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Video Games

Redshift headlong into yesterday

Kudos goes out to The Sierra Vault for hosting scans of myriad Sierra Hint Books, provided by site reader Vasyl.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s my favourite video game developer was the Sierra On-Line studio; makers of extraordinary adventure game series such as Leisure Suit Larry, Police Quest, and Space Quest.

Accompanying sales of its beautifully immersive and exceptionally written interactive epics were Hint Books – unattractive stapled booklets containing helpful hints for circumventing obstacles, as well as a few red herrings to discourage using the book for anything but reference. The books were published in red and blue ink, with blue hint text obscured by red cross-hatching, made readable with an included red cellophane viewing card.

hintbook
Yes, this is the biggest image I could find. :(

Sierra’s President Ken Williams was notorious for his hatred of software piracy, so in the pre-internet era these $15 books were a smart sell as they were equally desirable by owners and pirates alike, plus the rarity of colour photocopiers and scanners made the tactically-coloured text indiscernable in black and white. The books themselves were well written and gave incrementally more direct hints for each scenario so they were a worthwhile purchase by their own merits.

Most of these games will never be published again, and the proliferation of free hint sites has made the concept of the hint book unmarketable, so this wonderful archive is probably good for little more than nostalgia.

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About Brian Damage:

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I live in Toronto, Canada, and work for an IT firm. That's about as much real-world info I'm comfortable divulging here. What you read on my blog is the real Brian, but, for the sake of freedom of speech, I feel most comfortable leaving a gulf between my cyberspace and meatspace personae.

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My ridiculous job title is "Marketing Specialist" since I wear so many hats at work. I'm a technical writer, a specialist in enterprise search technologies, an electronic forms designer, a newsletter author, system administrator... but I'm in the Marketing department so for the time being I'm stuck with this inauspicious title.

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2 replies on “Redshift headlong into yesterday”

Thanks for the linkage and I’m glad to see you are enjoying the Sierra Hint Books. Special thanks for giving credit to Vasyl – he did the work on those files, I am just hosting them. His efforts were a real labor of love at preservation of a real piece of computer gaming history.

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