writing a gamebook as a blind author. baby steps.

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Ever since losing all my vision last year I have been diving into the audio world, including some Graphic Audio titles, some audio games, and some accessible online fighting fantasy games, including, my personal favorite, Waiting for the light.

But ever since playing these games, I have always wanted a way to create them and to write them and, even better, be compensated for my work and labor. Sure, I could have a donate button up there but I can’t put luck into payments. Maybe I am getting old, but I didn’t want anybody to get this product for a possible donation if they liked it. That’s what a demo is for after all. If they liked chapter one then they can buy the book.

The hard part for me was finding a place that would distribute my game and then some. I first tried to contact the webmaster of the very accessible fighting fantasy project and asked them if they would convert my gamebook online or would they just host it for download. I assumed there was some sort of payment involved if your book gets hosted on the website… meaning, if the owner decides to convert your book to the online engine.

To make a nice and lengthy email question and answer session short, authors could link to a donate page online somewhere but they would not be directly compensated.

Still, I wanted a way to somehow write a gamebook without having to break my fingers learning some complicated programming language. I began looking for a tool that was accessible. I found one. It’s a bit old but it served my immediate purpose. I tried it, and liked it, but I still dug for a hosting solution.

DarkGrue game book creator is a keyboard driven program that would allow me to outline my gamebook and even write it, but after I found out that there’s a publisher willing to pay for interactive fiction I decided to just use it to outline my game.

The publisher is called Choice of Games. Choice of Games has interactive fiction apps they call game books. Or, maybe I just call them that, but Choice of Games has a huge variety of self-hosted games and original creations.

I’d like to say something from a player’s point of view first. These games are fully accessible. The radio buttons are accessible. There’s no images. It’s just a good old-fashioned text adventure that has a few enhancements regular game books don’t have. For instance, some authors can even add sound to their games. Some can add images to their games but I have not really seen this yet.

I, myself, have been playing A Midsummer Night’s Choice, which is a satire, and Choice of the Cat. Both are accessible and very fun! The writing is great in both too. I don’t know how accessible their Android version is but the IOS version is fully accessible. I’m certain the Android version is accessible because they stress to add alt text if authors want to add images to their games so they know blind and visually impaired people play their games quite a bit.

I haven’t really had a chance to play a lot of games because I’ve been looking at the writing and publishing process. If you are selected to help them write an original Choice title, well, let’s just say, that your income is going to be much higher. You will have a team working with you rather than you just working by yourself. Best of all is that you have cover artists!

I dug a little deeper though and noticed that you can write and host your own games. Games they call, hosted games. Games that cannot have the word, Choice, in the title because that’s reserved for staff designed games.

What was the catch? I’d have to learn their language called Choice Script. At first, I thought this was going to be easy because it worked like a logic problem. Do this, then that. If this happens then go there and then do this.

I didn’t realize that the language was so format driven. The formatting all must be in a hierarchy. It didn’t make sense to me at first but once I started reading the help wiki and trying a few scenes and playing around with it the reasoning became clearer and clearer.

Even though I could use the tab key to make all the formatting and stuff, the format was very hard to get right with a screen reader. Even now, it still trips me up sometimes but I got the basic logic down. I’d suggest if anybody blind wants to learn this language, they need to change a few screen reader settings. Mainly, the document formatting settings. Because I use NVDA I can show you how to turn on two settings that will make your coding experience a heck of a lot easier.

  1. Open the NVDA menu. NVDA plus, N.
  2. Go to the document formatting settings.
  3. Change the line alignment reporting to speech and beeps and the paragraph indent reporting box.
  4. Press okay.

I found the best accessible program that will make your games writing a snap! The program is called, Ed Sharp. It is a free, and open source, text editor designed to give the blind coder enhancements that sighted people will never notice. Here is the online user guide. Be sure to have indent mode turned on before you start writing. It will help a lot.

If you don’t like Ed Sharp for whatever reason there are other options you can explore. All the coding is done in a text editor like Notepad or similar so is very accessible. I’d suggest using Notepad++ for this task though because it keeps your indent position when pressing enter. Trust me. This will help you in the long run. Notepad for windows does not do this and you will need to remember to check your position after every scene.

There are two open source programs to aid in game creation but neither are accessible at the time of this writing. I asked the developer of ChoiceScript Integrated Development Environment to see what he could do about making the desktop version accessible, at least, and he’s working on it. We’re working on it together.

It took me a week to learn very basic things, like the formatting and the punctuation, using braces, and stuff, but I finally got the basics down. I have started plotting my game and I hope you all play it! If you want to see my game idea, look below.

What’s my game idea?

Here’s the idea I have in mind at the time of this writing. The basic synopsis will be below but I’m sure I will make tons of changes before and after this post goes up.

Yes. This is going to be a suspenseful satire.

Everyone seems to have a super power except you. You have been blind since birth but people always told you that you had some special ability. All you seem to have is your wit and your mobility skills. What were you thinking when you signed up to go to this academy for gifted adults? How can you compete with the gender fluid deaf mute who has telekinesis and the wheelchair bound dyslexic man who can change into anybody he touches?

The school is called the Misfits academy. It appears to be a school you have intruded upon because of your lack of powers but someone invited you here. The question is, why?

In this adventure you use your acquired skills in research, destruction, detective work, or just basic charm to solve many mysteries and dive into the lives of powerful adults who are playing a deadly game of chess.

There are many suspects. It could be that the two talking gay candles are out to steal all the student’s powers. It could be that your math teacher, a narcoleptic succubus, just wants to murder everyone because he wants to be famous. It could be that this dog, who has a crush on you, just wants your attention and doesn’t know how to get it without a ball in his mouth.

Take a step into this academy brimming with unique life and suspects. How will you solve the mystery? Are you a dumpster diver and document sniffer, or are you a master interrogator? You’d better decide fast because everybody is dying. After everybody is gone, there will be nobody to help the only ordinary student in the Misfits academy. You.

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