AAAARGH! Shows, Shows, Shows! I think I have gone off exhibitions. There’s probably a lot of stuff about the LET show elsewhere in this issue (too right — ED), but well, what would life be like without me throwing in my ha’porth?

The art of the exhibition is to stand around looking meaningful and authoritative (buyers for big shop chains tend to be far better at this than exhibitors, unfortunately) and thereby cadge as many drinks as possible off the assembled journalists, foreign buyers, advertising executives and sundry other lackies. Naturally, in the course of doing one’s business (ie selling the product) one has to buy quite a few drinks for the same lackies; in fact the really seasoned and professional exhibitors cut out all the extraneous hassle by keeping large quantities of booze on their stand at all times — I mean, walking to the bar can be such a draaag...

All in all, though, this show seemed remarkably flat, especially compared with the PCW show in the Autumn. Perhaps it’s just that you always get much more pizazz at a public show than at a trade one, but it did seem to me that there was precious little new stuff around at all, and what was there was hardly revolutionary. One or two notable exceptions were Ocean’s Gift from the Gods and Beyond’s Shadowfire, both of which were written by Denton Designs — now how come these people never produced anything classy while they were at Imagine?

Also getting its first public airing was Gyron from Firebird, which looked very impressive — well worth the CRASH Smash it received last month. There was not a lot of strategy games to look at though, and one story that emerged at the show was that of Lothlorien signing up to do a game or two for Quicksilva. I know I’ve not always been kind to Lothlorien, but at least they do try and create games that do more than just improve your wrist action. Perhaps with Quicksilva giving them a nudge in the commercial direction, they may start really showing us what they can do.

Realtime Software, who so far as I could make out are three beer-gutted, cider-swilling, bearded heavy metal lovers, spent a lot of time demonstrating their extremely tedious game 3D Starstrike which they have just converted for the cataleptic Enterprise computer. As I approached to ask them what they thought of ‘Star Fleet Battles’ I was hustled away by a bevy of Enterprise salesmen — wouldn’t have minded that they nailed my feet to the floor and forced me to watch their forthcoming TV commercial 84 times, but I’m still waiting for my official Enterprise track suit to pop through my mailbox. Any chance of it boys? Or will I have to compare your machine with the Spectrum first?

On limping downstairs I was very pleased to discover the Ludlow mafia handing out traditional Shropshire hospitality, ie gin, from the CRASH stand in the corner. The stand was (am I being biased here?) really the only decent thing on the ground floor.

A last thought on the LET show: the biggest computer game company in Britain (and probably the world) was not there. No, I’m not talking about the Inland revenue, I’m talking about Ultimate, who never sully their hands with these show things. Would they have gained any business by being there, and did they lose any because they weren’t? I doubt it. Once again, it looks as though Ultimate know something that the rest are only just finding out — that exhibitions are, for the most part, just an excuse for a binge, and that there are far more effective ways for companies to spend money on promotion. Think about that next time you buy a game — how much of your hard-earned cash is going towards some marketing executive’s exhibition blowout! Oh, and I almost forgot, many thanks to the wonderful Dutch people on the stand next to me, who kept me going with regular supply of Pils, a couple of barrels of which they had the foresight to bring with them.

Well that’s got all the exhibition stuff out of the way, unless you want to hear about this Sinclair QL Trade day (No, we don’t — ED) — I’m sure you don’t want to hear about it, actually, but I’ll tell you anyway. (Please, no...) It was full of some of the snottiest, most self-congratulating, jumped-up breadheads in the business, all discussing how this program was going to work out the movements of their shares, write the SUN leader column and assassinate Arthur Scargill before breakfast. One chap (who shall remain nameless because he works for a major software house) particularly got up my nose — he said, ‘How do you find developing software on the QL? Tricky? Ya, well we use a VAX for all our work you know.’ (A VAX being a £30,000 mainframe)

I pointed out to this revisionist jackal that most of the best games software was actually written on the machine which it was intended to run on, and that game software authors were used to working with the idiosyncrasies of various machines, and indeed managed often to exploit those idiosyncrasies. In fact, the only software house to go in for writing on bigger machines than the intended end-user was, you guessed it, Imagine!

Enough of all this; let’s move on to the really important stuff (at last — ED), like whether my loo has thawed out yet (AAAARGH! —) and my plan to build an ornamental shopping centre in my back yard out of broken bricks. Maybe I could sell part of the yard to Sainsburys! (Come back Robert Maxwell, all is forgiven!)