Hurrah! IAN LACEY keeps a promise! The legendary in-depth PBM interview is here, and no apologies need be made

THIS ISSUE I’m starting a series of special features concentrating on one company at a time, showing how they started and what their intentions are for the future. This month the subject company is Project Basilisk, but smaller companies needn’t worry, I’ll be covering them as well.


In June 1986 Robert Fortune decided to start a small PBM company; Project Basilisk. Previously a player of It’s A Crime, Robert was excited by the concept of playing games by mail and determined to write his own. Basilisk’s first game was the hand-moderated The Land Of The Basilisk. This ran for only a couple of months though, as Robert soon realised that the time needed to process turns was unrealistic for a small company. His next game was computer-moderated, and distinguished by its extraordinary title: Trolls Bottom. This was inspired by the Piers Anthony ‘Xanth’ series of books and was planned on scraps of paper and written in Spectrum Basic! Robert then borrowed £500 to buy an Amstrad PCW8256, and converted the program to Mallard Basic. The resulting game attracted lots of players just through the whacky title and scenario, but gameplay kept them playing with Robert continually adding new creatures and adventures. After running for just a year Trolls Bottom attracted worldwide interest, being sold to PBM companies in the US, Australia and New Zealand. Back in the UK KJC Games bought the rights to the game in UK and Europe. This left Robert free to develop his next game.

His inspiration this time came from horror spoofs, like The Munsters, The Addams Family and The Rocky Horror Show. Robert was also determined to create an easier method of turn writing (words only). The result was Creephouse — fun, cheap and original. Unfortunately it seemed to lack something in testability, and is being wound down here in order to accommodate Battle Crab, Basilisk’s third game.


Battle Crab is Basilisk’s biggest ever venture. With 500 players in each game some impressive hardware is needed. Whereas Trolls Bottom’s took £500 to set up, Battle Crab required £3000. Despite a couple of adverts you may have seen to the contrary, Battle Crab start-up packs will cost around £3. The theory is that £3 is not enough to put people off joining, but also expensive enough to stop people dropping out — as has happened over Creephouse. The Battle Crab start-up pack will contain Operation and Advanced manuals, and a story based on the game. Three 8ft maps can also be purchased, costing £1 each.

The Battle Crab scenario was inspired by Star Wars (the spaceships) and the Spectrum version of Elite (the trading side). At the start of the game, the Starleague (goodies) storm the Zarg (baddies) city and attempt to overrun it. You control two computer robotic armoured battlecraft (CRABs). With these, you can either help the Starleague for money, or hinder them, gaining criminal status and equipment from enemy craft. Once the invasion is over, the Starleague withdraws and the players adopt the roles of goodies and baddies, fighting each other.

Actions are written as words (as in Creephouse), enabling a wide range of inputs per turn. You also get ship construction orders free, once it is suitably equipped, and a 75 character message. The program for such a game is vast. Just the database for players’ ships and possessions uses 5 megabytes! After having seen some preliminary turnsheets and reading Robert’s thorough description, I recommend that you get in touch with Basilisk as soon as possible. The game is so vast that you’ll probably never get tired of exploring it.

Project Basilisk hope to launch Battle Crab in the near future. After that, they have another game planned, on which programming has just started. It’s called Dragon and should be ready for launch towards the latter part of 1989.


A quick mention concerning the special CRASH readers’ games of Jade‘s The Chronicles Of The Knights Of Avalon. The five game winners are:

GAME 1:Simon The Narcolept3,680
GAME 2:Fikkon Five Fingers4,441
GAME 3:Dragonard4,187
GAME 4:Faramir3,410
GAME 5:Plamil2,650

Now it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to work Out that the winner, by 254 points, is Fikkon Five Fingers! And a castle will be winging its way to him soon. Well, a scaled down version anyway. So congratulations to him, and all the other game winners who made the competition a good one.


I must also mention The First London Postal Gamers Convention, to be held at the Surbiton Assembly Rooms on the 22nd of April. The convention was set up to replace the BPBMA annual convention which fell through this year. The organisation behind the new convention is very good, and all the major PBM companies will be in attendance, as will I! If you really want to speak to me then just go up to a trade stand and ask (most know me). The convention costs £3.50 in advance or £4.50 on the door, or £2 and £2.50 respectively for PGA members. The reason for this is that the PGA newsletter is also the convention program, and members will already have a copy. So don’t think it’s a members only con or whatever...