For over twenty years, Zork has been a beloved series of computer games. Many well known catch phrases like 'Hello Sailor' are associated with the game. Other words and phrases, such as Xyzzy, Plugh, and 'This Space Intentionally Left Blank' owe their place in pop culture to Zork, a game which has developed a cult following of many devoted fans around the world.
To tell the history of the Zork universe, one must start with a game that is no longer considered strictly Zork continuity, although it is still remembered with fondness.
In June of 1977, at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), four computer programmers worked out the basics of a game inspired by Dungeons And Dragons and Crowther and Woods' Adventure text game. These four programmers, Dave Lebling, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Tim Anderson, finished their game and never got around to naming it. Whenever they had implemented a game in the past, they always labelled it Zork, until they came up with a better name to give it1. Zork was, originally, just made as a fun project for the four of them to work on. However, when they first released the game, they had still not chosen a new name for it. So, the Mainframe Zork (as it came to be known) kept the name Zork. There was a brief period during which the game was named Dungeon. However, when a company claimed to already have a copyright on the name Dungeon, the programmers at MIT backed down, and went back to the name Zork. And this name has been set in stone ever since.
The programmers decided to form a company named Infocom, which would create and market text adventures. Zork became the first game come out with the Infocom label, since it was already a game would easily fit onto the truly floppy floppy disks of the time. The Mainframe Zork was then cut into three fairly large chunks, expanded a bit, and sold as The Zork Trilogy.
Zork One was practically taken entirely from the Mainframe version; Zork Two had new parts added; and Zork Three was mostly new territory, using some puzzles similar to those from the original Mainframe Zork. The final unused puzzle from the Mainframe Zork was ultimately used in Sorcerer, but that's still a long way away.
Zork One: The Great Underground Empire
West Of House
You are in an open field, west of a white house with a boarded front door.
There is a small mailbox here.
So begins the first game in the Zork Trilogy. The first third of the Zork Trilogy is a pretty straightforward treasure hunt. Your quest is to locate the Twenty Treasures of Zork, which have been hidden away in a dangerous section of the land of Quendor2, by using your wits, your sword, and your lantern. Most of the treasures are hidden inside a mysterious white house, which leads to intricate caverns and mazes through the cellar.
A constant thorn in your side is The Thief, a character described as a 'lean and hungry gentleman', who will steal treasures and even battle the player to the death. Needless to say, the game does not end until you can defeat the Thief in his own lair and reclaim any stolen valuables.
When the first 19 treasures have been stored away in your Trophy Case, the 20th treasure becomes available. This is a parchment showing the location of the game's end. Once the instructions on the parchment have been followed, the mission continues in the next game.
Zork Two: The Wizard Of Frobozz
Zork Two begins in the Stone Barrow where Zork One ended. As soon as the game begins, you are reunited with the sword and lantern, and face a new task: defeating the capricious (and somewhat senile) Wizard of Frobozz and stealing his wand. While many elements of this game closely resemble the treasure hunting styles that Zork One offered, the treasures are merely used as collateral in a deal you make near the end of the game.
Over the course of the game, you will undoubtedly be confronted by the Wizard of Frobozz, who may do any number of things. Sometimes the Wizard will just watch curiously, other times he will show up, mutter something, and vanish just as quickly. However, the wizard is most dangerous when he casts spells. The wizard is armed with an arsenal of spells, all of which begin with the letter 'F'. When you finally succeed in conquering the Wizard and stealing his wand, safe passage to the secret door that leads to the game's end is granted.
Zork Three: The Dungeon Master
The final game in the Zork Trilogy is very different from its predecessors. Sure, the game starts with the same lantern, and even your old sword becomes available after a little game play, but many aspects of the first two games have been altered. The game doesn't even have the same Treasure Hunt feel that the first two did, although it may resemble a scavenger hunt at some points.
Unlike the first two games, the object of this game is not to find a quest object; and it isn't to conquer some mysterious character, who only seems to have been created to torture you during the game. Instead, your goal is to pass the final tests of the mysterious Dungeon Master, who has been monitoring your progress through the dungeons ever since the beginning of Zork One. If you successfully pass all of the Dungeon Master's puzzles and traps, you earn the right to become the next Dungeon Master, as well as gaining access to a ridiculous amount of treasure and magical abilities.
Another aspect of this game that differs from first two is the scoring system. The first games would give you points for successfully solving a puzzle, finding certain objects, or visiting certain places. However, in this game you are awarded points for pretty much just taking steps to the correct solution of puzzles. It is hypothetically possible to gain a perfect score in the game without actually having correctly solved any puzzles!
This is the last game of the original Zork Trilogy, although Infocom produced several sister games, which were set in the same fictional world. The first of these was Enchanter.
