Category Archives: Accessibility

Tears of a Machine, 2nd Edition

Click the play button to listen to this post (4 minutes, 26 seconds):

If you’ve seen me at a convention in the past year or so, or heard me talk on one of a few different podcasts, you might already be aware that a new edition is in the works for Tears of a Machine, my table-top role-playing game of giant robots and the emotional teens who pilot them. However, it may be that this is all news to you, so I’m going to answer a few questions on the subject. Most importantly-

Why a new edition?

I’ve changed and grown as a designer over the past years and have a better understanding of my own talents, as well as the theory that’s gone into making some of the best, most successful games of the last decade. I designed a new game I really enjoyed, but it didn’t feel right to add to a market with plenty of 80’s nostalgia inspired games. My wife suggested that I could take the parts I liked from that design and use it for Tears of a Machine. At first, I didn’t want to go back to an earlier game, but in time I realized she’s absolutely right. With only a few tweaks I was able to begin playing Tears based on that design.

What makes it different enough to warrant a new edition?

First and foremost, a new rules system. I’ve experimented with ways to convert Tears of a Machine into other systems, but never felt comfortable that they captured exactly what I wanted to be the focus of action and attention in a game of Tears. I want rules that serve a character’s motivations and build story while still allowing for strategy and critical thinking. What I’ve designed meets those requirements I set for myself, balancing open narration with guiding rules that not only resolve situations but also promote the growth of the characters.

There have been some subtle, but important changes to the game setting as well. For example I’m changing the name of the space-faring invaders to one a find more evocative, and clarifying their master plan. I’m also no longer adding unnecessary capitalization to the code name of our giant robots.

What about accessibility?

I am as committed as ever to bringing more accessible features to gaming. Tears first edition is still available as a free synchronized-text audio book, and the new edition will be too. However, with this second edition I started from a foundation of accessibility. I’ve learned more about dyslexia, as well as dysgraphia and dyscalculia, and I challenged myself to create a system that avoided numbers or complex and detailed rules.

Tears of a Machine second edition character “sheets” are a few structured sentences with important keywords. The only numbers needed can be tracked with short stacks of tokens. Fate (or Fudge) dice are used because they are easier to read, and the limited possible results balance flexibility with focus. This is not a “Fate” system game however. It is a new system, custom designed to tell these mechadrama stories.

There will be an audio book version, and I’m planning a series of video and audio tutorials to accompany the release. I’m also investigating what it would take to have an interactive PDF version, a support wiki, and roll20 character sheets with built-in dice rolling functionality. The real drive behind accessibility is to provide people with as many options as possible to experience the content, so I’m looking into every avenue I can.

When will it be released?

As soon as it’s done. Really, I had hoped to be finished with the beta draft by now, but life and the world have not been kind to my writing output. However, know that the core text is all in place, play tests have all been encouraging, and right now it’s a matter of connecting up all the pieces and beginning a full edit. I’m hoping to get a kickstarter going early next year. More updates on that soon!

What about the current edition?

I won’t be deleting the files for the old edition or taking it away from anyone. I’m still quite happy with it, a rare thing for my creative output. While the new edition is a refinement of the ideas that you’ll find in the old, it’s not so different that you couldn’t enjoy both. That said, characters and stats and such won’t really “convert” across editions. As the new edition develops I’ll put together a guide on how to recreate your favorite pilots in the new way of Tears, Second Edition.

Thank you for your interest in my game. I’m looking forward to being able to share more news, and eventually a new game with all of you! Until then, stay safe, stay sane, and remember that from knowledge, comes victory.

Russell Collins

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Tears of a Machine – Digital Talking Books

I was so excited yesterday that I wrote a long, babbling post and buried the lead! Here are the links to get the book files and some free playback software.

Download the ePub with this link: Tears of a Machine ePub. You’ll need software or hardware with support for ePub 3 rich media files, like Readium. You can still read the text with other software but you will not have audio playback synchronized to the text.

