This issue of CRASH is dedicated to the memory of Fred Astaire, who died recently in Hollywood. Videos are now introducing his many films to generations unborn when he was in his prime. Astaire was not only one of the finest dancers, but also a great entertainer and man who always strived to perfect his skills — an example to us all.
HOW OFTEN have you heard it said that programmers have reached the limits of what the Spectrum can do? I can remember, from the dim distant days of early CRASH, software houses claiming on their inlays that their game pushed the machine to its outer limits — though that hardly counts, they’ve always said things like that. But it was felt that Ultimate approached those nebulous limits with each new game, and with Tir Ná Nog Gargoyle looked as though they had exceed the limits, which to some extent they had.
Since then, the barriers erected largely by advertising hype have been broken again and again. However, during much of the past 12 months I’ve detected a wider appreciation that programmers feel there’s not much more they can do to go beyond what has already been done, and it’s a situation recognised by games-players in so many letters. The recognition is probably inspired by the plethora of conversions and tie-ins, few of which do justice to their original source, let alone attempt to push a computer to its processing capacity. A feeling of complacency and stagnation has seeped in.
And yet, through improved techniques for compression of code, isolated programmers throughout Britain are still striving to make the Spectrum perform functions Sir Clive would never have dreamed of — and succeeding.
Such people at Incentive Software have been working for almost a year on Freescape, a 3-D presentation previewed on page 100. It’s the first time the true complexities of vanishing-point perspective have been attempted with filled-in shapes. There have been plenty of 3-D games in the past using solids rather than wireframe, but none has ever gone as far as Incentive’s Freescape. You could always get higher and look down slightly, but you could never go over that wall blocking your way as you can do with Freescape.
This isn’t a technique for fast shoot-’em-ups because the processing capacity of even 128K isn’t sufficient for high speed. That remains very much the province of games such as Micronaut One. But just think what avenues it opens for exploring games and strategy games such as Lords of Midnight!
Freescape is a technique and not in itself a game. The first to be produced using Freescape is Driller, and whether or not that realises the full potential of the technique, and whether it’s a good game or not, remains to be seen; but for those readers bemoaning the state of the industry, take heart — things are still happening on the Spectrum!
In fact, because of the innovative programs generated here, British software generally is enjoying a great vogue in the USA. Traditionally we’ve imported games from the States, and America (or Japan) has been considered the cradle of games-playing civilisation. The cradle’s swinging. Many British software houses have recently found their games accepted by an increasingly excited American public. Now it’s time for us to offer Americans our version of Advanced Computer Enjoyment, and it’s innovations like Freescape that will help ensure British software a preeminent position on America’s computer-store shelves in future months.
THERE WERE dark words at the Towers over Robin Candy’s review of Micronaut One. Nothing to do with the comment itself, you understand — it’s just that Robin did design the fourth (and last) tunnel for the Nexus game, and some of us felt that he was a bit too close to the product to assess it objectively. After all, the reasoning goes, we wouldn’t ask Pete Cooke to review his own game, would we... ?
I suppose we might, out of curiosity, but we wouldn’t present it as an unbiased view. And you can be sure that, in the future, whenever a CRASH writer has some personal connection with a piece of software you’ll be warned about it. If you’re aware of a possible conflict of interest, the problem is defused.
The real, undetectable, often unconscious conflicts of interest come over little things: gifts and free lunches from software houses, which may prejudice the reviewer. At CRASH we’re cracking down on these too.
Back to reviewing: the point extends beyond Robin. Programmers, designers, what have you probably aren’t the best people to review software. There’s a risk they’ll look at it from too much of a technical view, an insider’s view, thinking ‘now what would I have done with this?’ rather than taking the player’s — potential buyer’s — view.
Derek Brewster seems to be a happy exception to this rule, and looking at his ADVENTURE TRAIL you’d hardly guess it’s the author of Kentilla writing — in the right hands, behind-the-scenes knowledge can broaden a reviewer’s view rather than constrain it.ROGER KEAN