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Hi, I am new here! I have been trying to find websites dedicated to PC games for the blind for a while, and it was surprisingly hard to find one. First: I am not blind myself, but I have developed a game which now features an alternative user interface for blind players. The interface has been tested by only one blind player so far, but he said it works well (but there is still room for improvement left).

Of course, blind people are unlikely to stumble about my game by accident so I tried to find a site to promote the game. Now, I have read the rules of this forum including the "no advertisements" rule. However, I have browsed the forum a little and it seems that some forms of advertisement are actually tolerated. The recent "New Mud" post was not deleted for example. So I guess "no advertisement" really means "no off-topic spam"? Whatever, I am going to post this but I will promise not to post promotion stuff again should this post be deleted.

My game is non-commercial BTW so I am not getting any money out of this anyway, but let us talk about the game now.

The game is called "Warp Rogue". Warp Rogue is a gothic science fantasy roguelike game. It features RPG-like game mechanics, recruitable NPCs, and a consistent theme.

You may not know what a "roguelike" game is. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roguelike
In fact I was surprised to find out that roguelike games are not discussed here, because of their traditional text-based interface they are usually quite accessible for blind people (like MUDs). I have met multiple blind roguelike players on USENET in the past!

Because the standard version of my game does not use plain text output, I wrote an alternative interface especially designed for the blind after someone complained. It was an interesting coding challenge and a test for how well I have managed to seperate the UI from the game mechanics.

The game is still in development, but despite the version number it is fully playable and winable. The low version number is mostly the result of my long term "pie in the sky" goal of an RPG featuring a randomly created world (or even multiple worlds) and quests. Right now the game features only one quest. Very much a "dungeon crawler", but it has a unique theme (no elves in here!). Oh the game is hopelessly focused on combat, so friends of complex dialogs and NPC interaction will have to look elsewhere.

You can download the game here (be sure that you get the FTB version!):
http://todoom.sourceforge.net/
(NOTE: the game could be considered unsuitable for children because of its grim theme and in-game violence)

Please tell me what you think and fell free to request further interface improvements. The only think I cannot change is the structure of the game world. I.e. it is based on "tiles", and I cannot translate the world into sentences (like in a text adventure). Instead the world is displayed using ASCII symbols e.g. '#' is a wall, '.' is a floor tile, '=' is water. This is the common style of display used by roguelikes, it takes some time getting used to if you have to parse it using a screenreader AFAIK, but as I have said there are multiple blind roguelike players so it is certainly possible.

Unfortunately the interface tester of the FTB version disappeared before the fine tuning was finished. So I would like to use this opportunity to ask for help. Warp Rogue is a free, GPL/open source game and you can help to improve the for the blind version by supporting the project as a tester. Contact me if you are interested.

Regards,
copx

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Sure. I will play it immediately and tell you what I think about it. Although I'm not a roguelike player, but I seem to like this thing I have never seen mentioned.

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BTW, here is some helpful advice for people who have never played a roguelike before:
AFAIK blind players primarly use the "look" command to navigate in roguelike games. In Warp Rogue that command is linked to the 'l' key. The command will cause the program to output a description of what is at the current cursor position to the message line (screen line 2 in Warp Rogue). Immediately after pressing 'l' the cursor will be at the current position of your character so your character's name will be shown in the message line. Now you can move the cursor to the left, right etc. so see what is right next to you. That is easier than trying to read the entire world display every turn!

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parham wrote:

Sure. I will play it immediately and tell you what I think about it.

Thanks!

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Well. The thing is, I don't know what the use of these dot signs is. I mean, ok, here we have dots, so what? I can only pass through here? And another thing. I do not seem to find the at sign so that I can know where my other enemies are.

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Well I'd suggest you give me your MSN (if you have any) so that I can add you and we can get this thing further easier and quicker.

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I'll certainly also try the game out.

I have experimented with net hack, but found the game far too slow to play, sinse every move I'd have to wander most of the entire screen with my virtual focus (a virtual curser created by Hal my screen reader), and see what was around me. however, if you have a look function that displays a bit more information that might help considerably.

I'll give this game a try as well as soon as I can (though I'm rather snowed under with work and other commitments at the moment.

Btw, I think the no advertising rule only applies to spam bots and such, news and discussion about accessible games (whether commercial or otherwise), is what this forum is for.

With our dreaming and singing, Ceaseless and sorrowless we! The glory about us clinging Of the glorious futures we see,
Our souls with high music ringing; O men! It must ever be
That we dwell in our dreaming and singing, A little apart from ye. (Arthur O'Shaughnessy 1873.)

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parham wrote:

Well. The thing is, I don't know what the use of these dot signs is. I mean, ok, here we have dots, so what? I can only pass through here?

