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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA
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Posted Sat Apr 02, 2016 9:33 am

World Circuit -1992 - Amiga
(A.K.A. Microprose Formula One Grand Prix by Geoff Crammond)

Originally released in late 1991 in Europe with that incredibly long name above, the game was given a small makeover before being released in America in 1992 as World Circuit. This was an Amiga original game designed by Geoff Crammond. In Europe Crammond is looked at as a legendary game developer, much like Sid Meijer in the United States. A popular magazine in Europe even started calling him Sir Geoffrey Crammond, and the name stuck.

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Prior to World Circuit, Geoff received notoriety in Brittan with a BBC Micro title called Revs. It was a simple yet very impressive driving game on that system. It was later ported to the C64, a faithful port but not exactly impressive when compared to other racing games on the system.

A 1989 game would bring him success all over the world with Stunt Car Racer. Released on many platforms, most notably the C64 and Amiga, it was an incredibly detailed race game where you drove a hot rod on an unrealistic but fun track environment. Damage would occur, there were realistic physics, and even a season to complete.

In America I can't say the name Geoff Crammond ever screamed out to me. I saw his name in the credits of World Circuit and later attached his name to Stunt Car Racer but given that his name was not featured prominently on the box as in Europe I can't say the name is as big to me as to some others. After World Circuit he really didn't do much in terms of diversifying, he pretty much only worked on the sequels of World Circuit and nothing else.

Being designed on the Amiga in Europe, this is actually one of those games that would look right in widescreen. Upon studying various screens in great detail I do believe this game looks best in PAL mode in a near 16:9 aspect ratio. - However, I can't recommend anyone play it that way unless they have a very fast Amiga. It's just too slow in PAL mode on a regular Amiga 500... Put it in NTSC mode and you suddenly have a game. It's amazing how much that 20% increase in speed can help.

The other thing about "World Circuit" is that although the game was designed in Europe to look right in widescreen, the fact remains that the only way "World Circuit" would have been seen back in the day was on a 4:3 monitor with the game filling the entire screen. In terms of history, this name change should be taken into account when deciding how to display the game.

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^ Monaco Course View - Shown In Original European Aspect Ratio - Screenshot Directly From Amiga

Several color modes are featured in the game. The very first screen that pops up upon starting the game (very briefly if installed on a hard drive) features a non standard resolution (possibly PAL overscan) picture in EHB 64 color mode. The intro sequences as well as all menu screens feature a 32 color palette which heavily alters the pallet according to the needs of different screens. The racing part of the game I believe is only in 16 colors. I was unable to get a screenshot to prove this, but I'm fairly certain based on manual counting. This would have likely been done to make the game a little faster.

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^Intro Screen - Pic of CRT Screen

I kind of wanted to use this game to illustrate just how important the Amiga was in America. It's often dismissed in the heavily European tinted glasses online these days, but I don't think they've taken the time to get to know the different markets. I contend that although this game was made in Europe, America was most certainly on the mind of Crammond and Microprose. Despite being designed in Europe, this game (as well as F1GP) defaults to miles per hour, not kilometers per hour. The game features a hard drive installer (very uncommon with European releases), and of course the biggest example is the name change.

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^ Picture Of My 168 Page Manual

This game featured a 168 page manual... Every single page of that manual features at least one mention of the games name. It was not cheap and certainly not easy to change every page of the manual, as well as certain game screens (including an altered intro), the game disks and the game box to accommodate this name change. It simply would not have been done unless America was damn important.

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^ One Of My World Circuit Disks

We ate the simulations up. I've always been surprised at the love this particular game has overseas. Microprose made tons of awesome simulations but this is by far the one you hear the most about in terms of the Amiga with the European glasses. In fact almost all of their other awesome games are ignored for the most part. I've always been curious, why this game? Is F1 racing just that popular overseas? Is it that despite this being a simulation, there are plenty of ways to turn it into more of an arcade driving game? I'm honestly curious the reasons that this particular game gets attention on the Amiga where few of their other games get the same treatment.

In America I can tell you that all of their other games got the same attention. The older Amiga users here were not too different from PC users in terms of their game tastes. They were certainly a more artistic bunch given the Amiga's capabilities, but in terms of games they wanted the same "types" of games that sold on a PC, they just wanted them "better". This is the reason why we loved Microprose. They made the games that American users loved and they made them better than the PC version. It didn't matter if the game was an original Amiga title or a port, Microprose made the Amiga version the one to have.

World Circuit features an install program, very much recommended for those with a hard drive or an emulator. I don't remember that much of a disk swapping or loading issue with the game from back in the day, but I am of firm belief that anyone that can (which is most with emulators) should take advantage of any Amiga game that allows you to install it onto a hard drive.

