A look at the September 1993 issue of UK C64 magazine, Commodore Format.
Andy “Hutch” Hutchinson became Commodore Format‘s fourth editor in September 1993. If Steve Jarratt had been grumpy but serious and Trenton Webb warm and friendly, Hutch was CF‘s lad. A part time club DJ and big fan of Vanessa Paradis and Budweiser, Andy was also a massive fan of micro computers, the C64 especially: “yeah, I was way more of a Commodore fan than I was the Spectrum” he tells us. “When I was at secondary school (I started in 1978) computers suddenly arrived and I got a ZX-81, then a Sharp MZ-80K, followed by a BBC Model B. Then when I was in the 4th year (I think) I bought a C64 and the 1451 drive and a huge selection of pirated games in a job-lot from a guy who was going into the army. As such my knowledge of that games scene was much more complete and I had a better understanding of the games and the gamers.” (READ FULL HUTCH INTERVIEW HERE)
There was another change this month, too. CF‘s hugely popular production editor, Dave Golder, had been favourite to get the editor’s job. When he didn’t, he resigned. “I walked out of the building and I can’t remember how they got in touch with me again (It was the days before mobile phones) but I do recall a message making its way to me that the publisher wanted to make me an offer. That offer was to edit Amstrad Action. It was an okay consolation prize, but I always felt a little guilty I was foisted onto their team because I’d had an attack of the prima donnas. It always made it difficult to get along with Hutch, as well, which was a shame because he was an okay guy. My bad, not his.” (READ FULL DAVE GOLDER INTERVIEW HERE)
Dave was replaced by Simon “Hairy” Forrester, who’d end up staying on CF in one form or another until the end. Regular staffie Clur and long-time art editor Ollie Alderton remained, and the mag still had the same challenge: how do you fill a games magazine when the games are starting to dry up? Trenton’s solution had been to nudge it towards what we’d now call a “knowledge” mag, feature-heavy and including round-ups, retrospectives and long-form articles. Hutch, as we’ll see when we have a look at later issues, added a delicious new element to the mix: he wanted C64 fans to BECOME the industry, encouraging them to write and release games and utilities.
STILL A MAG TO FALL IN LOVE WITH
That’s a bit down the line, though, and this month’s mix of articles is impressive in itself. Hutch tells us his idea for CF was to continue Trenton’s “character building” of the mag’s staff and have them involved in a little monthly soap opera throughout its pages. By becoming emotionally attached to the reviewers, the logic goes, you become a devotee of the mag. And so we begin to learn about our new friends: The deeply impressive Alien 3 cover flags up CF‘s exclusive preview, and inside game head Hutch enthuses about what would turn out to be the last film license released on C64.
Simon Forrester’s first piece for the magazine is a look at what makes a good flight simulator, and we learn quickly he’s both a pendant and an expert, the sort of older brother who has all the answers. And then there’s “star staffie” Clur, reviewing the, er, insect simulator Bee 52 over three pages and taking readers on a proper walk through of the software with boxouts, annotated screens and an entire level of the game stuck together. It’s really great, extra-mile sort of stuff, replicated over in Andy Roberts’ Gamesbusters – which has no less than four games mapped out in full (“we did it because it looked cool”, says Andy. “But some younger CF fans couldn’t read that well, so the maps really were popular”).
There’s plenty more, but you’ll have to go and spend some time with issue 36 yourself because it’s possible to enthuse about this one all day long. The Rowlands brothers are almost finished with Mayhem In Monsterland, Jason Finch has a tutorial on strings and Stuart Campbell, er, vividly recounts the murder of Dizzy . It was a good month: for now, the lack of games didn’t seem to be bothering CF or its readers at all. And Hutch was only getting started. CF
ON THE POWER PACK
Leading the cassette in September 1993 was Prism Leisure’s eighties shooter Star Ray. Demos of Suburban Commando and Jon Wells’ upcoming Breakthrough followed, and there are – for the first time – a bunch of Jason Finch’s Techie Tips’ type-ins on the tape so you don’t have to…er..type them in. Anyway. ANYWAY. The little gem on this tape was reader game Squibbly Skwob, a sort of Smash TV-with-cute-blobs thing created in Shoot ‘Em Up Construction Kit by 13-year-old Paul Cardno. He sent it in to CF but only knew about its inclusion on the Power Pack when he saw the magazine. “I never spoke to them or received anything!”, he tells us. “To be honest, I never really did much in the way of creating games after this. I wasn’t as creative as I thought I was. The Skwob thing came from a doodle…but I couldn’t draw arms or legs, so a blob was easier to do!”.
- Additional words by Christopher Heppinstall.
- More issues of CF
- Commodore Format 36 is dated September 1993. It first appeared on Tuesday August 24th.