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History Of Infocom aka The Creators Of Zork 125

halcyon7 writes: "My MIT research group has spent the last two months studying Infocom [?] , Inc. (the creators of Zork [?] ) in great detail. We have talked to many of the original founders and employees, studied board meeting minutes, looked through source code, and done everything we could to tell the story of Infocom's history in a fair and accurate way. As of Friday, our project has concluded. Our report and presentation, entitled "Down From the Top of Its Game: The Story of Infocom, Inc.", is available online in both PDF of the paper and a PDF of the presentation. The presentation was given on December 13th in a quasi-public forum to members of EECS, STS, the MIT community, and some former employees of Infocom." Ah, Infocom. Many a day was whiled away trying to figure the syntax for the next command *grin*.
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History of Infocom aka The Creators of Zork

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  • Trinity was quite fun - I never quite finished the game, and lost the disk while moving from apartment to apartment. It was such an odd game, and I loved it. Whenever I talk to people about text adventure games, I mention Trinity, and they think I'm talking about the babe in The Matrix.

  • As much, uh, respect, as I have for LGOP, _Softporn Adventure_, which Larry was a rewrite of, came before LGOP. I know we had it at Infocom, and I suspect Steve had played it. -- Dave Lebling
  • The Lurking Horror, not Zork, had a geography based on the MIT campus.
    -- Dave Lebling
  • by Fluffy the Cat ( 29157 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2000 @05:55AM (#549289) Homepage
    They didn't need to. Infocom produced a virtual machine for all their adventure games, with interpreters for different platforms. The same data file can be used on a PC, a Spectrum and an Osbourne providing that you have an interpreter that supports that version of the machine. Someone wrote an interpreter in Java, but the data file used is still the same as the one included on the original HHGTG disks.
  • Hey, that's the password on my luggage!


  • The abstract suggests that Infocom did not die "because it decided to shift its focus to business software by making Cornerstone", but almost all of the company's problems that they document appear, indeed, to stem from the Cornerstone decision - transition costs, split of corporate identity from transitioning to business products and the resulting employee anomie, the large outlay to buy a new machine for Cornerstone development, disappointing Cornerstone sales, Cornerstone's poor performance due to it's z-machine implementation, etc.

    The only allusions to non-Cornerstone related factors were to the growing importance of graphics in computer games, but the examples they detail were mostly console games, and Infocom's text adventures would most likely (as suggested by the earlier accounts of the Zork packaging fiasco) be purchased by a completely different market sector.

    One thing that really stuck in my craw for some reason is the authors' assertion that "all sales projections indicated the company would continue to grow exponentially", while they refer the reader to a diagram which presented very little reason to believe that sales had grown exponentially at all - in fact, sales growth looked pretty linear. There were other flaws with their analysis, but this one really bugged me.

    Anyways, the only thing that I really enjoyed about the article were the scans and screencaps of the old programs and the throw-ins for the Infocom games. I remember poring over those Deadline materials, and keeping files of rolled-up thermal paper printouts of my game...

    I wonder what grade they got...

    p.s. anybody know if the downloadable infocom games also have available the physical throwin materials, like maps, crime scene photos, etc ? The article implied that the materials were necessary to complete the games...

  • And Level 9 - all of that stuff was great. Did anyone here ever use GAC or Quill?

    Also, are there any java-enabled Infocom games out there?
  • I can't believe I'm posting my third followup to the same story, but the link for the free Acrobat Reader "Access" plug-in (full Acrobat not required, but sadly it's Windows only) is []. The HTML-ized MIT paper (it ain't pretty) is 127 Kb.

    There's also a web-based form here [] for those who may not use Micros~1 products. I just submitted this URL [] to it, but I'm still waiting on a response. I guess it takes their server a while to process a 9 MB file...

  • There was a game on "The Source" called PITS which used a simplistic VERB DIRECTOBJ INDIRECTOBJ sentence structure, but was filled with enormous text descriptions.

    The start of the game involved getting a slew of cash, and then buying a bridge, which was constructed by hundreds of thousands of little dwarves in what could only be described as helicopters. You then crossed the bridge, climbed a mountain, went into an old house, and accessed other worlds by finding secret passages. The scoring system was as detailed and granular as the plot line. I found it far more fun and challenging than Zork.

