|Publisher(s)||Personal Software / Infocom / Activision|
|Designer(s)||Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Dave Lebling and Bruce Daniels|
|Release date(s)||December 1980|
|Distribution||3½" or 5¼" disk|
Zork: The Great Underground Empire - Part I, later known as Zork I, is an interactive fiction video game written by Marc Blank, Dave Lebling, Bruce Daniels and Tim Anderson and published by Infocom in 1980. It was the first game in the popular Zork trilogy and was released for a wide range of computer systems, followed by Zork II and Zork III. It was Infocom's first game, and sold 378,987 copies by 1986.
The game takes place in the Zork calendar year 948 GUE (although the passage of time is not notable in gameplay). The player steps into the deliberately vague role of an "adventurer". The game begins near a white house in a small, self-contained area. Although the player is given little instruction, the house provides an obvious point of interest.
When the player enters the house, it yields a number of intriguing objects: an ancient brass lantern, an empty trophy case, an intricately engraved sword, etc. Beneath the rug a trap door leads down into a dark cellar. But what initially appears to be a cellar is actually one of several entrances to a vast subterranean land—the Great Underground Empire. The player soon encounters dangerous creatures, including deadly grues, an axe-wielding troll, a giant cyclops and a nimble-fingered thief.
The ultimate goal of Zork I is to collect the Twenty Treasures of Zork and install them in the trophy case. Finding the treasures requires solving a variety of puzzles such as the navigation of two brutal mazes and some intricate manipulations at Flood Control Dam #3.
Placing all of the treasures into the trophy case scores the player 350 points and grants the rank of "Master Adventurer." An ancient map with further instructions then magically appears in the trophy case. These instructions provide access to a stone barrow. The entrance to the barrow is the end of Zork I and the beginning of Zork II.
It is possible to score all 350 points in 223 moves (and win the game completely in 228 moves) by exploiting a bug.
- The booklet The Great Underground Empire: A History, by "Froboz Mumbar"
- A map roughly corresponding to a portion of the game's area
Although the back of the Zork I "Grey box" depicted a zorkmid coin included with the other feelies, production difficulties led to the coins' omission from the packages. Zorkmid coins were not included as feelies until the release of the Zork Trilogy boxed set.
The original version of Zork I was published by Personal Software and simply called Zork. It was distributed in clear plastic bags containing only the game disk and a 36-page booklet. Infocom's first "self-published" version of Zork I was in the so-called "Folio" format which included a single piece of paper describing how to run the game. The feelies noted above were only introduced when Zork I was re-released in the "Grey box" format.
Zork I was one of five Infocom games that were re-released in Solid Gold format with in-game hints.
There is also an abridged version, called Mini-Zork I, dated November 24, 1987. Mini-Zork was released free of charge as a promotion.
A German language version was developed, but never released. An unfinished version of this story file, dated January 13, 1988, has made its way into public circulation. The German is evidently non-native, containing many spelling and grammar errors. It is known that Jeff O'Neill worked on this version.
A Japanese version was released by Activision for the Sega Saturn and PlayStation in 1996. This Japanese version includes graphics, sound effects, auto-mapping, and music by Yuzo Koshiro. This version was never released outside Japan.
The game is playable in Call of Duty: Black Ops with the code "ZORK". To do this, Mason (the main character) needs to get up from the chair. PS3 and XBOX360 users need to pull L2 and R2 (LT and RT on XBOX360) rapidly. PC players need to press the space bar rapidly and Wii players must shake the controls (Wiimote + nunchuck control scheme). After Mason gets up from his chair, he must walk to the left and use the old computer, which is behind the chair. To play Zork, type "zork" into the command prompt. An achievement/trophy is also awarded for putting in the code.
The opening text of Zork I is among the most notable descriptions in video games:
- West of House
- You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
- There is a small mailbox here.
This is quite simplistic when compared to Infocom's later games, many of which started with screens full of introductory text.
Several of the game's situations and descriptions have become iconic within the field of interactive fiction, such as the brass lantern and the "Elvish sword of great antiquity".
Zork I also introduced the notable grue, a "sinister, lurking presence" who kills adventurers who go exploring in the dark. Grues appeared (or, at least, were mentioned) in many subsequent Infocom adventures, right up to the 1997 graphic adventure Zork Grand Inquisitor, published by Activision.
Zork is a source for many notable quotes. These are sometimes used in other interactive fiction games, or as a knowing identification between fans.
- [upon entering a dark place, initially the attic or basement] "It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue." - The idea of dark places being dangerous because of a grue is well known in interactive fiction. Wil Wheaton used this line as a form of recognition in the opening of his keynote address at the Penny Arcade Expo.
- [message on an inside wall of the house] "This space intentionally left blank." - A reference to early computer reference manuals from IBM and DEC, which would have pages with the sole text "This page intentionally left blank" between chapters. Could also be a play on the last name of author Marc Blank.
- [when entering the command "plugh" or "xyzzy", magic words from Colossal Cave Adventure] "A hollow voice says 'Fool.'"
- [wandering a maze in the basement] "You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike." — This phrase, also from Colossal Cave Adventure, has inspired a number of references, including inspiring the title of Nick Montfort's scholarly work on interactive fiction, Twisty Little Passages. That the rooms are all alike and thus difficult to map is a common game puzzle, one discussed by Graham Nelson. The phrase is also found in Dunnet, the built-in text adventure game for Emacs. Dunnet was written by Ron Schnell in 1983, and offers subtle variations on the "Twisty Little Passages" theme for humor and gameplay. The phrase "Twisty Little Synapses" is used in a later Infocom game, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, when the player becomes lost in their own brain.
- Carless, Simon (2008-09-20). "Great Scott: Infocom's All-Time Sales Numbers Revealed". GameSetWatch. Think Services. Retrieved 2008-09-23.
- Haha, Jimmy (2009-02-22). "Zork 1 - 228 Move Solution" (Text file). Retrieved 2009-02-24.
- http://www.joystiq.com/2007/08/26/pax-07-audio-from-the-wil-wheaton-keynote/ at the 2 minute, 30 second mark
- ">xyzzy" "A hollow voice says 'Fool.'" Zork I: The Great Underground Empire, Infocom, 1981, Revision 88, Serial number 840726 http://www.ifiction.org/games/play.php?game=3
- The Inform Designer's Manual, Fourth Edition 2001, Chapter VIII: The Craft of Adventure, section 50 "The design of puzzles" p385 http://www.inform-fiction.org/manual/DM4.pdf. Also available in HTML: http://www.inform-fiction.org/manual/html/s50.html
- Infocom-if.org's entry for Zork I
- Zork: The Great Underground Empire at MobyGames
- Zork I Technical Info and Screenshot
- The Infocom Bugs List entry for Zork I
- Zork 1 Walkthroughs