The game features a very nice intro sequence featuring a blatant rip off of the end sequence of the Fleewood Mac song "The Chain". I've never heard this mentioned before... I always thought Fleetwood Mac was big the world over and that's a pretty big song... But I've never heard a soul mention it. Look it up and hear for yourself. It's really a kick ass "tribute" I would say. It's really a shame that in today's world video games are no longer able to do such things. There is no way World Circuit sold even a single copy by ripping off The Chain, it's simply a cool bit of music and an easter egg for any that know the song. Today they would be sued by the band and a nice chunk of their profits would be transferred to a group of people that in no way helped the game sell. I was shocked that this 1992 game did such a thing, where as Lemmings, released earlier, abandoned their own original music which had largely been a rip off of classic TV shows and Beatles songs. In Lemmings case I think it was a good idea (their original songs kind of sucked if you ask me) but obviously copyright was becoming a concern around that time.

Originally upon the intro finishing a copy protection scheme was loaded which requested you to look up a word from a page/line/word in the extensive manual and enter it. This is no longer to present many with an issue due to the cracks most would be using. This was slightly altered given the version. F1GP featured an English flag for the copy protection screen while World Circuit featured an American flag.

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^ Background Picture For Main Game Menu Screen

Upon entering the correct word you're able to start a quick race or load the main menu. The quick race just slaps you at last place at the start of the American grand prix. You'll likely want to go to the main menu. Options galore! You can practice any track, change many game options, change the names of the drivers, and of course start a new season. In another never talked about interesting fact: The manual contained all the real driver names/engines/teams of the 1991 season. Despite some "hacked" videos you may see online, no original version of this game featured the real 1991 names. This is very curious because the manual would have likely been written long before the game was released. It makes me feel they either had or thought they would get an official license for this game, but it was pulled at the last second... Or they never had a license but pulled the names from the game at the last second for fear of being sued. Either way, the fact that the manual contains the real names is very interesting to me... Again, another tidbit of information that really points out how important the Amiga was in America... Why does nobody talk about this little piece of information? That's a big piece of information... The only thing that crosses my mind is that perhaps the many Europeans who love this game never bought the game, thus never had the manual... I utterly understand why the market over there would have stolen games, but it's very important to keep this in mind when thinking of the Amiga in America. The market here simply did not have as big a need to steal games, this made the U.S. important.

The season aspect of this game is what makes it so great. Put a few names of your friends and enemies as drivers and start a new season to compete in the same 16 tracks the drivers in 1991 competed in. Various positions and records are stored as you compete in the season. You're first set off at the American track in Phoenix (DAMMIT WHAT HAPPENED TO DETROIT?!) where you can first practice the track before heading off to qualifying.

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^ Background Image For Course Selection Screen

Qualifying is probably the most important section of any race. Get the pole position and it's going to be hard for anyone to overtake you in this game. It's doubtful many will play the game at its 100% race distance, meaning pit stops are unlikely to occur unless a car suffers damage. Get a good time here and you're in good position going to the race. In the pits if you press down on the joystick you will be presented with a car setup menu, allowing gear ratio changes/wing weight setups and all sorts of things to get those into the simulation aspect something to chew on.

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^ Monaco Harbor - Pic Of CRT

And then you race! The game features mostly polygon based 3D graphics which I believe have aged incredibly well. There's something about the later texture mapped stuff that always gives me a headache, I never had any issues with the plane polygons though.

The game features a hard coded frame rate of 8 in PAL mode and either 10 or 12 in NTSC (can't recall which). The game will always attempt to render these frame rates at all times, it will never skip a frame. It will, however, freeze the computer until it can render those frames, which results in heavy slow down in PAL mode on a standard Amiga 500. This is why I would recommend playing this game in NTSC mode despite graphic stretching. An Amiga 500 in NTSC mode seems to play the game perfectly fine with little slow down.

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^ During A Race In Great Britain - Pic Of CRT

Those with faster computers also complain that they can't increase the frame rate and make use of their machines. For them there is a fan made utility called F1GP-ED that will allow the frame rate to be changed along with many other features. You can go up to 16 FPS during a race and up to 25FPS during practice. Personally, I can't say I would recommend using this program to increase the frames. When there are no cars on the road it does run much smoother and is quite nice... Put other cars on the track and it's blatantly obvious this game was never meant to go that fast.

