Zzap! Editorials 1991


Issue 69 - January 1991



It takes no great insight to recognize the hardware market is as confused now as it ever was in the boom years of the early Eighties. There's a whole host of gleaming new machines competing to establish themselves, from uprated Amstrad computers to the Atari Lynx. Waiting in the wings we have CD-TV, and a new PC-compatible Amstrad machine.

Software houses are obviously hoping for the market to sort itself out so it returns to the old days when all they had to worry about was C64 and Spectrum conversions. Ocean see the lower end becoming mainly cartridge, with CD-ROM at the more expensive end. US Gold see the PC as the coming thing. Rumours of a high spec, £400 Amstrad PC, styled like an Amiga are called upon to support the argument that the PC might finally become a major leisure machine.

In fact the market is likely to remain splintered for a long, long time. The ideal console would probably be a smaller version of the PC Engine, ultra-compact and portable with an optional LCD screen and TV tuner. Anyone who's played Slimeworld on the Lynx knows the brilliant potential of multi-player games. Sure, you can link Amigas, but how often are you going to lug your £400 machine and £300 monitor round to a friend's house?

Unfortunately such a machine is probably a decade away. The new range of superconsoles are all fairly big, the PC Engine was doubled in size for the US market. The Sega Megadrive is spearheading the superconsole UK invasion, but smaller numbers, exorbitant pricing (compared to the US/Japan) and limited, expensive software restricts its appeal. By Xmas 1991 it could be a big threat, but by then the Nintendo Superfamicom might be looming. As might the Atari Panther, the semi-mythical 32-bit superconsole which aims to regain Atari's technical superiority. All three consoles make it likely that Commodore are working on their own console. The GS is a nice machine compared to both the Master System and Nintendo, with software at half the price and aimed squarely at the European market. It should do well, but the new technology makes a successor likely. Already there are strong rumours of a new machine based on the 6502 chip (used by the C64, Lynx and Super Famicom). Maybe it could be compatible with C64 carts?

But what of the C64. Well its future doesn't look too bad actually. Frankly no-one is going to try and bring out a £160 computer any time soon; only Miles Gordon have tried with their Super Speccy which ended up bankrupting one company. It's tough business and R&D costs make the £160 barrier a tough one to breach, if people were even interested. New computers such as the Amstrad PC aim at £400 and often end up much costlier.

So for parents wishing to buy junior some reasonably priced entertainment this Xmas, dressed up with some genuine educational value, the C64 is the ideal choice. And it will be next Xmas too. Amigas are fine things, but they're too pricey to break through into most Xmas stockings. Consoles are good too, but the C64GS is one of the best cheap ones and the expensive consoles lack educational value.

In short, don't write off the C64. Even without carts it's in good health. With them it's doing superb. The future is going to be as splindered as now, with Amigas, CD-TVs, Lynxes, Gamegears and especially the C64 grabbing a fair share of the market.

Stuart Wynne

Issue 70 - February 1991


No editorial.

Issue 71 - March 1991


Again, no editorial.

Issue 72 - April 1991


And again...

Issue 73 - May 1991


And yet again...

Issue 74 - June 1991



ZZAP! may have gone up a few pennies in price, but I hope we've made it all rather worthwhile with the entire mag now completely devoted to the C64, a brand-new review look with lots more space for each game, a free tips booklet, a big budget section and more C64 news, previews and reviews than any other mag around. We've also got a neat little box for our Megatapes, to make a nice collectable series. All in all the world's best C64 mag has just got a lot better and brighter!


It's unbelievable but true, next month there'll be an even better Tips booklet adorning the cover of ZZAP! packet with yet more crucial games info. And yes! The month after that there'll be another one! This series of three tips booklets is in answer to all those readers who wrote into the Rrap asking for one. It's taken a bit of time to do, but we've certainly done it in style. Order your next copy of ZZAP! 64 now!

Issue 75 - July 1991



On the cover of next month's ZZAP! will be maps for two of the most magical lands ever to appear on the C64. In readiness for the exclusive cover-mounting of the awesome Sizzlers Lords of Midnight and Doomdark's Revenge, ZZAP! has produced two beautifully drawn maps detailing all the significant locations in these two vast lands.

Lords of Midnight was written by Mike Singleton (of Midwinter) fame and utilized a brilliant new programming system called Landscaping. This astonishing routine allowed for the creation of no less than 32,000 views of the medieval, dragon-infested kingdom of Icemark. On its release it got 91% and was labeled a 'truly epic game' - a judgment which has effortlessly stood the test of time with most C64 pundits still judging it one of the finest programs for the machine. Both an epic adventure and superlative wargame, Lords of Midnight can't be missed.

