In the words of Stuart Ashen, “are we still doing these?”
Yup, dusty vintage Amiga mags won’t plunder themselves you know, so here’s my latest scrapbook, cold and dog-eared off the press.
Imagine having a fully-fledged coin-op cabinet in your living room, loaded with hundreds of arcade quality games, and all set to free play. It’s no big deal today of course because we’re spoilt for choice – we have fruity Pi oozing out of our ears and throwbacks to the original hardware can even be found in Argos. Blimmin’ diddly-darn-doodly Argos of all the mainstream, curmudgeonly outlets in the universe! (sorry for the strong language).
No, what I’m alluding to is possessing an arcade jukebox style cabinet way back in the early ’90s when Joe & Mac and Bonk were whacking Diplosaurus with wooden clubs, and only that one bratty, over privileged kid in your school class had access to the internet at home. He’s probably a professional pipe-smoking, tweed jacket-wearing toff these days… and I bet he shoots pheasants for sport.
In September 1990 this is precisely what Active Consoles unveiled to we the drooling proletariat at the European Computer Entertainment Show.
|Mean Machines issue 1 (October 1990)|
Their intriguing plan was to offer for sale the meaty arcade hardware on a ‘bring your own display’ basis for under £300. The ‘Powarcade’ cabinet was to feature a credit button in place of the usual coin slot, and a double joystick, coupled with a three button configuration assigned to each. They’d even convinced arcade machine stalwarts, Silverline, to take care of the manufacturing process to guarantee the quality would be top notch.
A limited range of games were initially intended to be made available for around £50 a piece, and delivered on interchangeable PCBs to be inserted into the system’s Jamma slot. This opening volley it was hoped would eventually be followed by complete compatibility with any and every arcade game.
I know, I know, it has all the hallmarks of pie-in-the-sky wish fulfilment, yet Active did actually bring the product to market, and it was advertised in many of the mainstream gaming magazines at the time. Still, I don’t know anyone who owned one and further information is extremely thin on the ground today.
Despite being a Newcastle fan, Colin Proudfoot, Commodore’s financial wizard and joint MD, arranged for the company to be Chelsea Football Club’s official sponsor in a multi-million pound deal that stretched from 1987 to 1994. For the first six years the players were running sandwich boards for Commodore, before the logo was supplanted by the Amiga branding in 1993.
|That’s Chelsea midfielder and captain, Dennis Wise, in the forefront should you be wondering.|
The arrangement was a bit of a double-edged sword by all accounts because the better Chelsea performed, the more Commodore would have to pay for the publicity. The base rate per year was £1m, whereas if Chelsea reached the FA Cup final or won the Premiership League, another £1m would be slapped on top of the bill. A place in the semi-final would cost £500,000, and even getting to the quarter-final would set Commodore back a cool £250,000.
In April 1994, the same month Commodore declared bankruptcy, Chelsea reached the FA Cup final for the first time in twenty-four years. Talk about adding insult to injury! It would have meant little consolation that they didn’t win.
To ensure Commodore could meet Chelsea’s demands, Colin would take out insurance to guard against the club’s success, though when the inevitable happened, the insurance premiums were hiked by an extortionate degree.
Bizarrely, Colin demonstrated that it was 40% cheaper to pay a syndicate of people around the country to place bets in Ladbrokes to achieve the same end! Apparently there are (or were?) companies who offer this service as a legitimate business venture. This was in the days prior to automated computer analysis that would have detected evidence of strategic gambling, and put the kibosh on the scheme.
Similarly, between 1984 and 1989 Commodore’s Deutsche division sponsored Germany’s biggest football club, Bayern Munich, and also the Ukrainian football team, Dynamo Kiev in 1987.
Surely not paedophile, Chris Denning? The guy who has made prisons dotted around the globe his second home? He wouldn’t be my first choice as a spokesman for the Amiga!
