Letters

This month’s intake of letters, Slimers and Tipsters has been pretty staggering. Ludlow Post Office is groaning under the weight (especially when you take into account the entire forest that has been cut down to draw Sabre Wulf maps on) — still, it’s keeping them all in work! There are some nice comments about reviews and piracy, but I felt the letter of the month should go to twenty year old John Tapper for his very jolly romp of a piece on Life the Universe and Everything...

Dear Lloyd,
Oh well, here we go again... I seem to spend half my life writing letters to computer magazines, the other half standing in a dole queue.

I’ve got lots to say (who hasn’t?) but to start with I’m afraid I must refer to many of the letters featured in your column in issue 7 (August): quotes such as “After the box caught my eye, I paid £9.95” and numerous complaints that “there are so many games how can one possibly buy them all?”

Sick isn’t it?

If I could walk into a shop tomorrow and slap down a tenner without even attempting to discover what it was that I was buying, I’m afraid I would have to agree with the first person who came up to me and said “Hello... WALLY BRAIN!”

No, I’m not a miserable old sod who despises young kids with rich parents, but surely the idea of a computer game is ‘FUN’, not just another pretty screen display to collect. And they do, don’t they?... People have game collections like they have record collections. Buy it Saturday, solve it by Monday, brag in school and buy the next game. I was of an impressionable age when the archaic old heap ‘Space Invaders’ first arrived via the Jumbo from Nipponland and I loved it. I managed to waste every single 10p piece I owned on that game, and its successors. I remember when Galaxians was the NEW game and when Defender first appeared and everyone walked around twitching. It was really FUN in those days (apologies for nostalgic rambling).

I know the sort of reaction this letter will get, not from you, but from the high-scorers and millionaires who read your magazine. I am obviously out of touch because I can’t find the three pieces of the ACG key (This is true, it’s that damn mummy) and I give up when Thorin sits down... I wonder if they can even remember The Hobbit, yes, the one that was really good before you bought Manic Miner, remember?

I’m not going to slag off any games though... I like playing them and, if anything I feel disappointed when I clear the final screen or cross the last vast pit.

I’ve had my spectrum for longer than I can care to remember, originally purchased to play with (yes, I was young and rich once) when the only games were early QS and Silversoft attempts, laughable now by anyone’s standards. In those days a game would be bought between a group, who would dutifully copy, swap and play it to death until the next game released (months later) would take its place. Even £4.95 seemed a bad deal in those days, and for what you got I suppose it was.

So vid kids, make the most of daddy’s wallet, I’ll see you in the queue in a few years.

Music... The spectrum lacks in the sound department. This is an acknowledged fact, indeed, I only realised that mine had a speaker when I used it on a desk top instead of the carpet (subtle attempt at bland humour — don’t use your spec on daddy’s axminster, you could start a fire). Anyway, you’ve seen all those add-on speakers and things, well don’t bother splashing out on them (even if daddy is willing), no... just buy a huge stereo system, stick your favourite Duran Duran album on and bop on down the dungeons.

Playing video games goes with loud music and vice-versa, in fact if it wasn’t for the deafening roar that emitted from the early arcades (converted shops, etc.) I doubt if I ever would have bothered to investigate. As for adventure games, borrow one of daddy’s Mendellsohn’s and really get into the fell of it all (Thrilling, man).

Like I said, it’s supposed to be FUN.

Playing Tips for the incurably addicted (Volume One).

1) When you buy a now game, do not rush home and plug it in immediately. Instead, walk about reading the inlay. Read it over and over again until all sorts of fantastic visions are racing around your head. Go home, sit down and read the paper. Allow yourself at least an hour before you actually ‘Load up’ the game. Believe me, it WILL be better.

2) Always have LOUD music playing. This serves more than just to disguise the feeble dribbling noises of the Spec (see above).

3) If the suspicion that the game you have been playing for the last six hours is becoming dull crosses your mind, immediately switch off and go for a long walk (or get hopelessly paralytic, it’s up to you). When you eventually return to the game all should be well (hopefully).

4) If you really want to enjoy a game: save up and buy two or three at a time (Hypocrite am I not), that way you won’t be likely to get home and spend the next few days hammering hell out of ONE game. The novelty of ONE new game doesn’t take long to wear off in a long continuous sitting.

