December 1994 MAGazine Volume 10 Number 12

The December General Meeting of the Memphis Amiga Group will be held Saturday, December 10 from 1:00 pm until approximately 3:00 pm in the Farris Auditorium on the campus of State Technical Institute of Memphis.

The newsletter is published monthly for distribution to the members of the Memphis Amiga Group. MAGazine contains meeting announcements, hardware and software reviews, video and book reviews, and other information of interest to Amiga and computer users in general. Contributions are welcome and may be submitted in hardcopy or via disk in ASCII format at any meeting or you can upload to Operator Headgap BBS - (901) 759-1542 V.32bis hi speed operating CNET PRO v3.05c software. Be sure to leave a note to the sysop.

From the President's CLI

by Bob Nunn

Elections

The elections are coming up in January. This month we must make our nominations. We must have nominations for the minimum amount of offices and these include President, Treasurer, Librarian, and Newsletter Editor according to our bylaws. We presently also have offices for a Secretary and a Vice President.

Who's Not Running

My wife and I are retiring this year after two terms of office. Tom O'Brien our Vice President is also retiring since he will be moving. Charles Williams our Newsletter Editor is retiring. That leaves Bill Bowers our Librarian, and Terry Campbell our Treasurer, that are willing to run again. We have also had a volunteer, Steve Echols has consented to run for office. If you are interested in participating as an officer or some other capacity please call voice at 759-1541 or see us at the next board meeting.

Dissolve the Club?

If we do not elect the required amount of officers for the club we will proceed to dissolution as stated in our bylaws. I hop that you will attend the December and January meetings. They are very important to the life of our club.

What's on the BBS

Operator Headgap (my personal system) currently has Frozen Fish 1-1000 and Fresh Fish Volume 7 (Nov/Dec) CD-ROMS online! Call 901-759-1542 (VFAST)

What's for Christmas?

There are all kinds of new and exciting goodies on the market. An upgrade to OS 3.1 may be just the ticket.

CD-ROM Drives

For the A1200 & 600 a new PCMCIA slot drive is available and it will make your 1200 run most CD32 programs.

Looking for a multi-drive CDROM?

Creative Computing is selling a Makamichi MBR-7 that holds 7 disks at a time for $549.95 if you order from the Amiga side. Their Mac operation sells it for $499.95 (jerks). I personally like the Pioneer 2x 6 Disk Changer from Mac Warehouse for $599. Looking for a cheapie! How about $99 for a single speed CD-Rom Drive (SCSI) from Devine Computing?

MODEMS

The two best buys in modems are the Magnum 288 at $139.95 or the Magnum 144 at $89.95 from Mac Warehouse. I own both of these modems and while they don't have all the bells and whistles that a Supra does they are priced right and work good.

Hard Drives

About the best prices around are from one of three companies - Club Mac has the Quantum LPS 270 for $199. ProDirect's price is $200 even. Spin Peripherals is $199. APS Technologies price is $189.

I would always suggest you shop local sources for Amiga Hardware and Software. Videospeak, First Choice Computers and now Opus all carry items in stock and may be a good source for you.

CD-Rom Software

At the Gateway Show I got to meet Richard Fish (Fred's Son). Amiga Library services (Fish) now offer a Fresh Fish subscription for only $89.95 and that is for 6 volumes a year. They also offer a subscription to the Aminet CD's (4 per year) for $44.95. Subscribe to one or both and you will have more than enough software to go with that CD-Rom that will keep you busy for most of the year just looking though all of it!

More Memory

Never enough! Memory World or The Chip Merchant are two reliable and low priced sources for more memory!

Faster is Better

Acclerators for everyone - two new low priced entries into the market for the A500 and the A1200 is the M-Tec. The A500 020 Accelerator is 32 bit and allows 1 to 4 meg and at $99 is a steal. The M-Tec 1230 28 is a 28MHZ trapdoor accelerator for the A1200 for $169. Call Memory World for more details.

