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Exploring Zork (2012) (filfre.net)
83 points by pmoriarty 64 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 22 comments

Zork* - My gateway drug, my portal to another world... to storytelling, grammar, language, academics, programming, entrepreneurship, engineering, business, imagination, creativity, magic. I still feel it’s incredibly positive impact many decades later.

* includes enchanter, spell breaker, and all the infocom games

Detroit Beyond Human feels like my first experience playing Zork

The reason other mystery decision games didn't is mainly because of the lack of consequence, DBH fills the gap by revealing the existence of other choices and how many world wide players made a particular choice. But it still fails on having many meaningful consequences, it tries pretty well though

Could you tell us more about Detroit Beyond Human ?

I wonder - did you not play other types of games before?

I tried getting into IF several times and never really managed to get very far - both the frustration of trying to get the parser to understand me & the "gameplay" (puzzles I guess) just not being very interesting.

Maybe it's one of those things where "you had to be there at the time".

One thing to keep in mind is at the right point in history, Zork and Star Trek might have been among the only games available on the computer one had access to. Both were available on the DEC mainframe we had free access to at my local community college in the early 80's while in school. I can't remember if we had Space War on those, but the limited selection and novelty made everything about the games fascinating. Even later on C64/Atari 1040 when I tried some of the later Infocom games the convoluted logic needed for some of the puzzles turned me off for more accessible games, though Kings Quest and related series seems to be the graphical version of the puzzle logic of some of the Infocom games.

These games do not resonate with everybody.

Back in the day, they seemed powerful. The lack of graphics was a clear trade for what seemed a lot of text and fairly sophisticated input.

I loved them. Have only finished a couple though.

I still really like IF. One gem today is lost pig. Hilarious!

Later, as my understanding had improved, I appreciate the art. Harsh limits back then. Despite that, for those people for whom words light up fun parts of the brain, the result is compelling.

I have wanted to do one with all sound. Maybe text to read, maybe those words just spoken. Dunno.

For what it is worth, Dungeons and Dragons invokes a similar mindset, given a good DM and group of players.

Maybe give that a go should you encounter an opportunity.

For me, we had lots of different games. Various systems to game on too. The text adventure stood out, but not for everyone.

No worries. I also think when it stands out, is compelling, it is super compelling! You maybe need the right triggers, or maybe just are not the type.

Triggers for me were actually teachers endorsements. They wanted us to play those text games. I know that had an influence on me.

> Maybe it's one of those things where "you had to be there at the time".

Nope, not really. I didn't get into IF until 2002, and I suspect that it's just a matter of taste. If you'd been around in the early days, maybe you'd be more into pinball or reading or bowling or something.

> I tried getting into IF several times and never really managed to get very far - both the frustration of trying to get the parser to understand me & the "gameplay" (puzzles I guess) just not being very interesting.

> Maybe it's one of those things where "you had to be there at the time".

Zork 1 is pretty hard/frustrating, so you shouldn't necessarily give up on IF in general based on that. You could try Zork 0, Beyond Zork, or the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (only the beginning is really hard) which are basically different genres from Zork 1.

I didn't try Zork 1, I tried a couple games that were listed online as good for beginners (this was already in the '00s).

> "you had to be there at the time".

^yes. this, and access to technology. there was a pretty significant time where low-end PC tech could support little of the more "advanced" gaming trends. i played many text-adventure, MUDs and 2d platforming games (PoP, chopper commando, etc) because that was what would run on the machine i had access to. my neighbor had a pentium with a cd-rom...which is where i learned of myst ;)

i have a deep love of text gaming (online and off) because of this...and i can 100% see why it may not resonate so well with others

I still occasionally play a MUD called Shattered Kingdoms. I played that game for 15 years: really nice ANSI color and you sort of can’t beat it because of the roleplaying.

My first computer was a PC XT clone with a monochrome monitor - but there were plenty of simple action and some strategy (like The Ancient Art of War) games that were more appealing (to me) than IF.

Interactive fiction games were the only "intelligent" games available for quite a while. All other computer games were either poorly re-created board games, or poorly re-created simple arcade games.

Right, which is what I meant by "you had to be there at the time" - I had a computer very early but by the time I was able to read and understand English well enough to play IF I was well into my teenage years and the mid/late 90s (I mostly played RTSs like *craft/c&c and story-rich RPGs like the Fallouts/Baldur's Gates).

> Zork was updated about a dozen separate times between 1980 and 1984, to add polish and/or to fix bugs.

It's funny how my first passing thought was "pushed-to-clients", but no, they had to batch bug fixes, QA, regression test (probably manual play?), see if it all fit back on floppies, create a master image, mail to factory, update printed literature and box design with version numbers, have retail boxed product delivered to Babbages (or whatever), possibly with instructions for removal of old inventory.

Hard to fathom just how much easier it is to iterate in this age.

I learned to type by playing Zork on an Apple IIGS. When you couldn’t look up the answers to puzzles on internet it really made for a different gaming experience.

I had a similar experience playing it on an Apple II when I was 12. Not having much guidance but just spent hours exploring and trying different commands--it was about 15 years later that I learned the ultimate goal was collecting treasures and putting them in the trophy case. I remember being at the gates of Hades trying so many combinations, thinking this must be the end game--so close!

And mapping out the Great Underground Empire on graph paper, before you could just get a map from the interweb.

Even if some games came with maps, some versions didn't. For example, the Commodore-distributed Infocom games were just floppy disks in large cardboard sleeves. You figured it all out on your own.

The Zork series (particular Zork 1) are very fond childhood memories for me. I still pull it out every year or two, and try to "speedrun" it, by completing it in the least possible moves. There are some great methods for pulling this off, but you are sometimes at the mercy of the RNG with respect to the roaming thief and the troll fight. Save scumming doesn't seem to work in most versions I've tried since the RNG state appears to be stored in the save game file.

When I started messing with UE4 about 4 years ago, the very first project I wanted to try was recreating Zork I, as I pictured it in my mind.

I was still learning the ropes in terms of creating good assets for UE4 (and still am to a lesser degree), and formulating my own art style, but there are some examples (Living Room and Entrance to Hades) as well as a sample treasure (Platinum Bar) here:


Other than that, I had a large part of the overground/underground map done in greybox form, and were starting to add interactive components like the rug, trapdoor, and lamp.

From time to time, I feel like going back and starting over, it's still something I would like to do one day. The conceptual problems I faced were:

1) whether to limit the game to "on rails" style game play when moving between locations, or to allow the player to freely roam in normal first-person fashion; and

2) the original game relies so heavily on the players imagination to flesh out the environment on their mind. If you take that away from them by providing a visual interpretation, would the game be as fun or interesting?

I never answered those questions, so I gave up on it and moved onto another equally as ridiculous concept (and then another, and another...)

Very early Infocom history, maybe even a genesis of the company, can be traced to Robert Supnik (DEC engineering/research, SIMH https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SIMH) porting "Dungeon" to fortran/PDP-11 (LSI-11, pretty much a desktop PC with 2 floppies) in ~1978 to lighten the load of big iron PDP-10 time sharing system : Oral History of Robert Supnik https://youtu.be/lk7ygEZxV9Q?t=2h32m28s


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