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Whilst I've been able to get hold of complete collections of CU Amiga etc, I'm having great difficulty finding all AP issues scanned anywhere. Luckily I still have a few physical copies that have survived house moves. Great mag, told it like it was and was funny with it. Shame there's no room for that sort of thing today. Would love to see a truly independent magazine that didn't have to source review copies, bought their own games to review and could say what the hell they liked about them as paying customers.

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Recently, I skimmed through a load of scanned Amiga Power magazines I found on Amiga Magazine Rack; what’s interesting is just how crude and raw games journalism was at the time, especially at the start. The Syndicate review, relatively early in the mag’s life, is over four pages, and they don’t even start to explain why the game is good until the last couple of paragraphs – if you read Edge or Eurogamer, they tend to mention things like the visuals and the mechanics in order to explain how they contribute to the success of the game as a whole. In this, the actual rating is tucked away at the end of the review, like the conclusion to a university essay. The rest is a lengthy opening section waffling on about William Gibson or football or what’s playing on the AP stereo, followed by a super-lengthy factual description of how the game works that takes up most of the actual word count. It’s interesting to see how candid the reviews are as well – there are reviews that say the writer only played the first third of the game, and ones that flat-out say “I hated this game with a passion, but everyone else thinks it’s great, so 79%”, or “this flight sim is unalloyed tedium and the screen updates once a second, but there are loads of planes and it’s full of detail – 81%”. You’d get crucified for any of those things these days. I’d always remembered AP as being this titan of editorial integrity, but reading it back, a lot of the reviews are ridiculously petty and arbitrary with their criticisms. You can see why publishers hated them.

 

But it’s still intensely readable. It reads like mega-indulgence by modern standards, but I think that was a big part of the appeal to the teenaged audience – the writers all seemed to be in their early twenties, and came across like cool older siblings who were into weird music like the Jesus & Mary Chain, or weird books like Dispatches by Michael Herr, or weird films like Hard Boiled. And as the mag went on, you can see the staff getting better at writing, and more adventurous.

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I fully agree with you that early AP was a bit rough-edged by modern standards.

 

AP was a revelation at the time though - the typical standard of most professional games reviews at the time amounted to retelling the plot of the game from the manual, some basic descriptions of the gameplay (which would be so generic that they could be for any game of its particular genre), and a small boxout describing the graphics and sound if you were lucky. Also, being as openly critical of games as they were from day one made them stand out. While most magazines had their own arbitrary 'rewards' (e.g. Crash Smash) handed out monthly like confetti, the fact that AP took 3 or 4 issues to even rate a single game as high as the magic 90% mark made it stand out. And what was their highest rated games for a while? Head Over Heels, a straightforward budget conversion of a well-loved Spectrum game. In many ways they couldn't have taken a more opposite course to the usual games magazine template of hyping up the latest expensive releases on command of a major publisher month in, month out.

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15 hours ago, Anne Summers said:

Wow, only just realised that Amiga Format carried on until 2000, four years longer than AP - my memory was that AF closed first. Can't imagine what they found to write about in AF for another four years. 

 

 

The boring stuff AF always found to write about, like business uses of it, rendering packages and so on.

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2 hours ago, K said:

Recently, I skimmed through a load of scanned Amiga Power magazines I found on Amiga Magazine Rack; what’s interesting is just how crude and raw games journalism was at the time, especially at the start. The Syndicate review, relatively early in the mag’s life, is over four pages, and they don’t even start to explain why the game is good until the last couple of paragraphs – if you read Edge or Eurogamer, they tend to mention things like the visuals and the mechanics in order to explain how they contribute to the success of the game as a whole. In this, the actual rating is tucked away at the end of the review, like the conclusion to a university essay. The rest is a lengthy opening section waffling on about William Gibson or football or what’s playing on the AP stereo, followed by a super-lengthy factual description of how the game works that takes up most of the actual word count. It’s interesting to see how candid the reviews are as well – there are reviews that say the writer only played the first third of the game, and ones that flat-out say “I hated this game with a passion, but everyone else thinks it’s great, so 79%”, or “this flight sim is unalloyed tedium and the screen updates once a second, but there are loads of planes and it’s full of detail – 81%”. You’d get crucified for any of those things these days. I’d always remembered AP as being this titan of editorial integrity, but reading it back, a lot of the reviews are ridiculously petty and arbitrary with their criticisms. You can see why publishers hated them.

