The recent Leisure Electronics Trade Show held at Heathrow Airport (well in an hotel nearby actually) seems to have been rocked by those magazines which have taken a Quantum Leap. In the past early buyers of new computers have had to wait several months before getting a users magazine to satisfy their reading needs. But since Sir Clive jumped into the future and announced the QL Computer there has been a veritable leaping of quantums.
To date there has been no definite information on the QL beyond the lavish brochure containing its impressive specifications, yet already two magazines have retitled themselves. Perhaps most notably the E.M.A.P. publication Which Micro & Software Review (which to be fair hasn’t put anything on the cover) contains the QL USER (incorporating Professional Computing), and the bimonthly Your Spectrum has now become Your Spectrum & QL User (YS is going monthly soon).
WM has a QL User supplement loose leaf inside, whereas YS & QL User has their supplement stitched in, which makes it appear more established. In both cases there is really very little to say about the product beyond rehashing the extensive details included in the widely seen Sinclair brochure. Consequently we are obviously going to be seeing the sort of wrangles that have plagued the London producing centre for computer magazines during the past year, each of the larger houses all competing to be the mag with the most. It’s all very well, and doubtless keeps lots of people employed, but it does become a nightmare for the software houses, who are forever bombarded with advertisement managers telling them that unless they’re in the QL User they’ll be missing out. A second later and another advertisement manager is telling that unless they’re in The QL User, they’ll be missing out...
Of course, Sinclair are hoping the QL will be a useful tool in the home and not just a games machine. But games playing will undoubtedly be a large part of what it does in the average household, so we’ll spare you the QL User bit until there are a few real QLs about to actually use.
A recent letter received by Lloyd Mangram complained that we said in a review that two reviewers disagreed about the merits of a particular game, and asked why we did that. The reason is quite simple; if you have three players giving their opinions on a game they’re not necessarily going to be the same and it’s only fair to report that. Perhaps you find that confusing? Well we are offering you the chance to say what you think about a lot of things to do with CRASH Magazine, its reviewing system and software in general. Reader involvement is vitally important to us at CRASH. Your letters are all digested quite thoroughly, even if they don’t subsequently appear in print. But letters do not always give a clear picture of what most readers think. That’s why we have provided a questionnaire in this issue. The more forms returned to us, the better chance we have of finding out what the majority of you think about these subjects. So please fill out yours and send it back. You’re going to be a great help to us if you do.
The response to our Reviewers Competition in issue 1 has been staggering. I had no idea so many of you were critics! Thank you for responding so well. At a quick glance at the manuscripts received, the overall standard appears to be extremely high. As a result, and because of the sheer number of entries received we are going to have to delay announcing the results by another month. Sorry to have to do this, but there is no other alternative as it represents days of careful reading on the part of several people before any decisions can be taken.
No sooner has the dust settled over the QL launch than newish software house Joe the Lion have announced the first of a range of games for the computer. Actually, what they are announcing is a program called the Emulator, which will be available on a Microdrive cassette and will allow you to load a Spectrum machine code program into the QL and run it as on a Spectrum. As the QL has no cassette port, a special connector will be included in the Emulator package to allow loading of Spectrum games from cassette into the QL.
Of course, if this all proves true, the Emulator will transform the QL from a business machine into the best games machine on the market, say Joe the Lion. On receiving the announcement, a few members of the CRASH team voiced doubts as to whether the claims can be true or realisable, and confidence wasn’t inspired further by the tone of the press release, which went on to say that the Emulator is presently under development, and that Joe the Lion needs a team of programmers for the coding stage. Anyone with a good knowledge of the Spectrum, Z80 machine code and 68000 machine code should get in touch with Joe the Lion immediately.
If the Spectrum Emulator is successful, a follow up version for the BBC will be developed. Its price is expected to be in the region of £25.
C.D.S. Microsystems have become members of G.O.S.H. the Guild of Software Houses. Grant Elner, sales manager for CDS says, ‘G.O.S.H. has an important role to play in the development of the consumer software industry. The Consumer Charter which has been agreed provides consumers with a guarantee of reliability which in turn must benefit those companies who are members of G.O.S.H. and adhere to the Guild’s quality standards which we hope will become widely recognised.’
Of course, it doesn’t necessarily follow that all G.O.S.H. games are good games, but at least they should behave well!
G.O.S.H. also has an important role to play in protecting its member software houses from the rip-off merchants who sell brand new games and exhibitions at well below trade prices. This, on the face of it, may look good for the games buying public — everyone would like to get Automata’s Groucho, for instance, at £3 instead of £10, but it has a hidden comeback. The software house doesn’t get all the revenue it needs and so risks going out of business (not that Automata seem to be doing that, it would take a noise enforcement law to do that), which means that the public have less choice in the end. Besides which, thieves shouldn’t prosper as well as the ones I have in mind seem to.
There has been much editorial argument over how the new games should be rated — and indeed, even if they should be. One argument is that giving games a rating is too inaccurate. We’ve all become used to computer mags doing something like it, but a rating is of little use if it isn’t clear on what it is based. Some give a score out of five, some out of eight, others out of twenty. And we’ve all seen the bad reviews that gives five stars and the good review that gives two!
In CRASH you will find two sections at the end of each review which can be cross-referenced to the review itself. The first is headed COMMENTS and gives factual information regarding the program and a very general rating based on the three individual reviewers’ opinions.
Then come seven ratings. All the figures given are percentages. Some of the headings are used differently than you may have encountered in other magazines. Firstly the heading USE OF COMPUTER. Until now this has usually indicated the use of the Spectrum’s capabilities by a program, but we do not use it that way. After all a really excellent game may only need 9K of memory — who’s to say whether that is a good or poor use of the computer? Some games don’t need fabulous graphics to be great games — who’s to say a game with simple graphics isn’t making full use of the computer? It isn’t a relevant heading for the games player. So our USE OF COMPUTER means, how user-friendly is the game, have they provided sensible keyboard positions, are there plenty of joystick options?
The other heading which differs in meaning from the way it is used in other magazines is PLAYABILITY, which up till now has usually defined what we mean by USE OF COMPUTER. What we mean by PLAYABILITY is literally that — is it a fun game to play from the word go? After all, a game may be enjoyable but not very addictive in the long run. We think it’s fair to point out the difference.
SCALE OF PERCENTAGE RATINGS
|Under 30%||a waste of time|
|31-40%||generally poor, but may appeal for some|
|51-55%||reasonable if type of game enjoyed|
|56-60%||good on most counts|
|81-90%||Knight of the British Empire|
|Above 90%||words fail ...|