Before Waz rocked up at Commodore Format to save thousands of virtual lives, the C64 world’s most famous Manchester City fan was a regular in the pages of the once […]
Before Waz rocked up at Commodore Format to save thousands of virtual lives, the C64 world’s most famous Manchester City fan was a regular in the pages of the once mighty Zzap! 64. Here’s the story, told by the big man. By the way, to see any of the issues he’s talking about head over to www.zzap64.co.uk. Over to Waz…
It was July 1988. A wind of change for Zzap! 64 was imminent, as Issue 39 would be the last issue that Steve Jarratt and Julian Rignall were ever to work on, as they both left for EMAP publications to join Gary Penn at Commodore User.
At that time, I had just refreshed my skills at finding infinite lives POKEs for games. After a year of saving up money from my paper round and managing to get Datel’s Action Replay Mark 4 cartridge (the latest one at the time!) and having just turned 16, the summer was imminent with not that much to do for the next six weeks. So, with a pen in hand to write some notes, I worked on MAD’s Stormbringer game (released ages after the Spectrum version) and managed to play my way through most of it. Well, I said most of it. I uncovered an annoying little bug that crashed the game if you tried to read the writing on an object. Anyway, I wrote out the three pages of tips in ‘neatest handwriting’ (Mini Office II was a long way off) and sent them off to Julian Rignall. (Little did I know, eh?) Anyway, imagine my surprise in the August issue when they announced September was going to be a 32-page special. I had my hopes up as I knew that Zzap! usually took around two issues from your sending to publishing anything of course, and soon enough Issue 41 (Sep 1988) had my tips in, courtesy of Paul Glancey who had taken over the tips section at the time. I felt really chuffed to have got my name in the magazine and wanted more.
Once the September issue was launched, I started to wonder what games I could tip. I’d just purchased Tynesoft’s Summer Olympiad, and although the tape loader was horrendous it meant that I could practice and practice and then go for broke in competition. I soon managed to get some high scores, the diving was dead cinch, and that was it. The game was simple really, so a bit of scrawling of some tips later that had me started. A friend lent me Beyond the Ice Palace. This game was difficult because of the unfair collision detection but using the AR I managed to get 255 lives and 255 spirits, I found the elusive SYS code, and that was that. Night Racer by Mastertronic was then also hacked to the computer player would not start off the line, which was more than useful. Imagine my surprise when Issue 43 (Nov 1988) was released, and I’d won the £30 prize for Tipster of the Month! That then sealed it for me – I had a future in this tips lark.
1989 was also a productive year for me as well. The January issue had some hacks I did for Cybernoid 2 (the cheat mode – redefine the keys as YGRO – hmmm), a music hack for Bangkok Knights and also some POKEs for Professional BMX Simulator (wonder who published that?) and Mickey Mouse. After a few months break while studying in vain for the first year of A-Levels, I got back into the swing of things, and what little money I had I bought a few budget games and so on. Unfortunately, most of the budget games I got weren’t that great, so I turned my sights on infinite lives for them. This led me to do infinite lives on Turbo Boat Simulator (clearly Silverbird were taking hints from Codemasters and placing the word Simulator in every game) and then some unusual hacks for Zeppelin’s Masterblaster (one played the speech in the intro, one was an SYS code straight to the end sequence) and so they made their appearance in May 1989 when Maff Evans (he who loved Front 242 and Cabaret Voltaire, just like me) placed them in. Again, I’d had to get used to the idea that someone else had taken over the tips section but there you are. However, another major upheaval was imminent, Zzap! 64 was turning into a kids’ comic and clearly, I reckoned that Houghton et al would have to go. This realisation soon dawned after Issue 50 (June 1989) and so the final great Zzap! 64 era came to be from Issues 51 to 78.
Newsfield were not that daft. They had to keep readers, so in came Stuart Wynne and Robin Hogg from The Games Machine, and Paul Rand who’d just joined Zzap! 64 stayed on. Paul was then given the mantle of the tips section for a few months, and one of the first things he did was place in my level codes for Hewson’s Eliminator in Issue 51. I’d sent these to Maff Evans and thankfully they did not get lost. The strange thing was that I’d sent some other POKEs as well, maybe they were going to be used elsewhere? I soon found out. Issue 52 (Aug 1989) had the remainder of my things from that letter, with the POKEs for The Great Giana Sisters, Kane II (including hacking the speech out!) and a long overdue Action Replay cartridge POKE for Eliminator. Clearly my input was appreciated, and they were using my stuff.
