With the launch of Psytron, Beyond Software and the game’s two young programmers have been thrust into the limelight.
The two names behind Psytron are Paul Voysey and Tayo Olowu. They both graduated from an engineering course last summer and opted not to get involved in the engineering industry. Instead they went out and bought a Spectrum. Two weeks later they had taught themselves machine code and then spent almost seven months producing Psytron.
Paul is a voluble person with fairly strong opinions about the way magazines in general review games and present screen pictures. Tayo is Nigerian, and in discussion at the Psytron launch I discovered we had been neighbours (though separated by some years), living almost next door to each other in Lagos.
Paul and Tayo work very evenly on a game, intermingling their individual methods of assembly so that, as Paul claimed, it should be very difficult to disassemble their code, because they each have their own routines that get hopelessly mixed together. He pointed out that a clever disassembler can spot the way a programmer tends to work, say Matthew Smith, and it makes detection work easier, whereas with Psytron two different thinking processes have gone into the program and seeing where one trail of thought starts and another leaves off is not so simple.
Psytron is an enormous program which uses every bit of the Spectrum’s RAM, but both programmers are now at work on something which promises to be even more special. It’s code named Psi Warrior for the moment, and Beyond hope to have it ready for the autumn.
Although it wasn’t entirely ready for the launch, Beyond’s new adventure game, The Lords of Midnight, was featured with several screens working. Beyond claim that this is the world’s first Epic game, which allows the player to blaze a heroic path through a story background, drawing the scenery and characters every step of the way.
This is possible through a technique called landscaping. It means that every time you leave a location and return to it from a new direction, it will be drawn again with a different background. Every time you move forward, so the landscape changes, distant features coming nearer and revealing new detail. Beyond claim that there are 32,000 views to be seen in The Lords of Midnight!
You take the part of Lord Luxor the Moonprince, guiding his compatriots and gathering armies to defeat the evil Witchking Doomdark. As Luxor splits his forces, so you are able to see through the eyes of each character. The game is extremely complex and what it allows you to do and the ways in which it can be played. Fortunately it is accompanied by a 32-page booklet which sets the scene and describes the game in detail.
Author of The Lords of Midnight is Mike Singleton, who started inventing games as a youngster. While working as an English teacher on Merseyside, he produced a computer moderate game called Star Lord which is played by hundreds of people every week, sending in their order for the game to Mike’s house to be processed on his Pet. The Lords of Midnight is the result of months of hard work, and he has planned two sequels, Doomdark’s Revenge and The Eye of the Moon, which should be available in the autumn.
Close observers of our last issue may have noticed the half-page advertisement for The Oracle’s Cave, the animated graphics adventure from Doric, and seen that Doric have now become DORCAS Software. Chris Dorrell says ‘We decided to change our name to avoid confusion with another software house at the business end of the market and with the Oric micro.’
The name Dorcas is derived from DORell Computer Adventure Software, and reaffirms the company’s intention of producing adventure games. The latest release from Dorcas continues the text/graphic approach which was used so well in The Oracle’s Cave. The new game due soon is called The Runes of Zendos and will consist of 12 separate but closely linked adventures, each with monster animation, problem solving, sound effects, sentence input, performance evaluation and microdrive facilities. It will run on the 48K Spectrum.
Liverpool-based software house Bug-Byte have taken to the kitchen for their latest release.
Ian Hoare, chef to British Routiers, has produced a world first in the home computer software market.
He explains: ‘Last October an old friend asked me for the recipe of a dish which has always been a favourite with guests at lunches which I have cooked for Routiers. As a joke, I tried to put the recipe into the computer.
‘One thing led to another, and before I quite knew what had happened to me, I found that I had an appointment with the marketing manager of a major software company to show him an outline for a computerised cooker “book.”
‘I gave enough of a demonstration to be offered a contract for the finished product. Now, some four months later, I have managed to complete the “cook-book,” which runs on a Spectrum and which contains over 80 of my most popular recipes.’
More than just a cookery book, perhaps, one-third of the program is taken up with a comprehensive index. You can tell the computer that you have some pork, in the fridge, and it will make a selection of suitable recipes. It will also list recipes by category such as Starters and Desserts. It will select recipes according to such criteria as price, time taken in cooking and preparation, simplicity and country of origin.
To round off the index, Ian has put on another ‘hat’ — that of wine consultant — and has suggested wines to accompany the dishes he has invited you to cook.
In the recipes themselves, Ian has again found a use for the particular strengths of computers. All the recipes are displayed in either Imperial or Metric measurements and for any number of people (up to 200). He has brought his practical expertise to bear highlighting any tricky sections and explaining how he deals with them.