In a moment of Madness (appropriately!), Gremlin intended to develop a Mega Drive/Amiga platform game based around the wacky English ska band fronted by Graham ‘Suggs’ McPherson. Perhaps not such a crazy idea in hindsight given that they were massively popular back in the ’70s and ’80s – they clocked up 15 top ten singles, one no. 1 in the UK and two in Ireland, and are still going strong today following a return from retirement. Motorhead had their own Amiga game, so why not?
That’s not another new entry for my ‘They sold a million’ article in the last paragraph by any chance?
Unfortunately it was to be a bit of a cheap hack job using a modified version of the Harlequin game engine as its foundation. The protagonist would have been ‘Mr Smash’, a character based on the band’s trumpet player, Chas Smash. The original graphics were to be substituted for more theme-relevant sprites and environments, while the backing music would have consisted of Madness tracks, obviously.
Despite being previewed in issue 17 of Mean Machines Sega and Mega Force (I expect each magazine began life at the same time so had parallel issue numbers), the game originally intended for release in 1994, was flushed down the carsey never to be seen again on either of the proposed platforms. It’s not known what went wrong exactly, and Suggs wasn’t available for comment as he was stuck in the queue at Primark trying to buy a new pair of Baggy Trousers as we went to print.
It seems that the Welcome Disk supplied with CDTV machines has been put together without that loving care and attention to detail for which Commodore is renowned.
Reports are filtering through of hidden files on the disk which should never have seen the light of day. Of the possible 550Mb on a disk, only 16Mb are used by the Welcome software. The rest of the space is filled with C source code, backup files and unused pictures. A pre-release version of the boot logo is also lurking on the disk somewhere, along with the accompanying invoice from the artist. Most surprising, however, is a digitised picture of Saddam Hussein along with some digitised speech proclaiming, “I’ve fallen down and I can’t get up!”
Let’s hope that a similar quote and a picture of a CDTV will not be present on future CD-I machines.
Amiga Shopper issue 5 (September 1991)
The CDTV was a spectacularly misguided own-goal so it stands to reason that Guy Wright’s welcome disk would be a botched misfire too.
Amiga people are too wily for their own good, that’s partly what sunk the ‘Commodore Dynamic Total Vision’ multimedia device, to use its full backronym. They recognised from the outset that it was little more than an A500 with a CD drive, in a sleek, jet-black wrapper… released at a time when the A570 CD add-on was right around the next corner.
Existing Amiga owners were content to wait, while new users baulked at the £499 price tag, and couldn’t fathom what they’d do with it in any case.
Ironically, to its detriment, the CDTV was ahead of its time. The CD format was in its infancy and software developers were still trying to establish how to engage with it, which is why for a long time you’d see discs being released that used a fraction of the available capacity. Even when the CD32 emerged – the CDTV’s spiritual successor – the vast majority of games were tiny A1200 ports with no additional audio or FMV whatsoever… precisely what the system was designed to exploit.
Accidentally stuffing the CDTV’s intro disc with embarrassing filler material was a novel way to redress the balance!
Less is more
Having recently bought an Amiga A500 for my son, I decided to see what magazines were available. I was surprised to find a fairly wide range, but even more surprised at the prices. I baulked at paying £4.95, and even £2.95 was on the high side. Eventually I settled for a copy of Amiga Shopper which seemed to fit the bill nicely.
Back home, a more detailed look left me with the impression that it was too busy and there was too much to read. However, I took the trouble to go through it all and it was worth the effort. For instance, I never knew what PD software was until now.
Having said that, can I pull you up on one small point. In a recent reply, I read “…having less editorial pages…”. I’m sure it was a slip of the pen and you really meant ‘fewer pages’. I have already sent off a year’s subscription so I will definitely know if the editor is checking over what you done wrote.
KG Lee, Camberley, Surrey
I hope you will have less complaints about this issue.
Amiga Shopper issue 4 (August 1991)
Never has the aphorism, ‘it takes all sorts’, been more apt. Did this guy really buy a magazine and then write to the editor to complain on account of it being full of words? Words no less! I hate the blighters too; they just sit there all po-faced expecting you to run your flagging peepers over them, interpreting their meaning as you go along. It’s all such a chore. Yawn.
