Written by Joe Pranevich
A few years back, I planned a short marathon of 14 Infocom games directly or indirectly associated with the Zork franchise. Instead, I went a bit crazy and ended up playing all of the games, learning Cornerstone, and I’m this close to getting a Frobozz Magic Tattoo. It’s probably not healthy. Instead of this being our tenth game, it’s our twenty-eighth and we have a lot more to go. In the original marathon, Planetfall and Stationfall were connected to Zork thanks to grues, and a passing reference that they had been picked up from a backwater planet somewhere in the galaxy. It was a small hook, but expanding my goal to play all of Infocom made the point moot. July of 1987 gave us Infocom’s first double release with both Stationfall and The Lurking Horror making their debuts. Internal production data reveals that Stationfall was completed first, so it will be the first one that I play.
To recap: 1987 had not been a great year for Infocom. The deal with Activision had concluded, Cornerstone had failed, and sales of text adventures were slowing down. Hollywood Hijinx bombed with only 12,000 copies sold. Bureaucracy failed to capitalize on its A-list “author”, Douglas Adams, and shipped only 28,000 copies. In order to offset the sales loss, Infocom was forced to produce twice as many games as before. Making games was difficult, but making twice as many games with the same team seemed impossible. Fortunately, Infocom still had a developer or two with recent hits: Steve Meretzky (with Leather Goddesses and Hitchhiker's Guide) and Brian Morarity (with Wishbringer). While these two would reach back to produce easily marketed sequels, other implementers sought fresh ideas. We’ll get to those sequels and fresh ideas before long, but for now let’s just focus on Stationfall.