Well, they are there to show that the tile belongs to the "empty floor" category. You can pass through there that is right, and that is important information isn't it? wink

And another thing. I do not seem to find the at sign so that I can know where my other enemies are.

Yes, figuring out the exact position of enemies is still harder than it should be. A seeing player can just look at the map screen and immediately see where all characters are. Obviously this does not work so well when parsing the map is a slow process. Before my tester disappeared we were discussing the addition of a new kind of screen to make this part of playing a roguelike require a little less patience. The idea is a screen which lists all "important" game world objects on the screen and their position relative to the player i.e. a list of "name (y diff., x diff.)" items e.g.
Pestling (-2, 0)
Chemical sludge (-1,+1)

..means the Pestling (monster) is two steps up from the player character's current position, while the chemical sludge (dangerous terrain feature) is one step up and one step right (again relative to the player character).


BTW, another hint for people who have never played roguelikes before: all characters (enemies and friends alike) are usually symbolized by letters, while the environment and items are symbolized by non-alphabetical symbols.

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parham wrote:

Well I'd suggest you give me your MSN (if you have any) so that I can add you and we can get this thing further easier and quicker.

Sorry, I have no chat account.

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dark empathy wrote:

I'll certainly also try the game out.

I have experimented with net hack, but found the game far too slow to play, sinse every move I'd have to wander most of the entire screen with my virtual focus (a virtual curser created by Hal my screen reader), and see what was around me. however, if you have a look function that displays a bit more information that might help considerably.

I have not played much nethack so I do not really know how the games compare. Right now the look command of Warp Rogue works like the look command of ADOM (http://adom.de/).
Except for switching from graphical output to text output all other interface tweaks I have done so far were based on comments by blind players in the roguelike newsgroups. Common issues I have fixed include:
+ table-like screen layouts
+ white space as an information carrier / layout element
+ colour as an information carrier
+ messages that disappear automatically after a short delay
+ use of "extended ASCII" characters (it seems at least some screenreaders cannot read them)

Features added include:
+ "Bump into" messages i.e. when your character runs against an obstacle you get a message about that. Warp Rogue displays the name of the thing you bumped into in this case.
+ ADOM-like look command (ADOM is probably the most accessible game among the major roguelikes).
+ Verbose message line. USENET discussion uncovered that right now blind players rely on the look command and the message line most of the time, so more messages about in game events = better. An example taken from my development notes:
"
Display messages for game events even if those game events are clearly visible on the map screen, because for blind people reading the message line is much easier than reading the map e.g. when the player notices a formerly hidden enemy display a "You notice an enemy" message, instead of just making the enemy visible on the map screen.
"

BTW, you have to keep in mind that roguelikes (including my game) were originally designed for seeing people so the gameplay experience will probably never be as smooth as in those games primarly designed for the blind. However because it is obviously already possible for blind people to play roguelikes (if they have the needed patience/time) I think it should be possible to reach a satisfying level of accessibility with additional interface tweaks.

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Right. That's a good idea. Sorry, I think my way of talking showed a little impatience... I just guessed it from the way you answered. Well I actually didn't mean anything. And another thing. I think it's good to know the difference for enemies, elevator and some other useful objects, like where gold coins (or whatever) are, and things. I think a list of objects in the current level and how to reach them would be in fact great.

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parham wrote:

Right. That's a good idea.

Ok, I will implement that! (might take a while)

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Cool! That just would be perfect because it would sattisfy our need to the map and with that, we would nearly have a map ourselves.

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Indeed that would be handy.

Given that I'm afraid Nethack tried my patience far too much to be really hhelpful experience, I don't think I can say anything particularly useful about Warprogue  until I've actually tried a roguelike game successfully. Is there any information available on how persons of reduced visibility (such as myself), play Adom?

I checked a couple of online guides and such, but there didn't seem to be anything.

With our dreaming and singing, Ceaseless and sorrowless we! The glory about us clinging Of the glorious futures we see,
Our souls with high music ringing; O men! It must ever be
That we dwell in our dreaming and singing, A little apart from ye. (Arthur O'Shaughnessy 1873.)

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New, hopefully improved, interface is ready! From the changelog:

FTB: a new screen ("Blind Vision"), which makes it easier to locate important things, was added.
FTB: position info was added to the party display.
FTB: the cursor is no longer displayed on the map, instead its position is displayed on the message line.

Here is a test release:

http://todoom.sourceforge.net/ftb_test.zip

Please note that this is not an official release of the game. I only uploaded this so that you can test the changed interface.

I hope it's a big improvement. I am especially interested to hear what you think about the new "cursor". I figured out that showing an '*' on the map was not a very good solution. I remember my first tester reported the issue "I have trouble figuring out where the cursor is", and I think I have found a good solution.

