Welcome to the CRASH CHRISTMAS SPECIAL! It’s quite a special issue for us as well, because this is the twelfth issue and so marks a year of publishing. This somewhat expanded issue of CRASH is slightly unusual in that there are a few less reviews than normal, but that is made up for with the other odds and ends, especially the twelve competitions which I believe total up to over £7,000 worth in prizes. There is also the 1985 Calendar, a 16 page full colour pull out with six months on either side, complete with two giant pictures by Oliver Frey. On top of that we have Lloyd Mangram’s Look Back, a personal view of this year’s software from the man who thinks he knows it all (I have to get my own back sometimes), Derek Brewster has produced a longer than usual article on the state of adventure software as part of the Adventure Trail and Angus Ryall has gone and got tipsy somewhere and picked another fight with an advertiser. As you can see, it’s business as usual! As part of the extended Playing Tips, this month, Robin Candy, Ludlow’s answer to P. Hacker, has been pressganged into doing a Pokes Corner, a bundle of cheats for the lazy arcade player. And if producing a calendar wasn’t enough, there’s a double helping of the Terminal Man from Oliver Frey. Luny Jetman has a couple of pages to himself too. And then there’s the special article which explains how CRASH gets put together every month, which might give you an insight into why most magazine people are a little nutty at times; and there’s a piece about what it was like for the BBC TV crew to film Imagine as the Liverpool software house headed towards its nervous breakdown. So I think there’s plenty to keep you occupied gainfully over the long dark days of the Christmas holiday and we hope you enjoy the contents.
It wouldn’t be quite right, season of goodwill notwithstanding, to have an editorial without some serious content, and on this, our twelfth issue I felt like saying something relating to the magazine’s first year of existence. Being a totally independent outfit has meant having a lot more freedom to speak minds than is often possible in a publication owned and operated by a large corporation. In CRASH we have tried to offer writers the freedom to say what they want, and although this can sometimes lead to the risk of libel (for all sorts of odd things), responsible writers can make good use of it. There is a computer magazine (no names but it has a big letter) that claimed to be outspoken, irreverent and newsy — in fact just what young computer owners wanted. But being irreverent isn’t what people really want, I suspect. You can be subversive in attitude, certainly light-hearted, but all these attitudes must be underlain with a core of seriousness, otherwise the comments made aren’t worth the paper they are printed on. In other words, it’s one thing to have fun and quite another to be redundant.
Any magazine that relies on advertising revenue for much of its monthly income is obviously put in an invidious position when it comes to taking money from an advertiser who later discovers that his product has been heavily and negatively criticised. I have often had the impression that more pressure gets put on CRASH than on others along the lines of, ‘no good review, no ad booking,’ and whilst one can’t exactly blame an advertiser for the attitude, it seems odd that the same advertiser will still take space in other magazines when they either ignore his product or treat it just as we may have done, i.e. say that the game is rubbish. Perhaps it underlines the fact that CRASH would seem to have become, as several people in the business have said, the trade buying guide for Spectrum software. Trade papers, on the whole, steer clear of making personal comment on product, their job being to help sell it. I’m not saying that we have felt too much of this (unfair?) pressure over the year, but it has been there.
On the other hand we have probably laid ourselves open to this pressure because software houses often ring to see if a game has been reviewed and how it did. If we know, we tend to tell them. My experience from the other side of the fence has been that if you try that with most other computer publications they will tell you that they cannot tell you anything because they are not allowed to. Their advertisement manager, however, is very likely (if he knows) to ring you up and offer you a select choice of bits of the review — naturally the bits that make the review sound like a happy one. The truth is, that the British software scene is really quite small, quite close knit, magazine personnel get to know their advertisers quite well, it can hurt to have to say to someone you know and like that their game is a load of rubbish. But without the freedom to say so, if it’s true, a magazine like CRASH loses all credibility. The real answer is that software houses should just produce the very best. But that’s utopian!
One thing I have noticed during this year, and am thankful for, is that if we slip up over a review in any way, you are all very quick to say so. At the end of the day, whether the accolade of being also a trade guide is true or not, CRASH is here for the buyers of software as well as for the producers of software.
On a slightly different aspect of the same subject, we are carrying an article this issue about Imagine and its demise, as seen (largely) through the eyes of the BBC film crew who worked with Imagine right up to the end. This is a touchy subject because much of what is known or has been said by people involved, is personal. Normally a publication is expected to take a very impartial view of anything on which it reports, and I hope what is written (by me in fact) is at least balanced. To be impartial in this case is not easy because Imagine owed CRASH a lot of money at a time when we desperately needed it. There has been a suggestion by a person connected with the Imagine business that if we say anything he does not like that we will be running the risk of a libel suit. It seems ironical that CRASH should lose a lot of money in what can only be seen as morally dubious circumstances and then risk losing more to the very people to whom we first lost it and who benefited in some small way by it. I mention all this because I don’t want anyone to think that the article is written in any vengeful sense because it isn’t. And to those who have said to me that it all happened six months ago, why bring it up again, I can only reply that the story has not been fully told (Bruce Everiss has had a long piece published in Your Computer, but it’s by no means the whole of it) and a function of CRASH is to inform on more than just the games. I don’t claim that this is the entire story either — for that we will probably have to wait a long while, by which time we really may not care — but it certainly includes material that hasn’t been mentioned before.
As a rather good illustration of what I was saying earlier in the piece above, we will be carrying a pretty extensive map of Psytraxx the game from The Edge, in next month’s issue. I say it’s an illustration because The Edge did come in for a bit of sniping from our News Input pages a couple of months back and the review of the game, while not bad, was not over enthusiastic. Nevertheless, there are a lot of people out there playing it and getting hopelessly lost in the thousands of rooms while doing so. Showing there are no hard feelings over a few remarks, The Edge have given CRASH the exclusive right to print the map of Psytraxx which I hope will give a helping hand to the many stranded deep in the PCBs and chips!.
Incidentally, we are looking forward to seeing the next release from The Edge, called Brian Bloodaxe. It’s been described as an ‘incredibly complex game’ which features the hero battling his way through an unfriendly platform environment. There are 104 screens and a lot of clues and objects to be found along the way. Ultimately, the aim is to find the valuable hidden treasure, but everything possible happens to make this an extremely difficult task. We’ll be reviewing Brian Bloodaxe next month, when it’s business back to usual and Christmas out of the way!
Have a happy holiday, and enter every competition, the prizes are well worth it!