Amigo Scour issue 5 out now!

When I was a wee nipper my family were so destitute we had to eat dirt butties and steal clothes from street urchins. Our pet dog was fudged together with sticks, which made ‘fetch’ extremely confusing for the poor mite. We called him ‘Stix’ and that didn’t help. In the end he succumbed to a lethal wound inflicted by Splinter. Rats!

For entertainment I constructed my own makeshift Amiga mags using fragments salvaged from the gooey floor of the local recycling plant. The latest edition of my pulpritudinous (I spelt that wrong deliberately, teehee, hohum) handiwork is subtitled, ‘I aaaaam The One and only’ and is sponsored by Chesney Hawkes for reasons that will become apparent soon enough.

“I used to be with it, but then they changed what it was. Now what I’m with isn’t it, and what’s it seems weird and scary to me. It’ll happen to you…” 

 

The One issue 79, May 1995.

I couldn’t find any trace of this game for the Amiga so assuming it’s a Game that Wasn’t, contacted the author, pioneering Speccy legend, Mel Croucher, to get the scoop. It turns out Adware Interactive fooled me by pulling the old name switcheroo manoeuvre, and released it only for DOS.

Falling neatly into the well trodden ‘collect-em-up, blocky FPS starring a canoeing bunny in outer space’ camp, it’s an acquired taste that once nibbled won’t be forgotten in a hurry, and for all the wrong reasons. Although it defies logical elucidation, Phil has a decent run at it so I won’t rabbit on.

It makes absolutely no sense until it dawns on you how many player’s email addresses were harvested in the process for direct marketing purposes. Ka – and indeed – ching!

“Greetings xxx,

A quick line on Run The Bunny, which was the release title for The Duracell Challenge back in 1995. I don’t think it falls into your category of “Games That Weren’t”, seeing as it definitely was. The fact that Duracell gave it away probably puts it in the history books as the first freeware mainstream game. Here’s a quote from E-Media, published by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising in 2005. “More than a million (players) spent eight hours each shoving virtual batteries into virtual pink bunnies online in order to win all things battery powered, from laptop computers to the humble torch.”

It’s not the fact that I was the first games designer to reach a million players by giving the game away, it’s the fact that I used a rabbit’s arsehole and mass piracy to achieve it.

All the best, Mel”

Escom’s grand master plan to turn Commodore’s fortunes around is unveiled. “You’ve got me? Who’s got you?” 

Escom promises

So you want to know what Escom have planned for the Amiga eh? Well after pilfering through CTW, several press releases, and making many phone calls to Escom UK we unearthed the sordid plans for the Amiga. Actually the sordid bit was a lie. In any case the basic facts are these: Escom have decided to revive the CD32 back from the dead in one form or another, they will also have A1200s in the shops by October, but at the ridiculous price of £399, which is incidentally £50 more than the Amiga was when Commodore went bust.

Of course, when questioned about possibly improving the specification of the A1200 to include a faster processor or perhaps a CD drive they wouldn’t confirm or deny anything. Just great. Now everyone knows where they stand eh? It’s enough to instil a great deal of confidence in the Amiga market isn’t it? (By the way, does sarcasm work in print?)

The One issue 82, August 1995.

It’s healthy and commendable to approach life with as much optimism as you can muster, but really? We were expected to get excited about Commodore-badged PCs following the golden era of the A500 and A1200? Someone pass me the puke bag quick.

The One issue 83, September 1995.

In between being a scurrilous Bad Influence on’t telly box, Violet Berlin hosted and wrote the scripts for Sky’s ‘Head to Head‘ ten minute challenge TV show. Each episode incorporated a duo of delightful kiddiwinkles gorping into an overblown, fiber-optic brain and pummeling one another into submission via the latest multiplayer releases across a variety of platforms. The victor would get to take home a randomly selected prize and a cerebrum-shaped trophy. Unfortunately it was broadcast on The Children’s Channel at the crack of dawn so only insomniacs, badgers and owls can attest to its dubious existence.

Touching TV games

BSkyB will redefine ‘in-yer-face’ TV when it introduces a 3D version of Head To Head. The original version of the eight minute show, which pits games players against each other, is being repeated at the moment on The Children’s Channel. The producers have just finished making 100 3D showdowns which will be broadcast every day, twice a day starting in July. Viewing will require 3D glasses.

