vDriveZX review – a Microdrive based SD storage solution for your Spectrum
Sep19

vDriveZX review – a Microdrive based SD storage solution for your Spectrum

Sinclair launched the ZX Microdrive in July 1983. True to Sinclair’s philosophy of miniaturisation and low-cost, it promised a cheap, high-speed storage system using miniature tape cartridges. Unfortunately the Microdrive didn’t take off as well as Sinclair hoped, dogged by unreliability and also the high cost of the tape cartridges. The Microdrive (and accompanying ZX Interface 1) are sought after in the current Sinclair retro-scene, be it by completist collectors, those who used it back in the day or those who wanted one and never had the chance to own one. With the arrival of the vDriveZX, there is now the opportunity to own a new Microdrive that doesn’t rely on the vagaries of ageing tape cartridges. The vDriveZX is a new device which is capable of emulating the ZX Microdrive – it provides one or more virtual drives, hence the name. It also provides the software tools to manage these virtual drives and tape cartridge images, in .mdr format, from the ZX Spectrum itself. The information related to the virtual drives and cartridge images are stored on SD card. Housed in an existing Microdrive housing the vDriveZX can be  connected to the ZX Spectrum via the ZX Interface 1. An excellent manual is provided with the vDriveZX clearly explaining the principles, operation and use of the vDriveZX. Also covered, and showing that the vDriveZX is likely to gain further features in the future, is how to easily upgrade the firmware. This is literally a case of having the new software on the SD card in the vDriveZX and typing .UPDATE – a considerable improvement over the process used during testing! Up to eight Microdrives can be emulated, each with a different cartridge image. Using the software toolkit provided with the vDriveZX, additional virtual drives can be easily added or removed to suit. In addition to this the toolkit provides Bank commands which in simple terms load a previously saved set of images to the virtual drive. An example is that you could have four drives setup as word processor, current documents, archive documents and an empty drive, but by using the Bank commands, you can instantly switch to four drives, each with a game on, ready to play. Further toolkit commands provide for directory control, deletion and renaming. In use the vDriveZX is pretty much indistinguishable from using a “real” ZX Microdrive as it uses the existing commands used for the ZX Microdrive in Sinclair BASIC. The main differences are the lack of noise from the motor, as it is no longer present, and faster access times as the correct file no longer needs to be found on...

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Monument Microgames – a closer look
Sep01

Monument Microgames – a closer look

The late 80s and early 90s saw the decline of 8bit computers in favour of their more powerful 16bit brethren. Understandably software production for these now defunct machines took a back seat or stopped altogether with software houses concentrating on the next big thing. However, with the resurgence of interest in vintage computing there is also a thirst for new software, something Graz Richards at Monument Microgames was quick to notice and fill that gap. Cheese and chocolate loving*, extreme bus-ride enthusiast Graz, now in his forties, originally started Monument in 1992 as a store to sell second-hand and new-old stock games, moving onto publishing new games in 2012. (*even together apparently!) Brunilda Endless Forms Most Beautiful Traxtor Metal Man Reloaded The games produced by Monument are of the utmost quality and often come with extras only ever previously seen in the ‘big box’ games of the Amiga/ST era. Badges, CDs, collectible cards and full colour manuals all come as standard and pricing is extremely reasonable considering the amount of work and level of detail that goes into each and every title. Games produced so far on the Monument Microgames label include: Catacombs of Balachor Zombie Calavera Genesis:  Dawn of a New Day Sid Spanners Collection Balachor’s Revenge El Stompo Game about Squares Forest Raider Cherry Cray 5 Future Looter Sir Ababol Phaeton Sam Mallard Traxtor Brunilda PET Snake Endless Forms Most Beautiful MetalMan Multi Dude Seto Taisho Vs Yokai / To Kazan   Interview with Graz Richards, owner of Monument Microgames RGC: When did you first become interested in videogames and what was the first videogame you ever played? Graz: It was Pong in 1977-78  I was 4 or 5, and very much aware of the “grown-ups” discussions about the impending microchip revolution.  Seeing Pong was like looking into the future.  I honestly couldn’t believe it at first.  Playable television! RGC: What was the first games console or computer you owned and how old were you? Graz: The first console was an Atari 2600.  It was very much a move on behalf of my parents to, ‘keep up with the Joneses.’  Friends of the family brought the console round to our house one day and showed off, “Missile Command.”  The sounds and graphics, bursting with light and colour were amazing, and the imagery of cities being levelled under mushroom clouds was extremely powerful for my young mind.  I was 8 years old by then. And then, one day, dad bought an Atari home for us, along with the obligatory Combat, plus Space Invaders and Adventure, which is still my favourite game of all time to this day. RGC:...