 

But it’s still intensely readable. It reads like mega-indulgence by modern standards, but I think that was a big part of the appeal to the teenaged audience – the writers all seemed to be in their early twenties, and came across like cool older siblings who were into weird music like the Jesus & Mary Chain, or weird books like Dispatches by Michael Herr, or weird films like Hard Boiled. And as the mag went on, you can see the staff getting better at writing, and more adventurous.

 

I really dont agree, I know what you mean and I agree on the rawness, the readableness and so on, but not on the arbitrary marks. They did do a lot of jokey stuff, and things that you mention (I hate it, everyone else loves it - 79%) but it was never based on nothing, it was based on that fact there. They were just blatantly honest, and they respected both money spent on games and publishers trying hard to make them. It really genuinely varied by person too, Matt Bielby was quite congenial and didnt put the boot in too hard, Campbell was the obvious hatchet man, but there were plenty in between. Jonathan Davies was as harsh as anyone, but used a bit more of a cuddly style to do so.

 

The stuff about playing the 1st third, everyone did that, only AP admitted it. Loads of Amiga games were ridiculously unbalanced and hard, like Team 17s  absurd Project X or Assassin, both insanely unfair games that no reviewer saw past level 2 or 3 of, but AP called it. They also wrote it from the gamers perspective - if you got hold of a game that absolutely walled off the later levels by being a pain in the arse, unfair, boring, whatever, thats your reaction also. You stop playing. I think you do them a disservice, the reviews were always utterly fair, they just sometimes didnt explain them in agonising detail, but they were almost always correct.

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Amiga Format's Top ten reasons why the Amiga ISN’T dead:

 

1. With Gateway 2000 backing the platform, there’s no way it can fail!

2. 2000 will see the release of top games like Wipeout 2097 and Quake.

3. Even Sony’s incoming Playstation 2 will struggle to compete with the onslaught of AAA Wolfenstein clones coming out of Poland.

4. The Amiga did the graphics for Babylon 5.

5. Windows is a flash in the pan, and will never last.

6. For just £1800, you can upgrade your Amiga to the point where it can leave a cutting-edge 486DX in the dust

7. The Amiga did the graphics for BABYLON 5. Are you listening?  BABY LON FIVE.

8. Connecting your Amiga to the internet is as simple as ordering some software through the post from Germany and spending five or six hours manually opening ports on your modem.

9. It might have done the graphics for Seaquest DSV as well.

10. The Amiga will never die because the Oracle told me that I would fall in love with the One, and so it can’t be dead. It can’t be, because I love it.

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Early Amiga Power was pretty rank, but when they ditched that awful white background cover layout (about mod 93?) it became a brilliant magazine....

 

It felt like it had a lot of Your Sinclair's style - especially after Zero finished in 1992.  It also had some great cover disks - Super Foul Egg and Gravity Power were real classics.

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Let's not forget issue zero of AP, which counted down the Top 100 Amiga games of all-time. The Top 10 at the time (April 1991) was:

 

1 Rainbow Islands 

2 Lemmings 

3 Speedball II

4 Sim City 

5 Virus 

6 Populous 

7 Kick Off 2

8 Falcon

9 Indianapolis 500

10 Stunt Car Racer 

 

In its penultimate issue (August 1996) the magazine did its final Top 100. The Top 10 was:

 

1 Sensible World of Soccer 

2 Gravity Power 

3 Guardian 

4 Colonisation 

5 Dynablaster 

6 Cannon Fodder 

7 Syndicate 

8 Exile

9 Speedball II

10 Knights of the Sky 

 

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I never saw those at the time - in fact, as an ST owner, I can't recall if I ever saw an equivalent written for the ST in any magazine. Interesting shuffle of some of the games there; poor Lemmings! And, to a lesser extent, Rainbow Islands. As much as I loved Knights of the Sky, I'm shocked to see it in that list. I wonder what AP liked so much about it?

 

(no idea what Guardian or Gravity Power were either, but the rest - in both top 10s - remain classics)

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Guardian is essentially Defender in 3D according to Amiga Power, and it's "worth buying a CD32 to play just this". Gravity Power is a truly superb gravity-influenced space shooter (in the vein of Asteroids) although the only enemy in the game - other than the scenery - is the other player. It's one of the Amiga's finest two-player games and it's not surprising to see it in Amiga Power's Top 10,  seeing as it was given away on one of its coverdisks!

