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Author Topic: PC GAMERS! LEND ME YOUR CODEWHEELS!  (Read 1286 times)
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Knightshade Dragon
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« on: March 10, 2010, 03:28:59 PM »

I'm writing an article on the evolution of copy protection and how it's current iterations are killing the PC gaming industry.  What I want is to reach WAY back.  I need code wheels, I need those books with the piece of red clear plastic to read the 'secret decoder' pages, I need whatever copy protection schemes you've seen.   I'll just want pictures of them and a quick bit about how they work, unless you feel the urge to send them to me. 

Who can hook me up?
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« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2010, 03:35:45 PM »

Unfortunately I don't think I have any of those games any more.  And if I do they are stored somewhere in my parents' basement in another state.

I do remember Tetris on the Apple II required you to have the manual and put in a random word from it every time you wanted to play.  "Page 15, paragraph 3, 10th word".  Ugh.  And the funny thing is that we didn't even own it, we had copied the disc from a friend and had my mom photocopy the manual.   ninja
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« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2010, 03:38:10 PM »

dang, would love to help but I don't have any of those at all anymore but here's a list of a few that I remember if anyone wants to look them up:

Zak McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders: dark red sheet of paper with black font that was impossible to photocopy.
Bards Tale 3: Thief of Fate: code wheel to teleport between worlds.
Ultima series (only certain games, not sure if it was Ultima 4 or 5 that started this): a NPC in the game would ask you questions about entries in the journals included in the game.
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« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2010, 03:45:38 PM »

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copy_protection
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« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2010, 03:57:45 PM »

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles also had the burgundy code book with black font. It contained hundreds of four digit codes set up in a grid and you needed to look them up to launch the game.

And yes, like an idiot, I too got rid of it. I'm also not having much luck tracking down a picture of it. Sorry...
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« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2010, 04:14:46 PM »

I have some old, old PC games somewhere down in my basement.  I'll take a look tonight and see if any of them have this sort of copy protection.
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« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2010, 04:41:54 PM »

Don't have it with me, but Starflight 1 had a codewheel that you had to turn in two different directions. What a pain in the rear that was! The sequel, Starflight 2, had a HUGE map and this little cardboard overlay thing. They told you to look in sector D-7, for instance, and count the RED stars. That had two pieces to go missing and was always a huge PITA!

The Ultima series, pretty much from 6 up to 7 and 8, had one of the major characters "quiz" you on stuff that could be found in the manual. Trouble is, they wouldn't tell you the page number, they would just say "How many times must mandrake be boiled before it is used in a health potion?" and you would have to find that. I think it was Ultima 7, part 1, where, if you missed the question everyone started running around saying "Oink" until you reloaded or restarted and tried to answer again. Usually the questions were a prerequisite for getting an important item, like the black moonstone.

You can get a copy of the Sid Meiers Railroad Tycoon (the first one) copy protection by downloading the game (for free) from the official SM-Railroads! site. It was a nasty one where you were given a grainy VGA picture of a train and had to match it with a black and white train pic from the manual. Trouble is, those train profiles looked nearly identical, unless you were a train nut! It was like conning a ship in the Silent Hunter series or something! SM's Pirates! Gold had an equally obnoxious system, although one easier to memorize, you were asked to identify a pirate's flag and had to look it up in the book.

Can't think of many more than that. Might and Magic: Xeen, had the old "code sheet" and red film to get the code. The great space flight simulators Lightspeed and Hyperspace had the "fun" copy protection of needing to go to a page in the manual, find paragraph X and type in word Y. Nothing says "excitement" like word counting before you play a game.

Bael
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« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2010, 05:00:05 PM »

I can't remember which game it was, but I had one for the Apple ][e that would wait until you had played for a while before asking you to look something up in the manual. Just to screw with the pirates, I suppose.
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« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2010, 05:03:09 PM »

Come to think of it, cracking was more an art form in those days. You'd get a cracked game and there would be this whole animated sequence in the beginning with an ASCII spaceship or something floating around saying "cracked by someguy". Now you just download a no-CD crack. ("You" not meaning me, but some other person who pirates games. Which I do not. Seriously! I always rag on my one friend who I know downloads warez.)
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« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2010, 05:10:59 PM »

Quote from: Teggy on March 10, 2010, 05:03:09 PM

Come to think of it, cracking was more an art form in those days. You'd get a cracked game and there would be this whole animated sequence in the beginning with an ASCII spaceship or something floating around saying "cracked by someguy". Now you just download a no-CD crack. ("You" not meaning me, but some other person who pirates games. Which I do not. Seriously! I always rag on my one friend who I know downloads warez.)

Yep, I can remember those on my Amiga 500.  I thought they were part of the game.  Ahh, to be young again.  smile

I can also remember the massive Star Map at the end of Battletech: Crescent Hawk's Inception as well.  Without the map, you were stuck in that room just before the end.  No Youtube to see the ending back then!
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« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2010, 05:13:10 PM »

Quote from: Knightshade Dragon on March 10, 2010, 05:10:59 PM

I can also remember the massive Star Map at the end of Battletech: Crescent Hawk's Inception as well.  Without the map, you were stuck in that room just before the end.  No Youtube to see the ending back then!

