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Readers Benefits of registering Where are my ebooks? Ask it above. Attitudes By R. Jim Boru is called into the office of the CEO to talk about legal trouble stemming from when he was attacked, he wins a Court case. Computer programmer Jim Boru is then accused of stealing software, he wins a Court case. Computer programmer Jim Boru then runs a successful computer operation. Commodore's market- ing manager Dean described it as 'just the beginning' and promised 'further initiatives in September - all aimed at making the Year of the Amiga.

This astonishing and unprecedented move was forced on them, Atari claimed, by a world shortage of dynamic RAM chips, tt unquestionably left the ST vulner- able, despite the impressive line- up of games included in the price and the less well -publicised upgrading of the ST drive to ST standard. Barrett The question now is whether Commodore have in fact left it too late to make their move. It's not just the num- bers of each title that get sold - a realty suc- cessful Spectrum or C64 game will normally sell many more than its ST counterpart - but also the higher ST price.

In Gallup's 'sales by value' chart, which takes into account the price of a game as well as the num- ber of units sold, ST tltfes as a whole are now narrowly ahead of their C64 equivalents, putting the ST second only to the Spectrum. If most ST games are typically a little over twice the price of 8-bit ones in the shops, they can look even more attractive to the game's publishers.

According to one major software house, an ST game earns a programmer three times as much per unit sold as an 8-bit title does. If the royalties here are tied to how much the software house itself makes on the game, it's easy to see why the STs getting so much soft- ware support these days. The Amiga may be able to offer software houses the same price advantage as the ST, but it can't sell anywhere near as many titles.

For most programmers the Amiga ver- sion of a game is only worth doing as a spin-oft of the ST original, and wouldn't be worth the programming time in its own right. Does that mat- ter to the end user? So long as the conversion turns up eventually, who cares it it is an afterthought? With the price difference gone, the crux of the matter for gamers is whether the few impressive games released for the Amiga but not the Atari machine - like Interceptor, Ferrari Formula One or Bonecruncher - can outweigh their ST counterparts the still unconvert- ed Oids for example and those 20 free titles.

With so many buyers also looking to dabble in computer art, the Amiga could just come out of this one on top - and that's not something anyone would have pre- dicted six months ago! Previously they had only released Ranarama on the ST and Amiga. Andrew Hewson explained, 'It gave us a feel for the market, tt was an exper- iment and it worked. They're launching with multi-million pound backing and loadsahype.

Who are they? They daim to be determined to become a 'leading software house within a young but exciting industry. First, there's cash - and plenty of it. It's a long time since we saw anybody enter the market with such a commitment and the finance to back it up. Second, there's a good deal of experience. Character licensing and video are just part of the Prestwich operation - they also own Bush Radio, the hi-fi people.

Finally, there's a commitment to 'originality'- Sounds like more hype - the market is. Its special 'flip-top box' has apparently been tested for up to openings and closings. We're impressed. The first games will be hitting the market in June Oops! We'll be waiting. Image', He'll also feature in a frequent buyer' campaign that will offer free gilts to purchasers. Before the cynics die laughing, they should know that the whole idea of linking sound and light - as M inter did with his original Colourspace series - has taken on a whole new meaning with the advent of MIDI.

If it doesn't hap- pen with Trip-A-Tron now, it'll hap- pen in a couple of years time, or five year's time with something else. It's got to happen - look at music videos - they're a start, but they're not dose to the music. It's what everyone was trying to do in the 60s with oil wheels, or Jean Michel Jarre with his laser shows, but I'm doing the real thing right now - not just some pre -sequenced light- show.

Watch this colourspace The company reckon they'll be able to offer 'hundreds of megabytes per five inch disk'. Even more importantly, the access time looks as if it should be on a par with hard disk systems and the system will be able to cope with musical, video, and computer data. There's just one small problem. The attempts of the Japanese to introduce digital audio tape DAT into this country, already reported in ACE, have met with very stiff oppo- sition because of the piracy prob- lem.

