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A long time Ago in A World Far Far away....

Posted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 8:40 pm
by Toneman
Hi everyone,

Not so very long ago, I had occasion to dig out my Old ZZap Magazines for all the wrong reasons. I was thinking about getting rid of them, because after all after all I'd not read them for years and they weren't really relevant to my gaming habit any more (and my gaming habit goes way beyond sitting down at my computer desk). I needed space, and some cash wouldn't go amiss.

Before I put them up on ebay, however, I just had to flick through them one more time, and of course the memories came flooding back. Here's a few. Were this a WOW forum post I'm sure I'd get 'your wall of text crits for 5000 damage' posts but I'm not going to apologise for that!

I'd been involved in a motorcycle accident, and had just started walking again, and not being able to play my sports. I'd just bought my first computer which was of course a Commodore 64 from my local store in Beaconsfield (it was called AlphaScan and its now long gone) and my first game which I think was Colossal Adventure by Level 9 who were just up the road in Huenden Valley near High Wycombe. That by the way started a love affair with text adventures which didn't end until they stopped producing them years later.

AlphaScan didn't really do games, although they'd order anything I wanted, so I was looking in my local Smiths and Boots for other titles which weren't by Level Nine and I really had no idea what to get. I saw the Vic20 version of Gridrunner in the store, played (and loved) it so I naively bought the 64 version thinking 'it'll be the same' and was quite bitterly disappointed when it didn't play the same way; it was clearly aimed at a better gamer than me and the difficulty curve wasn't as nicely judged.

Anyway when Boots refused to change the title for me, I got referred to a small shop called Fidget (which still exists as a company though its a very different beast these days) where I could try any game I wanted but while the guys were great, the shop was usually so packed you needed some idea of what you wanted to try, so Eddie (who was a friend I'd lost touch with some years before and worked there the lucky bastard) said 'well you could try this mag' so I was off to my local newsagent where as luck would have it they had it in stock. A minute later I had handed over my pound and I was off home to devour the issue!

This was issue 3, which got me buying Boulderdash and Dropzone – which was not a bad way to start I think! The following day I back ordered issue one and two, and sorted out a standing order from that point on, which lasted right to the end of its run as ZZAP and on into Commodore Force. Being a comic collector they all went into those bags which house 2000ad comics and if I ripped a cover or something (they were very flimsy weren't they) I replaced it. I guess that's why they're still in decent condition so I shouldn't be too critical of my clearly anal nature!

The reviews had a huge influence what became my c64 gaming habit. I'll say now I didn't always agree with them but for a long time I was down the newsagents banging on the door when a New Zzap was due and by and large is followed what everyone said. I'm willing to bet that the reviews have been gone over with the full benefit of hindsight in these forums and I'll be having a look later so I won't mention it here. I do think that some of the Thalamus Games were overrated (not Hunter's Moon which still comes out for the odd play; not that I'm any good at it, or indeed Armalyte which is just awesome) but again I'm sure you know the ones I mean.

My faith in the mag took a bit of a knock when the first ZZAPback came out – which was the one where the reviewers said they didn't like Elite although the review was of course a gold medal. What else had been doctored by editors before I saw it? But the thing was that the editors had since then been Zzap reviewers so I did put that aside.

The last full price game I bought was Martin Walker's Citadel -which was not a bad way to finish buying for the C64 I think – its another great game I still get out and play on occasion. I kept on buying the mag as I've said though I hated it when the reviewers lost their identity as people and became cartoon images and I was too old for it by the time it went full colour. While I still glanced through it it was the collecting thing which kept my standing order at the newsagents open all that time. Then it just didn't come any more and I remember reading about its demise in other forms of press.

I tried other mags for other computers of course but I have to say that they lacked that critical edge by and large. When I eventually came across it, The One was brilliant as I remember but mags like St and Amiga Action weren't good and I feel there was far too much fear of putting out a bad review and adversely affecting their advertising budget so their function as a guide wasn't fulfilled properly. I'm sure I remember a reference to how advertising affected reviews in PC Format years later.

When I sat down with my ZZap's recently, I was struck by a number of things. One was the energy of the writing which I think is totally lacking in ZZap's modern cousins. The other was the evident enthusiasm even love of the subject that absolutely everyone who worked for the magazine so clearly had. A modern mag might be better produced, laid out, and technically better written but I it has little by way of personality in comparison, no verve, no passion. Perhaps Zzap was a mirror of the industry at that time. Young, anarchic, full of energy and perhaps just a bit crazy. What do you think?

