"You seem pretty deft at this."
A woman in "The Aventures of Clark and Lois"
ATARI SOFTWARE...THE NEW WAVE?
by Chris Holland
Hi there, ladies and germs, this is CIH of the strangely still
appearing "Maggie" diskzine in an extremely rare departure for
me, namely writing for another magazine when I ought to be
putting finger to keyboard for my own.
What motivates him to write for another diskzine in such a way,
is it a topic so important, that it cannot wait for the next
"Maggie", which is still only due in the autumn? - Right first
time, well it is easy to guess correctly, as I am firmly in
control of this particular script. No surprise endings whilst I'm
OK, what is it this time??
Right, you may be sort of aware of a wave of new software
companies catering for the Atari scene starting to appear. These
are small and independant companies made up of genuine
enthusiasts who really enjoy what they are doing and are
replacing the big software houses who took one sniff at the
consoles and walked away from Atari. One particular company
called Caspian Software has come to my attention in the past few
days. They are a UK-based entertainment software company based in
London (patience folks, details of exactly where to follow
later), who cater solely for Atari hardware in its various forms,
but seem to have a preference for the more advanced machines.
Put very simply, they write using the full potential of the
likes of the STE and, to some extent, the Falcon. It has even
been suggested they may cater for such third-party fripperies as
the Crazy Dots VGA graphics card for non-Falcon computers. Fair
enough, but what are they actually up to?
I had a nice long chat with Caspian recently, firstly to order a
copy of their first game "Rock 'n Roll Clams", which is out now
as I write, and has been extensively advertised in the likes of
"ST Format", and indeed reviewed by them. My own thoughts on that
game are not yet complete as I have yet to review it. "ST Format"
received it with a lukewarm 72%, suggesting it was the sort of
game that you either loved or hated to play.
"Clams", to give it a shortened name, is a hybrid of a platform
and a pinball game. It involves the central character Caspar Clam
bouncing around anything up to 50 different levels in his
attempts to get a band going, but enough of the plot. It has to
be said that this first effort does not stretch any ST too hard,
with a standard 16 colour low-res display, with STE blitter and
DMA support, and only really uses the Falcon 16mhz for more
speed. Indeed it is intended to run on all STs irrespective of
age, although the STE is the optimum hardware platform, and the
Falcon is treated as a sort of 'super-STE' in this case.
Interestingly, the Atari Jaguar 'Powerpad' analogue joypads are
supported on the STE and Falcon, and the game is hard drive
installable, and even exits cleanly back to GEM, all nice little
touches usually neglected by most game producers. It is available
for the very reasonable price of £14.99.
Clam-note with a mini-review of the game sort of thing
(As kindly bombed out by "1st Word" the first time around)
The game comes in a big box sort of thing, on two DD disks, both
of which can be installed to a hard disk. This is preferable, as
loading in the game from floppy can be a touch sluggish, although
there are fortunately no insane disk change combinations required
As already predicted, the game is effectively an STE game
running on the Falcon, with 16 colour vertically scrolling and
single layer parallax scrolling at quite a slick pace. Sound is
four channel MOD-file music with some chip-generated sound
Gameplay is uneven and leans to the frustrating side of things
in certain places, as control demands not only the usual four
directions, but an ability to take the spin speed and direction
of the clam, and the angle at which it hits objects into
consideration. Unfortunately, the difficulty level has been
tweaked a little bit on the high side with certain indestructible
enemies placed in difficult-to-get-past places, so it is entirely
possible that you will spend a large part of a game dying in the
What is frustrating and tearful is that the game can be very
playable for quite a long time on a level, then it hits a
difficult spot, either with an impassable enemy, or a narrow
maze-like section not at all suited to rapidly spinning clams. A
bit more thinking through of this part of the game would have
turned "Clams" from a merely good game into a classic.
Nice touches include the option to access most of the levels,
giving a wide choice of starting points and different screens to
choose from. The joypad support has been properly done as well.
