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: Special Reserve

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 #7 October/November 1989

While they didn't reveal actual subscription figures, the situation sounded a bit grim - the membership fee was to increase and there was a plea for readers to spread the word.

Meanwhile the helpline seemed to have switched to be a largely answering machine based service, and there was a request for solutions to a bunch of big recent adventures.

In this issue:

  • The news included details of several upcoming adventures from Electronic Arts and Gary Gygax consulting for Infogrames on "Drakkhen".
  • A look at "Talespin", a hypercard type package that allowed people to combine images and text into a series of pages connected via links.
  • Details of the "Rainbow Warrior" game that featured arcade sequences depicting Greenpeace campaigns.
  • Game industry agent Jacqui Lyons filed a report of a trip to the Soviet Union to meet with developers.
  • A preview of "Elvira".
  • A profile of strategy/role playing specialists SSI.
  • An inteview with Horrorsoft's Mike Woodroffe.
  • Play By Mail game "Gothick".
  • Part 2 of the "Writing Your Own Adventures" series.
  • Advice on how to go about running your own LARP events.
  • This month's story was "Future's End" by Simon Scarrow.

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.

Confidential Magazine #1 Sept/Oct 1988

Back in 1987 I ordered a copy of the classic adventure "Guild of Thieves" along with my Amiga 500. Included in the game's package was a copy of "What Burglar?" magazine, and an advert for a mysterious "Confidential" club. Well, that's how I remember it - looking through the box now I don't see such an advert in there, though there is an offer to write in to Magnetic Scrolls to receive some swag. Or maybe there was a card/form that I filled out and posted. At any rate, I joined. This turned out to be the Special Reserve mail order club founded by Tony Rainbird, and "Confidential" was its magazine.

The mag was actually really good - always full of interesting articles, with a focus on adventure games. I'm pretty sure I still have every copy, so over the coming weeks I hope to scan them all in.

The PDF of the first issue can be downloaded here.


  • Psychobable - Adventure gaming news roundup, and details of the exclusive Magnetic Scrolls game that was coming with Issue 2: "Myth".
  • Something Very Fishy - Details of the next Magnetic Scrolls game, "Fish!".
  • A Mega-Game in the Making - A preview of "The Kristal". Was it worthy of all the hype?
  • A Spy in the Camp - Interview with Level 9.
  • Non Player Characters - Alive or Dead - Should NPCs be doing more to justify their existence?
  • Whither Adventuring? - A look at Role Playing games.
  • Into the Labyrinthe - Graeme Kidd goes LARPing.
  • It Comes in the Mail - A round up of Play By Mail games.
  • All About Infocom - Interview with Dave Lebling.
  • A Wordsmith Pinned Down - Interview with Michael Baywater.
  • Small Companies, Big Software - A round up of small independent mail order software companies producing quality adventures, and some advice for budding adventure creators.
  • Uncle Mel's Pwoblem Corner - Mel Croucher answers readers questions (well, they may not have been real correspondents).