I’ve said it in the past (and it’s always true) that I’ve received a ton of letters, but this month has passed all expectations! Before settling down to sorting everything out I had typed in over 11,000 words without any replies (the usual FORUM runs to approximately 6,500 including my replies)! The reason lies in the torrent of letters about the December CRASH cover (Friday the 13th) and the Christmas Special issue. This month, however, most letters are concerned with the December backlash rather than directly with the cover and Domark advert. There have been so many that I’m afraid I’ve been forced to edit them severely down to the salient (look it up) points, so sorry if your entire missive has been shortened. Before diving into the December back-backlash, here’s a very serious letter from fellow journalist Tony Bridge (adventure columnist for Popular Computing Weekly), who has some hard things to say about the Christmas Special.
Throughout this letter, please disregard the fact that I write for another magazine, Popular Computing Weekly — I’m a ‘spare-time’ journalist and as such, am a member of the great CRASH-reading public. I have absolutely nothing to do with the administration or editorial policies of the magazine: in short, I am not acting as a representative of PCW. The following remarks come from a temporarily disgusted (though not yet disgruntled) reader.
CRASH is the one magazine that I will buy, sight unseen and with no lengthy investigation of the contents at the bookstand. The ‘Xmas Special’, therefore, even with an asking price inflated by more than 100%, was too good to resist. As an extra issue, between the December 85 and the January 86, it seemed a good, if expensive, Christmas present to myself. Of course, there was page after page of adverts — only to be expected — but nevertheless, there were a few reviews and a short story, an overview of 85 by yourself, and several pages of Brewster: all in all, a good bonus for the end of the year.
How naive I was! It wasn’t until the February issue appeared that I realised how I, along with every other poor innocent reader, had been duped by Newsfield: there will be others, more worldly perhaps than I, who would not have been taken in by your cynical manipulation.
Let me explain; £1.95 is a hell of a lot of money to spend on a monthly magazine (how kids managed to rationalise the outlay I don’t know). CRASH, as I’ve said, is uniformly excellent, and well worth the usual 95p — and a bonus Christmas issue would have been welcome, and I would have been glad to pay a little extra for the work that would obviously have been put into the issue by the staff of the magazine. But strewth, Guy, this was a regular monthly edition!
Before my eyes gave way, I analysed as much as I could be bothered of the difference between this ‘Special’ issue and a typical ‘normal’ issue, the December one in fact. Your own overview of the year’s happenings was an extra feature, as was the two-page short story (excellent, more of those wouldn’t go amiss): but apart from these, it was more of the same or, rather, less of some things and more of others.
Ads, for example: December’s 170 pages contained 62 full-page colour ads (I couldn’t face counting the little black and whites scattered all round the place) — ‘Xmas Special’, 78 colour ads in 194 pages. Well, it’s Christmas and understandable that software houses should want to advertise their seasonal goodies. Competitions: Chrissy must be the season for competitions, as we were offered 14 against the measly 4 in December’s issue. The games reviewed, as indexed in the December issue, totalled 23: this figure rose to 25 in the ‘Special’. And Robin Candy was graced with 9 pages (including 2 pages of a map) rather than the previous issue’s 4 (OK, 2 and two halves!). That’s the ‘more'; but there were only 3 pages of Forum in the ‘Special’ against the 10 of December. Derek Brewster came off lightly, with 8 pages rather than the 9 of December. Editorial suffered a little, the total in the ‘Special’ being 92, against the December issue tally of 95 (I’ve included everything here, such as Winner’s Pages etc). Oh, I nearly forgot the huge double-sided poster: on its way to the dustbin, it fluttered open to reveal an old CRASH cover, I didn’t see the other side, still, it probably came in handy to someone and was a bonus, after all.
I’m sorry to bore you with all these figures, but they are not irrelevant to the argument. Looking at the ‘Special’, it seems that there are a lot more adverts, at the expense of just about everything else — editorial content is way down. To the customer, it would seem that he or she is paying £1.95 for more ads, more competitions, just a couple more reviews and less of everything else. I was amazed to learn, some months ago, that magazines can actually be given away, as it is the advertising revenue alone (ie, the number of advertisers that can be persuaded to buy space in the mag) that dictates the size of the magazine, not subscriptions, newsstand sales and so on. Another interesting fact that may not be immediately apparent (though it would be after just a few second’s thought), is that competitions are just another form of advertising — the prizes are offered, free of charge to the magazine by the company involved.
