Lloyd Mangram’s Forum

We have a veritable hotbed of controversy this month with bruised morals and ethics being hurled all over the place. And so without further ado, let the moaning commence...

YOU’RE NEVER TOO OLD

Dear Lloyd
It is only in recent months that I have been taking CRASH magazine, having transferred my affections because a certain magazine gave me a naff cassette ‘free’ and upped the price of the mag by 50%. I do like folk to be honest, having been born 72 years ago and not yesterday. Anyway, they couldn’t spell either.

I feel I must congratulate you upon your answers to letters, showing courtesy and understanding, and making for interesting reading.

Being of great age, lacking a right arm and possessing a duff right eye, I spend a great deal of time playing computer games — mostly simulations — and where possible, with a joystick, as you will understand. I am not as bright as I might have once been, and am fortunate in having a 12-year-old pal who puts me right on most things. He possesses a 128 +2 Speccy, whereas I own a 48K Speccy, and my tastes in games do not always correspond with his.

I bought a copy of Gunship and could only load up to 3/4 of tape one. I found Microprose extremely helpful (as indeed, when problems have arisen, have all games tape manufacturers), However, after returning two copies with no joy, my friend loaded it on his 128K machine.

In spite of your reader Trevor Parrish’s objections on political grounds, it is a very true-to-life simulation, and most enjoyable to play.

PHM Pegasus is my most recent acquisition, and will not accept my Kempston Interface. It loads, but on pressing space to start the game, it crashes with regular monotony. So with one hand I sally forth to meet the foe on keyboard only. I don’t think it could be my Speccy and in any case, ’er indoors is getting nasty about postage after said Gunship fiasco.

Please tell me, what is this 16-bit business? I am confused. What relation is it to 128K? And how many bits is my 48K Speccy? Can one still buy a 48K speccy, or am I stupid as well as confused (you try to be perfect at 72). And why do folk rabbit on about Gunship being anti-this and that; so is Pegasus. But further back was, I think, Mission Over Moscow, and I don’t remember Kruschev banging his shoe over that one.

As you stated, it’s only a game, thank God. I was born during the Great War and fought in the last one, and playing such games does less treading on toes than a lot of TV Programmes shown these days. Surprising isn’t it: I have no complaints. I like CRASH and your reviews, both past and present. It’s refreshing to note that no two folk think alike.
Don Garment

In answer to your queries, Mr Garment, the term ‘16-bit’ refers to the architecture of the computer’s internal processor. The Spectrum’s Z80 Central Processing Unit (CPU) is an eight-bit chip, while the two most popular 16-bit machines, the Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST, both contain a Motorola 68000 CPU. As the ZX Spectrum’s Z80 CPU handles information in ‘bytes’ made up of eight ‘bits’, so the 68000 CPU can handle bytes made up of 16 bits. These powerful chips also run at a faster rate than most eight-bit chips; basically they can handle a lot more information in a much shorter time.

There really isn’t enough room here to go into detail. Take a look at the 16-bit special in next month’s CRASH, which should help clarify things a little.

It’s interesting to find that the majority of people who moan about the militaristic aspects of computer games have never seen active service themselves. Anyway, you can buy yourself — and your 12-year-old friend — some new software with this month’s £ 30 software voucher.
LM

CRASH-DIVE?

Dear Lloyd
I had to write to express my concern on the current state of your brilliant magazine...

It all started with the December 1987 issue. Then came the Xmas Special — that was bad. Come Feb. March, April and now May. What is going on? Things seem to be going downhill — I’m talking of content!

Let me make this simpler: I’ll compare the Current (May 88) issue to the June 1987 issue. May 88: 100 pages. June 1987: 132 pages. Around about the start of the ‘Summer slump’ (OK the fact that this issue was one of the most controversial ever doesn’t count! (Barbarian cover — Ed)) June 1987 has some great features.

A nice Roger Kean (RIP) editorial; Minson (RIP) is doing great; wonderful review section; THE FORUM of course; Mike Singleton spilling his beans(!) — good interview; PLAYING TIPS — as good as ever! ADVENTURE SUPPLEMENT: is small beautiful? The low down on old software companies — Good! TECH NICHE and TECH TIPS — Great; TAMARA KNIGHT, plus the new Video reviews. To sum it up this issue is really good!

