September 6, 2004
New mainframe Zork for Z-machine. And the IF Hitchhiker’s Guide returning with illustrations. And IF in seemingly unlikely languages, see below…
A new release of a Z-machine port of “the mainframe Zork“ is out, thanks to Ethan Dicks. This release seems of be of high quality, and sets a standard that any scholarly edition of IF should shoot for. Zork was not originally written in Fortran, as Adventure was, so an early version of the code will not compile and run on modern platforms. The Z-machine code Dicks has released is based on the MDL source code of Zork (also called Dungeon for a brief time) from 1981 (available here), which has been automatically converted to Inform — but does not use the anachronistic Inform libraries; rather, it’s built from the ground up on the converted MDL code. I used release 12 when researching the PDP-10 Zork for Twisty Little Passages. This latest release reverses the order in which the rooms are loaded so that the Thief wanders among them just as he did in the original MDL version. That’s attention to detail.
The interactive fiction The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (by Douglas Adams and Steve Meretzky) is also being released in a new edition, illustrated by Rod Lord. (You can play the original here, maybe, if they aren’t “being flooded with traffic.”) This illustrated edition has been reported on hip blogs and on rec.games.int-fiction, where there’s been some speculation about how the new version is being engineered. Z-machine version 6? Reimplemented in Flash? Z-Machine interpreter in Flash? We’ll see soon enough, we hope. As soon as they let us into that leopard-guarded basement and open the locked office and the filing cabinet to allow us to have a look.
Finally, to remind us that IF isn’t just an English-language phenomenon, a port and translation of Adventure into TADS 2, and into Croatian, is nearing completion; Inform is being internationalized to Polish; and several Slovenian text adventures from the 1980s (including one that features rather deranged Smurfs) have been under discussion recently on rec.games.int-fiction. IF is certainly much harder to internationalize than other games are, as I well know, but hey, it’s a lot easier for visually impaired people to play. Actually, I think the difficulty with internationalization points to the deep engagement with language that interactive fiction provides, and I’m deeply glad that IF is being developed and enjoyed in many languages other than English.