Group DescriptionThis group includes games set in the fictional Zork universe, starting with the text adventure Mainframe Zork (1977), developed by the students who would soon form Infocom. The aforementioned Empire is a vast subterranean complex with predominantly medieval fantasy elements. A complete chronology of this fictional realm has been provided by the authors; each game within the Zork universe is therefore set during a concrete pseudo-historical epoch. The games feature eccentric characters and objects, and are generally known for their humorous tone. Most games in the Zork universe are puzzle-solving text- or graphical adventures. The protagonists of the games are often nameless and speechless, representing the actual player on a journey through a magical world.
Games in the Zork universe are divided into distinct sub-series. The first of those is the original trilogy of text adventures, which ended with Zork III: The Dungeon Master (1982). These games were followed by the Enchanter series, starting with Enchanter (1983) and ending with Spellbreaker (1985). Though set in the same universe, Enchanter games had a different overarching storyline of their own, and featured a different protagonist. The side-stories Beyond Zork: The Coconut of Quendor (1987) and Zork Zero: The Revenge of Megaboz (1988) continued the text adventure formula, adding role-playing and/or graphical elements.
Afterwards, the series entered a six-year hiatus, which was broken by a final trilogy, opening with Return to Zork (1993), the first fully graphical Zork adventure, which also featured live actors. It was followed by Zork Nemesis: The Forbidden Land (1996), with darker themes and gameplay system influenced by Myst, and eventually Zork: Grand Inquisitor (1997), the final installment of the main series (along with which ZTUU was released for free as a promotional giveaway, the final official Zork text-only game, released a decade after the most recent.)
The text adventure Wishbringer (1985) occupies an uncertain position within the universe, as only a few ties connect it to Zork games. The ZorkQuest games are "interactive comic" spin-offs, part of the InfoComics series, with similarly tenuous ties to the series canon. Also spin-off-y, Zork: the Cavern of Doom, though penned by an Implementor, presents a very different approach to the game world, with Choose-Your-Own-Adventure gameplay (befitting its original release as one of four print-and-paper Zork gamebooks.)
By the time the third graphical Zork adventure had come and gone, amateur homebrew text adventure authors had begun devising interactive fanfic homages to Infocom's then-recently-decoded Z-machine. Zork: A Troll's Eye View is as good an example of these as any. For nearly a decade, they would be the only activity of the dormant Zork brand. Then, in 2009, Activision officially licensed the name and fantasy-humour setting to Jolt Online Gaming, for their short-lived browser casual game Legends of Zork, which ran for just over two years before returning to live on solely as a legend.
TriviaThe original Zork trilogy inspired a fantasy novel that bore the Infocom logo. It was called The Zork Chronicles, and was written by Georg Alec Effinger, a past winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. The book was published by Avon books in July, 1990.
Related External Links
- The History of Zork by Tim Anderson
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Front cover for Zork I: The Great Underground Empire
Front cover for Zork Trilogy
Front cover for The Adventure Collection
Front cover for Activision Game Vault: Volume 2
Front cover for Spellbreaker
Screenshot from Zork I: The Great Underground Empire
Screenshot from Zork: A Troll's-Eye View
Screenshot from Zork: The Undiscovered Underground
Screenshot from Zork Trilogy
Screenshot from Spellbreaker