The Enchanter's Saga, the trilogy of games following Zork, was entirely different from the original trilogy. First of all, you are a different sort of person in these games. Instead of being an adventurer, who's only motivation seems to be greed and the thrill of adventure, you are an enchanter, who is working to rid the world of evil. Also, where the most commonly held items in the original Trilogy were the lantern and sword, in the Enchanter's Saga, you go everywhere with your spell book. When light is needed, you simply cast the Frotz spell. Most fighting is done by outwitting opponents with various apparently simple spells. Also, these games keep track of time and vital statistics; so you have to eat, sleep, and drink in these games.
The first game, Enchanter, starts out with an interesting plot. The game begins with a powerful wizard named Belboz consulting with the Circle Of Enchanters (a group of master sorcerers and spell casters that govern the use of magic in Zork) about an evil warlock named Krill, who has set in motion powerful spells, which could easily plunge the world into eternal night. It is decided that, since Krill would easily notice any powerful enchanters attempting to stop him, an apprentice should be sent. The apprentice, of course, is you.
The majority of this game takes place in a crumbling castle that Krill has moved into, and where he has apparently set up a cult in the throne room. Most of the game consists of you searching the castle and finding spells, which you can add to your spell book. Eventually, you will come across spells so powerful that they can only be cast once in the game. When you gain enough firepower and insight into what's going on, you can easily locate Krill's secret hideaway and foil his plans. If you are successful in this endeavour, the game ends when you gain a position on the Circle of Enchanters.
This is the first Zork game that was not written by one of the original four programmers. Instead, Steve Meretzky, one of the most noted text adventure game authors of our time, tried his hand at the land of Quendor, the setting for the Zork games.
This game starts out just a few years after the defeat of Krill. Shortly into the game, you make the discovery that Belboz has been possessed by an evil demon named Jeearr, and is preparing to unleash a reign of terror on the land.
While this game is very similar to the first one in the method of game play (searching for various spells to give the player clues as to how you should advance), this game covers a wider variety of locations than Enchanter did, and magic potions are made available along with the standard spells.
Sorcerer eventually leads you to a confrontation with the demon Jeearr, who is easily vanquished if the proper preparations have been made. In the end, Belboz decides that it is high time for his retirement, and he appoints you head of the Circle of Enchanters.
The final game of the Enchanter's Saga takes an interesting twist: instead of there being an evil villain to defeat from the start of the game, the immediate problem is the fact that the very forces of magic seem to be failing, and repercussions are being felt all across the land, as the quality of magical artifacts and spells quickly diminishes.
The game begins with the same character from Enchanter and Sorcerer in a meeting with many other guild heads, who are about to riot when a mysterious figure slips into the room, and turns everyone but you into various amphibians. The only course of action, of course, is to chase this figure into the street, where he/she promptly disappears in a puff of orange smoke. When this clears, only a mysterious looking cube and a strange new spell are left behind. This new spell allows people to explore the mystic connections of other objects; and, as soon as the cube is tested, access is granted to many other areas of the world, and other worlds near Zork, where similar looking cubes can be found. Each cube takes you to stranger, wilder locations where more and more information can be found.
At the climax of the game, you finally catch up with the shadowy figure from the game's beginning; and it turns out to be an evil shadow of yourself, brought about by all of the magic that the player has cast over the years. The shadow got tired of just being something less than human, and went on a quest to conquer the entire Universe. The cubes that had been scattered throughout the game were apparently the building blocks of the basic forces of the Universe; and the shadow manipulated the few that could be easily found to alter the forces of magic. All that remained was for you to gather the rest and bring them to the endgame, where you and your shadow battle for the fate of the universe.
If you are successful the shadow is destroyed... but so is magic. So without magic, everyone is forced to adapt and face a strange, new world.
This ends the second trilogy of Zork games. Most of the later Zork games were in some way connected to these, either by tying into the story of the Dungeon Master, or by involving a struggle involving the fate of magic. However, the next game is an exception.
Wishbringer is a game that is hard to trace along the Zork time line. Magic exists, so it most likely does not take place after the game Spellbreaker.
This game isn't as much of an Interactive Adventure, as it is an Interactive Fairytale. Instead of playing the role of a professional adventurer or enchanter, you begin the game as a postal clerk who daydreams about impossible quests of magic and excitement. Unfortunately, your boss is just about the most unimaginative and unpleasant person in town, so any daydreaming is frowned upon.
When the game begins, you are instructed to deliver an envelope to the proprietor of a magic shop before the shop closes for the night. When this little mission is finished, the proprietor, a mysterious elderly woman, reads the envelope and you are told that her sister, known only as The Evil One is after an ancient magic stone, referred to as Wishbringer, which the proprietor had spent her life guarding. Finally, The Evil One decided to play her trump card by kidnapping the proprietor's cat, Chaos, for ransom. The proprietor instructs you to find the Wishbringer stone and use it to find Chaos. You then leave, somewhat unsure about what, exactly, is going on.
Upon returning to the town, the postal clerk is shocked to discover that the once peaceful village of Festeron has been transformed by The Evil One into the nightmare city of Witchville. A strict curfew of 6.00pm is enforced by the Boot Patrol, sharks infest the waters, mysterious vapours haunt the cemeteries, the library is run down, and the village movie theatre actually has comfortable seats for once. You only have until sunrise to explore the entire twisted world of Witchville for the Wishbringer stone and Chaos.