Paul Rand left for pastures new (Zeppelin, in fact) after Issue 54 and so the Welsh wizard himself Robin Hogg took the mantle of Zzap! Tips. Clearly this was the most productive time for me. Robin himself being a great games player helped, as he was more than prepared to play through the games himself and tip them (especially if it involved flight simulators, he he). His first Tips section (Issue 55, Nov 1989) was a real bonus for me. As well as supplying the complete solution to the second part of Navy Moves, I also worked hard on some more humorous hacks, including playing the speech from Jump Jet at any pitch, finding the construction set inside Beat It, and the rather obvious cheat mode that lay inside Osmium (just type in OSMIUM with a left arrow before it). Robin was quite happy too as his section had hit a few pages this time round. The next issue also then had a multitude of Action Replay POKEs that I did, saving them for a rainy day and then posting the lot off. By this time, I had upgraded my AR to version 5.2 Professional early in the year, so finding POKEs was a little easier. I never was tempted to use POKEfinder that lay within the cartridge, but would often see if it tried to find the infinite lives once I’d found the POKE by hand. It was then I realised that Datel’s claimed success rate of 80% was woefully inaccurate – around 55% was nearer the mark. (Game programmers: If you want to defeat POKEfinder, use the SBC#$01 command to decrease the lives, like the Rowlands brothers often did.)
“I had a day job and not much time, but I used 20 sheets of paper mapping out Rainbow Islands at 2am”Warren turned around stuff for Zzap! in super quick time and to order
January 1990. Out came Retrograde to massive applause. I was considering sending some maps in of the game, but I couldn’t find a copy of the tape version anywhere near me – it had sold out. Damn! As it happened, Andy Roberts (who had mapped stuff for Zzap! before) submitted all the maps for Retrograde and they appeared over the first few months of the year. Anyway, the main event I’d been waiting for was coming soon. After many months of legal wrangling, Ocean had acquired the rights to publish the conversion of Rainbow Islands after programming team Graftgold had had a contretemps with Firebird (of course Firebird were soon to be bought out themselves) and in March 1990, this game had to be mine. With my music hacks for a few Ocean games appearing in the March issue (which Robin had requested someone to do, because he loved the title theme Batman: The Movie) and RH miscrediting me as being a Manchester United supporter rather than Manchester City (which he corrected once I rang him to mention it, which he took in good humour!) I then worked flat out playing through Rainbow Islands. Despite the fact I was in a day job and didn’t really have all that much time, I have vivid memories of using around 20 sheets of A4 paper mapping out the whole game and having three late nights until 2am so I could finish it (of course, the infinite lives POKE I found made things slightly easier.
The April 1990 issue was a Ghouls and Ghosts tips special, and this was another game I’d been playing a lot recently. I did a few tips for it and even some POKEs as well, which Robin used along with some more maps and a great Follin music hack (in fact, considering how much he’d raved about the music, understandable that someone had to hack the music out..) May 1990 was also memorable – my jaw dropped at Turrican and I also got some POKEs for Toobin in the section. Robin had received my Rainbow Islands map (just a little too late for the issue) and he said in the end of his section: “A ‘Nice Try’ award goes to Waz Pilkington for sending in the complete solution and maps to Rainbow Islands (already!!) A crying shame it just arrived too late to be included”. In fact, he did start to tip Rainbow Islands from the July 1990 issue and he even called me ‘the full-time Zzap! tipper’. Well, this was all very flattering, but I remained calm about it. After all, I’d just turned 18 at the time and things could easily go sour for me at any time with me only on a training contract where I worked. So, I made sure that I got through my remainder of the year and was taken on full time. Incidentally, I also realised at this time that if other gamers were being helped by you, that was considerably nice to be valued, and even now it does humble me when people say thank you for a listing which helped them.
