By Lloyd Mangram
new spirit swept CRASH; for the first time in ages Oliver
and Roger were able to work together on ideas for the
cover. The general opinion was to put Ocean's Head
Over Heels on the cover, but Oliver was alarmed
that this could lead to yet another 'cutesy' picture.
He wanted something tougher. Roger suggested basing
the painting on the Evil Emperor instead, and using
the idea of the space between the planets in the game's
scenario. That did the trick, and Oliver turned in one
of the best pictures yet.
There was a new spirit indeed. It had already been suggested
just after Christmas that CRASH was falling behind on colour
content, that our rivals were providing more colour screenshots
than we were. One of Roger Kean's first jobs was to assess
whether Newsfield's increasingly experienced film-planners;
already adept at putting tinted boxes, coloured text and so
on into pages, could tackle the complexities of planning pages
which included the laser-scanned four-colour separations from
which full-colour photos are printed. This job would normally
be undertaken by a professional repro house.
Cost had been the prohibiting factor. Normally it costs approximately
£60 for every colour picture to be scanned by a laser
scanner (the equipment is too expensive for Newsfield to have
in-house): 30 reviews each getting two colour pictures would
therefore cost around £3,600, far more than affordable.
But if all the photographs taken from the monitor could be
exactly the same size as each other, then whole batches of
transparencies could be stitched together and scanned at the
same time. (They'd have to be the same size so that when the
pictures were all enlarged together by the same percentage
they'd fit the magazine's column widths precisely.)
When these sets of separations returned from the London company
which does Newsfield's scanning, the film-planning department
could fit them into pages already laid out by our Art Department.
Using this method, Roger and Cameron managed to trim the cost
of screenshots down to about £10 per picture, enabling
CRASH to go almost full-colour.
We tried the new system out with the April issue, though
not with every screen, and it worked well. From now on CRASH
would be colour throughout, whenever feasible. And because
we now kept the separations, CRASH would always be able to
reuse any picture whenever required at no extra cost for features
like Playing Tips.
Lee Paddon's interview with Australian programmer Steve Taylor
went into the issue, but before it was printed it required
an update. Steve worked for Melbourne House, but news arrived
that Melbourne House UK had been sold to budget giants Mastertronic.
It may have been a surprise to the public, but the deal, it
seemed, had been under discussion for some time.
Mastertronic had come a long way since the days when their
budget range was really cheap rubbish. But with labels like
M.A.D. and Bulldog they were often putting out quality games
at still very low prices, and now they owned one of the industry's
oldest and most respected full-price software houses - though
it has to be said that Melbourne House had been going through
a poor patch for some six months.
here again was a second consecutive month where there were
only two Smashes, and one was a budget game - in this case
Firebird's I, Ball. The other was, of course, Ocean's
Head Over Heels, widely regarded as the best game Jon
Ritman and Bernie Drummond had written. It was hardly apparent
at the time, but Head Over Heels was part of a new
pattern for Ocean who, like the rest of us, realised that
full-price games were fighting for their lives in the 8-bit
marketplace. 1986 had been an uneven year for them and, because
of the volume Ocean put out, they were as much to blame as
anyone for the low profile licensed games had achieved in
the public's mind. And the budget houses were profiting from
An insight, one of rare honesty from a software publisher,
was offered by Ocean's Gary Bracey when he told CRASH that
Ocean's recent record had not been as good as it should have
been, both for the quality of product and for the accuracy
of advertised delivery time. It was this open recognition
of past failings that would now motivate Ocean for the coming
year; they would do their very best to offer value for money.