An interesting aspect of this game is a new twist on magic. As a mere postal clerk, you have no real skills with magic, and are forced to fall back on using whatever devices of magic that can be found. The most important, of course, is the Wishbringer stone, which can grant seven different wishes, depending on various items that you may be holding.
Another interesting fact is that this game introduced another new story designer by the name of 'Professor' Brian Moriarty.
Beyond Zork is the first game since Zork Three where the player is once again a professional adventurer. Along with this familiar aspect, the game also introduces several other features of game play that were never before seen in Zork games. The most obvious difference is the colour option. Instead of just grey print on a black screen with a status bar at the top of the screen, this game has several different colour options. The other obvious difference is the way the screen is formatted. You could use the traditional Infocom screen format, if you really need it, but you also have two other screens, changing the design structure of the page. One of these two screens shows a pre-set table of information3, and another screen that shows a map, which is gradually filled in as the game progresses.
This map feature can be a very helpful tool, especially when you consider another odd twist to the game: Many of the locations change every time you start a new game. So, rather than becoming confused about strange, new geography in a location that you had mapped totally differently, the game would provide a map for you.
Finally, there are two more major differences to this game. First, while most Infocom games, to this point, had been pure Adventure games, Beyond Zork includes many elements of role playing games. There are monsters which you could fight to gain experience, you can name and give statistics to your character before playing the game, and you can buy, sell, and trade equipment to any of the three shops in the game. The last difference is that this game has a direct tie-in to another game, instead of just being a sequel to a game, or making vague references.
Beyond Zork parallels Spellbreaker, where the player must eventually bring the age of Magic to an end. In this game, the adventurer has been hired by Y'Gael the Enchantress to locate the Coconut of Quendor, a device which could contain all of the knowledge of magic currently known, so that when magic returns to the land of Zork, it will start exactly where it left off.
Beyond Zork covers an immense amount of territory, leading from a hill overlooking a quiet seaside village, to a broken down lighthouse, to the Jungles of Miznia, to snow covered mountains, to a higher plane of existence with many diversions, and to underground caves and tunnels. Some puzzles even require travel to the far distant past and to the desolate landscapes of the future. So be prepared to move in this game.
Steve Meretzky returned to author this popular game, which really helped to fill in several gaps in Zork's history, geography, and mythology.
One reason that this game was written was to answer a few questions that the original Zork Trilogy didn't answer, such as,
Who built the white house?
What happened that ended the Flathead Dynasty and caused the Great Underground Empire to collapse?
Where did the first Dungeon Master come from?
Why does the majority of Zork feel so deserted and eerie?
These questions are all answered in yet another breakthrough game.
Zork Zero goes farther with adding colour to the game than Beyond Zork did, and includes a border on the screen which changes depending on where you were, simple pictures, and a few graphical puzzles which you could use a mouse to solve.
This game begins in the year 789 GUE, 159 years before Zork One begins. As the game begins, you are a servant in the castle of Lord Dimwit Flathead, the Excessive4. Lord Dimwit is having a party to celebrate his latest 'achievement', the construction of a nine bloit high statue of himself in Fublio Valley. Right before Lord Dimwit is able to finalise the construction plans for his next excessive project, an angry wizard known as Megaboz appears, angered by the statue that is now casting a shadow over his home in Fublio Valley. Within moments, Megaboz casts a terrible curse. The most obvious effects are the giant, smoke-spewing cauldron that appeared in Dimwit's banquet hall, and the disappearance of Megaboz, as he turns into a giant ball of flame.
The court magicians appear, and work hard, but only manage to forestall the majority of the curse for 94 years, at which time the empire of Quender will collapse. The only thing that can not be changed about the curse is the instant death of Dimwit and his eleven siblings just a few moments later. Before the prologue ends, you are able to pick up a strange looking parchment.
The rest of the game takes place 94 years later, and you are now the descendant of the one who picked up the parchment when Megaboz cast the spell.
From this point, there are only a few things of note to mention about playing the game. First of all, from time to time, a character who calls himself the Jester appears, and proceeds to play games with, give a riddle to, or just annoy the player. Also, this game returns to the treasure hunt feel of the original Zork games, by introducing 24 items that are hidden around the land of Zork.
Zork Zero covers even more territory than Beyond Zork, going from the highest mountain peak in Zork, to the realm beneath the world of Zork, to the Fublio Valley, to the island of Antharia, and even to a giant chess board. If you play this game, be prepared to devote a great deal of time and effort to finishing it.
Return To Zork
Return To Zork is a breakthrough game in more ways than one. First of all, this is the first game in the Zork series that is not text based. Instead, you use the mouse to interact with the world around you. Also, Return To Zork was one of the first games released on a CD. While the sound, graphics, and movies in the game may look inferior compared to today's big games, this was a big deal when it came out way back in 1993. Also, this game takes placed in the year 1648, 682 years since the games Beyond Zork and Spellbreaker took place. Needless to say, Zork has changed.
