55: The Short, Happy Life of Infocom

"In retrospect, the idea was painfully na´ve. Although Infocom's founders vaguely knew they wanted to create business software, they had no model, no business plan, not even a product." Lara Crigger examines The Short, Happy Life of Infocom

The Short, Happy Life of Infocom

First off, a wonderful article, I love hearing the labors of love that go into producing the games that spark my imagination. While it's good to see A Mind Forever Voyaging get mentioned, I was saddened that Battletech: Crescent Hawks Inception / Battletech: Crescent Hawks Revenge got no love at all. I was under the impression that they were made by Infocom / Westwood. Those are a couple really great games that deserve better than they got.

- Tom

TomBeraha:
While it's good to see A Mind Forever Voyaging get mentioned, I was saddened that Battletech: Crescent Hawks Inception / Battletech: Crescent Hawks Revenge got no love at all. I was under the impression that they were made by Infocom / Westwood. Those are a couple really great games that deserve better than they got.

You're right that these games probably got a raw deal. Both were released in the final days of Infocom and therefore suffered from poor publicity all around.

As for not including them in the article, I decided to focus specifically on games that Infocom itself had developed (Westwood was the developer for Battletech; Infocom was just the publisher). I wish I could have gone into further detail about more of the Infocom titles, particularly their later graphical efforts like Arthur: The Quest for Excalibur, but, alas, you only have so many words in which to tell your story! (Of course, that's most certainly a good thing, since I could yammer on about Trinity or The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy all day.)

Lara Crigger:
(Of course, that's most certainly a good thing, since I could yammer on about Trinity or The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy all day.)

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galazy was the first text-adventure I ever played. I still laugh when I load it up through DosBox when an urge strikes me. Although an Escapist article detailing the rise and fall of Infocom might not be the best place to write about it, people yammering about games is how I generally get into new ones now. With only so much time, I generally wait for someone to be so excited about a game that they insist I try it nowadays. I'll have to go look up Trinity now and see if my local bargain bin has a copy :)

- Tom

Unfortunately, unless your local bargain bin has a copy of The Lost Treasures of Infocom, then I fear you may be S.O.L on Trinity. But you're sure to find it lurking about on that thar Intarweb somewhere.

If you are interested in further text adventures to try, let me recommend some of the newer ones. The genre's come great strides since the implosion of the interactive fiction (IF) market, and in many cases, the lack of concern for sales had fostered some very experimental and enjoyable titles, ones that would never make it in commercial release. You can rarely go wrong with the winners of the Annual IF Competition (www.ifcomp.org)

My favorite of the 'new wave' of text-based gamery has to be Andrew Plotkin's "Shade" (even though it's at least six years old by now). It's one of the creepiest, most surreal games I've ever played. Also try Emily Short's "Galatea", which is more of a conversation than a game, and Jason Devlin's "Vespers". Enjoy!

Emily Short's "Galatea" is intriguing - thank you, Lara! The article made me entirely nostalgic for my collection of Infocom games, as well.

If anyone is really interested in even more details about Infocom, there's a much much longer analysis available elsewhere. You need to be really interested to get through it all though, and it's a bit more academic. I had actually read it a few months back, and found it informative, but going by memory I'm pretty sure Lara's article touched on everything.

And, of course, if you want to play Infocom games online (and who doesn't), the Z-Machine has long been translated into other languages, including Java. http://www.xs4all.nl/~pot/infocom/

This article convinced me more than ever that our decision to never do anything related to business was the right move.

Wait...

Superb article, Ms. Crigger. I had no idea Infocom's goodies had been transported in all their glory onto the interwebs or just what had happened to the company that fed my fantasy dungeon-crawling, puzzle-solving fix before I discovered D&D.

Now if you'll please excuse me, I must return to my house. For some reason, there's a bulldozer that's trying to run over it...

Wonderful article, it took me back to my misspent youth, screaming incoherently at a blameless computer while trying to figure out how to tell the bloody parser I really wanted to board that boat. Happy days.

 

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