I've never liked when people use DOSBox to unnaturally increase the speed of games like Wing Commander... It might "seem" more realistic to go that fast but it is undoubtedly not designed to run like that. They go from Nav point to Nav point without auto piloting and they get there in 40 seconds. Personally any sense of realism goes down the drain when I see a game move unnaturally faster than it was meant to. Those other cars look like crap when run in 16FPS. It might be the best idea to run the game in NTSC mode regardless of the computer you have, as 10 or 12 FPS will give you more frames but not too many to make the other cars look fake. The program is still worth a download to see if you agree.

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^ Celebrations For Winning The Individual Points Competition - Pic Of CRT

Place in the top 3 in a race and you get a nicely drawn picture to show this. Place number one and you get an animation of popping champagne. If your teammate and you combine for the most points at the end of the season you'll get a nice picture of a car, if you had the most points as an individual an animation with the roar of a crowd. Upon finishing the season you should save your names/lap records/car setups so you can load them when you feel like going at it again.

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^ We've Done It! - Actual Screenshot From Amiga

World Circuit is one of my favorite games of all time. In 1996 Sega released Virtua Racing on the Genesis. It used a special chip to produce the 3D environment and thus cost $80. I begged my parents for it until they caved... I wanted it because it looked like World Circuit. I pretended to like it because it cost so much, but I hated it at the time. Time limits, only 3 tracks, this was an arcade game... This was not a simulation... It looked mighty impressive on the Genesis, but years earlier the Amiga had it beat. This was what computers brought to the table. This was the kind of game that made my jaw drop when watching my father play on the Amiga. I had an NES, I had a Genesis, and even in 1996 it didn't come close to the Amiga.

I guess that's kind of why I never understood the fascination Europeans have with some of the side scrolling games... In my mind all of those types of games were done so much better on the NES/Genesis, to me the Amiga was never about side scrollers. To me it was about games like this, which no console could ever hope to reproduce during those times. For any that loved this game as a kid, I would highly recommend the entire library of Microprose... If you love this one I don't see why you couldn't love the other games as well.

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^ European Magazine Reviews

European magazines generally loved the game, but found ways to poke at it. Most notably through the large game manual. They felt the game was difficult to get into and thought the game was too slow on the Amiga 500. Over in America they had nothing bad to say about this game. In fact, the complaints Europeans had were praised. They loved the large manual, "...the usual great microprose job.", given the extra speed of NTSC machines they said the game flied even on a 500. They even mention how easy it is to install, a topic never discussed in a European magazine.

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^ Amiga World Review

A review of World Circuit in video form is now on my channel for any interested. For the most part, this written review covers things not covered in the video or expands on other things, the two reviews are not one in the same. Love for anyone to check it out here: https://youtu.be/pgvTKur32BA

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^ Christmas Sale! - 3rd Party Game Catalog Advert - Amiga World

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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
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Posted Sat Apr 02, 2016 1:16 pm

This is a post of epic proportions, Shot97 (and these screenshots freaking ROCK)! A review this in-depth may have never even found its way to the printed page in '92, let alone any other site.

Until now. <3

Definitely adding this to my must-have list.

Fascinating comparison between the US and UK mag game journalists.

EDIT:
It is worth noting that England is the only European country that uses MPH like the U.S., not KPH. So if this was designed in England, it's quite possible they were focused on England/US markets from a design perspective since the designer was also British.

For what it is worth (and this is hugely anecdotal) my wife has an uncle and cousin who live in Newcastle, England. Formula 1 racing was huge for her cousin growing up there. I think they still put the races on BBC and even have a section devoted to it on bbc.com. I suppose its their version of NASCAR. ;) It really is popular there. Hard for us in the US to understand since it is rarely ever mentioned by the sports media here.

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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA
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Posted Mon Apr 04, 2016 3:20 am

Now I swore I replied to this... This is what not typing into MSWord first gets me... With all the poking Europeans (including British) do to American's regarding our various methods of calculating size/temperatures I never would have thought Britain used miles per hour... I happily stand corrected on that, though I do believe the name change is a good reason all on its own to show America was so much more important than the majority of the web currently wishes to believe.

It's so funny to me because if these people did some searches for old BBS boards of the early-mid 90s they would come to the conclusion that the Amiga was ONLY popular in America. Not only that, but you'd think the Amiga 3000 and 4000 sold more than any other Amiga.

Why? It's just a simple matter of demographics. Europeans bought plenty of Amiga 500's, but they pretty much only used it as a games machine, and for budget games at that. They were very budget minded, they didn't buy any modems, and they largely did not upgrade their machines. Even the 1mb expansion for the 500 was not common in Europe, most games from Europe being written for a 512k machine. Switch over to America, a hobbyist power user market, and you get a nice chunk of people who upgraded their machines or bought better machines, bought modems and other online software... You now have the ONLY voice for the Amiga on the internet during the early 90's. They're almost all American and most of them have those newer machines.