Many of the more fanatic players today complain about everything being out of place and, aside from the occasional reference to Grues, Flatheads, and Zorkmids, there really isn't much that seems really like Zork. However, this is still a pretty good game, when you look past those superficial flaws.
Return To Zork begins with you winning the grand prize in a contest, and receiving a few complimentary items, along with a free trip to the Valley Of The Sparrows, where they are unearthing the biggest archaeological find of the century, The Great Underground Empire! Unfortunately, something seems to have gone wrong, and an evil force named Morpheus is gaining strength through the return of magic5.
As the game goes on, more and more of the background story is learned; and Morpheus seems to gain more force with every step. He communicates to people through nightmares, he kidnaps people with vultures, and he absorbs the most distinctive powers and abilities from the most dynamic characters in the game.
Return To Zork comes to a close in a game of strategy between you and Morpheus, as he decides that you would make the best new addition to his collection.
Zork Nemesis is different to other Zork games, and is often considered to be the black sheep of the Zork series. It doesn't focus on the familiar aspects of Zork. Instead it moves into entirely new territories that are not covered in previous games, such as Alchemy, and the wars that immediately followed the fall of the Flathead Dynasty. Also, while most of the previous Zork games are riddled with hidden jokes, bad puns, and many light-hearted outlooks, this game is morbid, dark, and gloomy. In all of the previous games, Zork is flat, just as Earth used to be imagined6.
In Zork Nemesis, Zork is round, orbits around a Sun, and exists in a Solar System not unlike our own. This is the first Zork game that was released entirely under the Activision label instead of Infocom's. However, those players that look past their expectations may appreciate the amazing 3D graphics, the great sound and music, and the intricate storyline. Also, while this adventure may look more like a scavenger hunt than an actual treasure hunt, it is still enjoyable.
The fun starts with an odd scene... a person getting stabbed in the heart. The camera moves towards this person in the shadows, until you actually move into his heart, and through a long series of arteries and veins that quickly merge into underground caves. As you do this, a voice tells you of a dark evil that has covered the land, and that you are the last hope. At the beginning of this sequence, you have flown to the top of a mesa, upon which rests a forbidding looking temple.
This, of course, is where the game play begins. The game itself is divided into three basic parts:
- Elemental Quests
- Metal Quests
The Elemental Quests begin as soon as you break into the temple, and locate four sleeping, half-dead alchemists: Bishop Francois Malveaux, General Thaddeus Kaine, Doctor Erasmus Sartorius, and Madame Sophia Hamilton. They each tell you to find their signature elements in a purified form, and to place them on the altar at the front of the room where they are trapped. Each alchemist has an element, planet, and metal that they specialize in: Francois Malveaux is Fire, Saturn, and Lead; Thaddeus Kaine is Earth, Mars, and Iron; Erasmus Sartorius is Wind, Jupiter and Tin; Sophia Hamilton is Water, Venus and Copper.
As the four elements are found in hidden locations throughout the temple, each alchemist gains enough strength to tell you that you need to find the other elements. When the fourth element is brought to the altar, the evil Nemesis that the game is named after appears, and attempts to kill you. The alchemists intervene, and give you a golden ball, telling you to find their metals and bring them back to the altar.
The Metal Quests begin as soon as you figure out how to manipulate the golden ball to travel to the distant homes of the four alchemists.
Within each home is a hidden alchemy lab, which can be used to mold the alchemist's signature metals into the shape of their planets, if you can figure out how to run the machinery properly. Every lab and location is very different. For instance, Madame Sophia Hamilton lives in a music conservatory; and her lab creates copper by harmonizing the notes produced by various crystalline stalagmites. Bishop Francois Malveaux lives in a Monastery; and his lab creates lead by manipulating heat and pressure in a hidden branch of some catacombs. Once you find a metal, you are instantly transported back to the altar to awake an alchemist. Over the course of these quests, a great deal of the background story can be learned, including the tale of two young lovers, the son of General Thaddeus Kaine and the adopted daughter of Bishop Francois Malveaux, who seem merely to be pawns used by the four alchemists.
The Endgame is a relatively short series of puzzles, which begins with the final metal being put in place, and the alchemists turning on you. As soon as they come back to life, they attempt to create the legendary Elixir of Life for their own nefarious purposes, unless you can find a last alchemical laboratory hidden beneath the temple.
Zork: The Undiscovered Underground
This was a promotional game that Activision had made for the upcoming release of Zork Grand Inquisitor, which was going to be released along with Zork's Twentieth Anniversary.
This game begins with you as a lowly minion of The Grand Inquisitor, Zork's newest tyrannical despot. The Grand Inquisitor's men have located a brand new, never before seen area of the underground empire, and it's up to you to explore it.
