Z-Machine Wednesday: Steve Meretzky – The Most Perfect Video Game

One of my favorite programmers from the heady days of Infocom is Steve Meretzky (Planetfall, Sorcerer, Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy) and I think his sharp sense of humor can be seen here in the video posted below where he was speaking at the Boston Post Mortem. He offers us the woes of the world and ends his speech with what he believes is the most perfect video game. Here is a hint…I hope you like cake.

A big thanks to textfilesdotcom over at YouTube for uploading this video!

Z-Machine Wednesday: The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (1984)

I’ve been looking forward to writing up a bit on this title, the 14th game released by Infocom, and designed by Douglas Adams (HHGTTG, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Last Chance to See, and The Salmon of Doubt to name just a few.) and Steve Meretzky (Not HHGTTG, Nor Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Nor Last Chance to See, and nothing to do with The Salmon of Doubt. But he did design a ton of classic Infocom games.).

First of all you need to be warned about something concerning this Infocom game…it is incredibly difficult…even though it was given a mere Standard rating. Devious might be a better description of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galazy, the most famous puzzle concerning the Babel fish. In the game when you are in the hold of the Vogon space vessel you must find a way to retrieve said fish from a dispenser, in a set number of turns, with a set number of items in a very, very specific way. You wouldn’t die or anything if you couldn’t get the Babel fish out…but it rendered the game unwinnable.

It was such a stumper that Infocom released these for purchase!

This was the first Infocom title that I also ordered the InvisiClues for…I never even finished this game, that is how tricky it is. Now luckily for me and you, it is available to play online over at Douglas Adams.Com absolutely for free. I thought I was doing pretty well in the game, recalling a few tricks from the back of my cobwebbed data stores…but within 20 moves I was deceased. Thankfully they have an online help section for the game as well!

Now when the game was originally released it sold so well that it was released in a ‘Solid Gold’, only 1 of 5 Infocom titles released as such, which included a built-in hint system…which I could have used. Now from the Wikipedia entry it states that. “On September 21, 2004 the BBC launched the 20th Anniversary Edition to coincide with the initial radio broadcast of the Tertiary Phase. Sporting a Flash user interface, and illustrated by Rod Lord (who also produced the guide animations for the Hitchhiker’s TV series), it won the Interactive BAFTA Award for Best Online Entertainment.”

A big thanks as always to The Infocom Gallery for the awesome scanned images of the Feelies you see below. My favorite is probably the Official Microscopic Space Fleet.

Z-Machine Wednesday: Stationfall (1987)

Released by Infocom in 1987, Stationfall marked the the company’s 25th release and is a sequel to the popular Planetfall which was released two years earlier. Steve Meretzky (Planetfall, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Sorcerer) was the genius behind the writing of the title and the game was released just one day before his 30th birthday! Stationfall was also the first Infocom title that had no difficulty level on the box.

Following the events of Planetfall you find yourself with a promotion, instead of Ensign Seventh Class you are now a Lieutenant First Class…but don’t start patting yourself on the back just yet. Sure you aren’t doing menial cleaning chores anymore but now you are doing menial paperwork behind a desk all day. This is how you are rewarded for saving an entire planet, no more than 5 years ago?

Luckily this is an Infocom title so that means before your know it you are trucking through space once again, I mean it, you are driving in a spacetruck to pick up a “Request for Stellar Patrol Issue Regulation Black Form Binders Request Form Forms”. Unfortunately the spacetruck is fully automated so you aren’t actually doing the driving but at least you have been given a robotic companion, the lovable Floyd from Planetfall is back!

Upon reaching the station you find there is something wrong. It is mostly deserted. Except for an Arcturian balloon-like creature…and an Ostrich. Both the creatures are in perfect health which is surprising as the systems in the space station, like those controlling the welders for the station, seem to be intent on causing your grievous harm.

So what happened to the crew on the space station? What about those dangerous automated systems? What is up with the Ostrich and the Acrturian Balloon Creature? You’ll just have to play the title to find out for yourself, won’t you?

As usual a huge thanks to the Infocom Gallery for the scans posted below!

Z-Machine Wednesday: A Mind Forever Voyaging (1985)

What are the first things that come to your mind when you think about the game titles Infocom produced in the 1980’s? Groundbreaking game design? Imaginative puzzles? Intriguing Interactive Stories? Grues? I admit I generally think of Grues.

In 1985, Steve Meretzky (Planetfall, Sorcerer, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, Stationfall, and Zork: Zero) programmed the 17th title in the interactive fiction line…that most Infocom fans were not ready to embrace. Advertised as “Interactive Fiction Plus”, A Mind Forever Voyaging had only a single puzzle near the end of the game. Instead you were tasked to play as a sentient computer named PRISM, a machine that has been living 20 years in a simulation as a human named “Perry Simm”. Your programmer, Dr. Perelman, awakens you to inform you that you are to carry out a vital mission for the Goverment, a new simulation that will determine if Senator Richard Ryder’s Plan for Renewed National Purpose can succeed. Perry will live through various timelines that detail how the plan will affect the world and unlike other Infocom titles you goal was not to solve puzzles to advance but live through these timelines, learn what has gone wrong with the plan.

Unlike most of Meretzky’s titles, A Mind Forever Voyaging, was a strictly serious political Sci-Fi tale. The game as I mentioned above was not welcomed with open arms by Infocom fans but critics gave it high approval for its storyline. Thanks as always to The Infocom Gallery for the scanned box art and the collection of Feelies posted below. I’m trying something a little different this week, besides the box cover, I’m using thumbnails you may click and expand to see the full image.