Don't Panic: The Infocom Drive Surfaces


Programmer Andy Baio has gotten his hands on a piece of computer gaming history: a backup of game publisher Infocom's shared network drive from 1989. What's Infocom, you ask? (At least, you ask this if you're under a certain age and/or leaned left-of-nerdy in the 80's....) Infocom is the game company behind classic text adventure like Zork, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, and a little game called The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- which was written with the help of Douglas Adams. A whole generation of nerds tapped away at these games on their 8-bit home computers, discovering rich game worlds through a text-only interface.

So Baio managed to, um, acquire Infocom's corporate history, code, everything. Here's how he describes it:

This is one of the most amazing archives I've ever seen, a treasure chest documenting the rise and fall of the legendary interactive fiction game company. Among the assets included: design documents, email archives, employee phone numbers, sales figures, internal meeting notes, corporate newsletters, and the source code and game files for every released and unreleased game Infocom made.

So what's the crown jewel of the stash? Two (very brief) "playable prototypes" of Milliways: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the unreleased sequel to Infocom's Hitchhiker's Guide game. Baio put up a bunch of information about the Milliways game yesterday, and today updated his blog post with a bit more (plus commentary from Infocom staff including Steve Meretzky, co-author with Douglas Adams of the original Hitchhiker's Guide game). Wow.

So, text gaming nerds, go forth and read all about it. It's a fascinating (albeit incomplete) story of tumultuous game development in the 80's. You can also grab the demos from that page, but a bit of technical nerdery is required to actually play them.