Head To Head is the only games show on telly at the moment. It’s hosted by Violet Berlin from ITV’s Bad Influence.

The One issue 70 (July 1994)

GamesMaster was the king of the grandiose, one on one battle royale, though Head to Head was notable for staging Guru Larry’s first TV appearance. He would later go on to be a ‘winner stays on’ regular guest owing to his repeated success… and in his spare time, make up fairy tales about Dennis. 😉 

Straight out of the school of ‘we couldn’t afford the ad agency fees’, Gremlin proudly presents Limp Games Promotion on a Shoestring (Tm). Shadow Fighter may think he’s harder than Adamantium nails. Ha! Just wait ’til he meets “that one guy, Steve”. He won’t know what’s hit him!

NHS plastic surgery has come on leaps and bounds since the ’90s! The One issue 75, January 1995.

Earlier gems from the green wrinklies include, “Cars, Lotus II has some of those”, “Harlequin? It’s alright I suppose”, “You’ve heard of games, here’s one”, and eclipsing them all, “Zool 2 – more of the same, or whatever *shrug*”.

One of the better April’s fool jokes (erm… published in the March issue), complete with a mock-up prototype …well an A1200 with the keypad Deluxe Painted out and supplanted with a CD32 dome anyway. Now that’s dedication.

Commodore invests millions

Commodore UK’s Maidenhead HQ was literally awash with ‘bubbly’ today after it was announced that the company is to launch a brand new computer, the A1(M). Commodore claims that the new machine will lift the Amiga out of the doldrums and carry it shouting and waving an enormous cutlass towards the rich pickings offered by the home leisure market.

The new Amiga is a bloody great dreadnought of a micro, and comes armed with 32 megabytes of RAM, a 1 gigabyte hard drive, 32-bit graphics card, 64-bit processor, 8x speed CD-ROM drive, and what’s more it’s finished in that nice grey we all know and love. Commodore has decided against including a PCMCIA slot in the A(1M) on the grounds that it sounds ‘too silly’.

Delighted executives displayed the new machine triumphantly to astonished journalists, who had congregated in the foyer on the off-chance of any news on the long-running Commodore take-over saga. A spokes-coffee filter for the company declined to comment on rumours that the management buyout was nothing more than a bizarre plan cooked up by David Pleasance to keep his name in the computer press: ‘Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle, plop’ it went, officiously.

Later however, a sparrow on a nearby roof confirmed that it had ‘dropped its load’ on a large Japanese car parked in one of the directors’ bays last Tuesday. Further details will be announced on April 1st.

A great Homer (Simpson or that Iliad guy, I can’t remember which) once said, “it’s funny because it’s true” (The One issue 78, March 1995).

What’s amusing is that the NASA-strength spec hyperbole seems so pitiful today. It’s almost as if a Delorean load of time has passed and technology has advanced exponentially, as crazy as that sounds!

Ironically, the CD64 games console was something that was in a pipeline far, far away, possibly in another galaxy. The next generation system would have adopted the RISC-based Hombre chipset, which featured the successor to the cancelled AAA graphics architecture, a 16-bit sound processor with 8 voices and a 100+ MHz CPU.

Robots brought to book

There’s a new version of Rise of the Robots on its way. Bit of a strange format this one, hardly any game-play. Let us explain. It comes in a rectangular paper-based casing and there are over 300, er, ‘pages’ which are covered in curious letters. Apparently you are meant to flip through them until the game runs out on the last ‘page’. They’re calling it a paperback.

The Rise of the Robots novel was written by Jim Murdoch, a longstanding Mirage associate who usually writes stuff for the game manuals. His approach to Rise was to tell the story of one character – the cyborg he calls Coton. Set in the distant future, Coton is engineered by the sinister Thin Doctor. Only his female assistant senses the tragedy of the human inside the robot armour. The book has just been published by Penguin and costs £4.99.

See, all those bot thumpin’ beats were deep and meaningful after all! (The One issue 78, March 1995).

I’ve heard most people finish it with a single manoeuvre – deftly flip to the final page, read the closing paragraph and play Brutal Paws of Fury (or anything!) instead.

Get this, the only review of Jim Murdoch’s Rise of the Robots novelisation submitted to Amazon was written by the author himself, and he unmercifully ridicules it! That’s priceless.

