Finding and listing the Games that are PWI ( Playable Without Instructions)

edited October 27 in Games
The idea for this came up here:-

The first game is "Software House" by Cult .

So the aim here is to identify and list each game that can be described as PWI.
Post edited by harriusherbartio on


  • Almost everything from the latter half of the Speccy life is probably going to fall into this category. Do you need instructions to play RoboCop, Batman, Rainbow Islands, Pang, Midnight Resistance etc?

    I can't help but think it would be easier to pick out titles that are incomprehensible without instructions (or with the instructions in the case of things like Voyage Into The Unknown), or you're going to spend a lot of time listing every basic platformer/shooter going.

    It probably also works better in terms of defining the edges cases - I'd say R-Type is entirely playable without instructions, but then I'm so familiar with it now that I can't really remember how much I needed to learn. Was using The Force entirely intuitive or did I read the instructions to figure out how it worked? Getting people to list games they've looked at and couldn't figure out intuitively will be more likely to start discussion about how easy it is to just jump in and figure it out.
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  • AndyC wrote: »
    It probably also works better in terms of defining the edges cases - I'd say R-Type is entirely playable without instructions, but then I'm so familiar with it now that I can't really remember how much I needed to learn. Was using The Force entirely intuitive or did I read the instructions to figure out how it worked?

    The detach button is quite a gamechanger, which is easy to miss in case you're just using a joystick.
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  • It could be made easier by identying groups ot categories of games that are easy to play without instuctions ( Cult for instance) . clearly it would not be possible to detail each and every one but people could suggest broad groups of games that fit the bill in this respect.
  • edited October 29
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on

  • One big clue about PWI is in the CASSETTE INLAY . If the other side of the inlay is filled up with stuff about wanting to recruit good programmers or with advertising their other games and leaving NO SPACE for actual game instructions then this is a good clue that the game is probably PWI . So I think all 0r most of the "CULT" titles would be like this and are therefore probably mostly PWI. So working through it all like this on a "software house" approach like this could speed it all up.
  • edited November 3
    Really PWI is a very tough standard ( but it does actually exist) .

    Consider this from "Classic Arcadia" aka Triple Decker 4 (Alternative) . On the Triple Decker inlay card it gives very basic instructions for the 3 games . The first is "Invaders" and the instructions for this are :- "Keys Z left ,X Right , Enter to Fire " . And that is it . But is this really PWI? If you did not have the Inlay Card you would not know his . It is "almost" PWI but not quite!

    But then I tried the game and it tells on the first screen what it says in the Instructions . So it is PWI after all ( phew , WOT a relief!). So games that tell you , all you need to know , on the very first screen are really pretty independent of any requirement for separate instructions . So this one is not only "Classic Arcadia" but also "Classic PWI"!

    So now a high standard for "proper" PWI has been defined . These types now spring to mind:-

    1) "Cult" like games that have Cassette Inlays with no substantive instructions ( so the inlay is used for other stuff like recruiting programmers or advertising) .
    2) Games like the "Classic Arcadia" Invaders game with the instructions on the first screen , replicating those on the cassette inlay .
    3) Games with more complex instrucions included in the software.

    And there is another possibility :-

    If games could be set up for "auto-joystick" then presumably there would be no need toexplain the controls . However "auto joystick" ZX Spectrum games did not "take off" presumably to retain compatibility with early Spectrums without joysticks ports . So this category is "theoretical" and likely to be non existent .
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • I dunno. Most games were joystick controllable and required little more than picking the right joystick type from the on screen selection. I'd say RoboCop is entirely playable without instructions (indeed my ahem "copy" never had them) but I don't think it falls into those categories - there certainly were instructions, you just didn't really need them.
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  • Yes that is a debatable area . Would someone else have needed instructions ? It is a question of where to draw the line . Clearly there are some that are very clearly PWI and others where it is harder to decide.