    Unfortunately, I think it was written for a Data General, and when The Source got purchased by Compuserve, the game vanished. The only proof I have is a few old dusty captures of the start of the game, combined with a piece of marketing literature that briefly mentions it.

    I've searched all over the net for it, with the hopes of getting it ported to Linux, but have come up short. Anyone who might know where a copy hides, please feel free to contact me. I've tried all the text game archive sites I could get links to.

  • Clue: Surely common sense dictates that you can't possibly have tea and no tea at the same time

    Aha. The cycle begins again. I think I know what you mean, so I'll refrain from asking for further assistance. I'll try what I think the solution is, it won't work and I'll end up more bitter than before.

    But thanks for the clue, and the offer. If, some time later this week, you see a post from me that consists, Spider-Jerusalem-like, of nothing but the word 'fuck', you'll know it didn't work.
  • Dave Lebling

    The Dave Lebling? Wow! What do you think of Anchorhead?
  • I nearly cried when Floyd died.

    Me too! Those cruel bastards! How could they kill Floyd? I was just a kid. Oh well, at least they brought him back at the end.

    "Planetfall" was my first Infocom game, and it will always have special meaning for me. The followup, "Stationfall" was pretty good, too, although their descriptions of the cylindrical chamber in the interior of the ship were a bit confusing. It took a while to get a good mental picture of what they were describing. Ah, I miss those games...

  • And if you want your very own XYZZY, you can buy it here. []

  • Get yer Peril-sensitive sunglasses out and play it now!!! []

    disk images of the original are all over the place too.
  • One of my all time favorite text adventures first came out on the TRS-80. It was called Asylum. You wake up and find yourself inside of an asylum and you're being dragged to a padded room. The nurses set you on fire, throw you in the the room and lock the door. What do you do now?

    The game was a lot of fun. You can find it at this URL; Asylum History []

  • WTF? Infocom didn't invent Zork. I was playing Zork on PDPs before the IBM PC was even released. Not only that, the PC version dumbed down the game, omitting some of the obscure hacker jokes.

    Can someone out there post the real history of Zork?
  • it was Vogons, not Gorgons, but close enough. you're right, that game rocks. modern game designers (especially arrogant adventure game designers, who somehow think the gaming community owes them a living) should be FORCED to go back and play this game, and realize what a truly well-written game can do.

    do you remember reading through all the hilarious "footnotes"? even the ERROR messages were funny.

    you can play the java version here: (im' sure someone else has already given that link, but its in my "favorites", so no trouble..

    i could live a little longer in this prison

  • They have to sleep with the lights on because they fear to be eaten by a grue!
  • According to my server logs, occasionally 'bots come by my domains looking for

    HTTP 1.1 GET 'xyzzy'

    Which always gives me a chuckle.

  • When I was a kid, about 11 years old, I started writing text adventures inspired by Infocom with very simple verb-noun parsers. I passed'em around to all my friends, and they liked playing them too. In fact, I credit a lot of my current vocabulary to Infocom games.

    Another honorable mention goes to Magnetic Scrolls, simply because they made The Pawn, which was equally cool. Of course, they were from Britain, so you had to enter the commands in British English. A friend and I spent hours one day trying to figure out how to move a particular boulder. The correct command was some variant of:

    "Use the shovel with the shirt to lever the boulder."

    Needless to say, the use of 'lever' as a verb was discovered only after several trips to the dictionary and the parser warning us repeatedly that "lever" was not a noun--which, to us americans, it plainly was.

    My other favorite gag from the Pawn was the three colors, which is something you could only get from a text game:

    >open bag
    You open the bag. You find a red, a blue, and a green.

    >look at red
    The red is just like the blue except it's red.

    >look at blue
    The blue is just like the green except it's blue.

    >look at green
    The green is just like the red except it's green.

    Of course, the solution was:

    >mix the red, the green, and the blue
    You mix the red, the green, and the blue, making a White.

