LM’s Forum

‘New Year cheer ’twixt seasons drear’ — that’s what grandma muttered when I got home rather late on New Year’s Eve (well, it was New Year’s Day, actually). I’m not normally one for pubs — horrible crowded, smoky places that they are — and I felt quite unwell surrounded by all those people in the remote Abbey Inn where the Towers crew dragged me.

But that’s all by the by — I trust you all had suitably merry holidays, and that the next season won’t be too ‘drear’ where software is concerned! 1989 should be interesting, what with yet more Freescape developments promised by Incentive, some excellent-sounding Sega coin-op conversions from Activision, WEC Le Mans and Dragon Ninja from Ocean, the usual magnificent simulations from Electronic Arts, The Munsters from Again Again, and a couple of big licences from Grandslam — Thunderbirds and The Running Man...

How do they do it all? Well, this month’s £30 software prize goes to someone who wants to know just that.


Dear Lloyd
We’ve all heard of these so-called whiz kids who spring out of nowhere with a brilliant game once in a while, but what are the chances of being one? Very minimal I expect.

Well, what jobs are on offer in the computer world? And are they guaranteed? I expect that most computer programmers have their moments of glory and then are never heard of again. If your heart is set on joining a company, which is best to join? Probably a fully established one, such as Ocean.

If you want to get in on the computer scene do you need any experience? Is it possible for an ordinary person to send in ideas for games to receive any money and possibly a job?

What about a job as a reviewer, like yourself — is any experience necessary if someone wants to join the team?

I think most of us would like to be in the limelight sometime so we try to produce our own games.

We buy utilities such as GAC or PAW. Once we have produced a reasonable game, off it goes to a company. What sort of chance of getting a reply is there? Companies must get inundated with them!
Scott Maddy

It’s certainty very tough to become a professional programmer these days, but the news isn’t all bad. There is no obvious ‘training’ for programmers — it’s not like being a dentist or a chartered surveyor so software houses really do look at what they’re sent, because that’s the only way new geniuses are discovered.

Having said that, they’re unlikely to be interested in anything written with a game-creation utility — anyone worth their salt these days writes in machine code.

Large full-price houses such as Ocean increasingly employ teams of specialists: some people who only work on graphics, others who only work on music, others who only work on game-design. But it’s very difficult for a lone freelancer to match the quality of these teams, simply because it would take so long.

So if you’ve written a game which is half-decent, a budget house is a much better bet. Code Masters, Alternative, Mastertronic and Silverbird are the big names in budget now. Of course, they tend to pay less than full-price houses.

Jobs as reviewers are very difficult to find — there can’t be more than 20 or so Spectrum reviewers in the entire country. But when a position does come up, once again it’s a question more of ability than of letters after your name.

Finally, don’t forget there are thousands of people working in computing outside the games area — and much as I hate to use CRASH to promote another magazine, I’d advise you to look out for the May issue of THE GAMES MACHINE (on sale April 20). Erstwhile Man Ed Barnaby Page, who’s now across the hall at TGM, tells me he’s doing a big feature that month on all the different ways to make a living through bits and bytes.


Position Issue 48’s position Title Software house Number of times in Hotline chart Number of times Number One Score
1(1)Match DayOcean430926
4(18)GauntletUS Gold198486
5(4)Lords Of MidnightBeyond290454
8(▶)Head Over HeelsOcean160393
10(▶)Enduro RacerActivision141342
11(7)Sabre WulfUltimate166313
12(8)The Way Of The Exploding FistMelbourne House173311
13(9)Knight LoreUltimate143304
19(10)Atic AtacUltimate130294
22(12)Match PointPsion190289
23(13)Ghosts ’n’ GoblinsElite133280
24(14)Jet Set WillySoftware Protects123279
26(16)Daley Thompson’s DecathlonOcean160271
27(19)Doomdark’s RevengeBeyond150263
(▶)Match Day IIOcean94263
29(21)Manic MinerBug Byte131258
30(23)Alien 8Ultimate121249


Dear Lloyd
I must complain about the charts in CRASH. As I have bought CRASH from Issue 30 I am astonished that the charts never seem to change the games, but always show the same games month in and month out in a different position.

