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1-900 Hintline

posted by numble on - last edited - Viewed by 699 users

After seeing a post on another forum reminiscing about somebody begging their parents to use their credit card to call a Lucasarts/Sierra hint line, I got to thinking about hint lines. Before the Internet and instant access to walkthroughs, I always wished that I could call them when I was stuck for days, but I had to resort to ekeing it out with friends or getting that one friend with some form of Net-like access to look things up for me.

I always thought it was some guy at the other end just sitting and giving out hints to callers--not unlike Steven Spielberg calling Grossman for hints--but was somewhat disillusioned when I found out from a friend that it was some kind of automated system.

But the concept is still pretty interesting to me...
- So--did anyone ever use the hint lines?
- For people in the know--IE willing ex-Lucasarts employees--were such hint lines used very much? Was it a considerable source of revenue? (If people in-the-know aren't willing to talk, what does everyone else think?)
- Yes, the obvious reason of expanded access to the Internet probably removed the need for a paid hint line, but why do you think the move has been away from asking gamers to pay for hints to gamers asking the developers to directly implement hint systems in-game (ala Bone and Sam and Max)?

Of course people can say anything about hint lines/systems--this thread isn't intended for me to solely find answers to those questions...

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  • My friend called the hint line for Monkey Island 2, because he couldn't figure out how to get the chef fired in the tavern in Woodtick. Unfortunately for him, my younger brother (who was around nine years old at the time) figured out how to solve the puzzle over at our house right as my friend was on the phone. He spent a really long time trying to get his parents to agree to pay for the 1-900 call, too, and it was all for nothing. The timing was amazing. He phoned up our house to excitedly tell us that he knew the solution to the puzzle, and my brother happened to be the one who picked up, and said, right off, "sooo... does it involve putting the rat in the soup?"

  • I always found hintline prices to be outrageous. I never called one myself, but gods know I wanted to many times in my pre-internet days. Especially while playing a little brain-bender known as Shivers 2...

  • @ShaggE said: I always found hintline prices to be outrageous. I never called one myself, but gods know I wanted to many times in my pre-internet days. Especially while playing a little brain-bender known as Shivers 2...

    So many conspiracy theories to weave:
    - Maybe it was the Internet that ruined adventure games at the big used-to-have-hint-line companies, since it removed the extra income that adventures provided in the form of hint lines.
    - Maybe adventure games were made harder and harder in order to maximize hint line usage and profit.

  • Most likely. Not just adventures either, I remember many genres had hintlines. I think the Mortal Kombat hintline was the worst, they charged something like $1.99 per minute, and if I have my anecdotes straight, they read off a full list of special moves/fatalities at a sloooow pace.

  • I think I was a better gamer back in the hintline days, because I refused to pay such ridiculously exorbitant amounts just to find the solution to a puzzle I could figure out with some thought and a lot of luck. Now, I am all too tempted to quickly run to the net if something stumps me.

    I want my creativity and patience back, internet!

  • @numble said: So many conspiracy theories to weave:
    - Maybe it was the Internet that ruined adventure games at the big used-to-have-hint-line companies, since it removed the extra income that adventures provided in the form of hint lines.

    Conspiracy theories aside, I think the Internet definitely changed how people play adventure games, just because it's now so amazingly easy to get a hint. A few years ago, Emily wrote a great article over at Adventure Gamers about her experience playing through Monkey Island 1 for the first time, on a houseboat isolated in the middle of the lake... probably as far from a walkthrough as you can get in this part of California :)

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    Mel

    If I remember correctly, she printed one out and brought it with her just in case. :p

    Nope (after reading), she saved one:

    I have a confession to make: I did save a walkthrough onto the laptop before we left home. I just couldn't stand the thought of getting stuck early in the game and wasting the whole week. Maybe I'm a little insecure, too, about my ability to progress without a safety net. I'm not going to refer to it, though. Not once. Pirate's honor.

    :D

    I'm the exact same way though. I probably turn to hints early on given their accessibility but I never used a hint line (didn't want to pay the money).

  • Haha, d'oh! I'd forgotten that.

  • It's a good read--the conflict between looking at the walkthrough and needing to save battery power was fun:

    I can't figure out how to get this damn herring. I know it's what the troll wants. (Very clever, by the way. Whoever wrote this dialogue clearly has a love of the English language.) So far Monkey Island has been pretty intuitive, or at least accessible, but I guess every game has to have at least one maddening puzzle. I'm tempted to check the walkthrough I brought with me, but I will try to exercise willpower...

    Oh, for Pete's sake. I finally checked the walkthrough. Of course I never bothered to walk all the way to the end of the dock—why would I? It's not like there was a hotspot down there or something. I should have figured this out, too. I bet if I'd played Monkey Island in 1990, before my brain went to mush, I would have. In any case, I wish I'd looked this up hours ago. All that wandering around doesn't make me feel noble, just annoyed that I wasted so much time and battery power.

    Also brought back memories of playing Monkey Island when I was incredibly young--I think I wrote down on the insults/responses and actually believed that I was missing extra disks when I looked at, I think, the tree stump (don't remember exactly how the insert extra disks joke was triggered).

  • @numble said: Also brought back memories of playing Monkey Island when I was incredibly young--I think I wrote down on the insults/responses and actually believed that I was missing extra disks when I looked at, I think, the tree stump (don't remember exactly how the insert extra disks joke was triggered).

    It's definitely the tree stump. LucasArts' Help Desk site had troubleshooting tips about that, explaining that it was just a joke and you weren't missing any disks, up until just a couple years ago. Looks like they've since removed it, as Curse of Monkey Island seems to be the cutoff date for old game tech support at this point.

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