Lenslok

Did each individual game have the same Lenslok across all formats?

E,g, was the Lenslok that came with Jewels of Darkness / Price of Magik the same as the C64 Lenslok?
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  • I would infer from Lenskey (software Lenslok useful for emulators) that each title used a single Lenslok version across all platforms, as Lenskey only offers choice of software title. My personal experience is only of Elite and Tomahawk on ZX Spectrum decades ago so never had chance to verify.
  • No, the Lenslok "versions/prisms" were different between all releases (afaik).
    Website: Tardis Remakes / Mostly remakes of Arcade and ZX Spectrum games.
    My games for the Spectrum: Dingo, The Speccies, The Speccies 2, Vallation, SQIJ.
    Twitter: Sokurah
  • Although I can't verify, it would make perfect sense for them to be different between both platforms and games.

    For instance if you had 'game a' for both the Speccy and say the C64 / Amstrad (assuming they had the protection) and the latter were ahem copied tapes, then it would be a useless device as you'd be able to use it on your "paid for" and "not paid for" game

    Same if the same lens worked on "game b" , you'd only have to ever buy one original game...

    Similar I expect to the SoftwareProjects padlock/keycard , the games that use them (MM uses it on other platforms actually) , they are different between games and machines...
  • I've just done two tests as I have Price of Magik on Spectrum tape with Lenslok and Tomahawk on Amstard CPC Disk with Lenslok.

    I loaded the Amstrad CPC tape version of Price of Magik in Caprice Forever emulator and Tomahawk tape version in Spectaculator and used the respective Lensloks from each version to pass the Lenslok protection :) I had the emulators in windowed mode as that made using the Lenslok easier than full screen on a 1920 x 1080 monitor as I think Lenslok won't work with very small / large screens!

    So from the above tests it looks like each game title had its own unique Lenslok but it was the same Lenslok for all the formats that game used it on! So you could buy one copy of a game, say Price of Magik on Spectrum, then use the Lenslok on a copy for the Amstrad CPC.
  • That's interesting to know thanks BarryB :)

    I guess to be fair it saved them cost plus if you'd brought it for one platform a copy for another although still piracy is in their view (or was) better than having just copies completely...
  • Lenslok was an absolute nightmare to use. The worst copy protection ever?
  • I think some of the code sheets / code wheels that had really dark paper and lettering were equally a nightmare to use and some codes were so small it made seeing them difficult!
  • edited July 4
    BarryB wrote: »
    I think some of the code sheets / code wheels that had really dark paper and lettering were equally a nightmare to use and some codes were so small it made seeing them difficult!
    The multipage ones are difficult where's there is no key/grid ref on the other pages. Sometimes the colour choices are a problem too, must say despite the magenta and red looking vaguely similar on the JSW1 sheet, I never had any issues with it. The Amstrad huge codesheet for JSW2 (similar to the 7page Speccy one) I did have issues with, enough in the ZX's case with JSW2 to patch the tape file to make it accept any code! :D
    Lenslok was an absolute nightmare to use. The worst copy protection ever?
    I seem to remember BITD people complaining about it a bit, especially those with poor eyesight and/or a not great TV to use, as you recall it was in 99% of cases a TV being used for display via RF, of slightly variable quality! :D

    I don't actually recall ever using one myself, I have seen one being used in a video but that's it, at least as far as I can remember. It was a long time ago! :)

    Perhaps the idea of the hardware (MikroGen) was not a bad anti copy idea apart from the cost involved. By storing some game on the addon, it could not be easily bypassed. I've not checked Shadow/Unicorn out myself to see if this really was the case or not.

    Do wonder if games were cheaper 'back then' if copying would fo been reduced, but I suspect not by that much. Some would never ever pay (even with having the means) simply on principle...
    Post edited by spider on
  • Technically Shadow of the Unicorn would have had up to an extra 16K of space to utilise - although I think that included some "useful" things such as tape testing etc. Self modding code wouldn't be possible of course - but ... that's what the RAM is for :)
    No one important.
  • DavidB wrote: »
    Technically Shadow of the Unicorn would have had up to an extra 16K of space to utilise - although I think that included some "useful" things such as tape testing etc. Self modding code wouldn't be possible of course - but ... that's what the RAM is for :)

    Yes that's partly what I mean, if the 'game engine core' or at least part of it was in the ROM then it would cause more problems for would-be pirates BITD. Realise that (afaik) that's not the best place for it speed-wise as its contended aka < 32768

    I've not looked at the game / rom in question to see exactly what it did have in ROM.