Why, then the inflated cover price of the ‘Special'? During the same
period, Newsfield published ZZAP! at just 30p more than usual (several more
pages and quite a few prizes) and AMTIX! at the same price as the previous
issue (quite coincidentally, its close rival in the market place, Amstrad
Action, also kept its cover price the same: hmmm). As I’ve pointed
out, it is advertising revenue alone that dictates a magazine's size and
profitability and not the cover price and I believe that Newsfield’s
pricing structure over the Christmas period has been cynical and uncaring of
those readers (like me) who have supported CRASH from its beginnings as a Mail
Order Catalogue. There’s obviously no need for such a huge price hike
— £1.50 might just have been in keeping with the seasonal spirit,
but 100% plus? Such a crass and obvious manoeuvre still leaves me, after four
weeks of pondering about it, bewildered and shaking with disappointment. I
shall continue to buy CRASH as I believe it is still one of the best computer
magazines available, but I can’t ever again find it credible in serving
the interests of the reader.
As you say, Tony, hmmm. Before going into depth, may I say that I’ve had lots of letters with kind things to say about the Special — more, probably, than those complaining. Okay, honesty time. I’ve been around CRASH long enough to know how it all ticks, so I think I’ll be speaking for most people working at Newsfield. First off, there were some of us here, myself included, who felt the price hike was far too severe (the previous Christmas issue was £1.25 at the same size). However, as a journalist, you must know that decisions as to size and contents of any mag are taken far ahead of the actuality of putting it together, and all I can say in our collective defence is that we thought there would be far more editorial than there was. Why? Well for one, more advertising than expected was booked, but most importantly far less software was released in time than expected. In February’s issue we were swamped by the late Xmas releases to the point where there wasn’t time, let alone space to fit it in.
Now an important point is that CRASH is fixed at a maximum possible 196 pages (excluding any loose leaf insertions like the poster). After this number of pages the mag would have to be ‘perfect bound’ — the sort with the glued, flat spine. This is supposed to be prestigious, but the process costs a lot of money, worse — it ruins 2-page spreads because you can’t see all of the centre area of the pages, and worst — you wouldn’t be able to put it in your binder.
Your editorial/adverts analysis shows an improvement of only 8 pages over the December issue, although the poster did add another 16. On this score, I’m sorry you disapproved. Over the many months since CRASH No 1, we’ve received countless requests for the cover to be used as a poster, and I think many readers found it excellent.
To your point about free mags paid for by advertising, I can tell you that to date there hasn’t been a single issue of CRASH where the advertising revenue would have paid for the mag and allowed us to give it away like a freesheet. There simply aren’t the magnitude of advertisers in this business to support us that way. As far as I am aware, Amstrad Action did raise the price of its Christmas Special — there was no ‘price rigging’ going on there between the two publishers, I assure you!
To sum up, I think we all did our best to provide a good value issue for
Christmas, we were slightly defeated by the available material for review, and
I think we all agree that the cover price was set far too high at an early
date. As a consequence of our collective feelings, there has been a significant
attempt to return the cost to readers. The Feb issue was packed and for the
first time there was colour on every editorial page. Now with this CRASH there
is the 24-page Robin Candy Supplement Special which is effectively a free
present to the reader. These moves may not make full compensation to those,
like yourself, who felt ripped off, but I hope it shows that Newsfield IS
credible in serving the interests of the reader.
After reading through issue 25 of CRASH, I noticed a letter by MeIlany Robinson of Surrey saying that a lot of the covers of CRASH ‘have great sexual overtones.’
There is only one word I can think of that sums her letter up — BULL****. Before she wrote to you I bet she never thought about the ‘great sexual overtones’ in TV advertisements, or whether her family gets The Sun or The Star (who have famous page numbers we all know) and whether her nine year old brother looks at these.
She also states that ‘I also don’t see what skimpily clad women
have to do with computers’, well, what does a man wearing black and doing
various stunts have to do with Milk Tray?
The outraged parents who wrote to you have a valid point but I urge them to think further. If they are concerned about the influence the media has on their kids they should examine more than a magazine’s front cover. Children of all ages can experience violence and horror just by watching TV programmes like Masters of the Universe through to Knight Rider and the A Team all of which depict scenes of over the top violence.
This however does not excuse your magazine from being insensitive. By
publishing material that is in bad taste CRASH is adding to a bad situation and
Domark should be lobbied not to produce games like 13th. It may be a ‘bit
of fun’ but the connotations of such material may be far reaching.