‘I was amazed to discover,’ he says, ‘that this is the first time anything like this has been done. It seems to me to be so obvious, with computers being found more and more in the home, uses should extend beyond games programs and home budget accounting, excellent though these are.’
Tony Baden, director of Bug-Byte, first saw the program at the Christmas Computer Fair at Wembley. He was so impressed that he offered Ian Hoare a contract on the spot.
The Cookbook consists of a special two-cassette pack, one for the index and the other for the recipes. Available from all good software outlets at £9.50.
W.H. Smith’s retail shops will open at least 11 more Computer Shops and extend at least 26 existing Computer Know-how departments by the beginning of September. The company already has 33 Computer Shops in W.H. Smith stores, plus two Computer Shops at Heathrow airport, as reported in our March issue, and more than 220 Computer Know-how departments.
The well-designed compact Computer Shops offer customers a place where they can sit at console units and use complete systems, which include the Acorn Electron, Acorn BBC Model B machine, the Apple, Commodore 64, Sinclair’s ZX81 and the Spectrum. Computer Know-how departments (according to their size) also have a similar range of systems.
Computer Shops and the Computer Know-how departments also offer a comprehensive range of software (including education programs and games), as well as other computer peripherals, and also W.H. Smith’s own-brand Computer Program Data recorder. This machine is called the CPD-B300. It costs £39.95 and is specifically designed for use with personal computers.
Customers can also make full use of the computer staff’s expertise at W.H. Smith. ‘We want people to be able to try out hardware for themselves and have the opportunity to discuss and compare the various computer specifications and software packages with our specially trained staff,’ said Mr John Rowland, Merchandise Controller for personal computers at W.H. Smith.
W.H. Smith is planning a series of computer exhibition evenings (run by W.H. Smith’s computer staff). The aim of these evenings is to demonstrate the specific use of computers and peripherals, as well as to encourage people to try out the hardware and software by using the W.H. Smith staff’s expertise. Often attending the evenings are software suppliers and hardware manufacturers. In addition there is a great deal of literature available for people to take away with them.
W.H. Smith have 355 retail shops. By the beginning of September 1984 nearly 50 of these will have Computer Shops and more than 220 will have Computer Know-how departments.
New Computer Shops will be opened at Bolton, Chester, Coventry, Derby, Lewisham, Oxford, Preston, Southend, Sunderland. Watford and York.
Extensions to Computer Know-how departments will be at Basildon, Bedford, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Bradford (Kirkgate), Chelmsford, Cheltenham, Colchester, Crawley, Guildford, Hanley, Harlow, High Wycombe, llford, Luton, Peterborough, Putney, Nottingham (Victoria), Richmond, Slough, Solihull, Stockport, Sutton, Swindon, Woolwich and Worthing.
Computer evenings planned for the future will be at Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Kingston, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London (Holborn Circus and Brent Cross), Nottingham (Listergate), Reading, Southampton and Swansea.
DK’Tronics have announced the launch of the DK’Tronics Spectrum Owners’ Club. The club indicates an enduring faith in the ZX Spectrum computer. To launch the club, DK’Tronics are running a fabulous prize draw, details of which may be found in this issue as well as other magazines. The first prize will be a Sinclair QL computer. The second prize is £100 with follow-up prizes of £50 and £25. There will of course be free membership to the Spectrum Owners’ Club. The draw for the prizes will be made on 1st August at the CRASH magazine offices in Ludlow.
After reporting on the above item, it might be as well to tell everyone that CRASH is moving approximately 300 yards — to new offices in the very centre of Ludlow (appropriately above the Victoria Wine shop!). The move has been occasioned by CRASH’s rapid growth, which has demanded much more space. It will also enable peripheral activities to be expanded like the Hotline and Helpline as well as the planned launch of some new titles.
The move will not alter the use of the PO Box 10 address used for general correspondence with us. Nor will the Hotline phone number and the general number (0584 5620) be changed. There will, however, be an additional editorial phone number which will appear in the next issue and this will replace the current 4801 number. Got it?
Sad news for adventure fans panting for Melbourne House’s new game Sherlock Holmes. Its release has been put back to September. It was first hoped to have it out immediately after Christmas, then it was put back a month, and then to late spring. Paul Byrnes of Melbourne House (London) tells us that the programming team are still slaving away because the complexity of the program has made it difficult to cram it into the memory of a 48K Spectrum.
Still, Sherlock Holmes will obviously make a smashing Christmas present for the end of this end, and the amount of work that has gone into making it possible should ensure that it is a fabulous game too.