Here is a list of phone numbers for the companies mentioned above:

Amiga Library Services
(602) 917-0917
APS Technologies
(800) 677-3294
The Chip Merchant
(800) 426-6375 Ext. 3
Club Mac
(800) 258-2622
Creative Computers
(800) 872-8882
Devine Computers
(302) 738-9046
First Choice Computers
(901) 383-1862
MacWarehouse
(800) 255-6227
Memory World
(215) 244-7930
Pro-Direct
(800) 524-9952
Spin Peripherals
(800) 466-1200
Videospeak
(901) 276-2319

Have a Happy & Safe Holiday Season!

MAG Meetings

The Memphis Amiga Group (MAG) holds general meetings the second Saturday of each month in the Farris Auditorium on the campus of State Technical Institute at Memphis (see map at left).

There will be a board of directors lunch meeting at Gridley's BarBQ beginning at 11:00 A.M., Saturday, December 10 (before the general meeting). For more information call Bob Nunn at 901-759-1541.

Memphis Amiga Group Officers for 1994

President
Bob Nunn
(901) 759-1541

Vice President
Thomas O'Brien
(901) 872-6962

Secretary
Cheryn Nunn
(901) 759-1514

Treasurer
Terry Campbell
(601) 393-4864

Librarian
Bill Bowers
(901) 360-0003

MAGazine Editior
Charles Williams
(501) 655-8777

MAGazine Printing & Distribution
Terry A. Campbell
(601) 393-4864

Disk Sales & Video Rentals

MAG library and Fred FISH disk are $2 each.
($5 each for non-members)
Quality blank disks with labels are 65¢ each.
($1 each for non-members)
Rental of Amiga related videotapes is $3 per week.
(not available to non-members)
For all this and more contact club librarian
Bill Bowers (901) 360-0003
OR see Bill at the next MAG general meeting.

For Sale

VLab framer grabber card for
Amiga 2000/3000/4000 - $200

Fargo color printer
w/ribbons for dye-sub, mono, & wax - $550

Amiga 3000/25mhz with 52 meg hard drive
includes 13" Panasonic Panasync monitor.
Has dual floppy drives (one is high density drive)
and 3 megs RAM - $800
Call Ken Winfield at (901) 383-9559

INFO

The Memphis Amiga Group (MAG) is a non-profit organization whose purpose is promoting and encourageing the use and understanding of the Commodore Amiga Computer. Memberships are open to all those who share a common interest in the Amiga computer and its many wonderful and unique features. Monthly meetings are open to the public and visitors are welcome.

Annual membership dues for new members are $25.00 with an annual renewal rate of $20.00. Associate memberships are available for $15.00 per year, renewable at the same rate, to those who must travel more than 45 miles one way to attend general meetings. All memberships are family memberships and dues are nonrefundable.

Board Meeting Notes November 12, 1994

The board meeting had been changed to meet at Perkins, instead of Gridley's. However, when the board members arrived at Perkin's, the restaurant was already in a standing room only status. We immediately turned around and went back to Gridley's. Board meetings will continue at Gridley's for the time being. At least they have seating.

Any members wishing to are encouraged to attend the board meetings. Especially with the elections coming up, and not enough volunteers (yet) for the officers, any members interested in seeing the club survive should be present.

The board meeting is always at 11:00 AM the saturday of the general meeting. We meet at Gridley's at Macon Rd and Sycamore View (on your way to the meeting place at State Tech).

Come join us for good barbecue.

Comdex '94 Report

by Harv Laser

COMDEX/Fall '94 (the world's largest computer convention, possibly the world's largest convention of any kind) is going on this week in Las Vegas, Nevada USA. Appx. 200,000 people are attending. The casinos are really empty and the hotel rooms are all about double or triple their usual nightly rates to make up for the computer trade's apparent allergy to gambling.

The main hall at the L.V. Convention Center is dominated by the boring stuff (IBM, PowerPC, Lotus, Borland, Apple, blah blah etc. who cares) but the interesting stuff is at the other venue, the Sands Hotel Convention Center. (The Interface Group, the outfit who puts on COMDEX bought the Sands a couple years ago and spent megabucks building the huge convention center behind it).