    Which, of course, was a light source.
  • Hot Damn! Seeing a story about Zork brought back memories for me. So I downloaded and compiled the P code engine and the Zork I/II/II game files, wrote a quick bash script and hung them off of inetd on my web page. If you want to play Zork I, II or III, goto my webpage []

  • Hot Damn! When I saw a story about Zork, it brought back memories for me. So I downloaded and compiled the P code engine and the Zork I/II/II game files, wrote a quick bash script and hung them off of inetd on my web page. If you want to play Zork I, II or III, goto my webpage []

  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2000 @12:58PM (#549308)
    The thing is, coming completely fresh into the puzzle, you don't know certain things exist, but if you've done the puzzle before, you already have a clue, so that's not the same. As an example, until the robot comes out of the panel, you are not told the panel is there. Sure, you could "look panel" since you know the panel is there, but the description of the room doesn't mention it. So you 'waste' a death as you get everything set up to the point, press the button, and then the panel is introduced; you don't have enough time in turns to get everything in place again before you are shot.

    I'm not critical of this, just that this is a distinctive Infocom style compared to LucasArts or most other modern adventure games.

  • The default password for At Ease and later some of the other Macintosh workgroup admin tools used to be set to xyzzy. I don't know if they still use that, but they used to.

  • Probably far too many.
  • I set one up:

    infocom-paper.pdf []
    infocom-presentation.pdf []

    I just hope that doesn't push me over my quota... *g*

  • Hmmm I remember playing Leather Godess of Phobos... would Leisure Suit Larry ever have been made without Infocom's trashy classic ?

    LGOP was trashy...what other game had a scratch and sniff card that really lived up to its name.

    Even the content of the adventure could be changed with its user defined smut level.

    I still have an origninal Amiga version of LGOP with the scratch and sniff card, I wonder how much that will be worth in 30 years... ;)
  • by DuctTape ( 101304 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2000 @05:01AM (#549313)
    For those of us that cut our teeth on an Apple ][ (not + , c, or e), the old Scott Adams Adventures are still available here []. Click on the Classic Games Download link.

    He's got Pirate Adventure, The Count, etc. Gotta love those two-word parsers. Also available for the Palm, tho I haven't tried them out.


  • Suspended gets my vote for Infocom's high moment. The premise was that you were in a cryogenic state, able to manipulate things on your interstellar ship only through interactions with a bunch of proxy robots. The robots all had different senses (hearing, smell) and abilities (modes of locomotion, etc.).

    Infocom was often quite good at giving you the little perks -- in this case, a laminated map of the ship -- that established real atmosphere. I think you got one of those scrubbable crayons, or something, to scribble on the map with.

    If they made that today, you'd spend more time installing the Voo-DooDoo X smell-enhanced card than I ever did playing the original game...

  • by kyz ( 225372 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2000 @05:07AM (#549315) Homepage
    Use the American mirrors:
  • You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

    I loved that game. I got the chance to play it again recently and found out that I'm not as good at figuring out what the computer wants me to type now as I was at seven years old ;)

    I spent all my time going "I remember there's something you need to get out of the fscking house that lets you go across the rainbow in the gulf or something like that... How do I get it?"

    Wow, it's true - we are smarter when we're younger ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There is a fast mirror of at Direct links to the papers are:
    /if-archive/infocom/info/infocom-paper.pdf []
    and /if-archive/infocom/info/infocom-presentation.pdf []
  • I'm really tired of seeing these screeds from people who know nothing about criticism of popular culture. No, a television commercial doesn't have the inherent depth and complexity of Goethe or Keats or Walt Whitman -- but it reveals a lot more about the people and the common attitudes of its time. What were the cultural values that made an endorsement by someone who played a doctor on TV trustworthy? Did changing ideas about consumer sophistication and complicity accompany the move from straightforward informational advertisements to those perfume ads that are unrelated to the product? What are the beliefs about entertainment and lifestyle that made ABC's 1997 ads like "hobbies, schmobbies" and "It's a beautiful day... what are you doing outside" seem like a good idea?

    I characterize postmodern criticism as psychology by proxy. It's part of the same movement that got historians looking at the diet and lifestyle of the 99% of humanity that wasn't declaring wars and lolling in opulent luxury. The fact that this stuff is important to great masses of people makes it worth trying to figure out, regardless of your personal opinions of it.