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Crash Annual 2018 – Kickstarter update
Aug01

Crash Annual 2018 – Kickstarter update

As we reported in our last article, the Crash Annual 2018 Kickstarter campaign got off to an astonishing start – reaching its £12,000 goal within 9 hours. That was just the beginning of the story though and currently – with 18 days to go (at time of writing) the campaign is funded 258% and stands at over £31,000. Stretch goals have been announced and subsequently smashed. Backers can already expect to have a 38mm Crash badge and a beautiful Crash covers calendar included with their Annuals. We are sure there will be plenty more to come too! Stretch goal 1: Crash Badge Stretch Goal 2: Crash Calendar The mainstream and gaming press have also been going crazy over the campaign to bring everyone’s favourite Spectrum magazine back too. Articles have now appeared on Kotaku, The Independent, Eurogamer and the Metro’s pages. Metro The Independent Eurogamer.net Kotaku Stay tuned for all the latest developments and of course, if you haven’t already done so, head on over to the Crash Annual 2018 Kickstarter page and see what all the fuss is about for...

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Crash Annual 2018 – Kickstarter
Jul23

Crash Annual 2018 – Kickstarter

The legendary Crash magazine is set to return next year with issue 99 being produced by Fusion Retro books after successfully funding their Kickstarter campaign in around 9 hours. Along with original Newsfield Owner/Editor Roger Kean and original artist Oliver Frey, Chris Wilkins is bringing the publication back in the style of a hardback annual which will feature much of what has happened in the Spectrum universe since the last Crash went to print 26 years ago. Reviews will play a big part in the Annual Famous name such as Simon Butler will have their own sections Crash Mug perk The exact cover art will be kept secret but it will be by Oli Frey so it will be good! Crash Wallet perk. Crash Watch perk Chris – who has worked alongside Oli and Roger on a number of other projects – has reached out to the Spectrum community for input, with some big names from back in the day such as Simon Butler, Jas Austin, Steve Wetherill and the Oliver Twins responding and contributing articles. Reviews are being written by Spectrum users, just as they were when Crash was the top selling Spectrum magazine in the UK, Nick Roberts will be taking up his ‘playing tips’ section again and Stuart Williams will be taking up the ‘Adventure Trail’ section, all helping to keep the annual’s format familiar to fans. Lloyd Mangram has even been tempted out of retirement to answer readers letters 😉 To top it all off there are some amazing perks to be had including Crash branded mouse mats, wallets, mugs, t-shirts, watches, canvases and even a framed ‘Oli-Bug’! Stretch goals have yet to be decided but are likely to include badges, a calendar a cassette based game by Jonathan Cauldwell featuring none other than Egg-Head. All in all, this is shaping up to be an unmissable treat for Spectrum fans new or old. If you haven’t pledged yet, please do so, lets make this Annual all it can be! Check out the Crash Annual 2018 Kickstarter page here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/47744432/crash-annual-2018-the-next-chapter...

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The Bear Essentials: Developing a Commodore 64 game – Part 5
Jun11

The Bear Essentials: Developing a Commodore 64 game – Part 5

Creating Caverns I wrote about creating rooms back in part 3 of this series and how I began to store the room data in memory.  But of course, rooms in the game have to fit together to form a world in which the character will explore on their journey. With my game I thought it would be good to split this world into different areas where a number of rooms will be grouped together and have a common theme. I actually came up with this idea fairly early on, as I always find it easier to play through games when you exit one area and find yourself in a new area that looks completely different.  It keeps the game feeling fresh and encourages exploration. The first map I sketched for the game had 60 rooms.  I picked this number to aim for as I figured this would allow all rooms to be visited in around an hour, and also as this is the size of Miner Willy’s mansion in the first Jet Set Willy game, which is a joy to explore without feeling too overwhelming. I split the map into eight different areas:  Home, Forest, Cloudy, Rocky, Mining, Jungle, Tunnel and Secret.  However, I soon opted to cut this down to six areas (taking out Tunnel and Secret) when I realised how much work was going to be involved in creating a different look, and ideally, a piece of music for all areas.  With only 64kb to work with, memory was also a consideration here too! The map went through four revisions, until I settled on a final design. The Home area would be where the player starts and finishes the game.  This leads into the first ‘proper’ area of the game, which is Forest and serves as an introduction as to how the game is played and what the objectives are. From Forest, the player can opt to exit the area in two places which lead to ‘continue’ rooms, where the player is awarded an extra credit and a new point to start from when continuing after death.  These continue rooms also serve as a break from the game and a hub to which the other areas of the game are accessible. I decided to keep one special area of the game locked until all others have been cleared in the Mining area. This area works differently to the rest of the game, and forms the final part of the players journey back to the Home area.  It takes inspiration from Manic Miner and the very first idea I had for the game, which was to only allow...

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Spectrum Addict film cover art by Oliver Frey revealed
Jun09

Spectrum Addict film cover art by Oliver Frey revealed

The upcoming film by Andy Remic – Memoirs of a Spectrum Addict now has an amazing looking cover, produced by none other than the renowned artist Oliver Frey, famous amongst gamers of course for his Crash and Zzap! 64 magazine artwork. We think it looks amazing and really captures the look and feel of those iconic 80s Crash magazine covers. There are still a couple of days left to get your own name in the film credits so head on over to remicmedia.com/speccyaddict/ and order a...

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