This of course led to a slight lull in me writing tips, but the latter stages of 1990 and early ones of 1991 took a change. I left my job to go to another, as a Pre Authorised Payments Inputter for Midland Bank (involving lots of Direct Debit input) but it all went wrong within a month. The bank were in deep financial troubles and so we were all made redundant. The only thing that helped me a bit was that they gave me a good pay off to compensate (he he). Of course, this meant whilst I was job hunting like a headless chicken, I had some of the daytime to do stuff for Zzap! 64 as well. It was Last Ninja 3 that got me back into it. After a deluge of not that great games, Last Ninja 3 was there to be bought. Although originally planned for cartridge, I eventually got the tape version (I still had no disk drive even then) and so decided to play through it, with my brother giving me valuable assistance in additional help (that’s why the tips credited us both). June 1991 saw my comeback, and it was the first few times I’d decided to submit all my hacks on a tape with a little intro that I had coded with some different charsets and moving characters, nothing fancy, but one of the tapes did have Blue Monday 1991 on it – my first official composition as Zaw Productions. Whilst playing through Last Ninja 3 though, I’d spotted an annoying as hell bug. You had to carry one of the objects (the bellows) through from levels 2 to 4 to use it, and sometimes level 4 would load without it – which meant you couldn’t finish the game! I complained bitterly to Robin, who’d also said that he had come across the same problem as well (phew! not just my tape deck being unreliable, then.)
Robin had also written a letter to me a couple of months back with lots of games on disk that he wanted hacking for future issues of Zzap! Tips. It was one of the first times he’d ever done this, and so I was quite honoured to receive them. The only snag was that I did not have a disk drive at the time – so I had to send them all back to him. Here is what the letter said:
Formal letter time for me to send you the games I mentioned in the telephone conversation we had on Wednesday and a list of what I want from each game.
E-SWAT – Infinite lives (it’s not really worth it.)
MYTH – Invulnerability from all attacks (namely the Egyptian catacombs level but invulnerability for the whole game would be best.)
CREATURES – An infinite lives listing is not necessary as I’ve already printed the cheat. An immortality/invulnerability POKE would be VERY useful indeed, but the important thing with this game is to get a full listing where you just press a number to get the relevant tune to play (if this involves a program for each level, then this won’t be too bad – ideally I’d like a listing which runs a menu music select system without having to reload and rerun it to play the next level’s tunes). If you could manage a sound FX version as well then, all the better (and any modification POKEs to change the speed, pitch etc of the tune). A good laugh sort of thing, if you’ve got the time.
TURRICAN 2 – Again I’d like a music select system without involving reloading for each level but if you have to write a listing for each world then providing it’s not too long it would work (speak with me about it before you send anything through.) A music system along the lines of the Amiga version would be brilliant. An infinite lives listing would be very handy as well but not essential.
BLOOD MONEY – Another one with ace sound and music. If you could do a standalone music menu system then that would be excellent but speak with me first. An infinite lives listing (or rather immortality) would be good but if time is pressing then leave it.
If I get any new games in then I’ll try and contact you to find out if you’ve got them already (if not then I’ll send them on) – games like SHADOW DANCER, BACK TO THE FUTURE 3, SUPER MONACO GP, etc etc and any other new games are all on my list of needing POKEs. The LAST NINJA 3 listing is a classic example of the thing I’d want. Up to date and comprehensive (saying that I haven’t actually seen it yet) but what I want is immortality/infinite lives listing, music listing and any other jokey effect listings/POKEs that add value for money to the tips on the games you hack.
I’ll try you with these games first off and if things go well from this issue then from next issue, we’ll work on some payment scheme. Show me what you can do Waz!
If there are any problems with the hacking, then let me know and we’ll sort something out – I’d like the listings and things by 17th April if at all possible (let me know if this is hopelessly optimistic.)
Best of luck, I’ll get a subscription sorted out for you in the meantime and keep in regular touch about new games that are coming out that warrant the hacking treatment.
(he then added two PSes, that were handwritten):
PS: I’m also including Mighty Bombjack for you to hack, infinite lives would be good. Let me know when you receive this little lot.