Playing Tips volume two: Buy CRASH magazine (Not even slightly subtle).

And now some incredibly interesting ideas (snore...)

Why not have a Top Ten of the WORST computer games? I’ve seen some that I am sure would be riding high in the charts... Ever played Schizoids, Transylvanan Tower, Inca Curse, Monsters in Hell... ? And those are only the BEST of the WORST... there are other unmentionable travesties that I fear to mention lest I become a figure of fun for having bought them in the first place.

I liked your CRASHBACK idea of old reviews, but were the remarks entirely honest? I’m not being silly, but even 5% addictiveness for Maziacs would be extremely generous. I enjoyed it immensely for a day. It isn’t a BAD game, it’s just Ummm — one of those things.

Oh,to the poet who mentioned Cookie, I’m afraid it isn’t worth the price pal, you ought to get JSW, even if it is deliberately bugged.

As for Manic Moron, what can I say? Don’t let your friends know that you have got it or they’ll be queueing up outside for a quick bash (Quick bash: known to last until 3 am.).

Also, if you use your Spec more for games than anything else (who doesn’t?) then get a joystick. It really is the only way to play. Get a Kempston. If only because 99% of all Joystick Compatible games run with a Kemp. And those programmable ones are too expensive and a liability if you change the connections more than twice (Experience).

Sabre Wulf? I always thought it was a sabre toothed tiger in all the films, and since when did Jungle explorers carry swords? Couldn’t he have a laser pistol, just to be different?

As for the horror stories involving faults, especially at Christmas time, the answer is simple: put a note out for santa, “Dear Santa, my Spec is up the creek. Give me a new one or I’ll go on a reindeer meat diet for the next fifty years.” If this fails, ask daddy nicely.

What is going to happen to the forthcoming mega-games from Imagine, now that they have waved bye-bye? Of course, I speak of Psyclapse and Bunglesnitch (?). Will another firm sell them? Will they be given away in Corn Flakes packets? Any ideas... ? And will Schizoids now become a much sought after, rare, collector’s item? Somehow I doubt it. If anyone wants my Schizoids cassette, they can have it. You can have it for a CRASH BACK review if you like, no, I’ll save you the trouble:

Game Title: Shitzoids
Use of computer: YES
Graphics: Nice cassette box picture
Playability: 0.5%
Getting started: You don’t
Addictive qualities: You find an insatiable desire to smash the TV, mainly out of boredom and frustration at having spent the money on such utter dross.
Value for money: Go to TESCO
Overall: No comment.

As for the fact that you are raising the price of CRASH (No, I don’t hold you yourself responsible) you really shouldn’t worry about it, because all you are doing is moving up to a price which your so-called competitors (C&VG, Big K, Games Computing, etc.) have been selling at for ages. And for what CRASH is, the definitive spec-soft mag, there are no real competitors, are there?

After that blatant attempt at flattery I must also congratulate you on not including any space-wasting BASIC listings, the like of which abound in other magazines. I’d much rather read the excellent cartoon ‘Terminal Man’, which even makes Marvel comics look dull. Please don’t ever print any listings... OK?

I acknowledged your plight in the ‘lack of letter space’ dept but even if you edit all the pap out of this, I’m sure there are some reasonably interesting points that your readers would appreciate, well, maybe not the insulting bits at the start.
John W. Tapper (age 20)
Unemployed. Bored. I’m serious about the reviews.

There’s not much I can add to that, John, except your choice is on its way.
LM

JADED AND DISGUSTED

Dear Mr. Mangram,
I bought my first issue of CRASH today (26/6/84) and was cheerfully perusing the pages when I got to page 100 and read the announcement that Jet Set Willy had some winners. I was crestfallen to say the least, but when I read the four POKEs in bold type I was utterly disgusted and appalled. The third POKE is the only one at all connected with the Attic. The first removes two aliens from the row of four in The Conservatory Roof; the fourth replaces the orange block in the group of blues with a blue block in The Banyan Tree. The second is quite interesting. If Z80 buffs examine their text of Jet Set Willy from 93D1-9455, and reset bit 7 in all the data from A4AD-A4FF, then number the order in which the rooms are stored (C000-FD00) from 00 (Off-Licence) to 3C (The Bow), they will discover how the items are stored, and that room 1C (First Landing) has an object; it is actually invisible, and resides above and to the left of the cross. What Messrs. Holman and Ebe have done is to move it to The Hall.

