By Lloyd Mangram
cover first demonstrated Oliver Frey's ability to combine
several disparate elements into one picture. It related
to an article on Melbourne House and Australian Philip
Mitchell, who programmed The Hobbit and was working
on the very delayed Sherlock Holmes. Melbourne's
H.U.R.G. (High Level User-Friendly Real Time
Games Designer) had nothing to do with Philip, but was
reviewed in the issue, so Oliver melded the two ideas
by having Sherlock peer through his magnifying glass
in which is reflected (backwards) a clue to H.U.R.G.
With monthly pressures getting tough, we all welcomed the
arrival in Ludlow of David Western, a one-time colleague of
Roger Kean. David lent a valued hand to the artwork layout,
allowing Roger to concentrate more on the writing and planning.
The stress is plainly seen in the cover, which had no issue
number, and on the contents page, where Roger happily but,
erroneously stated it was Issue Four! David, now Newsfield's
Production Controller, was, (and still is) an excellent photographer,
and the marked improvement in our screen shots was noted.
Taking pictures from a monitor is no simple matter, and all
CRASH had at the time was a rented 14-inch telly! I can remember
getting in the engineer to look at it because all the colour
was being pulled into one corner leaving the rest black-and-white.
The bemused man took it away and brought another, shaking
his head, saying only a strong magnet could produce such an
effect. I refrained from telling him that David had been waving
his very powerful light meter over the screen - it contained
a massive magnetic field!
Further improvements in picture quality had to wait until
the wonderful Microvitec Cub monitor arrived for review, but
with David's ministrations, people everywhere began praising
our colour screen shots, at least (they appear so fuzzy now).
CRASH was, unwittingly, about to unleash a media war. We
regarded ourselves a specialist enthusiasts, and so news of
any program in progress excited us, and we wanted to convey
that feeling to the readers. We were also very chatty with
software houses, so it came as no surprise that we were easily
able to get very advanced screen shots of Matthew Smith's
unfinished Jet Set Willy, possibly the most eagerly
awaited game of all time. As a result, CRASH was the first
to print pictures, despite plenty of interest in the project
from other magazines.
On top of that, through close and friendly relations with
Micromega, we were also the first to spot the potential of
Code Name Mat by Derek Brewster. When it was first
shown to us, it had no name, and the joke became current that
Mat referred to Matthew Uffindell, the CRASH reviewer who
was the first player in the country to get his hands on it
- and who knows, it may be true . . .
All this frenzied previewing activity put CRASH markedly
ahead of the other magazines at the time, but they soon started
fighting back and the scrabble for advance information was
on in earnest. The trick, however, was not only to be first
with words and pictures, but also to spot the real winners.
We weren't always right . . .
Three showed another improvement - the paper. The printer
was changed and CRASH went fully glossy. Games Of The Month
were given a logo on the review page instead of being bunched
up at the start, the first of these being Blue Thunder
(Richard Wilcox, soon to be absorbed by his family into Elite
Systems), Cavern Fighter from Bug-Byte, and Night
Gunner by Digital Integration. Although Matthew, Roger
and I liked Blue Thunder, there was an adverse reaction
from some readers, but everyone seemed agreed that the graphically
uninspiring Cavern Fighter was a damned good 'Scramble'
Hardware novelty object was Stack's Light Rifle, which caused
battles between Matthew and Chris Passey to use it. It was
fun but hardly earthshatteringly good, and it's amusing now
to see the games consoles bringing the idea back - with somewhat
more accurate results.
Oh, and we did the first ever CRASHtionnaire to find out
how well readers thought the magazine was doing.