As an old crinkly of 33 with a ‘lad’ of nearly 10 I must take to task C Hayes in your last issue. My ‘lad’ found neither the cover or said pages ‘frightening and horrible’. No doubt C Hayes and his/her moral majority would say ‘Ah yes, but he’s been brought up on a diet of TV violence and video nasties’ — not so!, we very rarely watch TV except for childrens, sports, and family entertainment programmes and we don’t possess a video recorder.
C Hayes goes on to mention that he/she works for a ‘NATIONAL
NEWSPAPER’ — wow!! considering that 90% (a CRASH Smash?) of these
bastions of good taste print in one day more ‘shock Horror’, muck
raking, pictures of topless girls, death and distress, than CRASH could print
in 100 years he/she has got more front than Samantha Fox!!! I suggest that C
Hayes gets his/her own house in order before criticising others, and
let’s face it, it was all in fun anyway and we all need plenty of that in
PR Tinker (Mr)
PS I personally have encouraged 2 friends to buy CRASH and when I asked my newsagent to send back his ‘NATIONAL NEWSPAPERS’ his answer was unprintable in CRASH, but fine for any Daily!
I don’t suppose many parents stop their children watching
programmes like the A Team, which I think you would agree, is a lot
more violent than a picture. Enough said.
Most of the letters printed (re: the December CRASH) seem to reflect an angry minority who think they should hide their children from nasty pictures that have the remotest chance of warping their minds. From my own experience of school life their minds will be warped by older children anyway.
I hope you continue your service as it is. Nothing is puke making about a
Three of the letters were from parents and the other one was from a sister. The actual children didn’t write in to complain did they because in my own view the kids probably liked the cover and the parents complain because they think it is degrading and not fit for their childrens' eyes. (This also applies to the so called ‘sexually explicit’ covers as well). I think the cover isn’t horrific at all and after all it’s only a picture. The covers are down-to-earth and aren’t stupid like some other magazines, which will remain nameless.
The other point which was mentioned by the parents was about the advert on
page 39. The ad is suitable for the game in my view because the game is based
on a cert. 18 film and an advert with poncy pictures on would look daft. So all
you pathetic parents out there leave CRASH alone and go back to arguing with
Boy are you a turkey!
In your Forum (Feb CRASH), you had a big section on sexual overtones and violence. In this there were many nasty complaints, some of these you only just managed to wriggle out of, and then what to do you do? You only go and blow it all by putting in an advert for ‘THE LEGEND OF THE SCANTILY DRESSED, SHOULD BE CENSORED AMAZON WOMEN’ which was a load of badly drawn rubbish anyway, and a rude piccy of a naked woman from MIKIE, YOU JERK!
About the violence bit, it’s a lie, and you’ll find that the
people who read 2000 AD are the nicest folk you could wish to meet. (If you
disagree, me and the boys’ll be round to LUDLOW to sort you out. You have
Mark (I, of the Hairstyle) Duncan
I was disgusted at the issue 23 cover. Yes I was disgusted that
this cover drawing was not made into a full size Oliposter! What, I hear you
say. We thought that the cover in question was an excellent piece of work by
Oli, and people who despised it must be soft in the head or something. I
didn’t realize that you had turned into a comedy and jokes magazine.
This is the impression I got after reading the letters on THAT cover in issue
25. ‘Sexual Overtones’ and ‘computerized sex-orgies’
indeed. The only things I agreed with in that section were your replies, and
the fact that RA Barustain said he might be regarded as a ‘reactionary
old fuddy-duddy’. Quite right Mr Barustain! I applaud Oli’s artwork,
and was fascinated by the On the Cover profile on him. In fact the Xmas
Oliposter was so good, I almost bought two issues, just so I could hang up both
sides of the poster.
Okay, I think that’s all there’s room for on this
subject! Thank you to everyone who felt compelled to write in defence of
Oliver’s artwork — he was beginning to wonder whether to go into
A slight break with tradition here — as I started off with Tony Bridge’s letter, and then went into the Domark back-backlash, it meant pushing the letter of the month further back into the column. Fear not, though, for here it is...
I don’t know if anyone else has noticed but there are certain games which are just too original for their own good. I refer to games such as Deus Ex Machina — a game which received very good reviews but never really hit the charts with any impact. At the moment I can see a number of other games which in my opinion are in the same category, namely Tau Ceti and Gyroscope. It is just a sad fact that peoples’ taste excludes games such as these. Personally I wouldn’t buy any of these games although I recognise the fact that they are all highly original, well designed games which have received good reviews.