I was able to collect 83 out of 84 objects before Easter. I found out what happened when you jumped onto the bed around late March. (POKE 38207,40 — the result is unexpected and clears up the mystery of the loo). I didn’t claim the prize through honesty.

The whole affair has left a sour taste. The ONLY way to win was to cheat. There is enough dishonesty in the business with piracy without introducing impossible games with big prizes. The winners would not be able to collect 84 objects with eight men, even with the Attic bug sorted out. I could not contact Software Projects as I would instantly lay myself on the rack for disassembly, I thought.

You may think I’m a sore hypocrite; maybe I am, but there are a thousand others all over the country on my side in what should have been a massive controversy. Please prove I’m [not] on my own in thinking this is unfair — for the good of this thriving industry.
J. D. (Jaded Bytes)

I reckon that’s pretty fair comment, and it would be interesting to see what Software Projects have to say to you. In general, I know that there’s always a lot of pressure to get a game released on time, and JSW was certainly very late being finished, having been heavily advertised and anticipated. In these circumstances it is easier to see how a program can be rushed out when in reality if hasn’t been properly debugged. Interesting, too, that despite its problems JSW has been one of the most played and enduringly popular games ever released for the Spectrum.
LM

CURIOUS

Dear Lloyd,
I am very curious to know why it takes so long for CRASH to review games such as C.D.S. Pool, which have been available for months before being reviewed. If you reviewed games when they first came out, it would help a lot of people who buy games that look good but are rubbish and stop a lot of people from wasting their money.
Shane Crawford

If you had read the piece in the review of C.D.S. Pool, you would have noticed that it carefully said that the game had been released long before CRASH came on the scene, but it was being reviewed because C.D.S. were giving it a new push with a newly designed cover. In most cases CRASH is usually the first out with either a review, or at least a preview, of new games, at least where software houses can be bothered to send copies for review in time.
LM

UPGRADER

Dear CRASH
I would like to point out to Alan Bates of Grimsby (Letter of the Month, Issue 7) that I, too, upgraded from 16K to 48K using a D.I.Y. kit from Fox Electronics. After spending just over £20 and a wait of three weeks, it took me less than half an hour to install. I have also successfully installed the same kit for two friends in about a quarter of an hour.

If the space is so precious in the letters section of the mag, then why not get rid of all the CRASH ‘bugs’ and print more letters instead?
Simon White

What! No ‘Oli-bugs’ as they’re affectionately known in the CRASH office? Seriously, though, there has to be some attempt made to make pages look lively. All printing on a page would look very heavy. Besides, ‘precious space’ is also a consideration of how much I’m allowed to spend on typesetting which is quite costly! Be fair, Simon, CRASH has about the longest letters section in any magazine you’ll read. The next writer also has a comment to make about our pages...

GLOSSIER BUT...

Dear Lloyd,
Your magazine is getting better with every issue, yet I still long to see a completely glossy issue. Going through past copies reveals a growing number of glossy pages, but they still fail to cover a complete issue. It’s only a small quibble in what otherwise holds the position of being the only magazine I actually buy without first flicking through. I admire the way you appear so down-to-earth and matter of fact, also freely admitting your mistakes, printing critical letters as well as appraisals.

Just a couple more points before I finish. Why can’t our amazing ‘games cheats’ disassemble a few other programs other than Jet Set Willy and Manic Miner? I’ve tried, but fail to get a grip on machine code. And I’d love to have an infinite lives POKE on Moon Alert, for example. Mark Harvey should become Poet Laureat, too.
Tim Keen

Looking at our JSW/MM POKEs file, Tim, I can’t help but agree with you! I think an infinite lives for Moon Alert will be printed in the Christmas Special. Now to the paper (I seem to be asking for loads of financial breakdowns recently!); lots of readers assume — and why not? — that a magazine is rather effortlessly put together each month; with loads of paying ads in it to get in the way of the real stuff, sells at a highish price and so makes loads and loads of money for all concerned. I wish it were so! In fact it is a constant battle to ensure that each issue makes its money back and some profit over (without which new ideas could not be developed easily). An average issue of CRASH costs £18,000 for colour origination, typesetting and printing (on top of that comes a load of other costs, like my pitiful salary). Of these costs, the paper per issue costs almost £9,000 — so as you can see, paper is a big problem. By mixing paper types carefully it is possible to shave as much as £2,000 off an issue’s cost. To have all glossy paper in CRASH would certainly add on another £2-3,000. Sorry to be so detailed, but I just want you to know that we’re not being mean for the sake of it!
LM

SOLD OUT!

