Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 6, NO. 1 / MAY 1987


ST Reviews

Ultima III
Origin Systems Inc.
340 Harvey Road
Manchester, NH 03103

Reviewed by Sol Guber

My side still hurts from where the Goblin got me last night. I don't know why clerics need to fight. I should just stay in the background and let Los, our leader, fight, or Rebec, the barbarian. They're the ones with all of the strength, and the good weapons. That's all we spent our money on, weapons and armor, but I need to buy good spell books to protect our party. I even have to protect Gabe, the Bobbit. I don't know why Los wants him in our party, even though they make the best thieves. I just don't like Bobbits and don't know why. It must be all that hair.

I still don't know why I came along. Fame? Glory? Ah, I remember-to save the world. Clambering around in dark dungeons is not for a clever, studious elf like me. I even get seasick on little lakes, much less going across the ocean. I just want to stay in a nice town. I want to learn more spells and become powerful. I don't care for gold or jewels, and I don't want to spend all of my time in pubs like Los does, but what do you expect from humans? They just want to eat and drink and have a good time. No sense of the future. On the other hand, between Los and Rebec and Gabe, we have lots of skills, and we sure fight well together. On the third hand, I hate spiders and gelatinous cubes even more than I hate ogres and goblins. Maybe Bobbits aren't so bad.

Playing Exodus, Ultima III, one of the premier adventure games, is not quite this detailed. You do need to throw yourself into the spirit of the game (as much as I did, above) and it will take you many, many hours to solve the game and rescue the world. To do this you gather a party of four adventurers (Four Samurai? The Magnificent Four?) and explore the land of Sosaria. As with many Dungeons & Dragons-type games, you can define the characteristics of the various characters, building their individual strengths to make them into a balanced, powerful party.

Exodus-Ultima III for the ST is quite similar to the Atari 8-bit version. The graphics are nicer and more detailed, and the action is a great deal faster. However, there are signs this may have been a quick "port" over to the ST. There is still a great deal of disk access in this version, especially when you move around the various towns and speak to the various people. It makes good use of the mouse, but the combination of the mouse and keyboard commands makes for a slightly cumbersome interface. Also, the communications between the players and the towns-people, when you need to purchase something, are somewhat awkward. I had hoped for dialog boxes and graphics which would make things a little better.

Should you buy the ST version of Ultima III? If you have a version of Ultima III for your 8-bit, I wouldn't recommend upgrading to this version. The documentation is roughly the same, except for an included pamphlet on the ST version. The graphics are nicer and the monsters, not surprisingly, have finer resolution. If you don't have Ultima III, then you will not be disappointed with this version. It has all of the fine trademarks of the Ultima series and Lord British's work.

Epyx Inc.
1043 Kiel Court
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
(408) 745-0700

Reviewed by Jonathan Huston

You begin as a novice warrior. In the north wall of a large room is a door, and on the ground before it is some type of stick. You move over to the stick and it turns out to be a brass wand. It appears in your pack. You walk through the door and in the next room is a hobgoblin and a pot of gold. Reaching into your pack, you grab your bow, draw an arrow, loose it at the hobgoblin. It hits. But the hobgoblin, seemingly unaffected, moves towards you. Another arrow misses. The hobgoblin has almost reached you. The next arrow finds its mark and the hobgoblin dies. You have now achieved the rank of Guild Novice. The 32 pieces of gold you found bring your total funds to 133. You are on your way to rescue the Amulet of Yendor and enter the Hall of Fame.

In the early days of computers, Rogue was originally designed and played on mainframes. It was the first character-in-a-dungeon game, just as Adventure was the first text adventure game.
The striking feature of Epyx's new ST version of Rogue is its clear, almost 3-D graphics. It loads in low resolution with extremely colorful icons. As you go deeper into the dungeon, every monster and object is just as colorful and comes complete with shadows. Only after some play will you notice the complete lack of sound effects, not even an occasional ding. By then, though, you'll be drawn into the game by its visual effects and discover how playable it is, so the absence of sound won't matter.

Despite the striking visual effects, Rogue is not a video arcade game, but a fantasy role-playing strategy game. The rooms and passages are divided into squares, and movement from one square to another takes one "turn." So do other actions such as drinking a potion, drawing a sword, or reading a scroll.