So the adventure begins. And, for anyone skilled in the past Zork games, the adventure would probably end in about half an hour. It's not a bad game, it's just a very short one. Over the course of this game, your lantern will go out many times; and you will find many grues and rat-ants.
Once your exploration is complete (and all puzzles have been solved), you give your report to The Grand Inquisitor. As a reward, he gives you the afternoon off. All in all, a very fun and amusing game. But you won't have to worry about it consuming your life with a puzzle that you just can't solve.
Zork: The Undiscovered Underground is the first Zork game in many years that is both text-based and written by Infocom programmers. Marc Blank and Mike Berlyn created it, and did an excellent job, despite having totally moved on in their lives by this point.
Zork Grand Inquisitor
Much brighter and more Zork-ish than Zork Nemesis, this Zork game was instantly liked by all but the most jaded Zork fans. It features great music by composer John Beal, amazing direction from Laird Malamed, and a zany cast of characters, such as Rip Taylor as Chief Undersecretary Wartle and Eric Evari as Mir Yannik, The Grand Inquisitor. It also has a long background story, which was released along with the walk-through/hint-book. But it isn't recommended to consult that source too frequently, as it breaks continuity with previous games and itself fairly often.
Zork Grand Inquisitor takes place in the year 1067 GUE, 101 years after magic was banished in the game Spellbreaker. Ever since magic was banished, the land of Zork has been in serious decay.
The second Dungeon Master passed the mantle of Dungeon Master on to a promising young student at GUE Tech named Dalboz, just seconds before magic was banished. Meanwhile, Dalboz's college room mate (and magic hater) Mir Yannik joined the religion known as the Inquisition, and began to use his steadily rising influence with that group to punish those who enjoyed magic, thereby gaining control over the entire land.
So, when magic began to make a slow return, over a century after it was banished, Mir Yannik (head of the Inquisition, and the ruler of the land) set up a machine called a Totemizer. This machine separated people and creatures from their life essences, and trapped them inside flat discs of base metal, called Totems. Anyone found to be in support of magic in any way, shape, or form was Totemized, and so the land of Zork began to suffer.
The game begins with you as a salesperson for Frobozz Electric. You arrive in the seaside village of Port Foozle just in time for curfew. As you wander around Port Foozle, the doors and windows of frightened citizens are quickly closed and locked. It doesn't take long until you happen to find a strange fish with a few secrets. Once this fish is scared away, you can sift through his underwater home and find a genuine lantern. All it takes for your adventure to begin is to take the lamp across the street to Antharia Jack's7 Pawn Shop. Jack fixes the lamp right up, and steals it from you.
Once recovered, the lantern begins speaking. The voice turns out to be that of the disembodied spirit of Dalboz, the third Dungeon Master, trapped as a result of a battle between himself and Mir Yannik. Dalboz instructs you to find a passage underground, and sets you on a quest to finish off the return of Magic, and to overthrow the Inquisition.
You soon receive a spell book, and are given the details of your quest. There are three magical artifacts which can restore magic to the empire:
- The Coconut Of Quendor
- The Cube of Foundation
- The Skull of Saint Yoruk
However, these have all been lost, damaged, or destroyed over the course of the years. So you must seek out ancient passages called The Time Tunnels in order to travel back to the last point in history when the whereabouts of the objects were known.
Along the way to the time tunnels, you will find Totems, discarded by the Inquisition. One is a disembodied Griff, a kind of wimpy Dragon. The other is a rare species of Brog, a very strong ogre-like creature. Finally, you find the Totemized Lucy Flathead, the last member of the House of Flatheads, and rightful heir to the throne. Due to the nature of time tunnels, actual matter can not survive the trip through. So these three disembodied voices have to go for you.
The first time tunnel quest is to send the Griff through a gate located in Hades to the location of the Coconut Of Quendor. The boat that it was on crashed, and was swallowed by a great dragon.
The second quest is taken by the Brog, all the way back to the White House that Zork One began with. You finally get to see what's behind the boarded up front door; and you search for the Skull of Yoruk.
Finally, Lucy Flathead goes back in time to Port Foozle, where Antharia Jack has the Cube of Foundation hidden away in his Casino.
When all of these quests are completed, Mir Yannik finally figures out what you're trying to do, finds you, and arrests you. While you wait in line for Totemization, Mir Yannik is just a few hours away from unleashing Inquisivision onto the unsuspecting peoples of the world! With over 25,000 channels of nothing but Inquisition approved television, the people of Zork will have their minds reduced to jelly. With luck, you can break out of jail, find your way to the unveiling ceremony, and restore magic before it is too late!
This is the last official game released by either Activision or Infocom. While Zork Grand Inquisitor was originally going to be the first of a three part trilogy, the poor sales convinced Activision to postpone any new Zork projects until such time as there is nothing better for them to do.
The Zork Movie
There was, at one point, hope of a Zork Movie. Threshold Entertainment purchased the movie rights in February 1998; and it was rumoured that the movie would be based on Zork Nemesis. However, nothing ever really came of this and fans have pretty much given up hope by now.