Surely the same problems will apply with Tandy's CD system? Well, you can! Unfortunately, most people have a strong aversion to taking out subscriptions and paying for things in advance. BTUs pay-as-you-go facilities using numbers may now offer games organisers a way round this natural resistance, thanks in no small pari lo some very clever computer technology. II you're wondering what all this stuff about 'tones' is. The hardware barrier here is not insurmountable: separate tone diallers let you enter the informs- 1 he phone is a natural tor cre- ating the atmosphere a good adven- ture needs.

After all. The problem is in actually making money out of providing such a service. For years, the only way to charge peo- ple money for accessing your sys- tem was by selling membership subscriptions, with passwords to keep out the freeloaders. Prestel and Compunel both work on this basis, as do independent games lion on normal pulse-dialling phones.

That's small consolation for services that rely on casual users - would you run out and buy a lone dialler just to hear your hororscope? While subscnption services have never really mushroomed the way pundits expected, pay-as-you- go systems are a major growth area. Micronel itself has such a sys- tem, Hotel California, offering many of the subscription database's inter- active areas or their equivalents to non-members at a per-minute charge. Both Hotel California and rival online service Desire are highly unusual services simply because you need a computer and modem to access Ihem.

In lact Mr Lee is going one slep further and actually starting his own music label, Destiny Records. Although What A Girl Wants was actually licensed from Cold Harbour Records, future releases will be signed directly to Ihe label, which wilt not only release singles on vinyl but will also package Ihem along with games from Destiny Software. Francis Lee thus joins the ranks of K-Tel. Telstar, and Virgin - all of whom have sought to combine Ihe music and software businesses with varying success. Interactive The vast majority of pay-as-you-go phone services are voice lines, and most of these offer nothing more than laped monologues recorded by stockbrokers, Page 3 girls or similar.

However, there's a new breed of service coming in which, though based on voice ralher than modem communication, is nevertheless interactive. Ihe olher problems involved - so Starline's suppliers were forced lo use an alternative, higher lech approach. The service uses the caller's telephone dial as a numeric keypad, decoding Ihe tones made by his phone as he keys in his personal numeric details.

Already an online game exists. Though FIST doesn't rely absolutely on the use of a lone dialler or DTMF phone, it is slower without one or the other - and lhal's pretty important given that the service costs upwards of 25p per minute. A far more excit- ing possibility for the future is the VOOG. Voice recognition 15 only jus! VOOGs were first tested by BT a couple of years back, when a small band of select subscribers were able to explore a Cornish village over the phone using directional commands. The system was pretty primitive, recognising only a very few words, and running on an ordinary IBM PC with a voice recognition card tacked on.

More up-to-date systems can recognise more words and do not require training' for different users - saving time and subscriber's money. A case In point is the now well- established Russell Grant Starline service available in the London area, which gives each caller a hor- oscope message based on his or her date of birth.

Using a separate line for each possible message was clearly oul of the question here - fit- ting different phone numbers legibly on an advert is hardly a seri- ous proposition, quite aside from Interactive Scenarios by Telephone, would you believe? The latter's a crucial element in the whole idea: as anyone who's played Infocom's 'Lurking Horror 1 will tell you, in Ihe realms of fantasy one sound effect is worth a thousand pictures!

This unusual occurrence has been prompted because, as Arcana put it. It should be in the shops by the end of July. The company are also investigating the possibility of producing more question sets. The lur has been flying recently over allegations that Micronet, a company partly-owned by British Telecom, have been using their BT connections to hold down prices in unfair competition against other on- line games publishers. The idea is that if you can make use of Big BT's buying power, sooner or later you can put every- one else out of business.