The party display change is a minor one, but still useful I think. Seeing people can see which character they control simply by looking at the map (the player controlled character is represented by a special symbol), but I guess that is not a very efficient method for blind players. Now that the position of each character is displayed in the party "window" it should by much easier.

I use that (y diff; x diff) format everywhere so the player controlled character can be identified by his position: (0;0)

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dark empathy wrote:

Indeed that would be handy.

Given that I'm afraid Nethack tried my patience far too much to be really hhelpful experience, I don't think I can say anything particularly useful about Warprogue  until I've actually tried a roguelike game successfully. Is there any information available on how persons of reduced visibility (such as myself), play Adom?

I checked a couple of online guides and such, but there didn't seem to be anything.

Search the USENET archives (using google groups). I have digged out three posts for you:

> How does someone who is blind play ADOM. I'm just wondering.. (excuse
> my bluntness)

Using a screen reader program to "read" the game screen.

My girlfriend uses JAWS, a screen-reader software which is basically a
very sophisticated text-to-speech system. Thanks do ADOM's verbosity
(especially when bumping into walls, among other things) it is very
playable for her. My girlfriend uses a slightly patched Winbeta4 version
(which stops walk-mode at corners, so she won't get lost) and manages to
play it nearly independently from a sighted "helper" like me :-)
Further, if she needs to find something specific, she simply uses the
'l'ook command. Once again, ADOM's verbose descriptions work very well.
Only once in a while when she misses steps she asks for help, but that
has decreased over the last few weeks to almost zero. It's scary just
_how_ good she is.

Another side note, when you try Nethack again and if you didn't found
out by yourself already: have a look at NetHack's Guidebook (there is a
html-version on their Homepage) chapter 9.9 "Configuring NetHack for
Play by the Blind". Nethack also provides a special configuration file
called NHAccess.nh as a replacement for the common defaults.nh. I don't
know whether it solves your "wall bump" problem, though...  Good Luck!

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Thanks for locating the Adom posts for me, probably I ought to download the game and give it a try (along with the new version of warprogue as well.

As reguards Nethack, I did indeed find that section of the guide book. Weerdly enough, the nhaccess.nh config file wasn't included in the windows Nethack folder, so I ended up downloading the doss version which included it, and swapping the file across (I did E-mail the Nethack developement team about this, but got no reply).

I think though, part of my trouble in Nethack wasn caused by the fact that the map is drawn onto the screen gradually, so every single turn required reading of new areas of the map.

One other problem, was that sinse Nethack is such a complex game using almost every Aski symbol available as both command and game object, quite often I had to trawl through a huge amount of info each turn to find out what I'd come across, or to look up a particular command. Perhaps in Warprogue, you might considder adding a basic text file listing this kind of info which could be kept open as well as the game and flicked to when needed.

With our dreaming and singing, Ceaseless and sorrowless we! The glory about us clinging Of the glorious futures we see,
Our souls with high music ringing; O men! It must ever be
That we dwell in our dreaming and singing, A little apart from ye. (Arthur O'Shaughnessy 1873.)

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There is something like that when you input question mark "?".

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Yep, though it's a litle slow when looking at new objects sinse using a screen reader you can't find a particular entry as you could with a text reader.

though saying that, the "Blind vision" screen is also a very good quick reference as well (maybe sited players unfamiliar with roguelike games might find it of use this way).

I was wondering, if you thought of including a directional look command in the game, say, to look 10 squares in any direction of your charactor. I actually discussed this with a friend of mine who likes roguelikes, and he didn't seem to think it would be too hard in the programming line of such games, and it would make playing the game just using the message line that much easier.

With our dreaming and singing, Ceaseless and sorrowless we! The glory about us clinging Of the glorious futures we see,
Our souls with high music ringing; O men! It must ever be
That we dwell in our dreaming and singing, A little apart from ye. (Arthur O'Shaughnessy 1873.)

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20 (edited by copx 2007-02-09 03:32:26)

dark empathy wrote:

Yep, though it's a litle slow when looking at new objects sinse using a screen reader you can't find a particular entry as you could with a text reader.

Sorry, I do not understand this comment. The '?' screen is a screen which lists all available commands and the associated key. It has nothing to do with "new objects".. Well, except that the '?' screen allows you to open the "additional information" screen which contains the documentation of the game. You can look up object attributes there.. Is that what you mean?
And what is the difference between "screen reader" and "text reader"? I though a "screen reader" (the piece of software used by blind computer users) just translates on screen text (and GUI elements maybe) to sound or braille. So how is that different from a "text reader"?

I was wondering, if you thought of including a directional look command in the game, say, to look 10 squares in any direction of your charactor.

