The anniversaries are coming thick and fast this year — Christmas, the Australian bicentenary, 150 years since my grandmother first said ‘do as you would be done by’, and so on. The last burst of CRASH’s historical extravaganza — the conclusion of the CRASH Directory — is this month too, so it seems £30 of software should go to the first letter for its moving tribute to the half-century of CRASH... which seems like 50 years sometimes.
I’m sure you’re aware that next February CRASH reaches a quite brilliant half-century of issues. I’m sure you’re planning a rather special issue for the time and may I be among the first to congratulate you, as a loyal reader, with every precious issue stored away in a tidy heap in my bedroom. Times have changed since the early days of 3D Deathchase, Ant Attack and Bugaboo but for me those will always be the best days. The CRASH History is a lovely piece of nostalgia for us fans of the old classics like Football Manager, Manic Miner and The Hobbit. I remember you saying once that CRASH is ‘not just a magazine, more a way of life’. So true. After a TV interview, one of your team said ‘yesterday we were just nobodies, now we’re only bigger nobodies’. Well, for one Spectrum-owner the names of Lloyd Mangram and Robin Candy will rank alongside Freddie Mercury and Ian Rush among my childhood memories. The down to earth chit-chat style, some call it self indulgence, arouses a special magic in me.
What does it matter that the solution to Everyone’s A Wally is given away, that arcade adventures appear in an adventure chart, that games are not given a percentage rating for sound or that Match Day is not Smashed? To some young people it matters one hell of a lot. The Spectrum is more than a toy — it, like CRASH becomes a way of life. It’s escapism, it gives a fed up mind a reason to live — like a drug if you like. You’ve got no girlfriend, no money and mum and dad are always on your back but you can kick hell out of a few Ninjas and sabre-toothed orcs. It whiles away those cold, dreary lonely nights by sending you off to the forest of Dreams in the Land of Midnight, Atic Atac’s Castle or whatever tickles your fancy.
In-depth reviews, a superb Hotline Chart, comprehensive playing tips, great competitions, catering for minority tastes like educational programs and PBM. I’ve read the Terminal Man over and over again, loved exploring the game maps (the original Jet Set Willy map set new standards in playing tips and I won’t ever forget the perfect Knight Lore drawing) and will never forget the thrill when I first got a letter published in the magazine. Incredibly trendy sarcasm or pretend fantasy writers just do not work, so I’m so glad CRASH has stuck to good old homely Brewster, Stone, Kean and Mangram — to a reader like me you lot begin to get a bit like soap opera people rather than real person up in the place called Ludlow only famous for its Safari Park really.
Well, now that I’ve flattered the lot of you and thanked you ever so kindly, I’d like to present these amazing statistics based on the CRASH Hotlines for issues 1-46...
Personally, I find this makes quite interesting reading. If anybody wants to know who’s had most Number Ones on either chart I’ll say that every producer with more than one Number One does appear in each ‘Most Issues at No 1 by producer’ chart, so If you understand what I’m saying you can work it out for yourself.
PS Do you realise it’s 3 years since Ultimate released Knight Lore/Underwurlde. THREE YEARS! How time flies, I don’t know!
Roger Kean, who moves from subject to subject and is about to
move to the Philippines for four weeks, promises me he’s got some inside info
on what Ultimate’s been doing SINCE Knight Lore and
Underwurlde — coming soon. In the meantime, I can see Robin and I are
going to argue over who gets to be Freddie Mercury and who’s Ian Rush — but
thanks for your comparisons Mike. The Spectrum does become a way of life, as
you say, though whether that’s an entirely healthy thing I don’t know. (There
must be more to life than this...) And your last paragraph belongs on a puzzle
page, so try this one: if 49 issues of CRASH each measured 210cm by 300cm and
there were 88 lines of 8-point text on each line written by a staff of five in
three weeks flat on a desk that’s not big enough, should Match Day
have been a Smash?
Having read Jonathan Khan’s letter (Issue 48) it looks like you did no research for your reply. Advice was to buy a + 2 as more bits were needed if bought an Atari. What bits? Compare.
+2 £139, built in Datacorder
+3 £199, built in disk drive
Atari 520 STFM £299 built in disk drive and lead for TV
The advert also stated that 6 free games came with the +2 and +3. WH Smith is giving away 6 free games with the 520 ST. What more bits do you need?? Also, the +2, +3 and 48K machines that page in/out different memory pages. The 520 ST is 512K all accessible.