I remember that!  luckily I had free access to a photocopier that did legal sized paper since my mom worked for a legal firm so I was able to make a copy of that and many other things.
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« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2010, 05:18:30 PM »



Jet Set Willy, baby!

Doesn't Uplink have something like that, but all in black so you can't photocopy it?
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« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2010, 05:39:10 PM »

Quote from: Boudreaux on March 10, 2010, 04:14:46 PM

I have some old, old PC games somewhere down in my basement.  I'll take a look tonight and see if any of them have this sort of copy protection.

As do I, I'll see if I can check later. Didn't Loom have one of those red gel lense goody forms of cp?
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« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2010, 07:00:44 PM »

Carmen Sandiego was kind of unique in asking geography questions you were supposed to look up in an included almanac.

Tass Times in Tone Town included a big printed fake newspaper to use for word lookup checks.

Space Quest IV had goofy symbols in the manual you needed to operate the time machine.

I vaguely remember Stunt Island having a ginormous map of the island hat was also used for copy protection, but maybe the map was just an unrelated goodie.

Lots of games had game manual lookups, but Dune 2 is he most memorable example because I played it so much I had all the answers memorized.

They predate my software using days, but don't forget to mention parallel port dongles!

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« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2010, 07:17:13 PM »

Quote from: wonderpug on March 10, 2010, 07:00:44 PM

They predate my software using days, but don't forget to mention parallel port dongles!

Didn't the Amiga version of Robocop 3 (surprisingly good game) require one of those?  Not that it worked...
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« Reply #15 on: March 10, 2010, 07:23:26 PM »

Quote from: Huw the Poo on March 10, 2010, 07:17:13 PM

Quote from: wonderpug on March 10, 2010, 07:00:44 PM

They predate my software using days, but don't forget to mention parallel port dongles!

Didn't the Amiga version of Robocop 3 (surprisingly good game) require one of those?  Not that it worked...

Hmmm... I don't remember any games that used one, but Back In The Day we did use some business software that was "dongle-ized". What a pain.
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« Reply #16 on: March 10, 2010, 07:24:11 PM »

Don't forget the "paragraph" system.  I have an old compilation of Interplay games on CD that includes a few that used it, such as Wasteland.  So I had to print it out.  The idea was that you had a booklet of numbered paragraphs and at specific points in the game you would be told to read a particular paragraph.  Now part of the reason they used this system was because of memory limitations on early computers meant they couldn't include all the text, but another part was as a form of copy protection since a pirate would need to copy an entire book where much of the paragraphs were just filler.  This was the era before copy machines became cheap and plentiful, so it was a pretty good system.

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« Reply #17 on: March 10, 2010, 07:30:09 PM »

Quote from: MonkeyFinger on March 10, 2010, 07:23:26 PM

Quote from: Huw the Poo on March 10, 2010, 07:17:13 PM

Didn't the Amiga version of Robocop 3 (surprisingly good game) require one of those?  Not that it worked...

Hmmm... I don't remember any games that used one, but Back In The Day we did use some business software that was "dongle-ized". What a pain.

Ah, according to Mobygames I was right:

Quote
The Amiga version of the game took copy-protection hysteria to a new level. It was released with a 'dongle' device, which plugged into the main joystick port (the game being played using a joystick in the other port), and stopped the game from starting up if it was missing. Unfortunately for Ocean, this was quickly hacked out by pirates, so the only victims were people who actually paid good money for the game.

I can't remember my own name most days, but I can recall pretty much any 8- or 16-bit game I might have played.  It's neither big nor clever, really...
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« Reply #18 on: March 10, 2010, 08:13:13 PM »

Didn't mean to imply there weren't any, just that I personally never ran into any. And while I started off in the Pong and Intellivision days, I kind of skipped all of the Amiga/Commodore/Dreamcast excitement, I got sucked back in when I bought an Apple IIc, then a IIGS and then a PC.  icon_wink
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« Reply #19 on: March 10, 2010, 08:20:25 PM »

I've got a few codewheels at home (Neuromancer and some of the AD&D Gold Box games) if needed.
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« Reply #20 on: March 10, 2010, 08:34:54 PM »

Quote from: MonkeyFinger on March 10, 2010, 08:13:13 PM

Didn't mean to imply there weren't any, just that I personally never ran into any.

Heh, yeah I know mate, I didn't word that very well.  I was searching before your post even appeared. smile
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« Reply #21 on: March 10, 2010, 08:56:56 PM »

In my parents basement lies a treasure trove of late-80s to late 90s copy protect (some I mentioned above). I must of had tons of cracked Apple IIe games, although I was to young to understand what "cracked" meant. My Dad was an Audio-Visual teacher in a high school and we also had tons of recorded VCR tapes. Ah, the early days of technology, when illegal actions were less understood.

