Playing Infocom with Reading Impairment

#1

I have a reading impairment and cannot read much text.

I was thinking that I could run the Infocom games in DOS BOX and
copy and paste the text into some sort of voice software that would
read it back to me.

I tried to run Zork in DOS BOX but I couldn’t cut and paste text.

Is there a way to do this?

Any suggestions on how to play Infocom and have them read the text outloud
somehow?

#2

You’re in luck! IF games have a huge following among blind and visually impaired people, so there are a variety of ways to get text-to-speech.

If you’re on Windows, WinFrotz TTS is a special version of the Frotz interpreter optimized for text-to-speech. Infocom games will run under Frotz, as will a massive number of other classic games from the community.

If you’re not on Windows, or want to branch out beyond Z-machine and Infocom games, this thread gives some commentary on using other interpreters with speech software.

#3

Sounds very promising, thank you.

Just out of curiosity, do you know a way to cut and paste text from DOS BOX into
another window?

I do have a software that reads text into voice, but DOS BOX runs without the mouse
in big screen mode and I cant hi-light the text to cut and paste.

I have the GOG version of Zork 1,2,3,4 and also Planetfall, so also don’t know how
I’d run the GOG version with Win Frotz TTS since the GOG version runs in DOS BOX.

#4

I don’t think mouse copy and paste is possible using DOSBox. In the GOG installation folders for your games, look for the DATA folder. Make a copy of the *.DAT file within it and change the extension to *.Z5 (just so it’s easier for your IF interpreters to recognize it). Now, you can use that file with the interpreter of your choice.

Besides Win Frotz TTS, I know Filfre (maher.filfre.net/filfre/) allows mouse cut and paste and should work with your setup.

#5

Okay, thanks for all the helpful info.

I am looking at WinFrotz, there are several other files such as
“English TTS Package”, do I need that too?

Does Frotz let you save your game?

So all it needs is the DAT file and nothing else to play it?

If I have the Lost Treasures of Infocom, I will just
need the DAT files from those versions also?

Lastly, will it speak the full details of the room every time
you enter that room, or only when you ask it to?

Do you know if there are text to speech programs for other
kinds of things, like Ebooks? Random question, sorry!

Thank you for everything. This Frotz sounds
great for disabled people who have trouble with large
amounts of text!

:smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

#6

There is an Android app called Incant that focuses on both speech input and output, here is a YouTube video of it in action: youtu.be/D6i7c7jdV4Q (Note that this video is 3 years ago, Speech in Android has gotten much better with install-able voices/accents etc).

An 8" or 10" Android tablet might be ideal, as most apps allow you to zoom and/or set font size. If you need better font size options with Incant, let me know, and I can likely do turnaround in under a week with a new release for you. Incant is now on the Google Play store in beta preview release: incant-test.wakereality.com - and on GitHub the APK is there if you need to side-load (such as Amazon Fire tablets that don’t have Google Play store).

The speech is off by default on Incant install, there are 3 menu option checkboxes to enable it. Hope this helps expand your options.

#7

You just need the top one, the installer “WinFrotz TTS 2002 1.5.”

Yes.

Yes, and yes.

To explain the history: the DAT files are written in what’s called “z-code”, which is an old virtual-machine format that Infocom invented so they wouldn’t have to re-write the whole game when they wanted to run it on different models of home computer. Instead, they could just rewrite the interpreter that ran the DAT file (called the “z-machine”), and the DAT file itself would stay the same on every platform. Later, the Inform compiler adopted the z-code format, so a lot of more modern games use it as well. Nowadays z-code files usually have the extension Z5 or Z8, depending on which version of z-code is being used. WinFrotz should be able to run any z-code game.

I think WinFrotz will actually recognize DAT files without changing the extension, but I haven’t checked.

WinFrotz will just speak whatever the game outputs, so it depends on the game. Most Infocom games only display the description the first time you enter the room; but modern games tend to say the whole thing every time. However, most Z-code games let you turn this off by typing “BRIEF”.

Yes - I’m not familiar with the currently recommended ones, and I’m not sure what you’re already using, but the general class of software for this is called a “screen reader.” Some are free (like Microsoft Narrator, included with Windows); others have more features, but cost money (like JAWS).

#8

You have been incredibly helpful, thank you!

(Daniel Stelzer) #9

(The VERBOSE command tells Infocom games to print the full description every time.)

#10

My virus protection identified WinFrotz as a high risk file and quarantined it.

Has anyone had this problem, and could it potentially be a file or trojan?

#11

It’s most likely a false positive. In any case, it has come to my attention that thereis a distribution of DOSbox optimized for screen readers. Google “talking DOSbox” and see how that works for you.

#12

There is something called talking DosBox, but I don’t see a source page where you can download it.

Thanks for calling this to my attention, I’ll look for it.

#13

Haven’t been able to find any links to talking DOSBOX.

I can do ALT-ENTER when DOSBOX is running and you can now have half screen,
however, the mouse won’t hi-light the text when I click in the DOS window.

Is there a way around that?

(matt w) #14

None of the google results for Talking DosBox seemed to give a main download page, but one of them had a (fairly well concealed) link that led to the URL http://pmsworld.tdrealms.com/talking_dosbox.7z.

And I found another link at http://batsupport.com/unsupported/dosbox/talking_dosbox.zip.

I should warn you that I haven’t used or downloaded these files, so I don’t know if they’re really what you need. But I have verified that there really are files there. I thought it might be helpful to point out the links since they are pretty well buried on the pages you can find with a Google search and might be hard to find if you can’t read much text.

#15

Thanks for the links.

I still think there is a way to copy and paste from a DOSBOX window, but maybe I’m wrong.

#16

Hey, Zorker.

I don’t know if you’ll see this (since your post is from last year), but I started to get into Interactive Fiction games myself, and I found this Android app called “Text Fiction”, or “Text Fiction - Play Zork!”, from Onyxbits. Now, I don’t know anything about text to voice programs, but I was amazed by the one in this app. It read all of Zork’s text accurately and fluidly. And it’s touch sensitive, meaning you can press and hold the text bubble for the app to voice the text, and tap it to stop it. You can also move by touching the corners of the screen, and map actions (words) to quick access icons on the bottom of the screen. There is a helpful manual for the app, also.

Anyway, good gaming.