What games would I buy?... Games which I enjoyed in the arcades — Commando, Yie-ar Kung-Fu; games which have captured my attention through magazine ads and reviews — Sorderon’s Shadow, Way of the Exploding Fist, Shadowfire among others. Now all these games are original in their own way but they have another factor which sets them above the bunch. What is it? The answer — I don’t know! But I do know that this unknown factor is what each of these games has and will from hereon, be known as ‘The K-Factor’ (after me, Keith). I’m sure you will agree that what I have said is true — if a game lacks the ‘K-Factor’ it lacks impact.
Isn’t it brilliant to see games getting better and better in such a short space of time. You don’t have to go back to the early days to make comparisons in programming skills — compare this year’s games with last year’s and you’ll see what I mean.
Finally, did you know there is a school over here called Tir Na Nog; and
just recently a new Jewellery Exporter opened in our village itself called Tir
It’s nice to see someone who thinks things are getting
better! I must say, looking back on the past 20 months or so, I’m amazed
at how far Spectrum games have progressed in quality both of graphics and
ideas. It’s almost as though the assumed limitations of the machine have
forced programmers to supercede themselves each time they write a new game, and
I’m sure Sir Clive never imagined for a moment, the things people would
make his machine do. Anyway, Kevin, for your encouraging thoughts, you get
this month’s £20 worth of software of your choice, on its way.
Dear Lord Mangram,
Let me introduce myself, my name is Viscount Thrumblewiszt P.R.A.T. and I’m chairman of the world famous and rapidly expanding Spiny Norman appreciation society. ‘Well what’s that got to do with a computer magazine’ you might think, well if you dig up September’s 85 issue of CRASH and turn to the feature on Odin Computer Graphics then the penny should finally drop. There on page 43 displaying a screen from Robin of the Woods is our Lord and Master himself, that immortal personage Spiny Norman.
Who? I hear you cry, well let me fill you in on his illustrious career. Spiny first hit the big time when he was signed up (at a record fee for hedgehogs at the time) by the BBC to do a number of cameos in the current hit series Monty Python’s Flying Circus. He then sought fame and fortune across the Atlantic, destined to become a legend on the silver screen, films such as, A Hedgehog For All Seasons, and his oscar winning portrayal in The Marathon Hedgehog. But it was probably the character, The Hedgehog With No Name in the classic, A Fistful Of Lettuce Leaves that won him international acclaim as a star who was here to stay. He also hit the headlines a few years ago when he returned home to pose (for an estimated 500,000) for the front cover of the second Not The Nine O’Clock News album.
So reading September’s CRASH and seeing our hero about to be emblazoned on our TV screens in a new computer adventure game I waited patiently for the game to hit the shops, bought it, loaded it and played it, and played it with no sign of Spiny anywhere. Then it clicked, of course, there must be millions of other people in the same situation as I am. Odin never had any intention of having Spiny in the game, it was just a cheap and nasty low down trick to boost the sales up a bit, and if it wasn’t the fact that the game is very good I’d probably sue the **** out of them.
Yours slightly fumingly,
Viscount Thrumblewiszt (A.K.A. Chris Browne)
PS Anyone wishing to join the Spiny Norman Appreciation Society can do so by sending me a used 10 note and in return they shall receive a thank you note.
Last month I was threatened by an irate reader who intended
setting his ferocious hedgehogs onto me, and now this. I’m sure Odin had
every intention of starring the spiny wonder, but at 500,000 per appearance the
game would have been far too expensive to market. I’ve just discovered,
talking about the spiny insectivorous quadruped, that a retired Major living in
Ludlow actually has a hedgehog society, you know the sort of thing, where they
go round building hedgehog walkways over cattle grids and tunnels under roads.
There’s also a computer society, which says a lot about our cosmopolitan
attitudes up here in the sticks.
I am writing to you about that celebrity of Crash Towers the one and only Aunty Aggie who is a credit to this great magazine. I think she is just great, she is the mailbag master the lovely letter lady who sends all your readers this great magazine and also sends out prizes and goodies not to mention all the twenty quids worth of games to the writers of star letters, and who do you think gets the credit, Mr Lloyd Mangram the popular big spender, well I think its time good old Aggie got some fame and fortune and should have her photo printed clearly at the top of Mr Lloyd (Credit Stealer) Mangram’s name on the letters pages.
Mind you I think Aunty Aggie is really Lloyd Mangram’s excuse for all the problems with the output of CRASH.