PPS: I just received the Ninja 3 stuff – great! CJ isn’t too bad either! Speak with you soon!
Well, that was that – I had the time and the energy to do it, but no disk drive! However, a month later that problem was resolved, and I managed to get one second hand. Yaay! I had to tell Robin anyway that doing a reset listing for the Creatures music was out of the question as the music player was in screen memory, so it’d be lost on reset. I did end up doing Action Replay POKEs for the remainder though. He got my Last Ninja 3 music hacks, POKEs and tips I did with my brother the same day he typed them, along with the cheat mode and some reset POKEs. Wow!
” I ended up answering close on 1,100 letters (gulp!) a lot of which were about Creatures 2.”Waz on the power of Newsfield
This did also serve me well with Zzap! 64 though. Robin gave me the £30 software voucher for the June 1991 issue as Tipster of the Month for the second time, and he would ring me usually once a fortnight to talk about new games that were being released, what he could send me to hack that wasn’t a review copy (!) and so on. In fact, as he wanted so many music hacks, some multihacks I did to hack out Tim Follin tunes, and another to hack out the Maniacs of Noise (MoN) ones also appeared in the same issue. I was busy, wasn’t I? In fact, I’d sent six tapes of hacks in all, each with a little demo. It felt good that by working together I could assist him shaping the Zzap! tips section, and I remember many a phone call from him as he was waiting on Creatures 2 to be finished. He’d been down to see John and Steve Rowlands one weekend and they’d taken the mickey out of his loud shirts he used to wear, and I said to him ‘well it wouldn’t have made any difference when you threw up then eh?’ to which he replied ‘Well, it wouldn’t have done, only I threw up over the pavement!’. The good-natured humour served us both well, and Robin was also interested in my job hunting and kept giving me confidence boosters (good on you RH).
Soon after the June issue came out, I got a package from Robin with Puzznic and Viz in it for me to have fun with. His scrawl on a Zzap! compliments slip went like this:
‘Hello Warren. In between grooving to the Tim Follin music from your hacks I managed to find Puzznic and Viz – infinite lives and music hacks would be brilliant. Infinite time for Puzznic would also be handy – give me a call when you get this package. Robin Hogg.
I hacked Puzznic no problem, but the tape of Viz got X-rayed in the post and refused to load. A shame, ‘cos the Jeroen Tel music I heard later was rather cute.
The July 1991 Issue saw more things I sent published – including last minute Super Monaco GP hacks that I’d done for the game and the Jeroen Tel music. I remember frantically compiling the tape and sprinting to the post-box to make the last post at 5.30pm just to get to Newsfield in time – Robin was very thankful and promised he’d cram them in – which he did. Music hacking was becoming my forte then – and later on of course, I did so for the High Voltage SID Collection – strange how you go full circle. In that issue I’d done music hacks for Rob Hubbard tunes, UN Squadron, Last Ninja 3 (at last), Salamander and Felix, as well as good old infinite everything on Midnight Resistance. Robin had also sent me another little compliments slip with the software voucher – I’d mentioned to him that some of the listings were printed wrong as well, so he said:
Hi Waz. Enclosed is your Software Voucher earned thanx to all those mega hacks (no thanx to the Mac department for screwing up the data lines!). Mark Caswell grabbed the music disk you sent – he’s a great fan of Front 242 and New Order. Keep hacking and let me know if you’ve any games that you’re hacking. Speak with you soon, Robin.
(Mark Caswell was a staff writer for Zzap! 64 at the time, and the demo in question? No less than Zaw Production #1 – Indie Hits 1!) I also then applied for a Zzap! 64 staff writer position that was advertised at the time – and thought that by being friendly with RH it might help me get the post – needless to say I didn’t.
