|The One 38 (Nov 1991)|
“Discovery Software International does not condone software piracy!”, the manual declares in bold letters (I’ve toned down the line for those of you recovering from a hangover). Not that this held them back from producing their ‘Marauder’ disk duplication utilities.
These were software solutions to the authentic disk backup dilemma people faced having invested in expensive games or applications supplied on temperamental floppy disk media. They were intended to allow users of legitimate software to make a single copy of the original disks designated for regular use, whilst the originals are squirrelled away for safekeeping.
The purpose of this is twofold; it guards against physical degradation of the media, and also allows you to revert the contents to their initial state should you accidentally or deliberately alter it and need to backtrack. It’s all perfectly legal and advisable as long as you own legitimate editions of the disks.
You may be more familiar with X-Copy. That achieves the same end, yet can’t duplicate copyright protected disks, only cracked or unprotected ones.
Marauder and its $39 sequel approaches the task from another angle. It maintains a library of copy routines (sometimes referred to as parameters) tailored towards duplicating specific titles, and particular versions of such. It’s not an artificially intelligent robot cracker capable of analysing and neutering novel protection schemes, so is no substitute for a human, consummate reverse engineer.
To take account of new releases, Discovery Software (who were also responsible for developing Arkanoid, Sword of Sodan, Zoom! and Hybris) would issue periodic library updates known as ‘strategy files’. Of course, because your ability to backup future releases was dependent on Discovery continuing to supply regular updates, the software’s longevity was capricious at best.
While Marauder may sound like a thinly veiled, scurrilous pirate’s toolkit, keep in mind that you’d have needed to acquire the original disks in the first place to create a collection of counterfeits. Borrowing the odd original set from friends and colleagues would hardly have rivaled the threat faced by organised cracking groups and distributors, and this partially explains why team Marauder flew under the radar unscathed.
Marauder, while not unique in this field, was probably the most prominent in that it was idiot-proof and allowed you to create up to four individually cloned disks simultaneously.
Unlike ‘The Mirror’, it was delivered on unprotected disks, only requiring you to enter a keyword from the manual to demonstrate you’d bought the software legitimately. Unsurprisingly this set many industry insider’s irony antennas twitching at the time. I wonder if Superdrug do an ointment for that?
Discovery Software made some pretty magnanimous claims in their magazine promos…
“Fully automatic, ultra-high speed backup of any Amiga disk.”
“Completely deprotects many of your Amiga software favorites.”
|The manual’s front cover. Let this be a lesson to you: clothes
hangers should always be removed before putting your jacket on!
Mostly it would create 1:1 copies without bypassing the protection so you’d still need to reproduce the manual or code wheel if you wanted to access the software beyond the title screen. As for being able to backup any disk, that’s as vacuous a boast as the ‘uncrackable protection system’.
The manual for the second version asserts that Marauder can totally decrypt Deluxe Paint, Deluxe Video, Marble Madness!, Adventure Construction Set, Deluxe Print, Instant Music, and the Financial Cookbook. A pithy list that hardly justifies Discovery’s second line of PR blurb bluster.
Deluxe Print must be a version II exclusive because in the July 1986 edition of Amazing Computing a reader writes…
“As you probably know by now, Marauder(TM) doesn’t work with programs that achieve copy protecting by (ugh) changing disk speed, such as Deluxe Print(TM). If you call their hotline they tell you how to take the disk apart and twiddle a pot – not a very elegant solution.”
The review referred to can be found in the May 1986 issue.
One critical drawback Discovery failed to mention is that running Marauder with the bare minimum of memory and only a single floppy drive will result in incessant disk-swapping. This inadvertently subjects your drive to an unseemly degree of wear and tear, and in a worst case scenario, premature death.
Adverts for the Marauder software cropped up fairly regularly in Amiga and Atari ST magazines in the late ’80s. However, with the turn of the decade copyright protection became exponentially more sophisticated and Discovery struggled to keep up. No third version was ever released, and the studio moved on to producing software for the Apple Mac instead.
To find out what became of the company I contacted Discovery Software’s erstwhile marketing vice president, Michael Dobson, who ever since has operated as an independent project management trainer and consultant, author of business and alternative history books, and adventure game designer. Busy guy!
Having worked for Discovery between 1991 and 1992, Michael wasn’t around during the Marauder era and so didn’t recognise three of the signatures inscribed towards the back of the software manual. He was familiar with Rick Ross, however, who he confirmed as being the former “owner and president” of the company.
In a fascinating insight Michael went on to divulge his involvement with the company and explain why it hit rocky times financially and ultimately went bankrupt:-
“Discovery had originally been located in Philadelphia (if I recall correctly), but relocated to Annapolis. Many of the original people evidently left at that time.
I first connected with the company through the kind offices of my old friend Arnie Katz, who was editor of Computer Gaming Monthly (I was US vice president of British game company Games Workshop at the time, and had previously been Director of Games Development and Marketing for D&D publisher TSR). Although they were exiting the game business in favor of Macintosh productivity software, I thought they were an interesting little shop, and if their change in direction was successful, maybe some Mac games would be in their future.
The company was working on launching a scanner application called Chroma-32. Back when a grayscale scanner cost $1000 and a color scanner over $5000, they had developed a rather clever cost-saving measure. The software came with three colored transparency sheets. You taped your color image to the flatbed grayscale scanner and slid one of the colored gels underneath, then scanned the image three times, one through each color filter. The software would then assemble a color image from a grayscale scanner. The color wasn’t great, mind you, but it was good enough for most purposes.