Fascinating fact ahoy! Jim worked as a ‘localisation manager’ (a translator in other words) for Ocean/Infogrames between 1997 and 2000.

If you think this is a joke make sure you read my ‘If Pinocchio reviewed Amiga games’ article. The words ‘standard’ and ‘practice’ spring to mind… with regards to publishers hawking games they know are shoddy offal from the outset. Anything that’s up to snuff sells itself.

Akira? Not Here-A

Here’s a reprint of a short fax that arrived in our offices the other day from ICE Software regarding its forthcoming Akira:

“To Matt @ The One

First of all, my apologies for messing you around regarding Akira.

I am now advised that we are not releasing copies to journalists until our forthcoming trip to the USA.

However as we have already sent you a copy (albeit not received) I am advised that I am allowed to supply you with a copy if you can review it on the following basis.

Should you feel that the game is not worthy of a score higher than 80% (by the way we are totally convinced of its quality, graphic style and game play) you will hold the review until the next issue and should you decide that it is “rubbish” GF, you will not print a review.

If the above is acceptable I will have a copy with you, by courier, within a few hours.”

God Forbid, that we should go against the wishes of ICE. So, curiously, we find ourselves unable to print a review this month. Hmmm, wonder why that is, eh?

A good argument for only relaying damning proposals via the spoken word… in the middle of a field miles from anywhere, and preferably when the recipient is butt-naked (so they can’t conceal a recording device – I’m not being kinky!). The One issue 78, March 1995.

Incidentally, The One’s Andy Nuttall did review Akira, despised the wretched thing with a passion and implored his readers not – under any circumstances – to buy it. Awarding it 6% won’t have done much to boost its sales figures either!

Rotoscoping comes of age. The One issue 77, February 1995.

The first motion capture game Gremlin developed was Actua Soccer for DOS, the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. Heralded as the only football game to deploy a full 3D engine at the time of release in 1995, it was considered ground-breaking.

To narrow the gap between simulation and reality, the developers collaborated with one of the local, premier league football clubs, Sheffield Wednesday. Three players, Chris Woods, Graham Hyde and Andy Sinton volunteered as motion capture models and also offered advice to the programmers to enhance the game’s level of accuracy. The same techniques were engaged for the subsequent games in their popular Actua sports series.

Like Ocean, Gremlin Interactive were swallowed up by Infogrames in 1999 in a staggering £24m deal, though their historical IP has since been reacquired by Gremlin co-founder, Ian Stewart, where it is registered to his new business venture, Urbanscan.

Amiga exchange rates

It’s now nearly a year since stocks of new Amigas finally ran out in the UK. Hard to believe 1994 was the first year which had a Christmas without a real home computer to nag for. But, remember, you don‘t have to buy a new one. The One has conducted a massive and far-reaching survey into the going rates for second hand Amigas by looking in the local paper.

Amiga 500/500+/600

Understandably, there are lots of these around (considering that Commodore claims to have sold over two million here it’s little wonder). Prices tend to settle between £100 to £150 depending on the amount of RAM and the offer of peripherals like joysticks. Double the price if you want a monitor as well. Some sellers chuck in plentiful games – you can get a machine with around 100 games for just over £200.

Amiga 1200

No shortage here either. The same sort of rules apply to the 32-bit market, but the base price for an A1200 on its own is between £195 and £250.

CD32

Surprisingly there don‘t seem to be too many CD32s available. And prices, which start at around £200 (more with games thrown in) seem a little high. But then when these sellers bought their machines they probably cost £299 or even £349.

Sorry regional readers, our figures are all poncy southern softy London prices. We reckon, though, that the damage should be even cheaper outside of the Smoke.

Hard evidence that local newspapers are good for more than ‘cat stuck up tree’ exclusives! (The One issue 77, February 1995).

If you baulk at the prices you’re expected to pay on eBay for vintage hardware today this may help to put things in perspective. Despite the unscrupulous price gouging, rarity factor and global competition to drive up the final sale value, we’re still getting a better deal than we would have done back in 1994.

With that justificatastic news in mind, consider it reverse inflation, embrace the confirmation bias and treat yourself!

