Sam Coupe Arcade Development System (SCADS)
Worked by extending Sam Basic with special tokens to add functionality.
Suffered from speed problems due to the interpreted nature of the code running under the ‘supervisor’ run-time componant but a compiler was supposed to be forthcoming to solve these issues.
Your Sinclair review, (Recovered) courtesy of the YS Rock 'n' Roll Years YS84
SAM Coupe Arcade Development System Glenco £TBA Dec 1992
Well, here it is at last, SAM's answer to AMOS, going by the distinctly unhealthy sounding acronym of SCADS.
The 'System' comprises one disk and a very smart-looking two hundred and eight page A5 ring-bound manual. On the disk are a few demo programs, which, I have to say, do look quite impressive - and then there's the development system itself, split into two distinct parts, the Designer and the Supervisor.
Basically, the Designer lets you make up your game sprites, rooms, animation sequences, sound effects, and so on (although you can import graphics from Flash! if you wish). The Designer is actually very good at what it does - the sound FX generator, for instance, manages to overcome the lack of sound chip support in SAM BASIC rather admirably, and the features are well thought out. It's all WIMP controlled and very nicely presented, and I actually enjoyed using it, to a point - that point being when you develop beyond the 'new user' stage, and the performance of a relatively simple task like undoing a mistake involves negotiating hundreds of menus (well, at least three) when a keypress should suffice.
In general, the menu system suffers from a badly thought-out design - for example, the confirmation 'Are You Sure? Y/N' tend to be situated on the far side of the screen from the current menu, which, when you're trying to get some serious work done, is not helpful. A bit of a rethink is needed for version two, I think. Let's not end on a bad note, though - the designer is actually a very good, very powerful program, just let down slightly by the menu system. Moving on...
Once you've designed all your graphics, sound, rooms, etc, it's time to move on to the real bones of the program, the supervisor. This is essentially SAM BASIC with the extra commands thrown in, although admittedly the new commands are extremely powerful and there are plenty of them, but you do still have to know how to use BASIC, as you'll need a fair sprinkling of DO...LOOPs and your IF...THENs to make the thing work. This is, unfortunately, where all the nice front end WIMP business stops. Let's face it, if you were restricted to fixed menu options all the way through, you wouldn't get versatility, and versatility really has to be SCADS middle name if it's going to enjoy anything like the success of AMOS.
There's no escaping the fact that you have to learn a language, however high-level, before you can program games. On the other hand, SCADS extended BASIC is very powerful, and provided you've got an elementary grasp of SAM BASIC, you shouldn't have much trouble using it. I did feel that the manual skipped over this, the most important section, a bit though - a few more tutorials would have gone down a treat, instead of having to depend solely upon the glossary at the end.
Final Verdict Time
Having pointed out most of my personal quarrels with the program, I really ought to finish off by saying that SCADS is a very powerful games designer. One which anyone with enough unquenchable enthusiasm could use to create their own games, with only a fraction of the hassle that the other, more conventional languages provide.
The fact that this is the first version, though, does show. Badly thought-out menus, lack of Supervisor documentation, and several unforgivable glitches in the manual (all you need is a proof reader!) all go to show that it needed a bit more polish.
At present, there are no plans (as far as I know) for a second version, although there is a SCADS Compiler in the offing. This will convert your games into machine code, allowing anyone to play them, because at present you have to own a copy of SCADS to play SCADS-created games, so that's good news. My advice to you is, buy if you think you've got a long enough concentration span to cope with the rough edges. My advice to Glenco is get the compiler out ASAP, take a long hard look at SCADS and release an improved version with a discount for existing users. Judgement has been passed. Thank you and goodnight.