At first, Rogue is so easy that you could easily find yourself venturing down to the dungeon's sixth or seventh level on your first game. But after several hours, you begin to understand the subtle range of difficulties as you repeatedly get done in by centaurs and trolls on the lower levels.

The game stays interesting every time you play, because something new happens. There is no mapping necessary because each level is always different and a map of the current level is displayed on the screen.

Objects you can pick up include armor, weapons, scrolls, potions, rings and wands. There are more than 20 of each item, and in every game I usually find some item I haven't seen before-even after about 150 hours of play.

There are also 26 different types of monsters. New ones appear as you descend further down into the 26-level dungeon. Though I may have currently burned myself out on the game, I still feel that I could get back to playing it again in a few months. That, of course, is one of the advantages of fantasy role-playing games. Unlike an adventure game, there is more than one possible solution.

Rogue does have a few irksome features. After clicking on ROGUE.PRG, it takes about 20 seconds to get to the screen where it asks you to enter the character's name, and then another 15 seconds before it actually starts. Once you begin playing, however, the game doesn't access the drive again until you die, when it saves your score to disk.

Another irritation is Save Game. When you reload Rogue to continue your game, it will load the saved file and put your game back. But it immediately deletes the saved game file from disk. Thus you are prevented from saving your game at a certain point, dying later and going back to your previous saved game. There are ways to get around this, but it's still annoying.

Yet after you finally return to the surface with the fabled Amulet and sell off the accumulated items, it will have been worth it. The only sad note is that the game is over. But then, you can always beat your last score, right?

Rogue is copy-protected but loads fine on double-sided disk drives. Oh yes, my character, Conehead, won with a total score of 18,361 gold pieces. See you in the dungeon.

Epyx Inc.
1043 Kiel Court
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
(408) 745-0700

Reviewed by Gregg Pearlman

Epyx has dressed up its Temple of Apshai Trilogy for the ST. But that's really all it is: dressed up. While those who enjoyed this best-selling fantasy role-playing game on the 8-bit Atari will certainly enjoy it on the ST, the question is whether or not they'll enjoy it more than before.

Temple of Apshai isn't significantly better on the ST than on the 8-bit. The main improvement lies in the graphics. The ST version is visually more colorful and cleaner than its forebearer. In the older version, your weapon could completely miss an opponent, and yet you might still register a kill. In the ST game, there's no doubt about the weapon finding its mark. The sound effects are also impressive, especially the theme song that plays over the title screen.

The new version makes use of the GEM interface, but the player constantly has to switch between the dropdown menus and the keyboard. You can't just click on things you want to change and enter new values. The mouse cursor goes to the end, not the beginning, of each line, and pressing [RETURN] doesn't seem to do anything. To make changes, you must backspace-once for each letter or number, because holding down the [BACKSPACE] key won't put the cursor at the beginning.

Character movement is also more difficult with the mouse. One click establishes the direction, and another click moves the character to the location of the cursor arrow. But the mouse cursor is temperamental, and must be cajoled into doing what you want. While in the 8-bit version you can hold down the [A]ttack key and rain several blows on your opponent, the ST won't allow this with the mouse, so your mortality rate will be higher in the new version.

One problem with this type of game is that it takes quite a while to establish a character-but the character could die before you settle back in your chair. With the Create Character option, the computer randomly generates the character's attributes and purse size. You won't be rich enough at first to afford good equipment, and this makes it tough to survive for more than a few minutes.

To avoid this, use Enter Character. Go ahead, give yourself the maximum personal characteristics and scads of money. The fun is in playing the game, not in thrusting poor, weak characters into the Temple like marshmallows into a fire. Plenty of other challenges are still left. There are always secret doors through which to pass into a hitherto unexplored area. But you might take three days plus forever to find those doors.

Once your character is established, you need to buy armor and weapons. This would be fine if you didn't have to haggle with the Innkeeper, which can easily take 15 minutes. But after you leave the Inn, the realms you'll explore are the Temple, the Upper Reaches and the Curse of Ra. Each has four levels, and perseverance will push you through 568 rooms and into the waiting arms-and possibly jaws-of the foul things that dwell there.