Even that wasn't big enough so they converted the underground parking garage into a whole 'nother exhibit hall floor in the complex. COMDEX used to take place in six or 20 hotels all over town but now all of the exhibits have been conglomerized into just the LV and Sands Convention Centers. Of course, probably every hotel in town has "private suites" where various corporations wheel and deal and wine and dine their customers and potential customers.

(Parenthetically, I've always wondered how Bill Gates, the uncrowned "King of COMDEX [tm]" gets in and out of the show halls. I've never seen him.. I suppose maybe they've built a series of secret underground tunnels to spirit him in and out, or perhaps he drives a beat up Volvo alone into the parking garage wearing a wig and fake beard ala Michael Jackson when he wants to visit Disneyland and go unmolested by raving lunatic fans)

So today I schmoozed and schlepped my way thru the "Multimedia" floor of the Sands part of the show, aisle after aisle of hundreds upon hundreds of corporate booths, some huge, some a single table, some famous, some from companies I never heard of.

Some were doing "boffo biz" as they say in Hollywood, while at others, one might see a couple of forlorn looking guys in suits standing there staring off into space wondering, perhaps "why isn't my product attracting the babes?"

Everything and anything Computer-related can be found at COMDEX, from huge ridiculously expensive hardware arrays right down to silly little desk items with smiley faces on them.

I did spot three companies who are known to the Amiga community at large and thought I would comment on what they were showing...

NewTek

They're showing ONE product, LightWave, for Amiga, PC, and SGI machines. Same price for all of them: $995.00. Everyone here knows what LightWave is so no need to explain it. While there may have been other Amigas at COMDEX, the one in NewTek's booth was the only one I saw today (and its monitor was turned off).

Huge screens and monitors were running tapes of the various tv shows where LW has been used: Bab5, seaquest, etc. etc. Lee Stranahan was working at one station doing demos but the crowd was nothing like I've seen at NewTek booths at other shows like SIG-GRAPH (where the crowds are 10x more render-oriented than they are at COMDEX).

Elastic Reailty (formerly ASDG) Inc.

Had their Mac, PC and SGI machines and were showing ER, the morphing package on each of them. The booth was quite crowded and demos were being performed by various employees such as Bruce "CygnusSoft" Dawson, Jeff "JRAGraphics" Almasol, and others. On the monitors was a looping demo tape of various films, tv shows, and commercials that ER has been used to create effects for. It was quite crowded and drawing a lot of attention. Keith "TRexx Professional" Williams has departed the company for parts unknown and big bossman Perry Kivolowitz had left Vegas yesterday, so I missed yakking with him.

Apparently ER Inc. has been doing a lot of hiring lately evidenced by all the new faces I saw working their booth. They have overgrown their current offices and are looking for a new one, a sign of success. No Amigas in their booth, though :( but Rick Unland was :)

(Rick was formerly with Commodore and for a while was involved with the CDTV project under Gail Wellington's lead.. he's also worked for any number of other Amiga products companies and is a good guy).

Play Inc.

This is the company you may or may not have heard about which is a merger between a bunch of ex-NewTek folks (engineers and p/r people) and Digital Creations, and Progressive Image Technology, the hardware outfit who made all of DC's stuff like DCTV, SuperGens, etc. This is Play's first trade show booth, and they are showing their first product. It's a PC product. It's called "Snappy".

"What the hell is that?" you ask as you scratch your head. Well I'll tell you. It's a digitizer. A FrameGrabber. It plugs into the PC parallel port, runs on a 9-volt battery, grabs any video source in 1/60th of a second in 1500x1125 24-bit color resolution (yes, that res is correct) and can save out to disk in the form of BMP, PCX, TIFF, GIF and JPEG formats, in 1500x1125, 640x480, or 320x240 sizes. It's a tiny unit, about the size of a pack of cigarettes, it's portable, and they're bundling with it special versions of Fauve Matisse and Gryphon Morph. The whole thing retails for $199.95 and it'll be in stores in late December this year.

Kiki Stockhammer, famous for years in the Amiga community for sitting on a chair wearing a headset microphone and demoing the Toaster for hours on end, is now sitting on a chair, wearing a headset microphone, demoing Snappy for hours on end. :). Mark "the man in black" Randall was yakking it up with booth visitors. Laura "I was the NewTek gril before Kiki" Longfellow was working the reception desk

(I was surprised to see her working for Play Inc. for no particular reson, but was please too, and she was looking VERY fine.)

