Zork was the first text adventure published by the now defunct Infocom. The player takes the role of a treasure hunter exploring the Great Underground Empire. The original Zork was later followed by Zork II and Zork III, also developed and published by Infocom. Although an excellent first, Zork appears a bit crude and plotless in comparision to more modern works of Interactive Fiction.

it should be noted that in the mid or late 1990s, a non canonical addition was made to the zork series by semi-professional IF programmer Graham Nelson. the story is called "the meteor, the stone, and the long glass of sherbet", and is set around the same white house and woods as the original stories, except that now, it is many years later, and the woods have been walled up as part of the imperial gardens, and the house has become a customs house, where weary travellers may rest. let it be said that you will never accomplish anything in this game unless you pour the sherbet on the elephant's head.

Zork was the creation of some students at MIT (chiefly Marc Blank and David Lebling). The word "Zork" was a nonsense word in circulation at the time. Zork was written in MDL, and ran on a mainframe computer, to which people could dial in to play the game (other popular games of this ilk included Advent and various Star Trek games).

The micro-computer version of Zork was based upon the first third of the mainframe Zork map (the two sequels obviously were made from the remainder). To my knowledge, it was the first commercially available adventure game. The home version of Zork ran on the now legendary Z-Machine. The Z-Machine was a real Zefram Cochrane style breakthrough - it was the first computer program anywhere to use virtual memory, for instance.

It is interesting to note how each location in Zork shows off a new feature, pretty much in the order that they were added to the original game. (For instance the lamp shows a universal property of light and dark, the bucket is a closable container, the crack in the wall is a unidirectional - or rather a conditional - link, the trapdoor under the rug is a hidden object, the sack is a container, the thief is a moving object).

Originally when you ventured into darkness you were likely to be killed by falling rocks - the grues were added to allow non-subterranean locations. The strangest thing about Zork is the lack of any coherent plot or setting. Another oddity (and an extreme irritant) is that some of the puzzles rely on you knowing completely arbitrary "magic words" (such as typing ODYSSEUS to scare away a cyclops). But hey, it was the 70's. We can forgive them a few mis-steps.

Everything you could ever want to know about Zork and Infocom is organised here: http://www.crosswinds.net/~dsinclair/index.html

Excellently, you can play mainframe Zork through your browser here: http://thcnet.net/error/404.php

(Seriously, all 404 error pages should carry classic 1970's interactive fiction games.)

zorch = Z = zorkmid

Zork /zork/ n.

The second of the great early experiments in computer fantasy gaming; see ADVENT. Originally written on MIT-DM during 1977-1979, later distributed with BSD Unix (as a patched, sourceless RT-11 FORTRAN binary; see retrocomputing) and commercialized as `The Zork Trilogy' by Infocom. The FORTRAN source was later rewritten for portability and released to Usenet under the name "Dungeon". Both FORTRAN "Dungeon" and translated C versions are available at many FTP sites. See also grue.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

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