticed a trend among developers to switch from using an open
> standard like SAPI 5 support to exclusive licensing per product.
>
> The RealSpeak voices from Nuance is a case in point. A few years ago a
> customer could  purchase the RealSpeak voices from Nuance or a
> third-party reseller like Freedom Scientific and use it with Jaws,
> Window-eyes, Openbook, NVDA, Text Aloud, or any other SAPI compatible
> product for Windows. However, now the RealSpeak voices are only sold
> to developers on a per product basis and will only work with that
> specific product weather it is TextAloud, Jaws, whatever. Since USA
> Games is a small independent company and we can't afford to license
> those voices that means we can not  directly support them with our
> products.
>
> Last but not least, SAPI has had a reputation of breaking and crashing
> unexpectedly. We've been a member of the Audio Games community long
> enough to see it happen more times than we can count. As a developer
> of audio games we do have to consider this potential problem as well.
>
> Fortunately, there seems to be a viable solution for all of these
> problems. Many of the audio game developers such as GMA allow the
> player to choose the type of speech service to use weather it is Jaws,
> Window-Eyes, NVDA, System Access, or Sapi. Over this past year two or
> three other audio game developers have began using this method for
> text to speech as well, and so far it looks like a good solution over
> all. So that's where USA Games is headed as well.
>
> Over the last few weeks we have been upgrading the G3D speech engine
> so that you will be able to select a screen reader like Jaws, NVDA,
> etc or use SAPI for speech output if no screen reader is available.
> Adding this feature will be extremely helpful for a number of reasons.
>
> First, its very flexible and customizable. Over the summer during beta
> testing of Mysteries of the Ancients there was some negative feedback
> as to the voice being too fast, too slow, or the customer simply
> didn't like the voice we chose to use. This way if there is a voice
> you happen to like that works with your screen reader or works with
> SAPI directly chances are you will now be able to select it and use it
> with our future products built using the Genesis Engine.
>
> Second, its a lot easier to use and is a lot faster than creating
> prerecorded speech clips. This way if we are creating a menu item we
> can just type something like
>     SpeakMessage ("New Game (n)", true);
> and whatever speech service the engine happens to be using by default
> it will speak it. We don't have to do anything else to have instant
> access to speech which suits us just fine.
>
> Finally, we've noticed a dramatic increase in performance once we
> switched over to using something like NVDA for speech output. Instead
> of the game having to load, play, and unload a speech clip it sends
> the text directly to the screen reader which is nearly instant
> feedback. As a result moving through menus, lists, etc is much
> smoother and more natural. Not to mention removing those speech clips
> saves at least fifty MB of drive space, and the download is much
> smaller too. So all around its a better solution in the long run.
>
> Another area of development is that we've finally started cleaning out
> unnecessary code and removing various open source dependencies. We've
> decided that because Windows is our primary target group what we need
> is a stable engine running on the latest and greatest Windows APIs and
> technologies and not one that uses a lot of open source APIs and
> technologies. There is a good reason for this.
>
> For months development on the engine and our other products were held
> up because we were experimenting with the possibility of creating a
> cross-platform engine that could run on Mac OS, Linux, and Windows
> based on open source technologies. We could have done it, but as we
> found out the hard way many of the APIs we would have had to use such
> as SDL, SFML, and ESpeak aren't up to the same standards as DirectX
> and SAPI. We would  have had to leave many features out, and there
> were plenty of platform specific issues to deal with. In the end it
> became too much to deal with for very little gain.
>
> Plus as several of our fellow developers pointed out there really
> isn't a strong financial market for those platforms either. Most VI
> computer users use Windows XP, Vista, and now Windows 7. There are
> maybe a couple hundred VI Mac users we know of, and probably that many
> VI Linux users, but its still a small minority. Its hard to say how
> many extra sales that would be, and if the effort to produce
> cross-platform games would really be worth the effort in the first
> place.
>
> Whatever the current status of Mac and Linux gaming is Windows still
> has the lion's share of users, and it has very good game APIs and
> tools. Microsoft's XAudio2 library, which has replaced DirectSound on
> Windows 7, has superior sound support when paired with a 5.1 or 7.1
> surround sound soundcard. Microsoft's XInput library is the way to go
> if a game developer is intending on supporting something like XBox 360
> controllers. Microsoft's Speech API, SAPI, is still the easiest way to
> support several high quality voices and speech engines for the Windows
> platform not to mention using SAPI  for speech recognition and voice
> input. The bottom line here is that Windows for all its faults still
> has a lot of great technologies that make it a great gaming
> environment, and has lots of technologies to be picked up and used. So
> we might as well support them, and include those technologies we find
> useful in our engine. There is no sense in holding the engine back
> hoping to find some open source solution that compares to what is
> already available.