If I had a 386 or better PC with a buncha RAM and disk on it I would get a Snappy. It's a slick little device and it really produces beautiful, very hi-res, very NON-jaggie results in the blink of an eye. It is, if you will, a 1994 DigiView/DCTV for PeeCees. Comparisons are painfully obvious, especially when viewed in the perspective that Play Inc. is a combination of former NewTek people and current Digital Creations people. But Snappy is a slicker product than either of those were, and it contains Play's first piece of custom silicon which Mark was proudly showing off like a rare coin in a box.

Other Random Thoughts on COMDEX in no particular order...

Mark Randall handed me what is the first "3D" business card I've ever seen... open the card and the die-cut word "P L A Y" pops up from inside. (Do these people know how to spend money or what!)

I had read a newsburp on Clarinet a couple months ago about how COMDEX had "outlawed" Adult-oriented software at their shows. Apparently they changed their minds and then some. The Multimedia hall had at least ten different vendors (maybe more, I didn't stop to count) who were selling "adult" (or "porno" if you perfer) CD ROM software of ever description. ALL of these booths were crowded. You open the COMDEX program guide (a FAT book that weighs 3 lbs) and it tells you that COMDEX is not a selling show. It is a trade show for dealers, distributors, the press, mfr's, reps, etc. etc.

EVERY one of the CD ROM boths was selling product like mad. And while Adult CD ROMs have typically been GIF files, this is the first time I've seen them in Kodak PhotoCD format, so of course I bought one to take home for further inspection.

These shows are expensive!

Just to walk into the exhibit halls costs $75. But hardly anyone pays $75 to get in because practically every booth exhibitor hands out free entry passes to their customers. I got in on a free pass courtesy of IBM.

How about $1.75 for a can of coke and $3.50 for a hot dog, everywhere inside the show at all the food stops. This is typical for large trade shows but it's still outrageous.

I sat in on a couple of demo sessions at some booths (mainly to rest my back and feet after having lugged around 20 lbs. of brochures and magazines and other junk in a bag like everyone else) and got some free software which is of course Windows stuff that I can't use but what the hell, someone will want it. One of the neatest things I saw was, believe it or not, a new Kid-oriented CD ROM being published by the cable tv Discovery Channel. This thing was absolutely delightful, filled with humor, surprises, and excellent graphics and I was impressed. There are some people out there who know how to make quality CD ROM stuff with imagination.

Getcher Free Magazines Here

Picked up a number of free copies of various rags, and also signed up for a number of free subscriptions. When you go to these huge trade shows there are invariably any number of magazine publishers who will give you a one year free sub just for filling out a form and checking a million little boxes (like telling them how many billions of dollars worth of computer stuff you're responsible for buying each year). So I picked up a free one-year sub to a New Media and Morph's Outpost, and a couple others.

Morph's publisher has a brand new magazine out called "Blaster" and they were handing out tons of free copies of the first issue. This rag is a bit hard to describe but I guess they're aiming it at the older skateboard set who is into anything with a prefix "Cyber-" on it, and who appreciate the finer points of Beavis & Butthead's subtle humor and who know what a modem is. I sat down and had a couple $1.75 cokes and read through it and it's a pretty decent little rag so look for it on newsstands soon if not now. Ya might enjoy it, if the wild typesetting and graphics doesn't give you a permanent migraine.

Well I could ramble on more but that's enough. I'll be back in Vegas in January for CES (The Consumer Electronics show) which I find to be generally a lot more entertaining than COMDEX, and at which there is a much better chance of actually seeing more than one Amiga in a two million square foot exhibit hall.

War Wizard v1.03

Game Review by Eyal Teler

PRODUCT NAME

War Wizard v1.03, shareware version

BRIEF DESCRIPTION

A role-playing game played from an overhead view.

AUTHOR/COMPANY INFORMATION

The shareware version available on Aminet in the game/role directory. This is in the form of three archives - two contain the game, and one contains the necessary fonts.

