It’s becoming a good winter for letters. I suppose the Christmas Special and indeed all the autumn issues were something to do with that, because the great undertaking of The CRASH History and, less happily, the misbegotten CRASH fanzine CRUNCH were bound to provoke some criticism. (Though mind you on rereading CRUNCH I saw what they were getting at — it’s not overelaborate and there are some funny touches as well as the excellent idea of sticking tips at the end of each review. Perhaps Nick needs prodding on that...)

But this month’s special prize — £50 worth of software for Issue 50 — goes to a letter of complaint which I felt was whingeing and self-glamorisingly cynical. I can’t believe anyone can bear such apparent venomous hate toward a magazine simply because they didn’t like one issue...

EXTREMELY ANNOYED

Dear Lloyd
This letter will never be used in your magazine, as it is too much the truth, and if it is, it will only be printed so that you can use any ‘protect and defend our previous CRASH’ replies that you might get!

CRASH has undergone many changes since Issue One, some good, some bad, but I have always bought it as I used to think it was the best magazine for ardent Spectrum fans. However, there is one final alteration that must be made. That is the name of the publication. No longer can it be called ‘CRASH’ — it must be renamed ‘CRAPP’.

Yes, after buying the Christmas Special I was disgusted. Not only was it late (it didn’t appear anywhere on 10 December), but I, and my wife, counted over 100 pages of adverts and CRASH History covers. What a bore! I have every issue of CRASH already, so I have therefore no need for any extra covers, thank you.

So Newsfield are participating quite nicely in the season of goodwill and daylight robbery. £1.95 for a Xmas Special!!! The only thing at all seasonable about it were the words ‘Christmas Special’ on the cover and a bit of snow on the CRASH logo!

As for the two Smashes, both Ocean, probably the biggest income for CRASH on advertising, so we have to keep them sweet, don’t we? I mean, Match Day II, it’s the same old game with a little cosmetic surgery, innit! Perhaps it was Smashed because someone had a guilty conscience for not Smashing it first time round.

And as for Derek Brewster leaving, why are you not getting another adventurer to review games? Tony Bridge is probably ideal for the job. I mean, how can your reviewing team do the job properly, when they are obviously only fans of arcade games? And what does ‘they will be reviewing the major releases’ mean? Does this tell us that the smaller software houses won’t get a look in? Most of the best adventures are from smaller companies and are only available on mail order, so if they aren’t getting a chance, how do we know where or how to get them? Are you not going to review any of these smaller games any more because they don’t spend any money on advertising in your precious ‘catalogue’?

As you can tell, I am extremely annoyed, and have cancelled my regular order of CRASH. I shall from now on flick through it if I see if on a shop shelf, and only buy it if I see anything of interest, which I doubt.

£1.95 for the January edition, what a rip-off!!!
Peter Hoar

It’s very tempting not to bother replying to someone so determined to be cynical that they see dirty deeds in every corner.

I don’t know what you mean by our ‘catalogue’, Peter — nor do I know what you expect to be seasonal in a Christmas Special. The point is it’s a bigger magazine than normal to read over the Christmas holidays.

And if you think we Smashed Ocean games to keep them advertising, perhaps you should talk to our advertising department, which has several times had major advertisers take their business away from CRASH because the reviewers refused to be swayed by the importance of a big firm.

Your point about small adventure houses is valid, and there’ll be occasional roundups of budget and mail-order adventures from now on. But I gather that the policy is that full-price games are more important to review because people risk more money when they buy them.

Why do you think the CRASH reviewers are only fans of arcade games? After all, Derek Brewster writes arcade games (and he’s left CRASH to produce more at his own new software house, Zeppelin).

The Christmas Special was published on December 17, not December 10, and the promise of December 10 in the magazine was simply a mistake in our production department — the printing date had been changed but they forgot to tell the editorial people! So that was our mistake, but hardly a plot to do you out of £1.95.

I’m giving you this month’s special Letter of the Month prize — £50 worth of software — not to woo you back to buying CRASH, but to disprove your first paragraph. Though no doubt you’ll make a conspiracy theory out of it.
LM

SHOW ME MORE

Dear Lloyd,
I am writing about the venues of the Microfair and The PCW Show. 99.9% of all the computer shows are in London — I would accept this if there were no other venues to go to but there are. The G-Mex Centre in Manchester is big enough to hold any of the shows. I wish the show’s organisers would think of people in the north as well as just the south all the time. The people in the north do have computers, you know!

The cost for me, my mum and dad is around £36 to get to London. I’m sure I’m talking for other people as well.

The shows are excellent though, if you can make them, especially the PCW Show — it has everything.

Also, on a different subject, what’s happened to the 128-version box on CRASH reviews? Let’s have it back eh? Match Day II had 128 music but you didn’t mention it, so did Joe Blade and Renegade to name a few. Please include this box again as most 128K music is fab!

By the way, I think the video reviews are great.
Stephen Hanstead, Wigan

I agree — it’s funny that though the software world is very decentralised, with lots of software houses outside London and based in Birmingham, Manchester etc (though not Scotland), and the users apparently spread evenly all over the country (judging from the post we get at the Towers), everything’s in London!

