Hello! I’m an educator using Quest in a high school class, and a long-time fan of IF.
Recently I developed a slight vision impairment, and although it has not seriously affected my life so far, it has made me mindful of accessibility for the visually impaired when it comes to computer games. I set myself a small project to explore the different ways to access IF: using Parchment versus Frotz, using WIndows SAPI versus ChromeVox, etc.
I was disappointed to see that WinFrotz TTS seems to be no longer available, because as described it sounded like it did not just read the text, but also handled features like saving and loading. Although the website is still there, the download links no longer work. What is the story behind this no longer being available?
Continuing to explore, I found that WinFrotz and Windows Glulxe have built-in SAPI support, which was great news. Combined with a somewhat inexpensive voice pack from Cereproc, it’s not bad to listen to under Windows. But I have a functionality question:
I am using Windows’ full-on TTS, not the Narrator function. Is there any way that someone knows of to stop the TTS and have it “move on” to the prompt and wait for the player’s input? My reason for this is that - after hearing a room description for the n’th time, the player might want to move on and just skip the TTS to the input prompt.
Does anyone have any thoguhts? Are there keyboard shortcuts built into the SAPI implementation in WinFrotz?
Many thanks in advance!
Have you considered ZoomText with speech? It is much more capable and flexible than the TTS built into Windows and provides the features that you mentioned.
I am a retired teacher and counselor (I have very low vison and use various AT solutions). The various locations in which I was employed provided assistive technology to employees as needed. Have you considered requesting a reasonable accommodation? Many states have disability programs that can also provide resources.
Thanks for the tip! At the moment this is a new condition (10 days since it occurred). The impact on my vision is not too severe so far. I’m just waiting to see if it stabilizes, self-corrects, or becomes progressive. If the worst happens, I have no doubt that my school will provide whatever I need.
My questions are less about access and more about creating a “non screen” method of experiencing IF. In my head I was imagining a way of accessing various IF games with a decent screen reader (either SAPI or ChromeVox, and your suggestion of ZoomText could certainly be added to the list). Then using speech to text for input. What I would love to create is a sort of “black box”, all-in-one experience, at minimal or no cost, for someone with a visual impairment to experience IF. I would like it to be as simplistic as opening and navigating an audiobook.
I know there’s no SIMPLE way to do this - several pieces would need to be put together. But I would love to be able to find one or perhaps two methods, document them for others, and have them ready for use if I ever have someone in my class who DOES have a severe vision impairment.
That’s why the questions are really about the pure mechanics of how the SAPI implementation in WinFrotz works - it’s free, I just need some tips and advice on whether I can get it to work the way I want for this idea.
Apple has the best built in software for Assistive Technology. If you have Apple tech you can experiment with what you need at no cost.
JAWS (Job Application With Speech) is a strictly text to speech system that does not use a monitor in Windows. It’s learning curve is very steep but individuals with total blindness can be computer enabled completely. By the way, both ZoomText and JAWS have 30 day free trial periods. Even after the trail you can use them for 30 minutes at the time. Back when I worked for the government, I would set potential users up with trial versions to see if it was suitable.
In the Linux world there are a number of packages available that are open source. Emacspeak is quite mature and similar to JAWS. It is developed by a professor that has no vision at all.
Dragon speak is probably the most common dictation software. It is quite good but in the real world 90% accuracy is pretty good. That makes it difficult for writing code. For my use, the keyboard is much better.
All the best.
Thank you both. These are all excellent resources, which I will check out.
Just to back it up to my original question, though - WinFrotz DOES have SAPI support built in, so for the moment I am just wondering if there is a way to control that screen reading in any way. For example, when I go back into a room or restore a save game and do not want to hear an entire page of description read aloud, is there a way to force the screen reading to “skip” to the input prompt? The documentation in WinFrotz is pretty sparse on this topic, so that’s why I was asking here.
There isn’t anything in Windows Frotz to control the speech output - if the game prints it, the speech code will say it. However, there may be a solution for you in the game, rather than the interpreter.
The convention in games these days is to give the room description each time you enter it, but the Inform library does support the approach common in the past of only giving it the first time: in a game enter “brief” as a command and it will enter that mode. Entering “verbose” puts you back in the mode that prints the description every time.
Ah, I remember that from the old Infocom games! Thank you, David.
I will work with all of these responses and see what I can come up with. Thank you to all who offered their input.
Hello, everyone! Just wanted to revive this thread to let everyone know that I contacted the developer for WinFrtoz TTS, and he had no idea the links had failed. He fixed the problem right away and the program is now available! Please let anyone know whom you think could benefit from this excellent resource for the visually impaired:
As a blind IF player, I personally found Winfrotz tTS to be quite cumbersome. It’s great that it reads out game text automatically, but you can’t review it on a more granular level, say if you wanted to clarify something or to check the spelling of a word.
I personally use an add-on for NVDA, which is a free and open-source Windows screen reader. The add-on not only automatically reads out new game text, it allows me to read it as I would any other app.
Sadly the add-on’s a bit hard to find with it not being on the official add-on page, but I found a link on the Spanish NVDA user community’s site.
Sorry for the ridiculously long link as it appears to be buried in a Google drive.
Hope that helps
As Kara already mentioned, NVDA is absolutely an option. I’ just want to add a few things.
WinFrotz TTS does have some nice features such as scroollback CTRL + L. It opens the game text for review. It is not super flexible as i can’t find a way to navigate by word or sentence. But I only tried it briefly so i could be wrong. You can however select all text and copy it to another app like notepad.
The word list is also very useful. CTRL +z. It brings up a list of all words used so Far. Space will spell the word, enter insert it back in the game ETC.
So I find it not bad at all. The nvda add=on does sound interesting. I had a feeling there would be one kicking around somewhere.
The big problem with SAPI is that the speech is non-interruptable.
In practice this makes it pretty much unusable in apps such as Windows Frotz. I personally don’t think it’s reasonable to expect game designers to design their game around poor accessibility. As a game designer myself it’s not workable to have to make such considerations.
But, there is a simple solution!!! And it works beautifully for any app that uses SAPI. It is a simple registry entry that will enable you to use the NVDA voice as a SAPI voice. In other words, an NVDA SAPI voice will be available in the sapi voice selection on any app. I have used it for a few weeks now with no ill effects. I’m not sure if the creator of this is ready to share so I hesitate to go ahead and do that here.
I will give him a shout and see what happens. Maybe it’s out there and searching for SAPI, NVDA voice, and registry hack might just find it on google. I really don’t know.
In either case, that also makes windows frotz very much usable. And any other SAPI enabled interpreter too I imagine.
I’ll get back to this thread his about the reg files when I know.