News

NEWS INPUT

THE FAME IN SPAIN FALLS MAINLY ON THE NAME

A new Spectrum with 128K memory was launched in Barcelona at the end of September. The machine is the result of months of collaboration between Sinclair Research and Investronica, the Spanish firm which has the exclusive distribution rights to the Spectrum in Spain. Apparently, development work on the new machine was funded entirely by Sinclair’s partner in the venture.

Rumours have surrounded the 128K Spectrum for some time, and the appearance of a 128K machine on Investronica’s stand at a foreign computer show has not put paid to speculation. Full technical details of the Spanish machine have not been released by Sinclair or Investronica, leaving room for continued gossip on the form that such a machine will take when it appears in this country.

It seems that Sinclair is aiming for a low profile in the UK for the Spanish machine — the hardware is apparently not being made available for review. “We don’t feel it’s appropriate to talk about it in Britain,” commented a spokesperson for for Sinclair Research who would only intimate that a new Spectrum might be launched in the UK this spring.

As we went to press, a company called Zeta Services was considering the possibility of importing modified versions of the Spanish Spectrum to gazump Sinclair’s official UK launch. It appears, however, that apart from conversion costs, the possibility of having to pay extensive import duties on the machines as well as running the risk of copyright infringment — all for a very low margin — might make the whole proposition unviable.

SINCLAIR SPECTRUM SALES SOAR

“and only short way into selling season...” says spokesperson

Sinclair’s share of the British home computer market rose by nearly 20% during the four weeks ending 7th of September. While the QL has made major gains owing to the price cut, the Spectrum Plus now accounts for more than half the home computers sold in this country.

The survey was carried out by Audits of Great Britain — an independent market research company of repute — and Sinclair Research is understandably pleased with the outcome. “... as always, Sinclair holds the key to volume sales this Christmas,” commented Alison Maguire, Marketing Manager for the company.

BACK TO SKOOL

The sequel to Skooldaze is finally here. Indeed, it arrived in the office about five minutes ago! In Back to Skool you have the opportunity to get up to even more mischief in the new school term — and you can even visit your new girlfriend, Haley, who’s at the girls’ school opposite yours. (What if you’re not a chap, eh? — ED.) Since the game arrived too late for review, and Lloyd had scampered back to his cottage for a couple of days off, here’s a quick run down on what it’s all about:

You have to get your (stolen) report back into the headmaster’s safe. Unfortunately, the key to the safe is around the headmistress’ neck! This leads to a variety of complicated, funny but necessary nasty deeds on your part, which include letting mice loose, stealing sherry, getting a frog to attack the headmistress, hassling the caretaker... basically, all the things that go on every day in all good schools! (Don’t you dare use the ‘Approved School’ joke here — ED.)

There’s even a bijou love-affaire-ette! As you may have guessed, every time you get caught doing something naughty, you are given lines. Collect ten thousand of those and you’re expelled.

There’s quite a bit more to this sequel than there was in Skooldaze, and the graphics have been considerably improved. Again, by the time you read this, the game should be in the shops.

WORDPRO COMP ON CARDS

Oxford Computer Publishing (OCP) are well pleased by their new wordprocessor for the Spectrum, which goes by the name of Word Manager. From what we’ve heard so far, Word Manager outperforms Tasword II on ten fronts — sounds impressive, and all for £12.95.

A certain Mr Bruce Everiss is working for OCP on the promotion front, Our Competition Minion Writes amongst other things, and he has been in touch with a proposal for a competition. Sounds great, we say — especially when we hear the first prizes are to be Wafadrives (reviewed in the Niche, this issue). Ten runners up will also receive a set of OCP’s complete works on the Spectrum, which represents around £130 of software.

Full details of the competition and a detailed review of Word Manager should appear next issue.

HOPPING MAD?

Virgin Games have acquired the Rabbit Software name and intend to use the label to sell mid-priced titles on the a range of machines, including the Spectrum. This prompted the Virgin team to dress up in bunny suits, dash off to the local park and hug a tree while trying to look cute and endearing.

Nick Alexander, Big Bunny on the Virgin team (in the black cossie), sees the label supplying good, unusual software at a price people will be willing to pay: £3.99. The first of these games, The Great Fire of London is reviewed in this issue’s Frontline.

Steve Turner

Steve Turner and alien friend discuss ASTROCLONE

CLONE’S THE WORD

...As regular readers of my ramblings will know, I like Hewson’s launches. Not only the food and drink, either. They actually have new products to show — not just the promise of, ‘one day soon ...’

When I spoke to Steve Turner at the last but one of these, (a rambling or a launch? — ED.) he let on that his next ‘adventure movie’ would take the techniques seen in Dragontorc into space. What he failed to mention was that Astroclone would see the return of the Seiddabs, those backwards baddies from Hewson’s history, who were never restrained in coming forward — and blasting you.

Nor did he reveal that the game would have three distinct parts. Closest to Dragontorc is the ground combat phase, where you move your warrior around enemy bases, but with more complex commands and animation than in the Maroc games. Then there’s a Defender style, space shoot ’em up and an overall strategic phase when you deploy your forces to best effect.

Nine months of hard work later and once again, out rolls that good ol’ Hewson hospitality as Steve proves that old maxim; you’re never alone with a clone. And by the look of Astroclone, you’ll never be lost for things to do — it’s more packed than the bar was.

