A slightly shorter than usual Forum this month because of all the other articles competing for my defensible space (about which I’m very possessive). Pride in the quality of what you own is always so very important, I always think, and that’s largely the thinking behind the writer of this month’s winning letter (attracting, as it does, the £30 worth of personally-chosen software). But I’ll let Dominique do the talking...
I have been reading your magazine for almost a year now, and it is by far the best Spectrum magazine around.
After reading Issue 45 however, I felt I had to write to you concerning your article on the development of the software market regarding budget games, and also the letter by Anthony Daniels in your FORUM. Barnaby Page’s fascinating article, provoked some disturbing thoughts in my mind.
Firstly, by pointing out that many full priced specialist software houses are branching into budget games, Barnaby began to worry me slightly.
The most notable example is Hewson’s new label Rack-It. Even their budget games are not much better than you would expect for under £3. If such a successful house as Hewson (I have all their games since I bought my Spectrum in December last year) is being forced to join the ranks of budget producers, times must be getting hard. It is my belief that top software houses such as Ocean, Activision and Elite — all mentioned in the article — will soon have to follow suit leaving the Spectrum games market consisting of nothing but budget games.
I find this a disturbing prospect, as although the presence of more budget games might improve the quality, they would still not be able to match anything like the standard of today’s full-price games.
Personally, I take pride in my collection of software, which does include budget games, but despite this, I would not be prepared to put up with lower class entertainment on my computer. No game can be played forever, so I would soon get bored to tears with an out of date Spectrum and its games, which I thought would be a major part of home entertainment for several years to come.
I would be forced to change to either a 16-bit machine or to the new variety of games consoles, of which I find the Sega most impressive, which brings me to the letter from Anthony Daniels.
Anthony made a point about originality in games. Original games are not necessarily good ones. I found The Sentinel very tedious to play, and games like Exolon, Zynaps, Barbarian and Enduro Racer all follow well worn themes but are nevertheless excellent games. This might just be because I am one of a new generation of Spectrum owners. but I don’t really think so.
What makes unoriginal games good enough to buy is the ever improving standards of programming, plus those extra special touches and slight variations from the basic idea. The games consoles provide both original (World Runner, Metroid, Choplifter) and unoriginal (Out Run, Space Harrier, Gradius) games, and they all look good to me.
If and when I convert to a Sega, I will hang on to my Spectrum anyway, as I believe that software standards will continue to rise as long as software companies takes heed of what people like myself are saying. (I know you will, won’t you Lloyd?).
For the 8-bit machines to flourish, the right people must provide the right games. The right games are the games that the average games-player wants, and we do not want poor versions of full-price games. That is what budget games really are, after all.Congratulations, Newsfield, on THE GAMES MACHINE.
Thanks for your thoughts Dominique, they have earned you some free software — for your Spectrum... I would be wary of ‘converting’ to a console because it is a different beast. Think of it as an addition to your home computer rather than as a replacement.
I think full-price labels still perceive themselves as essential to the general well-being of 8-bit computer games. Part of this is that they spend money advertising. Budget houses like Code Masters claim that they pay as much as a full-price house for development and programming, but can sell cheaper because they don’t waste money on adverts. But I think Code Masters are overlooking the fact that, apart from informing the public of a product’s release, advertising is vital to raising the general level of awareness and interest in the whole games market (and leaving aside the fact that that helps fund magazines, which in turn raise the level of interest in the whole field).
But it must also be said that some of the scarifying about budget barbarian hordes may be unfounded: the quality of budget games is improving dramatically. In Issue 46, for instance, more than half the budget games scored over 50%, though they’re often perceived as 20%―30%. That issue two Code Masters games, Professional Ski Simulator and Dizzy, scored in the high 70s and this issue M.A.D.’s U.C.M. gets 87%.
As to originality, there are only so many ‘stories’ to tell. The
trick, and the skill, really lies in the telling. And you are right: if this
market only wanted the latest, most original concept going, then
Zynaps would not have been a hit — but it was.