I might be incorrect, but didn't Master of Orion and/or Master of Magic have a manual lookup? I seem to remember something about a spaceship recognition thing.

I always felt blessed with shareware, like Commander Keen. No hassle!
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« Reply #22 on: March 10, 2010, 09:13:41 PM »

I have the one from Test Drive 3. I could scan that one if you'd like.
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« Reply #23 on: March 10, 2010, 09:15:47 PM »

Any scanned or photographed wheels / books / etc. would be greatly appreciated and very welcomed.  If you can give me a short tidbit on how it was used (unless it's very obvious) that'd help for the article too. 
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« Reply #24 on: March 10, 2010, 10:24:01 PM »

Just sent something your way smile
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« Reply #25 on: March 10, 2010, 10:40:15 PM »

Quote from: heloder on March 10, 2010, 03:57:45 PM

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles also had the burgundy code book with black font. It contained hundreds of four digit codes set up in a grid and you needed to look them up to launch the game.

And yes, like an idiot, I too got rid of it. I'm also not having much luck tracking down a picture of it. Sorry...

off topic, but did you encounter a bug in the PC version that prevented you from going past the 3rd or 4th level? it was something like a missing platform in one of the sewers. HOW ANNOYING THAT WAS
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« Reply #26 on: March 10, 2010, 11:17:21 PM »

Qwirks was a Tetris type game with questions in the margins of the manual.

You could play for days and then a question would pop up on the screen and the only way to move on was to look up the answer.
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« Reply #27 on: March 10, 2010, 11:47:07 PM »

Quote from: hitbyambulance on March 10, 2010, 10:40:15 PM

off topic, but did you encounter a bug in the PC version that prevented you from going past the 3rd or 4th level? it was something like a missing platform in one of the sewers. HOW ANNOYING THAT WAS

I was 4-7 years old at the time and I could never even get beyond Rocksteady (the encounter right at the end of the first level and before the dam). Hey what can I say, I sucked at games back then.

Of course, it ran pretty poorly (I used an 80/88 with CGA graphics at the time), and it really isn't an easy game to begin with. Fond memories, though...

I think.
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« Reply #28 on: March 11, 2010, 01:23:43 AM »

I have all my copy protection stuff back at my fathers place. I was getting nostalgic the last two times and took some pictures of some of the old game manuals, floppy discs and copy protection schemes. So you're in luck here. Here's some screen caps:



Copy protection wheels for Rocket Ranger (Amiga), NightShift (Amiga), Tunnels of Armegaddon (Amiga), and some other game I'm not sure of. Worked like all copy protection wheels where at some point you would be asked to match images/colors/information and then enter the "code" in the center of the wheel it asked for. If you got it right you could play the game and if not try again - sometimes requiring a restart



Wasteland (C64) had it's own copy protection book called "Paragraphs". It's been forever since I've played the game but I *think* how this worked was you went to the first town and someone asked you a question about a particular paragraph in the book (each one had a number next to it). You had to read the paragraph and enter in the correct answer. I seem to recall in the game if you got it incorrect you could keep playing but had some major penalty.



Here's a page from the book.



Copy protection for the game Elvira (Amiga). This was a typical scheme where you had a book and this red plastic piece you could look at the book through and see the books text. Without it the book was impossible to read from and impossible to make a copy of. Again you were likely asked a question in the game and had to hunt down the answer when given a specific page to look at then type it in to continue.



Alone in the Dark (the original game) took it even further where they provided you with a tiny book and I believe you had to use the red plastic strip (someone correct me if I'm wrong).



Here's the inside of the book.



I have no idea what game this was for (anyone?) but it used the same scheme as the code wheels. Each of those cards have various holes in them and when you line the cards up based on whatever the game asked you to do, you would see a card suit and color that you could either choose from or type in to continue in a game.



And a code wheel for Neuromancer (C64) which works like the others.
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« Reply #29 on: March 11, 2010, 01:29:35 AM »

Probably worth mentioning the Leisure Suit Larry copy protection from the original game. It was an Adult only game so at the start they asked you a bunch of multiple-choice questions only adults would know. There was no book or anything else to check these off of they were just facts adults apparently knew.

I was not an adult at the time the game was released and was determined to play the game. So while I didn't know the answers to most of the questions I had a good memory so just through trial and error I was abel to get the answers to all the questions and play the game. So the copy protection was a educational tool - for kids to learn smut.
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« Reply #30 on: March 11, 2010, 02:17:52 AM »

AFAIK - the Alone in the Dark book didn't require a red tint whatever to read the innards. It was just a tiny book where you had to get the picture out of.
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« Reply #31 on: March 11, 2010, 04:22:42 AM »

Found a pic of the Starflight codewheel. It was very very odd - you would get a three world "phrase" like Mars Black Box Thrynn and you would interlock the codewheel and enter the random numbers.



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« Reply #32 on: March 11, 2010, 01:02:51 PM »

Man that Starflight one takes me back.
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