Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 2 NO. 3 / WINTER 1987


Infocom: Atari No More?

Edited by Frank Hayes
START Senior Editor

Plundered Hearts, Infocom's new gothic-romance interactive adventure, will be the last Infocom game for Atari 8-bit computers-and from now on, Infocom ST games will be arriving less frequently, too.

Brian Moriarty the author of Trinity and Wishbringer, gave us the bad news: From now on, the company will be concentrating its efforts on programs for the IBM, Macintosh and Commodore 64.

Why? in a word, sales. "They just weren't selling," says Moriarty. "Sales for computer games are growing, but they're growing in funny ways. Arcade-style games are practically dead. Contemplative games - like chess - are doing well, and so are flight simulators. Right now, we're trying to figure out exactly what people will buy."

In the meantime, Infocom will only be developing games for the ST that have special appeal for ST users - or those that use the ST's special features. One of them should be arriving soon: a sequel to the ever-popular Zork trilogy called Beyond Zork. lnfocom is at 125 Cambridge Park Drive, Cambridge, MA 02140; phone (617) 492-6000.

At press time, WordPerfect for the Atari ST was just weeks away from release -and according to Jeffrey R. Wilson, WordPerfect's manager for Atari development, "It has all the features of version 4.1 on the IBM except sorting. We've got everything- thesaurus, speller, table of contents, columns - and we're 100 percent file compatible with the IBM version."

If you buy them
before the name
change, you may have
some collector's

What's the ST WordPerfect got that the IBM version hasn't? Plenty. "The major thing is GEM support," says Wilson. "You can use up to four windows. You can edit your mouse-in fact, you can totally customize your environment while you're in WordPerfect."

Wilson knows the program well-he was one-third of the programming team that created the ST version. "Even though it's based on the IBM version, it wasn't a program port in the usual sense," he says. "The program was totally rewritten. It's 100 percent assembly language, so we can take advantage of features that programs written in high-level languages can't. And it's totally optimized for the 68000 processor" The result? "The performance is very good. It's very fast-overall, I'd say it's three to five times the speed of the IBM version."

What's the best thing about WordPerfect for the ST? "The functionality," says Wilson. "It's got everything under the sun in it, but you can still sit down and use it immediately."

WordPerfect for the Atari ST will have a suggested retail price of $395, available from most Atari software dealers, or from WordPerfect Corporation, 288 W Center St., Orem, UT 84057; phone (801) 225-5000.

If you're tired of a plain green background on your ST's Desktop, how about something a little fancier? You can put anything you want behind your icons with a new program called Easel/ST.

The idea is simple. Once you've installed Easel on your boot disk, it automatically creates a customized Desktop from any DEGAS or NEOchrome picture you choose. The new Desktop appears with all the usual icons, windows and menus-but with a picture in the background. The picture disappears while a program is running, of course, but it automatically returns as soon as you return to the Desktop.

Any DEGAS or NEO picture will work with Easel, as long as it's in the right resolution - high-res for monochrome systems, low- or medium-res for color monitors. You can even put a different picture on your boot disk for each resolution-Easel will load the correct one, and changes between them if you switch resolutions.

Easel's creator, Bob Breum, says this isn't just a silly gimmick. "Dealers can use Easel/ST to display promotional messages," he says, "or place detailed operating instructions right on the GEM Desktop, where they can't be lost or overlooked." But most people, he admits, will just use it to personalize their Desktops with computerized paintings.

Digitized pictures will work with Easel, too, as long as they're DEGAS or NEO compatible. Instead of a traditional photograph of your loved ones on your desk, you could put a digitized version on your Desktop. That could really add a touch of warmth to your ST-but it's still a little eerie looking at a computer that looks back at you.

Easel ST

Easel/ST is $19.95 from Computer Fenestrations, P.O. Box 151, Lake Monroe, FL 32747; phone (305) 322-3222.

"We're not an information provider, like CompuServe," says Phil Sih. "We're more like a builder of online communities." And that's as close to a simple explanation as you're likely to get of Portal, an online service that just lowered its prices dramatically. Portal used to cost $4 an hour; now it's only $10 per month.

According to Sih-he's one of Portal's founders-the idea is to make telecommunications affordable. "We can't really be compared to CompuServe," he says. "They do lots of things we don't do- they hire sysops, they edit message bases, they have Grolier's encyclopedia. We don't do any of those things, so it costs much less. That makes it economical for people who couldn't afford to use an online service regularly before."

