Smues Droppings: Manual Insertion, or, King’s Quest IX: The Search for Word 7 of Line 23 on Page 10

Disclaimer: The following contains graphic sexual content and should not be viewed by minors or southern congressmen The following is not meant as a critique or complaint about copy protection. Nor is it meant in any way to comment on the current debate over methods of copy protection or DRM. This is solely some good old fashioned self-masturbatory reminiscing about some of the ‘interesting’ manual based copy protection methods I encountered in my youth. Any rebroadcast, retransmission, or account of this article, without the express written consent and three drops of blood from Smues, is prohibited. Mind the gap.

I mentioned in my last article, which surprisingly was not my last article, the joys of loading up the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game on PC. Load the game, be asked for a code, find your manual, find the right page, squint, find the right column and row, hope you’ve read the very faint text correctly, enter code into game, play, and then finally die a lot (and not just in that damn dam level, a million curses on whoever decided to put that instant death closing wall at the end of level three.) That was the most common method I encountered, but it certainly wasn’t the only instruction manual based copy protection implementation that existed. There were some minor variations of the table that were pretty much the same thing, like to start the game Flashback it would ask you, for example, to enter the fifth word of the twelve line of page eight. But what I want to reminisce about here are the more creative (and annoying) methods, so here are some others I had fun with back in ‘the day’ presented in no random order. DAMNIT DAVE COULIER GET OUT OF MY HEAD!

Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, VGA Version

Yes I played the Larry games at far too young an age, let’s just move past that shall we? Though I suppose it is kind of relevant, because before even getting to the copy protection you had to answer some questions to prove that you were 18. In fact while the adult check was different than the DID YOU BUY THIS YOU PIRATING SON OF A BITCH? Check it also kind of causes problems now a days, as an adult in 2012 is not necessarily going to know the same things that an adult in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s knew. As an eleven year old (I know I know) I was guessing every time until I saw all the questions and had the answers memorized, but I certainly didn’t ‘know’ very many of them. For fun, let’s see how I do as an adult on a random attempt to load up the game.

Question the first: Mohammed Ali is:

  • a. a ballet star.
  • b. an Arab terrorist.
  • c. a professional boxer.
  • d. a singer.

Well that’s one I probably did know at a young age, and I would assume most 18 year olds would know that today, but certainly not all of them. (PROTIP: The answer is C)

Question the second: Who is not a mass murderer?

  • a. Charlie Manson
  • b. Ted Bundy
  • c. Jack the Rippere
  • d. Timothy Leary

D, Timothy Leary. I’m sure I missed that one a lot as a kid. I probably picked Ted Bundy, confusing him with Al Bundy.

Question the third: Who spends the most time in Las Vegas?

  • a. Michael J. Fox
  • b. Wayne Newton
  • c. J. Paul Getty
  • d. Paul Volcker

I was not even one hundred percent sure in my answer of Wayne Newton. Good luck with that one today’s young adults!

Question the fourth: John Belushi was on

  • a. “Mr. Rogers.”
  • b. “The PTL club.”
  • c. “My Mother the Car.”
  • d. “Saturday Night Live.”

The answer is Saturday Night Live, but I guarantee there are plenty of young adults now that have no clue who he was.

Question the fifth: Herb Alpert and the ____ Brass

  • a. Tijuana
  • b. Boss
  • c. Canadian
  • d. Top

I happen to know that it is Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, but seriously how many young twenty somethings in the year 2013 would know that. I’m going to really go out on a limb here and guess not that many.

You need to answer four out of five correctly to get into the game, but after you get through the age check comes the real fun part.

The Palamino Ranch is available for:

  • a. Bar-mitzvahs
  • b. Confirmations.
  • c. Anniversaries.
  • d. St. Trixie’s Day of Self-Flagellation.

The fuck? Yes people, we have reached the copy protection. As a kid who had spent his saved up money to buy this game and owned a nice legal $50 copy, I never realized the answers to these were contained in the manual. Hey I never said I was a smart kid. So I had to guess every bleeping time. This time I’m going to guess St. Trixie’s Day.

*BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR*
“Yo, ho. Yo, ho! Oh, oh! You couldn’t possibly miss that question and have a legal copy of the game!” And then I’m given the following options “Quit” “Leave” “OK” “Done” and “Exit” and then the game closes. Considering I had a legal copy of the game I believe that yes, in fact, I could possibly miss that question. I missed it a lot. I guess Al Lowe or someone else at Sierra decided squinting at a chart wasn’t fun enough, so they’d rather that you have to actually read or skim through the manual to learn facts about fictional things, and not even fictional things that would appear in the game itself, to get into the damn game. When I got older and realized the answers were in the manual I was at least relieved to find out how the hell I was supposed to answer those questions, but it was still irritating. At least, however, with enough time and luck I could break my way into Larry 1. Larry 2 was not so forgiving. This leads us to:

Leisure Suit Larry 2: Looking for Love (In Several Wrong Places)

Ricky don't lose that number.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, at least this one made it clear I had to use the manual. The problem is the manual is printed in black and white and kind of faintly to prevent photo copying, and there are a lot of girls so you really have to focus and look for the fine details to figure out just which one they want. The game is also unforgiving and if you get it wrong just once you have to start over with a new picture. Sure you could technically guess your way in but with a 1 in 10,000 chance that might take a while. If I remember correctly I usually failed a time or two before actually getting in, and that was while possessing the manual. For fun here is the failure message:
Sorry, but you need to spend more time staring at beautiful women! In order to play this game, you must have the original documentation. If you’ve lost your little black book, please telephone Sierra’s Customer Support Department at the number printed on your disks.

A nicer failure message at least, though I should note that Leisure Suit Larry 2 and 3 came out before the VGA version of 1, so it was not as if they got nicer as time went on.

Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals

Here is where we really start to dive into the realm of manual madness, but oddly enough you don’t need the manual to initially start the game. We will get to that in a moment but first let’s see how I do against the age check which returned for this one!

Ichi: Which was not a Beatles song?

  • a. “Please, Please Me”
  • b. “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da”
  • c. “Put This In Your Mouth”
  • d. “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill”

Umm, I’m going to assume that the answer is C, but yeah that one would get a lot of people these days. (It was C.)

Ni: Pearl Harbor is best known for

  • a. being a great place to shop for necklaces.
  • b. her five years as a Washington D. C. madam.
  • c. being bombed during World War II.
  • d. her singing voice.

Hey an easy one, what is this doing here?

San: Macadamia nuts are

  • a. caused by infrequent bathing.
  • b. extremely painful.
  • c. usually supplied with batteries.
  • d. common in Hawaii.

Two in a row OMG.

Shi: Mace is

  • a. liquid tear gas.
  • b. a mild aphrodisiac.
  • c. best applied as a topical lubricant.
  • d. a brand of underarm deodorant.

Tear gas. My memory has failed me on this game because I remembered the questions to for this game’s adult check being a lot harder than this.

Go: If “the rabbit died,” what really happened is

  • a. its ears went limp.
  • b. somebody’s been doing something to someone.
  • c. you need a different brand of rabbit chow.
  • d. there’ll be no more rabbit poop around the house.

I correctly guessed b, but it was total guess as I have no idea what they are talking about. Thank you game, that’s more like what I remember!

Unlike the first Larry game, you can still play if you fail all the adult check questions, but you don’t get to see tits unless you get at least four out of five correct. Given the game was made in I believe 1989 and computer graphics weren’t exactly what they are today back then, I’m assuming that was not a big deal. What WAS a big deal pops up shortly into the game. If my memory is correct, and it probably isn’t,  you have to consult the manual twice during the game to continue, but it can be quite confusing. The first encounter is fairly straight forward. You want to see a show, but the snooty doorman says they are only accepting tickets from page “x” so you flip to that page in the manual and get the ticket number, assuming you realize they mean the page in the physical manual and not some book in the game. You still have to pay the guy after giving him the correct code too. Asshole. Assuming you don’t get fourth wall’d and realize they in fact want a code from the instruction manual, this one isn’t too big of a deal. Other than the fact you might not have the manual handy, but that’s always going to be a problem with instruction manual based copy protection.

The second time you have to check the manual though literally delayed my completion of the game for a good (or bad depending on how you look at it) eight or nine years. There are ads in the instruction manual for fake in-game companies. To open a locker at a gym you have to look at the back of your membership card to view three ads, then flip and find the ads in the manual and enter the page numbers the ads are on in the order the ads appear on the card. Even owning the official strategy guide written by Al Lowe I couldn’t figuring this *!!$$*!ing puzzle out as a kid. I know I was a stupid kid, but I really thought this was overkill. It wasn’t until I found help on the internet many moons later that I finally solved the stupid thing and played the second half of the game.

Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work

There isn’t a whole lot to say about this one, other than it’s another one where you can start the game without the book but need to use it to proceed multiple times. Every time you go to the airport you have to consult the manual to get a passcode to get your boarding pass. It involves entering a code made up of weird little symbols from the book. Probably one of the easier ones that involve the manual, though the symbols did tend to blur together and it could take a couple of tries to get it right. Now if only the game had been better (Donald and Ivonna Tramp. Really game?)

King’s Quest 6: Heir Today Gone Tomorrow

Have I mentioned how I’m not really a fan of the copy-protection being used in the form of a puzzle? Give me a puzzle to solve, or make me use the manual to prove I bought the game, but please don’t make me do both at once. There is a large cliff you have to climb and solve several puzzles along the way while consulting the manual. You have to answer some riddles and use a made up alphabet using the book, and IIRC you die if you get it wrong. Excuse me a moment while I load up the game and test that memory.

*Fails the first puzzle. Is allowed to try again without penalty. Fails the second puzzle. Falls to his death. Screams a lot of four letter words at his computer monitor.*

Thanks a lot game, I really needed that. There is a full alphabet worth of symbol, and many of them look alike, so it’s very easy to click the wrong symbol even if you know the correct answer to the riddle. Very irritating. Though maybe it was some stress relief for the game developers, as I assume they enjoyed throwing game pirates off of a cliff to their deaths. Oh you can copy this floppy…IN HELL!

Not that anyone is still reading this thing but I wanted to talk about one more of these because while KQ6 had those interactive-manual puzzles, they were at least short. This last one though I believe took me several hours of sitting down with a pencil and paper and trying to work it out.

Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in the Spinal Frontier

This game. This spacing game. Don’t get me wrong, I loved this game, but man did it give me a ton of headaches. My play through of this game went something like this: make a little progress, get stuck on a puzzle for days or weeks, make some more progress, get stuck on a puzzle for days or weeks, make some more progress, sound card issue that after weeks of tech support and troubleshooting was discovered we needed a new sound card, make some more progress, get to the puzzle that requires the manual and spend an entire afternoon/evening working it out with my dumb eleven year old brain, make some more progress, video card issue that took a couple of weeks of trouble shooting and tech support until we finally fixed it without needing a new card at least, get stuck several more times on puzzles, finally complete the game, dance around the room for several minutes in sheer joy. So yeah the manual puzzle was the least of my problems getting through this one, but it was one hell of a puzzle. Probably about half way into the game you have to reconfigure a device to do some techno-babble bullshit, and it requires the manual and a lot of logic skills. As I recall there’s a bunch of ‘A is greater than B. C is at least two thirds as big as D’ type of things that really seem out of place in a video game. Like I said I think I solved it in a day, but it was a long process that didn’t even involve me sitting at the computer. Does that really belong in a video game? You be the judge. PSYCH! I’ll be the judge: Guilty, see you in hell Rob Halford it does not belong. Something odd that I also noticed, in the 2006 release of all the Space Quest games they included a scanned copy of all the manuals so that you had the needed copy protection information, except they don’t include the thing from Space Quest 6 that had the needed information to solve the puzzle. D’oh.

You can find all of the above mentioned manual pages online, even legally as Sierra released them to the public at some point, which is certainly a nice move. And in cases of the puzzles where the required code never changes, like Space Quest 6, you can find the solution in a FAQ online. Oh god if Gamefaqs had only been around when I played through Space Quest 6. There were far more games that used manual based protection than just the games from Sierra however, and I don’t know how easy it is to find the others online if you’ve lost your manual or if you’re a dirty pirate. But like I said I didn’t really have a point to all this, I just wanted to share my past pain with others. Take my pain, TAKE IT.

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    • It refers to the old urban legend about women injecting their urine into a rabbit’s bloodstream as a pregnancy test. It’s also mentioned in Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion”.

  1. I seem to remember there being some PC version of Carmen Sandiego where you had to look up answers in the manual every time you got a promotion.

    Am I crazy? Does anyone else remember this?

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