    - Michael

    Go ahead, blame me... I voted for Nader!
  • The Scott Adams adventure series were like the Sid and Marty Kroft of text adventures. The parser interprted only 2 words, compared to Infocom's wonderful English parser.

    I was amazed that both the Infocom adventures(well, most of them) and the SA series were available for the TI-994/A
  • That would explain the total absense of a dam on the MIT campus, yes. But I loved "the Lurking Horror" and its "beyond the state of the art PC". Wow -- it has a hard drive AND a network connection -- what will they think of next? :-)
  • I had zork for the apple //e.

    The games were fun. The zork maze was evil though, I took me a while to figure out why Going east then west wouldn't put you in the same spot.

    I actually liked planetfall better though and managed to finish that game although barely.

    I used to like some of the comments it made.

    The planetfall help was really funny too. I read the whole thing. One topic was "Don't read unless you've flown the helicopter" when there was no way to get the helicopter started.

    One thing that was frustrating about those games was the descriptions of places sometimes seemed too terse.

    maximum verbosity


  • Apple Network Assistant, the remote admin client that makes PC anywhere look like a luser account on a *nix box, is "protected" by the default of "xyzzy". This is really stupid, seeing as how early versions [dunno about >3.5] have to be on-site authenticated for remote access. So if your op is a dipass, you can run the security app and change the access on him with relative ease, compared to other remote-admin applications.
  • LucasArts specifically were targetting a younger market. I was working in a software store around the mid '80s and one of the selling points the LucasArts marketing people wanted the retail sales people to stress was the lack of dying. It was supposed to be "less fustrating to the child"
    (Now that I think of it, the marketing stuff was obviously aimed at the parent buying software for the child.)

    For Infocom games, the single most important skill was learning to save often, and save many different scenarios in different files. I wish that I had RCS back then. I had to mimic the branches of saved games with file name convensions.
  • You have connected to the ftp server. There is a PDF here.
    >Open PDF

    I don't know how to 'Open' PDF.
    >Get PDF

    I don't know how to 'Get' PDF.
    >Look at PDF

    I don't know how to 'Look at' PDF.
    >Download PDF

    What is 'PDF'?

    Sound familiar?


  • Just wanted to say the best Infocom game was undeniably Trinity; probably came closer to a true literary feel than any computer game before or since.

    And Planetfall was the second best.
  • It's long been held that what killed Infocom was their work on Cornerstone, their relational database which used their parsing technology to make a nice user-friendly interface. They sunk a lot of money into it, only to have it flounder in the face of dBase and the rise of SQL, which made their own non-SQL interface somewhat moot.

    But this paper goes further into detail, about the mistakes Infocom made that *were* within their control. The two-culture phenomenon was evidently really pronounced. It's a good read for any programmers who have to deal with business types and vice versa, if only as a cautionary tale.

  • I remember loving the days when the NZT arrived in the mailbox. I was always the one in the family to fill out the warranty cards, so that we'd get 3? more free issues. Those were the days.

    I also remember how disappointed I was when the New York Times sued/complained/whatever and they had to change both the name and the format. Somehow it was never the same afterwards.
  • this story is false. zork was not created by this 'infocom' or who or whatever they/are/it is. no indeed.

    'zork', as a concept, was created in the depths of time, in the deep heart of the far reaches of space and a scattering of stars, in the murky pools of primordiated bisque that brim with tiny bacteria and odd fish. the product of thousands upon millions of unknown time units of evolution. the answer to generations of unasked questions. the goal of pre post-modern neo-classic socio-capitalistic consummerism. the untold strivings of the tortured soul of modern man. with extra cheese.

    you must always remember:



    chilled to the bone (since 1997).

    LORDZORK INDUSTRIES (LOVES TO) LOVE YOU (mind shutting off like a bad dream)



  • I just wanted to tell Dave Lebling, since I see that he's posting on this thread, that _Enchanter_ is probably my favorite game ever, and definitely the first I played seriously. I think I was 8 or 10 years old at the time, and parts of it scared the shit out of me! I was honestly too scared to go into some parts of the map, particularly the part with the monster you had to trap by redrawing the map. I only finished the game because I got the hintbook, one of the cool old InvisiClue ones.

