Sunday, June 03, 2007
posted 11:54pm
"Zork Turns 30"
There are some years you can look back on and say: "Wow, that was an amazing year." 1988 comes to mind. The year that I picked up my first personal computer, a Commodore - 64, and played games like Pool of Radiance, Wasteland, and Neuromancer. Or how could you forget 1981 with movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Road Warrior, and Escape From New York, only to be followed up the next year by Blade Runner, Tron, and The Thing. An even more impacting year was 1977. Not only did it see the birth of Star Wars, a movie like none other to come before it, but it also saw the creation of Zork on the PDP-10 at MIT. A few programmers from the Dynamic Modelling Group had their answer to Stanford's Adventure, a game designed by Will Crowther & Don Woods released just a year earlier. Programmed under the name Zork - a nonsensical word, derived from MIT hacker jargon for an unfinished program - the prototype that was running in June of 1977 wouldn't be completed until February of 1979. Zork would go on to sell one million copies, turning into two separate trilogies sold by Infocom; a company formed mostly out of former MIT members, which included programmers from the Dynamic Modelling Group. Infocom would go on to create a total of thirty-five interactive works, creating a form of game play that was original and entertaining, taking us to places that never existed, exciting and thrilling in the same way that Star Wars was.

These two works impressed me the most. In Star Wars I saw what could be done with film, and in interactive fiction I saw the perfect marriage of programming and literature.

May I continue in the traditions that have been placed before me.

May I one up those that have gone before.

- D