Are ads bad?
Even though your magazine’s called Amiga Shopper, I think you use too many ads instead of using more advice, reviews etc. If you are from the makers of Amiga Format, or the buyer/reader buys other magazines, then surely all your ads will also be in the other magazines. I don’t mean to sound rude, but I think too many ads are/will be a disadvantage to you.
L Stairs, Hendon, London
There are three crucial points to bear in mind here.
1 ) The revenue received from the ads is a major contributing factor to being able to price the magazine as lowly as we do.
2) The ads provide a very important service to people looking for bargains and the best hardware and software to buy – we would be doing you a disservice by not having them.
3) Having more ads does not mean having less editorial pages. The reality is that the more ads we have the more editorial we can afford to run.
Those are the facts of life in publishing – so enjoy those ads, they’re actually doing you a favour.
Amiga Shopper issue 2 (June 1991)
Along similar lines, another reader writes in to moan about the number of adverts in Amiga Shopper! He/she sort of gets it, yet at the same time doesn’t.
Amiga Shopper was intrinsically a hardware/software catalogue, sparingly interspersed with interesting articles, reviews and comm￼entary. It was cheap for a reason!
This would be like saying, “Christianity is great and all that, but can we have less of the God-chat please?”.
If this ad was published today anywhere other than in Country Life you’d naturally assume it was meant to be an ironic, wry swipe at the smug, over privileged arrogance of toffy-nosed aristocrats.
|The One issue 9 (June 1989)|
Back then, however, dodgy, awkward advertising occasionally slipped through the focus group’s ridicule-fodder detectors. I think I’ve stumbled across a prime example here. Have you ever seen anyone smoking a pipe who isn’t 127 years old, or starring in a Lord of the Rings movie? (or that kid in your school class who got online way before everyone else!).
Of course the two models in the photo shoot would surely have had plastic surgery and been issued with new names by now so we can’t ask them what on earth they (and the ad agency) were smoking at the time.
Despite the pompous hyperbole, MicroStatus (a division of MicroProse) released just one more title for the Amiga, Driller. All three fall into the 3D virtual world, action adventure category. I heard on the grapevine that Monty Burns liked the cut of their jib.
Newly formed software house Enigma Variations is making its debut with a game based around none other than Gilbert the alien, star of Get Fresh, the show that brought TV fame to Starglider and Xenon. Entitled Gilbert – Escape From Drill, the game is set on Gilbert’s home planet, with the unfortunate alien trapped after fellow Drillians, jealous of his TV stardom, sabotaged his spaceship The Millennium Dustbin. Unable to make it back to Tyne Tees TV Centre to sign a new contract, Gilbert has to piece together the ship and make it back to Earth.
Five bad-taste variations on the shoot ’em up theme are the order of the day, with titles like Snotfight At The OK Corral (guess what you shoot the aliens with!), Brain Drain and perhaps the most ridiculous of the lot – Sprout Wars, where Gilbert has to save sprouts from a deadly virus armed only with a Welsh leek!
Further details are a bit vague, and all else that’s known is that it’s out soon on ST and Amiga only.
Here he is in all his jolly green glory, the creature a million kids wake up to every Saturday morning… Gilbert! Now he’s set for stardom on the monitor screen too, thanks to Enigma Variations.
The One issue 7 (April 1989)
You’d assume Gilbert was another ‘Game That Wasn’t’, wouldn’t you? If so, you’d be dead wrong. Somehow it happened, it’s real, it occupies space in our very own plane of existence, as did the kids’ TV show the character emanates from.
‘Get Fresh’ ran for five series between 1986 and 1988 and was shown on the CITV network. It was hosted by none other than Violet Berlin’s hubby, Gaz Top, and Adrian Mole initially. Gilbert the Alien, voiced by DJ Dave Clifton of Alan Partridge fame, replaced Adrian for the second and third series… which must have worked wonders for his self-esteem I’m sure!