The Zork Books
Over the years, many books about Zork have been written. These ranged from short books aimed at children, to long, semi-serious novels. While no great emphasis was ever placed on continuity, many fans enjoy these stories.
The 'What Do I Do Now' Books
Steve Meretzky wrote four books in the style of the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books, which were so popular at the time. These books are aimed at very young children, and were probably butchered a great deal to fit the proper format for these types of stories. The books primarily featured the characters Syovar the Strong, Bivotar, and Juranda.
Zork: The Forces Of Krill is the first of the 'What Do I Do Now' books. It details the story of Bivotar and Juranda's first adventures in Zork, featuring a great war that took place between the forces of Syovar and Krill.
Zork: The Malifestro Quest begins with Syovar's capture by an evil warlock named Malifestro, who wants to conquer the land. It also introduces two characters named Fred and Max, who provide comic relief through this and following stories.
Zork: The Cavern Of Doom describes the adventure that Bivotar and Juranda undertake to find and rescue Logrumethar, the long lost son of Syovar. Another evil warlock, this one named Grawl, is the one up to no good this time.
Zork: Conquest At Quendor, the last of in the series, begins with Grawl seeking vengeance on Bivotar and Juranda for saving Logrumethar. They are soon saved, but only at the cost of Syovar's quickly fading health. The surrounding lands could be destroyed by war in a matter of weeks if Syovar is not present at a meeting between the heads of all of the nearby nations. Bivotar and Juranda set off to locate a magic helmet that would allow Logrumethar to disguise himself as Syovar, but they are challenged at every step by Jeearr, the demon from the game Sorcerer.
The Zork Chronicles
Written by George Alec Effinger, this book takes an odd look at the world of Zork. This story is primarily the tale of Mirakles the Mighty, a person looking for a quest worthy of an adventurer of his magnitude. Such a quest is found when it is discovered that many of the artifacts that make Zork famous are disapearing! The only thing that can bring them back is the Golden Time Machine from Zork Three. So, Mirakles grabs his magical sword, and sets off to find the only villain capable of such dastardly deeds, Morgrom the Palindromic.
However, this is also the tale of Glorian, a member of the Supernatural And Fantastic Wayfarers Association and nominee for the Joseph Cambell Award for Best Semi-Actual Persona, which is given to the best spirit guides over the past year. After losing the award for a decade straight, Glorian is given the assignment of aiding Mirakles the Mighty in his quest to restore Zork. But Glorian also has to worry about the politics that govern his organization, and begins to question where his loyalties lie... with his boss, or with his adventurer.
All in all, this is an excellent story. It doesn't exactly fit the continuity of Zork, but it doesn't break the continuity of Zork in a way that's unbearable either.
The ZorkQuest Series
The ZorkQuest Series were Interactive Comic Books that were released as part of Infocom's Infocomics Project. Instead of just reading along with the story once and getting it all, these computerized comics acted like certain Dungeons And Dragons novels, allowing you to follow the progress of various different adventurers.
Assault On Egreth Castle, the first ZorkQuest story, details the adventures of a group of travelers as they search the infamous Egreth Castle, which is now being controlled by yet another warlock. As the story progresses, a strange crystal is found....
The Crystal Of Doom is the second in the ZorkQuest series. The travelers escape Egreth Castle, and finally reach their destination. However, two bumbling spell casters notice the mysterious crystal that the party of travelers has acquired, and attempt to steal it when they recognise the crystal as an ancient object of power.
There was going to be another Infocomic story that continued the story from The Crystal Of Doom; but the Infocomics Project was terminated before it could be released. As a result, many fans felt cheated by the cliff hanger ending from the last one.
The Lost City Of Zork
This story, written by Robin W. Bailey, covers a great deal of the history of Zork. It stars Casper Wartsworth, a wannabe adventure, who is on a quest to save the Borphee Guild of Wizards. His party of fellow travelers includes an incompetent wizard, a sleeping princess, and a thief with very little experience backing him up. Throughout this adventure, Casper faces everything from Kobolds, to an enchanted castle, to the forces of King Duncanthrax the Bellicose.
This story, like most of the other Zork novels, is worth buying, but doesn't strictly follow continuity. Still, many of the errors in this novel are so small that only the most pedantic of Zork fans would notice them.
Enchanter: The Novel
Also written by Robin W Bailey, this is a novel that is actually based on a Zork game. However, instead of Krill being the main opponent, as was the case in the original Enchanter game, Anesi, the hero of this story, is setting out to face off against The Great Terror, with only a few of his friends and one or two magic tricks up his sleeve.
Needless to say, this story isn't considered continuity either. But Robin W Bailey does another great job of bringing the land of Zork to life in ways that the game designers can't do as well, considering the medium that they have to work with.
Wishbringer: The Novel
Wishbringer, by Craig Shaw Gardner, is the only other Infocom-based book to be entirely based on a Zork game. One interesting thing about this book is that it almost seems to take place on Earth, not Zork. The main character, Simon, is surprised by the existence of magic, meaning that it definitely isn't Zork, and he makes references to other countries that don't feel like they would be in Zork.