The screen alerts you to the presence of these nasties with the preface, "Oh, no," as in "Oh, no! Antman," or "Oh, no! Bugs," or even "Oh, no! Housewife!" While you might think this is the Mr. Bill Show, bear in mind that this is a game with a sense of humor. The horrid, fetid beasts you'll meet include giant leeches, zombies, monks (varieties include drunk, asleep, angry and vampire), criosphiuxes, field mice, cats, dogs and chickens-none of whom appear without that "Oh, no!"

The Temple of Apshai Trilogy is essentially an enjoyable game, among the most popular of its genre. Many of the elements are interesting and imaginative. Apshai probably should have actually been souped up a bit more for the ST, though, instead of just looking that way.

MichTron Inc.
576 South Telegraph
Pontiac, Ml 48053
(313) 334-5700

Reviewed by Jim Pierson-Perry

Personal Money Manager (PMM) is a well-designed application program for maintaining personal financial records and preparing summary reports. Its strengths are in tracking cash-flow transactions between income, savings and expenses to show your spending habits. With this data, you can develop an accurate budget and monitor your actual expenses against it. Fixed assets (house, cars) and long-term liabilities (mortgage, loans) are not considered, which precludes net worth determinations. The program runs under GEM and supports both medium- and high-resolution screen output (low resolution causes abnormal screen formatting).

The heart of the program is a group of accounts which you set up when you first run PMM. These can be either assets (savings, checking, cash, credit cards) or expenses (income, monthly expenses). The number and nature of these accounts are left for you to customize for your own needs. PMM can handle 999 accounts, but few people will need more than 30. Transaction data is entered and stored on a monthly basis, and a separate data file is automatically created for each new month of data. The program automatically creates and maintains by backup files.

Transactions are entered as two parts (standard double-entry bookkeeping), reflecting the account for the source of the funds and the account to which they go (for example, checking to mortgage payment). Automatic splitting can be set up where funds from one source account are divided across up to eight destination accounts. This is useful for such cases as payment of several fixed monthly bills from a single paycheck

PMM works with up to a year's worth of financial transactions at a time. For each new year, copy the program and resource files to a newly formatted data disk. When you first run the program, you'll create the accounts file and enter their estimated yearly budget on a month-by-month basis. You can begin using PMM at any time during a year, but only a year's worth of data can be accessed on a single disk.

Three families of program options are available as drop-down menus: File, Process and Reports. File options are utility routines, such as changing the current month for entering/editing transaction data, saving data to disk and exiting the program. Process options handle data input and editing. These routines include initial accounts and budget set-up, entry and review of transaction data, and establishment of automatic splitting. The Reports options generate summary reports covering the annual budget, all expenses to date, account balances versus year-to-date budget, all transactions for a given month, and all transactions for a specific account during a given month. All reports are sent to the printer.

Data entry and review are aided by screen templates customized for each Process option. These layouts are well-planned to maximize information content without appearing cluttered, and it's easy to enter data or commands using a unified command structure for all Process options.

All transactions are assumed to be for the current month (specified when the program is booted). You can use the File option to change the current month at any time, but be sure to save any data in memory before doing so or the data will be lost. The same rule also applies before exiting the program. The program won't automatically save your data, but it will remind you to do so if necessary.

Those familiar with other home financial management programs may notice the absence of some bells and whistles from PMM. These include flagging transactions for tax records, graphical analysis, and descriptive memos for individual transactions. To me, they don't add much, and I'm glad they were left out. When was the last time you had a burning need to see a plot of your monthly food expense?

Be aware, however, that one advertised feature of PMM is apparently wishful thinking and not fact-the ability to print checks. Although this is mentioned in the MichTron ad, there is no mention of it in the program or its documentation. If this is important to you, I advise you to contact the company for the current status of this feature.

I recommend Personal Money Manager as a good tool for household financial management. It's easy to use and even comes with a set of practice data files to help learn the ropes. Using PMM to help track your expenses will help you make and stick to a workable budget. You may well find enough ways to save money that the program will more than pay for itself.

XLent Software
P0 Box 5228
Springfield, Virginia 22150
(703) 644-88 1

by Sol Guber

My boss thinks Bigblue gives my reports more class. My wife considers cursive more friendly for her letters. And my daughter loves either outline or Stop for her stories. What am I talking about? Fonts.