Indeed, many people said it could never be bettered, but it was - just once - by the stunning sequel, Doomdark's Revenge. Amazingly Mike Singleton managed to improve the program with 48,000 views, but more importantly character interaction was much improved in the tale of the warrior-princess Shareth the Heartstealer, and her plan to avenge her father's defeat. 95% was the rating for this masterpiece.

So whatever you do, don't miss next month's ZZAP! where one of the C64's greatest-ever adventures starts with two glorious maps. Subscribe now to make sure of collecting the two brilliant programs themselves, coming very soon!

Issue 76 - August 1991



Do you really want a C65? A super new version of the C64 with a built-in 3.5 inch disk drive, 4096 colours, near Amiga quality graphics and C64 compatibility all for just £200? Well, this is the question that Commodore is asking itself. As long back as ECES '90, Commodore's retail sales manager Kelly Shamner had been fairly open about upgrading the C64, although he expected the current model to continue 'in its present form' for another two years. In line with that the C65 is unlikely to appear before 1992. Indeed, as yet there are no firm plans to release it at all. Commodore's design plant in Westchester, Pennsylvania has lots of interesting prototype hardware but that is never going to be put in production.

Upgrading a successful computer so it's got lots of glitzy new features while still being compatible with all the old software is an appealing project. After all, Commodore's already tried it once with the C128 - offering substantially improved graphics plus CPM compatibility for business. Unfortunately that failed, mainly due to high price and poor software support. The C65 will be cheaper and more powerful. Unlike the C128, with all its business aspirations, the C65 is directly aimed to replace the C64 as a low-end, first-time buyer machine. Cheap but still packing enough hi-tech wizardry for it to be competitive for the next five years. It's a tough nut to crack, too good a machine could hit Amiga sales, but if the machine is too weak then who would buy it?

Commodore's Press & Public Relations Manager, Andrew Ball, promised the machine would be much better than the C64 (or C128), its specification would pit it against the 16-bit Atari ST in fact. A palette of 4096 colours and Amiga-type IFF (allowing Amiga screens to be directly ported accross) offers 'near Amiga-style graphics', although there won't be a blitter cheap to zip graphics around. What custom chips the C65 would have Andrew wasn't saying, but 'sound would be improved' as well. The machine's memory remains undecided, but an absolute minimum would be 128K. The CPU would still be a 6502, but custom chips make anything possible - the Lynx uses a 6502, as does NEC's PC Engine (which has an arcade-perfect version of R-Type).

Although the outline specification has been touted around developers there's been no official reaction other than usual 'we'll wait and see'. There are certainly no development machines out there, there isn't even a better than fifty-fifty chance of it being launched according to Andrew. One reason for this doubt is the remarkable success of the C64. It sold more units in the UK in 1990 than ever before, a quarter of a million in fact, and Andrew expects to sell almost as many this year as well - 200,000 or so. Any thought of killing the C64 for the Amiga was ridiculous - 'why kill a product that's going so well?'. Rather than dumping machines in Eastern Europe, Andrew expected the opening up of that area, and the Far East, as offering a superb opportunity for the C64. These countries would provide a huge potential market for a low-cost home computer and as Andrew points out, 'nothing can touch the C64 at its current price'.


Whatever the power of the new consoles, the C64's continuing success demonstrates some people want more from their machines than the ability only to play expensive cartridge games. The ability to run some business software, cheap budget games, do homework and so on are not features available on a console. The failure of the SAM Coupe and the new Amstrad CPC Plus series to catch on, and the fading of the Spectrum, has left the C64 dominant among cheap home computers. Other than the C65 there's nothing new on the horizon aimed at this market.

The only possible weakness is that perennial Achilles Heel, the C2N. Commodore's dropping of it from the C64 packs lowers the price but leaves buyers in a quandary over what data storage device to buy. Asked whether Commodore would be encouraging retailers to take third-party datasettes Andrew Ball was surprisingly dismissive, in his view datasettes are suitable only for basic home programming due to their unreliability and lengthy loading times. For games, cartridges and disks are the way to go. Unfortunately, the range of cartridge software remains limited while C64 disk drives cost almost as much as the C64 itself, besides being slow. 3.5-inch disk drives are faster, cheaper and offer much more memory storage potential but Commodore's last attempt to introduce them for the C64 never scratched the market. There was no hype, thus low sales, and software houses never bothered to support it.

