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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Wed Sep 04, 2019 9:19 am

Some of you know I collect Infocom games for most C= platforms. I don't bother with pre-C64 or the Plus/4 or anything like that. My original key focus was Amiga, as those titles are quite hard to find (and usually play the best in 80 columns and occasionally hold small, beautiful surprises).

But I also collect titles for the C128 because it does just fine with 80 columns, too. These can be as hard to find as Amiga titles, which makes hunting for both platforms a lot of fun. Every now and then I'll throw in the towel and get the C64/128 combo, which really just means C64 mode.

In any case, one title in particular has been on my radar for a few years as it is extremely hard to find in general for any Commodore platform. The title in question is the satirical game created by Douglas Adams: Bureaucracy.

When people think of Douglas Adams and games they always leap to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and rightly so. It was one of the best selling Infocom titles of all-time - potentially second place to the original Zork - mainly due to the rabid fanbase behind his books and other media.

Bureaucracy entered the market in 1987, and there are actually two different revisions of it. While selling fairly well for the times, it only logged less than 30,000 units sold from 1987-1989, and how many of those are Amiga, or C128, or DOS, etc. are not known to me. I think it's fair to assume the numbers are quite small. I've done a fair bit of research on this topic, which I hope to share some day to help illuminate this darkening corner of gaming history that was never saved to disk and only logged on paper (and in many cases with typewriters and #2 pencils!).

When a Bureaucracy title shows up for any Commodore platform, it is usually an auction. And while I try, I'm not an expert ninja Ebay sniper. Someone always seems to go "all in" and crush me by a dollar or something like that.

But this time the game appeared as a "Buy It Now" and I happened to be in the right place and the right time (probably thanks to being in Spain where I was awake when most in the USA were asleep). I always seem to get my ass handed to me in the wee hours when folks on the east coast are waking up and I'm still dreaming...

Look at this, you guys. Just look. First ever Infocom title I've ever owned that still has the original shrinkwrap on it. The creases in the plastic are even slightly brown after all these 30+ years.
Douglas Adams probably prefered the Macintosh versions of his games as he was a really big Mac guy, but white text on a black screen feels more "right" to me.

This is hands down the finest Infocom title I've ever owned.

Heart a' flutter, it's amazing.

And within a matter of days of this amazing pickup, another title came onto the market. And for some reason (well, I know the reason but I'm not going to share it at this time) this title wasn't on many other peoples Watch Lists: an A to A- "never opened" copy of Trinity for C128! No plastic wrap, so it was indeed opened, and only 2 photos provided on the listing: the front and back.

So it was a gamble on my part to trust the seller that all of the original "feelies" were intact and there was no damage.

I won the auction - I kid you not - for only $36. And, to my surprise, the box is near-mint and the contents indeed had never been used.
Corners are flawless. Almost. (There's one that isn't pictured here with a small crease... all the rest look perfect.)

How do I know it's likely never been used? Look at the golden Sun Dial (the piece usually missing or broken in most Trinity sets). This one has never even been popped out of the original card.
A virgin Sun Dial - never seen that before!

I should show you guys my entire Infocom collection at some point. It's not 100% complete on purpose. I have no intention of buying games I never intend to play, and that includes games that are ranked "Advanced" which is just another word for impossible. But for the ones I do want to play, I'm nearly done. Of course if I ever see another shrink-wrapped copy out there of a different title I value, I'll replace what I have and release my current copy back to the wild. So, the hunt will never really ever be over, you know?

Like, I don't think I've even ever shown my C128 Science Fiction set before, have I? It came in its own special sleeve that holds 3 titles (all 100% complete and seemingly stored in a box for 30 years, too).
I have such sights to show you, said Pinhead.

I have one of the only Amiga versions of AMFV, too, which I ripped and submitted to TOSEC a couple of years ago. It had never been entered into their system before, much to my shock and surprise. I guess text adventures just weren't what most Amigans were looking for back in the day.

I'll continue this topic another day; I love it so!


User avatar
Zippy Zapp

Posted Wed Sep 04, 2019 5:32 pm

Fantastic! I had a sort of C64 Infocom collection back then. Like you, I only bought the ones I wanted to play but at some point when the games were a few years old and on the discount rack I would purchase them for $5-$10 even if it wasn't on my list (Plundered Hearts I am looking at you :lol: ). And if I recall correctly they re-released some of them with a hint system built-in. I ended up with a few of those too. Alas, I sold gave away quite a bit of my C64 stuff when I got into Amiga and that included all my Infocom games. I still have a few backups from when I copied them onto backup disks but nothing else.

I would love to see your collection so far. I know it blows what I had way out of the water but it would be cool to see.

User avatar
Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Wed Sep 04, 2019 7:35 pm

And if I recall correctly they re-released some of them with a hint system built-in.
They did indeed. Those are the Solid Gold editions. They're really flat, and have almost no feelies. At best, maybe a map. This is why they included the invisiclues since a lot of the games needed those physical artifacts to get through some of the puzzles. The hint systems are called InvisiClues in both print form and digital. Although the hints got their name from the silly invisible ink system in the hint books, but I guess they decided to keep that name to keep things simple (probably internally as much as at the consumer level). The Solid Gold editions can support 40 cols in 64 mode or 80 cols in 128, which is a very kickass feature that helps make up for the lack of feelies.

User avatar
Zippy Zapp

Posted Thu Sep 05, 2019 6:07 am

Ok cool then I must have had a few of the Gold releases as I filled in the ones I didn't have.

I laughed at Plundered Hearts because it was one of those games that IIRC was meant to get woman into IF being a sort of romance adventure. I don't actually recall playing it much. I don't think it sold well at all. Considering it was on the $5 rack in the 80s I would have to say no. But if you check eBay they go for $200 which I could never see paying for that game. LOL.

I hope you find the rest of the titles you are after, and yeah $36 for an infocom game is a good deal these days. For me I will just use the backups and the compilation CDs that I have.

User avatar
Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Thu Sep 05, 2019 8:51 am

I don't think it sold well at all.
It didn't.

It does get some nice reviews over on ifdb, mainly because it's just so different. IF in the early days was almost always fantasy or sci-fi. Plus iirc it was written by a woman, which was also quite rare at Infocom.

I've read about Plundered Hearts over the years but - like you - could never justify the price for the one on Ebay. Sure, it's NOS, but ... so? You have to at least think you might want to play it.

And I've just got too many other titles in the queue before that one.

Not to mention I've been feeling pretty ADHD lately with my projects as I've got too many interests and not enough time. Now that fall is arriving, I think it's time to really focus again. (My current video project, which I work on every day for about an hour, is taking forever...).

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