…A promotion for Gremlin’s excellent Shadow Fighter had to be slightly restructured last weekend following tabloid allegation about the alarming cocaine habit of the main attraction, Shadow, from top TV show Gladiators. Naughty boy. It was all a bit last minute, but the Gremlin boys and girls managed to unearth a replacement in time, in the form of Shadow’s  former Gladiators colleague Hunter.

“At least Hunter’s expenses should be considerably less”, commented Steve  McKevitt, Gremlin’s PR bloke. The cheeky little divil…

I’m not so sure about that. Hair gel and foundation doesn’t come cheap y’know!

Personally I think they made the right decision to begin with – a dishevelled, snarly, snorty Shadow on coke looks remarkably similar to his namesake in Gremlin’s beat-em-up!

Pretty boy Hunter on the other hand was squeaky clean, for a year dated the ‘girl next door’ host of the show, Ulrika Jonsson, and went on to follow a successful acting career.

How bland is that? He must have mugged a granny or snatched a baby somewhere along the line surely. Haven’t we all?

The One issue 79, May 1995.

Proving that nice guys finish last (post-Jack Tramiel of course, oh and Mehdi Ali too. That didn’t work out so well did it?).

Maybe if Commodore had taken a leaf out of the Japanese console manufacturers’ book they’d still be around today. Nintendo especially treat their fans like dirt (refer to their YouTube/Visual Compendium copyright infringement shenanigans for example), and yet they keep coming back for more.

The One issue 70, July 1994.

 Despite suffering from a rampant piracy epidemic and the mother ship imploding through the sheer incompetence of its puppet masters, Amiga game sales were approaching Mega Drive levels of proliferation well into 1994.

Take a moment to pause and think about that…

…keep going…

…go on…

…you’re just not trying, are you?…

…come on, you can do better than that…

…keep it up, that’s more like it…

…nearly there now…

…not much further to go…

…the finishing line is almost in sight…

…one more push, you can do it…

…and relax!

I knew you’d get there in the end.

CD32 Gallups ahead

If CD really does represent the new age of gaming then the Amiga’s the one to back. The Amiga CD32 has now edged ahead of Sega Mega CD and PC CD-Rom in Gallup’s CD software sales chart, despite being on the market just a few months.

According to Gallup, CD32 games accounted for 38.6 percent of all sales by mid-February, compared with 31.3 percent for CD-Rom and 27.6 percent for Mega CD. Philips CD-i limps into fourth place with an edutainment filled 1.8 per cent.

This is all great news for Amiga fans as it will convince any doubting Thomases left in the development community that CD32 is definitely worth backing.

New titles are being added to the release roster all the time. In the next few weeks we can expect to see Cannon Fodder, Chaos Engine, Microcosm, Darkseed, Elite 2, Fury of the Furries, The Lost Vikings and many others.

Then there is all the activity around Video CD. As The One reported last month, the big music labels are lining up releases on the new format. The first, though, looks to be an award-winning curiosity called Opera Imaginaire which features a wild mix of graphics, morphing and full motion video to a series of opera arias. Not exactly aimed at the average Total Carnage addict but spectacular to look at nonetheless.

If you desperately want a video CD module for your CD32 you probably won’t find one at the moment. The first shipment in January was very limited and replacement stocks have been held up by technical hitches which have affected all manufacturers. Nasty blizzards at Commodore’s US HQ haven’t helped much either.

CD32 has been nominated for the Best New Hardware award at the European Computer Trade Show in April. It has a great chance of winning as it lines up alongside Atari Jaguar (where can l find one?), 3DO (ditto), Mega CD (how many bits?) and Reelmagic (just how sexy can a PC card be?).

And there’s also some Amiga interest in the Game Of The Year award which is voted for by the viewers of BBC’s Live And Kicking show. Among the contenders are Elite 2, Micro Machines, Syndicate and Mortal Kombat.

The One issue 66, (April 1994).

I’d love to know if software sales experienced a significant boost when full game cover tapes were outlawed in the Speccy days. I’d guess not; plenty of people never completed the demos, let alone the Full Monty, either because they got bored or they were flummoxed by the difficulty level. This group at least would be content with a taster, and anyone with cash to splash would likely buy new releases in addition to whatever is given away on the front of their favourite magazine. Wouldn’t most cash-strapped gamers continue to watch the pennies if only demos were on offer? It was harder to spend money you didn’t have back then so it wouldn’t even have been an option for some.

