The Appeal of Infocom Games

Infocom's games flew off the shelves. In 1983, they dominated the Softsel bestseller list, the main index of software sales. The "Implementor's Creed" and the well-structured system of game development succeeded in creating a unifying vision for Infocom games. Buyers of Infocom games could be assured that they were purchasing an exciting, engaging experience. The prose in the games described vivid places and lively characters.

One of the best examples of a character that illustrates why people enjoyed Infocom's games was Floyd the Robot in Planetfall. In Planetfall, the player starts out onboard the Stellar Patrol Ship Feinstein. He eventually befriends Floyd the Robot, who proves to be a bubbly and loyal sidekick. To win the game, the player must somehow pass through a room full of killer mutants and obtain a card. Floyd takes center stage (user input input is in boldface):

"Looks dangerous in there," says Floyd. "I don't think you should go inside." He peers in again. "We'll need card there to fix computer. Hmmm... I know! Floyd will get card. Robots are tough. Nothing can hurt robots. You open the door, then Floyd will rush in. Then you close door. When Floyd knocks, open door again. Okay? Go!" Floyd's voice trembles slightly as he waits for you to open the door.
"The door opens and Floyd, pausing only for the briefest moment, plunges into the Bio Lab. Immediately, he is set upon by hideous, mutated monsters! More are heading straight toward the open door! Floyd shrieks and yells to you to close the door."
From within the lab you hear ferocious growlings, the sounds of a skirmish, and then a high-pitched metallic scream!
Time passes...

You hear, slightly muffled by the door, three fast knocks, followed by the distinctive sound of tearing metal.
Floyd stumbles out of the Bio Lab, clutching the mini-booth card. The mutations rush toward the open doorway!
And not a moment too soon! You hear a pounding from the door as the monsters within vent their frustration at losing their prey.

Floyd staggers to the ground, dropping the mini card. He is badly torn apart, with loose wires and broken circuits everywhere. Oil flows from his lubrication system. He obviously has only moments to live.

You drop to your knees and cradle Floyd's head in your lap. Floyd looks up at his friend with half-open eyes. "Floyd did it ... got card. Floyd a good friend, huh?" Quietly, you sing Floyd's favorite song, the Ballad of the Starcrossed Miner: ....

As you finish the last verse, Floyd smiles with contentment, and then his eyes close as his head rolls to one side. You sit in silence for a moment, in memory of a brave friend who gave his life so that you might live."

Players actually cried after learning of Floyd's death. Througout their games, the worlds created by Infocom were limited only by the players' imaginations. As one reviewer described it, "The underground empire [of Zork] can be here, right under you. You almost feel it pulsing."

Infocom's games were extremely well written, and they provided uses with hours of enjoyment. But to claim this was the only reason for the success of their games is to tell only half of the story. The other half of the story lies in just how Infocom got people to buy their games in the first place: Infocom's unique publishing and marketing strategies were crucial factors in the success of their games.

Find out about Infocom's creative publishing and marketing strategies,
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