Why is this? I bet I could name ten games at least that will be in the charts in, say, four months’ time. Please try to do something to change this, and put the games that people think should be there to be there.
C Bradshaw

The CRASH charts depend on readers’ votes, so if anyone’s going to change things I think it has to be YOU!!!!

Obviously, some games are perennially popular, and these deserve to hold their places in the charts for months and years. But because the number of chart votes received is relatively small, just a handful of extra votes one month can tip the balance in favour of a particular game. That’s why titles often seem to go up and down without rhyme or reason.

But to see just how much things DO change in the charts, take a look at this mammoth set of figures compiled by longtime CRASHer Stephen Jaggard of Newmarket. Last year he sent us an all-time Hotline chart for Issue 48, and here’s an updated version covering Issues 4–58.

It should mostly explain itself, but there’s one thing to note: the ‘points’ in the far right column are constructed by giving a game 30 for each time it’s Number One, 29 for each time it’s Number Two, and so on down to 11 points for each appearance at Number 20. (There used to be 30 entries in the Hotline chart, so then Number 30 got one point.)


Dear Lloyd
The queries that have come to my mind over this last year have been small and would be of no bother to you in that busy tower of CRASH.

A problem I’ve had is with mail-order companies. What annoys me is that they advertise games they haven’t got. One example was The Last Ninja. CRASH previewed it in the July 1987 issue, and in January 1988 it was advertised by Activision. Foolishly, I ordered it from a mail-order company and waited three months before I found out that the game was to be abandoned and before I received my money back.

But in September I ordered System 3’s Last Ninja 2. I was convinced that it was finished, as a POKE for it had been printed in another Spectrum mag, and the CRASH demo had been released. So I ordered it from a different company.

Now in Issue 59 you reviewed it, and after waiting for nearly two months I still haven’t received my game.

I’m sure my first delay was not the fault of anybody, just a mistake and I accept that. But this second delay must be the fault of someone, unless Last Ninja 2 doesn’t exist either and someone’s been leading me on.
Chris Welstu

Mail-order companies are an excellent idea as they save trudging round the shops, but unfortunately there are a lot of cowboys in the business. If you order a game and you don’t receive it within a reasonable period — say three or four weeks (the company’s ad will usually say how long it takes) — KEEP ON BOTHERING THEM.

Phone and write once or twice a week till you’ve received a satisfactory answer — it may be that the game really was delayed in production, but they shouldn’t advertise it unless they know it’s going to be available.

If you still don’t have any luck, ask your parents if they’d get their lawyer to write a letter. This will cost very little if anything at all — it’s a very quick job for a solicitor’s office — but will probably scare the company into dealing with your order.

Finally, if nothing comes of that either, contact the Advertising Standards Authority. They don’t have any legal power, but investigate hundreds of cases of misleading advertisements, and publish regular reports — which seriously embarrass the firms mentioned! The ASA, which is a very helpful and sensible organisation, gets particularly upset at people who advertise things which aren’t available.

If you do get in touch, let them know CRASH sent you — and ask for a copy of their Silver Jubilee information booklet, which is fascinating!
Good luck,


Dear Gentlemen
I am a Russian computer amateur writing to you on an urgent matter. I am 15 years old and I am learning in an English-oriented school: since the age of 14 I have been a computer lover.

Because there is a shortage of good computers in our country, almost all Soviets who like computer games and programming must make little computers themselves, but some problems arise with components purchase. Nevertheless, a year ago I made my first machine — the design was taken from a Soviet hobby magazine.

Computer includes a 8080 CPU, 2K 2716 EPROM and 32K RAM of 16 4116 ICs [integrated circuits]. It is working pretty well, but has poor graphics — the video controller includes an 8275 IC.

Because of that, many of us are looking for a design with better graphics, and containing components available in Russia. A year ago many chose the Sinclair ZX Spectrum model, which meets these requirements, though some rare special ICs like the ULA controller are not available here.

Looking through recent Sinclair magazines, I saw your advertising material devoted to the Spectrum +3 model and was very interested in it. I need to get some info from you about it: schematic diagrams, EPROM BIOS content, etc.

I would love to purchase your +3, but as you may know we Russians can’t handle foreign currency, it’s a crime here, and we can’t use roubles [Soviet currency] for overseas purchases, either.