    I have been looking at the cassette inlay for "Headcoach" by Addictive 1986 . It just tells you what the game is (a game of skill and strategy) with a list of the in game features - so no specific instruction detail on the cassette inlay. In this way , it appears to be a bit like the Cult Sport Management games which also do a similar thing . It could could be that a lot of the "Sport Management" games genre are like this and many could possibly be classed as PWI ( more work on this point needed).
  • edited November 5
    PWI as a realtive condition .

    So I am coming to view PWI as a relative term : a bit like adding white to black to make different shades of colour. And I think some progress has been made . The strongest form of it is found in early games like those on Classic Arcadia where I found a simple Space Invader game where the key controls were described on the first screen . So this type of game is easily identifiable as having a strong form of PWI . Next ,there is a weaker form where the lack of clear instructions on the inlay card means that a weaker form of PWI can be inferred . And then there is an even weaker form where "people think" that the game should be playble without instructions because that is how hey usually play it .I think the games in the top tier are worth identifying as they are relatively rare . The next layer can be identified as groups like some Sport Management ( Cult and Addictive games etc) . The aim for me could be to have a PWI TZX Master Folder of the top tier games especially and then maybe another one for the second tier .

    So I returned to the Classic Arcadia collection to see if this "ad hoc" compilation compilation of games all had the same PWI qualities throuhgout . The next game was "Muncher" . Sure enough the keys were listed on an early screen ( Left O : Right P : Up Q : Down A . ) but this information was only displayed for a few seconds but I think this does meet the standard for "top tier" PWI .

    The next game in the Classic Arcadia collection was "Classic Axiens" . Here I struggled a bit . Initially there was a POINTS scrren ,then a HIGH SCORE table , then after a few seconds the game itself was "auto started" . I had no idea what the key controls were . So this game was certainly not PWI . So reckon that this compilation was graded for user friendliness and ease of use with the better games put first and second and the trickier one last . So in this respect PWI can be seen as one aspect of user friendliness .

    Initially I think this "top tier" of PWI games will be the area that I will focus one . Are there enough games to make up a decent TZX Master Folder for this type of game to make up a half decent usable category for emulator use/gameplay? .This can be done gradually over time ............

    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • edited November 5
    The main use of these games is of course , as instant and EASY entertainment . If you "mate" is showing off his latest console that he has spent £450 for Christmas , then the counter to this is "a load" of PWI ZX Spectrum party "instant entertainment". So it can be looked at in a "Features and Benefits" kind of way . The main feature is that all the information needed to play the game is available on screen ( and ideally in the very first screen displayed in the game) . The benefit is that you are all set up and "READY to GO". And so the MAIN BENEFIT is therefore this "INSTANT PLAYABILITY ".
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • This got me thinking (always dangerous!)

    PWI Spectrum games can arguably be said to be the MOST like modern "streamed" PC games from the likes of Steam and Epic. This is because they can be played straight away with no additional peraphernalia.But All Speccy games came with some physical presence even if it was just a cassette tape . So that is why Is say "MOST LIKE" rather than "TOTALLY LIKE". Just like streamed media today some way of storing it was still needed but once loaded it could be then be described as being a bit like streamed stuff today in that it was "ready to go" (without a box).I think it is the ready to go stuff ( rather than the slower Sport Management type games) that are the most interesting part of PWI . It turns out that PWI games cover a lot of territory and perhaps I should have focussed just on this instant stuff when I started this thread ( but I had not thought it through) . It seems that the makers of tape compilations may have prioritized the games in a similar way for "user friendliness" without actually coming up with a term like PWI - but this needs more work to see if every compilation put the user friendly games first .
  • This got me thinking (always dangerous!)

    PWI Spectrum games can arguably be said to be the MOST like modern "streamed" PC games from the likes of Steam and Epic.

    Just to clarify, streamed games and downloadable games are very different beasts.

    Game streaming is a reality now, with some services now streaming the audio/video from a remote server that actually runs the game, so all you have locally is a small app to send your control inputs onward to the remote server and get the audio/video back.