The term font originated with the printing industry. It means a specific typeface, such as Goudy and Helvetica, or generic variations, such as italics and bold. Many computer programmers weren't familiar with the term until the Macintosh came along, with its own built-in variety of differing typefaces. The Atari ST should have the capability to use different fonts, both on-screen and on printouts, when GDOS is generally released. (It should be available by the time you read this.)

Until then, we'll have to settle on Megafont ST. Megafont ST prints out different fonts and more. It allows you to mix graphics with your printing, and lets you print different fonts on discrete parts of your document.

Megafont ST works with Epsons, Epson compatibles, Atari printers, and the Prowriter and NEC 802 3A. When you load the program, a dialog box asks for your printer type. At the top of the screen, a menu appears, allowing you to choose your font types, file types, print modes, other options, and graphics.

The font type allows you to pick which font style you want, either the 8x8 or 8x16 style. The 8x8 fonts take one pass of the print head while the 8 x 16 type takes two passes. There are 21 different 8 x 8 styles and 16 different 8 x 16 styles. Once you have selected the font, you can select how the file will be printed. Your choices include printing out 1ST Word files, Wordstar type files, or files just as they are.

The print mode lets you select from four different sizes: small, medium, large, and extra large. Once you select the size, you can then pick the line margins you need, line spacing, whether or not to automatically paginate, and bold facing.

Now comes the fun part. Select a file to be printed and zip it off to your printer. The printing is fast and very smooth. A test comparison between normal printing and Megafont printing shows a slowdown of only 25% for the 8 x 8 printing and 50% for the 8 x 16 printing, which takes two passes of the print head.

The graphics option allows you to embed monochrome pictures from either DEGAS or NEOchrome into the body of the text. You can also put icons from either Typesetter, Rubber Stamp, or Print Master Interface into your text. The method for doing either of these is quite simple. Just add a line similar to [DA:MYPIC.P13] and a picture is added to the text. The program will even skip to the top of the next page if you need room.

The last option with this program is the ability to make your own fonts. There are two programs on the disk that let you make either the 8 x 8 fonts or the 8 x 16 fonts. They work easily and quickly. These programs are compatible with the DEGAS font printer.

Megafont ST is an excellent, easy-to-use program that makes typing reports much more fun. It's the next best thing to GDOS.

Mind Mine Computer Center
13256 N.E 20th Street, Suite 4
Bellevue, WA 98005
(206) 641-6138

Reviewed by Mike Morrow

At least two companies have found different ways to add a continuously operating system clock to the ST. If you don't want to keep Shanner's LogiKhron card (reviewed in Antic, October 1986) in your ST cartridge slot, you might prefer the Mind Mine ST Clock solution-which plugs a small board inside the ST. No soldering is required. But of course you must unscrew the ST case, which will void your Atari 90-day warranty.

The ST Clock's six typewritten pages of instructions are very complete and include detailed pictures of every important step. Whenever extra care should be taken, the step is preceded with the word "WARNING" or a whole line of "**IMPORANT**"" This is one of the best installation documents I have seen in a while. The disk auto-loading software is equally good.

The installation process requires that you remove a ROM chip at the back of the keyboard, plug the ST Clock board into the socket and remount the chip into a matching socket on the board. Doing this right is more demanding than it sounds. ST computers are very compact units and the ST Clock board, while small, is still pretty thick for the space available to it.

The logic board at the back of the keyboard unit sits on top of the metal shield which houses the CPU (central processing unit) board and chips. This metal cage is the RF (radio frequency) shield and cannot be legally removed. There is little clearance here, and the ST Clock board uses it all. Extreme care must be taken to isolate the unit electrically and physically, or else severe damage will result. The package includes some strips of insulating material to provide the required isolation.

The ST Clock consists of a circuit board, a pair of nickel-cadmium batteries and a battery clip. The only function of the product is to send power to the ST keyboard processor chip, which is where the clock is actually located. The batteries recharge during normal use of the ST and are supposed to power the clock for as long as three weeks between uses.

I am happy with the ST Clock. It does the job as advertised. Installation is easy, even though a lot of care must be exercised.