Text (graphic?) Adventure Accessibility

I’ve been wondering about this off and on for years and it just now occurred to me to ask here. How accessible would version 6 z-machine games like Zork Zero or Journey be for visually-impaired players who use screen readers with their interpreters? As I understand it, gameplay still consists of parser input/output, but are the graphics actually an integral part of the game mechanics or are they just there for aesthetics?


Both games are mostly text, but both have some puzzles that are conveyed entirely visually, as I recall.

(Zork Zero and Journey, that is. I don’t remember how Arthur is set up.)

I don’t know for sure as I’m not visually impaired, but, I’d guess the full text with the words being read out is better.

Are there are terps that read out the text on the screen as a full audio experience?


Yes, provided that the interpreter was developed with accessibility in mind, playing text-only games can be a very smooth experience. Spatterlight, my interpreter of choice, integrates very well with the Mac’s native screen reader, so everything proceeds swimmingly as long as I don’t have to interact directly with a graphic element.


Hmmm … I’d be curious to know specifically how that type of puzzle might look. Do they require direct interaction with the graphic element itself?

There aren’t any entirely-visual puzzles in Arthur (which actually has a non-graphic mode), but there is a graphical maze in Shogun without text directions.


The only one I remember in Journey is the magic mine, but I don’t think you ever actually need to see the current settings on the dials so you may be able to get through that even without seeing the graphics. Though the game’s user interface may make things tricky anyway?

I have a new appreciation for issues a blind player can face after recently helping someone with the Inform port of Dungeon (aka mainframe Zork). The sliding block puzzle in that game which is also found in Zork III, uses ascii to represent a map, but unfortunately conveys important information via whitespace. So, one need not use graphics to present obstacles to screen readers.


This is good to know—I’d certainly like to try these games out just to see how well they would work. Unfortunately Spatterlight currently does not support v6 z-machine titles so I’ll also have to hunt for an accessible interpreter that does.

Oh yes, I know this all too well. Puzzles like that are without a doubt my very least favorite, because they’re completely incomprehensible both in Braille and in spoken text. I have no qualms about going straight for the walkthrough when I run across things like this.

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There is some rudimentary but untested text-only v6 support in Spatterlight (which uses the Bocfel Z-machine interpreter, same as Gargoyle.) If anyone has tried playing a v6 game on Spatterlight, I’d be interested in hearing how far they got.

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Well, of Course I had to go and do some experiments :). Here is what I’ve found so far:
Arthur - As mentioned above, this game can be played in text-only mode; I wasn’t able to figure out a way to activate it, but didn’t encounter any difficulties playing in default mode.
Zork Zero - The solution to one of the puzzles needs to be looked up in an in-game reference book that apparently wants to display that particular entry graphically. I ended up getting around this by pulling the relevant information from the source code and brute-forcing an answer. There are also four mini-games that need to be solved, two of which can at least be gotten through without graphics (also known as following an exact sequence of steps in a walkthrough). I’ve come up against a brick wall with the third one, which appears to rely on some sort of visual interface which can’t be interacted with at the moment. Judging by its description in the walkthrough, the fourth mini-game sounds like it might be in a similar situation.


It would be an interesting challenge to rewrite (and recompile) these games to be more accessible, even if it only means skipping the graphics-dependent puzzles entirely.

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The inaccessible mini-game I mentioned above seems to have something to do with playing cards, and I wonder if adding text labels to each card would be enough to make Voiceover happy. (For anyone who might be familiar with Zork Zero, it’s the Double Fanucci game between the PC and the jester.)