Simon N Goodwin (Issue 48) says that the ST is a disposable machine? At £299 disposable?? Also that games are just prettier versions of 8 bit games. I agree that at the moment a lot of the games are upgrades of 8 bit ones but they are much better than the Spectrum ones. In GFL Championship Football on Spectrum the linemen can’t be seen individually. It is just a whole mess due to colour clashes!! The Atari version is much more clear with one team in red and one in blue. No colour clashes.
Once the sales of the ST rise, better games will be released using the 16 bit chip to its full. Remember when the 16K Spectrum appeared the first games were upgrades of ZX81 games.
The Spectrum is now an ancient computer and the quality of the games will not improve. 16 bit computers are now ‘the’ computers. The Amiga and ST are similar to the C64 and the Spectrum. One has better sound and graphics but the other is substantially cheaper. More people will buy the ST for the same reasons more people bought the Spectrum. As sales increase so will quality of software until the 68000 processor is pushed to its limits as the Z80 has been pushed.
Don’t be short-sighted Lloyd, get into a magazine that deals with 16-bit
I hate to pull a truism on you Henry, but the opposite of
short-sighted is long-sighted. The hyperopic (LMLWD) can see forever, but not
the end of their nose — and there’s no sense abandoning the Spectrum now when
the standards of 16-bit games (in graphics, particularly) are filtering down to
the 8-bit programmers. The ST’s a fine machine (I’m an Impact fan as you
probably guessed last month) but the quality of Spectrum games is
improving — look at the number of high Smashes we’ve had lately — and the
argument that it’s ancient’ is a nonstarter. The ‘latest’ technology is always
hyped and it’s very easy to be a victim of fashion.
A few months ago I bought a +3. When I opened the box I found there was no cassette lead so I looked in the manual and it told me that I could get a suitable cassette lead quite easily. I went to our local Dixons and asked for one. They didn’t know anything about it so I finally ended up visiting every electrical shop in Aberystwyth until finally one shop told me that no such lead existed and it would cost a fiver for them to make one, I shelled out a fiver and when I tried to plug it in, the plug wouldn’t fit, I had to cut most of the rubber protective casing off the jack before it would fit.
My problems didn’t end there — I had written programs of my own on my old 128K Speccy and I had to plug my +3 up to my MIDI system with tone and volume at full blast to load them.
Then a couple of months ago I started subscription to CRASH and saw a preview of the Multiface 3. You made it look so good I bought one and have found that a +3 and a Multiface 3 are a brilliant team. I would not recommend buying a +3 without buying a Multiface 3 too.
I have also found that if you erase and resave things on disk the disk gets
corrupted after a lot of use and regular formatting is needed.
Neil ‘The Computerised Rocker’ Humphreys
You may be the computerised rocker but there’s only one
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRGGGHHH!!!!!!!! Now you may (or may not) be wondering why such a strange expression of feeling starts this letter. Well, the weird combination of letters and punctuation brings across my feeling towards one of your staff. I am fed up with Mike Dunn writing every issue that every screen printed gets a full colour framed and mounted screen dump courtesy of Rainbird.
This month (Issue 48) he wrote how his extra room would be just the ‘usual barefaced editorial lie’. Who is he to talk about lying? I don’t know about other On The Screen artists, but I have had two screens printed, one in Issue 45 (October), and one as far back as Issue 43 (August), but have had no sign of any screen dump. In Issue 46, we were told ‘don’t despair. Rainbird’s Clare Edgeley is on the case.’
I have already written twice to Mike D. and once to the Forum, but have had no reply. Please can you just tell me, and many other people trying to get the promised dump, why they are not forthcoming, and when they will be?
I also have a couple of complaints to make: Why is it that you are always complaining about lack of space, and then you waste it all by putting a Christmas logo right in the middle of your Forum?
I’d just like to say well done for the massive amount of pull-outs in the
Christmas Special, the CRASH history, the 3-D bits, the concise reviews, the
exclusive previews, the excellent tips, the good covers, the arcade reviews,
the CRASH sampler, the colour screenshots, the numerous competitions and the
great features; need I say more? CRASH is still the best.
We are very aware of the On The Screen problems and are
genuinely trying to sort them out — to be honest perhaps there’s more
administration involved than we’d planned for, which is why things have been
moving slowly. Just keep on hassling Mike D and you’ll get through his
headphones eventually. Lack of space is a funny thing — there’s never enough
space for all the different articles you want to print but then there’s always
those few inches too much for the ones you end up with!