The full version is available from:

Name: Brad McQuaid,
Microgenesis Inc.
Address: 1268 Clarence Drive
Vista, CA 92084 USA
Telephone: Steve Clover's help line
(619) 729-2898
Order line
(800) 294-1302

LIST PRICE

Shareware: $20 (US). Registration using VISA, MasterCard or Discover is possible.

SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS

HARDWARE

Minimum configuration is 68000 CPU, 512K Chip RAM, 512K Fast Ram. This will work, but according to the README file, it will be intolerable.

Recommended configuration in cludes a faster processor (not necessary, but could help in some of the more cumbersome parts of the game interface), more than 1 MB RAM (the game uses about 800K RAM when running), and a hard drive (this is a "must" because the game has constant disk accesses).

According to the game's README_FIRST file, the game has been tested on the following machines: A2000, 512K Chip RAM, 512K Fast RAM, AmigaDOS 2.0 A4000, AmigaDOS 3.0

SOFTWARE

Tested under AmigaDOS 1.3, 2.0, and 3.0.

COPY PROTECTION

None.

MACHINE USED FOR TESTING

Amiga 500, 1MB Chip RAM, 2MB Fast RAM. Fujitsu 100MB SCSI drive in A590. Commodore 1084 monitor, Kickstart 1.2, Workbench 1.3, ARP, DMouse.

INSTALLATION

Initial installation is done by unpacking the two archives into the directory of your choice. The installation instructions are near the end of the README_FIRST file. The table of contents in the Manual file wrongly claims that these instructions appear in the GETTING STARTED part of the manual.

One needs to install the game fonts (from the third archive) in the 'Fonts:' directory. 'iff.library' is also needed and is supplied with the game. The assigns mentioned in the installation instructions are unnecessary, although they might be of use when playing from a floppy disk.

In general, I would rate the installation process as reasonable for anyone who's computer literate. The misleading manuals, however, prove to be a hindrance.

REVIEW

Note: the product reviewed is the shareware version of the game. This is similar to the full version (available upon registration), but its map is limited, and therefore some quests (including the final one) are missing. Apart from this, the two versions are the same.

War Wizard is a role-playing game involving exploration, magic, fights and character development. You start with one character but can (and should) recruit three more to aid you in your cause. The story is something along the lines of finding several artifacts in order to defeat the evil lord. I admit that I did not read the blurb - it's the same old story, and it's not all that relevant to playing the game (or so it seems). It may be more relevant when playing the full game.

Your party can engage in several activities. You'll mainly travel the land, going from city to city. These "cities" include towns, fortresses, and also dungeons you'll find the artifacts you've been sent after; in other cities you'll be able to find shops, inns, and other houses where you'll be able to find useful objects, by searching chests, and also find some information by talking to people.

Shops are the places where you can get weapons, armour pieces, magical item, potions, lock picks, and more. You can also sell things. You'll usually get less than half the price you'd pay for a similar item, but if you have a few useless short swords +3 you earned during combat, you can make quite a lot of money by selling them.

Inns are perhaps the most impor tant place in any city, as there are some things you can do only in an inn. Most important is the ability to memorize spells. Since you can remember only 5 spells at any time, hanging close to a place with an inn is a good thing to do if you plan on having a lot of fights. Inns also allow you to camp without being disturbed. This is important, as lack of sleep will cause your party members to fall asleep at inopportune moments. Sleeping party members are useless in combat, and once all your party members fall asleep, you won't be able to move.

During your travels, both inside and outside cities, you'll have fights. This can happen for several different reasons, the most common of which is perhaps random encounters. These depend on several factors, such as the area you're in and the time of day. You can run away from fights (if your enemies are not quick enough to close in on you), which is a useful thing to do in random encounters. There are also preset encounters. These appear on the city map, in a similar way to other characters, but you'll be attacked when you arrive at that map square. Lastly, you can attack people yourself - those which appear on the city map, as well as those you encounter randomly on your way. Note that attacking a person inside a city will make you an outlaw in that city and subject to attacks from the city guard.