>
> So we've been cleaning house. We've removed a lot of test code added
> to the engine over the last year or so, and have been replacing it
> with stable Windows technologies and APIs we hope will be useful in
> creating future games. In short, we are just getting the engine stable
> so that games like Mysteries of the Ancients and USA Raceway will be
> using a stable and rock solid engine written and designed specifically
> for Windows rather than using any number of oddball components and
> technologies.
>
> Mysteries of the Ancients
>
> To tell the truth we haven't had a lot of time to work on Mysteries of
> the Ancients for the past month or so, but I can definitely tell you
> where we are heading starting in November.
>
> Basically, as far as Mysteries of the Ancients is concerned there is
> not a great deal of work that needs to be done to get this game ready
> for release. We have plans to update the game to use the latest most
> stable version of the Genesis 3D  Engine, and  then we are going to
> add and fix various minor things we've overlooked until now. We will
> add the final game levels, and add the product registration system to
> the game. After that, probably in early December or so, we hope to put
> up release candidate 1 for testing. So there isn't much more to say
> about the standard version here.
>
> As for the FPS version of Mysteries of the Ancients its also in
> production. There are a number of things that need to be updated, but
> once we get the side-scroller version well o its way the FPS version
> shouldn't take too long to update and release. It shares quite a bit
> of code with the side-scroller version so a lot of the changes I'm
> doing now to the side-scroller version can be easily merged with the
> FPS version at the same time speeding up production. Hopefully, we
> will have two very decent products ready around Christmas time. Only
> time will tell.
>
> Superslam
>
> As some of you might recall over the summer we started work on a new
> wrestling game named Superslam. Originally it started off as a remake
> of Piledriver, but thanks to many hours of development its turning out
> to be a far better game in the long run for a number of reasons.
>
> Unlike Piledriver Superslam is fully self-voicing. You can use Jaws,
> NVDA, or SAPI .Window-Eyes, System Access, and Hal currently aren't
> supported, but we hope to eventually support those screen readers
> directly as well. Having this direct screen reader support is very
> responsive and tends to give play by play action in real time rather
> than having to review the screen constantly for new text.
>
> Another huge advantage over a game like Piledriver is sounds and
> music. While there is still a lot of work that needs to be added to
> this part of the game it is still pretty cool to hear your performer's
> entrance music play when you enter the ring or win a match. Not to
> mention hear the crowd cheer, boo, and react to what is happening in
> the ring. Its so much more entertaining having that background
> ambiance while you take turns wrestling the computer opponent.
>
> Also unlike Piledriver Superslam actually has pull down menus you can
> scroll through rather than picking a number and pressing enter. One
> thing that drove me crazy about Pile Driver is I might have a list of
> 280 performers and I had to look up their ID and type it in and press
> enter to go to the next screen. In Superslam it uses standard menus
> which makes things a whole lot easier. When you begin a match it will
> display a menu of performers. You can simply arrow up and down through
> the choices, and press enter to select the one you want. That is so
> much more user friendly than Piledriver.
>
> Superslam also comes with a completely up to date database. Piledriver
> was written in the mid 1990's so a lot of the performers were from the
> 1980's and 1990's from the AWA, NWA, WWF, and WCW. Superslam uses
> current superstars from WWE Raw and WWE Smackdown. Both male and
> female performers are supported so chances are your current favorite
> WWE performers are already in the game.
>
> Finally, last but not least, is being able to select and play at
> special events. A number of special events are being added to the game
> including Hell in a Cell, Vengence, Wrestlemania, Summerslam, Night of
> Champions, etc so you can pretty much pick and choose what events you
> want to enter your performers in and where to play them.
>
> So in conclusion we've been working hard to make Superslam a great
> accessible wrestling game, and so far games like Piledriver and
> Wrestling league Manager can't hold a candle to this one. I myself
> have had a lot of fun testing it, and it will be even more fun once it
> is complete and all the bugs are worked out of it.
>
> As to when it will be released we don't have any idea. As metnioned
> earlier all of our time will be spent on MOTA throughout November and
> December so there will be little time if any to work on side projects
> like Superslam. So stay tuned and we'll provide more information about
> this title as it becomes available.
>
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