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CRL - The Dream Breakers

Those of you who know the Spectrum scene may recognise the title as a parody on a slogan once used by, in my opinion, one of the worst software houses ever to advertise. The company was CRL, or to give them their full name, Computer Rentals Limited. Their advert, emblazoned with "The Dream Makers" caught my eye at possibly the worst moment in time, let me explain.

In early 1984, March to be exact, (I kept a diary), I had just finished what I considered to be my first 'real' game. Havingspent months knocking out poor Invader clones, and text adventures that didn't even allow you to pick up objects, I at last completed it. The whole project had taken little over a few weeks, but to me, it was a brilliant achievement. A fully fledged text adventure, fast parser, pick up and dropping of objects in any location, and all in blistering BASIC. Although written in this language, the game held up well compared to the adventures on the scene at that time, even though it didn't have a save or load routine.

After having taken it to a local computer shop, who took every available opportunity to tell me they were going to market their own games, (probably just to impress me), the game was returned with a shake of the head. Trudging back home downhearted, I flicked through a magazine and there it was, inviting me to send my game to them and make my dreams come true.

I quickly phone CRL on 15 th June 1984 and was told to send it straight away. Having packed it up with great care and enthusiasm, the parcel was handed over the post office counter the next day, and my dreams were about to become reality.

Having read an article about sending games to software houses, and not wanting to annoy them too much, I waited for the golden letter.

Then it happened. The 26 th June 1984. Waiting for me when I returned from work, was a small brown parcel on the mat behind the door. Quickly I ripped it open and out fell a letter from CRL. I was ecstatic, but it didn't last long. Following the letter came a cassette box, the wrong cassette box, not my cassette box. I read the letter that was addressed to Mr. David Head, and found out that his game, Raiders Of The Lost Ark was not suitable for publication due to copyright reasons.

Even though I was annoyed, deep down I knew my game was still in with a chance. I called them and was told to return the package and they would forward my letter and game back. This I did, and again the waiting started. In fact, it went on and on. By mid July, I got so bored of waiting that I had written another, better, game! Having still heard nothing by the 29th, I phoned them up.

"We are sorry about the delay, but the secretary is off and everything is running late. I will get onto it and you will probably get a letter by the middle of next week."

Meanwhile, work started on yet another game.

3rd September and I called again. This time the office manager informed me he would definitely get a letter to me within a week. More waiting… the 13 th came and went, and still nothing.

On the 18th of September, I called them again. The voice informed me that he was aware of the problem and that it was 'being dealt with'. By now I was getting a little frustrated, having done everything they had asked, including paying for the return of someone else's game.

October began in much the same way. Me waiting about, writing other games and still wondering what the hell was happening to my dream. On the 15th of October I rang again, this time talking to a Mr. Ashly Hilderbrandt, and this time a little bit of the truth came out. My game was, apparently, somewhere in the middle of England. They had returned my game to David Head and were now trying to get him to send it back, but without much success.

Upon my return home from work on the 17 th October, I was astounded to see a large padded envelope lying behind the door. Further examination revealed a business card, a compliment slip with that bloody slogan on it, and Mr. Hilderbrandt's message; "Many apologies for the delay and problems." accompanied by 4 CRL games.

Those games were; Glug Glug (possibly the only half-decent game they did), Test Match, Terrohawks and War Of The Worlds. Now don't get me wrong, I was pleased with this, but that was not the point. I wanted my game back, I wanted my dream back.

More time passed, and news of the new Sinclair + machine began to filter through to the public. Still no news of my dream as October drew to a close. Dark Star, the new Design Design game was released on Saturday 27th October and was played to death over the weekend.

On Monday yet another padded envelope had appeared on the mat, and this time there was a letter. It laid out the storey of my game, although to this day I do not believe that all this could have happened to me.

Having sent my game to the wrong person, the person, Mr. Head, then proceeded to move house. CRL tracked him down only to be told that my game had been lost during the move. LOST ! My dream was shattered and I never sent another game to anyone.

They did send me, as compensation (or maybe a way to try and stop me bugging them), three more games; Warlock's Treasure (which wouldn't load), Magic Roundabout and the Highway Code.

I decided to let it go, and give up on my dream. Maybe these things did happen, maybe they didn't. Who can tell, but if Mr. David Head is out there maybe he would like to confirm this.

Am I judging CRL too harshly? After all, they broke promises and dreams, and caused a young boy to loose his belief in the seemingly magical world of Spectrum software. Everyone's dream was to become a successful games writer, some made it, some didn't try, and some got ripped off and messed about. There was nothing that could be done or can be done, but this is my story, and I hope that others didn't suffer the same fate. I have hated CRL ever since, and none of their software has ever tempted me to think otherwise. If I had wanted the games I would have asked for them, (I certainly wouldn't have bought them), all I wanted was my game back and the truth.