    One of my favorite parts was the spell which would summon the Implementers. A couple of programmers appear, and look confused, and one comments that it must be a glitch in the system...
  • one of the coolest things about that game was all the cool stuff it came with ... the Microscopic Space Fleet (an empty baggie), fluff, No Tea, Joo Janta Peril-Sensitive Sunglasses (supposedly fogged up whenever danger was near, releaving you of the stress of looking at it) (they were made out of black paper if i recall), a "don't panic" button, and i don't know, that might have been it .. ah those were the days .. then of course along came King's Quest and that was pretty much the end of GOOD WRITING in computer games. :(

    i could live a little longer in this prison

  • First, a plug for my own graphic/text adventure, written about a year ago. It's called "Lunatix: The Insanity Circle" and can be downloaded here [] (the ZIP file is here []). Several screen shots are shown here []. It can also be downloaded from [] with info and download here []. It's freeware, and I get constant feedback (still) about it (kudos, questions, hint/walkthrough requests, etc).
    There is an active usenet community for Interactive Fiction at [], and a HUGE (and very complete) archive of games at the [] archive. These kinds of games are alive and well!
    :::: Mike Snyder
  • but to get no tea, you have to transport yourself via the Improbability Generator to the interior of your own mind. once there, you need to take your common sense. only then can you have both tea and no tea.

    i could live a little longer in this prison

  • I never played Zork, but isn't just a repackaged version of the Dungeon game we used to play? I remember playing Dungeon for *ever* when I was a kid on the local university's VAX. Lucky me, the next door neighbor's dad was the head of IT there. We'd drag an extension cord and a phone extension out to the poolside, and plug in the old amberscreen terminal, dial the rotary modem, jam it in the audiocoupler modem, and play at a whopping 300 baud. Ah the joy of youth! Anyone ever figure out how to hatch the jeweled bird out of egg without breaking it? I think that the Linux "BSD Games" collection has a version of Dungeon in it. UugaBuuga
  • > Suspended gets my vote for Infocom's high moment

    Hell, yeah. That game scared the living hell out of me. (Those mysterious people walking down the hall... getting ever closer... while I'm still frantically trying to fix things before they get to me, open the door, and turn on (er, out!) the lights.)

    (Even after I solved it, and had fun destroying the world while I made the mysterious people chase one of my robots in endless circles, it still scared the hell out of me :-)

  • AFMV was years ahead of it's time, in terms of the level of storytelling that was going on. It was one of the only games I've ever played that could be called literature. Even today, fifteen years later, there hasn't been a "high-concept" game that was as well-executed with such an intelligent and thoughtful premise.
  • I remember, years and years ago, playing the same basic game (xyzzy, plover) on a TOP-10. In fact, the source was on a punched tape we got from a DECUS Users Group meeting.

    I thought Zork came MUCH later, after even the Apple ][ port of that same TOPS-10 game.

    Then again, I'm a senile old fart. Some young web "HTML Programmer" with green hair and a stud through his toungue probably invented it.

  • It isn't a new game, but 'Return to Zork' was the the first true multimedia computer game I'd ever played. I remember how the graphics and sound had me spell bound.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Game was the best Infocom game hands down. I think that the part on the Gorgon ship where you have to figure out how to get the Babel Fish is one of the best parts of any text-based game ever.

    Hmmm...Maybe I need a DOS emulator on my FreeBSD box...

  • by eXtro ( 258933 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2000 @04:25AM (#549339) Homepage
    This is only tangentially related to the story, but at least its not a Nth post post.

    There's still a following for games built around craftily written descriptions and puzzles. In fact new textual interactive fiction pieces are developed by a small buy loyal fanbase. Some of the games are really good.

    There's information about the current state of the (well, somewhat ancient in internet time) art of interactive fiction here [].

  • Darnit, lost mine in a move. Loved getting those, though.
  • Does MIT have a Corporate Fluff program now?