Of course the C65 would solve these problems at a stroke with its integral 3.5" disk drive. Indeed some commentators think the C65 was conceived purely as a means of solving this problem. At £200 the C65 would offer improved hardware and vastly superior data storage for around £40 less than a C64 and an old, cumbersome and costly 5" disk drive!

Put this way, the C65's appeal is strong indeed and for dedicated C64 owners could be irresistible. C64 software could be loaded in seconds on a 3.5" drive and doubtless there'd be cartridges to back-up treasured software libraries to the new medium (whatever the legal questions). Games specifically written for the C65 could equal many current Amiga titles written as ST-ports!

So if you want a Super 64 what can you do? Quite simply write into ZZAP!. Andrew Ball is very eager to hear what C64 owners think. Although primarily aimed at first-time buyers, the C65 needs to appeal to C64 owners and too. Would you upgrade to a C65? Are you interested only in super new games, or would you also like some serious stuff, a printer and a word processor program perhaps? Whatever your opinion, write in - we'll read all your letters, print as many as we can and maybe pass some on to Commodore as well.

Issue 77 - September 1991


No editorial.

Issue 78 - October 1991


Something wonderful is about to happen...


The C64's resurgent software performance - second only to the Amiga - healthy European sales and the prospect of huge Eastern European sales have all helped contribute to a number of very exciting new developments on the C64 scene. The latest news concerns a 3.5-inch C64 disk drive developed by TIB (a manufacturer of disk and cartridge software). It will use a standard Citizen mechanism and be formatted in a standard PC DOS fashion, giving around 700K of usable storage space per disk. It will operate on around 4 volts which will be drawn from the C64 itself, doing without the need for an external powerpack. The most exciting element, however, is that rather than using the C64's awful disk drive port, it will plug into the cartridge port allowing superfast data transmission: 64K could be loaded in about six seconds! TIB are justly proud of their system and took it to Commodore, who were apparently very supportive. UK distributors have been no less impressed with most of the big companies being very enthusiastic and placing hefty orders. Even Dixons are jumping into the bandwagon.

The most important endorsement, however, comes from Ocean and various other software houses who have made available nine games for the £99 launch pack: Jahangir Khan Squash, MUFC, World Championship Boxing, Ninja Rabbits, Summer Olympiad, Winter Olympiad, Wizball, Gutz and Firefly. Although most of the games are golden oldies, there are plans to make available vouchers so if you've got Mutant Wallabies on tape, you can send it away to a software house to get it converted onto disk. Some companies are more wary though. One Birmingham-based developer pointed out that currently 5.25-inch drives occupy such a small portion of the market that retailers hardly stock them and would probably be reluctant to stock another C64 disk format at all - this would be the biggest stumbling block. Also software houses currently deal with so many formats, from Spectrum to Super Famicom, that adding another format is accepted only reluctantly. Nevertheless, those software houses that do support it could make for a real breakthrough. Companies such as Ocean, who currently develop carts, could use the new hyperfast disk drive for rapid access in a similar fashion to cart software. The advantage would be that 3.5" disks are a lot cheaper to buy, plus 700K far exceeds the 512K which is the biggest memory size - and most expensive - of carts so far released. Moreover who's to stop a game stretching over three or four disks? - the cost barrier is far less than with carts, and if the game's a flop you can reuse the disks, unlike carts.

Of course Commodore have previously offered their own 3.5" disk drive, but that worked through the C64's nonstandard disk port, meaning it wasn't that much better than the standard (and awful) 5.25" disk drives, plus software support was minimal. A quick phone call to Commodore's Press & Public Relations Manager Andrew Ball confirmed the company's positive reaction to the device: 'A jolly good idea, encouraging better software and more of it, which is always a good idea. It will encourage the use of the C64 as a proper computer.'

But what about the C65? If TIB's drive is a success, will that remove a large part of the C65's appeal? Will Commodore see TIB as sufficiently bolstering the C64 that no new machine is required. So what about the impact on the C65? 'I honestly don't know, but when there's a real need for it, we will respond. When there's the right software support to take advantage of its interesting advantages.' Hmm. Although Andrew is still eager to remind people no firm decision has been made on the C65, and it certainly won't be launched before early 1992, he sounds a bit more positive. What's more, although obviously he's reluctant to hype a machine that may never be put on the market, he has agreed to try and answer some C65 questions next month. Fingers crossed for that, but don't write off the C64 yet...

