A slightly shorter than usual Forum this month because of all the other articles competing for my defensible space (about which I’m very possessive). Pride in the quality of what you own is always so very important, I always think, and that’s largely the thinking behind the writer of this month’s winning letter (attracting, as it does, the £30 worth of personally-chosen software). But I’ll let Dominique do the talking...
I have been reading your magazine for almost a year now, and it is by far the best Spectrum magazine around.
After reading Issue 45 however, I felt I had to write to you concerning your article on the development of the software market regarding budget games, and also the letter by Anthony Daniels in your FORUM. Barnaby Page’s fascinating article, provoked some disturbing thoughts in my mind.
Firstly, by pointing out that many full priced specialist software houses are branching into budget games, Barnaby began to worry me slightly.
The most notable example is Hewson’s new label Rack-It. Even their budget games are not much better than you would expect for under £3. If such a successful house as Hewson (I have all their games since I bought my Spectrum in December last year) is being forced to join the ranks of budget producers, times must be getting hard. It is my belief that top software houses such as Ocean, Activision and Elite — all mentioned in the article — will soon have to follow suit leaving the Spectrum games market consisting of nothing but budget games.
I find this a disturbing prospect, as although the presence of more budget games might improve the quality, they would still not be able to match anything like the standard of today’s full-price games.
Personally, I take pride in my collection of software, which does include budget games, but despite this, I would not be prepared to put up with lower class entertainment on my computer. No game can be played forever, so I would soon get bored to tears with an out of date Spectrum and its games, which I thought would be a major part of home entertainment for several years to come.
I would be forced to change to either a 16-bit machine or to the new variety of games consoles, of which I find the Sega most impressive, which brings me to the letter from Anthony Daniels.
Anthony made a point about originality in games. Original games are not necessarily good ones. I found The Sentinel very tedious to play, and games like Exolon, Zynaps, Barbarian and Enduro Racer all follow well worn themes but are nevertheless excellent games. This might just be because I am one of a new generation of Spectrum owners. but I don’t really think so.
What makes unoriginal games good enough to buy is the ever improving standards of programming, plus those extra special touches and slight variations from the basic idea. The games consoles provide both original (World Runner, Metroid, Choplifter) and unoriginal (Out Run, Space Harrier, Gradius) games, and they all look good to me.
If and when I convert to a Sega, I will hang on to my Spectrum anyway, as I believe that software standards will continue to rise as long as software companies takes heed of what people like myself are saying. (I know you will, won’t you Lloyd?).
For the 8-bit machines to flourish, the right people must provide the right games. The right games are the games that the average games-player wants, and we do not want poor versions of full-price games. That is what budget games really are, after all.Congratulations, Newsfield, on THE GAMES MACHINE.
Thanks for your thoughts Dominique, they have earned you some free software — for your Spectrum... I would be wary of ‘converting’ to a console because it is a different beast. Think of it as an addition to your home computer rather than as a replacement.
I think full-price labels still perceive themselves as essential to the general well-being of 8-bit computer games. Part of this is that they spend money advertising. Budget houses like Code Masters claim that they pay as much as a full-price house for development and programming, but can sell cheaper because they don’t waste money on adverts. But I think Code Masters are overlooking the fact that, apart from informing the public of a product’s release, advertising is vital to raising the general level of awareness and interest in the whole games market (and leaving aside the fact that that helps fund magazines, which in turn raise the level of interest in the whole field).
But it must also be said that some of the scarifying about budget barbarian hordes may be unfounded: the quality of budget games is improving dramatically. In Issue 46, for instance, more than half the budget games scored over 50%, though they’re often perceived as 20%―30%. That issue two Code Masters games, Professional Ski Simulator and Dizzy, scored in the high 70s and this issue M.A.D.’s U.C.M. gets 87%.
As to originality, there are only so many ‘stories’ to tell. The
trick, and the skill, really lies in the telling. And you are right: if this
market only wanted the latest, most original concept going, then
Zynaps would not have been a hit — but it was.
In the last couple of FORUMs many letters have praised 16-bit computers and new games consoles. These letters stated that Atari ST would become the ‘new Spectrum’. I strongly disagree.
The other week I bought Renegade (128K). started playing it and thought, ‘Wow, this is amazing!’ The next day, my friend came up to copy my homework. He used to have a Spectrum but he now has an Atari ST and his Dad has an Amiga. He came into the room and saw Renegade. Immediately he sat down by the computer, picked up the joystick and started playing. I thought that he would get up and leave the game alone, saying he had much better games on his computer. But he didn’t. He stared humming the theme tune and shouting ‘You die scumball’ and ‘I’m going to knee you in the nuts this time’.
When I asked when he was going to copy my homework he kept saying: ‘After the next game’.
Two hours later I had to drag him from the computer and send him home. He left without copying my homework, and he was still