Sometimes cover ideas arrive without trouble, but there were always issues when nothing suggested itself. Normally Oliver prefers to work one-and-a-half times up on finished size to allow for crisper detail, but when he's running late the repro house would rather have the painting same size. This cover was the first done at printed size because the decision to go with the joystick-comparison article was made at the last moment. In some ways it's my personal favourite - you could cut the atmosphere with a knife - and yet it was done in three hours flat!
I can remember Roger and Oliver being rather proud of having raised as much as £4,000 in prizes, possibly because it indicated how far CRASH had come from that first issue when C&VG regarded us as a local fanzine with potential. Now, without a lot of effort, we had software houses eager to participate in competitions and put up real money in value. Once again, the DIY section was the biggest in the contents. ten competitions.
And talking of the contents page... another development was taking place, almost without anyone noticing it. The page's basic shape had remained the same for a while, using rainbow colours when we had time to put them in. Originally this complicated procedure was undertaken by our repro house in London, but after CRASH moved into its new offices, a film-processing machine was purchased to shoot finished artwork to negatives for the printer, thus cutting overhead costs considerably. Matthew and Roger, who looked after the technical end of layout as well as writing reviews and articles, began to experiment with preparing colour for the printer. For several months to come, they were to do the contents page in-house. which explains why it was more or less ambitious, depending on how much time they had.
From this small beginning Newsfield began to do more film planning, adding colour to many pages that otherwise would have been monochrome. Today the process requires an entire department of its own, managed by Matthew Uffindell.
The big feature was a comparison of joysticks, which was pretty exhaustive - and exhausting - The team were thrashing the damned things for weeks. using Ocean's Daley Thompson's Decathlon as the wrecking game. And that came on top of several tiring days at The PCW Show, held at Olympia. CRASH didn't have a stand because of the cost, but Roger, Oliver and Matthew waded round talking to as many exhibitors as they could, Wearing specially-made CRASH badges, they were frequently stopped by visitors who wanted to meet anyone from the magazine.
As usual the show prompted massive releases of games and there were seven Smashes. Pyjamarama was the second Wally Week game from Mikro-Gen, a massive leap forward with its arcade and adventure combinations Delta Wing (Creative Sparks) was a sort of forerunner of mercenary. There was Hewson's Legend Of Avalon, the complex helicopter simulation from Durell called Combat Lynx, and two games from our own Derek Brewster, the arcade Jasper and the enduring adventure Kentilla. Jasper just made it by a spot, but the tragedy is that although Derek had it ready before Jet Set Willy, contractual complications delayed its release; had it been released then, it would have been a real eye-opener, but advances in software were being made fast and it was almost out of date.
There was one other Smash, Booty, our first budget hit from newly-created Firebird.
This was our first issue composed on a computer. Learning to use a word processor and then all the complications involved with getting the typesetting back for layout meant it was quite fraught at times, and for most things I still preferred my typewriter. However, the length of POKE routines was increasing, and dealing with them was never my strongest point, so I was secretly pleased to discover Robin Candy entering them happily for me on the Apricot when Roger wasn't around. It was the thin end of the wedge of course - discontented with providing review comments and sorting mail, Robin wanted to get do 'some serious writing, and for me, the writing was on the wall as far as Playing Tips was concerned.