Combat is the only time you'll see your party characters separately. Each character has a set number of movement points that can be used for movement, weapon attacks, and spell casting. In each combat turn, each of your characters will attack (or do some other activity) in turn, and between your character's turns, your enemies will attack you. When attacking with a weapon, you are able to choose the body part you'll hit. Hitting the legs, for example, will eventually cause your enemy to be unable to move; hitting the arms will make it unable to use a weapon. Another reason to choose a specific body part is that the armour, which is made of several different parts, may protect some body parts better than others.

After you have won a fight (otherwise the game is over), you'll be able to search the bodies of your victims. There you'll find money, food, and some valuables in the form of weapons and armour pieces. This is perhaps the best way to acquire these valuables and can be an incentive to enter fights deliberately with people that you know have high quality armour and weapons (although they'll be difficult to beat, for this reason).

In terms of what you carry, the game is quite complex. Each part of your (character's) body can (and should) be covered by a different piece of armour - from boots on your legs, through the armour on your torso and the collar of your neck, and up to the helmet on your head. Each hand can hold a different weapon, and you can out magical rings on your fingers to be used during battle. In addition, you have a backpack that can store up to ten items. There's also a limit to the weight you carry.

All of the above are available on the backup screen. From there you can also access the spell screen where you can memorize spells from your spellbook and scribe scrolls which are in your backpack. Scrolls are found in magic shops and in some chests.

There's more to say about this highly detailed game, but you'll just have to get it and play it yourself. I hope I've given you enough of a taste of what you can expect.

DOCUMENTATION

The games comes with two instruction files: README_FIRST and Manual. README_FIRST contains installation and registration details, as well as the list of keyboard shortcuts for the game. It also contains some common questions and answers. The Manual file contains the rest of the instructions for the game. It includes the background story, explanation of the game screens, the various aspect of the game (locations, character attributes, etc.), and lists of weapons, armours, and spells.

In general, the documentation suffers from two main problems. The first is that it's not always correct, as mentioned before about the installation instructions. There are no earth-shattering mistakes, but it can be annoying enough to find that things don't work as the instructions claim, or that the instructions are incomplete. The second problem is clarity. In most cases, this stems from describing picture gadgets by their names, and in a different order than they appear in the screens. Luckily the game multitasks, which allows flipping between instructions and game screens.

In general, the documentation is fairly complete, but finding something in it is not easy. A manual in AmigaGuide format would have been much more practical, as finding things inside the 1830 lines of text can take some time. An AmigaGuide format is especially suitable as the text often refers you to other sections of the manual.

I imagine that people who have never seen this type of game before could find the manual a bit difficult to understand, but the game is simple enough to start playing after reading the tips given in the manual. To play the game fully, however, reading the manual is a must. I keep discovering small things I've overlooked.

LIKES

The game multitasks. This is a definite plus that allows you to read the instructions while playing and to copy the saved game to another directory (the latter is recommended - I haven't done it enough), among other things.

This game is quite addictive. Its deadliness level is just about right, and you can carry on playing for hours, just trying to improve your character status - getting better weapons and armour, getting new spells, and so on. The fact that characters improve their skills with practice means that you can have your character learn spells now and more powerful spells, and so on.

There are enough locations even in the demo to provide hours of exploration. There are enough secret doors and special treasure chests to keep you searching for more of the same. Combat is detailed, and so are other features, giving more depth to the game.

This is also a good game for all BLAZEMONGER "Customer Service" wannabees. It's very satisfying to be able to attack people and hit them in different parts of their bodies, trying to find which part is easier to hit, disabling their legs so they can't move, and so on. It's most fun with the nomad which attacks you, as he's always alone, and has no long range weapons. Not that I've tried this - it's all a purely theoretical discussion.

There's one particular thing I like about this game, but I'm not sure how many people will find it appealing - it's the fact that such a game is not too difficult technically to program, and on the other hand this game isn't perfect (see below). Therefore I can enjoy designing (and perhaps programming one day) a similar, but better, game. (Knowing me, it'll never see the light of day.)

DISLIKES AND SUGGESTIONS

The game forces you to play for hours, simply because some aspects tend to slow you considerably. This problem could be solved partly by having a faster machine.

