Occasional ramblings on games, generally retro related

​When my parents brought home a ZX81 one day (complete with wobbly 16K RAM pack, of course) I discovered the joy of programming. But it wasn't until I got my hands on a ZX Spectrum that my obsession with games really began, which continued with the C64, Amiga, right through to this day. The 80s and early 90s were an amazing time for games, not just for the games themselves but for the fascinating people behind them - it was truly a time of pioneers and creativity.

I myself have spent the last (almost) 20 years working in the games industry on all manner of platforms, most recently iOS. Ziggurat Development Ltd is my company here in NZ that provides contract programming services.

Filtering by Tag: 1989

Confidential Magazine #8 December '88/January '89

As we bid goodbye to the 80s, the Editor pondered what lay ahead in the coming decade. After the world had lived in fear of nuclear annihalation for so many years, the arrival of the likes of Gorbachev meant we could now focus on the "prospect of irreversible doom" thanks to global warming. Technology would, of course, play a significant role in what was to come: "Our ability to manipulate information and communicate the results to the whole World within seconds, could lead us into chaos."

Overall, a cheerful way to open this issue.

As for the rest of the mag, it featured:

  • A report from the PC Show at London's Olympia.
  • An interview with the team behind the Cthulu inspired adventure, "The Hound Of Shadow" from Electronic Arts.
  • With the bombshell news reported in a previous issue that "Scapeghost" would be the last adventure game from genre legends Level 9, Confidential wanted to find out what was behind the decision, and what to expect next. There were a raft of reasons, but declining sales was - unsurprisingly - the primary, and they were tight lipped about their plans aside from saying "Contractual secrecy prevents me saying much about Level 9's future games, except that they are 16-bit, with state-of-the-art animated graphics."
  • A guide to the Kingdom of Kerovnia, the setting for the games of Magnetic Scrolls.
  • A look at to the upcoming titles from Sierra: "Hero's Quest", "The Colonel's Bequest", "Codename: Ice Man", "Leisure Suit Larry 3" and "Sorcerian" (unreleaased).
  • Game agent Jacqui Lyons continued her reporting from behind the iron curtain.
  • This month's Play By Mail game was "Pop Star" from Ideal Games.
  • An interview with adventure game reviewer/journo Keith Campbell.
  • A preview of Novalogic's naval sim "Wolfpack".
  • The Adventure '89 convention saw twenty multi-user games represented.
  • The third part of "Writing Your Own Adventures".
  • A guide on running your own LARP events.

Confidential Magazine #6 August/September 1989

This month's mag included:

  • A rather depressing Editorial which opened with "Boom-time for the computer games world is over, at least for the next few years." The Japanese consoles were wiping the floor with computers - the 8bits were barely hanging on, the ST not far behind them. There looked to be some life left in the Amiga, but it was the IBM PC that stood the best chance of lasting. Perhaps the grimmest thing about this was the high entry bar for console development - what would happen to all the small UK devs?
  • In other not so happy news, the once great Infocom had been assimilated into Mediagenic (prev Activision). The office was moved to the West Coast, but it seemed no designers or developers relocated with it. Steve Meretzky and Dave Lebling were among the most recent to quit.
  • An interview Level 9's Pete Austin about their upcoming Scapeghost. He was rather coy about their plans beyond this one, but now that we have the benefit of hindsight and know that it in fact would be their last, it did seem like they saw the writing on the wall.
  • A look at "Ranch Wars" which was a Play By Mail game except it wasn't - it was an "on-going graphic adventure that comes through the post" and was a "strange amalgam of interactive fiction, graphical war-gaming and strategy all mixed together".
  • The Encyclopedia Frobbozzica - an indepth reference of all things Zork.
  • An interview with Joe Dever, author of the Lone Wolf books.
  • A look at Role Playing Play By Mail game "Calvana".
  • Was the icon driven Infogrames "Kult" the future of adventure games?
  • Sandra Sharkey presented some general musings on writing adventures.
  • Confidential went on a bit of LARPing with "Mythlore".
  • A short story by Ian Urquhart.

Confidential Magazine #5 June/July 1989

In this issue you can find:

  • A bit of a rant by the Ed on the "joys" of running a software mail order service and dealing with clueless, impatient and down right rude customers calling up.
  • A report from the first European Computer Trade Show, which sounded like a right disappointment: "Where were the First Ever Showings? The Exclusive Demos? The Sneako Previews? Well, they certainly weren't present on the day I visited."
  • The history of Sierra Online.
  • A piece pondering why it was that more women seemed to be designing, writing and playing adventures compared to other gaming genres. It was a bit silly and unsurprisingly feels dated, but did include comments from the likes of Anita Sinclair (Magnetic Scrolls) and Amy Biggs (Infocom).
  • A look at the "It's Murder" Play By Mail game.
  • A deep dive on the impressive lookign "Bloodwych", which looked to marry "Dungeon Master" with "The Bards Tale" with "Archon". Supposedly the author had intended to call it "The Dungeonmaster" before FTL announced their game.
  • Infocom had been in decline for a little while, but now they were back with three big releases: "Zork Zero", "Battlehawks - The Crescent Hawk's Inception" (the article kept referring to it as Battlehawks when it was in fact Battletech), "Journey" and "Shogun". Were they enough to raise Infocom back up to the top? The latter three games were examined in detail, and all three were interesting departures from (or, at least, tweaks to/re-imaginings of) the usual text adventure fare.
  • An interview with Infomedia who were busy working on "Chronoquest 2".
  • A write up of MOSAIC, a new concept for a "3rd generation adventure game" system, primarily aimed at Multi User Dungeons.
  • A survey of the state of flight sims.
  • An "interview" with Larry Laffer (AKA, I assume, Al Lowe).
  • A short story sent in by reader David Holden.