Eventually, as the party dispersed, I cornered the talented Mr Turner and asked, ‘What next?’ The answer could be a wargame, as he’s become increasingly interested in the strategy aspects of gaming. Whatever it does have, I bet there won’t be a single grid reference in sight...

Mike Male

Not to be left out from a good in-house launch, SOUTHERN BELLE programmer Mike Male took a break from converting his train simulation for the C64 to show his face

Andrew Braybrook

Andrew Braybrook throws down a joystick challenge to JR and anyone else in the vicinity — it’s amazing what you can get people to do for the camera!

THE END OF AN ERA? OR JUST A LITTLE CULT?

Automata have released details about the solution to one of the longest running and best known computer quizzes in the UK — Pimania. After many years of puzzling by dedicated Pimaniacs, the game has finally been solved — having been cited in a divorce case and caused mental anguish across the globe.

Winners of the now fabled Golden Sundial were Sue Cooper and Lizi Newman who finally made the crucial connections which led to the reward. For Pimaniacs everywhere who nearly made it, the answer lay in the fact that just as the constellation of Pegasus was near the ‘Seven Sisters’ of the Plough, so the correct ‘White Horse’ is near the ‘Seven Sisters’ chalk cliffs in Sussex. To open the Ultimate Gate of Pi, you stood in the Horse’s Mouth (that being the 21st location), had the seven objects sacrificed beneath the Gate and entered the final key — 22. Pi (22 over seven) was a clue right from the word go! The sundial was found at noon on the 22nd of July.

The partners of Pimaniacs currently contemplating petitioning for divorce may find it cheaper to invest in a copy of the complete solution, available from Automata UK. But it’s not over folks! The little cult is not yet dead, according to Christian Penfold of Automata, but is alive, kicking and releasing a Ten Pack.

Alphabatim

ALPHABATIM IS BORN

Visitors to Crash Towers this month included Chris Urquart, Mike Smith and Mike Baxter, who together have formed Alphabatim, a new software company. They came to show us how work was progressing on Robot Messiah their new game.

Having sorted out the preview which appears elsewhere this issue, they were treated to the now traditional CRASH hospitality — including several pints of Old Flatulence Bitter. They were so impressed by Ludlow’s charms that they stopped the night and had their first board meeting the next day!

TRIP TO GRAX

In which John Minson is invited to see something interesting...

As I left The Edge after my sneak preview of Fairlight, author Bo Jangeborg made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: Would I like to see Grax some time?

Now what, I hear you asking, is Grax? Some sort of obscure fish dish from Bo’s native Sweden? A roaming monster from Fairlight’s dungeons? Neither — Grax is the programming utility at the heart of the Worldmaker technique which gives Fairlight its realistic solidity.

Bo Jangeborg

Bo Jangeborg gets his head down to some serious work with GRAX — the utility that helped make FAIRLIGHT possible

Those of you who’ve used The Artist, would feel at home with Grax. Using a variety of graphics techniques, such as advanced rubber banding, where a line can be moved and stretched from a point, and a total of 26 different fill patterns, it’s comparatively simple to create an overhead perspective view of a room.

Once you have the layout in place you position pre-drawn features such as windows and doors where you want them. First comes the basic picture, which can be manipulated, reversed and generally fiddled around with. Then it’s put into position in the picture — and the system allows floors to continue through openings.

Apart from being very simple to use, the system is very compact. Bo has found a way of reducing all these room details to a minimum of code. While Grax was originally developed to produce half screen illustrations for Quilled adventures, it’s now a fully-fledged graphics mini-language with developments in the pipeline which will take it much further. You should be able to include figures in pictures, for instance...

So why’s this all so important? Bo’s returning to Sweden and his own company, Xcellent Software but he’s leaving Grax behind. It should form the basis for a series of diverse adventures from The Edge. Perhaps more importantly, it will eventually be possible to buy Grax as a utility — perhaps in a form for illustrating adventures to begin with, but one day you might be able to create your own Fairlight type adventure as easily as you can write a text adventure with The Quill today.

MELBOURNE MUSIC

With the launch of Melbourne House’s eagerly awaited Lord of the Rings coming ever nearer, news has come in (to this poor minion’s desk) about their other impending releases. Big Daddy’s Wrestling is the latest game from the team responsible for The Way of the Exploding Fist. Gyroscope which has been worked on by various teams at Melbourne House, is a weird arcade game where you have to control a... guess what? The catch is, some of the terrain is very tricky indeed!

Finally, there is the Wham! music program which our very own Maestro, John Bates has already had a peek at and seems quite impressed with. Full review next ish.

BEST EVER PCW SHOW

According to the organisers, this year’s PCW show, held at Olympia in September, was an astounding success, despite the supposedly poor state of the market. Over 63,000 people visited the show over a five day period. Including people coming back into the show, more than 70,000 people crossed the threshold, making it the largest computer show ever held in the UK.

AN END TO THE WAITING

Digital Integration, the people who created the phenomenally successful Fighter Pilot have announced their latest creation. Tomahawk is ready at last and will be previewed on Wednesday October 16th, which means it should be in the shops as you read this.

Tomahawk is based on similar principles to Fighter Pilot but this time, you’re controlling a Hughes Apache attack helicopter, flying over advanced 3D graphic terrain.