On the face of it, the software market oozes sweetness and light - but it's the warts and boils that often prove more interesting. Ron Smith takes a behind-the-scenes look at the power struggles.
Hollywood, once famous for
its moguls and prima donna
stars, has long since gone into
a glittering decline. But
nowadays, there's another
world of fantasy ready to take
its place - the world of microcomputer software production. Young programmers
can, and often do, become
overnight successes by writing a bestseller, while the
software houses that market
the goods can make veritable
fortunes and their owners
become Havana-smoking tax
exiles with even more indecent taste than many a
And that, in short, is just
what this page is all about:
the people, the companies
and the products that go to
make up the popular software
MANIC MATTHEW JOINS THE JET SETOne of the biggest shocks to reverberate through the industry of late has been Matthew Smith's decision to sever his connections with Bug-Byte, one of this country's largest software houses. Matthew, author of the best selling Manic Miner game for the 48K Spectrum, agrees that "Bug-Byte had the contract to both produce and market" this popular game, but that in his opinion "their marketing techniques were not all they should have been".
Matthew has therefore decided to quit his contract with Bug-Byte and move over to Software Projects - a company including himself and Bug-Byte ex-employee, Alan Maton. All, however, may not be well within the portals of SP, for the embryo company's new game Jet Set Willy, which has been promised for some time now, "is still not completely written", claims Matthew. But he urges, "it won't be long now", and promises that Your Spectrum will be one of the first to see a preproduction copy as soon as one can be cobbled together. Watch these pages for further developments on that one.
What does seem a little strange, though, is that if Bug-Byte had its ace programmer under contract, how then has he managed to break himself free so easily? The answer is now clear. Matthew Smith had made his decision to move on, and according to Bug-Byte's Tony Baden, "Manic Miner had passed its peak, and we
really didn't feel like taking a
17 year old to court". Under
the circumstances, it obviously
seemed better to just let
Matthew and his program go. |
So, what about Bug-Byte's future? Tony Baden reveals he has registered Manic Miner, and intends launching a new improved version for the Commodore 64 in the near future. However, once bitten, twice shy, etc, etc, and Tony adds that after the experience with Matthew, "We're definitely put off using people under 18 in the future". Perhaps there's a lesson there for you would-be micro geniuses.
TROUBLE 'T MILLStill on the subject of wayward programmers, Carnell Software too has had one or two problems of late. It all started with what was intended to be a series of programs known as Starforce 1, 2, 3, etc. A programmer was put to work, but instead of coming up with the expected supersmooth arcade game where the players find themselves at the edge of a maze with the unlikely task of getting to the centre in order to destroy the computer, what was actually produced was something a lot less than perfect. Indeed, so much so that Roy Carnell and fellow director, Stuart Galloway, felt moved to "give him a right **!!**ing for writing such a *??!!* program, then throw him off the project". But commercial pressures cannot be ignored and Carnell, after a quick rethink, decided to reinstate his fallen genius, giving him just two days to improve the product. This we're told he managed to do, although just how welcome his stay will be as a result of all this is open to speculation. Gee, it's tough at the top!
Carnell Software is also currently working on two new programs, one adventure and one arcade. The adventure, a sequel to Volcanic Dungeon, will consist of three programs and these will come supplied with a 200-page book (giving the history of the Third Continent, a guide to the monsters and over 100 handy spells to help players overcome various hazards). The arcade game, BobaJob, will be the only one of its type, requiring two programs to play the game. Apparently, it features a boy scout who has various jobs to do for a number of grannies.
Expect these on your high street
shelves soon ... |
BLACK BISHOP ZAPS RED QUEENIf the idea is anything to go by, then it's probable that Artic Computing will score with its latest project - based around the ancient game of chess. Ho humm, you may say, but this is not just another old chess game.
Artic's spokesperson, Chris Clark, reports that, "It's to be called Death Chess 2000 and will include all the fun of the board game, with plenty of highly entertaining arcade action ". All of which sounds a little strange, but nevertheless, rather interesting. Let's hope it doesn't turn out to be a case of protecting your king from the invading lesser pieces. Once complete, claims Chris, "the game will include eight or nine levels of arcade fun ". Chris also drew our attention to their new widely-advertised (but not yet available) Bear Bovver game. Check out the screen photograph for a glimpse of what's to come.
Board games are a popular source of inspiration for program writers at the moment, and A&F Software has recently signed the rights to a new title, launched recently at the Earls Court toy fair. Computerisation is under way and it'll be interesting to see which achieves the better sales - the program or the original board game. Cagey Mike Fitzgerald, having said this much (and avoiding the temptation of giving anything else away), then went on to talk about A&F's move to new offices in Greater Manchester. He says they are "bigger, nicer and unfortunately more expensive. " And being based in Rochdale, he firmly denies industry rumours by saying, "There's absolutely no truth in the rumour that we're being called the Rochdale cowboys - pardner!".
If you go down to the wood today ... watch out for Artic's Bear Bovver.