Creator / Infocom

Infocom, founded in 1979, is the shining light in the history of commercially-released Interactive Fiction games. Beginning with Zork in 1980, the company released over thirty games, many of which are still played.

The company's strengths included technical innovation (their Text Parser was the best in the business, and the z-code data format Infocom created is a popular choice for distributing new IF games to this day), rich storytelling, and creative packaging (most Infocom games shipped with "feelies", thematically-related props which might form part of the Copy Protection system, constitute clues, give extra background information, or just be included for the lulz).

In 1986, struggling with competition from video games with fancy graphics and badly damaged by an ill-fated foray into the business software market, Infocom was bought by Activision. Shortly after the acquisition, Infocom's champion on the Activision board left the company, and his successor spent three years "improving" Infocom before pulling the plug in 1989.

These days many of their games are available on Abandonware sites - indeed the games (being entirely text) are incredibly small files by today's standards. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which was a very verbose game, is only 128k - smaller than most modern digital pictures.

Infocom was the Trope Namer for:

Recurring tropes in Infocom games:

Infocom games with their own trope pages include:

Tropes relating to individual games that don't have their own pages:

  • All Hallows' Eve: Suspect takes place in a Halloween costume ball... at the time that a murder has already occurred... a murder you're falsely accused of committing.
  • Big Dumb Object: Forms most of the plot of Starcross.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Infidel is no exception for this Villain Protagonist:
    You lift the cover with great care, and in an instant you see all your dreams come true. The interior of the sarcophagus is lined with gold, inset with jewels, glistening in your torchlight. The riches and their dazzling beauty overwhelm you. You take a deep breath, amazed that all of this is yours. You tremble with excitement, then realize the ground beneath your feet is trembling, too.

    As a knife cuts through butter, this realization cuts through your mind, makes your hands shake and cold sweat appear on your forehead. The Burial Chamber is collapsing, the walls closing in. You will never get out of this pyramid alive. You earned this treasure. But it cost you your life.

    And as you sit there, gazing into the glistening wealth of the inner sarcophagus, you can't help but feel a little empty, a little foolish. If someone were on the other side of the quickly-collapsing wall, they could have dug you out. If only you'd treated the workers better. If only you'd cut Craige in on the find. If only you'd hired a reliable guide.

    Well, someday, someone will discover your bones here. And then you will get your fame.
  • Clueless Detective: In Ballyhoo.
  • Controllable Helplessness
  • Criminal Mind Games: In Sherlock: The Riddle of the Crown Jewels.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: At the beginning of Suspect, you notice that Veronica Ashcroft-Wellman has been acting strangely... until you eventually discover that your old schoolfriend, Alicia Barron, was posing as Veronica, which means that the real Veronica had already been murdered right before the start of the game.
  • Developers' Foresight: Infocom's parsers were incredibly smart, probably due to having more memory to work with as the games didn't have any graphics.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Infidel.
  • Difficulty Levels: Early in Moonmist, the player is asked their favorite color, and the answer determines which of four different mysteries (differing in complexity, and each with a different guilty party and a different reward) the game subsequently presents to the player. The options in order of ascending difficulty are green, blue, red, or yellow.
  • Faking the Dead: In the red variation of Moonmist, we discover that Lord Jack Tresyllian attempted to kill his former fiancée, Deirdre Hallam, after murdering his uncle Lionel for his inheritance and fortune. However, she escaped Jack's clutches by jumping into the well in the castle basement and swimming her way to safety, thus faking her own murder and setting the one reason for "Never Found the Body"; she then masqueraded as the legendary "White Lady" in her effort to haunt Jack and her successor Tamara Lynd.
  • Floating in a Bubble: In Trinity.
  • Foreign Remake: In 1992, six years after the original Moonmist, Japanese software development company SystemSoft developed and published its remake for the PC-9801 entitled Moonmist: Shiroki Kifujin no Nazo (ムーンミスト ~白き貴夫人の謎~; Moonmist: The Mystery of the Noble White Lady). Unlike the original, this game has some of the most common verb commands ("look", "take", etc.) that can be accessed by pressing a corresponding button (the player still has to type the name of an object, though), and enchanced graphics for the unique background pictures on which the text is super-imposed.
  • Going by the Matchbook: One of the Feelies in The Witness.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: A rare case in Moonmist, in which the game asks you for your name and title at the beginning.
  • Here We Go Again: Trinity.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: James Clavell's Shogun, which James Clavell didn't have an active hand in adapting.
  • Karmic Death: Happens in Infidel, where the Villain Protagonist, as a tomb-robber, has discovered the Queen's treasure, but in opening her sarcophagus, the Burial Chamber ends up becoming the protagonist's own tomb at the end of the game.
  • Loser Protagonist: The backstory for Infidel establishes the player character as a greedy opportunist who is not half as clever as he/she thinks. Their situation at the beginning of the game is the direct result of some Jerkass behavior on their part and failure to see what was coming next.
  • Masquerade Ball: The setting of Suspect.
  • Multiple Endings: A very rare early example in Plundered Hearts.
  • Never Found the Body: We are told in Moonmist that Deirdre Hallam apparently died when she allegedly jumped or fell into a deep well at the basement of Tresyllian Castle, and her body was never found, although it is later revealed in the red variation that she was actually Faking the Dead.
  • The Password is Always "Swordfish": It is in Sherlock: The Riddle of the Crown Jewels, anyway.
  • Post Modernism: In Deadline, the player finds a novelization of the game within the game. In Trinity, the player discovers a book that lists the last few commands he has typed in so far.
  • Public-Domain Character: Each of the "Immortal Legends" games. Sherlock: The Riddle of the Crown Jewels features Sherlock Holmes and related characters; Arthur: The Quest for Excalibur does likewise for King Arthur.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: A bit of a difference depending on which version of Moonmist you've played: while the original game only has you optimize your character in the forms of Hello, [Insert Name Here] and Schrödinger's Gun, the PC-9801 version not only ditched the prefix in place of this "Purely Aesthetic Gender" (with an option of either male, female or "okama", i.e., Drag Queen), but it also allowed you to type in the number of your age!
  • Ruritania: Frobnia in Border Zone.
  • Shout-Out: In the yellow variation of Moonmist, three of the four clues you are sent to find are references to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, namely, "The Bells", "Annabel Lee", and "The Cask of Amontillado".
  • Slipping a Mickey: Judging by the protagonist's journal and letter (the feelies) and Abdul's farewell letter in Infidel, one of his men borrows a calfskin of kumiss, slips a sleeping drug into the drink, and makes him drink it in order to put him to sleep, so they can steal almost all his possessions in retaliation for bossing his men around, treating them cruelly, and making them work on a holy day of rest or obligation.
  • Stable Time Loop: In Trinity.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: In Plundered Hearts.
  • Villain Protagonist: Infidel.