If I win twenty quid’s worth of software I’ll forgive you
What output problems?! Let me tell you this, Matthew, without me
writing marvellous answers to letters and encouraging you to write back, Aggie
wouldn’t have anyone to send goodies to in the first place.
I was very pleased to see the picture you printed of the Lunar Jetman trailer. I found the trailer myself, but nobody I told would ever believe me! Now all you can say is ‘Gosh’.
What about a full cringing apology to all the people you put down and a
couple of weeks on the Ludlow gibbet, at the very least?
Gosh. I know, isn’t it amazing what an intrepid reader can do with some imagination and a good art utility?
I think Design Design are wonderful.
PS Can I have Robin of the Wood and Tau Ceti for the shortest letter mentioning Design Design?
No you can’t.
Replying to ‘Mr Angry’ (Feb Issue CRASH) and his accusations that software houses advertise too early to make a quick kill, here is a letter from Gary Mays of PSS...
Whilst I wholeheartedly sympathise with Mr. Angry’s sentiments (CRASH Feb issue) regarding pre-release advertising and understand how frustrating it must be not to be able to buy the games as soon as they are advertised, I think your answer covers the issue relatively well. I would only add that I bet he doesn’t find it half as frustrating as I do when I see all that advertising expenditure disappearing from our bank balance and no product in the shops!
I would only like to add that since Swords and Sorcery we have not advertised any product until it has been finished.
The point in his letter I do take exception to is his suggestion that we are
‘morally and ethically wrong’ in taking customers’ cash for
an unfinished game. Mr Angry has obviously never bought a game mail order from
PSS or he would realise that we NEVER cash a cheque or process a credit card
until we have shipped the product. There have been times, not least during the
Swords and Sorcery development days, when it was very tempting to cash
all those lovely cheques to ease cash flow, but not once did we do it. So
please Mr Angry, get your facts right before going to print — you
probably don’t realise the damage you can cause by spreading
mis-information in a magazine as widely read as CRASH.
Gary Mays, Managing Director, PSS
I am writing to you to make a few pleas — not to you in particular, but to people who probably read your magazine, to software houses, and to a member of the CRASH team.
First off, a plea to software companies to ask them to do something for us poor microdrive owners. We (the microdrive owners) bought the little machines with the intention of using them to load our favourite programs very quickly, but because the drives need careful programming, it is very difficult if not impossible to transfer the majority of programs. So please, software companies, put a save to microdrive option in your programs, or even offer a service where people can send in a blank cartridge to the software house which will record the program required on it.
I realise the question of piracy is brought to mind, but I feel sure that programmers can combat this and produce an un-copyable transfer on cartridge.
My plea is to you, or another member of the CRASH writing team. Someone
could have a column every month which gives details of how to transfer certain
popular programs onto the microdrives (perhaps Robin Candy could expand his
pokes and playing tips section to incorporate such routines.)
John Anthony Hurst
It’s a good point — the potential of the microdrive
is sadly unrecognised by software houses in general. However, nearly any
program can be put onto microdrive by using one of the utilities which so many
software houses want to see banned from advertising. As has been said before,
while software houses fail to satisfy their customers’ needs in this
matter, the tape to microdrive utilities are important. If you look in most
issues of CRASH, John, you will see adverts for transfer utilities and Robin
Candy did review a selection some months back.
I recently bought Ultimate’s excellent Gunfright. I was told at the shop, ‘Looks just like Nightshade’. On playing it I thought yes it does, but there’s a game in there this time. I played it for 2 weeks solid and I’m still completely hooked, Anyway, I’m sure you’ve had thousands of letters saying it’s crap, exactly like Nightshade! People who write these sort of letters need shooting with a very big gun! I mean OK it looks like Nightshade, but the game itself is totally different and fun to play. Just going round shooting citizens is fun itself! But the shoot out scene is amazing! So stop getting at Ultimate, plenty of other companies use graphic ideas from their previous games too, Gargoyle for example. Ultimate have also made more breakthroughs for the Spectrum too, just think what they could do with the 128! So stop singling out Ultimate and getting at them, remember the Spectrum wouldn’t be the same without them.
Oddly enough, I haven’t seen that many letters complaining
about Gunfright in the way that readers argued about Knight
Lore and Alien 8. I say ‘oddly’, because I admit that I
had thought I would, considering how alike, once again, the two games look.
Nevertheless, it’s back to the earlier argument about sequels, and
perhaps lots of readers, like yourself, found Gunfright an improved
game upon Nightshade.