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Angel: I'm not saying that AP is actually shit or anything. It's more that returning to a magazine that I remember as being this icon of perfection actually turns out to be a magazine written by students and aimed at teenagers, and there's a certain amount of mental repositioning to be done when reading it as a middle aged man. The writers are fifteen years younger than I am now, and more than that, they're human and have flaws - the writing is honest and enthusiastic, but it's also rough round the edges.

 

It's not like, say, rewatching the Mary Whitehouse Experience and realising it's unbelievably terrible; AP is still great and funny and experimental and clever, and still a level above most of the other mags of the era in terms of honesty and transparency, but you can see the bits where they don't quite live up to the myth. And in itself that's really charming, because the writers clearly really believed in the mag, but it does alter my memory of AP slightly. 

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1 hour ago, Vaguely Heroic said:

Let's not forget issue zero of AP, which counted down the Top 100 Amiga games of all-time. The Top 10 at the time (April 1991) was:

 

1 Rainbow Islands 

2 Lemmings 

3 Speedball II

4 Sim City 

5 Virus 

6 Populous 

7 Kick Off 2

8 Falcon

9 Indianapolis 500

10 Stunt Car Racer

 

 

Swap out Indy 500 for Exile and I'd say that initial Top 10 is pretty decent! :)

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2 hours ago, Vaguely Heroic said:

Gravity Power is a truly superb gravity-influenced space shooter (in the vein of Asteroids) although the only enemy in the game - other than the scenery - is the other player. It's one of the Amiga's finest two-player games and it's not surprising to see it in Amiga Power's Top 10,  seeing as it was given away on one of its coverdisks!

See, that's another reason why AP was great. Not only did they give critical attention to freeware and shareware games when most of their contemporaries refused to even acknowledge them as anything but cover disk filler, AP were open about giving plaudits to non-commercial releases if they were decent, playable games. Placing a freeware game in second position on their final top 100 list was one of the most Amiga Power things they ever did.

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8 hours ago, K said:

Amiga Format's Top ten reasons why the Amiga ISN’T dead:

 

1. With Gateway 2000 backing the platform, there’s no way it can fail!

2. 2000 will see the release of top games like Wipeout 2097 and Quake.

3. Even Sony’s incoming Playstation 2 will struggle to compete with the onslaught of AAA Wolfenstein clones coming out of Poland.

4. The Amiga did the graphics for Babylon 5.

5. Windows is a flash in the pan, and will never last.

6. For just £1800, you can upgrade your Amiga to the point where it can leave a cutting-edge 486DX in the dust

7. The Amiga did the graphics for BABYLON 5. Are you listening?  BABY LON FIVE.

8. Connecting your Amiga to the internet is as simple as ordering some software through the post from Germany and spending five or six hours manually opening ports on your modem.

9. It might have done the graphics for Seaquest DSV as well.

10. The Amiga will never die because the Oracle told me that I would fall in love with the One, and so it can’t be dead. It can’t be, because I love it.

Seriously, I remember reading in Amiga Format in 1998 that there would be MORE GAMES released on the Amiga than either the N64 or Saturn. THEREFORE THE AMIGA WAS BETTER!!

 

I only gave up on Amiga Format in late 1998. After buying an N64.

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16 hours ago, moora said:

Seriously, I remember reading in Amiga Format in 1998 that there would be MORE GAMES released on the Amiga than either the N64 or Saturn. THEREFORE THE AMIGA WAS BETTER!!

 

Did anyone actually believe these statements? I can understand the "new machines are flashy, but we've got these great games released over the past decade" argument, or "new flashy Amigas will compete with new flashy consoles", but it was clear the basic A1200 couldn't compete with these machines.

 

Amiga Format wasn't the first or last mag to try this. Commodore Format  #51 was adamant that the C64 would compete with the SNES & Megadrive for many years and, more recently, Official Nintendo Mag were desperate to convince us that the Wii offered titles comparable to the PS3/X360 (of course it did - Ninty fan Ed).

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Those things were always written with a winky smile, the knew what was happening. Once I showed my Japanese playstation with Ridge Racer to my pal with the A1200, he knew the days were numbered, myself I sort of left the Amiga around Snes time, I found myself playing things like imported Zelda 3 (before I knew it was a big deal) and my poor old a500 was slowly shunted out. But yeah, those mags all worked in offices next door to each other and shuffled journos around, they often only really played the part of amiga zealots to appease the shrinking audience.   Mind you, obviously some people were lunatics at Commodore, thinking that Flimbos Quest on a c64 cart could stand against Thunder Force on the megadrive.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It breaks my heart a little bit that despite being an Amiga FANATIC back in the day my subscription(*) was to Amiga Format. 