    A lazy way would be to simply have game code copied from ROM to RAM and have a shorter (or full of junk) tape file, but that would mean in theory the whole-hog would run without accessing < 16384 = easy piracy once they'd tweaked a few things and taken a copy of the whole 'non ROM' memory. I've explained that badly but I hope it makes vague sense!

    Sadly costs were an issue. Same with the IF2 carts as well as their limitations of 16K , do realise these days there's ways around that but I suppose back then costs were very high anyway for such things. I do recall seeing a couple of carts for I think 14.99 new in 84 when I was getting my Speccy... either that or soon after when after a new game or two!
  • Think only10 carts were released for IF2, they must be rare these days!!
  • If you were going to the trouble of having some of the game code in ROM, why would you bother copying it to RAM? The ROM accesses run at the same speed as uncontended RAM...

    The trouble with cartridges, is that in order to get a reasonable price, they have to be ordered in lots of 10000 units minimum. That’s a lot of money to spend up front...

    Mark
  • BarryB wrote: »
    I think some of the code sheets / code wheels that had really dark paper and lettering were equally a nightmare to use and some codes were so small it made seeing them difficult!

    The worst thing about the JSW one was running out of red pen halfway though & having to sit through the rest of the biology lesson.
    My test signature
  • Wow, you had COLOUR pens at shool, I had to use chalk and slate :( This was a bit before JSW of course!
  • Wow you had a colour TV to use with your ZX Spectrum :-O
    I only saw grey scales on a B/W telly unless Dad was not home, in which case I was sometimes allowed by mum an hour on the colour TV in the living room.

    It was ages (or felt like it) before a colour TV arrived as a present (can’t remember if it was another Christmas or a birthday).

    Mark
  • 1024MAK wrote: »
    Wow you had a colour TV to use with your ZX Spectrum :-O
    I only saw grey scales on a B/W telly unless Dad was not home, in which case I was sometimes allowed by mum an hour on the colour TV in the living room.

    It was ages (or felt like it) before a colour TV arrived as a present (can’t remember if it was another Christmas or a birthday).

    Mark

    That was nothing we had to wait for the local theatre to open and we had to use real people to act out JSW. ;)
    Might be worth a visit to luny.co.uk.
  • I had a black and white portable tv and only saw games in colour (if they had any) was when i was allowed to use either the main TV in the living room or the one in their bedroom. I eventually got a second hand colour portable in 1992 and saw some games for the first time in colour.
    What i noticed was that even though the aerial was unplugged i could still get a tv signal so i could watch tv while waiting for games to load :D
    We must perform a quirkafleeg
  • edited July 5
    Is it my memory, or was there a game protection that got you to look at codes through a red-cellophane device? Ie you could only see the correct code if you were looking through this filtered screen?

    Probably the most fun protection code was the 'dial a pirate' codewheel in Monkey Island, another of the more interesting ones was the codewheel to calculate fuel in Rocket Ranger; you could either see the latter as a real pain (you had to use one every time you flew) or as adding to the atmosphere.

    As for Unicorn, other than the challenge of 'beating' the protection, I guess there wasn't much effort put in to cracking it because the game was (iirc) pretty poor.

    Btw did the Unicorn add-on have a Kempston interface integrated into into? If they'd done one with joystick interface and maybe even a version of Curragh Microspeech they may have sold a few more as much for the utility as for the game.
    Post edited by paranoid marvin on
  • Not sure about Spectrum titles but the red filter was used on some Lucas Film games like Maniac Mansion and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure. Some of the Sierra Hint Books also came with a red filter to see the clues!

    The Mikro-Plus interface on Shadow of the Unicorn does have a joystick port, at least mine does, but no idea if it's kempston compatible but would guess it is!
  • edited July 7
    I had Lenslok with Elite and never had a single issue ever. I never had to go through the calibration either.

    Post edited by chop983 on
  • chop983 wrote: »
    I had Lenslok with Elite and never had a single issue ever. I never had to go through the calibration either.
    From what I -can- remember from back then, it seemed to vary wildly. Some would (hopefully majority) not have any problems at all, perhaps because they had reasonable eyesight and/or a reasonable display/TV , not talking expensive TV here or anything other than RF though.

    I do now start to wonder if those who did have problems (eyesight and physical vision issues aside) were perhaps along the same lines as those who had endless issues loading original tapes in, due to really bad (again, not expensive, we never had any money hardly and managed to get a cheap but decentish mono tape deck) tape players that had had a decade since their last decent use. I guess similar might be possible for the TV sets too, using a 60's tv with perhaps an unfocused tube and/or a replacement poor RF lead would likely lead to issues.