To be fair, the Which? Computer Show was held at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Center just a few weeks ago, though it’s mainly for ‘serious’ and business computing.

128 box? I think the idea was that often there’s not enough to say about the 128K version of a game except that the music is better, which is predictable.
LM

REVOLUTION CANCELLED DUE TO LACK OF SUPPORT

Dear Lloyd
Having recently read a rival magazine (C&VG) which I shiver to admit, I noticed a little article on one of their pages about CRASH (and ZZAP!) starting to go downhill because of 8-bit users moving up to 16-bit as it is the only place to go. So does this mean you will be slowly bringing in arcade games, reviews on Amiga and Atari as well as Speccy 128, or will you just slog on till the Spectrum 8-bit dies out? I admit it may be some time, but doesn’t time fly when you’re getting old!

Moving on to a brighter note I have to congratulate you and the team for, in my opinion, the best computer mag around (by the way the length of reviews is fine, but maybe a few more hints and tips).
Patrick Taylor, Chester

16-bit is only ‘the only place to go’ in the sense that the Apricot Xi I’m trying out is the only place to go from a battered but reliable Hermes. True, it wouldn’t make much sense for a computer tyro to buy a Spectrum now — though the +2 is still one of the cheapest routes to quality computing for younger users — but the presence of 16-bit machines doesn’t make the 8-bit Spectrum any less valuable for those who already have it.

Why should all those Spectrum-owners who’ve valued their machines for four years suddenly lose interest just because more powerful computers such as the Amiga and ST are cheaper now?

And indeed all the signs are that the 16-bit and console ‘revolutions’ have only really been minor disturbances — some of the avid trade-watchers at CRASH tell me there are only about 130,000 Amigas and STs in the country, compared with some four million Spectrums, and fewer than 20,000 dedicated consoles.

It’s a bit like the ‘desktop publishing’ revolution — last year we were all told how the face of publishing would be transformed by page-design and typesetting software, but it simply... hasn’t happened.

So the answer is no, CRASH won’t become a 16-bit magazine, though I’m sure there’ll be some coverage of the 16-bit machines in the news. Believe it or not CRASH’s circulation has actually RISEN dramatically in the last six months, so we don’t see any need to jump on bandwagons — the old family will do us fine.
LM

SHURELY SHOME MYSTIC

Dear Lloyd
I hereby stake my claim as the first person to complete Mike Singleton’s Dark Sceptre. I completed it on January 5 1988 at 4.50pm. A reaper I recruited killed Umbrarg’s Reaper at Wimball’s Way on the 22nd day and took the Dark Sceptre. After completion the end sequence is an endless stream of Warriors walking across the completion message from right to left. The message is:

The evil has failed
Of the Sceptre Dark
Your Victory to hail
In triumph we march

By the way, whatever happened to having to destroy the Dark Sceptre as written in the instructions? A handy tip is to get rid of most of the Mystics quickly, grab anything and bribe anyone. The Dark Sceptre is usually somewhere on the bottom right of the map.
Scott G Maclntyre, Argyll

Well done, but whatever happened to English poetry?
LM

CRASHING STARGLIDER

Dear Lloyd
I have been a Spectrum-owner since 1983 and recently decided to ‘upgrade’ to a +2. I then decided I would like to have some software which would make full use of the increased capabilities of my ‘new’ machine, and after reading some back issues of CRASH, I decided that the 128K Starglider seemed to be the best choice.

I bought the game and think it’s brilliant, butt do have one unusual problem with it — every time I try to enter upper-case letters into the high-score table the program crashes! This is particularly unfortunate as the cheat mode you printed for it a few issues ago requires the use of upper-case letters for it to work!

I now wonder if anyone else has had this problem, or is there something wrong with my machine? Also, do you know of any POKE which would enable the cheat mode without having to use the high-score table?
Michael Barrett, Leeds

Ben suggests you try playing it in 48K mode, and I’ve begged Nick Roberts to see if he can print some help in the next few issues.
LM

USING HIS LLOYD MATTER...

Dear Lloyd
Is this another first for CRASH — a letter from far-off Hong Kong? When I was in England, I contemplated sending you a letter many times, but I never seemed to get round to it. But I’ve found a bit of spare time, so I thought I’d contribute to that pile of letters that threaten to take over CRASH Towers!

In England, I remember reading a letter from someone in Australia who was complaining that they received CRASH about three months late. What a terrible prospect, I thought! Now, look what’s happened — it’s the same thing for me. Actually, I have just received the December edition of CRASH (now being January 8) yesterday. Are all the special offers out of date? The Mail Order Minion is certainly in a festive mood, with all these special offers on games — but do they still apply to unfortunates such as me?

To make matters worse as regards the time delay, a friend in England keeps sending letters (air mail — five days) telling me all about the UP-TO-DATE CRASH! Infuriating!!

Still, there’s still the panic letter-box-opening ritual, just before I’m due to receive the now-famous plastic bag containing the goodies! The wait is worth it, too. Contrary to several readers’ opinions over the last few months, CRASH is not going downhill — I thought the CRASH Sampler idea was excellent — but PLEASE don’t repeat the 3-D glasses bit to often, as certain members of the family are experts at throwing away essential items that look like rubbish!