 

In saying that, I prob read most Amiga Powers standing at the rack in John Menzies... :blush:

 

* not actually a subscription but avid and loyal purchaser. Man the time AF put AMOS on its coverdisk...

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On 3/14/2016 at 1:22 PM, Vimster said:

Whilst I've been able to get hold of complete collections of CU Amiga etc, I'm having great difficulty finding all AP issues scanned anywhere. Luckily I still have a few physical copies that have survived house moves. Great mag, told it like it was and was funny with it. Shame there's no room for that sort of thing today. Would love to see a truly independent magazine that didn't have to source review copies, bought their own games to review and could say what the hell they liked about them as paying customers.

Dekay had a bunch, and I'm not sure if he'd integrated my lot into that.

 

I'd say we've got at least half but I'll check tonight.

 

The problem with print deadlines and a mag buying their own copies is that print deadlines being what they are you might not be able to read their review until 6 weeks after the game was released.

 

On 3/14/2016 at 8:22 PM, angel said:

Early AP was rank? Are you insane, what are you basing that on? 01-15 was even known as the golden age by the mag itself.

 

Are you not aware they were being sarcastic about that?

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9 hours ago, Chris. said:

It breaks my heart a little bit that despite being an Amiga FANATIC back in the day my subscription(*) was to Amiga Format. 

 

In saying that, I prob read most Amiga Powers standing at the rack in John Menzies... :blush:

 

* not actually a subscription but avid and loyal purchaser. Man the time AF put AMOS on its coverdisk...

 

I really liked Amiga Format.. :huh: Again I read it most during its dual format phase as ST/Amiga Format. As I remember, it was a breath of fresh air in the market when it originally appeared. Regular cover mounted discs.. oohhH! In fact, I think their cover disc of Gemini Wing was the first game I ran on my new Amiga.

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My favorite was CU Amiga. To be honest the only Amiga magazines i'd get where CU Amiga and Amiga format and I dropped both around 1996/1997.

 

I did buy other amiga magazines but only every so often. I dread to think how much i spent on gaming magazines a month back in my early teenage years, considering i had several games systems at the time.

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I used to buy tons of mags in the 80s and 90s, and I picked up a job lot of Commodore Computing International in the early 90s. Unfortunately whilst I was at uni in the late 90s my parents thought it would be a great idea to get rid of all those old magazines cluttering up the place. I wince just thinking about it. Luckily I managed to keep hold of a number, including a couple of Amiga Powers. I had no intention of throwing my magazines away either, that's what annoys me most.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Cracking post K, I wish I could give you 10 posses for writing all that up. Nice nugget about you getting a letter of the month. One of my fave things of do the write thing was them making a mini headline out of each persons letter, trimming a section of words so that it always sounded slightly dubious, for example this little missive would have "trimming a section" as it's caption. PC Gamer have kept up that tradition for 25 years, but AP is what started it. a 25 year old running gag, I love that sort of stuff.   Did no one mention Stuart N Hardy?  Did you spot any sort of recording going on at all, I would absolutely love to see this.  Even a transcript, anything.

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No mentions of Stuart N Hardy or Isabelle Rees; the only mention of Do The Write Thing was Cam explaining that they knew they were onto a good thing with a new character or feature when they'd open the post bag and see the readers all riffing off it.

 

And I didn't see anyone filming it. It was hosted in the Guardian's swanky York Way place, so hopefully there were facilities for recording it.

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Obviously if anything else occurs to you, please let us know. I think stu is a bit like me when it comes to the internet, or at least how I used to be. Like a cross between considering it horseplay that doesnt affect real life interaction, and somewhere you sometimes have to grab absolutely all the attention you can to get a point over, when in person you're a relative pussycat, albeit with a bit of an edge. So im not surprised to hear he was nice. Its because he's not being attacked.

 

Here's Matt Bielby on the ridiculous at the time - even more so now, gamesworld.  Nothing, absolutely nothing can prepare you for how utterly tame the challenges are compared to modern esports.  "HE'S GOT 12 COINS!!"

 

 

10 minutes ago, K said:

No mentions of Stuart N Hardy or Isabelle Rees; the only mention of Do The Write Thing was Cam explaining that they knew they were onto a good thing with a new character or feature when they'd open the post bag and see the readers all riffing off it.

 

And I didn't see anyone filming it. It was hosted in the Guardian's swanky York Way place, so hopefully there were facilities for recording it.

 

Im going to have to tweet keith stuart or something.

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