Ancient adventure texts at last unearthed

Well, this is wonderful—Jason Scott, creator of the GET LAMP documentary and tireless historian in the service of games, is releasing a huge trove of scans from the archives of Infocom veteran Steve Meretzky.

Infocom, of course, was a leading developer of mysterious and beautifully-written computer text adventure games in the 1980s. Meretzky's carefully-kept notes—over 9000 scans, says Scott—document numerous aspects, from design to business, of what was widely considered the company's golden age, in which it produced famous games like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Planetfall, and the remarkable, pioneering A Mind Forever Voyaging, written and made by Meretzky himself, among others.

Jason Scott writes of these documents, which will live at The Infocom Cabinet:

For someone involved in game design, this is priceless work. Unfettered by the crushing schedules and indie limits of the current industry, the designers at Infocom (including Steve, but not limited to him by any means) were able to really explore what made games so much fun, where the medium could go, and what choices could be made. It’s all here.

One of the challenges in the video game space is that design knowledge is often prized tightly behind the doors of competitive game companies, and then lost when the tides of business change or studios close their doors. Software and hardware age, and works younger than a decade can be fundamentally impossible to access. The work of archivists like Scott is often unsung but essential to the memory of the medium, and his TEXTFILES.COM has become a virtual museum of all manner of computer history. Learn more here.

Thanks to Alice for spotting this first!

Notable Replies

  1. Interplay and TSR and Microprose pretty much had all my gaming money back then.

    I really miss the early 90's adult themed games for their humor the way I miss 80's teen sex comedies.

  2. You know when you are part of something every day, and think you know all the in and outs, and then you realize that you've somehow missed something big that almost everyone else knows?

    I didn't know about

    I mean I've read the posts on Boing Boing and everything, just didn't know it was its own site. The link in the footer just goes to Boing Boing's About page oddly enough, If I hadn't noticed the link in the header of the story I might never have stumbled onto this.

    To be fair I spend all my time here on the BBS or in the Grid View, I love the grid view, you could almost say i digg it! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

  3. The pic in this story shows a flier for the Infocom support hotline, with text saying "We're right here" under a picture of a guy in a balloon.

    Is this a reference to that old programmer/nerd "You're in a hot air balloon" joke, maybe?

    One (slightly over-detailed) example here.

  4. Liam1 says:

    Wow, I just checked out the scans from the game I'm most familiar with, The Hitchhiker's Guide..., and there is a ton of stuff. Over 900 pages from brainstorming notes, computer code, newspaper clippings, marketing drafts, and even notes appearing to be an itinerary for meeting Douglas Adams in England (with Adams' blacked out contact info). Very cool stuff.

  5. Jorpho says:

    In the distant past, I recall reading a bit from Meretzky on the design of Superhero League of Hoboken. One puzzle requires you to get to Carnegie Hall, and the story goes that it was at one point a parser-based game requiring the player to conjure the ingenious solution of typing "practice music" to be magically transported. The final, graphical version of the game turned out to be considerably more boring: clicking on a piece of sheet music just instantly pops up the context-sensitive verb "Practice" and transforms it into a non-puzzle.

    It was a thoughtful piece on how something was lost in the move away from text parsers. Sadly, I have never been able to locate that reference ever again. Maybe I should just message him about it directly.

    (Also, I hope Legend Entertainment's games resurface someday – even the ones not encumbered by contractual problems related to the source material on which they are based, like Callahan's Crosstime Saloon.)

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