You may be interested to know that some Russians who have purchased the ZX Specrum while abroad as tourists have sold it here for more than 2,000 roubles [about nine months’ average wages]. But the customs and government have banned or limited the purchase of computers abroad, enlarging the interest and speculation everywhere.

I am writing this letter using a ‘home-brewed’ Sinclair ZX Spectrum in ‘Russian style’, made by one of my friends.
Oleg Marveyev

Can anyone help Oleg by sending him circuit diagrams etc of the +3? He asked for his letter to be sent on to Amstrad, the Spectrum manufacturers, which we’ll do but I thought a reader might be more willing to assist.

It’s amazing how much the Spectrum is selling for on the Russian black market — much the same is true of other Western electronic luxuries, like video recorders. Though the Soviet authorities have developed their own PCs and mainframes, they obviously haven’t got into home computers yet, despite that wonderful Mirrorsoft game Tetris, which came from Russia!

Unfortunately, they’re also hampered by somewhat ridiculous American laws which forbid many US computer companies to sell advanced technology into the USSR. So much for international understanding...

I tried the Department Of Trade And Industry to see it there was any problem with sending Spectrum circuit diagrams to the USSR, but it seemed all of Whitehall was still away on Christmas holiday. (Nice work if you can get It.) So, as grandma says, on your head be it!

Oleg’s letter has been edited a little to make it clearer, but his English wasn’t bad... no worse than half the dialects I hear in little Ludlow.


An all-time Top Ten

PS Am I the first person to finish Joe Blade II? Just to prove I’m not telling porkies, here is the end message:

‘Congratulations! You have performed very admirably in completing your clean of the city.’
Benjamin Durkin


I am just writing to say thank you for producing such a high-quality magazine.

It is totally brilliant up-to-date reviews, fantastic cover tapes, brilliant prizes and much much more!

CRASH is megabrill, every review is in colour and not blurred, fantastic cover games, tech news, video news, millions of competitions with brilliant prizes, millions of pages, millions of reviews, playing tips and much, much more!

But my only disappointment about the magazine is that there is no page on the latest arcade machines and no arcade games charts. But who cares! While every other magazine is going down in standards yours is going up and up, a pleasure to read and buy.
Gary Holcombe

PS The RoboCop demo was great!

I’ve just noticed my hat doesn’t fit anymore.


Dear Lloyd
Recently, late August in fact, I bought an Atari ST. I thought it was a far superior computer to my trusty 128K Spectrum. The graphics were amazing, the memory was massive and the Summer Pack seemed to be an excellent deal. I saved up a bit of cash and borrowed the rest from my mum.

The next day, I strolled into my local computer shop with £400 and asked for an ST. With paying cash, I got a mouse mat and joystick lead free as well.

That was probably the most stupid financial decision I had ever made. Now, two months later... I have realised what a wonderful computer the Spectrum is!!! My advice to anyone that is thinking of upgrading to an ST is, don’t!! Instead, just buy yourself a +2 or +3, because you’ll probably find that you’ll begin to get bored with the ST games and realise what a stupid mistake you’ve made.

Anybody that says ‘Spectrums are dying’ is completely wrong — the Spectrum is stronger than ever!!!
Les Floyd

I agree — though there are some good games on the ST and Amiga, the games alone don’t justify spending £300 or more. The only time to consider an ST or Amiga, in my opinion, is if you are very strongly interested in graphics work.

Some would say music-making is also a reason to buy the ST (not the Amiga — no MIDI port), but judging from full bookings at the Bates Motel the Spectrum’s still just fine for that!

More charts than a Nick Roberts disco this month, eh? Well, I could have written reams about Stephen Jaggard’s Hotline discoveries, but I’ll leave that to you — letters analysing what the chart shows will be very gratefully received.

‘Make and mend, there’s ne’er an end’ — another of my grandma’s more depressing sayings. Sometimes, and I know I shouldn’t say this but I can’t see her minding, I wish she’d look on the bright side of things!

I do, and I hope my postman does too, considering all he has to deliver to: LLOYD MANGRAM’S FORUM, CRASH.

And please write ‘personal attention of Mr Mangram’, or something like that, on the envelope, as I prefer to open them myself. Same place next month?