    This sounds more like a job for
  • As Dave Lebling has said already, read before you post. The paper mentions that the original authors of Zork (Marc Blank, Dave Lebling, Tim Anderson) wrote it for mainframes, and not as a commercial product. This is probably where you were playing it on PDP's.

    It wasn't until Infocom was founded that Zork was released, and that was in June 1980 for the TRS-80 Model 1, not the IBM PC.

    So, technically, Infocom didn't invent Zork, but Marc Blank was on Infocom's Board of Directors, and all three of the original mainframe authors were co-founders of the company. (This is where one would normally start discussing the metaphysical question of whether a company is something more than its employees, but I don't think that's necessary.)
  • by Barsema ( 106323 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2000 @04:27AM (#549343) Homepage
    If you want you can play it online! here []
  • You may be a senile old fart, but you are a correct one.

    TOPS20 Adventure (Crowther/Woods) definitely came first. My own first copy of the source came from a regional air-traffic-control centre running under IBM, but with a little work we soon had it running on a PDP-11.

    Dungeon was the original Zork and although based on Adventure, it was a lot more sophisticated. There was some kind of problem because Dungeon was sort-of public-domain but Zork wasn't. I seem to remember after some kind of row, Dungeon being pulled.

  • I've been trying to get my hands on this game for quite some time. Sadly, I fell in love with the zmachine only recently.

    Zcode, more portable than Java by several orders of magnitude.

  • one might wonder if this bit of game humor wasn't inspired by the doublethink concept in '1984'.
  • "Zork or how I learned the meaning of Gazebo"

    Infocom games rocked. They are responsible for my ongoing preference of Text-Muds over all other forms of internet Games.
  • Yes, I remember that game all too well. The Commodore PET was my very first computer. And when I had it, it didn't have a tape recorder. So I had to type in all the games by hand every time I turned on the computer. I can remember typing Hitch Hikers out by hand, trying to fix all the errors I had made. I wish I knew where my source code was for that (and all the other games I had). I wouldn't mind going through it and looking at it again. But they are probably gone to the dump with the PET (I had a bad habbit of taking it apart, and every time I did, it never went back to gether the same way, until it just didn't work anymore hehe)
  • by beebware ( 149208 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2000 @04:29AM (#549349) Homepage
    Details about infocom and their game titles are available here [], while more about Interactive Fiction (that's text based games usually) can be found here []. The main IF archive can be found at [] where you can download many of Infocoms [] games.
    Richy C.
  • Infocom, ah, didn't they inspire the shell for multics?

  • It was a Vogon Ship you were on.

    Nit picking aside, that was one of the most entertaining (& frustrating!) sequences in the history of PC Gaming. Getting that damned fish into your ear felt like a real accomplishment.

    Hitchhiker's Guide was a GREAT text adventure, probably the best I ever played. What I liked was that, although maddening, it was all so perversely logical once you figured out the puzzle. The whole tea/no tea thing was another great moment.

    Has anyone ever played Starship Titanic or Bureaucracy(?). Those were two Douglas Adams-authored PC games I never got a chance to play at the time.

    You still see Starship Titanic in bargain bins at the local Staples - is it worth my milk money?

  • hehe is not easy to be killed ... its one
    of the biggest german research ftpservers ;)

    Samba Information HQ
  • by MSwanson ( 99458 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2000 @04:30AM (#549353)
    I wonder how many systems are still protected by this magic Zork password.
  • I appreciate having the PDF, but the file sizes are a little large. 9+ meg and 5+ meg.

    What about the poor people on dial up?

    Seriously though, the papers are lush with detail, and are worth downloading. There are many photos, and other illustrations. Someone took the time to do this right.

    too bad there isn't an html version online someplace. I think Acrobat has some options to make that kind of conversion. (?)

  • f []

    use LaTeX? want an online reference manager that
  • So we can keep from annoying EVERYONE, could someone please update the article to mention A) The Mirrors, and B) The fact that these are BIG files. (I know the first file is ~9.2 Megs)

    Oh, BTW. I'm done downloading now, so someone else can have my spot :)

    Nipok_Nek - The opposite of Light is Unlight
    (Yes I know: It's Scott Adams, Not Infocom)
  • Jesus suffering fuck is right. What the fuck do you think you're talking about.