What Portal does do is computer communications. There are bulletin boards, conferences, meetings. public-domain program and information libraries, surveys, and advertisements. A major feature is electronic mail- Portal users can send and receive messages through 60 different computer networks, including Arpanet (the Defense Department's conferencing system), Bit-Net (which connects many major universities) and Usenet (an international network spanning four continents, 30 countries, and tens of thousands of users).

Your $10 a month lets you use Portal as much as you like with a 300, 1200 or 2400 baud modem. You can connect through Telenet, PC Pursuit, and the Public Data Networks of over 70 foreign countries. Portal's signup package is $15, and includes an 80-page guidebook.

To sign up for Portal, use your modem to call (408) 725-0561 or 725 0569-or, on Telenet, type CONNECT PORTAL. Portal Communications is at 19720 Auburn Drive, Cupertino, CA 95014; for customer service, phone (408) 973-9111.

MicroProse Software, creators of Silent Service and other simulations for the ST. won't be MicroProse Software for much longer. The company has agreed to change its name because they were threatened with a lawsuit by MicroPro, which sells the non-ST word-processing program WordStar.

"We have until June 16, 1988, to start using a new name," says Mike Harrison of MicroProse. "Then we can use a line on our packages that says 'formerly MicroProse Software' until June of

By the end of the year, MicroProse will have whittled a list of more than 200 names down to a single name. After that, all the company's flying and submarine simulations will reappear with new packages bearing the new name.

Among the last MicroProse simulations for the ST under the old company name are F-15 Strike Eagle, a supersonic jet fighter, and Gunship, the AH64 assault helicopter. Both are $39.95 for the ST, and if you buy them before the name change, you may have some collector's items: the last ST simulations from MicroProse. MicroProse is at 120 Lakefront Drive, Hunt Valley, MD 21030; phone (301) 667-1151.

Broderbund is joining the competition for ST drawing and animation with Art Director and Film Director, a pair of programs that sell together for $79.95. Art Director lets you draw, edit and manipulate pictures; Film Director lets you turn those pictures into animated cartoons. But that's not all: Both programs will be compatible with another Broderbund art program for the ST, one that nobody at Broderbund would talk to us about-yet. Broderbund is at 17 Paul Drive, San Rafael, CA 94903; phone (415) 492-3200. . . . There are two new drawing programs that break the 16-color limit for the ST Spectrum 512 lets you use 512 different colors in each picture. It's $69.95 from Antic Software, 544 Second St., San Francisco, CA 94107; phone (800) 234-7001. . . . GFA Artist gives you up to 1,021 different colors in a picture. You can also do animation, but not with that many colors; it's from MichTron, 576 S. Telegraph, Pontiac, MI 48053; phone (313) 334-5700.

Desktop publishing is coming on strong, too - there's a whole new generation of ST programs that may. be out when you read this. MichTron will soon be releasing GFA Publisher, a desktop publishing program with a high-powered drawing program built in. . . . And the Timeworks Desktop Publisher will be out soon from Timeworks, 444 Lake Cook Road, Deerfield, IL 60015; phone (800) 323-9755. . . . Meanwhile, there's a new version of Fleet Street Publisher that provides full support for laser printers compatible with Post-

You can totally
customize your
environment while
you 're in WordPerfect

Script or the H-P LaserJet. It'll be available soon from Spectrum Holobyte, 2061 Challenger Drive, Alameda, CA 94501; phone (415) 522-3584. . . And there are new fonts and forms available for Publishing Partner. The two font disks contain typefaces named Devoll, Spokane, Thames, West Side, Roman Boldface and Elegance. The forms disk has pre-designed forms for accounting, job applications, memos, invoices, orders, bills, quotes, and shipping and receiving. They're available from Soft Logik at their new address:
11137 S. Towne Square, Saint Louis, MO 63123; phone (314) 894-8608.

MichTron's Airball will soon be joined by the Airball Construction Set. It lets you build your own rooms for the game. Also due out from MichTron: Goldrunner II and Tanglewood. . Broderbund's new motorcycle racing game, Superbike Challenge, is $19.95, and it comes with a chance to win a 650cc Suzuki motorbike. You don't have to buy the game to enter, but you do have to enter before January 31, 1988. Details are at your favorite computer store or software dealer.