Gold Machine: Wishbringer (Update: Tuesday, September 13)

It’s back to games this week with 1985’s Wishbringer, likely Infocom’s last game to be written before the shadow of financial failure fell over Infocom.

Wishbringer is one of Infocom’s best-loved games, and one of only two to achieve a “Gold” (100k sales) designation post-Cornerstone, Can you guess what the other one was?

Part one of three.

  1. Everybody Loves Wishbringer (1/3)
  2. After 37 Years, It Still Glows: Wishbringer (2/3)
  3. If Wishes Were Horses: Wishbringer Final
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Looking forward to your full take on this one! Wishbringer was the only Infocom game I played as a kid - we had a copy in my sixth grade classroom, which would have been like 1991 or 92, so it was clearly old but not hopelessly so. Our copy did come with the glow in the dark stone, which was very impressive! We never made much progress in the game, though, and I think I might have some learned helplessness around it since when I replayed it a couple years ago I actually thought it was surprisingly tough!

Pretty sure it’s Leather Goddesses. Sex sells!

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Wishbringer was a major formative experience in my youth. I did not know that the included stone glowed in the dark for the longest time. What that meant was one night I jumped into bed and switched off the light and opened my eyes for a second, remaining frozen and terrified for several minutes not understanding what the eye-shaped violet glow on top of my dresser was - since most glow-in-the dark toys gave off yellowish-green light and I had never seen anything glow purple in the dark like that!

That game was also my first amateur attempt at screenplay adaptation at age 11 or so; I actually tried to write a Wishbringer movie!

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In fairness, you had to get around that infamous Infocom learning curve! I’m sure I had an advantage, having played so many Infocom games already.

I recall that I beat it using wishes in 1985 but struggled to finish without them. Two puzzles in particular had me stumped.

I especially loved that. It was a first for me, too. Mine still glows!

You managed to spell “Moriarty” wrong through the whole piece… it’s the same as the Holmes villain.

Goodness! I added the first instance to the spellcheck and that was that

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I never figured out the legit uses for all seven wishes! You could only use them once per game and that technically is a bit cruel on the scale. I realize the wishes were intended like cheats or shortcuts for puzzles with alternate solutions, but I found some of the wish mechanics just as obtuse.

IIRC, I think I only consistently used two wishes to beat the game.

In fact, it was completely cruel because I think you could miss the shoppes closing time, or get out of there completely without obtaining the stone!

[EDIT] As I look up information, it seems three of the wishes did basically nothing except hint, and one locked you out of winning? So my using two wishes was not at all impressive…

I also loved that the Dragon was named Thermofax, and didn’t realize until later that was the full un-shortened name of a fax machine!

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It’s mean, but one wish locks you out of winning. Two (I think) are useful but solve no puzzles. One is just for flavor. Only three offer alternative puzzle solutions, I think.

For anyone curious, here are the official invisiclues for Wishbringer:
wishbrin.z5 - Parchment (iplayif.com)

oops looks like you already have this info.

Ha! Had no idea.

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Thermo-Fax (very often Thermo fax [1]) is 3M’s trademarked name for a photocopying technology which was introduced in 1950.[2][3] It was a form of thermographic printingand an example of a dry silver process.[4] It was a significant advance as no chemicals were required, other than those contained in the copy paper itself. A thin sheet of heat sensitive copy paper was placed on the original document to be copied, and exposed to infrared energy. Wherever the image on the original paper contained carbon, the image absorbed the infrared energy when heated. The heated image then transferred the heat to the heat sensitive paper producing a blackened copy image of the original.

I believe this is similar to receipt printers that use heat/infrared light instead of ink - those receipts where if you leave them on the dashboard of the car they turn entirely black.

Slightly ironic when I made my budding pre-pubescent fanfic screenplay of Wishbringer, the only printer we had actually was a thermal printer that used a roll of that special heat-sensitive paper with no divisions, so I had to cut it apart manually (the printer included dashed cutlines for this) and then weight the pages down under books because the paper curled up from coming off the roll. I used ThermoFax™ technology to create my dumb Wishbringer script and didn’t realize at the time!

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Correct! That would prove to be Infocom’s last big game, sales-wise, way back in 1986. Although Infocom would make some great games yet, they wouldn’t prove to be commercial hits. Even returning to the well for two explicitly-named Zork titles (Beyond Zork and Zork Zero) was not especially profitable.

Interestingly, Wishbringer, the last commercially successful Zork game, never once mentioned “Zork” on the back of its box or in its source code. That is a story for another another day.

In the excitement of the penultimate scene, I managed to miss the pink slip of paper. → Adventure zombification.

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Huh. Wishbringer and Trinity are the only Infocom games I managed to solve without hints. Strange worlds, eh? I love the fact that you can solve Wishbringer without wishes, and I never did, scoring 100% when I finally beat the game.

Edit:
The article mentioned arcade puzzles solvable with cross shaped map grid? What’s that about? I drew my own map, and I don’t remember any arcade puzzles? Is that the boot patrol, by any chance?

Well, since played in at most 15 minute chunks during the occasional free period, with use of the computer having to be negotiated each time with 15 other people, and the actual playing being done by a rotating cast of 12 year olds, making it hard to make a map, have a consistent save file, or even just not spend a bunch of time typing bad words in, it would have been surprising if we’d gotten very far! Action games and Oregon Trail work in that situation but longform IF makes for a tougher row to hoe.

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It’s the puzzle where you use this feelie:

wishbringer-postalmap.jpg (921×1103) (mocagh.org)

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Ah, I remember now. FYI, I figured it out from my hand drawn map, and didn’t have to brute force it, or use the feelies in the box. That’s good design, IMO.

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Personally, I finished the game so long ago using some wishes.

I’ve never minded about not getting the total score. Who cares? The game is fantastic, and I’ve completed it, so… score? penalization? What’s that?

The design is so good you can solve things y various ways? That’s awesome.

Anyway, this thread is fantastic! It has been very nice to read about your experiences. Even I think this could be referenced in the articles as an appendix, because all your experiences are worth reading. Thanks!

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I almost always end up using the wish for Freedom, since it allows you to get rid of the boot patrol once and for all.

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Wishbringer is the only Infocom game I ever completed. And I had to look up some clues online once or twice. I really enjoyed the game though. This was maybe 20 years ago when I bought that Activision CDROM bundling most Infocom games. Started up a few other games but got stuck early and had no patience to struggle. Maybe one day.

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Of the Infocom games…

A Mind Forever Voyaging is fairly easy, in the sense that it has hardly any traditional puzzles at all. But it’s also a bit unconventional, so reading the documentation carefully is more important than usual just to get into it.

I remember Plundered Hearts as being fairly easy, though I think I still had to look up at least one hint for it.

Once you get into the mindset of it, I’d argue that The Witness is the easiest game Infocom ever made. So much of it is optional that you can literally fit a minimal walkthrough of it into a tweet, with some space to spare. (I know, because I did it recently.) Of course, if you play it that way the game will make very little sense.

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With Wishbringer, Infocom’s gray box comes into its own with a very attractive package both inside and out. This week, Gold Machine explores both the text and paratext of Wishbringer. Featuring some pictures of my own copy!

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