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.


Editor at Retroist
Searching through the alleys for useful knowledge in the city of Nostalgia. Huge cinema fanatic and sometimes carrier of the flame for the weirding ways of 80s gaming, toys, and television. When his wife lets him he is quite happy sitting in the corner eating buckets of beef jerky.

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5 thoughts on “Z-Machine Wednesday: Deadline (1982)

  1. vinvectrex says:

    I think this game looks as amazing today as it did back then. I’m still intimidated by it, though. I never had much luck with mystery adventure games. Still not sure how to solve Alpine Encounter -which was not nearly as impressive a mystery as Deadline.

  2. Atari Adventure Square says:

    I think I rented this from our local (and awesome) game shoppe a few years after it came out.
    Couldn’t get very far and it’s why I ultimately bought Suspended to avoid the frustration of this one (I think the timeline threw me – being at a certain place at a certain hour) and to have the temporal leisure to attack an Infocom title properly.

    And I agree with Vin, the game is more enticing today than most titles out there (to my tastes).
    Maybe I should apply my wisened and oh-so mature brain to rediscovering Deadline today.
    Lord knows I have much less hair to pull out.

  3. You are quite right, Vin, it still is impressive today as when it was first released. I failed to mention that teacher brought in his copy of the game, and let the class look over all the feelies. :)

    Atari, I would have killed to have a game shop like that in my neck of the woods, friend. If you do decide to don your detective cap once again let us know how it all turns out. :)

  4. vinvectrex says:

    @Vic – I agree completely. We had no game shoppes that supported computer or even video gaming where I grew up – at least none I ever heard about. Software at the time was expensive and for sale only. Would loved to have had access to some sort of rental opportunity. And, Atari, if you do give it a shot, I’d definitely be interested in hearing about it. I still think there’s some real money to be made if Activision (or whoever the rights owner is) re-releases them (again). I see used copies of Infocom’s full compilation are going for $100+ for the CD on e-bay. And, sadly, those probably wouldn’t even work under Mac OSX or Windows 7.

  5. Atari Adventure Square says:

    Yeah, I loved that olde game shoppe, which was first a small warehouse space where two guys had bought Intellivision systems and games and were renting them for, I think, 25 bucks a week (with a few titles).
    They later had things like the D&D electronic board game and other nifty stuff I can’t think of at the moment.
    I tried out everything I could.
    Later on, they had several computers and many games for em.
    The Infocom titles were fun because of the feelies. And being a mostly francophone town, nobody rented them, it seems.

    Would love to give Deadline or some other one a try. Probably a lower level title cuz the amount of time and patience to get through an expert one just doesn’t seem to be there for me.
    I’m used to short bursts of visual action or long sessions of shooting things, in terms of gaming (since I do writing for other purposes, otherwise).
    But it merits some mulling over, as I love the spirit of these 80s computer games so much.

    Maybe if I try some breathing exercises and take less (or more) caffeine?

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