'Later in the year we're going to be doing something rather exciting with the C64, we're going to be giving it an enormous shot in the arm. We're so excited we might even give it its own TV commercial!' Has there ever been so many tantalising rumours about the C64? Well, tune in next month for a full TIB drive review, a competition to win three drives, and that Andrew Ball interview.

Issue 79 - December 1991



Zzap!'s back, and better than ever! Bet we had you worried there for a moment or two. Truth to tell, it gave all of us at ZZAP! Towers a jolt. You may have read in a certain other C64 mag that ZZAP! had gone for good, but it was a bit of a porky, certainly a touch previous at any rate. Takes a bit more than Newsfield going down the pan to keep a mag as essential as ZZAP! from publishing.

The truth is Lloyd Mangram wanted a nice holiday - he hasn't had one since the big N started over 100 years ago. Rumour has it he rang up the liquidators and got them to come in on 17 September to tell us all that Newsfield was insolvent, which is a bit like being caught in Smiths with ten disk games in your sweaty hands and only a pocketful of loose change to pay for 'em.

It was okay for Lloyd. Despite moaning for years about never having a pay rise, he's got more money stashed away under his mattress than the whole of Fort Knox. The rest of us had to take a hike to the local DHSS and sign on. Let me tell you, when they ask you that daft question about what sort of work you're going to be looking for, editorships of Commodore mags ain't that high on the list of highly opportunities.

Too numerous to mention, the 'old' new staff gather for an Impactive photo.So what really happened?

Yep, Newsfield, after eight valiant years and the two best eight-bit mags in the business, found itself short of cash. We were told that the failure of LM - Newsfield's general-interest youth title - back in 1987, and MOVIE the year after, were probably to blame, that and the recession of course.

All the magazines (plus games, computers, T-shirts and Robin Hogg's joystick) got collected by the liquidators to be sold off. The mags went up for auction, and immediately the bids started coming in, with one big London publisher wanting to set up a special company here in Ludlow to run ZZAP!. Another, Future Publishing (Commodore Format), wanted CRASH and ZZAP!. Commodore Format's publisher Jane Richardson denied their interest was simply in killing off the competition. 'CRASH and ZZAP! are very strong titles and we certainly didn't want them to die,' she warmly warbled. What exactly were they going to do with them, then? 'We had several options open to us had we got the titles. We probably would have incorporated them into our existing magazines.' If that isn't killing titles off, I'm blowed if I know what is.

But rescue was at hand! Roger Kean - once a ZZAP!'s editor - and a Newsfield director got together with our very own cover illustrator, Oliver Frey, and Jonathan Rignall to raise finance through Europress (Games-X, Amiga Action, ST Action et al). So was founded Europress Impact, still in Ludlow, and their bid for CRASH and ZZAP! won the day!

Of course we're all sorry that Big N's gone, but it's great to be back at work again (and they've bought me brand new Apple Macintosh to do it with). So you see it! Yeah! Better and brighter and glossier than ever on our new shiny paper and with a great two-part freebie poster calendar for 1992 - and an awesome line-up of Megatape games. Next issue's going to be even better, so keep reading ZZAP! - the mag everyone wants to buy!


Sadly it's true, the Welsh computer games wizard isn't returning to ZZAP!. After Newsfield's sad demise Robin returned to Lichfield to live with his girlfriend, Sam, and is so happy he's not coming back - aw!

Robin had such a good gamesplaying reputation at ZZAP! Towers that Thalamus had planned to poach him for their game development department! Robin joined Newsfield almost four years ago on THE GAMES MACHINE where he quickly established a reputation for narking off software houses - and sometimes other reviewers! - with his hard markings and picky reviews. Over two years ago now he made the fateful move over to ZZAP! magazine where his cheery grin and military-mania soon became known to the nation! Despite his, uhm, unique time-keeping, Robin is much missed and we wish him well in his future career.


To kick off the brighter looking ZZAP! 64, we commissioned Oli Frey to do a special A2-sized double-sided 1992 poster calendar (phew, what a mouthful!). Part One is stuck on the cover (if it isn't, go back to your newsagent and ask who half-inched it). As you can see, one side's got a head on it and the other's got a - well a bottom bit of some geezer. Worry not! Next month's fab issue gives you all the other vital bits needed to make up two whole men-things and a year to boot. And there will be instructions on how to construct your ZZAP! Oli Frey 1992 calendar (batteries not included).

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