Out if the sight
Michael Feir is an avid gamer. He spent so much time playing games in college he created his own online gaming magazine. But he doesn't play the hottest best-selling games and has never seen Grand Theft Auto he's blind.
It doesn't matter. A growing library of computer games has been built specially for blind gamers, using sound instead of visuals to let players know what's going on around them.
"My dad had taken me as a young person to arcades and he would tell me what to do, and what was going on," said Feir. "I always thought that I could play by myself if there were sound-based games."
Now the games exist lots of them. Audio games represent almost every gaming genre, from multiplayer role-playing games to action-adventure titles, driving games, science fiction thrillers and puzzle games. Amateur re-creations of '80s arcade shooters exist in audio format. Elaborate war simulators like Tank Commander from GMA Games requires players to complete missions, shoot tanks and dodge missiles from all sides. Even Quake was turned in to a purely audio experience by All in Play. "It was basically a technology prototype to show that even in more graphically inclined games, anything is possible." said the company's co-founder.
Most of these games run on ordinary PCs and are often joystick or keyboard controlled. The player puts on a pair of headphones, and elements of the games are delivered in stereo to help players shoot aliens on the left or avoid a tank on the right.
There are about a million blind people in America, and they've got as much right to save the universe as anybody else. Justin Daubenmire thinks so. He spends his spare time like many others, blowing away aliens on his home PC. But Daubenmire, who is blind, created these aliens himself. They're part of a game called Troopanum, a deceptively simple piece of software that places the fate of the planet in the player's hands -- and ears. Troopanum is modelled after the classic arcade games of the 1980s. ''Troopanum is almost like a carbon copy of Galaxian, Space Invaders, and Missile Command all in one," he said. Basically, the player must try to shoot down wave after wave of attackers as they come scrolling down the screen. Only this time, there's no screen. There are only sounds, playing through the stereo speakers. Guided by sound alone, the player zips back and forth, trying to blast the enemy without being blasted himself.
He describes his game, "…instructions are narrated by a cool female voice, provided by a voice-over artist. Then there's an array of distinctive sound effects produced by a professional sound engineer. Every attacking spaceship or monster makes its own sound, which grows louder as it approaches the player. Threats also ''move" from side to side, thanks to the clever use of stereo. You're listening for objects, and you're centering them. When the bad guy is squarely in range, there's a lock-on sound -- time to hit the ''control" key and blast him."
This kind of sound-based play isn't exactly alien to the world of sighted gamers. For years, computer games have featured surround-sound capability. Players with high-end audio systems get a distinctive edge in gameplay.
Audio games are limited in visuals, so developers must find creative ways to use sound to signify everything from attacking helicopters to the kind of surface upon which a character is walking. In Drive, for example, the music speeds up along with the car the gamer is driving. Games based on sound alone can have a very different challenge than video games. So these games can be exciting for sighted gamers too.
Moving on, I'm sure that by this time, many of you have finished playing Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. In the game, one of the important characters is blind. There would still possibly readers who haven't got to play the game yet, so I'll not be telling who that he it. Anyway, this guy is a superbly genius gang-leader who can blow up chasing cars by shooting at them, participate in gang fights, and in one mission cut-scene, he beats CJ in a (console) video game! While some of his feats seem too cool to be true, one blind gamer exists who can kick anyone's [backside] in any Mortal Combat or Street Fighter styled game! And it's obvious that Rockstar had the blind gang-leader defeat CJ just to pay tribute to that blind pro-gamer. Meet Ryan Conroy.
Your Sub-Zero is harpooned, a well-timed uppercut slashes his life bar, and then a humiliating fatality finishes him off. It's a familiar sight for anyone facing 20-year-old Ryan Conroy in Mortal Combat, but Conroy never sees his victory; he only hears it through the television's speakers. Conroy is blind. His older brother got him into gaming by teaching him how to play Mortal Combat. It wasn't long before Conroy started winning and the trash talking began. "Eventually, I beat him and all of his friends. They were amazed, but they'd say stupid things like, 'Well, you have the game rigged,' and I'd say, 'You can think what you want, but you just got beaten by a blind personit's not my problem.'"
Over the years, Conroy has completed more than 50 games for the Super NES, PS1, and PS2. He's mastered all the major fighting games (everything from the Street Fighters to the ClayFighters), but he's also a champion in wrestling, boxing, and baseball games. His secret: He listens up. "I just memorize the sounds so well," he explains. "Whenever I hear a sound I know what's going on. I can tell when they're in the air or if they're walking towards me."
