20 Facts About Infocom


Infocom was an American software company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that produced numerous works of interactive fiction.

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Infocom was founded on June 22,1979, by staff and students of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and lasted as an independent company until 1986, when it was bought by Activision.

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Infocom games are text adventures where users direct the action by entering short strings of words to give commands when prompted.

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Infocom games were written using a programming language called ZIL, itself derived directly from MDL, that compiled into a byte code able to run on a standardized virtual machine called the Z-machine.

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Infocom games were popular, InfoWorld said, in part because "in offices all over America executives and managers are playing games on their computers".

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Infocom's products appealed more to those with expensive computers, such as the Apple Macintosh, IBM PC, and Commodore Amiga.

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Unlike most computer software, Infocom titles were distributed under a no-returns policy, which allowed them to make money from a single game for a longer period of time.

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Infocom's puzzles were unique in that they were usually tightly integrated into the storyline, and rarely did gamers feel like they were being made to jump through one arbitrary hoop after another, as was the case in many of the competitors' games.

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Sometimes, though, Infocom threw in puzzles just for the humor of it—if the user never ran into these, they could still finish the game.

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Infocom released a small number of "interactive fiction paperbacks", which were based on the games and featured the ability to choose a different path through the story.

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In 1982 Infocom started putting resources into a new division to produce business products.

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Reviewers were consistently disappointed that Infocom—noted for the natural language syntax of their games—did not include a natural language query ability, which had been the most anticipated feature for this database application.

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Infocom produced the only third-party games available for the Macintosh at launch, and Berlyn promised that all 13 of its games would be available for the Atari ST within one month of its release.

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Infocom had sunk much of the money from games sales into Cornerstone; this, in addition to a slump in computer game sales, left the company in a very precarious financial position.

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Infocom was interested in producing them, that year proposing to Penguin Software that Antonio Antiochia, author of its Transylvania, provide artwork.

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The partnership negotiations failed, in part because of the difficulty of adding graphics to the Z-machine, and Infocom instead began a series of advertisements mocking graphical games as "graffiti" compared to the human imagination.

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The marketing campaign was very successful, and Infocom's success led to other companies like Broderbund and Electronic Arts releasing their own text games.

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Infocom said that "We're looking at graphics a lot", while Activision was reportedly interested in using Infocom's parser.

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Davis believed that his company had paid too much for Infocom and initiated a lawsuit against them to recoup some of the cost, along with changing the way Infocom was run.

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The Infocom trademark was then held by Pete Hottelet's Omni Consumer Products, who registered the name around the same time as Klaeffling in 2007.

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