As an American staying with my pen-pal on a brief visit to your country I’m not fully justified to take part in your Forum. I have only seen the last two issues of CRASH and am not, to be honest very knowledgeable on the state of Spectrum software. However, I thought you might appreciate a different perspective.
In general, I was pleasantly surprised by the British software industry. Sure, most of my friends have 16-bit micros, and our software is accordingly more sophisticated, with disk adventures comprising an entire world and arcade-standard graphics, but I now believe that in comparison to the British industry, in particular that of the smaller and older micros like the Spectrum, the human factor is somewhat lacking. The ‘homeliness’ of the Spectrum seems to have created a friendly, human atmosphere with friendly rivalry and programmers who seem like real people. CRASH reflects this atmosphere, with its jokey insults towards other magazines like C&VG and Sinclair User (which, as far as I can judge from seeing a few issues, come across as tacky, amateur imitations of the Newsfield magazines), I think you have achieved a very good balance between professional and informality. CRASH with its many illustrations, colourful appearance and good layout looks neither too strictly ordered nor sloppy and unprofessional. However (it had to come) the human element I praised above has resulted in what I feel are human errors. I hope you will take these points in the spirit of constructive criticism in which they are offered.
Firstly, the feature called Run It Again last month presented eight games with little in common apart from the fact that they all featured something with two or more wheels. Now, I have been well informed on this and I cannot see any connection between Turbo Esprit, Paperboy, Enduro Racer and Glider Rider. One is a ‘cockpit’ view game about drug dealers, one is a humorous arcade game, one is an isometric game (about a hangglider, for God’s sake), and the last is a straightforward motorbike racer. Neither the graphics, the gameplay or the scenarios have anything in common, and to call them all ‘race games’ seemed to be stretching the genre a little. Why not group together games with the same style gameplay, for instance games based around the Nemesis theme, or Breakout games?
My second complaint is about the ‘fanzine’ in your Christmas issue. This seems a complete waste of time and space to me, and performed no task except for providing six people with a space in CRASH, and even their names had a somewhat fictional ring (Bertie Brie? Andres Whitham-Smythe?) Moreover, the content was bland and uninteresting, reviewing games already adequately covered in CRASH. The black and white screen dumps were unattractive after the colour pictures of the main magazine, and I’m afraid I can’t see how this could help any budding fanzine editor; how many of them have the equipment to dump screens from games and insert them into text as you did? You call the computers you used ‘cheap’ but the Amstrad PCW8256 costs £400 the last time I looked. All in all Crunch came across as a joke, and a pretty poor one considering that many people are struggling to sell their own, probably far more intelligent and witty, fanzines without the help of expensive equipment. One final point: if this is a one-off, why the announcement that ‘you CAN have YOUR say in the mag’?
Finally, your Forum itself. In my opinion, a few short, lightweight letters
are essential to keep the letters pages enjoyable to read, but in the issues I
have seen a good part of the letters were of lists of Top Ten 48K music. I
expect you have all heard enough criticism of the Spectrum, and I think it’s a
great little machine, but it has to be said that music is not its strong point
(even on the 128). To me, compiling these charts seems as worthwhile an
occupation as listing the Top Ten Vic games. I hope I haven’t offended too much
and that you don’t mind a few comments from a lousy Yank. CRASH is a fine
magazine despite, or perhaps because of, the occasional hiccup.
The connections between those Run It Again games may be tenuous,
but then if you want to argue the point you could say the whole ethos of Run it
Again is meaningless — it’s not as if each person just buys one
Breakout or Nemesis game and must get the best, so a strict
consumer-guide approach is pointless. Run It Again is just supposed to be a
read, a way of discussing how different games approach a similar subject
— not necessarily in the same way. Perhaps the salient point of the article
you mention was, indeed, how many different approaches to vehicles there are
on the Spectrum! On the other hand, I think your criticisms of CRUNCH are
largely justified — and the editorial team learned something about fanzines
themselves, which is that they take much, much longer to do than you
Music charts, 16-bit vs 8-bit, the state of CRASH, the wickedness of the world... letters keep on coming and when there’s space to fit them in there’s never time to get them all answered with thought-provoking comments and an elegant balance of wit and expression, typeset, printed and on the shelves in time to provoke the next mailbag. Still, keep trying ...