In reply to John Decimer’s and AACR WISOC’s letters in issue 25, I don’t agree with them. They say that software companies should not advertise games yonks before they actually market the game. I totally disagree with this. For example when I saw Rambo advertised I thought, great I’m gonna get it, only trouble was I was skint pink, so I started to save, and by the time I had accumulated the sum of £7.95 Rambo had just appeared in the shops.
The fact is they advertise yonks before the market game to let CRWASOC
(CRASH readers who are short of cash) have time to save money before the game
is published. I’m sure wads of CRASH readers would agree with me. As for
the Great Space Race saga, I bought the game and was pleased with it
so wer nev.
Well it’s a novel interpretation, Wayne, and who knows,
you may just be right too, although I’m dubious about your credibility in
enjoying GSR! Still, each to their own, I always say.
On 11/2/85 I ordered Nutcraka from Software Projects. I wrote again one and a half months later to ask why I had not received the game, and the only reply I got was an envelope full of photocopied adverts for their games. Since then, all my letters have been ignored, and my cheque cashed. I have threatened legal action, but even this has failed to make Software Projects do anything. I am therefore writing to you to see if you can do anything about this. As you have carried advertisements from Software Projects in the past for this game, I feel that you should check that games advertised are actually available or at least written before publishing advertisements.
Well Nutcraka was certainly around and available at the
time we reviewed it. I can only assume that something or someone has slipped up
at Software Projects in processing your order and in responding to your
complaints. Anyone at Soft Proj able to help, please?
After months of waiting, I hereby claim to be the first CRASH reader to own a Spectrum 128 in Britain. I bought it on Saturday 15th February at 9.42 am. Can anyone beat this?
I would also like to know how 128 games will be reviewed in CRASH for future issues. Will they be reviewed alongside each other or will the magazine be split in to two sections, 48K and 128K?
Either way, with the emergence of the 128 it ensures that CRASH will
continue to run successfully, and long may it reign!
A policy on how 128 games will be reviewed hasn’t yet been
firmed up, largely due to the time Graeme Kidd spends in the broom closet
looking for the comps minion, but I expect we’ll get round to it someday
in our usual, endearing fashion!
I have bought and enjoyed every issue of your magazine and now write to you to relate a sad tale. Whilst shopping I spotted in one local Co-op a bin with countless software cassettes, all going cheap. I dug in and managed to come up with a cassette missing its inlay and without a price, Lode Runner by Software Projects, and was told I could have it for 99p.
As the RRP was originally £9.95 I was well pleased and remembered it had received a pretty favourable review (Christmas Special 1984/5).
Once home I loaded the game (and some people may have guessed already what happened next) and found a code had to be entered to start. The reference sheets with the codes on was of course missing with the inserts. I returned to the store first to see if the inserts could be found. No Luck. I was offered a refund but did not want this. I rang Software Projects to be told they would not and do not issue replacement code charts. I can appreciate the motives behind this approach but how can I prove I do not want to pirate the game? I have never pirated software. Can anyone help? After all Lode Runner is an old game now. I know I only paid 99p but I suspect some people have paid full price for software and subsequently lost or damaged the all-important codes. Or maybe I am unique.
Anyway I hope this serves as a warning to anyone who buys software with anti-pirate devices — DON’T LOSE YOUR LENSLOK! DON’T CHEW YOUR CHART! Also make sure that any reduced software contains manuals etc — I didn’t realise Lode Runner was protected this way although I have bought JSW.
Hope you can help and keep the quality of CRASH as high as it has been for
these two years.
KJ McGoldrick, (The victim of circumstance!)
That’s a very sad tale indeed, and a cautionary one. Can
How would you like to continually receive a string of letters written by the same people, concerning the same topic? You see every time I load up a game these days, I feel this huge wave of deja-vu sweep over me, I realise that I have exaggerated a little, as no two games are exactly alike, but think of the number of sequels and such released these days. Games such as Dun Darach, Marsport, Alien 8, Dragontorc, Everyone’s a Wally, Herbert’s Dummy Run, Back to Skool, JSW II and Monty On The Run should refresh your memory. I’m not disputing that many of these games are excellent, but they will not benefit the market, the buyers and the producers in the long run. I mean, take a look at the time that people have taken solving the original, and compare it with the time they take to solve the sequel. Even me, one of the most hapless games players ever to grasp a joystick can average around half the time for a sequel, than it took me to solve the original. I’m sure that if you look at the letters you receive from your readers solving games and compare them to release dates of said games, you will find that I could have a point.