Get Fresh is perhaps more notable, however – to the Amiga community at least – for unfurling The Bitmap Brother’s Xenon as a blindfolded phone-in game.
Remember that bit in IK+ where Chuck Norris kicks the spit out of Jean-Claude Van Damme while Steven Seagal pulls off his best shell-shocked, thousand yard ‘nam vet stare? I’ve seen things maaaan. Things you wouldn’t believe.
|The One issue 3 (December 1988)|
When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks under the bed for Chuck Norris.
Box art piracy on the high seas at its finest!
According to a recent newsgroup discussion, a USA newspaper printed a crossword with the following clue in it: “Bygone computer – five letters”. And the answer – apparently it’s an Amiga!!! Ooops! Surely – they mean Atari?
Amiga Computing 111 (April 1997)
Gateway 2000 might have taken issue with that…
…but then, “there’s a guy works down the chip shop swears he’s Elvis…”
BBC Radio 1 DJ, Jakki Brambles, was such a vocal advocate for the Amiga she was offered a regular news column writing on behalf of a mail order hardware/software retailer known as INDI Direct Mail. Curiously, on a number of occasions she managed to snag a Commodore scoop before the major Amiga magazines had wiped the sebum from their weary eyes, leading them to wonder, who the hell is Jakki Brambles?
|Amiga Computing issue 66 (November 1993)|
Whilst broadcasting to the nation she would spoil recent Amiga games by supplying cheats and tips, or revealing how they conclude, much to the chagrin of gamers who hadn’t yet played them. Booo, hissss!
|The One issue 47 (August 1992)|
Megadrive comes to Amiga
Amiga joystick wagglers will soon be able to play Sega Megadrive games, on their computer using Amiga Drive, a new emulator from Advanced Emulation.
But price rules the move out as a reasonable option. The proposed cost of the software and cartridge-to-disk adaptor at £119 takes Amiga Drive just £10 short of the recommended price for the actual Sega machine supplied with a top game.
Though details of the product arrived on April 1, it is not believed to be an April Fools joke. The press was not given a telephone number for the manufacturer.
Amiga Computing issue 49 (June 1992)
The AmigaDrive was indeed a hoax, one which appears to have arisen from an April fool’s joke printed in C&VG magazine, only there it was announced as a way to dump Amiga games onto custom cartridges to be played on the Mega Drive. A case of Chinese whispers I suspect.
If it had been true I’m sure plenty of people would have bought one despite the inflated cost. Invest now and make your savings on the duplicated games would be the mantra, as it was with the Amiga itself sadly.
Anyway, I wonder why April’s fool jokes aren’t spread more evenly throughout the year to better disguise them.
Hmmm, another one of life’s great mysteries…
Light guns were mostly an 8-bit Nintendo craze that failed to set the Amiga world ablaze. By 1994, the manufacturers couldn’t give them away. I’ve written a lengthy article on the subject elsewhere which explains why. They’re now super-mega-rare and sell for silly money on eBay, despite not being compatible with modern TVs or monitors.
|CU Amiga issue 55 (September 1994)|
Sometimes things seem like a good idea at the time. On other occasions you know instantly they should never have been allowed to spring free from the drawing board. Meet the Barcode Battler.
Released in March 1991, it was marketed alongside genuine handheld gaming devices such as the Lynx and Game Gear, and looked similar enough to fool your gran on a spontaneous birthday gift shopping spree, yet crucially lacked sound, graphics, game-play, fun and a plausible reason to exist.
I suppose it was a bit like a Tamagotchi except you’d swipe barcodes through the built-in reader to create and level up your characters, who would then be pitted against your friends’ ‘pets’… for some reason.
It bombed in the UK, yet was enthusiastically embraced by the Japanese, presumably because in the year of release the country had been hit by a nuclear blast and the fallout rendered the entire nation incapable of rational thought.
Unfaithful sex games
An Israeli man wants to divorce his “unfaithful” wife because of her use of filthy computer games, according to online magazine STReport.
The unnamed man is claimed to have told a Tel Aviv rabbinical court that his wife cheats on him in her thoughts by playing the games, making her a theoretical adulteress.