Dear CRASH,
I am writing to tell you about some back numbers I got this morning: on opening the polythene-clad parcel and inspecting the magazines, I thought, ‘I’ve been done, doze guys at a da CRASH office av nicked one a me books.’ And that disheartened me.

On reading through I found a letter of apology and a pound note. That’s OK I thought, but the letter said that No. 1 CRASH was completely sold out, and will no longer be available, Is this true? I will never see number 1 CRASH. Please try to reprint No. 1 to make the set.
Kevin Hole

Sorry, Kev, itsa da truth. Issue number 1 has all gone, every last copy sold. It could be reprinted if some 30,000 others want one (less than that wouldn’t be worthwhile — see above!), but I don’t think that’s very likely, do you? (By the way, thanks for the map — we’ll probably be using it later on).
LM

CONGRATULATIONS!

Dear CRASH,
Due to a special offer from P.S.S. I sent off for a game called Frank N. Stein and I feel I must congratulate them on what I think is a great game. I throughly recommend it as it has 50 screens and is very playable. It comes packed in a special box like Sabre WuIf. Well done P.S.S.

Simon Wright who claims to have got to L99 on Lunar Jetman (cough!) must have a faulty copy because after L30, earth is saved and the game finishes.
John Hodkinson

Well, naughty old Simon!
LM

IGNORE AT YOUR PERIL!

Dear Lloyd,
The other day my friend bought Deep Space by Kryptonic. For the money paid (£1.99) it was excellent value. Aha, I thought, these cheap games are not all bad. Soon I was walking to the shop clutching ten pounds. After a great deal of Umming and Ah-ing I bought Voyage Into The Unknown. Oh woe, woe, why did I ignore CRASH? In the end I took it back to the shop and exchanged it for Hopper by Kryptonic. It is brilliant value and is one of the most addictive games in my collection. So, be warned. The moral of this story is (as Confucius would say) ‘Man who ignore CRASH, comes unstuck’!
WIIliam Buckingham

P.S. Why don’t you print loading times in your Comments section in the reviews?

We would print loading times if anyone could remember to time them in the rush to get everything written up!
LM

THE £1 BET

Dear Lloyd,
I would first like to say that I think your magazine is great. I am an avid fan of CRASH, I hope I shall be in years to come. Since I have taken the mag to school, I have converted 7 people to order CRASH.

I would like to list my own top 10 of Spectrum games: 1) Sabre Wulf, 2) The Hobbit, 3) Jet Set Willy, 4) Hulk, 5) Ad Astra, 6) Fighter Pilot, 7) TLL, 8) Doomsday Castle, 9) Trashman, 10) 3D Deathchase.

Please could you make the cartoon strip ‘Jetman’ span two pages insted of one, because many people would agree with me that ‘Jetman’ is extremely funny. Why don’t you write a comic strip about Cookie or Sabreman? When will you be rating Sabre Wulf? I think people should have the right to copy games as long as they don’t sell them. Will CRASH be reviewing QL games in the near future?

There is only one thing I beg of you: please could you tell me how to turn on the light in Mad Martha.

My friend bet me £1 that I would not get my letter printed. Please could you prove him wrong for once.
Martin R. Kelly

I’d hate to think of you missing out on a crisp pound note, Martin! Thanks for your conversion work at school — keep it up. As to ‘Jetman’, that’s rather up to the editorial people and Ultimate who actually have the strip drawn. Is there any point rating Sabre WuIf now? There’s a lack of logic in your argument about copying games. Clubs have been the worst offenders where they often make hundreds of copies without ever selling any of them, and therefore do terrible damage to the industry. I’ve actually forgotten about Mad Martha (so long ago!), but get dummy from bathroom and put dummy in baby’s mouth, then you can take oil lamp and go downstairs to fill it. The match doesn’t seem to come into it as far as lighting the lamp goes. Any help? As to the QL — where are the games?

