On October 15th Sinclair Research released information about its new computer, The ZX Spectrum. Essentially the same as the existing Spectrum, the new 48K model has been placed inside a truncated QL body and therefore offers a full professional keyboard. The Spectrum is fully compatible with existing Spectrum software and peripherals (although manufacturers of add-on keyboards may be less than enthusiastic about this).
The hard plastic keys include a space bar and 17 keys in addition to those available on the existing model. These enable many functions to be performed with a single key stroke. The keyboard may also be tilted, using retractable feet built into the underside of the case. There is also a reset button to clear the computer without that irritating plug pulling we’re all so familiar with.
The Spectrum retails at £179.95 and includes six applications program worth over £50 — these are Scrabble, Make a Chip, Chequered Flag, Chess, VU-3D and Tasword 2.
The new computer is said to be already on sale at some branches of WH Smith and Dixons.
Membership clubs of software houses appear to be all the rage lately, and one of the latest is that of Activision. When you join the Activision Software Club you go on the mailing list for their Club News a full colour quarterly publication which gives you an update on all forthcoming Activision releases as well as tips and views from other members. Activision say that they run large-scale competitions for members as well as a worldwide pen-pal service for those who would like to communicate with home computer buffs from other countries.
On top of all this the Activision Software Club offers a Performance Award Scheme, which gives everyone who owns Activision software a chance to win performance prizes, badges or certificates by sending in a photograph of their on-screen hi-score. Perpetual hi-scorers are awarded ‘hi-score’ tee-shirts and real champs may receive a ‘Champ’ sweatshirt.
Activision’s Software Club has been going now for over two years and Activision claim many thousands of members from several countries and over a number of computers. It is hoped that owners with systems for which they have recently started to manufacture software will join their club and swell the numbers further.
Sinclair Programs, the listings magazine recently taken over by EMAP Business and Computer Publications (publishers of Computer & Video Games) has announced a complete revamp. After a short statement aimed to prove how popular the title has been, the announcement goes on to say how it’s all going to be changed to make it visually and editorially more exciting — even a new logo will be used on the cover. Contents will include programming tips, ‘in depth’ software reviews, adventure reviews, a problems page, news, competitions and ‘lots more’. What happened to all those listings that made it ‘popular’ in the first place?...
Using an appropriate Greek pun, the last word in software is claimed to be Omega Software. Omega is the umbrella name for a group of well known software houses, one of which prefers to remain anonymous which includes Anirog, CRL and Silversoft. The aim of Omega is to put out budget software at £1.99, many games of which would have been released in earlier times at far higher prices. For the Spectrum, these include Copter, Handy Andy, Chamber of Horrors, Pool and Corruption.
Nigel Searle, the Managing Director of Sinclair Research, presented the prizes to the winners and runners-up of the 1984 Cambridge Awards at London’s Ritz Hotel on October 4th. He praised the role of the software houses in the development of the home computer industry when he presented the £2000 cheque and trophy to John Sherry of Keele, Staffs, this year’s winner. John’s game, called The Prince, was developed from Machiavelli’s book of the same name. Machiavelli was the Italian Renaissance politician whose devious tactics gave rise to a whole new way of political thinking. The Prince is described as the first interactive, role playing adventure game for four players and creates a medieval world of intrigue in which a truly machiavellian mind is required to succeed.
Oasis Software whose graphics designing utility White Lightning has proved so popular, has released the program on Microdrive. Essentially the same version as the original cassette version, the source can be compiled from microdrive, freeing much more space for sprite storage and making a more rapid development cycle possible. Anyone with the cassette version who would like to upgrade may return their cassette to Oasis and a cheque for £5.
There are also two official White Lightning User Groups which offer help, advice and exchange information via newsletters.
Star Dreams have announced a forthcoming adventure release which they claim is the most bizarre and fascinating adventure program ever produced. Entitled The Sandman Cometh, it breaks away entirely from the traditional subjects of adventure games. Say Star Dreams, ‘There has long been a feeling in the software press that adventure games have tended to be very repetitive in their choice of material. The Sandman Cometh is a major departure in the kind of thinking behind games writing. The adventure represents a series of dream sequences, each with its own set of logical problems in an otherwise illogical scenario.’