Now May 1988! Steve Jarratt attempts to excite us all with the prospect of another cassette(!), but it’s just these damn reviews! Something has seriously gone wrong: nobody in their right mind would give Tetris anything under 90% — cue my buddy Ewan Dalton! (FORUM Issue 52 — Ed) Ewan and I have both agreed that losing ‘Skippy’ Dunn was BAD NEWS.

What other amazing Features do we have, The FORUM, PLAYING TIPS, The Candy CHALLENGE (?), Coin-Ops, TECHNICHE, FANZINE FILE, Compilations. And the Adventure Section is terrible with the departure of Derek Brewster. This Issue is, well, Crap. Not one decent feature.

Oh yes, I can see you in your reply, ‘A bad issue — our off day’. Maybe you should take a close look at February, March and April, not to mention the Xmas Special: 196 pages my REAR END! More like 96 excluding the CRASH History which was FREE!!

I’m not denying that you lot still aren’t the best, but give yourselves a shake. I just don’t know what is happening; it may be the loss of good staff, I don’t know — but you lot at Newsfield should! You need new features and better reviews. We don’t want to know what’s on the inlay card (that’s one of the problems) we can go to Boots, John Menzies and soon, and read it ourselves.

I will keep on reading CRASH as it’s THE BEST, but get out of this current phase! No wonder the ratings have dropped. You’re all dressed up, everything going for you, but no effort.

I know this has been a long letter but I hope you print it, and in full, so that other readers can express their feelings.
(Hi, to Ewan, Mum, Dad, Mrs K, Mrs H, Mandy, Lynn and Elaine)
Malcolm Power

After considering your views I have to say that many of your arguments are simply based on what you consider to be good or bad. You dismiss the May ’88 issue as having ‘not one decent feature’; even though many other people may have derived pleasure from the new coin-op feature, or the feature on compilations, or the challenge, and so on. You also dismiss the playing tips special (nearly three times its normal size) with one deft move of your pen.

I agree that the reviews and the ADVENTURE TRAIL have been lacking of late, but both sections have improved tremendously over the last few months and are constantly being re-assessed and tweaked (watch out for an ADVENTURE TRAIL special next month).

We at CRASH have to try and cater for all manner of tastes; sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don’t. One thing’s for sure: it’s NEVER through lack of effort.
LM

DEUS EX MACHINA?

Dear Lloyd
The last couple of months have see quite a few letters bemoaning the lack of coverage for computers on television and in the press. It isn’t that difficult to see why...

When home computers first exploded onto the market back at the turn of the decade, we were in the middle of that phase when larger computers became the scourge of many a man. Computers were taking people’s jobs. You could hardly expect Joe Public to enthuse over his son’s pleas for a Spectrum when he has just lost his job to a plastic box-cum-TV screen.

Computers instantly picked up an image that had dogged arcades in the years before (and still does now). Dark, evil places where only those adept at using a flick-knife survive. Places full of introverted Space Invader addicts.

It is surprising how that view remains apparent today; my mum still thinks that playing computer games leads you astray and turns you into a greasy, spotty teenager with glasses and an addiction to Space Invaders. She doesn’t realise how much computers have progressed. She ought to be a Powerhouse programmer (less of that — Ed).

At the moment if you tell anyone that you enjoy playing computer games they run a mile. If the industry is to get the coverage it deserves two things must happen: finally the software houses have to follow the TV appearance lead of Codemasters and Virgin and radio lead of Ocean, and get themselves noticed. Charity releases always seem to hit a good note.

Secondly, we, the games playing public, have to convince the old-fashioned among us that it is perfectly possible to enjoy computer games without turning into a freak. Games such as Zynaps, Driller and the Bard’s Tale are all harmless, enjoyable fun. So let’s make one thing perfectly clear: COMPUTER S DON’T BYTE (sorry).
Ian Kerr

I think it should be sometime before the majority of video arcades shake off their rather sordid image, but the bad press engendered by the earlier days of home computing does seem to have abated somewhat.

Before totally acquitting our silicon playmates, though, check out MONITOR this issue, and be prepared for some nasty shocks...
LM

THE ART OF NOISE

Dear Lloyd
I own a Spectrum +2, and like Robert Hanway (of issue 52) I find it frustrating that so few games are enhanced by the additional memory and improved sound of the 128K machine. Then, whilst playing Super Sprint, I had an idea for a new feature in CRASH. Perhaps all those super hackers who so regularly produce infinite lives etc, could produce pokes to be used by 128K users. For example on Super Sprint a loud engine noise would add to the atmosphere and enjoyment of the game. I would have thought that this would not be too difficult for those master hackers.

