#!/usr/bin/php Starion competition


In the first competition you had to answer to four questions (at that time they were the only questions not answered in SU Mega Quiz). And the answers were (according to the winner) the following:

1) Name the Code Masters graphic artist responsible for the sprites on games such as Transmuter who tragically died about ten years ago.
Not sure about a tragic death, but Transmuter's artist is James Wilson, according to the TAP.

2) In which game do you have to kill the Queen of Sckunn?
Game Over

3) Which number is missing from the Guild of Thieves dice?
The number three

4) What's the wording on the end screen of Terramex?
There are no words on the end screen of Terramex!

You walk into the rightmost screen, where the professor checks the six dials and shows you the six objects he needs to divert the asteroid's course. Once you give him all six, you're treated to a graphic - textless - display of the asteroid hurtling towards the earth only to be reflected by a gigantic pinball flipper... Then it's back to the title screen.

The display only takes the top two thirds of the screen, so technically, the end screen still includes the words "score" and "hiscore" that appear on the bottom third throughout the game.

The winner was Eldad from Israel. The compo proved to be very difficult - I got very few answers, but he knew them all. He actually completed Terramex just to get the (nonexistent) wording in the end!

Here are some comments from Eldad about the compo:

"When I saw the prize, I knew I had to win. You see, thirteen years ago, when I was about half my age now, I got to play Starion, but never heard about the patch Melbourne House released for it. I was almost there, and then the game crashed. I've only found out about the patch several months ago, and was seriously considering replaying the whole thing from the start, but life got in the way. Now I probably will. It's something I have to put behind me, once and for all. A bit like going back in time and changing history, if you will. A bit like Starion.

Don't even get me started about the kind of software publisher that ships defective products, then silently issues a patch only to those who are lucky enough to hear of it. Chances are you've bought software like that in the last few months.

The coolest part of the competion, for me, was how easily the answers to most questions can be found; A .tap of Transmuter supplied the artist's name, an AltaVista search for 'Sckunn' identified 'Game Over' as the required game, and a Magnetic Scrolls site had information about the die, including a diagram (though I already remembered that one from a YS review). The only thing missing was the Terramex answer, and for this I had to dig out my June 88 copy of YS and just play the game. It wasn't even that difficult.

And remember, kids: read http://slashdot.org daily.
It may save your life."

Thanks to you all, now I have all the answers for SU Mega Quiz.


In the second competition, the question was:
According to the man on the left, what is the thing on the right? and only the bright area of the screen below was shown. As all speccy gamers probably know, the screenshot was from Dan Dare, but that wasn't the answer...

The compo seemed somehow to be very, very difficult - almost everyone knew what game it was, but wasn't bothered to play it that far. Months later Jay Truman aka 'Virtuality' got it right - "I say.....it's a hologram".

Here are a few words from Jay himself:

"Computer Memories of the 1980's - Every home should have one

My earliest memory of computers in the 80's was my first look at a friend's machine at his house one dark October evening. His dad has bought him a ZX81 a few weeks before, and we spent most of the evening praying to whatever computer gods there were to please make the damn asteroid game load. After what seemed like hours it finally did, and although the game only consisted of a glorified 'guessing' game (you had to predict how far along the screen the 'asteroid' would appear, in the form of inputting a number), I was instantly hooked.

A few months later, whilst visiting an old uncle of mine, I happened across my first Spectrum. Uncle had built a plywood box, which incorporated an On/Off switch, and which housed the black wedge shaped machine perfectly. Back then of course, the Spectrum still had rubber keys, but the effect of the box was impressive: it LOOKED like a computer should look, even down to the little lightbulb he'd fitted, to show the power was on.

I bugged my mum and dad to buy me one, and sure enough that Christmas, I was the proud owner of my very own Spectrum, and they'd even bought me the relatively new 48k model! As well as the machine itself, I also received several games to start me off : how many of you remember The Hobbit, Artic's Planet of Death and Espionage Island, and Psion's Flight Simulator?

And so the months passed, and my games collection grew and grew. I thought nothing would ever top my Spectrum….I'd played games in Arcades of course, which were great, but THOSE things cost HUNDREDS of pounds….no, my Spectrum would be all I ever needed.

Until Elite……

Staying behind one evening with friends at school (we were members of a fledgling computer club), we saw a game running on one of the BBC Micro B's. The kid who was playing it (I forget his name), seemed to be involved in some kind of route planning in space…we could see star systems and orbit lines, and the whole thing looked neat, in a geeky sort of way. 'Its Elite', he explained…'You buy stuff from planets and take it to other planets, trying to sell for profit….then you can upgrade your ship….look.'

With that he hit a function key, and the screen whirled with graphics, and when the picture settled down we all just stood and gaped….in front of us was a huge 3d planet (admittedly devoid of textures, but rotating in all its wire framed glory : remember this was the early 80's).

'Where's your ship?', we asked tentatively.

'We're in it, looking out the window, like on a flight simulator', he explained, and he swung the ship around, facing the way we'd just come…..and sure enough, there was the space station before us, rotating in sync with the planet below…

Three years later, I'd got it for my Spectrum!! It was worth the wait.

For me, this was the start of an era, when games moved on from the flat, 2d platformers we all know and love, to pieces of art that make us sit up and take notice….and all through this time, the Spectrum held up well, delivering top notch text adventures, crazy colourful platform games, right through to full on 3d epics such as Elite and Starion.

No other computer has so clearly deserved a place in gaming history, and if it wasn't for this humble machine (rubber keys and all) many of the games we play today just wouldn't exist…

Thanks to all you emulation sites out there that keep it alive."