The Software Piracy File questionnaire has resulted in loads of forms coming back already. Keep it up. A lot of them have been very, very honest. Here’s a letter which accompanied one form...

PIRACY

Dear Letter reading Lloyd,
I am writing about pirates. I am one myself, and everyone I know who has a computer, pirates software. It cannot be stopped, but can be scaled down so not so much pirating is going on. But I must point out that it is the software houses’ fault for having such high prices. I would not dare buy a game and keep it! I would buy it, copy it and take it back to the shop and change it for another one, then copy that and flog it for half the price. So in the end I am getting two games for about £3 to £3.50. Great value.

They say on ITV’s Database programme that a new anti-copying device is available, but I expect no one will be able to stop a mass of Spectrum pirates from copying software. The prices are too high. In Debenhams my mate and I were looking at Spectrum software when we found one of the cassette cases actually had a tape inside it (Bear Bovver). So I said to him, ‘Nick that for me and I’ll give you 50p for it now, and an extra 25p it it works.’ He stole it and it worked. I found it was a bit like ‘Panic’ and didn’t like it. And to think, some poor fella would pay £7 for it. So in my words, software is a ripoff unless prices come down.
C. Jones, address witheld by request.

The writer is to be commended for his frankness, if not his honesty! In fact I’m a bit surprised by how frank many writers have been on this subject (or perhaps it just reflects the fact that readers see CRASH as hovering somewhere between ‘underground’ magazine, and fascist trade press, due to the constant political tussle between myself and He Who Is To Be Obeyed — and therefore feel like airing their views). The next writer is pretty much to the point...
LM

Dear Mr. Mangram,
This is another letter about software piracy, but, unlike some other letters you have printed, this one tells the truth about the situation.

I am one of these ‘pirates’ but I am pleased you made the distinction in your questionnaire between commercial and home copying. Personally, I believe home copying is relatively harmless and so widespread that to stop, or try to stop this, would without doubt fail; but that commercial copying is extremely evil and damaging to both the software companies and the home copiers, who are often put in the same category as these ‘Arfur Daleys’ of the computer world.

I will now tell a story about how a new game is acquired; a boy goes into school and sees another boy coming towards him, who he knows owns a Spectrum. He says, ‘Hello Fred. I got Chuckie Egg off a mate of mine the other day — do you wan’ it?’

The other boy (both being Spectrum owners) says, ‘Yeah. What d’ya want for it?’

Fred says, ‘Have you got Android 2, John?’

John says, ‘No, but I’ve got Mr. Wimpy!’

Fred says, ‘Oh, then bring us a blank tape tomorrow and I’ll do you a copy.’

John agrees and they part company. A couple of days later when Fred has Mr. Wimpy and John has Chuckie Egg, Fred goes to another friend who doesn’t know John and swaps another game for Mr. Wimpy.

They do a deal and Fred’s friend gets another game for Mr. Wimpy, and all the while this has been happening, John has been getting games for Chuckie Egg.

The point I am trying to make is this; if somebody only makes two or three copies of a game to swap, then these copies will in turn be swapped, and so it goes on, until, in reality, there are fifteen or more copies stemming from one original and not less.

After a while, when everybody where you live has a copy of a certain game, the game that started all these copies has ended its working life as its owner cant swap it for anything. As an example, if you were trying to get a game off somebody then Jet Set Willy or Wheelie would not aid the bargaining power of the person as everybody, at least where I live, has a copy of JSW or Wheelie. What’s more, I only know one person with an original (shop-bought) copy of Jet Set Willy — so perhaps my previous estimate of 15 to 1 for pirated copies is a bit conservative.

In my area at the moment (written 1st September) the best games to have for swaps are Antics, Codename Mat, Krakatoa, Full Throttle and Matchpoint. With any of these games you could get two of last month’s games (incidentally, I have copies of all these)!

You may have noticed in my list that all the games are very recent, which is a major factor as only a few people have these games, thus putting you in a top bargaining position. Most people I know consider it a matter of pride to only buy games, say, once a month, and of course, the quicker you get a copy of a new game, the higher up you are in the pirating fraternity, and you have a larger choice of games to swap your newly copied (smash hit) game for!

