|128K out in January|
THE SPECTRUM 128K will be on sale in the UK by the end of January. That's the promise made by Sinclair Research to software houses currently writing or converting games for the 128K machine, which was launched last September in Spain.
Sinclair Research refuses to comment, but the software house we spoke to confirms that Sinclair has approached a number of companies and offered incentives to ensure a supply of software for the new machine when it is launched.
"We couldn't have done it without the backing of Sinclair," says our source. "They're making it attractive for us to do it."
He refuses to say whether the incentives took the form of subsidies or guarantees, but says Sinclair Research expects immediate sales in the tens of thousands. Presumably the deal is based around compensation if sales do not reach the projections.
This is the first time that Sinclair Research has ever cooperated with software houses prior to the launch of a machine in order to ensure a good supply of software. Many companies have complained bitterly in the past of lack of support from Sinclair, particularly in the QL area, which still suffers from a lack of products.
Further confirmation of the January launch is a rumoured advertising push in the New Year, with a special brochure. But talk is also flying fast and free about a professional QL, with 512K memory and floppies instead of microdrives.
Such a machine has been on the cards for some months now, and Sinclair Research is known to have investigated a number of possibilities for developing the potential of QL technology. The waferdisk system, however, once promised for the end of 1985, appears to have been an indefinite casualty of the financial problems earlier in the year.
Those troubles seem likely to result in a disappointing report for the first six-monthly period of the '85-'86 financial year. Figures of up to £30m in losses are not impossible, although the deal which sold 160,000 machines to Dixons has alleviated some problems. Those machines were, however, sold at rock-bottom prices, and there is little doubt that Sinclair Research has some way to go before it regains the full confidence of the business world.
|The unicorn faces final extinction|
THERE WILL he no more Mikro-Plus games from Mikro-Gen, following the relatively poor sales of Shadow of the Unicorn. The game uses the novel Mikro-Plus device to expand the memory of the Spectrum.
Managing director Mike Meek says one factor in the decision was the refusal of WH Smith to accept the lower-than-normal profit margins offered by Mikro-Gen. According to Meek, the cost of the hardware made normal Smith profit margins prohibitive.
"Usually our games need to sell about 20,000 to break even," he says. "Unicorn would have had to sell 40,000, but it's only done about 11,000."
A spokesman for WH Smith says pricing was one of the factors in the decision not to stock the game, but added that the Mikro-Plus device did not add enough to the game to justify its inclusion.
The saga has had an unhappy ending, with marketing manager Paul Denial leaving the company, along with top programmer Andrew Laurie. Meek explains that Denial and he disagreed over the future of the Mikro-Plus.
Laurie was one of the original founders of Mikro-Gen. "He's a brilliant programmer, and I'd trust him with my life, still," says Meek. "But he just isn't the right person to handle a team of programmers."
|The lens: 20/20 vision or mirage?|
THE revolutionary security device, Lenslok, has already come in for criticism from the public.
The first game to use Lenslok is the chart-topping Elite, from Firebird, and within days of release the company received phone calls from furious games players who were unable to use it. It appears that Firebird's instructions were less than perfect - containing 'ambiguities', according to the company - and new instructions are now available.
Phil Pratt, of Firebird, says: "Because there was so much attention surrounding Elite, expectant games players rushed home, whacked in the cassette, and were disappointed to find that they had to get through a brand new protection system." He does not deny, however, that the faulty instructions were a hindrance.
Digital Integration, who has also released a lenslocked game, Tomahawk, does not anticipate similar problems. Managing director David Marshall says:
"We've included a self-teaching tutor mode and changed the instructions to emphasize important features.
"We've tried it on an awful lot of people, including my mother-in-law, who's never loaded a game in her life, and none of them experienced difficulties."
ASAP Developments, the company which manufactures Lenslok, is so pleased with Digital's implementation of the system that it has adopted both instructions and tutor mode as standard.
Digital Integration intends to lenslok all future product, including the long-awaited TT Racer. Pratt of Firebird, on the other hand, say the company is unsure as to whether it will employ the system again. The soon-to-be-released Hot Range is not lenslocked.
Elite owners who require an updated Lenslok instruction sheet can obtain it from Firebird Software, London.
|Friday 13 : too violent|
THAT gruesome horror movie, Friday the 13th, is to make its debut on the computer screen - thankfully with a little less spillage of blood and guts. However, there has been some controversy concerning the packaging and advertising of the game.
