Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In the beginning...

For anyone interested in the history of the Z-machine, it is very much the history of Zork itself. Zork was inspired by an earlier (non-Infocom) game sometimes called 'Colossal Cave' or 'Adventure', which also has an interesting history and was inspired by a real cave in Kentucky. I've been to the end of the real road where the game Adventure begins. It may sound a bit silly but it was fun just being there.

My fascination with Zork began on a dark and stormy night in 1984. I was visiting a cousin of mine who had just gotten one of the first Macintosh computers and we sat down to play the first game he had gotten for it: Zork I. I was thrilled by the game and quickly become a fan of all things Infocom. Even though this was my introduction to Infocom it was not my first foray into text adventures.

I got my first computer in September of 1983. It was a Commodore Vic-20 and my first game for it was a cartridge of Scott Adams' adventure game 'Pirate's Cove'. I got several more of his cartridges over the next year, including Voodoo Castle, The Count, and Adventureland. The next year I upgraded to a C-64, bought a 1541 floppy disk drive and started getting Infocom games like Zork, Deadline, and The Lurking Horror (my all-time favorite). I also got a very interesting program called 'Adventure Writer' (also known as 'Quill') which allowed you to make your own games and came with two game compilations: The 'Junkyard' series and the 'Thriller' series. These were the first computer games I owned, but even they weren't my first contact with text adventures.

In 1981 I was in fifth grade. Once, I stayed overnight at a classmate's house. He and his brother had a TRS-80 and we made a trip to Radio Shack to pick up a game to play. We picked out Raaka-Tu and played it much of the night. The game was very unforgiving by today's standards, tending to kill you off rather randomly, but nevertheless I was enthralled. This was what first sparked my interest in computers and text adventures especially.

1 comment:

  1. I can't tell you how mind-bogglingly similar my foray into computing began as well. My father worked at a university and took my brother and I with him once. He let us see the computer lab there, containing a bunch of PDP-11s. My brother and I rummaged through the reams of printouts and found a bunch of Colossal Cave text in there. After figuring out how to get on and play, we were hooked. We got an Atari 800, started writing text adventures, played every one from Antic and Analog published, the Infocom team were gods (especially Brian Moriarty, a frequent author for Analog or Antic?). Your mention of "Adventure Writer" blew me away this morning...

    Those were extraordinarily exciting times for discovering programming. Things have changed dramatically. I'm not sure if you'll agree, but although programming is still the greatest occupation one can ever have, it doesn't have that same feel today as it did then...

    Looking forward to more Z-machine posts!