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Infocom Memories September 4, 2009

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment.
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Jason Scott posted a set of scanned Infocom ads from the 1980 on his blog, ASCII, today.

It Is What It Eats

Those of us old enough will probably remember at least a few of the ads he has posted.

Those not old enough might not know who Infocom was.

Infocom, if you didn’t bother to go to the link up in the first sentence, made a series of text-only adventure games in the 1980s starting with Zork, a game I purchased in the college bookstore for my Apple II in… the early 80s.

The games were a bit of an acquired taste.  You either liked them or you didn’t, but they were popular enough both by virtue of their cleverness and the fact that their simplicity allowed the games to be ported to a wide variety of operating environments.  Look at the list of supported computers in the lower right of that ad.  This was what we faced in the early 80s, back when Microsoft was mostly known for its BASIC compiler and its Flight Simulator.

I owned a pile of Infocom games over that decade, though the one I enjoyed the most was Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Getting the Babel Fish was an event at least as memorable to me as killing Archaedas in Uldaman was.

So a big “Thank You!” goes out to Jason Scott for his ongoing effort to find and archieve things like these ads.

Comments»

1. Suzanne - September 4, 2009

Wow, those ads are awesome. I’ll definitely be passing that link to my family — they’ll get a kick out of it.

We also loved the Hitchhiker’s Guide game. Getting the Babel Fish was pretty epic. I remember that you had to put junk mail (?) in front of the door so that the robot didn’t come out, put your towel over the drain… hehe, and that’s it, though I know there was more.

Did you ever play Wishbringer? That was another Infocom game that we played a lot. There was a novel, too, by Craig Shaw Gardner, I believe.

Oh, the memories! :)

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2. theerivs - September 4, 2009

I was going to comment, but a Grue just ate me.

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3. skarbd - September 4, 2009

Damm that takes me back, further back than is maybe healthy.

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4. heartless_ - September 4, 2009

The ANCIENT gaming noob indeed!

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5. Wilhelm2451 - September 4, 2009

Did anybody else notice that in the ad above, it is an IBM PC monitor sitting on an Atari 800 next to an Apple II floppy drive?

Somewhere in a drawer I still have the cardboard “Peril Sensitive Sunglasses” and the microscopic space fleet from Hitchihiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The Don’t Panic button may still be around somewhere (it was on the passenger sun visor of my car for ages), but the rest of the collateral has been lost to time and the trash man.

My memory says that I also bought the “I Got The Babel Fish” T-shirt at one point, but I have no evidence to support it, so it might just be retroactive wish fulfillment.

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6. Graktar - September 4, 2009

I never played any of the text only Infocom games (a little before my time) but I will never forget Infocom due to the intro to one of their other games being announced with actual audio:

INFOCOM presents . . . the Crescent Hawks’ Revenge!

That blurb is permanently etched in my brain in grainy scratchy audio. The game itself wasn’t that bad either, technically being one of the first real time strategy games, and set in the Battletech universe.

Thanks for the memories Infocom!

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7. redheadedtim - September 5, 2009

BattleTech games ftw. Came around too late for the text based by a couple years, but I loved Crescent Hawks’ Inception. Never beat it or even found 1 lost-tech trove, but I loved it just the same. Revenge kicked my rear all over the place, but luckily I got both together with MechWarrior 1 in a triple pack. /sigh. Good times.

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8. sente - September 5, 2009

My first Infocom game was Sorcerer. It took me a long time to complete it (played some other Infocom titles in between), but it was very satifying once I finally completed it.

I still have the boxes for Sorcerer, Stationfall, Planetfall, Leather Goddesses of Phobos and A Mind Forever Voyaging, plus Lost Treasures of Infocom 1 & 2 collections.
Unfortunately pretty much all of them were for Amiga platform, so I could not transfer any of them – even in the unlikely event that the floppy disks would still work.

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9. Jonathan - September 5, 2009

I remember the Infocom days more vividly than I do with alot of my childhood back then. I was fortunate enough to have an uncle who got me playing ZORK and the other Infocom games when I was still a young lad. Sitting in front of an Atari800, my childhood memories were full of moments where I was trying to figure out how to kill the Wizard of Frobozz, how to figure out where Mrs.Robner was when Mr.Robner was killed, or how to use the robot Aura to open the door to the planet life support. To this day, I regard those days as the best times of my life.
When I did the Infocom episode of “The Online Gamers Anthology” (episodes 6 & 7…http://www.virginworlds.com/podcast.php?show=11&ep=6) I remember the hardest time I had with the shows was trying to keep the show under 2 hours. No joke… I could have talked about those games for 2 days straight. It’s amazing to see how far graphics and technology have come in the last 25 years, but it saddens me to know that alot of games today are more “flash” than story, and most of the younger generation live in such a fast-moving gaming world, they wouldn’t have the patience to play a game “you had to read”. But there are the rest of us who DID play back then… who still remember 25 years later, how to lay down in front of the bulldozer heading for Arthur Dent’s house… remember how scary as hell “The Lurking Horror” could be, or still smile to this day, when we read the words “YOU ARE STANDING IN FRONT OF A WHITE HOUSE. THERE IS A MAILBOX HERE.”
Ah, dang… I’m getting fahclempt…

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10. Marchosias - September 5, 2009

My first Infocom game was “Deadline” – I always kept getting shot in the hallway :P Then I got Zork and Hitchikers. HG2TG was/is a classic! I loved that game. Played all of ‘em on my Atari 800XL which I bought with my high school graduation money – hehe.

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11. Wilhelm2451 - September 5, 2009

Digging through my old links, I found a site that has Hitchhiker’s Guide running in Java.

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12. Furrere - September 6, 2009

I’ve still got the Don’t Panic button – on a shelf in my computer room. also this game taught the meaning of the word “analgesic”.
Prior to this (’83?) I also had a Vic20 cartridge game “mission impossible” – text adventure about an exploding nuclear power plant…..

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13. redheadedtim - September 6, 2009

I played Impossible Mission (2?) on my xt back in the day. Never beat it but enjoyed the heck out of it. IIRC, it was timed overall, you had to get 6 music segments to unlock an elevator to the final area, after you figured out their correct order. Man they made some great games back in the day. Lots of good games these days too but when you were limited w/ graphics and physics capabilities, gameplay had to shine.

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14. mbp - September 8, 2009

Played Hitchhiker when I was supposed to be studying for a Masters degree. Vague disjointed recollections of the game:

Dressing gown
Babel Fish
Vogon poetry
Fluff. Lots of very important fluff
I’m getting hazy now but wasn’t there a cup of tea and and a whale involved somewhere?

One memory I do have is that reading the book was almost essential to progress. Didn’t they include a copy of the first book with the game? Can you imagine any game developer taking such a brave stance today? Even Lotro which is packed with Lore doesn’t expect you to be familiar with any of it.

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