Though the power supply in this place is 200-220 volts, the Spectrum 128K works fine — which is a great relief! Unfortunately, my games input has drastically fallen since arriving in Hong Kong. There’s only one shop that has even HEARD of the Speccy — and the latest game they stock is Quicksilva’s Glass!! What they do sell, though, is microdrive cartridges, a rarity in the UK. They are rather expensive though.

Back to more mundane matters, your reviewing system has just about reached top standard, but can you please state specifically in the SOUND comment whether or not there is any 128 sound — no matter how insignificant. It can make quite a difference (especially if Binary Design have got anything to do with it!).

Next comment: what’s wrong with budget games? Some are good, some not so good. But, if a software company or programmer wants to make a name for itself/himself something like Driller is going to have MUCH more impact than, say, I Ball 2 simply because the latter project has neither the time nor the money to produce a high-quality product (not just the game, but the packaging and even the advertising). And, as soon as a company starts churning out thousands of budget titles majority will not even be worth the tape they’re saved on! Just think of some recent classics: Driller, The Sentinel, Exolon, Zynaps etc... it takes some thinking till you come up with a budget classic.
ARC Britton, Hong Kong

PS Did you ever know that ‘Lloyd’ means ‘grey’? You do now!

PPS Whatever happened to the habitually-mentioned LMLWD? Is everyone becoming nescient (LMLWD)?!

It’s not that I’ve been abrogating my lexicographical mandate, it’s just that my philanthropism is quotidian and the task of deforesting my Augean in-tray incontrovertibly Sisyphean — hence horary workloads exacerbate latent vocabularian amnesia.

I didn’t. It sounds unpromising. Why didn’t they call ‘grey’ ‘Lloyd’? Think of it: Lloydhounds, Lloyd eminence, the well-known Tarzan film Lloydstoke.

Your comment on 128 sound echoes Stephen Hanstead’s, so the message has probably got across. But as for budget games, why do we want so many classics?! There wouldn’t seem to me to be anything wrong with a simple, undistinguished but fun game — and that’s perfect for a £2-3 price.

Also, it’s not only a question of how much software houses can invest in a project — it’s also a matter of how much they can ask for the product. It’s commercial idiocy to sell a great great game for £2.99 when you could get three times that for it.

And, like it or not; the software business IS a business — nobody’s in it for love. A software house should give you good value for money, as a magazine tries to, and cheap deceit is wrong whatever the motivation. But there’s nothing wrong — at least, I think there’s nothing wrong and I suspect even the loudest Spectrum socialist would agree with me if they stooped to rationality — with trying to make a bit of money, as long as you’re honest about it.
LM

MR AVERAGE?

Dear Lloyd
Could you mention in the Forum that an (anonymous) reader has found out the average percentage of every game ever reviewed in CRASH — 68.28%. This was found out by using The CRASH Directory and a (now broken) calculator. Marks out of ten in the Adventure Trail I multiplied by ten to get a percentage (eg 7/10 becomes 70%).
The Big Ugly Green Monster
From Ludlow

Hello Nick, you’re looking very green today! But thanks for your number-crunching, whoever you are — I suppose ideally the average percentage should be a little lower, 50-60%, because an average of almost 70% suggests we’ve been rating average games as above-average. One statistical explanation might be that (quite) often games score in the high 90s, but under 10% is virtually unheard of.
LM

ANOTHER NUMBER-CRUNCHER

Dear Lloyd
I do not think that the general standards of games are improving. I did a little research recently to find out whether full-price games are generally better than budget games or not. I borrowed my mum's trusty calculator, added up the overall ratings of the games that were between £7 and £10, and divided by the number of games in that price range. I repeated the process for budget games and the only game above a tenner, a strategy game.

I did this in the Christmas Special. I repeated the process for Issue 45. I also worked out the values of the compilations in both issues. These are my results:

Issue 45 Issue 48
BUDGET62.7%52.9%
FULL PRICE65.4%60.8%
HORRENDOUSLY OVERPRICED78%
COMPILATIONS78.8%78.7%

Nicholas Jeffery, Brighton

True enough, the average percentages in both budget and full-price categories are lower in Issue 48. But as every statistician knows a couple of figures don't tell the full story - particularly when they're averages, because a few freak high or low ratings can distort the average.

Issue 45 had three Smashes, Wizball, Bubble Bobble and I, Ball 2 while Issue 48 had only two, Combat School and Match Day II. Mind you, the lowest in Issue 48 Saracen got a miserable 15% while the lowest in Issue 45 was even worse - 12% for Heist 2012! (And Football Director got 13%.)

What your averages do indicate a bit more reliably is that budget games as a race aren't much inferior to full-price games.

By the way, for advice on +2 music programs write to Jon Bates.
LM

Crunch some numbers, puncture some fond illusions, give me an excuse to abandon the word processor for a typewriter where you can see what you're doing... whatever your views are, on CRASH, software, Smashing Match Day or anything less important, write to Lloyd Mangram.