A commonly held misconception is that home pirates never buy games. This is definitely not true. All in all I have spent about £80 on games, but these only count for a fraction of my collection of 150 or more games.

Onto commercial piracy. Spectrum software companies have been making a lot of fuss about this and rightly so, but I have deliberately been talking to owners of other machines to tell CRASH readers about this form of theft.

Due to the extortionate price of Atari software (between £25 and £35) a lot of Atari owners are only too happy to pay £5 for a copy. As Spectrum software is only an average of £5 to £6, relatively cheap, it makes Spectrum software less of a target for commercial rip-off copiers. There are only a few Commodore games worth ripping-off, so the problem doesn’t apply!

If you look at an all-computer software chart, it goes to prove what I am saying. Most of the top games are for the Spectrum, lower down come the good Commodore games, and at the bottom are the fringe machines like the poseur’s Beeb, and the poseur-with-less-money’s machine — the Electron. Right down are scattered a few Atari games, which are indeed excellent — why aren’t more Atari games being sold? Because of commercial piracy. I was looking at the software collection of my Atari-owning friends and didn’t see even one original! No wonder Atari are in trouble.

The moral of this story is this: Spectrum software companies should feel lucky — your games reach number one and sell in five figure numbers, and that your so-called piracy problem is about as small as available memory in a Beeb in hi-res mode, and that if the so-called Spectrum piracy problem did exist so seriously then A) Spectrum games wouldn’t take nine out of the top ten places in the charts, and B) there wouldn’t be so many whining software companies as they would all have gone bust.

This letter is really to encourage all Spectrum owners who don’t buy many games to change their selfish ways and splash out every week or so on a game that doesn’t crash or need a self adjusting cassette machine to load — i.e. buy originals if only for your own good, as with more money, software companies make better games, so in the long run, the games player benefits immeasurably.
Andrew J. Wray (15)

The Software Piracy File Questionnaire will be collated and the results wiil be in next month’s issue, It should make interesting reading!
LM

A BIT POINTLESS?

Dear Lloyd,
I would like to point out that Sabre WuIf maps have already appeared in other magazines, so it seems rather likely that many entries will be copied solely from these and the game will be left unexplored — surely the aim of your map competition.
D. Naylor

We’re not particularly bothered by other magazines publishing the Sabre Wulf maps — it seemed inevitable that they would. Since CRASH appeared all the games oriented mags have been getting jumpy about being first in with everything. Ultimate asked us to run a competition similar to the Atic Atac one and that meant foregoing being first in with a map, naturally. Besides, I don’t think we would ever print a review of a game plus its map — when half the fun of the game is finding your way around it. The idea of the map competition is not actually exploring the game, but producing an accurate AND ARTISTICALLY drawn map. Obvious copies from either PGC or C&VG will go in the bin I’m afraid.

Going back to the subject of upgrades, here’s a warning letter from one reader who found the business traumatic...
LM

RIPPED OFF

Dear Lloyd,
In your issue 7 I read the letter by Alan Bates about upgrading. I have had an even worse experience. I sent my Spectrum for an upgrade in May 1983 to INTERACTIVE INSTRUMENTS Ltd. When it was returned it was not in working order. I have since returned it twice but both times it came back broken. I sent it away for the fourth time and haven’t seen it since. I have tried to contact them many times but just get excuses, until a few months ago they said they would give me compensation, which I have never seen. They have moved address. I enclose some details about my plight. If you can’t help me in my compensation then I hope this will persuade anyone not to have anything to do with Interactive Instruments. I have since bought another Spectrum despite having lost £150.
Dale Ballinger

Dale enclosed the sales invoice from Interactive Instruments Ltd., as well as details of his and his father’s communications with the upgrading company. The sales invoice is one of those ‘off-the-shelf’ jobs with no address filled in, but only a VAT number. I tried tracing the company through their VAT number, and the Customs and Excise office replied that to their knowledge the company was still trading.