Download the DAISY files with this link: Tears of a Machine DAISY. Unzip the files and add them to your DAISY library. You’ll need DAISY playback software or hardware to get the synchronized audio playback while reading. Try Amis for a free option.

 

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Making the DAISY Format Book – Part 3

Here we are; the home stretch!

Step 7 Continued – Finishing Up the Editing

In the end, after editing out some errors and tightening up the timing between the paragraphs, the audio version has clocked in at 7 hours and 17 minutes. I’ve listened through word by word and made some minor tweaks to the audio and the text to help them line up a little better, especially around the page marks. It’s not perfect, there’s some stuff I’d like to rework later, but I think it’s ready to be seen and heard.

Step 8 – Export the DAISY Digital Talking Book

TOBI includes a few different options for DAISY output. The most important choice is the format for the audio files. Higher quality files mean a cleaner sound but the book takes up more space, meaning longer download times. Because the audio is just spoken word, I choose to set the sample rate a 22,500 Hz. The reasoning behind this has to do with the Nyquist frequency and physics but suffice to say that the range of the human voice sits pretty well in this frequency band. In fact it’s the sample rate used for AM radio. After setting my MP3 encoding bit rate to 128, a mid-level quality the end result is a DAISY project folder about 200 megabytes in size. Continue reading

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Audio Book Update

You may think I’ve been very quiet. Just the opposite! I’ve been very talkative in my studio, with my microphone and TOBI recording. Now that first big milestone is past: All of the text has been recorded! The raw audio files total 8 hours and 4 minutes so my prediction was good.

Last Page

Next will be the detailed editing passes as I go through all of that audio removing stumbles or misreads and ironing out the placement of marks. How long will that take? I’m not sure but I expect it will be easier to get the time for it since I only need my laptop and headphones instead of the home studio and a quiet day. I’ve set a goal for myself to have the book released in DAISY and EPUB formats by August 2nd, the one year anniversary of our Kickstarter success.

Speaking of anniversaries, if you have any friends who’ve been wanting to get their hands on Tears of a Machine but are waiting for a sale, July 3rd is the anniversary of the KS launch, so they’ll soon have their moment.

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Making the DAISY Format Book – Part 2

Picking up where I left off in the previous post, I’ll continue to guide you through the steps I’m taking to bring Tears of a Machine to you in an accessible format.

Step 4 – The Recording Application

TOBI is a free and open-source application programmed by DAISY Consortium members. It’s a flexible application that lets you work with your text and audio in a few different ways. You can record right through the application or if you want to use other software that’s more familiar to you, then you can import the audio files into TOBI later, matching up sections of the file with sections of the text. There are other applications on the market, some of them quite expensive, but TOBI’s basic features are enough for me.

Loading the new project is pretty easy. I just point TOBI at the .xml files that I got from the Save As DAISY operation in Word. After a quick conversion it opens up the file as a TOBI project. Continue reading

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Making the DAISY Format Book – Part 1

In this series of posts I’ll be posting the step-by-step process of creating the DAISY Digital Talking Book version of Tears of a Machine. Once it’s done I’ll have DAISY compatible versions of the raw text for Text-To-Speech reader software, an ePub book, and a fully narrated audio-book for DAISY and ePub 3.0 rich media playback.

If you want to know more about the basics of DAISY formats and initiatives, visit the homepage of the DAISY Consortium: http://www.daisy.org.

For this first entry I’ll explain getting the book text from Word DOC to DAISY friendly XML. Continue reading

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Turning the Corner to Production

Been a while since my last full update but that’s because we’ve been busy, busy, busy.

Cards and Badges

The “feelies” (physical rewards) are set! I got the box of CRC ID cards this past week and they look and feel as good as I had hoped. The Preservation Forces patch has been drafted and approved and is in production now. He’s a peek at the studio’s proof:

p53038

This image is slightly lower res, but I was surprised at the scale and detail that we were able to get for our budget; 4 1/2 inches tall by 3 inches wide. Everyone of our SAInt tier and higher backers will receive one of these with their physical copy of the book. Thank you, once more, to our Angel tier backer, Athrun Nailo. Continue reading

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