I'm sure readers of this forum have seen stuff like this before from others but I'll say it anyway before I look through everything else that's here. I was a huge fan of ZZAP and I really loved that era of computer gaming when everything was new and fresh and companies were willing to take risks. I still have my old C64 setup with the disk drive and monitor and it still works – I might even have the version of invaders I programmed on machine code somewhere!

I have a lot more memories I could talk about. I'm sure loads of people do but I think I've written too much already. I'll finish therefore on how I got to this site. Reading my old Zzaps had me coming back to the pc and for the hell of it I typed in and it brought me here. So will I get getting rid of my collection? Now way! Some parts of your youth just have to be kept. :)

For anyone who's got this far, thanks for taking the trouble to read my witterings and putting up with my typos.


P.S. For the people who keep up the site – I am enjoying the look and feel a great deal. The bible in particular is superb. Thanks.

Re: A long time Ago in A World Far Far away....

Posted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 9:53 pm
by andy vaisey
Toneman wrote:The last full price game I bought was Martin Walker's Citadel -which was not a bad way to finish buying for the C64 I think – its another great game I still get out and play on occasion.
That puts you on my Xmas card list! ;)

Great game, one of my very favourites ever!

Posted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 9:55 pm
by Iain
Ta for sharing! Glad to hear that you decided to keep the magazines after all, with plastic covers on all of them it sounds like it's a fine quality collection.

As for the enthusiasm displayed within Zzap's pages (well at least the earlier issues) I guess it was down to a few things, in my opinion:

1. A product of its time. Computer gaming and the industry even more so, was still relatively new and thus exciting.

2. The reviewers were rather young chaps who were having a ball in and out of work in Ludlow and of course were heavily into games, so that all showed through.

3. The magazine was all about games and games are meant to be fun!

4. Newsfield was a very new / young company so the shackles of corporate oppression hadn't arrived on the scene yet :)

Glad / surprised you like the "look and feel" of the site, it's pretty damn retro itself now!

I'm very proud of the ZzapBible, so I'm glad you like it too. It's in the process of being extended and redesigned etc. but it's a very slow process.

Posted: Thu Jul 07, 2011 7:42 pm
by Toneman
Hey Andy. I've just set up an eumlator and downloaded Citadel and I was reminded again of how good it was - one of its virtues being that you could really get into it as a game - unlike the arcade games of the period (like R-type) which were designed to give you just enough to keep you coming back for more. I'll need to re-read the instructions though! (and possibly see if there's an equivalent of the old competition pro joystick).

By the time it had come out I was an Amiga owner, but for a long time it kept me coming back to my good old breadbox and actually I remember a lot of promised gameplay advances with the new 16 bit computers which made their way in due course to the C64!

The site has been a revalation Iain. What I look for in a website is a clear interface which I can navigate quickly and easily and get where I want with a minimum of fuss. Given that I was strongly reminded of the look of the older ZZaps when I first got here it achieves what I'm sure was your intention and I am going to spend a long time looking through the site.In my view it has a lot of excellent content which I'm really looking forward to exploring in depth. I was really pleased for example to see the Terminal Man again. All that wonderful Oliver Frey sequential art in one place! I do wish he'd finished part 2 of the story.

It's all bringing back a lot of memories which I'm sure will bore the crap out of you so I won't subjecto you to them. However, I'll be indulging myself in The Zzuperstone in due course!

I'm going to spend a lot of time reading whats on the site - I cannot say that about many places I visit on the web candidly. Thanks for making all that available to us and in due course I'll look forward to your comments if you have any and your site updates.

Posted: Mon Sep 05, 2011 1:17 pm
by Ant
That was a great story, Toneman.

And it's great to see another Citadel fan. I was playing it just yesterday on my HTC Desire. Ahh, how far we've come ...

Posted: Mon Sep 05, 2011 7:13 pm
by andy vaisey
Ant wrote:And it's great to see another Citadel fan. I was playing it just yesterday on my HTC Desire. Ahh, how far we've come ...
I have it on my HTC Wildfire.

I also was playing it yesterday on my real 64 loaded from my brand new EasyFlash cart! Happy days!

Posted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 9:44 am
by Lloyd Mangram
Great story! Thx.