Interactive Instruments Ltd. of Leicester are unobtainable as their telephone has been disconnected, and according to one member of the Leicester software fraternity, the company has gone bust owing lots of money to customers like Dale. This same person also sent a Spectrum to them for upgrade and told me that the resultant job was a mess and the computer didn’t work. The company director that the Ballingers were trying to talk to was a Mr. Taylor, who seems to have been unable to cope with the matter over an extraordinary long period of time. If VAT are correct and Interactive Instruments Ltd. are still in business, then it’s time they stopped acting like crooks, but I suspect anyone who is still waiting for their machines or compensation is going to have a long and probably fruitless wait.
LM

Last month I published two letters from readers who had complained that 3D Bat Attack by Cheetah Soft had originally appeared as a program listing in Your Computer magazine. A spokesman for Cheetah Soft has asked me to say in reply that the listing which appeared in the February 1984 issue of Your Computer and the program contents of 3D Bat Attack are not the same, and that in fact the listing as printed was inoperable as a program because there were significant pieces missing from it which the author had not realised at the time. Cheetah Soft, however, were impressed with the idea and asked the programmer to rewrite the game, making a number of revisions to the originally printed version in Your Computer so that they could market it. So 3D Bat Attack has been completely revised and is not the same program that appeared in Your Computer back in February.
LM

ON ORIGINALITY

Dear CRASH,
I am writing to you on the controversial subject of your reviewers and arcade games. On the whole the reviewers are good, and certainly the most informative of any magazine (really!), but when it comes to actual arcade video machines, their knowledge is somewhat lacking.

For starters, Micromania are quite wrong — Kosmic Kanga is not a ‘totally original game’ but an almost exact copy of the pretty old arcade game ‘Jump Bug’. This game is not uncommon, and any self-respecting games player should have at least seen this game, but not one of your reviewers (who are professionals of a sort) mentioned this fact.

Also, in the review of Full Throttle, it was stated that it as a ‘Pole Position’ like game — but even better because the road actually moved ‘left and right across the screen instead of staying fixed in the centre of the screen.’ A quick 10p game in practically any amusement arcade in the country would show the reviewer that the road actually moves more and far better than the reviewer thinks.

A far more serious error was made by the reviewer who stated that, The Birds and The Bees has a ‘Scramble’ style radar screen. Please inform this reviewer that there really is a difference between Scramble and Defender!

Still, on the positive side, they did not make the mistake a Home Computing Weekly reviewer made, stating that Anirog’s Missile Defence (a Missile Command game) was another version of Space Invaders!

To conclude, all I ask is that, as specialists, the reviewers find out more about their specialty subject. A little more background knowledge with which the Spectrum copies can be compared with the originals would improve the reviews no end.
Nick Page

These are all fair points to make, but I think you are treating the Spectrum reviews in far too literal a manner, Nick. It’s true that Kosmic Kanga is not original in the general sense, but it is for the Spectrum. The remark about ‘Pole Position’ like games refers [not] to the arcade original (which even isolated CRASH reviewers have seen!) but to those copies of the original already translated to the Spectrum, which don’t move as well as can be seen in Full Throttle. You are of course quite right about the mix up between Scramble and Defender — just a regrettable slip of the tongue I suspect. I wonder, however, whether there’s much to be gained from trying to compare arcade originals with Spectrum copies — I know we do do it — but Spectrum games are a thing of their own. As a matter of fact, most of our young reviewers do get to see plenty of video machines, but you might be surprised to know that once out of a big city, it isn’t very easy to see many games this way! The annual Ludlow May Fair tends to be the best opportunity if you don’t travel to wicked places like Birmingham.
LM

It was a pleasant surprise to be handed down the following letter which was sent to Roger Kean by Boris Allan who writes the Ziggurat column in Popular Computing weekly...

OF SIGNIFICANCE

Dear Editor,
I found CRASH, September 1984 very interesting, especially your Editorial in which you mention my Ziggurat article about Imagine and their lack of imagination. Since writing that Ziggurat I have thought more about the topic, and I would like to make the following points:

  1. I was asked by a friend, who runs a software business, if I could recommend a machine code programmer for a full-time inhouse post. He told me that when Imagine crashed he was inundated by out of work Imagine people: he had not found any remotely suitable. Perhaps that is significant? I think so.
  2. When I commented on ‘serious’ software, I said that what counts as serious or useful varies tremendously with the individual: in making that statement I was consciously not excluding games. In the September issue you review White Lightning which is a game orientated product, but which I consider as serious (or more serious) than most of the (generally tatty) educational software that appears.
  3. As someone is interested in the ‘history’ of micros, the most interesting regular in CRASH is CRASHBACK, because it shows how views change — in the September issue the ratings of Alchemist were dropped — a good idea. I never liked Alchemist as it seemed rather unimaginative, slightly different but exceedingly boring. I think that most people ended up feeling the same, and who produced it?