In the last couple of FORUMs many letters have praised 16-bit computers and new games consoles. These letters stated that Atari ST would become the ‘new Spectrum’. I strongly disagree.
The other week I bought Renegade (128K). started playing it and thought, ‘Wow, this is amazing!’ The next day, my friend came up to copy my homework. He used to have a Spectrum but he now has an Atari ST and his Dad has an Amiga. He came into the room and saw Renegade. Immediately he sat down by the computer, picked up the joystick and started playing. I thought that he would get up and leave the game alone, saying he had much better games on his computer. But he didn’t. He stared humming the theme tune and shouting ‘You die scumball’ and ‘I’m going to knee you in the nuts this time’.
When I asked when he was going to copy my homework he kept saying: ‘After the next game’.
Two hours later I had to drag him from the computer and send him home. He left without copying my homework, and he was still humming the theme tune the next day. In school he kept saying to me that Renegade was the best game he’d ever seen, better than all his games on both his Atari and Amiga. He even mentioned something about buying a new Spectrum.
This really goes to show that the Spectrum is not dead, but very much alive
and well in the competition — which some people don’t seem to
think. So, to all those people who are thinking of buying an Atari ST or Amiga,
I would seriously reconsider your choice.
There are two aspects here (if we forget that your friend sounds
like a foul-mouthed cheat!): first that different computers (whether 8- or
16-bit) have their strong and weak points — many game styles work better
on the Spectrum than they can even on an Amiga: and don’t forget, the
Spectrum still has one of the fastest processors. Second, it’s worth
considering what Christina Erskine said in the last issue — that the
power of 16-bit may make 8-bit programmers improve their product, in
playability at least. No, the Spectrum is very far from dead.
I think that the main reason that we buy computer games is being overlooked. Computer magazines (including CRASH) have been neglecting why computer games are being bought and, like a lot of Spectrum owners, have become preoccupied with aspects of computer games that are not central to the main reason that we buy them.
We buy computer games to entertain ourselves. But is there an entertainment value percentage in CRASH or in any other Spectrum games magazines? Ha! Not likely! Graphics and sound seem to be the only things that matter, not more long-term aspects such as plot and player involvement (addictiveness etc), which I believe are much more relevant to the entertainment value of a game. I think it’s sad when a technically better game is bought in preference to a game which has a better plot and offers more involvement.
Now I come to what I want CRASH to do about it. Don’t let your
reviewers be dazzled by beautiful sprites and boppy music; let them concentrate
on how much they would want to play the game in a month’s time. An
entertainment value rating would be useful too.
I guess we don’t think of entertainment as a separate
entity because the whole review is about entertainment. Certainly the lasting
appeal of a game is a prime consideration, although to be fair you can’t
expect CRASH reviewers to actually play any game for that kind of time to
assess its real lasting appeal, or we wouldn’t have any reviews done in
time! Addictive qualities have to be assessed through experience and taste
— and we can get it wrong now and then.
I am a very satisfied Disciple owner and I feel I should complain about several points in Simon Goodwin’s review of Swift Disc in issue 44.
His repetitive bickering about Disciple’s system file is misleading. Firstly he says that Disciple can manage slower drives but you must load in the system file when you switch on. Personally I don’t see the great hardship in typing RUN and enter when I switch on to gain the numerous benefits the use of a system file offers.
Then he claims that even though Disciple uses 780K per disc (an increase of 140K over the Swift) it needs some of this for its system file. This is true enough, though he misses out that this file is under 7K and only need be on one disc.
At the moment Disciple costs £15 more than Swift (though Rockfort were selling it for £70 at the PCW show). For that you get the extremely flexible Centronics printer port. This has totally standard connections and can work even with non-Epson compatible printers as it allows you to change any of its control codes when you first set the system up which makes it more flexible than Multiprint.
