LM’s Forum

What a relief — I was dreading hundreds more letters on sexism in software! (There were dozens, but by the standards of my mailbag that’s not too overwhelming.) So we’ve got room for some other subjects, finally. November’s Letter Of The Month prize — £30 worth of software of the winner’s choice — goes to Paul Clements. And it’s not just because he writes about how expensive games have become...


Dear Lloyd
Why oh why are computer games so expensive? £10 for a ‘full-price’ game is a mighty bit expensive, but recently I have noticed some offenders costing 13, 14, 15 pounds for a game. I refer to, of course, Last Ninja 2 and Driller.

£15 for a package? OK, Driller is a revolution in 3-D graphics, but why so dear? Incentive have brought out Dark Side, the sequel to Driller, at ten pounds (less a penny), nearly a fiver cheaper.

My next point concentrates on licences — coin-ops, films etc. Acquiring the licences costs a lot of money, so I am told, and the budget remaining on the programming of the game is left severely deflated.

Maybe the coin-ops are great fun to play at home, but original games are fun too. Even so, a year or so later the full-price conversion usually is rereleased on budget for a couple of pounds. I suppose you pay for the latest game at the ‘latest’ price (?).

I also believe that pirating of games is partly due to the price of the game. Lower prices mean that the games would become more affordable by a lot more people, so pirating would probably decline.

Judging from your CRASHtionnaire (Issue 54) most of your readers are between 13 and 15. I get about £7 a month for pocket money. If the prices of games were lowered to, say, five or six pounds a game, I would be able to afford more games more often.
Paul Clements

The price is never right, is it Paul! They certainly have gone up, but there are reasons for this.

NUMBER ONE: most programmers now get paid far more than they used too, and it takes longer to produce the sophisticated full-price games of today than it did to write the old 48K favourites.

I’m sure you’ll agree that this has had some good results! You did have some very complimentary comments to make about Driller and Firefly which unfortunately there wasn’t room for.

NUMBER TWO: software houses are much larger organisations than they used to be. This means they have more secretaries, mortgages, company credit-card bills and so on to pay. (Does that sound familiar, Ed?)

And don’t forget the rising tide of inflation (or whatever it is they say in headlines). And there’s also the fact that software shops and distributors (the middlemen between the software houses and shops) have to take their cut...

For my money, a far more difficult question is why hardware is so expensive — actual production costs of a computer are only a fraction of what you pay. But that’s another story, and Grandma always tells me not to whinge!


from Simon Howard


Dear Lloyd
This Christmas I will be flogging my old rubber-keyed Speccy. I am thinking of buying a +3 but I have also considered a SAM but it sounds too good to be true. Could you advise me? I have also considered a 16-bit machine but 400 quid seems steep for my budget. Even if I buy a 16-bit I will still be an avid reader of CRASH as it is Mega-Cosmic.

I always read the Forum but I’m not finished yet. Jetman is Mega-Mega-MEGA-Acey! I can’t understand how all these people criticising CRASH find their material — I can find nothing wrong with CRASH. May another 50 issues grace our presence!
Damian Johnson

Mega-what? They didn’t have words like that when I was at school!

SAM — now there’s a problem. As nobody’s actually seen a finished version of SAM no-one knows how good it’s going to be. I think it’s pretty certain that it will indeed appear by the New Year, probably at the ZX Microfair in December (see you there...), and be between £100 and £150.

Some people have been saying that Amstrad will sue Miles Gordon Technology if it’s too close to the Spectrum, but I think that’s just scarifying. I haven’t heard a whisper of it happening, and these whispers tend to reach the Towers.

The only caution I’d give you is to wait a little while and see how well SAM does before you buy one. Miles Gordon Technology are a very reputable company, but if — for some reason — SAM is a flop you may find that things like add-ons and repair services are difficult to come by.


Kevin O’Brien has given the new reviewing system a CRASH Smash. Most of the letters I received about the ‘new look’ were favourable, though one or two people worried we’d thrown the baby away with the bathwater! I think it’s clear this month that the baby’s still there in clean fresh water. Now for Kevin’s ratings...