    Zcode is more portable than Java. The parser is amazing compared to most similar parsers I see today.

    Don't forget the social impact.

  • A little hunting will get you downloadable versions of almost every Infocom game ever made for about $20-$25 total. Activision has several bundles available, both small (5-6 games) and big (about 33). I purchased them the last time a big Infocom story was on Slashdot because I enjoyed many of them in the 80's too.

    I think the most fascinating one I ever played was "A Mind Forever Voyaging", in which I got completely stuck about 15 years ago. I've started it again and hope to eventually win it.

  • the big mirror site is []

    ...where the documents are: om-paper.pdf [] and om-presentation.pdf []
    (maybe a /. expert can tell me why those spaces are appearing in the text above? It's not in what I'm typing, and the links appear to work fine...)

    But if that one goes away, it also has these alternates:

    Hope this helps!
  • Just get a zmachine and download the zcode.

    The zmachine runs zcode much the way the jvm runs java, only the zmachine has been ported to many more platforms and is generally more reliable.

  • Say this just makes me think. I've got all but the first three issues of the New Zort Times and I've been thinking about scanning them and putting them up on a web page someplace... I'm wondering who I would go about contacting to get permission. Hmm...

    Also, does anyone out there have the first three issues that they would want to scan in for me?
  • Contemporary history of modern institutions and corporations is important. Just as we can learn a great deal about the politics and economics of previous centuries by studying the books of the East India Company or Lloyd's of London, histories like this will preserve the details of this time. This is especially important as we turn a new millennium, as many of our documents are now electronic and ephemeral. If somebody doesn't jump in and preserve this stuff, it'll be lost forever. And make no mistake, Infocom was a VERY important company in the early history of computer games. Believe me, people will be reading this document 300 years from now.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's also the cheat code for windows minesweeper.
  • Want some rye? Course ya do!
  • Not much point. All of them are already on and all the above mirrors also.
  • Doh... nevermind, I just answered my own question and ended the idea of the project in one blow... I just found this site The Infocom Documentation Project - Newsletters [].


  • You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
    There is a small mailbox here...

    >open mailbox

    You find a letter inside.

    >read letter


    Ah, those were the days.
  • >There were lots of reasons, all of which combined to take them down.

    ...but none of which minimize the value of what you and the rest of the Implementors did. Thanks.

    (And if my Apple //e still boots, I'm going through the Enchanter/Sorceror/Spellbreaker trilogy over the holidays. Still got the original 5.25" floppies. Woo-hoo!)

  • by xyzzy ( 10685 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2000 @06:44AM (#549369) Homepage
    In fact, it was Adventure (or, for the real fans, ADVENTUR -- 8 character limit, you see). It would have been interesting if the paper had gone into the history of THAT excellent game.

    Of course, the other password was plugh...

    It is very dark. If you continue, you are likely to be eaten by a Grue.
  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2000 @06:44AM (#549370)
    I'm not trying to compare the companies here, but more of their approaches to the adventure type games. With Infocom games, you learn how to solve the puzzles when you fail to do certain tasks within certain "times" resulting in the death of your player (eg, you could NOT, without dying at least once, *learn* what you had to do and setup the babel fish puzzle before the gaurds came and took you away. as long as you knew to put the robe on the hook, etc, and did everything else without missing a turn, you had two extra turns before the guards retrieved you.). In most LucasArts adventure games (Monkey Island series, The Dig), you can't die, and you can't do certain things to get you in a dead end; instead there are countless numbers of visual and dialog hints. For myself, I always got frustrated at Infocom's puzzles, some of them rather vague, and many rather tedious (the maze in Leather Goddess, for example), though the enjoyment for succeeding in these puzzles was satisfactory. For many of the LucasArts games, you usually can figure out the puzzles and solutions, and while the reward of solving them might be short, the fun is usually in the red herrings or the side conversions (for example, in the recently released Escape from MI, about 75% of the dialoge from characters is completely unhelpful to solving the puzzles, but it's a continuation of the stories of characters from the other 3 installments of the MI series).

