Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Infidel (computer game)
Infidel is an interactive fiction computer game published by Infocom in 1983. It was written by Michael Berlyn and was the first in the "Tales of Adventure" line. Due to Infocom's virtual Z-Machine, it was ported to a wide variety of popular computing systems of the day, including the Apple II and Commodore 64.
Among the feelies in the package are several documents that set up the backstory quite nicely. The player's character is a self-styled adventurer and fortune hunter. He's bitter because he thinks his boss, Craige, should treat him as a partner instead of an assistant. A call comes in while Craige is out checking equipment: a woman, Rose Ellington, wants to sponsor an expedition to discover the pyramid that her archeologist father never found. Egotistical and greedy for fame, the assistant tells Rose that he's capable of taking the job and decides to cut out Craige altogether.
In 1916, Dr. Ellington came into possession of a 5000-year-old fragment of pottery covered with hieroglyphics. (Conveniently for the text-only game, these runes look strangely like ASCII characters.) After years of painstaking research, Ellington managed to decipher a portion of the text, which indicated the general location of a pyramid that no one had heard of before. He managed to organize a modest expedition to the area in 1920, but found nothing before he died except a small block of limestone bearing the same style of hieroglyphics. According to the partial translation he made, the new fragment spoke of a queen and great riches. When Howard Carter discovered King Tut's tomb a few years later, Dr. Ellington's widow figured that someone had found the pyramid her husband had been looking for. She stowed the papers and artifacts away and forgot all about them. Rose found them in the early 1980s after her mother's death and did some preliminary fact-checking. The pyramid indicated by her father's papers is nowhere near Tut's. In fact, no pyramids have ever been discovered in the area Dr. Ellington was investigating. Rose is by no means a rich woman— she only wants someone to give her father the recognition he deserves— so it'll be a modest expedition. But it sure sounds like the perfect chance for an opportunistic soldier-of-fortune to make a big name for himself.
It soon becomes apparent that this adventuring stuff is harder than it looks. The "navigation box", a gadget that seems to be a crude forerunner of a Global Positioning System unit, is irreparably damaged. A new one is ordered, since locating the pyramid is impossible without it, but weeks slip by waiting for the delivery. The food supplies spoil. The locals recruited to dig are becoming increasingly discontent and demand more money. Terrified of losing control, the would-be adventurer commands the men to continue digging aimlessly, even trying to browbeat them into laboring on a holy day.
As the game begins, the player awakens to realize that he has been drugged by his men, who have stolen most of the equipment and abandoned the camp. All the food and water are gone, and the player has no idea how to get back to civilization. He may very well have been left to die in the barren desert. But the navigation box finally arrives, convincing him that everything will work out as long as he can find the pyramid! Once he does, of course, there is the small matter of the traps the Egyptians set to protect their treasures from plunderers like him...
Although the inclusion of feelies, or extra items in the game's package, was a relatively new concept at the time of Infidel's release, a rich array of documents were provided:
- An "Expedition Log" kept by the player's character in the weeks before the game's beginning
- An envelope containing a letter, written to Rose Ellingsworth by the player's character just before the game's beginning
- A "rubbing" and partial translation of Dr. Ellington's limestone fragment from 1920
- A roughly sketched map of the excavation area
The working title of this game was simply Pyramid.
Unlike many of Infocom's other titles, Infidel has no NPCs.
Also unusually for Infocom's games, the game has no happy, triumphant conclusion. Some players felt extremely disappointed, saying that the ending made them feel that everything they'd done was in vain.
Infidel carried an Infocom difficulty rating of "Advanced".
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