...at least, that was the software industry’s verdict on the tenth Personal Computer World show, which was held September 23–27 at the Olympia exhibition hall in west London.
Despite early fears of a lacklustre weekend, record-breaking attendances reassured the industry, and soon after this PCW Show the publishing giant EMAP abandoned plans for a rival exhibition. Preparations are already under way for next year’s PCW Show, where it is expected games will be more heavily emphasised then ever before.
An eight-person CRASH team brings you this full report on the tenth PCW Show, and BEN STONE starts it off with a roundup of software launched or promised at the exhibition.
THE SOFTWARE INDUSTRY has once again done its thing. All the hard work that’s been going on in darkened programming pits and PR agencies across the country has come to fruition (‘well, we’ve got some screen shots and a video on the stand but we’re expecting a preview/running demo/review/production copy on Friday at 5.30, so we’ll let you see it then’ — nervous laugh).
The lights have been switched off; the stands — some homely, some impressive and some imposing — have been demolished; the business people have gone back to the office to talk marketing. MDs congratulate themselves; public-relations people sit back, satisfied with a job well done; the programmers reshuffle, take a day’s break (to regain feeling in their numbed fingers) and then make a start on the next game; and the freelance journalists, always the last to leave anything, leg it off to the Foot And Mouth with the PR minions to become newtlike without spending any money.
More than 75,000 people attended, according to management estimates — more than ever before, and 9,000 more than last year.
But while the software industry puffs on its aprés-PCW Show cigarette, I’m trying to remember everything that happened. Why remember? Well, I had my notebook nicked...
One of the most notable occurrences of the show was the signing of a contract between Telecomsoft (which owns Rainbird and Firebird) and the programming team Graftgold. The men behind Graftgold are Steve Turner (programmer of the Seiddab trilogy. Avalon and Quazatron) and Andrew Braybrook (programmer of Uridium and Paradroid on the C64). These two will be joined by Dominic Robinson (Spectrum Uridium) and John Cumming, both from Hewson.
But probably the most exciting news from Telecomsoft for Spectrum-owners is the arrival of Dark Sceptre, which was first previewed in 1986. Programmer Mike Singleton was walking around the show with a finished Spectrum version in his pocket, according to rumour.
Also announced at the show was the arrival of Carrier Command from Rainbird. This game puts you in command of an aircraft carrier, its fighters and weaponry. Realtime Software, the authors, use their filled-in-vector-graphics technique.
Among the coin-ups on the Telecomsoft stand was Flying Shark. Another Christmas release is Firebird’s Enlightenment (being a CRASH reader you’re already enlightened of course!), the sequel to that label’s Druid. Druid, incidentally, was so popular that it’s now been converted to the Japanese Nintendo system.
Ocean had a huge stand littered with arcade machines and TV monitors — and surprisingly few game demos. One of the few was Combat School: this conversion incorporates a nice control method to get around the trackball problem.
Videos on the stand constantly ran promos for Madballs (a toy licence), Platoon (a film licence), Where Time Stood Still (resembling The Great Escape) and Flash Point (a fast strategy game).
The Imagine side of the stand had promos for Gryzor, Rastan and Victory Road (all arcade licences), and Freddy Hardest and Navy Moves from Dinamic, the people who did Army Moves.
Activision, System Three, Electric Dreams and Infocom had some 31 new games between them. Spectrum releases included Bangkok Knights, International Karate Plus and The Last Ninja all from System Three and all distinctly Oriental.
Electric Dreams has several arcade licences in the pipeline: these include Championship Sprint (a similar idea to The Deeper Dungeons, the Gauntlet add-on, with a track designer), Super Hang-On (a motorbike-racing game), Firetrap (Crazy Climber with flames!) and Karnov (a Ghosts ’N’ Goblins variant).
Activision itself is releasing Rampage and Knightmare (see previews), Predator (Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new movie) and Galactic Games (the invertebrate Olympics?!?).
US Gold, always a biggie, had OutRun, 720° and Gauntlet II arcade games on show. Its fairly imminent Spectrum releases include Charlie Chaplin (which gives you the chance to become a silent-movie director), Rygar, and those three coin-op conversions.