Melbourne House have announced that the closing date for their HURG competition has now been extended until 30th June. This gives even more Spectrum owners the opportunity to win the prize of £3,000 for the best game design using HURG (High Level, User Friendly, Real Time Games Designer).
Entering the competition is easy, as no programming knowledge is required to create games with HURG. Details of entry to the competition are enclosed with every HURG package (£14.95), so if you haven’t got round to it yet — there’s one more month to go!
Hewson Consultant’s trilogy of 3D Seiddab games are to be supplied to over 300 outlets throughout France. The trilogy, 3D Space Wars, 3D Seiddab Attack and last month’s CRASH SMASH 3D Lunattack, were written by Steve Turner for the Spectrum and have now been converted for the Dragon by Andrew Braybrook to fulfill the French contract.
At the same time, Hewson’s new adventure game, Fantasia Diamond (a CRASH SMASH for this month), has been entered in for a French adventure games competition. When first approached, Andrew Hewson was faintly bemused by the notion of an English written game being seen in France. The competition organisers, however, felt that this was a negligible drawback. But Andrew says that if it does well in the competition then they will get to work on translating the database of the name into French — no easy task! At least Nord and Sud needn’t be a bother — the initial letters are the same!
At April’s ZX Microfair (Ally Pally, London) a new software house demonstrated their first-ever game on the CRASH stand. We first met Andrew Onions, one of the duo who make up Real Time, because his parents live only a few doors away from the CRASH offices. The second member of Real Time is Ian Oliver. Both are studying in Leeds. The game is code-named Tank Duel, and it continues where Artic’s 3D Combat Zone and Crystal’s Rommel’s Revenge left off. After some preliminary opinions grabbed from reviewers locally, Tank Duel was pronounced the best version of the arcade favourite ‘Battle Zone’ yet. Plans have yet to be finalised regarding marketing and sale of the program, but the expected price is between £4.95 and £5.50.
Chris Clark (ex-Artic), who saw the game at the Microfair, gave his opinion that it was okay but old hat now. Perhaps that’s a touch of professional sour grapes because of 3D Combat Zone. Tank Duel is only the third program of its kind for the Spectrum and is certainly the fastest and busiest version, with plenty of colour and very fast-moving 3D graphics. The game features several different types of tank as well as flyby saucers and bikers, detailed solid landscapes and sound. Keep your eyes peeled for further developments.
Software house Micromania have announced that they will have Track Balls for the Spectrum soon. The ergonomic ‘joystick’ controller, which resembles the top of a sphere sticking out of a box, is almost essential for playing fast games like ‘Missile Defence’, where a firing sight has to be moved at speed and with accuracy. Existing (and somewhat rare) track balls tend to be very expensive, but Micromania are expecting to sell theirs for around £14. They are being imported from America and should be on sale in a few weeks. Anyone interested, who would like more information, should ring Micromania on 03-727 20152, or write: 14 Lower Hill Road Epsom, Surrey KT19 8LT. We’ve been promised one as soon as they arrive, and will be reviewing it as fast as we can.
Having completed the draw of correct entries to the Vortex Competition on the CRASH stands at the Eleventh ZX Microfair at London’s Alexandra Palace on 28th April, Luke Andrews of Vortex told us about their new release, called TLL. The initials stand for Tornado Low Level. You must fly your Tornado jet fighter against enemy positions. The graphics are a continuation of those seen in Android 2, and are claimed to be detailed and in 3D. The game will provide one landing strip, flights at very low level over varying terrain including the sea, with the aircraft being guided by use of its shadow on the ground. There will be 42 screens of landscape and a wrap around map area and long-range radar which warns of landscape changes and enemy positions. TLL should be available very soon, price £5.95, for the 48K Spectrum.
Fans awaiting the new Carnell megadventure The Wrath of Magra, will be pleased to hear that it is now imminent. Difficulties with fitting everything into the memory space and organising the competition which Carnell are running have caused the recent delays. Magra consists of three 48K programs in one package and requires the full assistance of a marvellously illustrated book to play it. The book, The Book of Shadows, runs to 158 pages and contains 51 black and white drawings. It details the history of ‘The Third Continent’ upon which Black Crystal and Volcanic Dungeon were also based, in novel form. It is followed by pages and pages listing the enchanted beasts and objects which will be useful in the adventure, plus a recipe book of magic potions and spells and the times to prepare and use them.
The Wrath of Magra promises to be an all-encompassing affair, the sort of classic adventure which will require retreating from the world for several months! On top of that, The Book of Shadows should provide several more hours entertainment for the ardent adventure fan.