The picture appearing on cassette inlays and in advertisements depicts an ice hockey mask in a pool of blood with a knife piercing the eye-hole. Menzies has refused to carry the game with its present artwork, although Boots and WH Smith have agreed to take on the product.
'We are trying
"The idea was originally presented by the film company as something rather eye-catching," comments Domark's Dominic Wheatley, explaining that a small change has been made in the artwork to get round the Menzies problem. "We simply dropped the picture - there is a big black space with the wordage on top and underneath it."
Some magazines have also experienced problems and have had a few telephone calls, mostly from parents, complaining about the advertisements. "I suppose it's quite a good thing to have controversy, though, apparently there have been more comments about Rambo than Friday the 13th," says Wheatley. "If people don't want it, we don't want to press the point. We are working out some other way of advertising."
The film cannot be seen by those under 18, yet the game can be bought by all ages. That does not seem to bother Wheatley. "Friday the 13th is not a video nasty - it's an approved film. Many X-rated films are accompanied by books which are often more vivid in their descriptions and yet under 18s can buy those. We are trying to amuse people - Friday the 13th will not incite anyone to run around and hurt someone."
|Terminal illness for Medic?|
MEDIC Data Systems which produces peripherals for the QL, is in trouble. The offices of Medic have been closed and Chris Skogland, managing director, is temporarily in Ireland.
The problems seem to have started with the non-replacement of faulty goods; more recently, there have been complaints from consumers over the non-receipt of goods after payment had been made.
An injunction was successfully sought by Medic Data Systems' PR agent to freeze all assets until debts were paid. At the time of writing, that injunction is still in force, although it is expected to be lifted in the near future. Meanwhile the PR agents are continuing to work for Medic.
|Best selling mouse marries Spectrum|
THE AMX Mouse, a finalist in the Peripheral of the Year Award 1985, is now available for the Spectrum.
The Mouse, originally designed for the BBC micro, comes from Advanced Memory Systems, and costs £69.95, including Centronics interface, manual and software. It is a device connected to the computer and which, when moved over a flat surface such as a tabletop, will move the on-screen cursor in a corresponding fashion. The Mouse thus becomes a faster alternative to keyboard control.
The software accompanying the Mouse includes AMX Art, for producing professional standard drawings; AMX Colour Palette, to add colours to the pictures created by AMX Art; and AMX Control to create a mouse environment, adding 28 commands to Basic and including an icon designer.
Some commercial software is already fully compatible with the Mouse, such as Art Studio and Artist 2.
Nick Pearson, of AMS, is enthusiastic: "We see this as the computer marriage of the year. Here we have the most successful home computer of all time - the Spectrum - linking up with potentially the best-selling peripheral of all time, the AMX Mouse."
The Mouse is, according to Pearson, available from all good computer shops now and from chain stores shortly. Further information can be obtained from AMS, Warrington.
|Sinclair names QL printer|
SINCLAIR RESEARCH has finally plucked up its courage and chosen a printer for the QL on which the Sinclair logo is to be placed.
The machine is a nine-pin Seikosha dot matrix printer, which will plug directly into the QL without the need for an interface. It will cost £249.
"We chose the Seikosha machine because we believed it offered the best combination of attributes," says Alison Maguire, marketing manager for Sinclair Research.
Those attributes include speeds of l00cps - or 25cps at near-letter quality - and single sheet or tractor feed options. Nevertheless, at that price the combination of QL and printer still costs more than the new Amstrad word-processor package. Whether or not the introduction of a branded printer will encourage retailers to sell complete packages at a discount remains to be seen.
|Gyron winner takes cash|
A PORSCHE, or the equivalent in cash, was the prize for the winner of Firebird's Gyron competition. And 16-year-old Juan Manuel Perez Vazquez from Malaga, Spain is now £12,800 richer after storming through the maze.
The final heat took place simultaneously in the UK, Denmark and Spain. The 33 competitors had to solve a third Gyron map, specially written by Ricardo Pinto from Torus - the team which wrote Gyron. Ricardo reckoned it was possible to solve the map in 15 minutes.
Juan, who played his heat in Malaga, supervised by Pete Fountain from Firebird, finished in the astounding time of 18 minutes. The next competitor to complete the maze took one hour 37 minutes.
The map, called Arena, will be released shortly as part of the Silver Range for £1.99.
|Games in the pipeline|
THE EVIL and devastating force of Darkon hangs like a cloud over Megron. Only you and your faithful companion, Komputa, can save the planet. Souls of Darkon, from Taskset, is in the shops for £7.95.