So perhaps someone out of the many CRASH readers could help me and the rest of the 128K owners, by producing some short code to be printed in CRASH to somehow add to existing 48K games.

Would this be too difficult? I would be interested to read your reply.
Matthew Edwards

My knowledge of the intricacies of machine code is akin to my familiarity with popular Norwegian restaurants. So, how about it hackers: can it be done?
LM

SEX AND DRUGS AND PLAY By MAIL

Dear Lloyd
After flicking through the pages of your May issue trying to find a freaky feature, I came across a play by mail ad by KJC Games featuring It’s A Crime. I was shocked: the fact that this is a fantasy rather than reality does not make it potentially any less dangerous. The most dangerous aspect of this game is that to be successful, it is necessary to take drugs continuously and the description of this rule makes it appear not only acceptable but even a desirable condition to aspire to. I admit that in this case the situation was brought on by ourselves.

I have checked the issue of CRASH currently on the shelves in which the ad appeared, and in every issue that I own, a full page complete with explicit picture makes it perfectly clear what is on offer: ‘gang warfare’ by a ‘Drug-crazed gang’. In this issue there is also an article on fantasy games featuring a picture of the It’s A Crime rule booklet. Although the booklet does suggest that the game isn’t suitable for young children this is not mentioned in either the advert or the article. Thus, as there is no age limitation and parental consent is not required, there is nothing to stop any child applying for this ‘free’ offer and receiving this offensive material without parents’ knowledge. I would like to see it made illegal for advertising promotions like these to offer such rubbish to children and would welcome any advice or help you may be able to give. Also my comments also go to the Vixen ad. Do you know how many impressionable youths read your magazine? The illegal picture should offend every one of them and I think the picture should be banned and replaced by screen shots instead. Well, I am utterly peeved and would be pleased if any action were made.
Cho Hon Lee

Well, Cho Hon, I spoke to Kevin Cropper, head of KJC games and he assures me that the nefarious activities portrayed in It’s A Crime are carried out in a humorous, comic-book style. He also suggested that the cost of successfully participating in the game (up to around £3 every ten days) is probably prohibitive to the age group in question. However, your comments have been noted and in our ever-present desire to please, KJC have agreed to sport a ‘Not Suitable For Children’ legend on their It’s A Crime ad (I don’t know where the fantasy games feature appears, though — we didn’t have one!).

I hardly think the Vixen picture rates as being ‘illegal’; but the lack of respect with which women are portrayed in these ads is disconcerting. Highstreet retailers Boots have already made a stand against such sexism, refusing to stock the game with the previous packaging. The latest copies of Vixen to be found in Boots feature only a head-and-shoulders of Miss Russell on the front, and no free poster!

Next month, the pros and cons of censorship are discussed at length in the first episode of a new feature called SPLIT SCREEN — watch out for it.
LM

THE HIGH COST OF DEFLATION

Dear Lloyd
I’m writing to you to say don’t you think with all the old computer games (and some new) being reduced to £1.99 within a couple of years of being released that people will wait until this has happened before they buy them. When you have bought a game for £10 you feel pretty sore when it’s reduced to couple of quid a year later.

I also feel Elite is a major offender in this way. They bring out all their games together on a few cassettes within a few months of them being released. I don’t think it’s right that people should spend £50 on five or six tapes and find that:

1 The games are all on one tape for a tenner or less and you’ve just wasted up to about £30-£50.
or:

2 The game you bought is on a tape with loads of other games you wanted but you didn’t know it was available.

I think CRASH is just as good as it’s ever been if not better, keep up the good work.
Thomas Grinyer

Having been similarly ‘burned’ by the purchase of full-priced games only to find them a month or two later on a compilation tape or with a severely deflated price-tag, I wholeheartedly agree with your comments. I can only suggest that patience is a very valuable virtue: if you are content to wait six months to a year before buying the ‘latest’ game, then you should be alright. Otherwise you pays your money and you takes your choice...
LM

Thus ends another round of point and counter-point. The quality of your communications is of an increasingly high standard these days. Keep it up — and keep the letters flooding in.