When he picks up a new game, he'll log on to gamefaqs.com and download the combos. Then he'll have his PC's screen-readout program recite the moves at a blistering 112 words per minute (even a large majority of the blind can't catch every word at this speed, let alone sighted people). After hours of practicing, he'll conquer the game in a week at the most. "I won't put [a new game] down until I beat it," Conroy says. "I'll spend eight hours a day or whatever it'll take. I beat them a bunch of times, and then I get tired of them and play against other people."
Few sighted gamers have ever known the challenge of battling through the blackness of space guided only by the sounds of approaching enemies. Taking on one of action-audio games can test the skill of even the most experienced players. And yet, anyone can do it with his eyes closed.
The interviewers of the mentioned gamers are:
David Cohn of Wired [Michael Feir].
Hiawatha Bray of Boston.com [Justin Daubenmire].
James Lee of Electronic Gaming Monthly [Ryan Conroy].
Despite the taunts and smirks that most comic book fans received throughout their lives, this era in time is undoubtedly one of the best for all of them.
With movie adaptations of such popular titles like X Men, Spiderman, Blade, Elektra, Hulk, Daredevil and more from Marvel comics along with Constantine, Cat-woman and the recently released box office champion Batman Begins from DC comics, ardent comic-book fans can only ask for more from these two major houses.
And fortunately, THEY are willing to oblige.
Marvel fans were quite excited about the release of Fantastic Four last weekend. The title has been one of the longest running comic-book titles in history and has a strong fan following.
The movie begins with the origin of the fantastic four (FF). The producers decided to begin the movie with the actual origin of the FF.
Four people are changed by cosmic rays when a space experimental voice goes wrong. Reed Richards, inventor and leader of the group gains the ability to stretch his body, and names himself as Mr. Fantastic. Reed's girlfriend, Sue Storm, gains the ability to turn invisible and create force fields thus calling herself the Invisible Woman. Sue's younger brother Johnny Storm, gains the ability to control fire, including covering his own body with flame, becoming the Human Torch. Pilot Ben Grimm is turned into a super-strong rock creature calling himself the Thing. Later, the awesome foursome, use their unique powers to foil the evil plans of Doctor Doom.
Ioan Gruffudd plays Mr. Fantastic while Jessica Alba plays Invisible Woman. Chris Evans (Cellular) assumes the part of the Human Torch and Michael Chiklis (SHIELD) becomes the Thing in the movie.
Marvel comics also plans to release Ghost Rider sometime in August 2006. None other than Nicholas Cage is playing the unique Ghost Rider/ John Blaze character in the movie.
The story is of John Blaze, a motorcycle stunt performer in a traveling circus, sold his soul to the demon Mephisto to save his brother Barton's life. He is bound with the demon Zarathos. Blaze unwillingly transforms into the flaming, leather-clad skeleton, and his bike's wheels get cloaked with flames, when provoked.
All in all, this movie may prove to be a delicious morsel for comic-book, Cage and biker movie fans alike.
DC comics, after rekindling the Batman saga, plans to initiate Superman fever in June 2006 with Superman Returns. With Reeves' death, Brandon Routh will don the Superman outfit and carry on with the legacy of the strongest Superhero in comic-book history.
In the latest installment of the Superman saga, after being absent for a few years, the Man of Steel will return to Earth only to find that the World has finally learned to survive without Superman.
Besides having an enemy plotting to render him absolutely powerless for good, the Planet Krypton's last son, will also realize that his lady love, Lois Lane, might just have moved on with her life.
Later, while trying to save Earth from cataclysmic destruction, Superman embarks on a journey of redemption that takes him from the ocean depths to the far reaches of outer space.
Routh will also have a star cast that includes Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, Peta Wilson, James Marsden, Frank Langella, Sam Huntington, Eva Marie Saint, Kal Penn and Parker Posey.
While the two major comic production houses are competing for the box-office, Walt Disney Pictures has produced and will release 'Sky High' by the end of this month.
Sky High is a lot like Marvel comic's Mutant High, better known as Professor Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Mutants, except for the fact that the students of Sky High are the children of Superheroes and Heroines.
The story revolves around Will Stronghold, the son of Commander Stronghold and Jetstream. Will is admitted to Sky High but has a hard time at discovering his super-powers during the first year at the school and ends up as a 'Side-Kick'.
Will finally gets his act together when an evil villain threatens the existence of his parents, friends and the very world he lives in.
The action/comedy flick's star cast includes Kurt Russell, Kelly Preston, Michael Angarano, Danielle Panabaker and Bruce Campbell. Lynda Carter, the leading actress from the 1970's hit TV series- Wonder Woman also plays a special role in the movie.
Besides these, some major sequels soon to be released from Marvel are Spiderman 3, X-Men 3, Punisher 2, Daredevil 2, Elektra 2 & Hulk 2.