This story details Simon getting caught operating a shell game booth at the main wharf of the seaside village of Festeron, and being sentenced to something much worse than the death penalty... being a postal clerk. At first, Simon is confused, but then he discovers that the role of every postal clerk is to do continuous battle with The Evil One whenever she resurfaces and transforms Festeron into Witchville. Fortunately, The Evil One has rules that she must follow, and should only take a little thinking to defeat.
Unfortunately, The Evil One has grown tired of always losing, over the decades, and decides to break those rules. Now armed with only an Acme Kitchen Wonder and a magic radio, Simon has to face a troll booth, eldritch vapours in the cemetery, and the fact that Gloria, the girl of his dreams, is going out with the entire Boot Patrol, the long arm of police brutality that enforces the six o'clock curfew.
This is another great book which, if it wasn't for the fact that it definitely doesn't seem to take place in Zork, might have been accepted as continuity. However, Gardner does a good job melding humour and serious writing in this book, so it really is an enjoyable read.
The Zork Community
Zork has had a fairly strong and loyal Internet community for several years. It recently became a great deal more active when the members realized that Activision would not be producing any more Zork games. There are currently many groups in the Zork Community that are dedicated to keeping Zork alive in the hearts of the fans.
One group of fans based at a fan-based website called The Zork Library is working on a graphical fan-made Zork game called Zork: The Hidden Evil. Unfortunately, this group is slowly becoming less enthusiastic, and the project may not be completed any time soon.
Then, there are the Zork fan fiction writers, who compose stories and articles about Zork, in the hopes that this will help people find new interest in Zork.
The most common way that people have been keeping Zork alive is by creating text games. Many members of the Interactive Fiction and Zork communities have created their own games which take place in Zork.
The Future Of Zork
The future of Zork is unclear. Many fans of Zork have accepted the possibility that Activision will never create another Zork game or sell the rights to another company, and that the responsibility of keeping Zork alive will be up to them. Other people, such as Laird Malamed, the director of the Zork department at Activision, want to see another Zork game hit the market, but believe it to be a losing battle. Even Steve Meretzky said in a recent Interview that he believed the Adventure Genre was pretty much dead.
No one knows what the future will bring for Zork, if anything. But there are always going to be people who push for the next game. And, of course, the existing games continue to be played, and will be played as long as there are would-be adventurers to play them.
Zorkisms, References, and Landmarks
The White House is probably the most well known monument in the entire history of Zork. Nearly every Zork game has a reference to this house at some point, ranging from the actual scene inside the white house in Zork Grand Inquisitor, to a picture of the white house on a bottle of wine in Beyond Zork.
Flood Control Dam Number Three is another one of Zork's well known monuments. Making its first appearance in Zork One, this monument cost over 37 million zorkmids, is 256 feet tall at its centre, and 193 feet wide at the top. After being destroyed in the year 1067 GUE during the game Zork Grand Inquisitor, it was rebuilt at some time prior to 1648 GUE. There have been sightings of other Flood Control Dams in the Zork games, but FCD#3 is the most famous, because it was the first, and it exists underground where there is no danger of flooding, making this one of Lord Dimwit Flathead's greatest excesses.
GUE Tech is the most famous university in all of the Zork games. It specializes in teaching classes in magic and paper shuffling, and is only actually seen in the game Zork Grand Inquisitor.
The Time Periods of Zork are referred to in three ways. The most common are BE (Before Entharion) and GUE (Great Underground Empire, or sometimes Great Underground Era). Another method seen in Return To Zork is simply BC (Before Counting).
The Entharions are the first dynasty of rulers who came around, and brought the warring nations of Galepath and Mareilon together into the land of Quendor. The Entharions were very peaceful rulers who ruled uneventfully since the days of Entharion The Wise. Thus the bloodthirstiness of the Flathead Dynasty was an almost welcome change for the people of Zork.
The Flatheads are the second major dynasty in Zork, and make the biggest impact on the history of Zork. Their first ruler, Duncanthrax The Bellicose, expanded the land of Quendor from its humble beginnings with the Entharion Dynasty, until it included the entire known world. Duncanthrax became bored with the entire known world, and began digging tunnels, so that he could extend his empire even further. The other Flatheads that deserve credit are the Twelve Flatheads, who all excelled in their chosen fields, and who all died on the same date in 789 GUE.
Zorkish Geography is questionable, but Zork is generally believed to consist of three continents: The Eastlands, Antharia, and The Westlands. None have ever returned from the other side of the Eastlands or Westlands (unless you count The Malifestro Quest); and it is believed that the world simply ends there. Zork is flat, and is carried on the back of a giant brogmoid, who stands on top of another flat world8.
Granola is a well known Zork staple, although no one in Zork really likes it. Antharia is the site of the infamous Granola Mines, and the Steppinthrax Monastery holds granola that is, supposedly, holy for some reason.