Now that's not the truth of everyone that had Amiga's back then... That's not even the truth of American's who had an Amiga back then... It's only the truth of people who had modems and were posting online... But you know what? Much like Europeans today believe they were the only market that mattered for the Amiga, the American's online back THEN thought they were the majority of people too. If one lonely Amiga 500 power user managed to get online and post on one of these message boards? They would be torn apart... "Why the hell are you still using that machine?! EVERYONE has a 3000 now!"

They didn't have a clue... While plenty of 3000's were sold in America (about 200,000,pretty much the ONLY place they were bought - Expensive machine - Very important for Commodore -That the Europeans wanted nothing to do with) the fact is the majority of active Amiga users even in America were on lesser machines. But that was what they were being surrounded with online. It's not hard for someone surrounded by the same people to come to a false conclusion that they are the majority. It's the exact same situation these days with Europeans who were very young when they had their Amiga and now they want to talk about it. American's who had the Amiga are now getting older and they're simply not on YouTube talking about it. It does not mean the reality is Europeans were the only important market for the Amgia. My main goal is to show how much like brothers we really are and to erase this snide attitude of theirs when it comes to the Amiga. The world HATES when American's get a snide arrogant attitude but I swear whenever they have the opportunity to gloat they become exactly what they claim to hate. With the Amiga they wish to gloat. They wish to feel superior because they understood what that machine was and they think we didn't. I'm here to say we both got it. We were very different cultures which liked very different things, but we bought enough Amiga's to matter a whole hell of a lot. Let's all try to understand our differences and celebrate them. American's were heavily into these games that took months to finish. Many of them were designed here. Let's show them right. Let's give those games a chance. Europeans were into budget platforming games, but there were quite a few that turned out to be spectacular despite being cheap. Let's figure out which game came from where and where it was targeted to and experience this stuff as they would. Let's come together over our mutual love of a great computer. In terms of computers and love, there simply is no other that comes close. Not even the Commodore 64 which sold a whole hell of a lot more than any single model computer period...

But even the C64 could not come very close to touching the sales of the NES... Even in Europe... And the constant message from Europe is that the NES meant NOTHING to them. Nope, they didn't need those stupid games machines... They were far more sophisticated with their micro computers, that they used to play and steal games on... They try to paint the picture that there was an Amiga in every household and they never saw an NES... The numbers overwhelmingly say they are wrong. 8.5 million NES' sold in Europe. Nothing compared to the 34 million in America... But WAY more than the Amiga sold over there. 4.5 million Amiga's sold worldwide. 1 million from America (probably more if you factor in Canada which I can't find numbers for), 3.5 million in ALL the rest of the world. Guaranteed over 1 million (probably 1.5-2 mil) sold in Germany. Sprinkle the rest of the numbers where you wish, but the fact is America meant just as much as any one country, especially when you consider their expensive tastes in games (don't forget other software like very expensive word processors or paint programs, or hardware like hard drives and RAM) and little need to pirate them.

The fact is computers didn't mean much worldwide. The Apple II, which had many different versions including 8 and 16 bit hardware spanning almost 15 years, as well as every school in America buying tons of them? 6 million combined worldwide. 1.5 million more than the Amiga and still nothing compared to consoles. And by the way, of course the NES was not as big in Europe as America, factor in Master System sales for 8-bit? 7 million in Europe. They also like to say the Master System was bigger than the NES in Europe... It was not... But combined that's 15.5 million 8 bit consoles and then go 16-bit and sales explode. It's very hard to get sales numbers on computers from back then, my numbers on the computer end come from tidbits of information I've read from many sources over many years. They may not be 100% accurate but those numbers represent the overall reality of the situation...

The truth is computers were not a thing back then (not even DOS). Instead of painting a false picture that one area understood them far more than everyone else lets all band together and realize that computers are in the same position now that they were back then! Most people just want the damn console to play their games on... But if you take the time to understand a computer and have the money to buy one, often times the experience is far better on a computer. It has never changed. We are all brothers who loved something not many others understood. We are a special group of people. We are the ones who feel "Amiga Love."

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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
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Posted Mon Apr 04, 2016 8:01 am

You make some interesting points here. That being said I don't want to get too far off-topic from your absolutely gorgeous review.

I'm going to research the topic of Sales Figures myself and move that topic to a different forum in the coming days. A preliminary scan looks daunting, as Commodore was tragically secretive and mis-managed, so the figures seem to vary wildly from source to source (or country to country).

But this topic deserves its own thread.

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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
Website

Posted Tue May 17, 2016 6:27 pm

World Circuit has been added to the Games Library.

<3





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