’VE JUST FINISHED reading the last issue of CRASH and in Lloyd’s FORUM is a letter suggesting some of the CRASH team have been working too hard. Well in my case perhaps this is true. If you’ve been with this industry right from the start (and for the sake of argument we’ll conveniently draw this particular line at the launch of the Spectrum on mail order only) then you will have seen some changes in software.
In the early days of microcomputer software there was only one real consideration: did the new piece of software take the Spectrum a step further? This was the era of the programmer when everyone looked to the Z80 gurus to lead the loyal flock to a new glorious technological high. Often, games design was complex and intended to be so. Microcomputing was a closetted environment for those who were fed up with watching the likes of Tomorrow’s World on TV telling of the future age that never seemed to appear. (Indeed the old joke — ‘if it’s been on Tomorrow’s World you’ll never see it’ — finally came home to roost). Anyone who really wanted a microcomputer could afford one and had already gone out and bought one. So no matter what the media tried to do or say they were powerless to stop the ground swell of enthusiasm for the new technologies. And herein lies the irony of the whole situation. It was the media which hounded and harangued the public for being so slow on taking up new technology when it was the media and the bureaucratic hierarchy itself which was dragging its feet.
Now the world of microcomputing software is a little different. It is a mass market and has all the risks and responsibilities of any other mass market. A game which pushes the Spectrum to its limits is now not automatically acclaimed but is only judged upon how good a game it is; can a twelve-year-old play it without reading the instructions and if he can, will he notice gameplay slowing at any point due to moving large spites/vast numbers of sprites etc... ? Better to keep all the sprites the same size and pilfer other companies’ ideas and routines.
If all the cynicism which has built up in, say, TV and film marketing, now comes to software there won’t be a single person over the age of twenty playing games software. And that would be a shame.
Perhaps it’s time to take the blinkers off.