One newspaper even suggested that Micronet's recent price increase was a direct result of pressure by the industry body OFTEL, following allegations of accounting irregulari- ties in the way Micronet fixed its prices. It's noth- ing new, however. Similar accusa- tions have often been levelled at Telecomsoft Rainbtrd, Silverbird, and Firebird are beginning to prove a very potent combination and some people in the industry actually seem lo be afraid of our feathered friends.

They reckon that in Telecom soft's case, big is bad, bad, bad. Here's a company, they say, which represents a deadly form of cheque-book publishing - a compa- ny who can march into the market and spend millions,. They can afford to. Others can't. For example, Telecomsoft paid a rumoured E1 million for Beyond. Whatever the real sum involved, they certainly can't have made much money out of that. And what about Odin? Another label bought and then lost in the mists of time.

Transactions such as these would surely have sunk any normal soft- ware house, but Telecomsoft can just keep marching on. They're strong in the bit market, where the games are more expensive, but the number sold is far less. This is a load of nonsense,' retorts company supremo Paula Byrne, 'Frankly we've heard all these criticisms three years ago. We've gone past all that now and are very happy with our perfor- mance. That aside, Telecomsoft has a large development team of 1 4 peo- ple who offer our programmers sup- port and help through the develop- ment of each product.

Royalty state- ments are honest, with payments made ontime to allour programmers. The only difference is that those with money can afford lo go on making mistakes longer - and if someone in the industry can afford to train people in that way then it can be of benefit to all of us. Do we really want large companies dominating the games scene, or do we have a secret hankering for the days of attic programmers who sell their own games at fairs and are accessible and sometimes responsive in a way that large companies can never be? The good news is that perhaps soon we'll be able lo have both.

Electra's the name of a brand new software house that just goes lo show thai even nowadays size isnl everything. What's more, Ihey could point the way to a whole new style of games programming and production that may have important repercussions lor us gamesplayers. Since the big companies have tots of money to spend, a whole host of small companies nave sprung up offenng programming, marketing, and sales services for the giants.

This means that it's now possible to launch your own soft- ware house by getting Small Company A to do the coding, Small Company B to do the production, and Small Company C to do the marketing and sales. That's just what Electra have done. Hey presto - the little birds gang together and up springs a whole new label. This sort of flexibility is something quite new in the games business, where previously launching a label cost many thousands of pounds, required a large office, and lots of in-house talent. It could bnng greater publishing power lo Ihe small guys - like Arcana ol Powerplay fame, for exam- ple - who can produce great software but may not have the muscle on their own lo publish it.

In some ways, it's a return to the days of the attic programmer, Jeff Minter-style - small, imaginitive concerns who can move quickly with the market and deliver hot products, Let's hope Electra can set an example that will Inspire others to go the same way Electra 5 Setter Deed Than Alien, iliminq over i ihetf new you icon.

More titles to consider

It's a quest for the five gems of Zator, which, when brought together, naturally bring you ultimate power The game is played over six levels where you battle the minions of the wizard Azazael. Features promised are a colour screen, player-monster interaction, hundreds of locations, loads -a-characters and a huge gameplay map. Wonder how they're going to map gameplay?

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To do this you have to con- trol the weather system, process food chains, redistribute the popula- tion and try to stop wars and pollu- tion. Looks like we can all play at being God again. His task is to clear the streets of muggers and punks since when was being a punk a crime? The idea is to rescue wise men who may then sell extra weapons. End-oHevel guardians and time limits also get in on the action. Expect this one in September. This one is set on a track floating in space called the Fury where the universe sends its champion drivers. Knock other drivers off the track, shoot them, play tag or even make a dash for the line on foot if your engine cuts out No wonder Nigel Mansell isn't endorsing this one - a formula one grand phx sounds easy by compari- son.

