Time Zone (video game)
Time Zone is a multi-disk graphical adventure game written and directed by Roberta Williams for the Apple II. Developed in 1981 and released in 1982 by On-Line Systems (later Sierra Entertainment), the game was shipped with six double-sided floppy disks and contained 1,500 areas (screens) to explore along with 39 scenarios to solve. Produced at a time when most games rarely took up more than one side of a floppy, Time Zone is one of the very first games of this magnitude ever released for home computer systems.
Time Zone allows players to travel through time and across the globe solving puzzles while meeting famous historical figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Cleopatra, and Julius Caesar. The game has static pictures and a text parser that understands two-word commands.
The game used the company's existing Hi-Res Adventures engine. Roberta Williams was the designer and writer, a process that took six months, and about ten other people—the first example of the modern video game-development model in which programmers, artists, and designers are separate people in a team larger than a few people—worked on the game for a year. Each of the more than 1,300 locations had its own artwork. The company hoped to release Time Zone before Christmas 1981, but did not do so until March 1982. Because of the game's difficulty, Sierra offered a telephone help line that players could call for hints.
BYTE wrote "The Guinness Book of World Records must be getting ready for a computer game category, if Time Zone is any indication of things to come. Without a doubt, it is the longest adventure game to date". The game received a Certificate of Merit in the category of "Best Computer Adventure" at the 4th annual Arkie Awards.:32
The game was overly ambitious for the time and flawed. Historian Jimmy Maher described it in 2012 as "a nadir in the annals of adventure-game design", and Williams' brother-in-law and fellow employee, John, told Maher, "It frankly wasn't that good". It sold poorly; its original retail price of US$99 ($246 today) may make Time Zone the most expensive computer game in history after inflation. The game was reissued the year of its release as part of the short-lived SierraVentures line.
- "Time Zone: An interview with Roberta Williams". Computer Gaming World. May–June 1982. pp. 14–15.
- Maher, Jimmy (2012-06-05). "Time Zone". The Digital Antiquarian. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
- Lewis, Jim (November 1983). "Escape to Adventure / These Computer Epics Let You be the Hero". Enter Magazine. pp. 16–20. Retrieved 12 March 2016.
- Clark, Pamela; Williams, Gregg (December 1982). "The Coinless Arcade - Rediscovered". BYTE. p. 84. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
- Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (March 1983). "Arcade Alley: The Best Computer Games". Video. Reese Communications. 6 (12): 32–33. ISSN 0147-8907.
- "IF-Legends.org entry on Sierra On-Line". Retrieved 2007-04-27.