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WHAT IS ZORK?


Back in the late 1970s when computers were first getting started, a couple of creative young students at MIT, Marc Blank and Dave Lebling, developed a game to play on the university's giant computer for their own amusement.  Everyone seemed fascinated by it, and people from all over the school kept stopping by to play it.  So in 1979 the boys formed a small company called Infocom with eight of their friends, got a post office box, named the game Zork, and published it (in 1980).  It was the first computer game ever made commercially available to the general public.  But it was SO large (under one megabyte ) that it had to be split into 3 parts (Zork I, Zork II, and Zork III) in order to be small enough for little home computers.

The imaginary magical fantasy world that it created (the Great Underground Empire) took the world by storm, because for the first time your computer would 'talk back to you'!  It was called Interactive Fiction, or a Text Adventure.  You could type in a command, any command, like 'Take Rock', and the computer would respond with 'Taken', and remember to tell you later that the rock was in your inventory.  Or it might say 'I Don't See No Rock Here', if there wasn't one there.  Or you could say 'Go East', and then 'Look', and the computer would tell you what there was to see in the new location.

People all over the world quickly became addicted to this great new form of entertainment and, for about 5 years, Infocom flourished.  They created at least three dozen text adventures, including a total of 9 in the Zork saga itself.  A complete history of Zork's imaginary world was created, with rulers, cities, towns, incidents, catastrophes, spells, their own newspaper ( 'The New Zork Times' )... and unforgettable creatures, like the Grue!  Many of the words and phrases that were used in the games became famous and a part of everyday usage... like 'Hello, Sailor!' and 'This Space Intentionally Left Blank'.

Then technology advanced to the point where the computers were capable of graphics, people became enamoured with the newer graphical adventures and the popularity of text adventures declined, until eventually the rights to Zork were bought by Activision (in 1988).  Unfortunately Activision has published only 3 graphical adventures in the continuing Zork saga since then...  Return To ZorkZork Nemesis,  and  Zork Grand Inquisitor  (our Game of the Year in 1997), and fans everywhere miss Zork.

For as you can see, dear readers, the history of Zork is the history of adventure gaming itself... and so it will always hold a special place in our hearts!

Anyone interested in trying those first three adventure games ( Zork I, Zork II, and Zork III ) can download and play them for free HERE.  They are still wonderful, a whole lot of fun to play!   When the most recent Zork game, 'Zork Grand Inquisitor', was published, Marc Blank and Mike Berlyn wrote one last short text adventure, as a gift for the many text adventure fans still around today.  It's called 'Zork: The Undiscovered Underground', and it can also be downloaded for free from the same location.  The games come without instructions on how to play them, but you can use the instructions supplied on our website called HOW TO PLAY TEXT ADVENTURES.  Enjoy!


Mr. Bill's   Adventureland
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