I am not sure what you mean. If you want, let's say, look 10 tiles to the left you just press 'l' (look) and then 'left' ten times..

I actually discussed this with a friend of mine who likes roguelikes, and he didn't seem to think it would be too hard in the programming line of such games, and it would make playing the game just using the message line that much easier.

I am willing to add further improvements, but I just do not know what you mean..

Thanks for testing BTW.

Oh, I would really like to know if the new "cursor" and the "Blind vision" screen are a significant improvement or not.

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One other problem, was that sinse Nethack is such a complex game using almost every Aski symbol available as both command and game object, quite often I had to trawl through a huge amount of info each turn to find out what I'd come across, or to look up a particular command. Perhaps in Warprogue, you might considder adding a basic text file listing this kind of info which could be kept open as well as the game and flicked to when needed.

The symbols on the map do not really tell you much, so knowing their meaning is not that important. A 'D' is daemon, a 'd' (lowercase) is a small daemon, but just knowing that something is a daemon does not tell you much. You need to use the look command and use the "info" function to open the monster's character screen to see its stats, perks, equipment etc.
Right now, Warp Rogue's "symbol world" is incredibly simple: 'H' = Imperial human = friendly/recruitable, Any other letter = enemy, non-alphabetical symbols = objects.
A list which shows all characters and objects in the game together with the associated symbols would be impractical. There are too many objects and characters in the game and many different objects / characters share the same symbol because of this e.g. all close combat weapons use the '|' symbol, all ranged combat weapons use the '/' symbol..

A text file which lists all commands and the associated keys would be possible, but the help screen ('?') does that already.

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22 (edited by dark empathy 2007-02-09 09:16:36)

Hi.

sorry if I confused things slightly there, I was using short hand and not perhaps explaining as well as I could've done.

firstly, When I was talking about "Text readers" I was just meaning a standard text edditing program like word or notepad to read a text file of commands, sinse there would be various features, (pg up and down, and using ctrl f), which would make it easier to find whatever entry was needed, ie, if you encountered a symbo
l on the map, you could instantly look up what it is rather than trawling through a long list of information line by line (which can take time).

However, clearly I slightly miss-understood the extent of what could be done with the look function.

I also seem to have made a mistake as reguards how the look function worked. I assumed that it worked rather like the look function in interactive fiction, and thus would provide a view of only what was in the immediate vicinity of your charactor, and couldn't be used to examine specific tiles around you. (as I said, I'm new at the hole roguelike thing).

Thanks for your patience.

Btw, I've now been playing Warprogue fairly extensively, and the only real problem I've encountered is knowing the location of walls, particularly when using ranged weapons.

The Blind vision function is extremely handy, but quite often checking what's in betwene my charactor and an object or enemy can be a rather long winded process using the look function on every single tile betwene me and them. Perhaps a simple function such as a directional sonar which would let the charactor know the distance or relative coordinates of the nearest impassable object in a given direction. this would also help a lot in understanding the layout of the location as well, particularly in situations like T-junction passages or irregularly shaped rooms.

With our dreaming and singing, Ceaseless and sorrowless we! The glory about us clinging Of the glorious futures we see,
Our souls with high music ringing; O men! It must ever be
That we dwell in our dreaming and singing, A little apart from ye. (Arthur O'Shaughnessy 1873.)

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dark empathy wrote:

However, clearly I slightly miss-understood the extent of what could be done with the look function.

I also seem to have made a mistake as reguards how the look function worked. I assumed that it worked rather like the look function in interactive fiction

Mmm, that is understandable. I did not realize that the function of the look command is not obvious, especially if you are used to interactive fiction/MUDs. I think I will write a special "Getting started" guide for the FTB version that explains how the interface works.

Btw, I've now been playing Warprogue fairly extensively, and the only real problem I've encountered is knowing the location of walls, particularly when using ranged weapons.

The Blind vision function is extremely handy, but quite often checking what's in betwene my charactor and an object or enemy can be a rather long winded process using the look function on every single tile betwene me and them. Perhaps a simple function such as a directional sonar which would let the charactor know the distance or relative coordinates of the nearest impassable object in a given direction. this would also help a lot in understanding the layout of the location as well, particularly in situations like T-junction passages or irregularly shaped rooms.

Ok, I will add a "Sonar" function.

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The Game Will Not Let Me Move! On The Blind Vission Screen It Just Says "aaron (-1, 0) As If I Am Not Moving! I Use The Arrow Keys But It Just Does The Same Thing (after Pressing Escape As Well)
What Do Ido? I Can't Use The Number Pad Since That's What I Use To Make My Screen Reader Tell Me Certain Things.

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Here is a new test version which features the requested "sonar" command (press 'o')

http://todoom.sourceforge.net/ftb_test_sonar.zip

Please test!

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