Over the summer of I tore through the paperback versions of the first three volumes in the series. Stay with me here. I needed to have it. But upon further frantic research, it became clear that the game would not be available for the TI, or at least not my TI. I would need a floppy disk drive peripheral to play it, I found out. The exigencies of the computer software market would, for the first but far from the last time, demand that I upgrade my computer to play a hot new game.
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Over the summer of I tore through the paperback versions of the first three volumes in the series. Stay with me here. I needed to have it. But upon further frantic research, it became clear that the game would not be available for the TI, or at least not my TI. I would need a floppy disk drive peripheral to play it, I found out.
The exigencies of the computer software market would, for the first but far from the last time, demand that I upgrade my computer to play a hot new game. Putting a disk into the drive and then flipping down the latch felt something like locking in a nuclear launch procedure from inside a silo.
And it did open up a world of new games and other software for me this was the beginning of the end for my electric typewriter, and my introduction to word processors, for example. Most notable of these was the multipart geometric nightmare that was obtaining the Babel Fish while on the Vogon ship.
Feelies might have been nothing novel in an era when computer games were often packaged with extras such as extravagant cloth maps to be fair, the primitive video and computer game graphics of the era often needed a little extra push to help the player visualize these distant fantastic worlds.
And past the Infocom feelies was another great contribution to aiding players: Invisiclues. The gimmick of Invisiclues was that, unlike other hint books on the market, you could elect to only reveal the clues relevant to where you were stuck.
Moreover, the clues themselves were revealed in a series of lines , gradually giving you more and more information, so you could obtain a level of help commensurate with your own ability to solve the puzzle independently.
Invisiclues allowed you to learn how to learn; their design was pedagogical! Maps are important , the Invisiclues insisted, and so I began to make my own maps as if nerdy year-old me needed any encouragement at all to break out the quadrille paper and sketch maps. Infocom games with much more subtlety, such as Trinity and A Mind Forever Voyaging , challenged my ability to conceive of big-picture issues such as nuclear war and the impact of Reaganite politics on the social fabric of America.
I came into my Infocom fandom just as the company was releasing some of its most ambitious games. But Infocom even defied that conventional wisdom, keeping its devoted fans up to date on in-office product development and happenings with a newsletter, called The New Zork Times.
I highly advise going to the Internet Archive and breezing through the entire archive, by the way. They are a beautiful time capsule of the s computer entertainment industry in a lot of ways. Oh, that reminds me incidentally of one of the most poorly-reviewed puzzles Infocom ever put in a game, the baseball-based Oddly-Angled Rooms puzzle in Zork II ; non-American fans were furious that a knowledge of baseball was required to solve it.
They were no longer Olympian gods , distant from the madding crowd. They had an address, and it was right down the street from me in Cambridge, Massachusetts! The sad thing is, the company itself at this very same time was beginning to fall apart. On the cover of The New Zork Times from early looms an ominous signpost, more unnerving than any mushroom cloud out of Trinity or Flood Control Dam 3 from the original Zork.
But its use of a virtual machine , a boon in the entertainment market where Infocom could release versions of its games on all the myriad computer platforms of the early s, slowed Cornerstone to a crawl on most platforms. Further advances in game graphics also left Infocom running to catch up; the text adventure game was increasingly supplanted by point-and-click style games in the late s. I want to end this recollection, though, with an anecdote about how special Infocom truly was.
My dad and I had considered just taking it back to the store, but I said, wait a minute, the people who made it are just down the street. I bet we could take it there and get a replacement disk, no problem! These were the new Infocom offices, after the company moved from its original, more humble digs on Wheeler Street, and it showed. We asked whomever was at the front desk if we could get a replacement disk for IBM-PC, and I recall again, this could definitely be confabulated that right off of the lobby there was a heated meeting happening with lots of folks in suits and polo shirts—possibly to do with the ongoing Activision merger?
In any event, in a matter of minutes we had our replacement disk and were back on the road. Follow him on Twitter at MutantsMichael. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Share this:. Related posts. Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:.
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InvisiClues were hint booklets sold by Infocom to help players solve puzzles in their interactive fiction computer games. Before Infocom's games exploded in popularity, players could request hints by mail and receive a type-written sheet in response. When the number of requests proved unmanageable, the Zork Users Group began a pay-per-hint telephone system. The invention of InvisiClues replaced this system and was revolutionary: a player could often buy a hint book at the same time and at the same location as the game itself. Questions relating to the game were printed in the book, for example, the InvisiClues for Zork I  contained the question "How can I kill the songbird?
The essence of all Infocom interactive fiction is solving problems. The purpose of InvisiClues hint booklets is to maximize your enjoyment of the game by giving you only those hints that you need to continue playing and complete the game. The invisible hints generally progress from a gentle nudge in the right direction to a full answer. The questions, which naturally have to be visible, have been worded to give away as little as possible.