Hi All,

I've been aware of Aurora 4X, a complex, in-depth space strategy game for years now, and always meant to write up or record a guide to getting started with it as a totally blind player. This game is unlike anything else available on the accessible games scene, but has a very steep learning curve. This is planned to be a multi-part tutorial on how to play. I'm going to divide this up into a few posts, beginning with an answer to the question, what is Aurora 4X, exactly?

If you've ever heard of games for mainstream audiences like Galactic Civilizations, Master of Orion, or Space Empires, you might have a leg up on knowing what Aurora is all about. It's a big, open-ended game in which you play as one or several space-going civilizations, go out into the galaxy, and meet all kinds of alien life who may or may not want to kill you. The things which distinguish Aurora from the other games I've mentioned are sheer depth/complexity, being largely text-based, and being written in Visual Basic 6, (yes, seriously.) There is a new version being re-written in a more modern programming language, but that's beyond the scope of this tutorial since nobody but the designer is able to play it yet.

What sorts of things can you do in this game? Pretty much anything in a military sci-fi bent. You can build up a space navy from nothing, send colonists to Mars or the moons of Jupiter or far-flung stars, watch as those colonists are killed because you forgot to supply them with adequate life support for their new homes, and so forth. The game has no over-arching goal, and in some ways can be very slow-paced, especially if you opt to avoid starting with lots of technology. There is no time pressure or twitch factor at all.

What do you mean, text-based? There are graphics, including various maps, but they aren't required to play. You can do research, design ships, fight aliens, and the like all from a variety of (admittedly very cluttered) screens. More over, a lot of the game information is presented in the form of text-based reports, such as ship and component designs, details about stars and their planets, and so forth.

What do you need to play Aurora 4X? The answer is, patience, enthusiasm, Jaws for Windows and a computer with a fairly specific screen resolution. This might seem weird, especially as most of us here are  blind gamers, but the screen requirement is definitely a real thing. You need a minimum screen resolution of 1280x800, something like 1366x768, common on laptops, won't cut it. This is a large part of why I found it hard to play this game for quite a while, my machine didn't have the proper screen size.

Regarding my mention of jaws for Windows, I'm afraid it really is a requirement. NVDA doesn't play well with some of the displays the game uses. It's possible someone could write an add-on to change this, but I have not investigated in depth.

Where do you get Aurora 4X? There is a dedicated forum here. The portable release is likely the easiest to install. It should be a simple matter of downloading either the executable installer or the zip file. Once downloaded, you can just run "Aurora.exe," or the wrapper, "aurora_wrapper.exe," if you want the admittedly very nice music that accompanies it.

What's next? I will write up a tutorial in the next while explaining how to get started, where to find some documentation for Aurora itself, and how best to explore the game screens. Hint: You will be using the Jaws cursor a lot. I hope everyone enjoys, and I'm more than happy to answer questions if I can.

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