I suppose that half the blame should really fall upon the consumer, as we seem to be fearful of new and fresh ideas, (witness Deus Ex Machina), thus forcing software houses to revert back to tried, tested and tedious ideas.
In fact, I am sometimes forced to believe that many new games are really old ones with extra bits tacked on. The main proof of this being the development time between an original and its sequel. Take the Wally series for an example. After Pyjamarama, the others appeared within a space of months, and in some cases were solved in a space of days.
Ah well, I’ve said all I wanted to say, except for, here’s
hoping 1986 will not be the year of the flogged horse.
Sequels have always been, and will always remain, with us. A
successful formula is something every manufacturer looks for, because it is one
of the best ways of recouping development costs. Look at novels, there are
writers of ‘popular’ fiction who churn out tens of almost identical
books with slight plot and character alterations, yet they remain popular
because the reader enjoys the type. The trick is to keep the plotlines
exciting. I think you’re being rather harsh in summing up the industry
thus, especially as many of the titles you listed are excellent, and the
sequels frequently better than the earlier games. However, I certainly agree
that there is a danger of stifling original thought, and that it is often the
public who are as much to blame as the software houses and programmers.
In 1985 Ocean Software produced eight high quality computer games of which only one Frankie goes to Hollywood received a CRASH Smash. This has brought my friends and I to the conclusion that the CRASH reviewers have (putting it mildly) something against Ocean.
This conclusion began to take shape in 1984 when the best olympic game ever, Daley Thompson’s Decathlon (as if I have to mention the name) did not get a CRASH Smash even though at that time it was the best game ever to appear on the Spectrum. Even more evidence of this arose in issue 13 in which Match Day, Gift from the Gods and Hunchback 2 should of been CRASH Smashed but were not for some stupid reason. Later that year you finally gave Ocean a Smash for Frankie but I believe you would not have if Denton Designs hadn’t programmed it.
Then in November along came Super Test which although in my opinion was not quite as good as Decathlon it was just as good as Imagine’s CRASH Smashed Hypersports but only received 76%. You could reply that Ocean and Imagine are really the same company and so they got 3 CRASH smashes last year, but you won’t because I know very well that Imagine have different programmers working for them than Ocean.
To be fair though I don’t rate Roland’s Rat Race or Kong Strikes Back worthy of CRASH Smash labels, but Pud Pud is worth considering.
To be honest Lloyd I can’t imagine my letter getting any further than the bottom of your waste bin because you will be too embarrassed to print it in your magazine but I would consider reviewing Ocean games properly in the future or they may withdraw all their adverts from your mag and leave you a bit short of cash.
Please make sure Rambo is a smash — I can honestly say I do
not work for Ocean Software.
We have always reviewed Ocean games ‘properly’,
although it rather depends on what you consider under the heading of
‘properly’. I have in the recent past admitted that in respect of
everyone’s reaction to the games, CRASH probably got it wrong as far as
DT’s Decathlon and Match Day were concerned. However,
the several reviewers, who all played both those games, and enjoyed them a lot,
still thought they just missed. Your argument that we probably only awarded
Frankie a Smash because Denton programmed it, is a bit silly in the
light of your mentioning the failure of Gift From the Gods to get a
Smash — after all, it was also programmed by Denton Designs. I know at
the time we thought it was very good, perhaps a bit slow, but mostly that it
was quite original in feeling and therefore might not appeal to
everyone’s taste. It’s often very hard to work out (especially when
most reviewers really like a game) what a final rating should be when there are
some reservations about its appeal to the public — after all, I get
enough letters of the ‘how come this was ever made a Smash?’ kind.
Like the next one in fact...
Here are some baffling questions about a game review in issue No 25: How did this game get 96% overall? How did this game become CRASH magazine’s best game of the year? Have the members of CRASH got shares in Martech? Are the CRASH reviewers insane? Are we talking about the same game? Was this review a Russian form of code to help the KGB?
You’ve probably guessed the game. Yes it’s Zoids. I find it a boring game. Why did your friends at CRASH like it so much?
As always, I took heed of CRASH’s advice and spent my hard-earned money on this game. After reading my way painfully through the mass of instructions, I loaded the game (which I found the most exciting part).
Am I doing something wrong in destroying this ‘enjoyable’ game? Please tell me how you destroy the city domes to get the pieces of Zoidzilla.