I am not sure what conclusions one can draw from this mishmash of observations, but — as you implied in your editorial — the media has to take some of the blame for not being sufficiently critical of both the claims and the game.
Boris Allan

Just before closing the issue I was dubiously delighted to receive this letter from a spokesperson for a well known software house...

FROM THE DESK OF GRAHAM STAFFORD (DESIGN DESIGN)

Dear Barclay, Midland, Nat, Lloyd or whatever your name is,

I would like to express my views on a number of subjects raised in the letters column of Cwash, as challenged in the best ever issue of that most wonderful magazine of yours. (The one wot’s got me in!)

On the subject of piracy, a number of letters have been published, which I feel have left several points uncovered. As I stated in our interview, and I feel this is the view of the majority of software houses, software swopping in playgrounds, etc. is something that will always be with us, and is beyond the scope of any realistic form of legislation. However, commercial piracy can be curbed by effective government legislation. The commercial pirate is out to exploit the buying public, by producing software of sub-standard quality (failure to load, corruptions, badly printed instructions, etc.). Not only does this steal a company’s revenue, as well as the programmer’s but it has a detrimental effect on a company’s reputation.

To preserve revenue, both company and programmer will naturally use measures to try and stop ‘playground piracy’, such as special loaders etc. If you are going to pirate a tape you should at least have to put some time and effort into it!.

It is a widely held belief that the price of software is too high and the reduction of prices would lead to a reduction in piracy. This is not so, there are as many pirate copies of ‘budget’ software as of convential software.

In answer to Paul Watts, you don’t see Imagine’s directors riding on custom built bikes, at least not any more you don’t. The greatly exaggerated claims of companies like Imagine have led the buying public into believing that the software business is full of people earning vast quantities of money and doing very little for it. This is not the case! The software industry is not the boom industry it is portrayed as being. The number of companies that have gone into liquidation is an indication of this, usually the extravagant companies are those to go first.

This brings me on to Anthony Dyson’s letter in the same issue of Cwash, one which raises some very valid points. Over the last year, and especially since the appearance of ‘budget’ software, it has become less profitable for a writer to produce a large quantity of sub-standard games. The quality of software has undoubtedly got better as a greater amount of time is required to reach present market standards, another reason why software prices have not fallen.

My final serious note is that software writers and companies went into the software industry to make an honest living, not to make money by false pretences; this is what a commercial pirate does.

On to the less serious side of this letter, yes there is one, has anybody mapped Halls of the Things yet? My high score on ‘Halls’ is 2873. I completed it about six months after first being confronted by the damn thing(s). I’d also like some answers to the following questions: —

Is Lloyd Mangram paranoid?

Why can’t anybody at Wudlow spell Cwash properly?

Why is Manchester wet?

Who are Rainbow Software?

Does anybody really care?

So please before you pirate one of the games like wot I wrote, spare a thought for me, sifting at a word processor in Manchester, wondering whether I can afford the Petrol for my Audi, Simon’s Lotus Turbo and Neil’s XR4i (joke).

Yours semi-seriously,
Gwaham Stafford of Design Design (used to be Cwystal).

P.S. If Paul Watts would like to see how a software house really works, he would be welcome here anytime.

It’s okay for you with your Audi Quatros, Lotus Turbos and a company fleet of XR4is — joke indeed! As to my paranoia only my psychiatrist can comment (although I was born under a dark star), and as for the rest of your letter, I think it speaks for itself very nicely. Thank you Gwaham.
LM

Well that’s about all for this month. Oli-bugs notwithstanding, I’ve run out of allowable space. We try to get round to as many letters as possible each month, but even those that get missed out may turn up if they’re relevant the following month, and anyway, all your comments do get read and inwardly digested (the doctors are busy round Ludlow)! PLEASE, HOWEVER, DO NOT enclose any mail order forms or money in mail to myself or competitions in the magazine, because the mail doesn’t get opened every single day, and your orders may go missing, be separated from the only address perhaps, and certainly get delayed. But keep writing in!
LM