In which our intrepid Software Editor The Rt Hon Spencer sails his Morgan to the shores of Chingford in search of John Peel, Legend, and Komplex City...
AS I WEAVE through the pot-hole ridden streets of North East London I note, a little cynically perhaps, that it seems strange that Legend have a London phone number and yet, are not actually in the London A to Z. It sums them up rather well. I don’t care what you say John, Chingford is not in my ‘A–Z’, (and for the record it’s not in the ‘ABC’ either). So begins the first argument of the day. Having spent the greater part of the morning touring the outskirts of The Smoke — in a hot and dusty Morgan accompanied by an equally hot, and very nearly as dusty dog — I am miffed to be told on eventual arrival that if Legend isn’t on the map then the map is wrong.
Legend have acquired a reputation for hype, not in itself a Bad Thing, as long as the product hyped is up to it. The Great Space Race is the game that damned them most of all. John believes that Legend was unfortunate to have made some very bad mistakes. Just at the time when the public were waking to the reality of the Imagine fiasco, Legend was branded with the same iron. Producing a camera, he admits to mismanagement of the Space Race project, and points to the hazards of a disloyal programming team. Two elements that made The Great Space Race such a flop. Whatever you believe about that era, there remains one truth — Imagine have gone but Legend are still, very much, in the game.
The invitation to spend the day trying to find Chingford came about because Legend had something very important which they wanted to share, with us, and the rest of the world. Komplex City was nearing completion. I decide I want to go home. I have to admit I wasn’t one of the thousands who, John assures me, raved over Komplex. I could wonder at the technical excellence of the graphics and even find myself inspired by the size and complexity of the thing, but the truth was I was bored, nothing really seemed to happen. ‘Komplex is the ultimate mapping game,’ says John as he takes yet another photograph of the dog — the only one not irritated by this constant image stealing — even John’s charming wife, Jan (the Boss) wants to know how anyone can avoid thumping him? ‘Komplex is only the beginning’, he assures me, in between snapping the dog. The beginning of what John?
It seems that Komplex is the first part of a trilogy. Part one was the ‘Ultimate mapping game’. The second part, Komplex City, is to be one of the most exciting and graphically perfect arcade games available. The second game is still based around a map, but this time the computer takes care of the directional side of life leaving you to find the letters and shoot the baddies. Part 2, in terms of layout, is many more times complicated than Komplex, a figure something akin to seven with 16 zeros was bandied about, but that’s not important. If that is the number of maze variations you won’t live long enough to verify the claim anyway.
Three and a half hours after the discovery of Chingford and I haven’t seen a thing yet. I still want to go home. How about it? We argue again. How about a peek through the crack in the wall John? We argue. More very well rotted grape juice slides down throats and in the end he decides to compromise. He’ll take the dog for a look and, if things are going well and the dog is impressed, perhaps I can have a look.
John gone, I turn to Jan and we chat, discussing just about everything — except this game and the successor to Valhalla. She is keeping very mum on that one.
John returns and explains that the demonstration is just about ready, soon, Peel willing, will have a chance to see what all the other software houses said could not be done... real time animated 3D full colour graphics without attribute clash. It is Chingford Discovery, T plus Four and a Quarter, and I am getting close. While I wait, trying to ignore John’s insults, I quietly ponder the idea of a world without attribute problems... imagine, Everyone’s a Wally without all of those funny flashing squares — sounds very tempting, but can this chap do it?
At Chingford Discovery T plus Five I wonder if I will see anything. Suddenly the phone rings. John, surprised, drops his camera and takes a photo of his foot. Jan picks up the receiver, she listens intently. And calmly announces that Colin has got a cold but he’s as ready as he’ll ever be. Panic, did she mean that Colin has got cold feet and doesn’t want to show me the graphics? Perhaps he’s lost his voice because of a cold and won’t be able to explain anything and then I... Aaargh... the dog’s licking my leg.
Wonders will never cease, here I am at last — ages after finding Chingford — at the heart of Legend. John shows me the main body of the new game. The graphics are every inch Komplex except this time the player has a view flying down tunnels, switching from this to that. There are doors which can be docked with (automatically for those who didn’t work it out last time) and enemy objects that must be shot and destroyed. Fly badly and you bang and scrape down a tunnel wall — this alerts more and yet nastier foes to your presence. The screen displays information about shield strength, your location, location of targets — it all looks very busy indeed.
John explains that there is a faster way of getting from one location to another: hyperspace. He leads me to another Spectrum still being fed with fresh hot code, via an umbilical cord trailing from a BBC. Fed with bytes, the Spectrum screen bursts into life. ‘That’s what hyperspace will have, only more and better’. Different coloured objects, some box shaped, others cylindrical, iris in and out while they rotate in 3D. They pass in front of or behind each other with no flicker and not a single attribute clash. John looks as if he has discovered the philosopher’s stone. It may not be the stuff that legends are made from but it should certainly put them on the map. Find out next month if I was had or not.
(NOTE: CRASH would like to apologise to those readers who may live in Chingford for its absence from our reference works. The art department would like to correct the situation and would appreciate your help: Write to ‘I know where Chingford is’, CRASH Micro, Ludlow, Shropshire.)