Sadly, issue 75 (July 1991) was Robin’s last at the helm of Zzap! Tips (or Pig in a Poke as it was then called). He informed me in one mailing with several games for me to hack:
Hi Waz. This is probably my last Pig in a Poke bit. Speak with Mark Caswell if you need to regarding tips and speak with me regarding any indie stuff! What would be great on the first Haxonadisk would be:
SHADOW DANCER – Infinite lives, magic and credits
EXTREME – Infinite energy
MIGHTY BOMBJACK – Infinite lives and powers
NORTH AND SOUTH – Infinite weapons and gold
MOONSHADOW – Infinite energy
NINJA SPIRIT – Infinite lives and continues
Robin and I were big Indie music fans, and he loved All About Eve. I remember ringing him the day after Farewell Mr Sorrow had hit the charts, and he was just still swooning over the lead singer Julianne Regan! And now I had my drive working, hacks on disk were possible too.
The first It’s Corky in issue 76 (August 1991) had plenty of things from that first disk, including Action Replay POKEs for Viz (I got a working copy in the end so did some music hack data lines too), more POKEs for Extreme, Ninja Spirit, disk hacks for Renegade III, and more music hacks for Stormlord, Ninja Spirit and Moonshadow. I’d hacked most of the rest anyway. Robin sent me that issue in a blind panic – the Turrican 2 music hack Peter de Bie had sent didn’t work for them, so he sent me the listing and the issue concerned so I could see if it could be fixed (thankfully, it could). I also had a lengthy rant in the Zzap! Rrap which surprisingly earned me letter of the month (and even a little bit of hate mail.) Incidentally, Kristopher Roebuck (an Australian) in a letter to the Rrap! earlier had asked for the MoN routine to be disassembled which inspired me to do the Maniacs music hack for issue 76. Kristopher then became a musician in his own right.
Whilst I waited for any backlash to be coming from the Rrap! letter, I spent my software voucher on some new games and set about them with my hacking tools. Issue 77 (Sep 1991) had stuff from me printed, but that Mac department were let loose on it again and loads of things didn’t work. I rang Mark Caswell to express my disillusionment but ended up speaking to Robin. He seemed a little uneasy and it was the first sign Zzap! 64 were on a downward slope, it seemed that pressure was being put on him and he didn’t like it. Plus, he’d started dating his then new girlfriend Sam as well, so time was being taken up elsewhere.
Anyway, Mark corrected two hacks from Issue 76 that were wrong, but the Moonshadow disk hacks missed half the data lines! I also had two music hacks for Snare, Puzznic pokes and listing, Spike In Transylvania cheat mode and obligatory music hack, Dragon Breed music hack, a new version of the Follin music hack, Shadow Dancer POKEs, Martin Walker music hacks and so on.
Issue 78 (Oct 1991) was a true zenith. I’d worked hard on an ‘ultimate music hack’ which would have around 200 plus datalines to use with ONE listing to listen to tunes from games. In many ways it was a culmination of all my music hacking work, and indeed this was printed along with some Zzap! Megatape hacks, a multihack for Ocean games with the same loader (another Mac dept cock up) and another letter I printed in the Rrap! Sensing from Robin Hogg that all was not well at Zzap! Towers, I also started off my Listings Request Service by asking the Zzap! 64 staff to print my address at the end of a letter, which they kindly did. Many years later, I was still getting hack requests and I ended up answering close on 1,100 letters (gulp!) a lot of which were about Creatures 2.
Anyway, I then just after the release of Issue 78 rang Mark Caswell up to tell him about the foul-ups, and a receiver answered the other end of the phone. “Newsfield have been put into liquidation. There is no one here.” This was the end of Zzap! 64 as we knew it, and from Robin’s musings I knew it wasn’t going great, but I never thought it would be the end. Sadly, it was.
About this time Commodore Format had hit its first year, so I sent all my recent listings along to Andy Dyer who was tipster then. As it happened, Andy Roberts had submitted stuff to them for a time and CF asked him to take over the tips section. He rang me, said he was interested in me doing more, and that started off my friendship between me and Andy Roberts and me doing stuff for CF a lot.
Zzap! 64 did resurface after a buyout by Europress Impact in December 1991 but did not return to glory. I did some more tips for a little while, but I got sick of their Mac making errors in my listings. Also, the mag went really immature (I mean, Miss Whiplash in the letters page? Come on! Where’s Lloyd Mangram when you need him?) and this almost made my mind up for me when someone senior in Future Publishing / Commodore Format rang me one day and asked if I would do listings and tips exclusively for them. CF