Excellent presentation all round. I particularly like the occasional doodles on the bottom of the pages.


Good full-colour screenshots with humorous captions. Sometimes the captions get mixed up (see Combat School review). (Just keeping you on your toes! — Lloyd)


A good sum-up of the game and quite fair ratings, but I feel that there should be an individual mark for the sound. (So do many readers — I’ve told the Ed.)


I love the criticisms which are usually funny and fair. My favourite fool is NICK. (Mine too. — Lloyd)


An excellent new feature which is very helpful and ultratrendy (Eh? Is that like ‘mega-ACE’? — Lloyd). I feel that even the most pathetic games (usually from Firebird) need tips too.


I enjoy any small attempts at humour no matter how irrelevant they are.


A CRASH Smash!


Dear Lloyd
I am afraid that this, my first letter to you, is going to be a moaning letter. Firstly, I, like many readers, am annoyed that all too often, there are mistakes in numbers, in both POKE listings and in your indexes. Why? Can you not count, or read numbers?

Secondly, why do so many computer games for the Spectrum always have screenshots of STs, Amigas, Commodore 64s etc, but not Speccy screenshots? The graphics on other formats might be great, but I don’t really care! The same can be said for adverts. The ST is 464K more powerful than my humble ol’ Speccy, so obviously it has graphics which are completely different in quality to the Spectrum. Is something going to get done about this?

Thirdly and lastly, I come to the point made by Christopher Jones in issue 56, about the fact that he thinks that the Speccy is a dying breed. I think that Speccy sales are up because it is mainly used by scholars (and some OAPs).

I, as a scholar, preferred the Speccy as it was cheap, and the games are of good quality for a reasonable price. The ‘all-the-craze’ 16-bits cost more than most parents would want to spend, and the games cost too much. I am perfectly happy with the quality of my games, and using CRASH’s advice, I know that I can readily select the best of the bunch, especially with budget games which I buy and am pleased with.
Philip Seagrove

I’m all too used to moaning letters — but one point at a time please! First of all, the numbers... there’s really no excuse for the POKEs being wrong, and Nick does try to check them all before they’re printed. I think you’ll find we’re getting better at this. As for the numbers in indexes, the problem there is that sometimes there are last-minute changes to the ‘flat plan’ (one of Ed’s terms — the list of what’s on what page) and we don’t have time to incorporate them.

As for the screenshots (whew!), I’m not sure if you’re talking about ads or packaging. In the case of ads, it often happens that a game is finished on one format (say the Commodore 64) before the Spectrum, but they still want to advertise the Spectrum verslon. The ads should always say that it’s a screenshot from a different format, though.

On packaging, and also on ads to some extent, it’s really to do with printing costs. Printing the full-colour outside of an inlay takes a lot of money, and it’s cheaper if the same inlay can be used for all formats with only the name of the computer changed.

It may also be something to do with some versions looking better than others — but that would be cynical, wouldn’t it?!

The Speccy ‘mainly used by scholars and OAPs’? Come on — I thought Granny and I were the only ones!


Dear Lloyd
I felt I had to write and congratulate everyone involved with CRASH’s Monitor, I think it’s brilliant! It helps us to see the more menacing side of the computer, which we’ve come to see as a friendly playmate or business associate.

I found it frightening to think that computers have caused the loss of human life and nearly caused a Third World War. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why we have computers in areas where a mistake on the part of the computer or its operator could cause disaster.

A computer is rational and logical and always deals with a situation in a set way. At least a human will always deal with a situation using impulse and initiative.
Katrina Fisher

Yes, but isn’t that a problem too? A sensibly-programmed computer would never have assassinated Archduke Francis Ferdinand in Sarajevo and started the First World War... but a man did.

Let’s face it, the world is too complicated for a person or a computer to always make the right decision. There’s just too much data, if you want to put it that way. (I heard somewhere that a computer could be developed to predict the next day’s weather with total accuracy — only it would take 24 hours to do it, by which time the forecast would be useless!)