He said there is no difference between a woman who has a physical relationship with other men and one who imagines it.
Amiga Computing issue 70 (February 1994)
I’d say it’s a fair cop guv; that’s totally despicable behaviour, though I’d have gone a step further and had her flogged to be honest. She brought it on herself… obviously.
Mystery surrounds the sudden departure of former Commodore UK managing director Steve Franklin, 44, from the manufacturer after more than five years of service.
Commodore would not comment except to confirm that Franklin was no longer employed by the firm. Industry sources suggest he left after a row with bosses in the US.
“He wasn’t working for the UK company, so was not under my jurisdiction,” said Commodore boss Kelly Sumner. ‘The corporate company will simply confirm he has left the firm.”
Franklin arrived at Commodore as managing director in June 1987 and left the number one seat to head a European push for CDTV this summer.
Amiga Computing (December 1992)
David Pleasance reveals Steve’s fate in a 2015 video interview with Dan Wood. I won’t repeat what he said here while the man is still alive in case I get sued. Not that I doubt its veracity.
If I leave some random, dissociated words down here, don’t assume they are relevant to the story.
Conflict of interests, companies act, contravention, failure to declare.
YTV tune into games
More details are now known about a new weekly computer and video games television show due for all ITV regions this autumn. Producers Yorkshire Television say that while the programme will be console-led there will be some coverage for popular home computers such as the Amiga.
Aimed at 10 to 16-year-olds, the as yet unnamed show will be made up of news, reviews and tips, and there will be a special feature each week covering subjects such as virtual reality and flight simulation.
Children will give their views on most of the games featured and there will also be a regular male and female presenter.
There will also be competitions and viewers will be able to get help from the 25-minute show. The first programme is due at 4.45pm on Thursday October 29.
Amiga Computing issue 52 (September 1992)
Sounds like it would be a kiddy-corrupting Bad Influence to me. Violet Berlin or Andy Crane would certainly never entertain the idea of associating themselves with a show like that!
No good can possibly come of it I tell you! Batten down the hatches before it’s too late slimy furtlers!
The VHS video ‘magazine’ that was the basis of my Amigos Podcast Christmas memories submission. If I said it was a must-see… I’d be lying, but go and watch it anyway. You’ll have the time of your life, if you’ve lead a very sheltered one.
|The One issue 42 (March 1992)|
Lobo never graced our beloved Miggy with its own version, but did eventually emerge as an unofficial, leaked prototype for the Mega Drive in 2009, and SNES in 2014.
Who the Hell’s Lobo? Well, if you knew anything about comics you would definitely NOT be asking that question. Created by Alan ‘Judge Dredd’ Grant, Lobo is an alien with a serious personality problem – he can’t help but kill, maim, destroy and blow up everything and person he sees. Needless to say, Lobo is seriously violent, and Ocean’s Gary Bracey is insisting that the violence will NOT be toned down for consumption by Amiga gamers. “Absolutely not,” he says. “It will be as violent, but the violence is very tongue-in-cheek. It’s funny because it’s so over the top. We wouldn’t want it to look too realistic.”
The project is in the hands of James Higgins, the programmer who brought The Addams Family to the Amiga with no small amount of success. Does this mean we can expect more platform exploits for our violent hero? “I’d rather not say, but it will be a little bit different,” is all Bracey will say.
Bigness factor: ****
The One issue 52 (January 1993)
Before the project was cancelled, it was originally intended for release in winter 1996 where the 16-bit consoles were concerned, by which time they were beginning to look a bit long in the tooth to be economically viable. Today you can buy a dodgy copy on a repro cartridge for that authentic retro kick…
Goodbye grey sky, hello blue,
There’s nothing can hold me when I hold you.
Feels so right you can’t be wrong,
Rockin’ and rollin’ all week long.
As always, I’ve been me, you’ve been you, and this was the latest issue of Amigo Scour… no relation at all to that other mag that sounds a bit similar, natch. Until next time, thank you, come again!