West of House

You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
There is a small mailbox here.

If (like me) you’re old enough to remember (and for that matter, prefer) the sight of green-on-black text to wizz-bang flash graphics, the words above are likely to bring a fond tear of nostalgia to your eyes.

They’re the first words of ZORK, the legendary text adventure from the bygone age. Or, as they’re called nowadays “interactive fiction”. Ugh. I’ll stick with calling ‘em text adventures, thank you. All fiction is interactive if it’s good enough. If the story gets you involved in the character’s lives, then it’s interactive. But hey, what do I know? :)

Anyhow. ZORK.

I’ve recently started looking at how to write adventures in the same vein using inform. That’s the program which takes your “script” and turns it into a complete adventure. I’m balking at saying it’s a compiler (but it is) for fear of frightening the non-programmers out there. It’s a very simple tool to use and the end result is an adventure all of your very own which can be played by anyone, anywhere, on any machine in the world provided there’s a program written which reads such things. It’s a fair bet that there is too, for anything from a Mac to a Windows machine to a TI calculator. Yes, there is. I looked it up. Probably the most popular Z-Machine (that’s what they’re called (I’m using a lot of brackets today (sorry))) is Frotz. That’ll let you play anything from the classic ZORK series to Scott Adams’ great adventures (no, not the same Scott Adams who writes Dilbert. Bet he gets sick of that one) to anything you write yourself.


My idea is to write D&D-style text adventures complete with monster stats so you can grab your dice, battle the beasties then continue along your way. Think of it like ZORK meets Fighting Fantasy meets The Sunless Citadel. For solo play it’ll be ideal, and might even be useful for beginning pen-and-paper DMs who don’t mind reading stuff out loud from behind a computer screen.

I’ll post up the hows and whys (and more than a few pointers how to do this yourself) (those darned brackets again!) next time we’re online.

Just watch out for grues.

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