The program was devised and created by the person who wrote the new Stranglers pop group’s adventure Aural Quest. It contains over one hundred locations each with its own fast drawing picture which remains on screen during play. The game is packaged as a parody of a motion picture, coming in a video style case, complete with a comprehensive illustrated booklet. This theme is carried on into the program with film style credits and opening; even the loading screen being a tongue in cheek representation of the Board of Censors’ authorisation certificate.
The Sandman Cometh retails at £10.95 and is available now.
Imagine’s games and name (The Name of The Game?) have been booted about a bit recently with news that Sinclair Research have optioned the ‘mega’ game Bandersnatch to be released on the QL sometime in Spring. Royalties from the sale of the game will go straight to the liquidator of Imagine Ltd. to help pay back some of the astronomical debts incurred by the company before it went broke.
On top of that, Ocean Software Ltd. has purchased a major portion of Imagine’s assets including the name, logo and trading style. Some completed programs and software development equipment are also incorporated in the deal.
David Ward of Ocean says that they now have the sole rights to the Imagine name and are considering a relaunch of the label. All of which seems to leave Beau Jolly, who had originally invested money in Imagine to purchase the marketing rights to existing titles as well as options (they thought) on the megagames, rather out in the cold.
Ocean have re-employed eight of the ex-Imagine programming team on a contract basis. They are working in Liverpool on the development of a number of program concepts including a new animated strategy adventure, due for release by Ocean at the end of November. This comes at a time when Ocean’s best known Spectrum programmer, Christian Urquhart, has left the company.
The first in a series of unique computer assisted board games was launched at Websters Software’s Christmas Product Presentation, held at their head-quarters in Guildford on October 19th.
The new game, entitled ATRAM (Advanced Tactical Reconnaissance and Attack Mission) heralds a breakthrough in the computer games market, say Websters. Its creator, Miles Bozeat of P.D. Visual Marketing says that he believes his product fills the gap between established family board games and computer adventure games. ‘The players’ skill determines the outcome, as they simultaneously plan the attack on their opponents’ forces. The operations are carried out on the board, while the computer acts as a database helping to assess and plan tactical-manoeuvres.’
A ‘Cribbage’ style board was used to record weapon fuel and deployment status of the aircraft in play. But when the Spectrum appeared, the penny dropped, and the family computer was enrolled. In early 1984 Tony Morris, a computer expert, and Chris Barrell, a marketing professional, were recruited to develop the concept fully. The result is ATRAM for the 48K Spectrum and which retails at £19.95 and includes the board, all the playing pieces and the database cassette.
ATRAM has taken a long while to appear in its finished form, having been first conceived before the advent of home computers. ‘Over several years,’ says Miles, ‘the game was brought out and played with enthusiasm amongst family and friends, all the time refining and developing the most important balance so as not to allow an unfair advantage to either side.’
Just too late to be fully reviewed in this issue, comes a new game from Arcade Software, which is described as an alternative to the Third World War. Instead of fighting global war, the protagonists gather on a special sports field built on the moon. This is the Therbo field, from which the game takes its name. Therbo (thermal ballistic object) is the equivalent to a football or cricket ball, and is the object with which the two opposing sides play, trying to gain control of it to score goals.
The player is up against the computer, each taking a ‘home run’ at goal along what might best be described as an electron accelerator. Missiles, fuel collection and trying to knock the opponent’s therbo off course, while he tries to knock it back on course, all play a part in this unusual game. Full review next month.
Melbourne House are to create a new software studio in the UK, to be called Studio B. Two full time programmers have been employed by Melbourne House for the new studio. Their brief, says Paula Byrne, Publicity Manager for Melbourne House, is to develop high quality, innovative software, in keeping with the standards expected by people who buy Melbourne House games and utilities. The number of programmers employed by Studio B is expected to increase to at least nine by June.
Projects co-ordinator for Studio B will be Alan Giles, who has already written two books for Melbourne House, the Spectrum Micronet book and Quick QL Machine Language. The second programmer to join Studio B is Stephen Cargill, a school leaver who has just finished his A levels. Stephen has written Melbourne House’s latest release, Sir Lancelot.
Another item from Melbourne House is a new book called Learning with Adventure Programs written by Ms Rosetta McLeod. The book is designed to show how computers can help children to take an interest in the areas of reading, comprehension and logic. The book describes four computer games in detail, The Hobbit, Valhalla, The Quill, and Snowball. In the case of Valhalla Ms McLeod has taken the CRASH review of the game as part of the general theme.
