Zork: The Great Underground Empire - Part I, later known as Zork I, is an interactive fiction computer 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 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 378,000 copies by 1986.
The ultimate goal of Zork I is to collect the Twenty Treasures of Zork and deposit them in the trophy case. To find the treasures, one must navigate a complex game area which includes mazes and various puzzles.
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.
Zork I's sales surprised Infocom by rising, not falling, over time. Computer dealers demonstrated its parser to customers as example of what their products could do. They sold the game as an essential accessory to those purchasing new computers, including the DEC Rainbow, TI Professional, and others that most people did not see as game machines. It was the best-selling game of 1982, with 32,000 copies sold by the first half of that year; almost 100,000 copies in 1983,—Inc. reported that the game had been a best seller for four years—more than 150,000 copies in 1984, comprising more than 20% of Infocom's sales that year; and a total of 378,987 copies by 1986. InfoWorld reported in April 1984 that Zork I "has returned to the top of the sales charts two years after its release". Based on sales and market-share data, Video listed it fifth on the magazine's list of best selling video games in both February and March 1985, and II Computing listed Zork I fourth on the magazine's overall list of top Apple II software as of October–November 1985, and first on the games list.
BYTE declared in 1981 that "No single advance in the science of Adventure has been as bold and exciting" as Zork. The magazine praised the sophisticated parser and quality of writing, stating, "That the program is entertaining, eloquent, witty, and precisely written is almost beside the point ... Zork can be felt and touched—experienced, if you will—through the care and attention to detail the authors have rendered." It concluded, "Somebody, please, let me know when [the sequel is] done." Jerry Pournelle wrote in the magazine in 1983 that he played the game with his sons, stating that "If you liked Adventure and wanted more after you solved the Colossal Cave, I guarantee you'll love Zork".
Jon Mishcon reviewed Zork in The Space Gamer No. 40. Mishcon commented that "Other than the absence of graphics, this game has no weak points I can find. Although [the price] is expensive I believe this is a first rate game and well worth every penny." 80 Micro called Zork "complicated and sophisticated ... a joy to play". It praised the documentation ("Take it from a rank amateur; these instructions are clear and easy to follow"), and wondered if the game could be solved because "the program lets you do pretty much what you want to do, even if the consequences are much less than desirable, it leaves open marvelous opportunities". The magazine concluded by hoping that "we can expect a second part sometime soon". Deirdre L. Maloy reviewed the game for Computer Gaming World, stating that "Zork is a program that is worth the money for anyone even mildly interested in adventure games. Those that like puzzles will have their fill, I'm sure. Master adventurers will even take a while on this one". The Addison-Wesley Book of Atari Software 1984 gave the game an overall A+ rating, calling it "THE definitive adventure game".
In 1992, Computer Gaming World added Zork I to its Hall of Fame, waiving the normal criteria "in favor of honoring this venerable classic." In 1996, the magazine listed Zork I at #13 among the top 150 best games of all-time. The editors wrote, "This seminal Infocom text adventure combined challenging puzzles, wonderful descriptive prose, and a touch of humor to create a rich universe that existed not in SVGA graphics, but within your head." On March 12, 2007, The New York Times reported that it was named to a list of the ten most important video games of all time, the so-called game canon. The Library of Congress took up a video game preservation proposal and began with the games from this list, including Zork.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (June 2020)
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- Ciraolo, Michael (October 1985). "Top Software / A List of Favorites". II Computing. Vol. 1, no. 1. p. 51. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
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- Pournelle, Jerry (June 1983). "Zenith Z-100, Epson QX-10, Software Licensing, and the Software Piracy Problem". BYTE. Vol. 8, no. 6. p. 411. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
- Mishcon, Jon (June 1981). "Capsule Reviews". The Space Gamer. No. 40. Steve Jackson Games. p. 36.
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- Stanton, Jeffrey; Wells, Robert P.; Rochowansky, Sandra; Mellid, Michael, eds. (1984). The Addison-Wesley Book of Atari Software. Addison-Wesley. pp. 30–31. ISBN 0-201-16454-X.
- "Computer Gaming World's Hall of Fame". Computer Gaming World. November 1992. p. 193. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
- "150 Best Games of All Time". Computer Gaming World. November 1996. pp. 64–80. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
- Chaplin, Heather (2007-03-12). "Is That Just Some Game? No, It's a Cultural Artifact". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
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- Yokal, Kathy (October 1983). "Marc Blank - The Programmer Behind Zork". Compute! Gazette. Vol. 1, no. 4 #4. pp. 64–66. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
- The DUNGEON (Zork I) source Archived 2016-07-21 at the Wayback Machine on github.com/devshane/zork
- dungeon-3.2A.tar.Z (05-Oct-1994) Archived 2016-06-23 at the Wayback Machine on the Interactive Fiction Archive "Dungeon version 3.2A, 1-Oct-94; contains all the rooms and puzzles of the original MIT Zork. DEC FORTRAN source code by Robert M. Supnik; see dungn32b.zip for a port to DOS."
- "itafroma/zork-mdl". June 11, 2020 – via GitHub.
- "Zork Source Code Is A Master Class In Game Developer Trolling". Kotaku Australia. August 28, 2017.
- Zork: The Great Underground Empire at MobyGames
- Zork I can be played for free in the browser at the Internet Archive
- Infocom-if.org's entry for Zork I
- Zork I Technical Info and Screenshot
- The Infocom Bugs List entry for Zork I
- The original ZIL source code of Zork I
- Zork I in the Interactive Fiction Database
- Scans of the Zork I package, documentation and feelies