Z-Machine Wednesday: Deadline (1982)

This is the first Infocom title posting that I’ve never had the pleasure of playing myself, though I remember a teacher back in Junior-High that told our class about how me he enjoyed playing it every evening. Marc Blank (Co-programmer on Zork, Zork II, and Zork III among others) programmed Deadline and Infocom published this murder mystery title in 1982, the first Infocom title that wasn’t Zork related, which resulted in the New York Times declaring it an “amazing feat of programming”, and Electronic Games heralded it as “Best Adventure of 1983”.

Deadline was also the first Infocom title to include feelies in its packaging, one of the reasons being that Blank couldn’t include all the text within the 80KB of disc space, so they included the supplement material to give more information to the player.

Thanks to the Wikipedia entry for the below information:

Critics and fans hailed Infocom’s pioneering move and gushed over the feelies’ high quality and the immersiveness they added to the game. The feelies included:

* A police folder in a pouch containing an Inspector’s Casebook
* A plastic bag with 3 white pills found near Marshall Robner’s body (Vic:Which if I remember correctly from reading reviews of the game, they were sugar candy…just in case someone actually ate them.)
* Notes from police interviews with Leslie and George Robner, Mr. Baxter, Ms. Dunbar, and Mrs. Rourke
* Corpus Delicti (summary of findings from the coroner’s examination)
* A letter from Mr. Coates, Marshall Robner’s lawyer, to the Chief of Police
* An official memo from G.K. Anderson of the Lakeville, Connecticut police department
* A lab report on the teacup Robner drank from before his death
* A photo of the murder scene, complete with white chalk outline

And as always a huge thanks to The Infocom Gallery for the images below of the feelies that were included with the title.


Originally intended to be Zork IV, Enchanter, debuted on computer store shelves and in my case some shelves at B. Dalton’s bookstore in 1983. I did not own my beloved Commodore 64 at that point…nor any other computer for that matter but I would always visit the shops and read and then reread the backs of the Infocom games. A couple of years later when I did get the C-64, I decided on a beginner level title, Wishbringer. Thanks to a school chum I was able to get my hands on Zork quickly after that and my devotion to ‘Interactive Fiction’ still burns brightly to this day! Of course how could you not love the little extra details that Infocom included in their titles? True, they were a means of copy protection, but thanks to the Zork Library you can see what I’m crowing about!

They even gave you a real Guild Pin!

Programmed by Marc Blank and Dave Lebling you find yourself in the shoes of a novice Enchanter, sent to stop the Warlock, Krill. The Circle of Enchanters hope that by you being so inexperienced that the Warlock will fail to notice you. This title also may be the only Infocom title that does not make any references to the lurking Grue, made famous by the Zork series of course.

Two other sequel followed Enchanter, with you growing in power in each title, they were Sorcerer and Spellbreaker. I’m not sure if they are still offering Infocom titles online anymore but I’m kicking myself for not picking up the collections they put out back in the early 90’s!