    :) ^ That's all speculation!
  • You must be the Golden Child then :) Some copies of Elite were shipped with the wrong Lenslok and an error in the code made it even harder to use, quote from Crash:

    Unfortunately, Firebird got their sums wrong. A mistake in their code means that you have to set the lines substantially wider than the instructions would have you believe. It is not too difficult to do this, if you use the scrambled display of the letters ‘OK’ to work out the correct setting, but you fail completely if you do just what you’re told.
    And most people 'did what the instructions said' as they weren't aware the code had an error so had issues using it! Also, the calibration 'had' to be done for most users as the width setting once set wasn't remembered by the game. It's far more cumbresome to use than looking up a word or code and inputting that!

    I remember quite a few kids at school when Lenslok firsr came out had issues using it on some games, yes it did work for them mostly, but the setup was far from painless and a few misread characters didn't help! So you was one of the extremely lucky ones if you never had a problem using it (especially with Elite), but you have to ask yourself why did it get dropped and games re-released without Lenslok and went back to manual / disk / tape protection, code sheets or no protection at all?
  • To throw in a little support for Chop, I didn't find Lenslok tricky either. Yes, I'd read the occasional letter wrong, but it wasn't the norm. I used it for Elite and OCP Art Studio quite regularly, on at least three different televisions. I'm not sure if this is the norm and those who had problems shouted louder about it so it became a 'truth' that it didn't work well, or if those who failed really were in the majority

    As for it needing to be set wider than it said in the instructions? I didn't find that to be the case. You were flattening the Lenslok out and using it's full length for the calibration and not using the folded width or some other edge to measure? Or are there fixed versions and I have one of those?
  • edited July 8
    The main issue was you had to look at it square on, so if your TV was low down or high up that made using Lenslok harder. Plus, you had to close one eye and keep your head about 1 foot away, then you had to keep that position while you pressed the space bar to see the code and then type it in, not the most convenient way to start a game. The other issue was the time-out period, if you failed to input the code in the time allowed you had to try again with another code, that alone was a major pain and just not needed!

    Other factors were the different TV types/sizes and peoples eyesight, if you had too big/small TV it didn't work and if your eyesight was bad you were stuffed anyway!

    Thankfully it only lasted a short while and the games that used it had Lenslok replaced with other methods of protection, even the QL only had one title that used it. If the initial release of Elite on the Spectrum had gone smoothly then things might have been different, but that alone damaged it before it could get a foothold and luckily was eventually abandoned.
    Post edited by BarryB on
  • I wonder how much the units cost to produce, probably not a huge sum given large quantities and I (think) the cases were all about the same , only the lens different...
  • One article in Crash mentioned that a few thousand Lensloks cost less than 20p each to produce!
  • BarryB wrote: »
    One article in Crash mentioned that a few thousand Lensloks cost less than 20p each to produce!
    Ah. :)
    Does make sense, I suppose if the cost for a run of say 1000-10000 was more than £1/unit then it would not seem too good from a business point of view, unless they were going into like 9.99 or better still 14.99 games. Without wanting to go off topic I can't recall seeing an Amiga game using these, and the other erm 'main' 16b machine at the time the ST, I've never been near one since about 87-88 when the local shop had a display of all machines up.

    Back on topic as such, that 20p odd cost is probably not a huge deal more than a colour code card then! Given the costs (apparently) of decent colour copying back then it made sense. I do recall that colour photocopying (at a shop etc) was either really expensive to get or difficult to find.
  • I think the 16bit era was more disk based or manual protection, copylock being the most widley used disk protection, plus other exotic disk formats that were hard/impossibe to copy on the standard floppy drives in 16bit machines!

    The fact you had to send stuff to the printers anyway for inlays, manuals etc, the cost to have a printed code sheet as a separate item or in the manual/box cover would have been negligible!

    The nearest I can remember to anything like Lenslok was Shadow of the Comet on the PC called the Arkham Planetarium. This was a square piece of card with a plastic lens on one of the sides, when you looked through the lens it magnified an 11 x 16 grid (A to K and 1 to 16) each with a different arrangement of constellations. The game asked for a coordinate, say J1, and you had to identify the correct constellation from the 9 possible constellations shown, this was repeated a second time and if you got both right the game would start, if you got one wrong you was dumped back to DOS!
  • Does Macadam Bumber use Lenslok? WOS says so but non of the TZX/TAP files there seem to have Lenslok when loaded?
  • Checked all my versions from various erm sources and none of them appear to have Lenslok.
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