    Epic and Steam are pretty much all downloadable games installed as normal on the PC. They do now also include VR, which I don't think anyone has done on Speccy.
  • Yes I agree I was using the language too loosely but the same point applies to both as no physical extras are needed to play both these types of game once streamed or downloaded.
  • edited November 8

    Maybe the PWI group should be split up into:-

    1) IPWI games :. This is the group of games that is "INSTANTLY PLAYBLE WITHOUT INSTRUCTIONS " like the Classic Arcadia titles mentioned above.

    2) PWI games: This is the group of games like the Cult and Activision titles that can be played without instructions but take a while to "get into" .So these titles will not offer the same instant "hit" or gratification ( otherwise known as entertaining gameplay) right from the start .

    So the categorization "concepts" have been sorted out . Now all I have to do is find some more IPWI games and give them a go!
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on

  • I was only recently that I thought about the relevant of "instant playability" . I suppose I began to realize it's significance in relation to " the overall shortage of ZX Spectrum instructions . Maybe a drama akin to one of the Second World War battles that we see everyday on TV nowadays can be created as in ;- "The Battle for the Speccy game Instruction set" ! Is is leke a wartime drama beause ,without the "full instruction set" the ZX Spectrum will die! Or will it ? Maybe not , after all , if there are instantly playable games ,then "who needs instructions" and the Specctum can be saved! ( just a jokey idea!)

    I have aleady introduced the idea of PWI games above . But there is another second area of interest : those games that "throw you in at the deep end" without any help or idea of what to do . Without any introduction or kerfuffle these games just start instantly and they expect you to know what you are doing and get on with it straightaway Yesterday , one of these games ( "Forgotten Worlds" (US Gold) - which is also distribution denied ) really caught me out and I had to refer to the cassette inlay instructions once I realized the game had just "thrown me in" without ant reference to setting up the joystick controls or any reference to the keys needed to play it . Yes it is "instantly playable" BUT there is no initial screen to tell you what keys are needed to play either . It just starts INSTANTLY . So what should games like this be called? . Well I have come up with the rather cumbersome"Instantly Playable But Need Instructions" games ( but luckily this can be shortened to "I.P.B.N.I" games ) . I suspect there will be more of these because they come from that time around 1989 when the ZX Spectrum was well past it's prime and "ports" were done from more powerful machines to crete a Speccy version . "Every ounce" of memory was needed for these games to be "ported over" to the "humble Speccy" so they could definielty not waste memory on joystick configuration or on screens telling you which keys to press etc ( so they missed out the "Full Instruction set ". (geddit?)
  • A second IPWI game has been found:-

    Invaders ( DKTronics) 1983 . This game obligingly tells you all the keys you need to press before you start and then the game starts quickly . And I quite like this one : the game is reasonably paced ; the instructions for the key presses needed are right at the start ; and it has its own distinct feel to it . Both the IPWI games found so far have been Space Invader type games . I will work my way through this genre to see if there are any more .

    And IPWI can be used two ways to mean 1) Instantly playable with instructions (as they are included in the software at start of game); 2) Instantly playable without instructions (ie there is no need to refer to separate paper based instructions in order to play the game so here it means "wthout need for separate paper based instructions".) .
  • edited November 17
    A Summary and and An Update:-

    The ideas presented here have been in a bit of a in a state of flux up till now , so a summary is needed to clarify "where it has all got to" . This is good and I think the ideas have moved on a bit since the start of the thread .Here is an updated summary of the main "RELATIVE" concepts. (And they are relative concepts because games may not always be an absolutely perfect fit:-

    1) IPWI ( Instantly Playble Without Instructions) . There have been 3 games so far . From the "Classic Arcadia" compilation there is "Classic Invaders" and "Muncher" . And as per above there is "Invaders" by DKTroics .