The American house Epyx, marketed in Britain by US Gold, has the Spectrum version of California Games skateboarding ultracoolly over the horizon.
GO!, US Gold’s latest label, has four major releases due out before December: Wizard Warz (a role-playing game), Captain America and Bravestarr (two cartoon tie-ins) and Lazer Tag, now the best-selling toy in the US.
And GO! has the rights to three Capcom arcade machines: Side Arms (reviewed in CRASH Issue 39; a shoot-em-up in the vein of Salamander), Speed Rumbler (another shoot-em-up), and Bionic Commando (yet another shoot-’em-up, but with a touch of the six-million-dollar man thrown in for good measure).
CRL, now distributed in the UK by Electronic Arts (see feature) has Jack The Ripper — by a strange coincidence the Ripper murders are a century old this year. Also coming from CRL are Oink!, the computer game based on IPC’s cult comic (and heralded by a special comic in CRASH Issue 42), Lords Of Midnight, Traction, Plasmatron, I-Alien, Vengeance, Jet Boy, Mandroid, Thunder Cross, Lifeforce and Discovery.
Endurance Games has the licence of the board game Eye, described by Lee Rodwell in The Times as ‘more challenging and complex than chess’; and Addictive released — wait for it — Football Manager 2.
One of the most impressive stands at the show belonged to MicroProse. The stand itself was remarkably well-designed and pretty too, but what stood out most was the queue for the rather splendid night simulator promoting Gunship. This was overseen by a berompersuited ‘Wild’ Bill Stealey, President of the US-based company. And as for interesting Spectrum releases, Gunship looks like it’s the only one in the MicroProse pipeline.
Just when you thought you’d never see his stupid face on the Spectrum again, Quicksilva goes and digs him out of his grave — yes, Pac-Man’s back, This time he isn’t going around gobbling dots; in Pac-Land, he’s helping a lost fairy get home to fairyland!
Argus Press Software previewed The Hunt For Red October at The PCW Show. It’s a submarine game based around, er, well, the sea really.
Mirrorsoft announced the coming of Andy Capp, a veteran of Mirror Group newspaper comics, on computer; Martech previewed the November release of Nigel Mansell’s Grand Prix. Martech also has Sláine, based on the 2000AD character.
Ariolasoft’s labels have them a fair number of Speccy games. The Pink Panther and Tom And Jerry are coming on the Magic Bytes label; both will appear on the Spectrum in early 1988. There’s also Clever And Smart, a game about two private detectives.
The Viz label has Werewolves Of London, which will be a hairy affair, and Reaktör (launched in midsummer with three Spectrum titles but rather quiet since) has a beat-em-up in store: Bushido Warrior.
From Virgin Games comes Action Force by Gang Of Five: this promises to be similar to the same group’s Dan Dare. The boardgames Scrabble De Luxe and Scruples (previewed this month) are also on the way.
The Novagen people were whispering about Damocles — Mercenary II and it looks like it’ll be around sometime next spring — yippee!
Piranha was a year old at the show, and celebrated with a cosy, almost homely stand — real, goldfish-devouring piranhas notwithstanding — featuring more new games than most software houses. There were running demos of Yogi Bear, Judge Death and Gunboat, all of which will be out in November. Roy Of The Rovers is expected early in 1988, and Through The Trap Door should be reviewed in the next CRASH. Domark’s stand was in a quiet and shady corner of Olympia, where Directors Do(minic Wheatley) and Mark (Strachan) lounged resplendent in blazers and straw boaters, the like of which ha never before been seen at The PCW show. Spiffing, really.
Jeffrey Archer — the well-known one — graced the stand with his presence on Wednesday, the first day of the show, to promote the game of his book Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less. R2-D2 was there too, and what a jovial chap he turned out to be: the little &*!!!* ** squirted me with water. He was, of course, there to promote Star Wars: The Computer Game. Yes, at long last someone has licensed the coin-op.
Also launched or demonstrated on the Domark stand was a set of TV licences on the new label TV Games: Krypton Factor, a revamped version of Blockbusters, Countdown, Bullseye and Treasure Hunt. The Streetwise label previewed Unitrax (a shoot-’em-up) and The Sewer, a winner of CRASH’s age-old Genesis: Birth Of A Game competition.