X- Men 3 will introduce some new major characters from the hit comicbook series and one surefire character would be the Beast, to be played by Kelsey Grammer from Frasier.
Avi Arad, Chairman and CEO of Marvel Studios in a recent interview with Mtv, also assured that film projects on other Marvel characters like Iron Man, Thor, Silver Surfer, Captain America, Black Panther, Ant Man, Dr. Strange, Magneto and Wolverine is underway.
DC comics, is working on the Wonder Woman but is yet to declare the actress for the lead role.
Also worth waiting for, are the Hell Boy sequel and the next few installments of the Batman Tale. Somehow, DC has returned with a bang and Batman looks a lot more serious than just some doctor out of ER!
Like so many other DC fans, I am wishing that like Marvel, DC comes up with other movies like Green Lantern, Guy Gardner, Black Canary, Green Arrow, Firestorm, The Flash, Justice League, Teen Titans & Doom Patrol.
Nothing seems to be happening. So I'll go straight to the links, but before that, take a look at the picture with this Sites Unseen. It's my photography. Do you like? (It's the Mohammedpur area)
As usual, these links are available at my site [niloywrites.blogspot.com]
Maddox hates blogs
"If these words were people, I would embrace their genocide." What follows is a beautiful list of these words and why they deserve extermination. "Lately I've been hearing a lot of stupid people parroting stupid buzz words. There are too many to list all of them here, but I'll be damned if I'm not going to try. I propose that we all agree, here and now, to strike these words and phrases from our collective for the betterment of humanity, and the improvement of my blood pressure. Thank you.
Blog: The word "blog" is literally shorthand for "boring;" a vulgar, overused word … It's an abbreviation used by journalism drop outs to give legitimacy to their shallow opinions and amateur photography that seems to be permanently stuck in first draft hell… It's an unspoken rule that every blog must use the same layout as every other blog: long, slender columns of annoyingly condensed text, thousands of links to other blogs, plugs for shitty political books, and more links to yet more blogs…
If the thousands of mid-sentence links don't annoy you, the long slender columns of text will. Most of the screen on a blog is blank for an imaginary populace of readers still using 640x480 resolution. I didn't buy a 19" monitor to have 50% of its screen realestate pissed away on firing white pixels… They don't print books on receipt paper for a reason."
The conflict of Darfur through Children's eyes
On mission along the border of Chad and Darfur, Human Rights Watch researchers gave children notebooks and crayons to keep them occupied while they spoke with the children's parents. Without any instruction or guidance, the children drew scenes from their experiences of the war in Darfur: the attacks by the Janjaweed, the bombings by Sudanese government forces, the shootings, the burning of entire villages, and the flight to Chad.
Serious eye candy
The Princeton Art Of Science competition Online Exhibition: an amazing gallery of science photos presented as art.
Pushing blogs on people isn't as easy as it used to be. There are just so many of them. In Sites Unseen, I try to weed out the unworthy and bring you some of my favourites -- like this gem dedicated to special effects in feature films. vfxblog has found its niche, and covers it exceedingly well. Fans interested in knowing how an effect goes from blue screen to big screen will find articles and interviews on all the tricks of the trade. vfxblog even has space devoted to effects you're not supposed to notice. So much for "it's all done with mirrors" theory.
Really Slick Screensavers
Really Slick Screensavers is a collection of beautiful free screensavers. These OpenGL savers require a fast machine with a modern graphics card to run smoothly, but the CPU cycles are worth it. Really Slick Screensavers are appropriately-named and fun to watch. (Download and extract the files contained in the zip to C:\WINNT\SYSTEM32\ on Windows XP)
PGR3 Photo-realistic screenshot is real
You know you have a good game on your hands when you can't convince the public that a screen shot isn't actually just a photograph. Last week, Bizarre Creations posted a screenshot of Project Gotham Racing 3 of a street scene. The image was so realistic that many dismissed it as a fake. Today, the company released the wire frame of the same image, and another photo realistic in-game screen shot and wire frame.
And these pictures don't have the final in-game effects and lighting added yet. [From Kotaku.com]
Game Of The Year!
Note: not so much a game as a movie review.
Further note: not so much a movie as it is Herbie: Fully Loaded.
Bono's Third World Products, Inc
The world [doiop.com/world] is a mess [doiop.com/mess]. You probably have your own deity to pray to in hopes they'll fix it, but we both sort of know this is really a waste of time. What the world needs is the healing power of Bono. And to know how much Bono rules, you've got to go to the Best page in the Universe [doiop.com/11worst].
Prince of Persia 3 shots
Some beautiful screenshots of the upcoming Prince of Persia 3 fresh off Kotaku.