I note that a letter in Lloyd’s FORUM mentions with evident distaste that there have been a lot of comings and goings at CRASH Towers of late. The disapproval suggests that the writer would rather everyone stayed put. But that simply isn’t possible — much as we all like stability, people move on.
In fact, continuity of staff has been one of CRASH’s great strengths. Compare us to the two other Sinclair publications; hardly any of their present writers and editors were with them even 18 months ago. With CRASH, I’m here (I know I’ve been with ZZAP! and then LM, but I’m back!), Paul Sumner has been reviewing consistently for over two years (albeit anonymously at first), Ben Stone goes back even further, Robin Candy’s been here (with a break) since July 1984, and Mike Dunn (the baby of the group excepting recent additions) has been with us for some 20 months. And, though the reader doesn’t see them much, the production team has hardly altered in two years.
Having said that, there now follows a brief summary of this month’s changes! After his relatively short stint at the Towers, we say a fond farewell to Gareth Adams. He’s gone to be something electrical at a college far, far away, though undoubtedly he’ll still be visible at the weekends in Ludlow’s Bull Hotel (behind the bar). Then we say hello to Sue Collett (who’s a Doctor Of Something). She’s lending her valuable experience to Barnaby’s right elbow with the subbing, having recently moved into the area. She was foolishly helping the art department’s Matthew Uffindell out of a tight spot when his car broke down, they got talking... and here she is. Thanks also to Daniel Griffiths and Colin Evans, two Ludlow School work-experience people who helped out for a few weeks.
One editorial section is missing this month, and that’s the VIDEO REVIEWS. No, we haven’t killed them off. Lloyd’s been monitoring the mail referring to them, and there is still a definite preference for keeping them in CRASH. However, the video reviewers haven’t been entirely happy with the way we’ve presented them so far, and Barnaby has requested a month’s sabbatical from the onerous task of watching movies to rethink the matter.
Consistency has been an important part of CRASH’s success as a review magazine, but we need to change with the times — some of the standards by which we judged software in 1984 no longer apply. And this month saw not quite an overhaul but at least a significant tweaking of the CRASH comments box and ratings system.
The old practice of listing control keys is gone. Most arrangements are ergonomically pretty efficient now, and you’re not going to buy or reject a game because it’s K/M/Z/X rather than Q/A/O/P. When control keys are definable, though, we’ll note that under the new Options heading.
Also incorporated into Options is information on skill levels; a choice of skill levels is so rare these days it seems silly to have a separate heading for them.
The Screens section has been dropped, too, though if there’s a huge number of screens that might be mentioned in the General rating or the introduction to the review.
And the use of colour now comes under the wing of Graphics, because it’s often artificial to separate those visual elements of a game.
Finally, a change which will enable readers to make more sense of the quirks of the percentage ratings. As well as giving a set of CRASH percentages for each game, we’ll publish the individual reviewers’ Overall percentages with their criticisms.
CRASH started identifying the authors of each review in Issue 37, and this is the logical next step. But bear in mind that though the CRASH Overall percentage is usually the arithmetical average of the three reviewers’, it’s not the product of mere number-crunching.
Occasionally, if (say) two reviewers praise a game to the skies and one is just a little cooler, bringing the average down to 88% or 89%, we might still Smash it.
Without mentioning any names... I’ve noticed a tendency on the part of some people within this business who have axes to grind to send identical letters to several publications. While this undoubtedly saves them some time, it doesn’t earn them a magazine’s undying attention. There’s an inevitable feeling of being considered second-rate if you know you’re reading the same words as some other editor, and the end result is one more scrap of paper in the waste bin. Honestly, there’s really no point in sending circular letters to CRASH. But just to clarify the point, I am not talking about press releases — that’s a different matter.
In the August CRASH ADVENTURE TRAIL, Derek Brewster reviewed The Fantasy, an adventure from homegrown software house Mediandroid. He didn’t like it much.
After the review was published we heard from The Fantasy’s programmer Simon Jones, who says he’s made some improvements to the game since producing our review copy. So don’t take those ADVENTURE TRAIL criticisms as definitive.
Obviously CRASH wants to help good software on its way, but it’s more important to give readers a fair review than to help programmers fix their own problems.
That’s why we don’t want to review uncompleted games. So whether you’re multinational or back-bedroom, if you send in a game without the all-important finishing touches please mark it PREVIEW — NOT FOR REVIEW... or at least let us know exactly what you’re going to add.
And Firebird (Silver) has asked us to point out that Andromeda Software was ‘not connected with’ the Spectrum conversion of Firebird’s Pneumatic Hammers, also reviewed in the August CRASH. The inlay credits Paul Johnson with the conversion.