The game was delayed from last year but is now progressing towards release. The action starts in boot camp with training before you get on to the hard stuff. Well, either way you're going to run into a lot of demons, aliens, minions, psy- globes and all the other nasty things that pop up when dreams turn into nightmares, The final task is to close once and for all the six eyes of Ocular, destroying the power source of Ihe Focus. It's enough to put you off sleeping. That's your viewpoint, but you've still got to change gear, steer, take the naviga- tor's directions and generally not crash.

Features will include damage reports and the chance to enhance the car. It's a one- player space pursuit game in which you have lo defend the colony on Mars from the UFOs lhat have entered the solar system. Arcana say the game is faster and leaner, combining strategy and shoot-em- up. Due out at the end of August. Has your ACE card come up trumps this month?

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There are 25 great prizes. Using the same program as last time, just type in the 25 new 4-letter codes printed on this page. If the program converts one of them into your personal number, you're a winner! ThB crorfflon 1 oor. And as time progressed, the art ol three dimensional solid graphics became known unto the. And as the fire diminished and the vapours cleared, the fruits of their labours emerged from out of the chaos. Alternatively, you could plump for a mouthwater- ing state-of-the-art radio-controlled plane that really puts the solid into solid 3D!

The game claims to be the 'ultimate fight simu- lator - shoot-envup' and blasts you into the skies at the controls of a sophisticated bomber - your mis- sion: sink the Bismarck. You'll need to practise navigation and gunnery skills before tackling the 8ismarck and create your own flight plan, bearing in mind that the HMS Ark Royal, the aircraft carrier from which you took off. Nigh I Riidtr may also be under attack and need protection if you're ever to get back home!

The prize will go to the first correct entry chosen at ran- dom from those received before the closing date and the prizewinner will be announced in the October issue of ACE. Who was the first pilot to break the sound barrier? Which pilot carried out a forced landing in a famous International incident? We can arrange for the prize to be taken at an airport close to your home. Naturally a full pilot's licence requires a greater investment in terms of time and money than is provided for by the prize, but it will certainly give you a headstart should you be serious about flying - not to mention the thrill of lifetime!

Oft A Kyosfto Zero Fighter complete with elec- tric-powered motor and radio-control unit, plus a Futaba state-of-the-art digital radio control system. Domination of the skies around your home could soon be yours! We'll soon be hear- ing the thud of packaging on shelves - 'and what a fine delivery that is 1.

Will they be making impressive scores of not out, or trudging back to the pavilion with a duck? Better get your helmets on and prepare for some fast scrolling. There will be some pretty fine efforts, hits for six and the odd game that gets caught out, bowled over, stumped and run out by silly points. Now over to Radio 4 where during the tea interval Brian's about to enjoy a nice slice of cake and a game of Virus. Once again, the game Is based on the hugely successful coin-ops. You've got to travel on the blocks to pick up ob ects, while avoiding the holes and other dangers.

It you go on a question mark it could be good, but it could be disaster. Looks like an interesting beginning for the new boys. Those hordes ot aliens to zap? Those nasty mutating things that never knew when to stop coming alter you? Well here it is all over again, but with classy lo- ll backgrounds. The strange thing here is that your craft is confined to a grid and has to collect objects without encoun- tering the other robotic inhabitants ot the pathways. Judicious use ol teleports and lasers helps things move along. ST - a grid of hazards to last your refteies.

A r GO Another ol the Capcom coin -op converaons. These ST screen shots show that you can expect plenty ot weapons and Juicy explo- sions. ST - it dMtn'i look Ifte thli big bomber is going to surma much longer. Behind every good picture sits a good behind: with a well thought-out background, flatly-drawn objects can jump out at you and dull subjects positively glow with added meaning. However, il you exam- ine the majority of published computer-gen- erated pictures - whether they are Spectrum-drawn doodles or state-of-the-art raytracmgs - two sorts ol background pre- dominate: an almost flat horizon at infinity, or none at all.