Finally, the cassette says that the ‘battle begins’. Does this
mean that Martech are going to continue the story of the Zoids (more
My ‘friends’ at CRASH enjoyed playing the game, in
fact they thought it was excellent, that’s why it got 96% overall. I
haven’t heard whether Martech intends a sequel, but I would have thought
I’m a 17 year old Spectrum owner. Last week I saw your Christmas Special issue in my newsagent’s window. I read it from cover to cover and back again. Your magazine is just fabulous; it’s something really OTT. It’s so good that my friend is going to subscribe it as soon as he gets the money.
Now for the real purpose of this letter: I want to write to you about software piracy in Portugal. The problem is that there just isn’t any legitimate software in Portugal. Every software shop I know sells pirate copies. Even the big computer shops sell pirate copies (the example of this is Tridus, a big shop that introduced machines like the ATARI or the CBM in Portugal and that sell pirate copies only). There is a good explanation to this situation: the prices of original programs. In Portugal a secondary school teacher earns a salary of a maximum of about £195, and that means working 22 hours per week with 3 or 4 classes of 30 students. Around here someone that has a salary of about £400 is considered an extremely well paid person (that person is considered as belonging to the medium-high class).
This isn’t all, in Portugal the average worker has to work 750 days to buy himself a car, while in Germany only 135 days are required. All these figures are right (my dad is an economist and has access to several statistics). So how can anybody in Portugal afford to buy programs with £9.95 tags on? You could ask the same thing about computers, but the answer to that is quite simple, our banks provide a special credit for that as part of the modernisation effort and Timex has several factories here making Portugal one of the countries that has cheaper computers.
This way we are all pirates around here. All the other kids I know buy
pirate copies and then copy them themselves. I only buy one program once in a
while, but every week I get a new one from a friend. I don’t think that
this is wrong (me making copies, that is) because we have a saying around here,
‘thief that robs thief has 100 years of pardon’ (not very pretty in
English, but it rhymes in Portuguese), What is the moral of this letter?
Simple: sometimes the only way of selling programs is by selling pirate copies.
And the retailers don’t bother with your new protections, things like
Lenslok are easy to get around, if you get my drift. You just have to eliminate
the routine that scrambles the characters! This is all. I hope you will
continue to have such a wonderful magazine. Keep up the good work!!!
Pedro Miguel Loureiro
I’m not sure that there’s a very easy answer to that one, Pedro! I wonder if any British software houses, dealing with Portugal have any comments to make?
Where is it?? Yes you know, don’t come the innocent with me Lloyd. Every morning I rush to the post hoping to find the elusive copy of, yes you guessed it, Streethawk. My parents are very worried, for they have seen me turn from space-bashing-mega-kid to post retriever.
Seven months ago me, and no doubt millions of space-bashing-mega-kids, took up an offer no human Spectrum owner could refuse. My first choice arrived a couple of months later and I was mildly satisfied, but the big one was still to come.
Five months later I still wait. My friends at school mock me and laugh in my face, ‘what a con’ they say, but I fire back and tell them ‘CRASH would never do that!’ My loyalty now begins to sway.
Are Ocean and CRASH on a big fiddle or has Ocean just not met its deadline
(by 5 months), or has Auntie Aggie been kidnapped by LSS
(Ludlow-Special-Service). I suggest that CRASH pulls its finger out or they
will find many subscribers, like myself, not bothering to renegotiate our
No one could blame you for thinking something odd’s going
on. You are indeed one of several thousands (at the last count) waiting for the
subscription offer on Street Hawk. Poor Aggie (and I) get it in the
neck, she on the phone, me in the mail bag monthly. The harsh fact is that
despite its being advertised ALMOST A YEAR AGO, the game hasn’t been
finished. This has caused CRASH an enormous embarrassment. As far as know, the
subs dept accepted the game in good faith that it was almost completed at the
time of typesetting the subscription ad. If you look carefully, the ad does
state ‘not quite ready, may be some small delay’ etc. No one
realised at the time that the delay would be some 9 months! All I can say now
is ‘sorry’, hang on, it is coming — I think, isn’t it
Ah well, all good things must come to an end. Time to put the cracking leather casing back on my humpy Hermes typewriter to ensure that the ever inquisitive fingers of a younger generation brought up on word processors don’t pry and poke into its inner mysteries (Candy take note), and time to leap aboard the trusty Mangram five speed racer to hurtle back up into the hills and my small, cosy cottage. I’ll be back with more letters next month.