Simon Goodwin seems to twist the fact that Swift’s RS232 is nonstandard into a good thing. He then says you have to send off for an adaptor costing £15 so that you can actually use it. This brings the price up to that of Disciple, which also has two network ports and an extra joystick port and therefore seems to be better value for money.
Simon goes on to claim that Swift is easier to use than Disciple. How can typing a % sign be easier than typing a d? Swift does not seem to support Disciple’s wildcard facilities either. Disciple also has other commands like POKE @, which is extremely useful and allows experienced users to set up interrupts and extended BASIC commands amongst other things.
Possibly the most important thing of all is the Independent Disciple User Group which keeps us up to date with new software and hardware developments and regularly publishes very useful programs and undocumented facilities of Disciple. Swift does not enjoy this sort of support.
I hope this has cleared up some areas of doubt and in future please tell Mr
Goodwin to calm down when he reviews a new product and not to instantly chuck
the opposition out of the window.
One point, Shimon, which you overlook but Simon Goodwin made in
his Issue 44 piece is: ‘the Swift is significantly more compatible with
existing programs (than the Disciple)’. Also, for the record, the main
point of the CRASH review was that both Swift Disc and Disciple are preferable
to the +3 as a Spectrum disk drive — though since that review was written
Romantic Robot’s Multiface 3 has removed one of the main drawbacks of the
+3. So too may the new Disciple Version 3-B — see the news item in Tech
I am writing this letter to congratulate you and your staff (of course) on last month’s magazine. It was great to see what CRASH looked like in ye olden days. I do not know of any mag which has done this before you. Also the demo tape given free with the mag was an excellent idea. I could not believe how many demos were given after seeing a rival mag (no names mentioned) just give one game free with their mag.
Although not everything is fine with this magazine. The price of the mag is now £1.25. Why? As you have gathered this reader is not happy by the rise in PRICE (sorry but that word rings a bell). But I suppose you could reassure me by telling me that there will be more pages, more reviews, more previews, more brilliant Oli drawings and more Maria Whittaker (COR!). Well to change the subject once more here is my selection of favourite 128K tunes:-
(That’s enough Maria Whittaker. — Man Ed) She sure
is enough, and thank you for the tunes. I think the reasons given for the rise
in price in Issue 45’s editorial are clear enough, and unfortunately the
rise was essential. If you want to compare CRASH to other magazines, still at
£1, then I think you can say you already get more than they regularly
offer. The real point is, though, that they almost certainly won’t stay
at £1 for very much longer.
Well-presented, forthright, ahead of the others by leaps and bounds, intelligent, innovative, what can I say — my admiration knows no bounds. But enough about me.
I’m glad to see that CRASH magazine is becoming more honest fun every week with less of that sensationalist yucky violence I was on the verge of complaining about.
I am very disappointed as I have written to your magazine several times and never had a letter printed. In fact I was so sure you wouldn’t print those letters that I didn’t send them. However, having boosted my ego at the beginning of this letter I may post this one.
Isn’t it just typical, I know I had something important to say about
the state of the computer industry and the amount of official arcade coin-op
conversions on the market, or the lack of imaginative ideas flooding the
market, or was it Alan Sugar taking the Spectrum devotees for £249 before
admitting he always intended the +3 to cost £199. No I think it may have
been the lack of disk-based software for the +3 which means you have to buy a
tape recorder as well, or was it the sensationalist yucky violence in the
industry after all. No, it’s gone clean out of my mind so maybe I
won’t send this letter either.
Rubber Ducky, Nick Thompson
Well in that case I won’t reply to
I’m going to start with something which will probably be the subject of about five million of the five million and two letters you receive this month — The CRASH Sampler. I have mixed opinions on this subject. Anything that’s free(ish) has got to be good, but personally I’d rather have one complete game (eg Your Sinclair’s Batty) than a C15 full of rubbish that, in the main doesn’t do anything. What was the point of the Sláine thing? Was that meant to encourage me to buy it?
