Favorite Fours From Industrious Implementors, 1G

Some IF writers write more than others. Here are my favorite four games from authors who’ve released at least half-a-dozen games to date. This list covers 1st-generation text-adventure implementors, who published the bulk of their work from the Eighties on.

Marc Blank

  1. Marc Blank, with Dave Lebling, topped the genre-defining “Adventure” by crafting a full-sentence parser and then creating the whimsically-anachronistic Great Underground Empire to go with it in “Zork” (aka “Dungeon” and “Zork I, II, and III”).

  2. Blank opened-up adventure games with “Deadline” by adding the murder-mystery genre to their repertoire. He also created faux documents to support the story, inventing the “feelies” which would become a hallmark of Infocom’s games.

  3. Blank explored espionage, experimented with real-time gameplay, and pushed the player from one player-character to another in the suspense-filled “Border Zone.”

  4. Blank, with Michael Berlyn, finally returned to the G.U.E. for more anachronistic fun and games in “Zork: The Undiscovered Underground.”

Dave Lebling

  1. Dave Lebling, with Marc Blank and Steve Meretzky, added a magic system, and magical intrigue, to the cherished Zork sequels “Enchanter,” “Sorcerer,” and “Spellbreaker.”

  2. Lebling accused the player-character of murder at a costume party in the perplexing murder-mystery “Suspect.”

  3. Lebling brought occult horror, and creepy sound effects, to the campus in the Lovecraft-inspired “Lurking Horror.”

  4. Lebling, with James Clavell, integrated Japanese-style illustrations with evocative descriptions in “Shogun,” an episodic adaptation of the popular historical novel.

Michael Berlyn

  1. Michael Berlyn’s unflattering characterization of the player-character in “Infidel” challenged adventure-game players in a new way.

  2. Berlyn then required the player to see things through the senses of several different robots in the challenging optimization game “Suspended.”

  3. Berlyn, along with Muffy Berlyn, pulled the player into a dimension where New Wave sensibility remained fashionable in “Tass Times in Tonetown,” a hybrid of text-adventures and point-and-click adventures.

  4. Berlyn, along with Muffy Berlyn, dropped the player into another surreal world in “Dr. Dumont’s Wild P.A.R.T.I.” a light-hearted, quantum-mechanics-themed, puzzle-heavy game.

Steve Meretzky

  1. Steve Meretzky produced the engaging sci-fi classics “Planetfall” and “Stationfall” after testing games for Infocom and getting promoted to Implementor.

  2. Meretzky, along with Douglas Adams, tested the limits of vexation and absurdity with this adaptation of the beloved “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

  3. Meretzky lampooned mildly-risqué, pulp-era science-fiction in the entertaining puzzle-fest “Leather Goddesses of Phobos.”

  4. Meretzky brought magical music, sexy co-eds, and relentless silliness to Legend Entertainment with “Spellcasting 101,” “Spellcasting 201,” and “Spellcasting 301,” an amusing illustrated series.

Brian Moriarty

  1. Brian Moriarty took players to a magically quaint town with a chilling dual personality in the enchanting fantasy “Wishbringer.”

  2. Moriarty’s engrossing time-travel game “Trinity” explored the beginnings of the nuclear age in a surreal and unnerving manner.

  3. Moriarty, with Douglas Adams and various Infocommies, asked the player to go to great lengths to sort through a confusion of rules, endure hilariously annoying NPCs, and solve elaborate puzzles in the comic “Bureaucracy.”

  4. Moriarty mixed elements from role-playing games and adventure games in “Beyond Zork,” a witty sequel to both “Zork” and the Enchanter series.

Bob Bates

  1. Bob Bates’ wry humor enlivened “The Riddle of the Crown Jewels,” a Victorian mystery which pitted Sherlock Holmes against his nemesis, Professor Moriarty.

  2. Bates’ illustrated depiction of England’s legendary king had “Arthur” proving his worth to Merlin by living among and as the wildlife of Briton.

  3. Bates’ slapstick account of “Eric the Unready,” an accident-prone knight sent on quests to prevent him from saving a princess, was garnished by illustrations, sound effects, and music.

  4. Bates imagined magic as a form of whimsical misfortune in “Thaumistry,” a charming homage to Infocom’s glory days.

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Marc Blank’s “Border Zone” was an absolute work of art.

I also enjoyed reading about the making of Bureaucracy over at The Digital Antiquarian.

I’ll have to look at these other works from Michael Berlyn. Thanks for pointing them out!

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Whoa. That’s an even worse story than the one I heard. I didn’t know Infocom had to hire a contractor just to get the years-overdue game cleaned-up and out the door. It sounds like reading Douglas Adams was a lot more fun than working with him.

Not many authors provided half a dozen games during the commercial era. Pete Austin did: Snowball, The Saga of Erik the Viking, Return to Eden, The Worm in Paradise, Red Moon, The Price of Magik, Knight Orc, Gnome Ranger, Lancelot, Ingrid’s Back and Scapeghost. I personally liked Gnome Ranger and Ingrid’s Back for their charme, and Scapeghost could easily have passed as an Infocom, or at least as a Magnetic Scrolls adventure.

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I’ve heard of Level 9, and how well-regarded their games were, but I could never get used to the two-word parsers they used.

Scott Adams, Peter Killworth, and Jonathan Partington also made a lot of games, but I’ve never played them for the same reason.

Oops. I just found out that Level 9’s last few games did have a full-sentence parser.

I’ll have to check these out. Thanks.

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