ST PRODUCT NEWS
ST STAR RAIDERS
1196 Borregas Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
CIRCLE 266 ON READER SERVICE CARD
Reviewed by Gregg Pearlman
You're zooming off in your Starcruiser to fight yet another alien race whose name begins with Z. It's all in a day's work for a seasoned Star Raider. The principle of Atari's joystick-driven ST Star Raiders may be no different from its illustrious 8-bit predecessor. But the action and animation are top class, really showing off the power of the ST.
According to the documentation, Star Raiders are the only force in the Atarian Federation strong enough to resist the savage robots, called Zycroids, who are terrorizing the Katsaurii (kATsAuRIi) Quadrant. Your ship's sophisticated panel shows you exactly where to find the Zycroids- most likely near a starbase.
The instrumentation of your ship is fairly involved. Your energy gauge and message window are probably the most important indicators. The target sight tells where your port and starboard ion cannons will hit. The head-up display tracks a selected target and indicates its distance and position. The tactical viewer gives you a galactic map of the Katsaurii Quadrant, a long-range scanner which shows starbases and other ships relative to your own, and an aft scanner so you can see if anyone is on your tail.
On the galactic map, use the arrow keys to move the cursor to an occupied sector, then press [H] to hyperwarp to it. Pressing a number key sets your engine speed. Activate your shields by pressing [S]-very important. Engage the computer with [C], which activates the head-up display and target sight. To track single fighters, fly in the direction of the arrows on the target sight.
The need to protect the starbases is as strong as the need to protect yourself, because the starbases are your only sources of fuel and repairs. And your job, basically, is to destroy every Zycroid robot you see.
The Zycroids will constantly fire upon your ship. If you keep your shields up, though, you won't be dreadfully disabled-at least at the lower difficulty levels. There are seven kinds of Zycroid, ranging from the spherical WebStar, which basically sits in your sights and waits to be hit, to the Subtractor and Demon, which really play for blood.
The difficulty levels are Novice, Pilot, Warrior and Commander. As the level increases, types of Zycroids vary, your susceptibility to damage in-creases and you'll have more starbases to protect-and less time to protect them when they're under attack.
The table below clearly indicates the rising levels of difficulty involved. To work out a "difficulty factor" for each level I multiplied the number of Zycroid types by the amount of star-bases needing protection, then dividing this by the minutes given to save a surrounded base.
The Commander level might not really be 28 times as hard as Novice,
but it sure seems that way.
Level Zycroid x Star / Save = Difficulty Types Bases Within Factor Novice 2 3 2 3 Pilot 4 4 1.5 10.67 Warrior 7 5 1 35 Commander 7 6 0.5 84
The game ends, of course, if you're destroyed. It also ends, however, if you vanquish the entire Zycroid force in the quadrant, and you're given the rank of Rookie, Novice, Lieutenant, Pilot, Ace, Warrior, Centurion, Commander or Star Commander- and a class of 1 (highest) to 4. You are also classified if you get destroyed, but your rank will be Garbage Scow Captam. Note that the rank of Pilot is not the same as the Pilot level.
ST Star Raiders is more than just visually enticing. It's as entertaining to watch as to play. The graphics are smooth and colorful and the sound effects are "aurally enticing." Most of the sounds are what you'd expect, but hyperwarp sounds like tap water going into a plastic cup.
A strange quirk in the game is the way it sometimes seemed to engage the hyperwarp drive, put the game on pause, and even activate (or deactivate) the computer or deflector shields spontaneously.
Other than that, the only problem with ST Star Raiders is that since the original 8-bit Star Raiders first appeared, the space shoot-em-up has been done almost to death. But at least the genre is still fun when it's represented by a game as good as ST Star Raiders.
576 S. Telegraph
Pontiac, MI 48053
CIRCLE 260 ON READER SERVICE CARD
Reviewed by Michael Nowicki
This interesting graphics program lets you take low-resolution color designs created with NEOchrome, DEGAS, or almost any other ST drawing program and make them move. A full-screen drawing used as the background is automatically duplicated in memory for page-flipping. Don't worry if you don't have the time or artistic talent to produce your own masterpiece- hundreds of public domain pictures can be downloaded from bulletin boards or acquired from user groups,
You first design the objects that will move in the background. An object can have 16 colors, and parts of objects can be isolated for special treatment. Objects can be assigned to one of 256 depth levels, so they can cross over and under each other realistically. The base color of an object can be changed at will, for some interesting effects when objects with holes are combined. This feature also allows for the economy of design effort that is so essential in animation
and DEGAS designs
For instance, if you want four armies marching on the screen, you can easily draw one torso and have other cells showing marching feet and swinging arms, and you can also control the color for each army's uniform.
