Fergus McNeillAbstract Concepts|Amstrad Action) Abstract Concepts Delta 4
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Fergus McNeill and Anna Popkess are the driving force behind one of the few labels that still supports the Amstrad market. What do they have to say about the future of adventures? The Pilgrim finds out.

Fergus McNeill must be every would-be adventure writer's hero. Who else, after all, could move from programming adventures using the Quill, to getting them published, to forming his own software house (Delta 4), to signing up with Activision/Mediagenic, and - finally, with Anna - to commissioning his own adventure writing system, SWAN, and releasing major titles across several formats?

With all this success behind him, people looked forward to a fruitful collaboration between Fergus and Anna Popkess when they formed Abstract Concepts. Unfortunately, the first title -Mindfighter - received mixed reviews and was, the Pilgrim has to say, a deeply flawed game, despite its promise for the future.

'Criticism of Mindfighter fell into several categories,' says Fergus, 'including those who felt the subject was too 'heavy' for an adventure and those who felt it lacked technical features. We've put all that behind us and put it right too.'

"The future of the text adventure is looking pretty bleak: the 16-bit machines are looking to graphics to deliver gameplay and not enough attention is being paid to the quality of the text"

That means a new approach for their new game Parisian Knights, due out very soon for most formats including the Amstrad. The game, to be previewed in AA next month, takes place in three parts as you undertake undercover missions in different exotic locations. Your life is continually threatened due to the activities of a mole in your organisation and your ultimate goal is to put the little furry devil out of business.

Although programmed in SWAN, like Mindfighter, Fergus and Anna have included some high-level improvements. In particular, you can now find.

In addition, the performance of the interactive characters has been beefed up, so these now not only talk to the player but also chat amongst themselves.

And, of course, Fergus and Anna have paid particular attention to the text...' The future of the text adventure is looking pretty bleak,' admits Anna: 'the 16-bit machines are looking to graphics to deliver gameplay and not enough attention is being paid to the quality of the text.' No danger of that with Parisian Knights, we hope.

But mention of 16-bit machines and graphics prompts a few stern remarks from the dynamic duo. 'It's just like the music business - Stock, Aitken and Waterman deluging us with tons of Rick Astley and Kylie Minogue, and in the adventure gme market the distributors are pushing for more arcade elements."

'Even worse,' says Fergus, 'is the attitude of shopkeepers who think there's no point in stocking games unless they're a major arcade licence is influencing kids.' We're being steadily brainwashed by some of the big companies into accepting more and more glossy products. As Fergus angrily declares, 'the adventure market is essentially a cult industry - and commercialism destroys cults. The more commercial it gets, the less room there is for newcomers.' In other words, experimentation and originality die in the face of commercial exploitation.

Let's hope Fergus and Anna hit back with Parisian Knights - watch this space.



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GAMELIST Mindfighter 1988

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L'Amstrad CPC est une machine 8 bits à base d'un Z80 à 4MHz. Le premier de la gamme fut le CPC 464 en 1984, équipé d'un lecteur de cassettes intégré il se plaçait en concurrent  du Commodore C64 beaucoup plus compliqué à utiliser et plus cher. Ce fut un réel succès et sorti cette même années le CPC 664 équipé d'un lecteur de disquettes trois pouces intégré. Sa vie fut de courte durée puisqu'en 1985 il fut remplacé par le CPC 6128 qui était plus compact, plus soigné et surtout qui avait 128Ko de RAM au lieu de 64Ko.