The classic examples are checkerboard surlaces reflected in mirrored balls and the last frontier' - space! The rea- sons for using such simple backgrounds are themselves simple - lack of skill, and the need to emphasise depth in the most memo- ry-efficient way LINES OF SIGHT Since Images are created on-screen as a series of horizontal lines scanning from top to bottom, the easiest and most memory-efficient way to program a simple background emphasising depth is lo draw a series of horizontal lines with progressively increasing intervals between them.

Although modern drawing programs are much less constrained by memory size this principle is still of use - see picture 1a. The illusion of depth created by horizontal lines can be enhanced with a series of lines radiat- ing trom a point on the horizon to provide perspective. II colour and area fills are available then llie spaces between the lines can be filled. With just 2 colours and this simple pattern of lines a very effective sense of depth is created by the checkerboard picture 1b. Checkerboards and mirrored spheres are now perhaps the worst cliches of computer graph- ics. Nevertheless this basic perspective grid can be very useful as an underlying structure in any landscape drawing.

It can be constructed quite simply and stored on disk to be brought back as a starting point for many landscape pictures. The horizontal lines can be drawn with any progressively increasing interval between ihem. Picture 1 uses the simplest progression: 1. To draw the perspective lines lo the vanishing point with the correct sparing can be difficult. A diagonal line passing through the grid square that you are 'standing on' would pass through the opposite corners of one square on each parallel row lo a point on ihe hori- zon close lo the edge of the screen.

If you draw these 'construction lines' shown in red on picture 1 c it is relatively easy to draw the radiating perspective lines from the horizon vanishing point through each point that the con- struction lines cross, e. The angle between the red diagonal construction lines should always be greater than 90 degrees or distortion will occur. However lar-see- ing and imaginative they were technically, artistically their vision was limited.

Early computers were very short of memory so pictures had to create visual effects very economically - the Lines of Sight box gives some elementary examples. Perspective construction lines showing checker board effect o. Perspective grid Red diagonals should be at greater than 90 degree angle to avoid distortion. Advanced Computer Enteftainment 21 For many drawings it is not really neces- sary to use such an elaborate gnd as that described in the Lines o Sight box. It the basic form is known, simple construc- tion lines can be drawn and the details of the landscape built up over them depending on the type of terrain.

Picture 2a shows a much simpler construction for a flat bot- tomed valley with gentle hills on either side. At this stage it is easy to try out several different points of view. Positioning the hori- zon line near the top of the screen can give the impression that you are looking down into a valley from a hilltop or aeroplane. A low horizon and high hills gives the opposite effect. Working from a photo or postcard can be very useful when making these decisions Try to determine the structure of the photo and draw it in ready to copy, If the background is to have no detail at all then the hills can be filled with colour or patterned fills with decreasing colour satu- ration more white toward the horizon.

This sort of sparse, washed-out or misty back- ground can prove very effective in some cir- cumstances, but Increased detail makes for a more interesting composition. Using the underlying structure of the construction lines, gradually build up a series of lines represent- ing smaller hills, hedgerows, field bound- aries, rock outcrops, sand dunes, etc,.. Try not to include too much detail at this stage, lust structure.

Addition of detail, bushes, trees, rocks shadow etc.. And now you want to display it, show it off to the neighbours, exhib- it at your local gallery, DO something with it - but what and how? Over the last few months a flood ot packages have appeared designed to help us to make our static artwork look more interesting, The range of this software is so wide that it is impossible to keep up with reviewing it all.

Instead we are going to try to mention as much as possi- ble in a series o! The Amiga in particular Is blessed with loads of graphics utilities, packages designed not to draw with but to manipulate existing drawings. These fall broadly into two categories: image enhancement and 'Super- slide shows".

Some of the most recent items in the second group are mentioned below, and those in the first will be mentioned, together with other software and hardware items in the coming months. But first, what of the Atari ST? In spite of its wider software base, the ST seems quite definitely to be falling behind in the area of graphics utilities, Why? I am willing to review any interesting and innovative graphics software for machines other than the Amiga if only I could find somel.