  • Actually, the last time I looked, Activision wasn't selling the big package, and was only selling a few of the 5-game bundles. I ordered the CD with all but one of the Infocom games right after it came out... but then I lost it. If you've got a URL, I'll buy it again.

    AMFV was neat, but my favorite was Trinity--as some other poster said, it felt more like literature than any of the rest.
  • Oh man, we *still* throw that one around in my circle of friends. "Here's to us! Who's like us? Damn few! And they're all dead!" Or whatever that toast was.

    I played "Return to Zork" over and over again just to see Rebecca Snoot. *sigh*

    (Ooh, how about: "Go AWAY! I haven't got anything FORRRR yeh! I've only got ONE milk cow, an' SHE only eats CARROTS! So just go AWAY!")

  • ...if they still have copies of the ``New Zork Times'' packed away in their basement.


  • Nemesis was an awesome game. The twist in the end was great. Didn't see it coming.

    I don't care what they called it though, it wasn't a Zork. Grand Inquisitor was, although maybe a little over the top, even for a Zork.

  • Suspended was wicked.

    I remember when I figured out how to make the people do my bidding.

    Or when I opened the damn pillar and saw myself... briefly before I died.

    Marc A. Lepage (aka SEGV)
  • There is repository of Infocom walkthroughs at the Infocom Walkthrough Archive [].
    I used to maintain it before I went off to college, but I handed it down quite a few years ago.
    Additionally, the Underdogs have a company profile posted at the Infocom Profile [].

    .... One world, one web, one program - Bill Gates

  • This site [] lets you play a version of Zork, as well as Colossal Cave (the original Adventure game,) in your web browser via a Java Z-machine interpreter. You can also play Mini-Zork here [] , or play Zork II here [] , or play Zork III here [] . And, finally, you can also play the original Adventure here [] .

  • Tenex (not Tops-10) ADVENT came first, written in Fortran and widely ported. The first version was written by Wil Crowther, and was expanded by Don Woods to be what most people think of when they think of Adventure.

    We (Marc Blank, Tim Anderson, I, and Bruce Daniels) saw it, played it, loved it, thought we could do better. We wrote Zork. We renamed Zork to Dungeon, because Zork was a placeholder name. We renamed it back after TSR (the D&D people) threatened to sue. It was ported to Fortran by a friendly DEC employee while it was named Dungeon, so that's what he called the port.

    Marc, Tim, and I were all involved in Infocom, and the rest is history (or comedy).

    This has been explained any number of times before, but I suppose it doesn't hurt to explain it again.

    -- Dave Lebling

  • And download it from here [].
    Richy C.
  • by kyz ( 225372 ) on Tuesday December 19, 2000 @04:40AM (#549384) Homepage
    Ah, Infocom. Many a day was whiled away trying to figure the syntax for the next command *grin*.

    Actually, no, Infocom's market dominance was based on the fact their parser was flexible and powerful, and you didn't need to play 'hunt the verb'.

    Usual links:
  • Don't turn out the light! Stay in the light!



    *munch munch*

    Eric Gearman
  • While fully intending to be pedantic I feel I must point out that the origins of xyzzy are in Colossal cave adventure [it has many psuedonemes] that IIRC started tis whole IF bug. Again IIRC you had say it while holding the rod to teleport to the house...
  • Oh heck yeah. I spent so much time on that game, but I was little and never really figured out how to beat it. That game taught me how to type, heh.

    Hmm, now I have to try these download sites and see if I can get that old game working, and beat it.
  • Read before you post. The papers were done as part of a course on technological innovation. They wanted to look into why Infocom, which ruled the universe of adventure gaming in the early 80s, lost big and died by 1989. There were lots of reasons, all of which combined to take them down. -- Dave Lebling
  • I bought it from a place called the "Daytron Superstore" and was able to download it directly, including 50-some megs of PDF documentation.

    Unfortunately, the store is now gone. I just looked and the my order information is still intact and I could re-download it if I needed to, but the store itself is gone.

    I bet if you looked around, though, someone would be bound to have it for sale.

    Sorry, I couldn't be more help.


The greatest productive force is human selfishness. -- Robert Heinlein