Alas, the company was on extremely shaky financial grounds and couldn’t get the product launched and marketed before the money ran out. I left after it became clear paychecks were a thing of the past; the company folded shortly thereafter. I have no idea what happened to Rick or any of my co-workers (I don’t remember their names any longer). Obviously, Chroma-32 never made it to market, and shortly thereafter the price of color scanners dropped enough to make the software pointless.”
|The One issue 18 (March 1990)|
Quick lads, this month’s issue of The One is going to print tomorrow and all the ad guys have gone down to the beach.
Who’s got kids? Let’s raid their toy chest! Grab those Poundland finger masks and made in China knock-off ghouls, the He-Man figure and the Boglin.
Yeah, they’ll do. We’ll set them against the ornamental rockery from Bob’s fish tank and spook it up with a bit of Halloween spider web spray from Quidstretcher. Job’s a good ‘un!
Now, who’s getting the next round in? I think we’ve earned it.
|The One issue 26 (November 1990)… unofficially the SNAFU edition.|
Paedophilia! What a great theme for an Amiga game. Good thinking, Batman!
‘Ranx: the Video Game’ is based on the 1978 Italian anti-hero, sci-fi comic known as RanXerox and stars a pig-ugly, cyberpunk Frankenstein constructed from photocopier parts. That old chestnut again, eh.
In this pseudo-adventure-platformer it’s your mission to eradicate the psycho-plague from outer space that has the populace in its grips by locating the antidote and delivering it to the US president. Well, that and rescuing your lolita wannabe girlfriend.
Aside from the drugs, dog-abuse, offensive language, gratuitous violence, prostitution and prepubescent nudity, it’s light-hearted, wholesome family entertainment.
UAE, the original fledgling portal into Amiga emulation bliss was created by Bernd Schmidt and released two years after the CD32 hit the market.
It took two years of development to shake off its ‘unusable’ moniker, beyond which point it was perfectly capable of reliably emulating an Amiga 500 at an accurate speed.
|Amiga Shopper 63 (June 1996)|
The primary code subsequently underwent five distinct forks, and has since been ported to a wide variety of popular, modern platforms.
…but of course you knew all that – this is an Amiga blog and we’re talking about UAE. What I should have said is, “Look at UAE when it was knee-high to a grasshopper. Doesn’t it look funny?” and left it at that.
|The One issue 52 (January 1993)|
‘X2: No Relief’, the sequel to Team 17’s shoot-em-up, Project-X, failed to materialise for the Amiga platform.
Instead it headed straight to the PlayStation in August 1997 where it was published by Ocean. A Sega Saturn version was in the works, yet relegated to the trash can before reaching maturity.
The game features the welcome addition of a second, simultaneous player option, and true to form, it’s rock hard.
Developed by original crew members Rico Holmes, Andreas Tadic, and Bjorn A. Lynne, X2 was awarded review scores between 58% and 77%.
|The One issue 24 (September 1990)|
Upon release of the ‘Teenage Mutant (Whatever) Turtles’ movie in 1990, swathes of sproglets across the UK began pestering their parents to buy them their own mini shell-suited pet superheroes, aka red-eared terrapins.
In terms of eco-warrior pizza-lovin’ ninja substitutes, this variety are the easiest to acquire legally, hence the number imported sky-rocketed from 33,000 to 250,000 at breakneck speed.
What mummy and daddy failed to factor in was that these living micro toys would grow larger than a football, and demand specialist care and attention. Many decided it wasn’t worth the hassle so unceremoniously released them into the wild by any means at their disposal, including flushing them down the khazi.
The massive influx of alien creatures wreaked havoc upon the unprepared British ecosystem, where many unsuspecting lunch-shaped birds and amphibians succumbed to Turtle Power.
It was estimated that 90% of the terrapins perished, whilst the remainder of the displaced immigrants had to be rounded up and rehabilitated by a number of wildlife conservation charities.
|An early ‘unboxing’ shot taken prior to affixing the ninja weapon accessory and eye mask bandanna.|
Everyone duly learned their lesson, so when the sequels and 2014 TMNT reboot hit the silver screen, no-one repeated the same mistake, Flying Miracle Pigs ™ cured cancer and ended terrorism forever.
An intriguingly busy looking Addams Family as featured in The One’s WIP preview.
The decision to replace these highly detailed backdrops with the solid colours we see in the final release was taken to ensure a smooth frame rate where continuous scrolling is in effect.
SNES and Mega Drive gamers have it both ways to varying degrees, while the Atari ST version has intricately detailed backdrops, yet is hamstrung by jerky ‘push scrolling’, and so isn’t required to make the same overhead sacrifices.
The origin of the screenshots has been the subject of much debate over the years. It’s quite feasible that they were captured from the SNES version seeing as that was considered the forerunner on which all other renditions were based.
Back then it wasn’t uncommon for the screen grabs from one version to stand in for another without printing a disclaimer if it showed the game in a particularly good light. Today we’d call that a ‘lie’.
The possibility of restoring the ‘true’ Amiga graphics using those ripped from the Atari ST port has been proposed, though we have yet to see the release of an enhanced fan-hack.
Now here’s a double shot of nostalgia for you; old school Amiga gaming and retro Neighbours from a time when you knew who the characters were, and why Charlene had fallen out with Scott for the 17th time in a week.
It’s a fair way from an animated, interactive adventure. Not that this matters when you’re ‘exploring’ the homes of Ramsey Street royalty, and ‘conversing’ with them. It’s an enticing, supremely odd and unsettling experience that will instantly transport you back 25 years!
|The One issue 53 (February 1993).|
Also reviewed in CU Amiga issue 34 (December 1992) where it was awarded a respectable 78%.
That’s all folks. Sorry this edition is briefer than usual. It’s because there are fewer words and pictures in it. To cut a long story short…