Staying on the subject of free gifts, this 3-D wotsit coming up next month, with the 25p price increase I think it shows guts to put the price up before the other mags, but are all these free gifts really necessary? Surely as the most popular Spectrum mag, your reputation should be enough to get people to buy CRASH. Having said that, and being an admirer of Oli’s work (And a hypocrite!), I’m looking forward to the feature.
From the future to the past, and still (sort of) with the subject of free gifts. The CRASH History feature. I like it, what more can I say?
Just to prove that I have got two brain cells to rub together, let me tell you about an idea I’ve just had (No ‘beginner’s luck’ jokes!). Why not have an index of games hacked, as well as the Index of Reviews and the Index of Advertisers (Or even instead of the Advertisers’ Index!).
Going back to Oli and his artistic talents, I think that the work he did on the Game Over advert shows that he has pride in his work, and puts his all into his job. Or he was creeping for a pay rise...
Are you married? If so, do you have any kids? If so, do they wear little paper bags on their heads? I think you could start a new craze. The mind boggles at the possibilities!
In reply to Maria Lyne’s letter about the safe limit of staring at a TV, after less than a year of having my Spectrum, having used it only slightly more than most people would (being an amateur programmer), I could no longer see more than a blur of anything that was more than about a metre in front of my face. By the time I realized what was happening, it was too late, but I can’t see any way of preventing things like this happening if you are sat in front of a VDU a lot. I didn’t even have the opportunity to use a computer for eight hours a day, still being at school, and it happened to me.
I totally agree with Michael Thomas, except on the point of 16-year-olds being naive on politics. I’m a 13-year-old, and I’m not naive on politics, so he must live a pretty sheltered life (Mind you, he does live in Leamington Spa...).
And lastly, don’t you listen to that Jon Ritman bloke! You must stand by your opinions! If you thought Match Day was rubbish, say so!
Still, I’ve run out of points, jokes, ink, paper, electricity, food,
beer shandies and just about everything else, so I’ll sign off with my
cheap Sainsbury’s Rollerball, leaving you with the cryptic comment: Glad
you learned to count over 25; when you can count to 50 they might make you
Daniel Brice, the only literate Bristolian since 1952 (we’re a dying breed)
The Sampler, judging by letters, obviously encouraged many to
buy, buy, buy — and incidentally it was a C31, very expensive. The Man Ed
(just turn another page) tells me that there’ll be a complete index of
POKEs, tips and maps in Issue 49, following on from Issue 48’s index of
games reviewed. I never said we said Match Day was rubbish, I said we
didn’t quite make it a Smash. Further, how could I see if the kids had
paper bags on? I can’t look down through those holes. And then, what
comes after 49?
I am writing to you with my top ten tunes on the good old Spectrum 48K, So, let’s not hang around; here they are:-
Well, now that’s over with, how about a chart for loading screens! My top five would be:-
That’s all for now — and keep on
I’m not sure whether the activity of writing for CRASH
constitutes CRASHing. Which reminds me, I was once asked why the name CRASH was
though of for a magazine — the answer was simple, after being turned down
by an airline for their in-flight courtesy magazine, by the National Bus
Company for similar reasons, by the Financial Times as their colour supplement
and because we couldn’t really become what Franco Frey most wanted
— a new bright and hopeful car magazine, what else was left? You got it
— computer games. C’est la vie. By the way, how about a chart of
Your Top Ten Contrived Spectrum Subjects For Charts?
So much for December (Or actually, not quite as much as usual because there are so many other items in this issue that I’ve been ‘compressed’ (it’s an editorial jargon word implying that normally you’re long-winded and verbose — ‘what me’, I hear you cry — I do, don’t I?). The address to send your Top Ten Contrived Spectrum Subjects For Charts to (plus anything else you can think of that might make a letter) is: LLOYD MANGRAM’S FORUM, CRASH. Next, it’s Christmas...