The first problem is the character Status screens. You often want to go from the Backpack screen of one character to the backpack screen of another; for example, because you just traded an item between them. Doing this takes you through another 3 screens. The same goes for the spellbook screen - you usually go through many screens as you make all your spellcasting characters (usually 3) relearn the spells. A method for moving from a screen of one character to the same screen of another character would have speeded things considerably.

Another problem is the random encounters. Sometime these can be truly annoying. One such case is when you flee an encounter. This will return you to the previous location. On your next move, you may again have an encounter, and so on. This is not all that common, but when it happens it can be extremely annoying because it's so time consuming. Random encounters can also cause too much damage, making you decide to reload the game. Unfortunately, you cannot quit a fight, and often it's not easy to conclude a fight quickly (you can't kill yourself easily, sadly). Therefore you'll have to go through many turns of combat before you can reload the game. This is quite annoying. A Quit button on the combat screen could have helped.

Another problem with combat is the targeting. Targeting is done by the Last and Next buttons. "Last" targets the character you targeted the previous round, and "Next" moves to the next character in the (not so obvious) order kept by the computer. While targeting the last target is easy under this system, this system is very cumbersome under all other circumstances. These circumstances include selecting a new target, and the occasion when a character engages in both combat and casting spells on party members (selected using the same targeting system).

I assume that this system was designed to save the player the need to move a cursor over the combat screen to target the enemies, as was done in old SSI games if I remember correctly (and maybe in new ones too - haven't played one; not that there are any new Amiga ones anyway). The former indeed works when there are one or two enemies; but since there are sometimes more than ten enemies, it can become a burden. A natural solution would have been to use the mouse for targeting. This might be more difficult for targets outside the screen, but these are not the most common kind of target anyway. For a game which claims to be easier to use than other similar ones, this seems to me like a serious oversight.

Even if mouse control is out of the question, adding a Prev button, which moves to the previous enemy in the order, could be a great help. I often find that in pressing Next numerous times to get to my chosen target, I've actually pressed Next one time too many. I then have to move over the whole bunch of targets again. Another occasion when this would be helpful is when healing the party. If you look at all your party members in order to find out who is most hurt, you often want to go back and heal the right one, which is difficult under the current system.

Another annoying problem is the saves. While you are allowed to save the game only at inns, the game will automatically be saved in many different locations, some of which you can't even guess. While the manual mentions that the game will be saved when entering or leaving a city, and when doing a search, it doesn't mention that it will be saved when you enter shops or when you cross a certain imaginary line in the map (presumably when the game has to load a new section).

This practically means that you can't explore easily, because if something happens to a member of our party (death, for example), it may be saved should you continue to explore the map. Since only one game can be saved at any time (unless you copy the saved game directory by using the shell, for example), the fact that you lose your saved game at unpredictable places means that it's easy to get stuck in a situation when you may have permanently damaged your chances of continuing the game.

It would have been best if several positions could have been saved, but even one saved position would be OK. Saving the game when entering or leaving the city is not that problematic, but there shouldn't be any other automatic saves - especially those you can't predict.

One last dislike - there's a PC version, and it includes sound and an improved interface. Perhaps this has something to do with not enough people paying for the full Amiga verison (I haven't asked).

COMPARISON TO OTHER SIMILAR PRODUCTS

I haven't played many games of this type, although I did see an old SSI game being played (on a PC) - the combat system looked quite similar in view, although the targeting system was different. I can't really compare, as I haven't played that game myself (I tried to order some old SSI games through a local computer store, but wasn't successful). By the way, these old SSI games should cost $20 to $30 these days.

The only game which has some similarity to this which I've played is Legend of Lothian - a Public Domain game. Lothian is a much simpler game. Like War Wizard, you travel over a map, and can enter cities, talk to the locals, and buy equipment. It lacks a decent combat system, however, and doesn't include any sort of complex character attributes, belongings or magic. War Wizard also has better graphics than Lothian.

On the other hand, Lothian doesn't have the problems that War Wizard suffers. For example, it's possible to explore the land in Lothian more easily. If you escape encounters, you won't progress in levels, and the random encounters will be with only a few low level monsters, meaning that they'll be resolved quickly (either way). The extremely simple combat system helps in this respect.

