A look at the November 1993 issue of British C64 magazine, Commodore Format. Issue 38. Mayhem gets 100%!
Commodore Format 38 is one of the magazine’s most famous issues, in spite of hardly being the best. It’s unusual in more ways than one: the Power Pack was moved in November 1993 to the top left of the cover to make space for Virgin’s Alien 3 promotional stickers, which in turn obliterated most of the cover. And what news that cover carried: CF had awarded colourful platformer Mayhem In Monsterland a perfect 100%, a mischievous move which, somewhat tragically, upsets some people to this very day. We’ve got an entire section of this fine website dedicated to Mayhem In Monsterland: if you want to read about why editor Hutch awarded the game this score and hear from the programmers themselves, we have exclusive after exclusive right here. Enjoy it, and share it with the C64 world!
So. What else was going on in November 1993? Sadly, not very much. Hutch’s enthusiasm for Mayhem was justified in light of just three re-releases dribbling through in time for press: Hook, Nightshift and a footie sim carrying the Manchester United brand.
WE WERE THE FUTURE
Over in the Mighty Brain section, CF‘s new(ish) editor took once again to the Soap Box. “We will carry on releasing top quality software for the C64 as long as you lot want it”, he says, referring to the mag’s cover tape. He speaks of encouraging people financially to create games, and providing utilities for readers to play about with because “in the long run that’s where games are going to come from”. Intriguingly, he ends by saying that with some help from CF one of the “biggest 16-bit computer games ever” will be seeing a C64 release. As far as we can see, this did not happen. What game was Hutch referring to? We suspect – as we’ll come to in future installments of Issue Review – he meant the aborted Electric Boys conversion of Flashback. Contrary to popular opinion, that game did exist on C64 in more than screenshot form. Programmer, Russ Michaels:
“The entire first level was digitised from Amiga and ported over to the C64. All the screens needed to be seriously touched up on the C64 to convert into 16 colours.
The sprites and animations of the main character were mainly done, and I had done some work on the bitmap collision detection so that he could walk on the level.
I had a bitmap level editor for building the levels and had some of level graphics already built”.
BACK TO REALITY
As exciting as such a prospect as a CF supported Flashback was, the wider context was not: here was CF pretty much saying there were going to be no new games coming out for the C64 except for what was on the cover tape and via bedroom coders. With just Lemmings still to be released, we had arrived at the point everybody pretended would not happen. From now on, the Commodore was a niche machine, for hobbyists and fanboys.
CF was catering well for them, in stark contrast to its solitary UK rival Commodore Force, which carried on trying to be a games mag. Jason Finch talked about making nice fonts for your games this month, and it was backed up with Font Editor on the Power Pack. Meantime, Simon Forrester managed to make spreadsheets sound interesting (er, a bit) and Uncle Dave’s Buy-A-Rama now spread to two pages, chock full of C64 fans wanting to buy and sell cool stuff. It was true that the C64 was commercially done, but equally the case that people wanted to carry on using the machine. Hutch said to us that he considered Mayhem to be the perfect swansong for the computer and hinted that the magazine bordered on closing itself at this point; instead, this month marks a turning point for Commodore Format. From now on, it wouldn’t just reflect the C64 scene. It’d be a pretty damned central part to it. In the UK, perhaps the most important part. See you next time, when CF ramps it up even more! CF
ON THE POWERPACK
A cutdown version of Jellyland was the second Mayhem demo in as many months, and by all accounts readers enjoyed this much more straightforward level. There were two full games for the winter nights: the so-so arcade shooter LifeForce, which was crippled by collision detection issues, and part one of dreadful platformer Freddy Hardest. We’ve already mentioned Font Editor 3 up there, which just leaves a mention for the quirky and fun Lunar JailBreak, which saw you chasing after an escaped convict. It still stands up today, but the game has a somewhat unfortunate backstory for Commodore Format. Programmer, Neil Raine:
“Initially, this game was written in 1988/89 and called Breakout and had strong interest from Hewson. They decided not to go ahead and publish. Sometime during 1991 the game was resurrected and Commodore Format were invited to buy the game outright. Unfortunately, they went ahead and published it without any kind of approval or payment to the copyright holders. Reluctantly, we issued a claim against them through the courts for breach of copyright. The case was heard in Manchester Magistrates and went in our favour, resulting in a sum of money plus expenses against Future Publishing.”
- More issues of CF
- Commodore Format 38 is dated October 1993. It first appeared on Monday October 25th.
- Additional words (Flashback) by Frank Gasking: read the full interview at Games That Weren’t.
- More on the Lunar Jailbreak court case (currently offline): http://www.logan-5.co.uk/qls/lunarjailbreak.htm