Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Where are they now? - ICOM Simulations

Check out that retro styling.

Back in the early 1990s one of the first games I played to take advantage of my brand spanking new CD-ROM drive was a game called Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. The game was made by a company called ICOM Simulations and had rudimentary gameplay which basically involved visiting the correct people in the shortest amount of time in order to solve a case. The game was very FMV heavy too and although the video looks very grainy by today's standards it was truly amazing back in the early 1990s; all I cared about back then was the fact you could actually play a video on your computer! Anyway, years passed and I ended up always wondering what happened to that company called ICOM Simulations until I was directed to a Kickstarter project that managed to get me acquainted with its successor company (and the Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective game again)! But first, let's start at the beginning.

ICOM Simulations actually started way back in 1981 by a chap named Tod Zipnick and was originally called TMQ Software. It wasn't until 1985 though that they released what would be a breakthrough game, their first so-called "MacVenture" by the name of Déjà Vu: A Nightmare Comes True. ICOM Simulations was one of the companies that were pioneering point 'n' click interfaces since this was a couple of years before Lucasarts joined the show (with 1987's Maniac Mansion) and a few years before Sierra got rid of the text parser entirely from their games (around 1990).

ICOM Simulations continued to focus on their MacVenture games during the late 80s such as the classic Shadowgate which was released in 1987. Eventually, ICOM Simulations would focus on pioneering another technology: multiplatform CD-ROM games. Their first CD-ROM game would be the one I mentioned earlier, 1991's Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective Vol. 1. Unfortunately, 1991 was also the year that founder Tod Zipnick died of cancer.

ICOM continued to develop sequels to their games during the early 90s such as a couple more sequels to the Sherlock Holmes franchise and a sequel to Shadowgate on the TurboGrafx-CD platform called Beyond Shadowgate in 1993. 1993 was also the year the company was acquired by Viacom New Media and games from that point onward were often based on cartoons such as Bugs Bunny, Rocko's Modern Life, and Beavis and Butt-Head.

The company eventually disbanded in 1998 and for a long time there was some uncertainty as to what would be done with the ICOM Simulations IP (if anything at all). In 2012, that all changed when Dave Marsh and Karl Roelofs (former developers at ICOM Simulations) managed to secure the rights and form a new company called Zojoi. They also managed to successfully secure $137,232 USD of funding through Kickstarter from 3,468 backers (including me) to develop a remake for Shadowgate on 26 November 2012. The game was released in 2014 and has received "Very Positive" reviews from the Steam community after 309 reviews. Zojoi has also gone about re-releasing the classic MacVenture games and remade my beloved Sherlock Holmes games for modern PCs.

So what plans does Zojoi have for the future? I'm not entirely sure actually but I suspect they'll continue to port their classic games to as many platforms as possible in the meantime. What I'd really like to see them do is perhaps start making some new, original adventure games since you might as well stick to your strengths right? :) Whatever the case, none can discount the contributions Zojoi's predecessor, ICOM Simulations made to the gaming industry, especially with respect to point 'n' click adventures and multimedia in games.

LINKS:
[ Wikipedia: ICOM Simulations ]
[ Kickstarter: Shadowgate ]
[ Official Zojoi website ]

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