Adventurer #15
31 июля 2004

Reviews - Tendencies of ZX Spectrum game industry development.

<b>Reviews</b> - Tendencies of ZX Spectrum game industry development.
Modern game making              
Chasm/CyberPunks Unity          

 Tendencies of Spectrum game
 industry development

During last few years the uprising
interest for games and gamemaking
became more evident, moreover,
not only in Russia, but also Eastern
and even Western Europe. In this
article I want to follow the roots of
this phenomenon and possible ten-
dencies of its development and its
place in the global Spectrum

Historically was defined, that to the
1994 all major labels such as Ocean,
Codemasters, Gremlin, etc. stoped
their publishing activity on
Spectrum and moved towards
Amiga, PC and game consoles, that
started to gain more and more popu-
larity. Due to this fact, the softwa-
re flow that joined Western Europe
with its Eastern part and which was
strong enough earlier, grew wea-
ker and finally became extinct. I
don't know exactly, how it was in
other countries of former socia-
lism, such as Poland, Slovakia,
Chezh Republic, but I guess
Spectrum (along with C64 and Amiga)
remained the most popular compu-
ter there till the mid 90-ies, and
this can be proved by appearance of
such games as "Twilight",
"Quadrax", "Prva akcia", "Sher-
wood", "Adventurer" between
1990-1995, but we all can be sure
that in Russia Spectrum till the end
of 90-ies was the most popular com-
puter with thousands of users. At
first, it was defined by relatively
low prices for Spectum clones, that
were being produced with good suf-
ficiency (some of them even on big
national enterprises), besides, the
prices for more progressive compu-
ters were still high, and that's why
most of people couldn't afford to
buy those expensive toys. For
example, prices for Amiga and PC va-
ried between $300-1000, and a good
working Pentagon, Scorpion costed
about $20-100, of course, depen-
ding on its configuration.
As it is known, the most part of com-
puter users are gamers, so the
main software sales for Spectrum in
ex-USSR were being kept by games.
At the beginning, it were games that
couldn't reach Russia from Europe
earlier, and later, games, made by
Russians. Of course, the major part
of gamers dreamt about more
"powerful" machines, which could
allow to play more progressive
games, comparing with those which
were available for ordinary
spectrumist till the mid 90-ies,
exactly this fact pushed the most of
gamemakers to make game conver-
sions of popular games, as it could
bring not only mental pleasure, but
also real money. We can remember
success of such games as "UFO 1,
2", "Prince of Persia", "Mortal
Kombat", "Black Raven" (with its
prototype -Warcraft) and others,
however, some original develop-
ments gained certain popularity -
"Star Inheritance" and its clones,
"Kolobok Zoom", "Pussy",
"Technodrom", "Last Hero of Light
Force". To the end of 90-ies there
was a situation, when second hand
pc's became cheaper, and also game
consoles as such as SPS, 3DO and Sa-
turn, it made some Spectum users
leave, and due to this the Russian
Spectrum game industry grew wea-
ker and weaker, cos it couldn't find
a customer with enough of money. It
can be described with the following
table and diagramm, that shows the
amount of games, released between
1990 and 2003.


And now here we came to the analy-
sis of current sutuation, that appe-
ared in the world Spectrum game in-
dustry. In the beginning of new mil-
lennium, there were very few game
releases, however, the activity of
Studio Stall and Action, who possess
the persistance and continued to
make games one after another, is an
exclusion. Other coders and prog-
rammers were being held by demos-

This situation resulted in a contest,
held by Perspective Group in the be-
ginning of 2002 and which pushed
many programmers to develop their
games. By the end, there was relea-
sed a good compilation of interes-
ting Spectrum games. Perspective
decided not to stop and continued
their activity by releasing a new
game by Action - "Imperia 2", ho-
wever, this action didn't succeed
due to the low quality of the game
(the publisher didn't check whether
it is possible to play or not), and so
free version of the game appeared
in Internet.

In the beginning of 2003 Simon Ully-
att from UK founds his label - Crono-
soft, oriented towards gamemaking
for retro machines such as
Spectrum, ZX81, C64, Vic 20, Oric,
Sord M5, Dragon 32 and so on. Cur-
rently this label distributes follo-
wing games for Spectrum: "Egghead
in Space"; "Football Glory"; four
games pack: "Zblast SD", "Scrolly
Stack", "Dotathon 2" and "Soli-
yawn"; "Rough Justice"; "Gloop! ";
"FlashBeer"; "Hop'n, 'Chop"; "Wan-
ted Dead or Alive". However, I sho-
uld mention the relatively high (com-
paring with Russian) price -
1.5-2.99 pounds and the fact, that
all these games are released only on
tape (due to the multiple versions of
different DOS), but it must be appre-
ciated that Simon Ullyatt looks after
the quality of released pro-

Now I'll try to analize the motiva-
tion that keeps gamemakers relea-
se games. Let's begin with "Rus-
sians". As I've read before, that
it's almost improssible to gain any
money for your project. So, what
does make them carry their ideas
thru titanically difficuilt work? Elf
asked a few people with this ques-
tion on CAFe'2003. And it appears
that the main aspect in gamemaking
is to be pleased with having your
OWN game for Spectrum. Having
read the letters from Simon Ullyatt
and some forums at World of
Spectrum, I suppose, that there is
almost equal situation in Europe,
cos the summs that author of the
game gain from selling the project
are very small and that's why I can
conclude, that moral satisfaction
can lead programmers into such ac-
tions (it's a pleasure to hold the de-
signed cassette with your own game
in your hands), or possibly, the feel
of nostalgy also affects, concerning
the Shaw Brothers.