If it bugs you having to reset or switch on and off your Spectrum by removing the power plug, TEC offers an intriguing looking device which turns out to be a simple on/off switch. The shape of the unit is curious to say the least. In fact, after a short thinking session (not something often done here in the CRASH editorial offices for lack of volunteers) somebody just took the thing and plugged it into the Spectrum power socket, leaving a Toblerone shaped top towering above the Spectrum profile. This action provided a full frontal view of a rocker switch and somebody had the bright idea (it can only have been a disinterested CRASH visitor) of connecting the power lead to the free female socket at the rear before rocking the switch. The Spectrum came to life but it soon became apparent that the switch was not the only thing a’rocking. A Velcro pad is fixed to the underside of the Toblerone and once the protective backing is removed, the rocker assembly gets stuck in position. Whether anybody is prepared to spend £4.95 in protection money for the old abused power plug or just stick to eating the delicious but expensive Toblerone chocolate is to be seen.
The music industry has for years made old hits into new ones by releasing compilation albums of the charted songs from the previous year. Now the same thing is happening with computer games. Computer Records has just released Select 1, a single tape featuring no less than 12 hit games including favourites like Hunchback and Mr Wimpy from Ocean, Timegate and Meteor Storm from Quicksilva, Pool and Spectres from Bug-Byte, and for adventurers, Application’s Denis Through the Drinking Glass.
Select 1 is being marketed in conjunction with Telestar Records and the tape is being backed by a half million pound TV advertising campaign.
The story of Imagine has yet to be told in full, but there are indications that ‘Dallas’ and ‘Dynasty’ have nothing over ‘Imagine’ — except perhaps Joan Collins. For anyone with an interest in computer games and especially Imagine, what happened, how it happened and what exactly are the ‘mega-games’, don’t miss the special programme on BBC2 on the 13th December at 8pm. Under the series heading ‘Commercial Breaks’, Paul Anderson and his team, who have been filming Imagine since early this year, will reveal the secrets. He will also be talking to CRASH about what it was like to be working with the giant Liverpool company through its collapse and what happened afterwards. We’ll be bringing you the story in the Christmas Special which comes out on the same day as the BBC2 programme.
With the backing of a major European Company, Micro Mart Software has released a range of Spectrum software at a price of £1.99 per tape. The first software house to publish educational software at budget prices. The two educational programs are World Flags and Junior Maths Pack. The other games are the adventure Golden Hawk and Gambler. These are in addition to their higher priced games Strike Attack 2 and Sub Hunter.
Software Projects have also gone in to the budget software market, releasing six titles for the Spectrum at £2.99 each under the name of Software Supersavers. These include the titles Freex, Moonlighter, Ziggurat, Loony Lander, Fred’s Fan Factory and Shuttle Shock. Software Projects say that these game are not rehashes of old games as some budget software can be, but totally original games developed by Software Supersavers themselves. Reviews will follow in the next issue.
Sandy White, whose most recent game is Zombie Zombie released through Quicksilva, has been awarded a Gold Cassette in recognition of the outstanding performance of Ant Attack. The award was presented by Radio One’s deejay Anne Nightingale.
Ant Attack has now topped the 50,000 mark in sales and is said to be rapidly heading for the hundred. Gold Cassettes are only awarded when sales exceed 50,000. Previous to this the only other Gold Cassette presented in the industry was for Time Gate written by John Hollis.
Our review of Silversoft’s new game Supermutt (November Issue) was done from a preview copy and since then there have been a number of changes. One CRASH reviewer noted that he was a bit disappointed with the end — now Supermutt has to fly the rescued Pup back to HQ to complete the game. Another important change can be found in any of the rooms. In the preview copy the code letters flitted across the screen. Now there is a button in the centre of the room which must be reached and pressed before the code letter will even appear. If you hit an un-needed code letter or the button after having pressed it once, then you will be killed. These alterations have made Supermutt more of a challenge than it was when first reviewed.
The Highway Code is to appear on computer. C.R.L. has produced a program containing over a hundred questions, all of which can be found within the book produced by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. The user is given a percentage rating from whichever test he or she chooses, either the 25 question test or the ten question test. There are a number of graphics which represent road signs and traffic situations included.
The Highway Code has received official approval from the Automobile Association for the Spectrum (48K) and Commodore versions, and all copies of the program will carry A.A. Approved stickers.