Annoying bugs: At this stage, the game chose not to work on my
TOS 1.2 version STFM. This may be due to the crankiness factor of
that particularly well-abused computer, rather than a general
problem as Caspian tested it beforehand with older STs, and
reported no problems (incidentally, my TOS 4.01 Falcon was the
first such machine that "Clams" ran on, as Caspian only had that
TOS version in software!). Less seriously, although the game
exits back to GEM, it leaves the Falcon desktop a lovely four-
colour yellow-on-yellow scheme (and yes, they are aware of
Also, as "Clams" is coded in such a way as to leave the desktop
settings untouched, any machine (particularly Falcon) with a
screensaver/blanker set up may find this kicking in after a few
minutes with the mouse untouched! If this is in the middle of a
very violent level, a suddenly dark screen can be embarrassing to
say the least. Caspian have suggested that for later versions of
this game, they will include code to fool the screen saver into
thinking the mouse is still in use.
Enough bitching for now. I think the key is to persevere with
this game and use a more delicate touch in negotiating the
screens as going at it with a pair of hobnailed boots is no use
Title: Rock 'n Roll Clams
Company: Caspian Software
Remark: I more or less agree with "ST
Format" (Shock horror news!)
but give it a slightly higher
rating as it is £14.99 rather
than £30, or even £50-60 a
time. A reasonable first-time
effort which just needs a bit
of fine tuning to get it
really good. That, or campaign
for a level editor to massage
down the difficulty tuning,
silly maze bits and
Their next game, called "Zero-5" looks more interesting from a
hardware using point of view.. This game is a 3-D polygonal-based
shoot-em-up/space game on the lines of "Frontier: Elite ", and
presently proposes having a 1MB STE as the base machine for this
game, with enhancements to the Falcon and accelerated STEs such
as texture mapped polygons. More details are not yet available,
apart from the fact that this game will be seen for the first
time at the Atari User Show in August (London), and should be
available for September/October at a price of £19.99.
For the future, other projects include Falcon-specific software
fully supporting the DSP and Truecolour graphics modes, and
described even at their early stages of development as "Making
Jaguar stuff look crap!"
Unfortunately, there is a bit of a dark cloud on the horizon, it
is called the United Kingdom Atari scene.
Caspian are made up of enthusiasts who operate as tightly as
possible to keep the prices of their products as low as
possible. They are not greedy, merely seeking to make a
reasonable living from what they are doing, and to pay the bills
inevitably incurred as a result of their commercial status. They
are staking everything on these first two releases succeeding.
Hopes are particularly high for "Zero-5", but if things don't go
to plan, there will be no more new stuff from them, especially no
Falcon specific games ever seeing the light of day.
The specific problem is that Caspian are limited in how they are
able to sell their games. No distributor seems prepared to take
their games on in the UK, so they are presently advertising for
mail order, and have been distinctly underwhelmed by the response
It may well be the case that the British public is not used to
buying new software through mail order, it may be the case that
the Atari scene here is so apathetic and fragmented, that even an
initiative like this will go unnoticed by the ST-owning public
who are really mentally 'saving-up for a PC'.. (In which case,
you are very sad people indeed..)
For those people out there who still care about the Atari TOS
based computers, and want to make a difference to its fortunes,
the address for Caspian is:
London N17 9LN
For both mail order and general purposes.
Caspian also need distributors for both the UK and Europe, so
anyone who may be interested should contact them also at that
address. They apparently do have a US distributor at this time.
Please try to support Caspian in whatever way possible (proper
reviews of both "Clams" and "Zero-5" will follow in "Maggie" at
the appropriate times), and if the products halfway match up to
the obvious enthusiasm and commitment of these people as
expressed to me, then we have nothing to fear, and everything to
This can be seen as a test case for the viability of the new
independent software producers. If Caspian fail, then is there
any point in anyone else producing new software for the ST and
End of plea! - (C) CIH May '94
Editorial note: I can't do anything other rather than agree
wholeheartedly. Please support this Caspian initiative and give
it the attention such an effort deserves!
Note to Chris: Sorry for having edited the 'game rating' section
but that's the way ST NEWS rates games... Also, sorry for getting
rid of all ".." an replacing them by ".". That's one really weird
habit of yours..
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.