To describe the situation more pre-
cisely, we decidied to make a poll,
asking people do they play games,
what games and will they buy
anything. 38 Spectrum lovers, acti-
ve and not, ex-USSR and users ab-
road were qestioned. Among them
22 people do play Spectrum games,
16 won't pay a penny for any game,
though there were 3 ones, who wo-
uld like to sponsor the game pro-
jects and gamemakers' compos.
Also, we wanted to learn the playing
activity and tastes of players, and
here are the statistics of answers
on the question "When did you play a
Spectrum game last time?":

Yesterday - 4 
3 days ago - 1
a week ago - 5
2 weeks ago - 1
a month ago - 2
2 months ago - 2
3 months ago - 1
4 months ago - 1
6 months ago - 5
a year ago - 3
2 years ago - 3
3 years ago - 1
5 years ago - 1
7 years ago - 1
10 years ago - 1
long time ago - 6

As you can see, people still play
Spectrum games and by the way,
answers as "yesterday" and "a
week ago" came mainly from ab-
road. The most popular games are
"Dizzy", "Dan Dare", "Black
Raven", "Star Inheritance", "Your
Game'02" compilation, "Lethargy"
and "Pussy".

Also, the poll results showed the
image of a "perfect" game, which
gamers would pay for. Russian lan-
guage users are definately for ga-
mes like "Star Inheritance" and
"Black Raven" -they are certain
hits, and as I can suppose, many of
western gamers don't even know
about these games. Also, the RPG
games are popular, like "Moon
Wind" and quality puzzles/logic
games. Europeans prefer ac-
tion/adventure games, "Dizzy" clo-
nes in particular. There were also
specific opinions: for example, one
our native demands mandatory mou-
se support, sound improvement
(General Sound, DMA), HDD support
and extended screen modes (for
example, Profi screen). Though wo-
uldn't pay more than 1-2 eur for
such game :) Most of europeans are
orthodox - 48kb+tape standart is a
stable classics and every game sho-
uld run on such hardware, though
one of the respondents would buy
"good games, with more than 500kb
size on disk, with mouse support,
512kb memory and ZXVGS mode". But
one thing that is common for every-
one - the game genre is not impor-
tant, it's only need to be a NEW game
for Spectrum, professionally made
with a good screenplay.

Finally, some words for distribu-
tors and developers. As time has
showed, commercial distribution of
games on the territory of the for-
mer USSR is almost unreal, cos the
majority of Spectrum users don'
want to pay money and prefer to
wait for free or crack releases of
games. Speaking about buying ga-
mes released by Cronosoft by Rus-
sian gamers I can say only one
thing, and this can seem too pity for
our western mates, - nobody would
pay more than 1,5-3 eur for games
of the 80-ies' technical level, and a
tape version in addition. I realise,
that for western retrogamers it's
not so high price for the nostalgy,
but for our consumers, spoilt by
progressive games, its beyond the
sense, cos even "Your Game'02"
compilation and "Imperia 2", surely
made on a high technical level
(higher, than all Cronosoft rele-
ases), were seld in not more than 30
copies on a price of 3 eur.

Some words for western game deve-
lopers - if you want your products
to be seen in ex-USSR, you should
make a free release, or distribute
your game thru Perspective label,
which would spread your game in
TR-DOS version, and can't count on
any profit.

As the poll made among russian ga-
memakers showed, they don't even
think about commercial distribution
of their games, cos they un-
derstand that nobody would pay,
and getting only moral satisfaction
from realizing, that many people
can play their game (for example,
Slip^Action said, that he wrote a
game and gave an agreement for
commercial distribution of his game
in the game pack only because he
wanted Spectrumists get acquain-
ted with his novel, based on "Impe-
ria 2").

However, we shouldn't forget about
the european Spectrum users -the
strong TR-DOS attachment and rus-
sian language don't let them enjoy
amazing games in a full scape, cos
the only possibility to play these
games is the usage of emulator with
a total misunderstanding of rus-
sian, as like as we when playing the
games, with incomprehensible for
the most russians izquierda, de-
recha, arriba, abajo, fuego. To
make 128kb game with a tape loader
and to translate a game isn't so
hard (for example, it can easily be
made with "Lethargy" by Studion
Stall). Then you can ask Cronosoft
about distribution and then to plea-
se yourself with knowing that YOUR
game is available for every real
machine user all over the world. Mo-
reover, as Simon Ullyatt says, you
won't lose the possibility to spread
your game in any way you'd like to
make it with royalties from every
copy sold by Cronosoft.

So, retrogaming still alive & Speccy
never die!!!

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