Trex Warrior… the complete game given away by The One last August.

Covermounts to go whole

Complete games could soon appear as magazine cover-mounts. A meeting of industry big-wigs later this month will discuss whether the time is right to relax the current stricture which states that only demos may be cover-mounted. There’s a feeling that ‘giving away’ games from the back catalogue wouldn’t damage industry profits as it may have done a few years ago.

Unsurprisingly, the main topic on the agenda at the meeting of trade body ELSPA will be sex and violence on cover-mounted games. It doesn‘t want to cover-mount games full of blood and swear words which may upset a few MPs, who, of course never swear, or hunt, or anything. 

Under the law, games don’t have to get a certificate like films. Games publishers have only a voluntary requirement to submit product to the British Board of Film and Video Classification for a rating. Meanwhile, ELSPA has launched its own voluntary games classification system. The body expects all games to carry an ESLPA rating by September 1st. Obviously it doesn’t want cover-mounts to ruin its clean-up efforts. Roger Bennett, director and general secretary of ELSPA, said: “We’d like to see magazine publishers show the same degree of responsibility as the games companies. We’re confident they will and this meeting is designed to help them do so.”

Trex Warrior also flounced its way onto an Amiga Fun cover disk in August 1994. Pfft, hussy! (The One issue 69, July 1994).

If you managed an HMV, Virgin, Boots or John Menzies store at the time, please get in touch. Did the prohibition ever tip the balance? Did a games mag ‘speak easy’ sprout up in your home town? The truth must out!

Used for psychological assessment certainly, but did it make the leap to games? The One issue 77, March 1995.

I contacted Chris Batty, the boffin behind the Ultramind RelaxPlus software to discern whether or not his brainchild ever left the runway where the entertainment angle is concerned.

He helpfully informed me, “Nope, that isn’t me”.

Hmmf. Revisiting the drawing board I managed to dredge the depths of Google to find a similar device called the MindDrive.

The manufacturer’s claims are equally deceptive in that it works by detecting changes in your physiology using indicators such as galvanic skin response measured via biofeedback sensors. That’s hardly tantamount to mind-control gaming!

It was featured on GamesMaster (series 5, episode 16 – thanks GamesMaster database), and Clint of LGR fame gave it the once-over in an oddware video.

Utter garbage! …the hardware I mean. Clint is YouTube royalty of the highest order.

 

Personally I would have resolved the spat by leaving them “lying in their uniforms, dying in the sun”. The One issue 74, December 1994.

Football Glory is a flagrant rip-off of Sensible Soccer with a couple of extra cherries plonked atop its already impeccable chocolate frosting.

Badly implemented gimmicks such as overhead kicks, tackle dodges, one-two passes and back-heelers have been chucked in from the touch line as a token gesture to enhance, or set it apart. It also places a strong emphasis on tickling the funny bone, something which is curiously absent from the original considering it spawned from the deliciously warped grey matter of the (anything but) Sensible crew.

Apparently, when Sensible Software threatened legal action against Croteam, they ceased development of Football Glory …whatever that means – it was already in circulation by that stage! Regardless, they went on to release an indoor version known as Five a Side Soccer in 1998, the same year they made Football Glory available as freeware. Another two years on, presumably when the developers realised there was no money left to be made from commercial Amiga software, they released ‘Sensi Inside’ as freeware too.

Do Croatian brains work differently to the ones found in the rest of the world?

Leaving the Amiga behind, Croteam bestowed upon the Microsoft microcosm their ‘Quake with funnies’ sibilant Serious Sam series, and even this sounds like an alliterative homage to SS (either of them). I’m sure I’ve seen this plot before in a movie. Fatal Attraction isn’t it?

Until next time, don’t go throwing away your hard-earned spondoolies on any of those icky rival Amiga mags …which don’t exist anyway.

Even if they did, the staff would without a Jefferson King of a doubt accept bribes for writing positive reviews, subliminally brainwash you into buying their sponsors’ tat, and eat adorable puppies for breakfast (that’s precisely the sort of thing uncouth savages get up to. What can you do?).

Plus, mine’s 10p cheaper and comes with red and green, transparent cover disks… now containing full commercial games!

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