Once you have built up a range of images - whether grabbed using a dkjitiser. The simplest sort of classy production is the use of fancy wipes and fades, flips and scrolls spins. Over 50 special effects are available, most of which are smooth and flicker-free in operation.

Controlled via menus and excellent Icons, the program is fairly easy lo use, though some problems can arise if your palettes change greatly from picture to picture. A ntee touch is the ability to add a spoken running commentary. The Director is, to quote, ' This seems a little forbidding for us spoon-fed Amigites but even a very rudimentary knowledge ot BASIC to which the language used bears a strong resemblance allows some excellent presentations with little effort.

One of the commonest TV and conventional ani- mation effects is pan and zoom across the scene. Previously no software has allowed a smooth and effective pan or zoom across a picture. Usually, drawing programs zoom in to an area by enlarging pixels. STAND uses a special 'Interpolation' technique to 'maintain the integrity of the detail without causing jaggies'.

In practice the method works very well, creating a unique way to view your artwork. When the outline is complete pic 2c the red lines can be removed by locking or excluding all the other colouis and painting red out with the background shade. Paste trees and bushes turice. First to define position. Spray shadows on roughly in position. Second paste with tree exactly matching the first. Shadowed areas shown through gaps.

All brushes can be scaled and flipped for variety. This is repeated- ly pasted down in an overlapping fashion almost Rke fish scales modelling the desired shape of tree.


Branches can be drawn into the black gaps left and a trunk added. This can be overcome by lightly spraying out with a dark shade the centre area of the tree just pasted then repasting the tree exactly on top once again: this time the shade shows through. If you have enough colours this process can be earned out when composing the tree originally but this tends to exclude all of the area behind the tree whereas you really need some ot Ihe background terrain to show through. Final picture can be used as a background to any desired scene.

It can be changed in any number of ways to recycle it in future pictures. Each of the areas to be tilled must obvi- ously have a continuous border. Temporarily changing the outline to a darker shade makes gaps easier to find.

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  • Even if you do not want a misty eflecl. Nevertheless, the real landscape usually has a wide range ol tones on a clear day so do not be afraid to use lots oi shades if you have them Picture 3a sug- gests this diversity without losing its depth. The final lob is to add the details oi hedgerows, trees, woods, rock outcrops, roads, buildings, and most importantly shad- ows. II it is a bright day everything will pro- duce a shadow. Deluxe Paint and Degas Me allow a degree oi shading but the palette needs to be set up properly first. An alternative method was dis- cussed in the first instalment of this series, using patterned fills with alternative dark colour and transparent pixels This places a dark fill over the area but allows some of the original colour to show through.

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    A finishing touch shown in picture 3c is the removal of dark outlines, especially on distant hills. In act this was by lar the easiest part of the Image to produce as it is made from only three or four simple elements, a clump of grass, a bush, a tree branch and a section ol meadow These are all pasted down repeatedly, some- times slightly altering their scale or flipping them for variety With a bit of practice, this sort of drawing is very easy. The great advantage oi producing a background on a computer is that is can be recycled in other pictures.

    All the stages in the production of an image should be saved as you go along as a matter of course. So you think you're a pixel prodigy, eh? Get a load of this month's selection of digital masterpieces and think again Sometimes just flipping them horizontal- ly and changing a few colours is enough, but more complex alterations can easily be made so that a particular background can be reused many times Next month we shall look at some of the possibilities and transport rural England to some exotic locations.

    The obvious reason is that they are per- haps the hardest subject to tackle effec- tively. Peter Gilson's version of Maggie's Favourite Man amused us though, even if he does seem to have a lower lip mutation. Michael notes that '. This approach obvi- ously lends itselt well to computensation, so it's no surpnse that we often get sent readers' impressions of well-known car- loon characters. Apex Computer Productions ol Chelmsford att. Cars seem to be one of the most popular subjects, and these examples only go to show that you don't need a state-of-the-art bit machine to come up with a decent image Vou loo can achieve everlasting tame by having your sensational screens dis played in full, dazzling colour on these pages.