Oh and by the way — I’m sure your history teacher will tell you my theory about an assassination setting off the First World War is hopelessly out of date. It’s a long time since I’ve studied history...


Dear Lloyd
Ewan Dalton’s letter of CRASH Issue 56 was interesting in several ways, not least because his comments are borne out by my own experience...

On an edition of London Plus in August there was a report on the National Computer Games Championships (partly organised by CRASH — Lloyd). The intrepid media person accosted a spotty competitor...

Q: What’s this game about, then? A: Well, yew av ter blow up der narsties and nick der saykred tasil- latism- err, jool (etc).

Cut to sleepy-looking 18-year-old...

Q: How long do you use your computer?
A: Oh, about 17 hours a day, (I kid you not.)
Q: Don’t you get bored?
A: No, I just play games until I finish them...

It’s a vicious circle: it all started with Micro Live praising up the BBC Micro and condemning all the others as toys. So, if you wear long trousers and own a computer, it’s either for business or you’re ‘unstable’.

Faced with such stereotyping, you keep quiet to avoid the embarrassment — thus the outward appearance is that only pubescent juveniles use computers for games.
John A Swan

I’m in complete agreement John, and I think it’s a pity that computers — which are now one of the Western world’s most popular purveyors of entertainment — are seen as eccentric hobbies.

Oh, if you ever run into Erstwhile Man Ed B Page’s sister in Gillingham, tell her I’m still enjoying that honey!


Dear Lloyd
Why don’t fanzines send in a copy of their fanzine, and CRASH picks the best couple. They send the fanzines some recommendation letters. The fanzine then sends the recommendation letter and a request for a game to software houses.

Oh yes, don’t dare give me an answer less than 20 words.

By the way, is Mel Croucher a forecaster of doom? He’s got more doom than EastEnders!!
David Aitken

Excellent idea — I’m telling Ed. The only problem is that software houses might hold CRASH responsible for fanzines’ activities!
(PS: That’s 19. And yes, he is.)


Dear Lloyd
People slag off computer and arcade games, but gambling machines, which are in my view far more pointless than the good old coin-ops, never seem to turn any heads.

For instance, say a new café opens in the high street and becomes quite popular. Then the owner decides to put a coin-op machine in, say Double Dragon (my fave beat-’em-up). Little by little by little people start to moan.

But if the owner replaces it with a one-armed bandit, people come in and say: ‘Oh, a one-armed bandit. Nothing wrong with that! Put money in and gamble it. Fact of life.’ People like that don’t think that you nearly always lose more than you win, and at least you get the satisfaction of finishing off a thug in Double Dragon!

Keep up the good work, and whatever happens, DON’T GIVE UP THE FORUM, as it’s one of the best features in CRASH!!!
Chris Dand

PS Hi to Kev, Mark, Matt, Andy & Rachel, Mum, Dad, Louise, and James

What a friendly fellow you are Chris. I suppose one-armed bandits require a certain skill — they must, because I always lose while others win (so I haven’t bothered for years). But you do lose approximately 30p of every pound you invest, over the long term.

Perhaps it’s because they don’t have violence, unlike coin-ops. Or perhaps people are just too conservative. Standards are strange where money is concerned; after all, it’s perfectly acceptable to bet on horses (and even slightly upper-class, if you do it the right way), but play cards for money and you’re branded an underworld character.

Anyone for poker (and not the Sam Fox variety)?

One good turn deserves another, as grandma says, so I’m off for another go on Draconus.

Here’s a topic to get you writing letters (as if you need one...): what will Spectrum games be like a year from now?

So now it’s time to put Hermes to Basildon Bond — well, pen to paper — and write about Speccies, software, sex, CRASH, coin-ops, killer computers, people, Psycho Pigs UXB or even — dare I mention it? — pizza.

Please don’t send Forum letters in the same envelope as comp entries — It makes the Mail Minion miserable.