Lothian has another boon to the exploration in the form of a coordinate system. This means that you need to note only the location of cities in order to know their direction. Of course, the registered version of War Wizard comes with full maps, so it shouldn't be that much of a problem.

War Wizard lacks one other aspect of Lothian - the missions. In War Wizard, you can talk to people and they'll sometimes give you hints on where you can go. They don't, however, ask you to do anything for them, which means that all you do in WW is explore. In Lothian, people ask you to do missions for them, and you get rewards for doing them. This adds interest to the game.

On the other hand, War Wizard is much more complex and therefore more involving. The fights can be enjoyable (as long as there are not too many of them), and character improvement is more of a goal - you tend to search for ways to get better equipment, more powerful spells, and so on.

There's one other PD game of Lothian's type, called UTG. I haven't played it, since it needs AmigaDOS 2.0 at least (which I still don't have). According to the documentation of UTG, it seems to have the simplistic Lothian system, so War Wizard probably still rules the PD scene in this respect.

BUGS

War Wizard is certainly not free of bugs. Some of them are just a little annoying. One very annoying bug manifests when you try and put items into a chest. This can be very useful for storing currently unused items that may be of use in the future. Unfortunately, all too often the program acts as if there's something in the empty chest slot and claims that it's too heavy for the character to carry. While it's possible to overcome this problem, either by using another chest or another slot, or by removing other items from the character first, it's still extremely annoying.

Another annoying problem is in battles. When the allocated movement points reach 1 or 0, the turn goes to the next character. This is true only if you've been moving, however. If you got to 1 by casting a spell, the turn won't pass automatically. Pressing Next or Last will move to the next character, but pressing Done will actually skip the next character. This is not all that problematic once you get used to it, but it can be quite annoying initially.

The program didn't GURU a lot, although it did on some occasions. It's as if there are certain places on the map where the program GURUs once you finish a fight.

VENDOR SUPPORT

I haven't tried the phone numbers, for obvious reasons (i.e. the cost of international calls), but I did contact the programmer by e-mail to learn a bit more before I wrote the review. The responses was very quick. I haven't actually had any real problem with the game, so I can't comment on the quality of the support.

CONCLUSIONS

[Scores are out of 10]

Graphics - 7

Not bad for this kind of game (not that good either).

Sound - 0

No sound (just like I like it).

Playability - 7

Some parts of the game are too cumbersome, but generally OK.

Addictiveness - 9

I love games of exploration and character enhancement. If you're like me, this could keep you up at night for a few days.

Lastability - 7

The demo is limited, of course, and you'll probably grow tired of it within a week. The full game will probably keep you playing much longer, unless you get too frustrated by the interface (which is all too possible).

Value for money - 7

$20 is not too expensive, and this is a very large and sophisticated game. You might want to save your money, however, for something with less bugs, more story, and a better interface.

Conclusions - 7

Try the demo - it's not bad - then decide for yourself. In my opinion, there are too many faults in this game with the auto-saves being perhaps the most annoying, although they shouldn't be too difficult to fix. This game is a real case of almost being there, but not quite.

Copyright 1994 Eyal Telar. All rights reserved.

CBM News

This was posted to Usenet today (Thursday, November 24) by Jason Compton (Amiga Report Editor) and is the latest news. (He's a realiable source for such things.)

Just to clear things up, I thought I'd point out what I know at this point...

CEI has NOT signed a contract as of Wednesday.

This is what they HAVE done: They sent a team to the Philippines to inspect the Commodore International inventory. They found that many of the boxes are mislabled and that a good deal of the inventory inside is defective. They did NOT find any complete product, but there are chips, motherboards, etc. They're not pleased about this and may well be trying to renegotiate the contract.

CEI had to postpone yesterday's IRC conference because an unexpected meeting came up between Amor and the liquidators.

Commodore UK has decided to postpone their DevCon until Feb. 1995 because the response they received was overwhelming and they want to do it right.

MEMPHIS AMIGA GROUP MEMBERS December 1994

If your name is underlined check your renewal date.

If you have a change of address or phone, please notify; Terry Campbell (601) 393-4864

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