    H you want to make a splash in the world of computer art. Send m your work on lape or Oisk to: Artworks. ACE 4 Queen Street. Screens should ideally be stored along with a display program to save time al Ihis end. Practice with the controls is essential before you attempt any oi this because the sectors are guarded by various tanks and gun emplace- ments designed to make your lile dillicult. Shooting the enemy tanks is tough to start with because your turret is lixed, but if you drive over the stars that can be found lying on the ground, you can buy yourself some juicy add-ons at the end of the sector.

    These include a gun rotating option which allows the player to rotate the turret independently of the body of the tank simply by pressing the uppermost of the two buttons that are on each joystick. You can save your stars from each level until you can afford to buy something you thinks really important, like armour or extra speed It's just as important to collect fuel though - run out during a game and you lose your one and only life.

    Vindicators is not your usual run-of-the- mill arcade game. Sure, it looks and sounds great, but the action is not as manic as you Two players up againsl some tanks. Red's gone through already. BAS Taito 30p Who said there were only seven different types of novel? Perhaps there are only the same number of coin-op scenarios.

    This one surfaced a long, long time ago and was called Pacman. Nowadays we've got 3D Pac-man games, but here's one that reverts to the old 20 maze idea with power pills to be collected and various nasties to be avoided. The '88 re-incarnation puts the player in a Sinclair C5-like motorbike with a front firing gun, and end of level guardians to defeat. It's great fun to play and a great nostalgia trip. This continually sideways scrolling shoot- em-up has got a lot to do with Salamander and Nemesis though, and is lust like these earlier Konami games with a few extra frills.

    Your routes through the game are far more complicated and the extra weapons even more devastating, but you're still going to have your work cut out and you'll have to be very sharp to defeat the end of level guardians. For mind- numbing action you're better off playing something like Operation Woll. Destroying i fuel truck with rifle lire. Dala East 30p Titles for arcade games get worse donl they? This simultaneous two-player beat-em-up plays rather better than the title suggests.

    The Firing Line

    Work your way through hordes of baddies in this left-right scroller, punching and kicking them into oblivion. If you're lucky you may be able to pick up an extra weapon like a sword or dagger to make your job easier. We hope to bring you a further report on this machine in the future. Advanced Computer Entertainment 27 n Your plane has ditched on a mountainous plateau somewhere in fl deepest Tibet You and your companions are alive but recovery from the impact is short-lived - a large shape is moving towards you, as it gets closer you rub your eyes in disbelief a Dinosaur!

    Now you learn to survive in a world untouched by modern life — a world frozen in time. You'll need ell your skill to take advantage ofevery situation, stamina to keep on going where others would fail and courage to face the ceaseless bombard mem by enemy troops, helicopters and artillery and if you survive Army Moves you'll have some great tales to tell! Hailed as the "Best Film Tie-in to date" - the program has received brilliant reviews on all formats. Designed from the outset as a mass-produced machine, it's already attracted interest from manufacturers as large as Amstrad and Atari - but will they take it up?

    And what will we see in the shops if they do? Andy Wilton investigates The Flare One is noi really one micro bul two. The 8-bii side ol the machine is shared by the Z80, the blitler, the video chip and the jack-of-all-trades 'glue' chip. The Z80 does the tine decision mak- ing here, while the blitter handles video operations and other large, repetitive memory-crunching tasks.

    They take turns; the Z80 sets the blitter running as desired, and the blitter then freezes the Z80 until its task the 'blit' is done.