    2) PWI . (Playable Without Instructions) .As described above these are the games like those for "Cult" and "Addictive" that have "all you need to know" included somewhere in the "instructions in the software" . Quite often this PWI aspect can be inferred from the lack of any specific instructions on what you have to do. A few early simple 16K games "used up" the spare memory in this way by saying something like "Do you want instructions?"
    The point is , these game could be played without the cassette inlay ,but you might have to spend a few moments looking through and deciding "how to play it" or setting up the keyboard/joystick options. So there are probably too many games to count in this genre (it would be a big job) and now the game "Batty" can be included (see below)!

    3) IPBNI ( Instantly Playable but Needs Instructions) . "Future Worlds" by US Gold is an example of this genre . This one was a later "ported" game and there was no spare memory for telling the gamer what to do . The game "throws you in" and you are expected to have an "inkling" of what you are meant to be doing . ( So I needed to refer to the paper instruction sheet/cassette inlay to figure out the basic key presses needed to play this game).

    Moving forward . What next? These concepts can now be tested by just "grabbing" a game and then trying to figure out if these concepts are robust enough and whether they need further amendment . So I will start with "Batty" as referred to above ( Is there a category this game came be fitted into? ).Well , it is not "instanty playable" as all the player and joystick/keyboard options have to be selected - so it is not IPWI.But I do not really need instructions on how to play Batty ( though I accept that an "alien" might ) so I think it is relatively good candidate , I think , for the PWI category . Once these basic selections have been made at the start , the Batty game can be played ( Aliens notwithstanding) . And the cooperative element quickly becomes apparent once the 2 player option is selected.

    And ,for me , the IPWI genre is the most interesting as there are only a few of them . Their easy playabilty means they do not need to be explained as "everyone" knows how to play them . So this genre with be the main focus of this thread from now on .There is another question though :- Games like "Batty" that need simple set up selections are very different from the "Sports Management" games from the likes of Cult and Addictive . So should they really be in the same group? Games like "Batty" could be put into another genre "IPAIJS" ( Instantly Playable After Initial Joystick Selection ) . This way the "party" games requiring relatively simple set-up could be separated out from the Sports Management type games . (food for thought) But as I said above , I think the main interst in this thread is in "teasing out" the IPWI games.
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
  • edited November 18
    More on IPWI as a "relative" condition :-

    Some parts of PWI as described above have been reclassified as IPWI . But the key "instant" aspect can be seen here clealry as a relative condition . Clearly "auto flicking" through several start up screen is probably not "AS IPWI" as having just one initial start up screen (which is "MORE IPWI"). I think that is why I graded "Muncher" as lower grade than "Classic Invaders ( the first game on the Alernative "Classic" Invaders" compilation). I have taken a quick look at it again today and it is definitely IPWI as it auto starts pretty quickly after having "flicked through" and given the info required to start the game .A key point here is that no keyboard or joystick selections have been made . There are of course thousands of games that are instantly playble once intitial choices have been made but that is not IPWI . IPWI is different because it gives you all the information needed to play and then autostarts the game all by itself .Maybe there will be some "grey" areas .For instance "Press Space to continue" but they can be evaluated later when and if they are "enter the stage".One point is that so far I have not found any games that "autoselect" a joystick choice and then autostart the game . I am sure there must have been some of these on WOS before but I do not know where . Maybe this aspect has been covered before by WOS but under different conceptual headings or labels .

    These ideas go back a long way:-
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on

  • "Space Invaders (Robert Spahl) 1983 has instructions in German ( and it tells you which keys to press ) But it does seem to require a key press of some sort in order to start the game (so this sits in a bit of a grey area IPWI wise) . I would say therefore that it is relatively "less IPWI" than the IPWI titles mentioned above but has some IPWI characteristics..
  • edited November 18
    A later 1987 IPWI game

    "The Clone Ranger" (Hometown Software) 1987 is relatively "IPWI" though a few keys presses are still required to start the game (though no actual keyboard selection is needed ) .Straight away it offers up the option of "Play" or "Info " . And then It tells you what keys are required to play . I think this is is quite a late IPWI game and it does make the "IPWI cut"
    Post edited by harriusherbartio on
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