GAMES COMPUTERS PLAY
Superb color graphics onlineby ERIC CLAUSEN
You log onto Games Computers Play and suddenly you're in a wonderland
of boldly geometric color graphics, with perspectives that come at you
from startling angles.
The whole scene could have been designed by MC. Escher. Or you might be in a vast game of Realm Of Impossibility, the Electronic Arts update of the earlier classic Zombies. Except you're online and your Atari's playmate is a powerful 300-megabyte minicomputer based in York, Pennsylvania.
Games Computers Play (GCP) is a unique new commercial online service that features state-of-the-art color graphics and easy icon control by joystick. GCP also offers exciting interactive games, real-time conferencing, electronic mail and public domain downloads.
Online since January 1985, GCP is just for Atari computers with 48K memory, disk drive and modem. Currently supported are Hayes Smart-Modems and compatibles, plus the Atari 1030 and 835 modems. MPP support may come in the future.
GCP costs only $6 an hour from 6 pm to 7 am and throughout the weekend. Weekday "prime time" is $15 an hour. A one-time $30 signup fee gives you five free hours online, so in effect it costs you nothing extra.
There's no extra charge for 1200 baud, in fact it's highly recommended because of the large amount of data needing to be transferred for updating the graphics screens.
GCP subscribers get a total of three disks, which support the online graphics cues for different areas of the system. This approach is one of those brilliantly simple ideas that you wonder why nobody ever thought of before.
User friendliness is the hallmark of GCP Keyboard commands are simple and kept down to a minimum. You'll control most of what you do online simply by moving your "droid" icon with a joystick.
Even the process of logging on is totally automated if your modem supports autodialing. It's very simple to configure the GCP boot disk for your modem, and then you're ready to go online
As you log on, an ornate set of doors bearing the GCP logo slides open. You are in the Customs Office where you will be asked to present your user-name and password. As you pass through customs, you can pick out one of the 15 styles of droid bodies from Wardrobe. Your joystick-controlled droid icon now becomes your onscreen character for exploring and interacting with the world of GCP.
Step past the customs desk to a door marked City and press the joystick button. You are prompted to insert your City Disk. The disk drive whirs for a moment and your droid is transported to the magical realm where much of the GCP action takes place.
As you look around the main plaza you see stairs and corridors leading to rooms labeled Post Office, Social Hall, Games and Office. You can guide your droid into any of these rooms and explore the activities.
Along the way, you may meet other droid characters who represent additional users online with you. You can stop and talk to them simply by typing your dialogue. Pressing the [OPTION] key puts you in Whisper Mode that can only be heard by selected droids. Or you can invite a group into a Social Hall room for an impromptu conference.
The Social Hall is filled with a series of rooms numbered like apartments for easy location. If you meet friends in the corridor you can ask them to meet you in Room 120, for example. Once you're at this actual location, you have the option of closing the room door to exclude other users and carry on a private conversation. Or if you'd like to be more sociable, you can leave the door open and invite everyone in.
You may decide after awhile in the Social Hall to engage in a little online mayhem in the Game room. You insert your Game Disk and invite some of your more fearless friends to join you in a friendly (ha, ha) game of CyberTank.
This little diversion allows you to design your own tank, complete with customized weaponry, and do battle with multiple players in real-time on a colorful scrolling screen. Watch out for the more experienced players who can shoot the wings off a fly from miles away. Actually, they'll help out novices like you as long as you don't get too uppity!
BioWar is a single/multiple player game that's a strategy version of the computer classic Life. You position cell colonies so that you can trap or destroy an opponent.
GCP has more games under construction, SpaceLanes and War. These should be available to subscribers by the time you read this.
Details on War have yet to be released. But SpaceLanes promises to be quite an epic. It features unlimited online players cruising around in their starships and wreaking havoc in a huge electronic universe filled with unlimited realistic planets.
GCP POST OFFICE
The Post Office in GCP represents a masterpiece of software design. Virtually any type of mailing can be sent to any individual user or group of users. Public domain program uploads and downloads are also handled within the post office.
As of this writing, more than 120 public domain downloads were online. You are encouraged to upload any interesting public domain software you may have. A custom file transfer protocol virtually guarantees error free transmission.
The Office is where you frequently may find the systems operators of GCP. If they're online you might wander in to say hello or ask a few questions, The sysops are very helpful to new users. Of course, you can always leave mail if no one is at work.
Scattered through all areas and rooms of the GCP world, you'll find icons representing telephones and computer terminals. From the telephones you can contact other online users by typing their usernames, even if you can't see their droids.
The terminals support numerous functions. From a terminal you can type various commands that eliminate the need to walk from room to room. GOTO instantly transports you to a new location, WHO tells you who's on the system and where they are, CHECK MAIL does just that. And there are several other time saving commands.
GCP has recently updated the terminal software to Version 1.02, which speeds up system access. Future updates are to support additional games and faster access times.
The sysops of GCP have ambitious plans for their system. Eventually they'd like to expand to convenience services such as at-home banking and at-home shopping.
Games Computers Play is a fascinating interactive upgrade to the usual online fare. Give GCP a try and you could well be hooked too!
GAMES COMPUTERS PLAY
112 East Market Street
York, Pennsylvania 17401