In the third competition I asked:
What games appear on this picture?

This competiton wasn't too difficult - almost instantly I got one answer, which was correct: The Starglider knew that the games were (from top to bottom) Dark Star (in modified graphics mode), Glass, Starglider 2 and TimeGate. No wonder he got the 3rd one right.

Starglider comments:

"I actually liked the compo, it was certainly different. Usually I can get games from descriptions, but using (parts of) graphics certainly is a twist!

I think the speccy scene has grown quite a bit since I joined the 'net (some 4 years ago). Back then, it was NVG, Z80 and X128, and a few key sites. Now it's everywhere - especially in the mainstream PC magazines, where you will get a frequent spectrum comment nearly every month."


The fourth competition featured the first hardware-related question. You had to know What does this insect have to do with Speccy hardware?

The insect in the picture is a cochroach, and maybe even a dead one. So how does that help us? Well, as Ian Collier puts it, "I believe this refers to the fact that early Issue 1 Spectrums contained a fix for a hardware bug in the form of a chip attached with wires and positioned upside-down over the ULA. This device was nicknamed the dead cockroach." which was the correct anwer.

One answer which I received didn't win any prizes, altough it is probably true: "This insect looks very bad! I think he did short circuit of some tracks or board, or he was even tried eat some IC's if he was hungry. So, please feed insects before let them infiltrate your Speccy next time :)"

I myself thought that the competition would be very difficult, but I got lots of corect answers. I didn't know what dead cochroach was until couple of days before the compo when I accidentally browsed trough a speccy hardware book.

And there are the winners comments:

"I was absolutely delighted to find a question for this compo that I could actually answer because I know hardly anything about Spectrum games, being as I was more a programmer than a gamer. I am very honoured to have won, however, because Starion was one of the few games I did enjoy playing and I bet I still have somewhere a giant piece of paper on which I scrawled all the questions and anagrams as I came across them in the game. It will be marvellous to possess once more a pristine copy of this cherished game."


What is the name of this speccy game?

Ironically enough, I've already received the name for this game many months ago, but lost the e-mail. Fortunately Antti Siponen mailed me the name, "The Last Commando", and indeed that was correct!

Antti wrote me this after winning the compo:

"To be completely honest I have never played "The Last Commando". Actually I had never even heard about it and still don't know what kind of a game it is. I just checked the new Starion compo and remembered the picture to be the same as in misc section. I didn't give it much more thought until I spotted the "Spectrum Screenshot Heaven" while seeing through the Spectrum webring. I just thought to check if the mystical screenshot at Starion compo was there too. So big and true thanks to Alexandre Moro (and the person who sent him the Screenshot).

Spectrum was my second computer, my first beeing the VIC-20 (have a lot of *warm* memories of that too). Strangely I know a few more Spectrum users now than I did back then. I even know one from the same town I live in while at a time I could have been the only one on this planet for all I knew. It seems that the 8-bits aren't going to be buried easily. And why should they? Actually the Spectrum, the C64 and all the other great machines of the past are still as good as ever. They didn't go anywhere, they were just... resting.

"Älä laps' Suomen vaihda konetta sä ihanaa"
(muk. Z. Topelius)"

Trivia: Antti was not the first Finn to participate Starion compo, but he was the first Finnish winner! Congratulations!


In the sixth competition the task was to Name a game in which you could go to sauna.

John Davey was the first one to come up with the correct answer: Streaker. I myself had thought about Apple Jam, but I loaded up Streaker and indeed there is a sauna in the game.

Here's what John wrote me after winning the compo:

"I don't know how many people will have played this (Streaker) - it was one of the first games I had for my Spectrum. I finally convinced my parents to buy me a Spectrum+ when I was about 7, which makes it 1986 or 1987. I could only afford 1.99 games (I remember seeing Jack The Nipper and thinking I'd never get 7.99 together), most of which were Mastertronic games at that time. Most of them were really bad, including Streaker, but there was one fantastic game called Pippo where you had to colour all the squares on a screen by landing on them without being hit by various strange creatures. I'd be interested if anyone else remembers this!

I started reading Crash and Your Sinclair at the start of 1988 and stuck with YS right up until it closed. By this time, of course, it was pretty hard to sell a Spectrum so I still have all my magazines and cassettes (about five boxfuls) sitting in my cupboard at home. When I got to university two years ago and got on the Internet I was delighted to find out that there was so much Spectrum activity and promptly started gathering emulators and games - at first I was a bit embarrassed about it but I've found that in any random group of people about half the faces will light up at the mention of Jet Set Willy. The only big shock was finding out Lloyd Mangram didn't exist - I don't know what's worse, that he didn't exist or that I was too stupid to realise it earlier... And, if you need a quote, after ten years of programming and playing with my Speccy, I'm working for IBM this summer and am about to enter into my third year of a Computer Science course at Durham University. I doubt I'd have got here without the little black box..."


Andrew Braybrook has written many highly-rated C64 games, some of which have been converted to Spectrum, for example Uridium(+) and Intensity. Name at least three games by Braybrook which have NOT been converted to Speccy.

It didn't take too long for Nigel Barford to come up with the answer: The games not converted for Speccy are Gribbly's day out (1985), Paradroid (1985), Alleykat (1986) and Morpheus (1988).

Nigel asked:"Starion was a brilliant game. How did you manage to get hold of so many copies?" Well, years ago when the 16-bit computer were taking over, my father bought all Speccy-related software/hardware from a computer store. What he got was couple of books, some joysticks, misc spare parts and loads of Staron games. Now you know.