Part simulation, part arcade action, Activision's Rescue on Fractalus has you flying a spaceship and landing on a alien planet in a hazardous rescue bid. Due for release in February at £7.99.
A second compilation from Virgin is already in the shops costing £8.95. Now Games 2, the sequel to the successful Now Games, features Elite's Airwolf, Gargoyle's Tir Na Nog, Palace's Cauldron, Chuckie Egg 2 from A&F Software and Artic's World Cup.
Design your own track, then leap into a Formula 1 for a death-defying race. Leisure Genius is releasing Scalextric for the Spectrum in early February for £9.95.
Firebird has just launched the HOT range to complement its already bewildering collection of Gold, Silver, and SuperSilver ranges. The HOT range will be priced at £7.95 and the first releases include Rasputin, Gerry the Germ (goes body poppin'), and Costa Capers - to be released from mid-December onwards.
The Desert Rats are up and fighting again. Join forces with General Montgomery against Rommel in the North Africa Campaign of 1941-1942. Refight the Battle of Alamein in Desert Rats from CCS.
A game based on the Beatles has been announced by Number 9 Software. Beatle Quest is a split screen adventure and costs £9.95.
Learn to fly a Spitfire before going into combat in a WWII battle. To be released in December by Mirrorsoft, Spitfire 40 costs £9.95. Other releases include Hold the Front Page and Dr Blitzen, out in January for £9.95.
Play Avenger, the ninja warrior, and battle against the forces of evil in The Way of the Tiger from Gremlin Graphics, based on the role-playing adventure book of the same name. It will be available in February at £9.95.
Cyberun and Gunfright are two new games from Ultimate which will be released in December. No details are known, but the games will he £9.95 each.
Deathwake is Quicksilva's latest offering and sets you in the last stages of a terrible war. As admiral-in-chief, you must buy time to restore the homeland's morale and regain territory lost to the Alliance. To defeat them, you must destroy their secret research laboratory set deep within a mountain. Priced at £7.95.
Ariolasoft is releasing three games in time for Christmas. Think! is a new way of playing four-in-a-row and contains hint and tutorial modes. Skyfox is a combat simulation program featuring a 3D scrolling flight simulator, and air-to-air and air-to-ground combat modes. Both games cost £7.95. Realm of Impossibility is an arcade adventure played in a dungeon and costs £8.95.
Rescue a fair maiden and play the hot-headed Spaniard Zorro in US Gold's latest release. There are all sorts of puzzles to figure out before you can free her from the clutches of the evil Sergeant Garcia. Available now for £7.95.
Due for release soon is the Battle of Britain from PSS. Deploy your squadron against the might of the Luftwaffe and drive them back into the channel. Battle of Britain will retail at £9.95.
|Deus gets relaunched|
DEUS EX MACHINA, the classic Automata game of 1984, is to be re-released by Electric Dreams. The game, designed by Mel Croucher, features a full synchronised soundtrack with Ian Dury, Frankie Howerd and Jon Pertwee, among others.
Raved over by the critics, and voted Game of the Year by the industry, it nevertheless failed to get into the shops, mainly because of the deadly enmity between distributors and Automata over the latter's refusal to accept the usual discounts and credit terms.
"It's too original and innovative to allow it to languish in obscurity," says Electric Dreams overlord Rod Cousens. "Marketed properly and at a different price it should get some exposure."
The Spectrum version should he available by the second week of December, and will cost £9.95. Meanwhile Automata will continue to sell Deus mail-order. "I wish there were more people who didn't think mail order companies were all sharks," says Automata's Christian Penfold. "There are more sharks among and wholesalers," he adds.
|Micronet aids Mexico|
THERE'S been Live Aid, and Soft Aid, and now there's Mexican Aid - an appeal for the Mexican Earthquake disaster, run through Micronet 800.
Since October, when the appeal was launched, Micronet subscribers have been pledging their donations and have raised £180.
Donations for the Ethiopian Appeal are still coming in. Gremlin Graphics has presented a cheque for £3,000 from the sales of Tinderbox - a children's adventure, written specially for the Appeal and released at the same time as the Soft Aid compilation. Ian Stewart, from Gremlin Graphics is reputed to be disappointed by the sum, but as he comments, "If we had not made the effort, it would have been £3,000 less for the Appeal."
Monies raised in response to Soft Aid are in the region of £350,000. A new compilation is being put together, for release in the next few months, featuring games from US Gold, Ocean and Activision, although the actual titles are not yet known.