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    Unlike many Z80 machines, the 8-bit halt ot the Flare One runs at very nearly lull speed despite the video chip's need to access screen memory. That might be the whole machine as far as most people are concerned, but there's another side to the Rare One which could prove to be crucial. The machine has a separate bit set-up consist- ing of its fourth custom chip - the digital signal processor, or DSP for short - and two tiny portions of very fast, very expensive static RAM. The DSP's technically both sophisticated and complex - hardened techno-freaks can check out the box for details - but the big picture goes like this.

    The DSP can crunch numbers at a terrifying, Archimedes-beating speed, making it very handy for a number ol tasks. It could handle all the 3D calculations for a vector- or solid-graphics game, put together some very complex sound waveforms, or clean the video 'noise' out of a frame-grabbed image.

    H could prob- ably also turn its talents to big num- ber-crunching problems like ray- tracing or fractal generation, both of these being natural applications for a machine with such a good graph- ics display. The DSP is a great deal trickier to program than any other proces- sor in the modern micro world, but it's got enormous potential. Not only is it tremendously fast, but because its a separate unit it can leave the Z80 and blitter free to do other things while it takes care of the number-crunching.

    That's not just power - that's useful power! I'lmi BAB srsra memo n. True, it can draw lines three times faster than an Amiga. Sure enough, it can handle the maths ol 3D structures aster even than the ultra-speedy Archimedes com. But it is an 8-brt micro, honest. Its central pro- cessor is a Z80 - decidedly 8-bit. Now everyone knows that 8-bit micros are old. The answer lies in the Cambridge suburb of Cherry Hinton where Martin Brennan, Ben Cheese and John Mathieson - aka Flare Technology - have been putting their hard- ware theories into practice The technical side ol their success involves an unconven- tional design and some very powerful cus- tom silicon see boxes and overleaf tor details but this all stems from something very simple: a belief in computers as pieces of leisure equipment.

    Atari and Commodore want to sell their glossy bitters to business- men. Acorn see the Archimedes fitting in best in the classroom, but Flare just want to entertain people. By focussing on games, graphics and music performance to the exclusion ot almost everything else, they've managed to stand accepted wisdom on its head. Something like five man-years of effort have gone into the Flare One board, and it shows. The thing is complex. That's not to say that the board's crowded with fiddly little bits, but rather that the Z80 and four whack- ing great custom chips all have to mesh together - and two of those four are proces- sors in their own right!

    During the boards development time. Flare have funded the work and kept themselves alive by taking on hardware projects from other businesses, notably Amstrad themselves What with this work and considerable experience at Sinclair 30 Advanced Computer Entertainment Tht FUrt Imbi : win their machine change Ih.

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    • Reseaich belaie setting up on their own, the tno are old hands at designing lor mass pro- duction. The problem now is to actually get the machine manufactured, and that's well beyond Flare's resources While several com- panies have shown interest, the front-runner in the rumour stakes is Amstrad.

      While the boys from Brentwood could cer- tainly lit the Flare One into their product line - probably by drop- ping the elderly Spectrum to make room - such rumours arenl always worth a great deal: a companion tale doing the rounds tells how Amstrad cae sueing Flare over the machine, a claim both sides strongly deny. But will Amstrad want to market such an unconventional machine?

      It has no screen palette as such: to change one o! The above points aren't problems at all.

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      The idea behind the Flare One project was to produce not an all-round micro but an entertainment machine. The design discards many assumptions made by manufacturers in recent years, and In its philosophy almost marks a throwback to consoles. When if it reaches the shops, the entry-level Flare One will quite possibly load programs from tape, and may not even have a keyboard.

      This is not as crazy as it sounds: tapes are a very cheap storage medium, especially for games, and with modern pointer-style oper- ating systems a keyboard may simply be unnecessary. Besides, Flare have a price to aim tor. II ihe Flare One does make it onio ihe mar- ket, one games house you can expect to see supporting it is Realtime. Brilliant, beautiful, and… Meer. When a plane crash claims the lives of Vance Edwards' mother, father and twin sister Vanessa, a door opens which unleashes a… Meer.

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