The Calendar of Zork is an odd one. While the months of the year have, at times, been referred to as the standard January through December names that we use, most calendars in Zork use the months Estuary, Frobuary, Arch, Oracle, Mage, Jam, Jelly, Augur, Suspendur, Ottobur, Mumberbur, and Dismembur. Also, the days of the week are known as Sand Day, Mud Day, Grues Day, Wands Day, Birthday, Frob Day, and Star Day.
Double Fanucci is the most famous card game in Zork. Legend states that the exiled king Zilbo III invented Double Fanucci after King Duncanthrax took over. The Double Fanucci deck is composed of 174 cards, which are divided into face cards, and suits. The 15 suits each have eleven cards, valued at zero through nine, and infinity. The face cards are Granola, Death, Light, Snail, Beauty, Time, Grue, Lobster, and Jester. The complete set of rules for this game are immense, and difficult to understand, and cover a wide range of possibilities, so very few ever actually learn how to play the entire game. However, it is a well known fact that in a game of Double Fannuci, the easiest way to win is to under trump three of your cards after an opponent's discard of a trebled fromp.
The Encyclopedia Frobozzica is an exhaustively accurate and up to date encyclopaedia in the realm of Zork, that covers so many subjects that a 'team of librarians could barely lift it', as the Encyclopedia itself claims. With the release of some later versions of Return To Zork, a miniature version of the Encyclopedia Frobozzica was included in the documentation and playing instructions.
Grues are found in every single Zork game. These are the monsters that live in the darkest of dark places, and rip any adventurer without a light source into shreds. They have a fear of light that tempers their hunger; but it has been found that mother grues can sometimes overcome that fear to protect a child.
There are many types of grue. The most common grue has a fish-like face, a furry body, and long, razor-sharp claws, not to mention many, many fangs. This type of grue has only been seen in the game Zork: The Undiscovered Underground, but is considered definitive, as it was created in part by Marc Blank, one of the original four programmers of Zork.
A rare type of grue is one with a long arm, and an eye in the palm of its hand, as the Wishbringer novel chronicled. This type is capable of speaking the human language, and is generally fairly sociable to adventurers if it isn't too hungry. The most feared type of grue is the Ur-Grue. The Ur-Grue, first seen in Beyond Zork, is a common grue that was possessed by the shade of a deceased Implementor, and is not afraid of any type of light except sun light. There are many other types, but the only other worth mentioning is the elusive water grue mentioned in the Zork Grand Inquisitor walk through/hint book.
FrobozzCo International is the largest corporation with a ridiculous number of subsidiaries and companies. In fact, very little business is not done through the many subsidiaries in FrobozzCo International. All of its subsidiaries are called 'The Frobozz Magic something'. There is the Frobozz Magic Boat Company, the Frobozz Magic Hot Air Balloon Company, the Frobozz Magic Grue Repellent Company, the Frobozz Magic Pencil Company, and many more.
The Headquarters of FrobozzCo International is 400 stories high, plus basement levels. It is said that on clear days, you could see anywhere in the world from the top floor of the FrobozzCo International Building.
In Zork Grand Inquisitor, FrobozzCo International is replaced by Frobozz Electric, and in Return To Zork it no longer exists, and has been replaced by Illumynite, Translumynite, And Leisure, Inc.
The Implementors are two things. In the real world, the Implementor is a computer game designer, usually from Infocom or the IF community. In the land of Zork, the Implementors are a race of minor deities that do not discourage the rumour that they created Zork for their own amusement. The Implementors have appeared in this latter form in the games of Enchanter and Beyond Zork. Also, the real life Implementors enjoyed putting their images in the games in various ways, such as Brian Moriarty putting himself on a wanted poster in Wishbringer, and when Steve Meretzky referred to himself as a strange magi who lived beyond the realm of Zork in the Zork Zero version of the Encyclopedia Frobozzica.
The bloit is the standard unit of distance in Zork. The official definition of the bloit is however far the ruling monarch's pet can run in an hour. Traditionally, the bloit is considered to be approximately 3,529 feet, or two-thirds of a mile.
Zorkmids are, of course, the standard currency in Zork. The amount a Zorkmid would be worth in literal currency seems to vary from game to game, which is probably the most obvious evidence of the wild stock market that Zork must possess.
'Hello Sailor' is one of the most frequently used phrases from the Zork games. Going all the way back to the original Mainframe Zork, 'Hello Sailor' is a magic word with very few uses. Nearly every Zork game responds to this phrase with 'Nothing happens here'; and the only significant usage of the phrase comes in Zork III, at the Flathead Ocean.
'Want some rye?'Course ya do!' is probably the only Zorkish phrase that may be better known than 'Hello Sailor'. First popularized in the game Return To Zork by the eternally hospitable alcoholic Boos Miller, the phrase has become a fairly popular saying among Zork fans, and is even used by two characters in the game Zork Grand Inquisitor.