Letter to the Community

As detailed on the home page, development is now being carried out by the community; this page is being preserved for posterity.

To the AudioQuake and Accessible Gaming communities,

The journey we have taken since the AGRIP project began in 2003 has shown that seemingly insurmountable accessibility barriers can be overcome; that blind people can indeed play—and even enjoy—3D action games designed originally for those with full sight; that these games can be played co-operatively or competitively over the Internet and that blind people can even create new levels for such games. AudioQuake was the first mainstream shooter to be released to the public in accessible form and has gone on to provide network play, statistics tracking and, more recently, a level description language for making new 3D worlds. All of the code is available for others to learn from the techniques we've employed and adopt them for other games.

Personally for us, the developers, it has been a journey of ambition, discovery, occasional confusion, elation, pride and solidarity with the AG community that has taken us on travels to many countries, allowed us to meet some amazing, determined and creative people—both those making things with our and others' games and those developing other games and researching to help the mainstream industry make progress on accessibility—and to help show the wider world what is possible. However the real journey has been the one we've taken as people: working on AGRIP has given us much more than just more knowledge of the satisfaction of a job done (in fact, it will never be done and we dearly wish to continue the work in the future, in some capacity). It is very hard to describe how the efforts of the community in using our software and supporting its development have affected us; from the literally staggering abilities and determination of some of the participants in our workshops at the ICC camp to expressions of thanks and support on our mailing lists and at Sight Village 2004 and 2005. The most rewarding part has been seeing people using the game: setting up servers; making new modifications that dramatically change the weapons or the gameplay; adding new levels and helping other users via our community.

Unfortunately some things are not possible and one of those things is for us to continue supporting the project. Several critical and harrowing events in real life have had ramifications for this and other work we have been undertaking for almost three years now. [ Edit: the initial event was a life-threatening road traffic accident. ] Following the initial blows from these events we have tried many times to solicit help to continue our work on the project, which transitioned to soliciting help from others to continue it under our supervision, as we realised that our situations were untenable. We've made all of our materials available to others via recognised services (see the development information) and we've documented as much as we can in the time we had. We did receive offers of help and we have received some help, but further, mainly technical, difficulties have prevented it from coming to fruition. It seems, quite reasonably in hindsight now, that as the sorts of technologies we're using are so novel to the AG scene, there are always going to be problems due to that novelty and few of even the most experienced blind developers are able to grapple with them. We sincerely hope our contribution—one of many from various people and organisations—has perhaps helped get the ball rolling to counteract this. Perhaps we can work to improve this in future. [ Edit: indeed several members of the community stepped in to help and support the transition and have created some great new additions to the game, whilst continuing to engage the community in the process–for which we are very grateful! ]

For now, however, it is with the deepest regret that we must say the doors are formally closed to us continuing to contribute to the project. We have tried so many times over the past few years to find funding to employ someone else to continue the work, or to a little time here and there, to keep things going. We're sorry this didn't work out. Now our continued occasional involvement is more damaging than good; the project should either be picked up by someone else, or be left as an historical record of one part of a very exciting time in the field of accessible gaming and did our bit to push back the boundaries of what could be done. Looking back, it might not seem like much of an achievement; we'd like to think that's the nature of progress! The first time we playtested a very early network-aware version of AudioQuake and knew this was the first time a blind person had played a mainstream deathmatch was a moment we won't forget.

As well as this, as above, will never forget the kindness and support of our community or the memories of all of the events that our journey led us through. We will also continue the work in spirit later in our lives but, for now, we have to be honest about the position we are in. To all of you: our sincerest thanks for your support, and apologies that we could not continue our journey together.

Take care,

Matthew and Sebby
May 2009 (edited August 2011)

P.S. One last technical note: if anyone is willing to host our stats service and is capable of dealing with the code, please contact us. The same applies for taking control of the project on Launchpad and any other aspect of the development effort. To continue using the releases of AQ that you are now using, pass the "-nomauth" command-line option and you will still be able to play the game. I'm afraid we don't have the necessary hardware or software to compile a new release right now, but the above will work.