The Animator is really three short programs. The first one reads the pictures created with your drawing program and cuts the images and masks them into an orderly format for animation processing, saving the information as a disk file. The maximum size for objects appears to be about 65 pixels wide by 190 pixels high.
The second program reads this file so you can view each object and write a program controlling the graphic movie. Firmly seated in your director's chair, you create a series of "frames" which, when rapidly viewed, create the illusion of motion, like frames of film.
A simple four-command language is used to place objects on the screen, create a loop to repeat a sequence, call a subroutine and return from it. The program is entered and edited with an onscreen text editor, but can be printed out only at the end of the session.
The third program runs the animation movie you just created with a variable speed from 30 frames per second to one frame every two seconds.
The documentation consists of a technically accurate 36-page manual geared toward readers who already have a sound footing in both animation technique and programming logic. New computer users are likely to be snowed by the presentation. The manual seems to have been written by a programmer who knows the program inside and out. But he should have explained more clearly and included a tutorial section.
Even the four-command language was hard to grasp because the manual gives no hard examples of syntax, structure or programming philosophy. You are forced to deduce these factors from the demo file.
The program disk is not copy-protected, has but it has weird, partially formatted tracks preventing you from making a routine disk-to-disk copy. Instead, you must copy the files one by one to your backup disk. The manual does tell you to copy files individually, but it doesn't say you can't copy the entire disk using normal procedures. At first I thought my ST had gone bonkers until I examined the disk with a sector editor and saw what was going on.
Included on the disk is the assembly source code file for Animator and a text file detailing the inner secrets and disk-file format for use in your own programs. One version is provided for floppy disks, another for hard drives.
I took a public domain picture of a view from the surface of an alien world, looking up at other worlds in the sky. I erased everthing except the worlds and a few stars and made them move. On the original picture, which I used for the background, I removed the planets and filled the gaps with black space and more stars. Before long I had the planets rising and setting over the horizon of the alien world, producing satisfactory results in about two hours.
One severe limitation of the program is that smooth horizontal scrolling of an image is impossible because only 20 positions are available, creating jerky, flickering movements. Vertical motion looks much better.
When people think of animation, some think of Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse or the computer-created scenes used by the TV networks. The Animator can't do this very well. The results look more like arcade games. This is partially due to the low-res 320-by-200 mode you must use. It's very colorful, but the resolution isn't great, giving it an 8-bit appearance on the ST
If the manual were simplified, the Animator would have tremendous appeal to entry-level ST users who want the fun of bringing their computer pictures to life.
Shanner International Corp.
453 Ravendale Drive
Mountain View, CA 94043
CIRCLE 255 ON READER SERVICE CARD
Reviewed by Steve Dimeo
MacroManager is a 70K "Sidekick" type of desk accessory that lists the following features: 20-function calculator with 10 memories; card-file database storage (limited only by disk memory) with user-friendly search, print and automatic phone dialing; alarm clock/calendar; weekly planner that can order the alarm to signal important times or days; time accounting report generator; electronic note pad that functions as a simple word processor recording up to four pages of word-wrapped data; and electronic typewriter emulator.
The most useful of these is probably the card file. The form offers blank lines for the name, phone number, address or other information. Entries are automatically filed alphabetically by name. They can also be found, replaced or removed with a simple click of the mouse. Names can be printed either with phone numbers, addresses or both.
The 20-function calculator is impressive in its abilities to determine sines and cosines as well as compute amortization of loans into monthly rates. In describing the calculator's many algebraic functions, by the way, the otherwise clear, well-organized documentation becomes a bit murky
As for the alarm clock function, I question its usefulness. What if the computer is turned off when the alarm goes off? Wouldn't users be better off relying on a digital alarm watch for time and alarms?
The weekly planner allows only five lines per day to list appointments or things to do, and that wasn't enough for me. Each line is separate and limited in characters, and there's no word-wrap. The cursor must be clicked down to each respective line, or else the excess characters will be typed right into computer heaven.
Although the electronic note pad and typewriter do allow word-wrap, the note pad's messages can't be saved into memory The typewriter mode allows one line of memory before words are committed to the printer. It could be valuable for filling out forms or typing envelopes.
As with any grab-bag of accessory features, some of what you find in MacroManager may be quite useful to you while other functions are of no use in meeting your needs.