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This Month: Zork Turns 35

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ZORK: The Great 35th Anniversary
Retro Gaming Magazine – a gaming
Copyright (c) 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016,
2017, 2018 RGM, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ZORK is a registered trademark of
Infocom, Inc.
Release 69 / Serial number 8008135 /
Interpreter 8 Version J

You are reading the first paragraph
of a 35th anniversary tribute to
ZORK I: The Great Underground
There is a mailbox here.
> open mailbox

Opening the mailbox reveals an
> read the introduction


This article is tribute to danger,
excitement, and low cunning. In it
you will read about some of the
most amazing territory ever seen by
mortals. No internet should be
without one!
> drop the introduction

> look

You find yourself at the beginning
of a 35th anniversary tribute to a
classic work of interactive fiction.
It is very dark. You are likely to
be eaten by a Grue.
> what is a grue?

No reader has ever seen one and
lived to tell the tale.
> open the curtains

A dazzling brightness, nearly a
faded memory after years of only
navigating by monitor light, bursts
into the room, blinding you with its
temporary intensity. This must be
that ‘sun’ you’ve heard so much
about. The Grues sneaking up on
you scream and run for the cover
of any shadows they can find. You
are safe…for now.
> continue reading

It was December of 1980 when this
iconic work of interactive fiction
arrived for owners of the Radio
Shack Tandy computer. While the
original Zork was written, pro-
grammed and designed for the PDP-10
the home version was split into 3
parts due to size limitations on
diskettes and computer memory
> who made zork?

Four enterprising, hard-working
students at MIT by the names of
Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Dave
Lebling, and Bruce Daniels were
responsible for creating the world
which allowed enterprising users
to squander untold computing
cycles. Lebling and Blank went on
to produce the home versions of
this classic adventure series.
> why should I care?

Because Zork I: The Great Under-
ground Empire introduced thousands
to the idea of computer adventures
and gave birth to one of the most
successful game development houses
of the 1980s, that’s why!
> where are the graphics?

You don’t see any graphics here.
> find graphics

You’re not getting this whole
“text adventure” thing, are you?
Back in the day, before we had big,
multi-core processors and video cards
with memory rated in gigabytes, there
were these things called ‘limits’
within which programmers were expected
to work. One of those limits involved
how much memory you could use to
represent your world. Infocom’s
Implementors (their fancy word for the
men and women who made fantasies come
to life in the form of interactive
fiction) had a choice: they could use
very few graphics to attempt to tell
their story, or they could rely on the
most powerful graphics card ever in-
vented: the player’s imagination.
They chose the latter and went with an
all-text environment.
> dance

Don’t you feel silly?
> inventory

You are carrying:

a pair of wire-frame glasses (worn)
a Pac-Man t-shirt (worn)
a rough pair of jeans (worn)
a flood of good memories
> examine memories

These memories are all time-worn but
functional. Flipping through them you
pick out several important examples,
such as using the clove of garlic to
deter the vampire bat, the first time
you challenged the thief and won, a one-
eyed cyclops with an aversion to Greek
mythology, and a large black book within
which are inscribed at least 12,592
different religious commandments.
> count memories

You have a total of 69,105 memories.
> keep reading

Zork I: The Great Underground Empire
was followed by two sequels which
formed a trilogy. Zork II: The Wizard
of Frobozz challenged the adventurer
(played by you) to overcome the traps
and tricks set by a wily conjurer in a
different dungeon than the one you just
explored in the previous game. Beating
the wizard led to your final challenge
in Zork III: The Dungeon Master, which
stretched your puzzle-solving skills to
their utmost. Finally, like every good
story or movie from the 1980s, you
discovered the true power was within
you all along: a lesson which you have
carried through your life up until this
very day, and will continue to carry
> where can i play zork today?

Now you’re talking! Thanks to the skills
of high-level mages (and a healthy dose of
good old fashioned hard work), it is
possible to play Zork from virtually any
computer in the world! Best of all, be-
cause Zork uses no graphics, displays
only text, and requires only keyboard
entry for its commands, it is as simple to
play Zork on your tablet as it is to open
a web browser and enjoy the full game on
any number of sites which host it. Here
is a useful link for those who would like
to see what the fuss is all about:

I cannot personally think of a single game
which so shaped and captured my imagination
and love for computer games the way that
playing Zork I on my old Tandy Color
Computer did. In my previous incarnation
as a writer for the website Video Game
Cowboys, I selected the nom de plume of
“Modern Zorker” as a nod to how important
Infocom in general, and Zork in particular,
were to my development as a gamer. In fact,
Infocom’s text parser is just about perfect–
when I type into it:
> thank Marc Blank and Dave Lebling enough

the reply I am given sums everything in this
piece up succinctly.

“I don’t know how to thank Marc Blank and
Dave Lebling enough!” the game replies. And
neither, it seems, do I. To everyone who
ever worked for Infocom, wrote interactive
fiction, or just got lost for hours in the
maze of twisty little passage, all alike,
beneath that iconic white house with a
boarded-up front door: you made adventure
games what they are today. May your lantern
never run out of batteries.
> quit

Your score is 350 (total of 350 points) in
16 moves.
This gives you the rank of Master Reader.
Do you wish to leave the article? (Y is
> Y

Michael Crisman

In 1979, Michael Crisman was mauled by a radioactive Gorgar pinball machine. After the wounds healed, doctors discovered his DNA had been re-coded. No longer fully human, Michael requires regular infusions of video games in order to continue living among you. If you see him, he can see you. Make no sudden moves, but instead bribe him with old issues of computer and video game magazines or a mint-in-box copy of Dragon Warrior IV. If he made you laugh, drop a tip in his jar at (If he didn't make you laugh, donate to cure his compulsion to bang keyboards by sending an absurdly huge amount of money to his tip jar instead. That'll show him!)

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