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About the Story
Also known as Dungeon.
Language: English (en)
Current Version: Release 13
Development System: C
Baf's Guide ID: 2
The Royal Puzzle, by Kenneth PedersenReferenced in:
Zork I, by Marc Blank and Dave Lebling
Zork II, by Dave Lebling, Marc Blank
Zork III, by Dave Lebling, Marc Blank
This is the forbear of the Zork trilogy, written at MIT before Infocom was formed. The first game to feature a full-sentence parser, albeit a crude one by today's standards. Very derivative of Adventure, from the maze of twisty little passages to the orange smoke that accompanies ressurrection. Basically, a treasure hunt in a cave. Two mazes (counting the coal mine), a little randomized combat, and a nonsense puzzle or two. Much historical interest, however. Nearly everything in this game can be found in the Zork trilogy, although some crucial details are different. Available in various stages of its development; unlike Adventure, which used a very rigid database, this game was designed to be easy to modify, and got modified a lot.
-- Carl Muckenhoupt
The move away from antagonistic IF is the reason why things like mazes, limited light sources, and starvation puzzles are met with a chorus of jeers these days, but the elimination of these elements doesn't necessarily dictate anything in particular about how literary or puzzleless a game might be. Instead, the change makes the whole experience of IF more about fun than bloody-minded perseverance; playing Dungeon makes it clear how necessary this change was, and how far we've come since those mainframe days.
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Play This Thing!
Every gamer should play these games--once at least. For historical reasons--but also to understand what has been lost by the focus on improved graphics at the expense of excellent writing.
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Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
Related reviews: zork, infocom, dungeon, 1977, history, huge, treasure hunt, underground, fantasy, maze
ZORK (this mainframe version) is a huge game. I spent maybe five hours just working on the game and making maps before I started to feel stuck. I finally gave in and starting using some hint files (life's too short to not use hint files). It is frustrating to find that you had the right idea - just not the right verb/noun. For example I tried to "eat Eat-Me cake" and apparently my version wanted "eat eatme cake". Yeah, those are the kinds of things that you're glad you used a hint file for!
I spent about 2-3 weeks working my way through the game and putting together a solution & hint file guide. When I was finally finished, I really felt a sense of accomplishment! Not only was there 616 treasure-hunting points to earn, but also an additional 100 point end game. It really is a wonder of its time... and even more interesting knowing that only a small minority of people had access or knowledge about this behemoth growing to the limits of its maximum 1MB file size.
While the individual ZORK games underwent further refinement, and indeed became better games in focus, fun and functionality... it was a real treat to go back to the origins of ZORK. Like many others, ZORK was my introduction to Interactive-Fiction... so it was a heady mix of nostalgia and new discovery. All the major players are here - the Troll, the Thief, the Rainbow Bridge, the Flood Control Dam, etc. It's just bigger and longer than you remember (especially since your memory is likely ZORK I).
It's definitely worth playing, and even more fun if you haven't revisited the old treadworn land of Zork in some time. But from an IF history perspective, this was a milestone in the making. Zork became the killer-app for a number of early computers... and Infocom went on to produce some of the greatest works ever in this genre.
- And it all started here.
BTW, I think the best version is the inform port. It has the most flexibility in the words you can use, with a few added responses and synonyms that are not available in WinGlux and others.
Zork is the most famous adventure game, although it was not the first. This version contains much of the three Infocom Zork games which were developed later.
Zork is a large puzzle-heavy exploration game. It has inventory limits, a timer of sorts (the light in your lamp), and it has several unfair puzzles (depending on the version you play, some important in-game clues can be omitted). The exits in the rooms work in a non-symmetric way, so going north and then south might bring you back to the wrong place.
I found that mapping out the entire game myself was very helpful. Instead of drawing a map, I just made a numbered list in the notes section of Frotz of all the rooms and their exits. That alone let me get much farther than I did 5 years ago.
I used walkthroughs after getting about half of the points, but the version on IFDB contained a fatal bug preventing me from completing the endgame. I found another version online that ran slower but which allowed me to complete the ending.
The game gets better the further you get. The 'hidden' areas are really fun, and I was surprised how huge this game really is. It makes sense that it was split into 5 games later.
What can I say? One of my first IFs was Zork I. It wasn't until much later that I found this Dungeon game, and realized that it was a super expanded version of Zork I, like they took all the best parts of Zork I-III and squished them together.
The first thing Zork fans will notice is that the mazes are all mixed up. In fact, were this not floating by on the popularity of Zork, I would give it a much lower review. Directions do not lead in directions that make sense: going south does not lead you to the room you just went north from all the time. In fact, you can go to the North of the house, and keep going north until you (apparantly) go around the world and bump into the south of the house again. Now, presumably the paths are twisting or something, but you really need some kind of reasonable mapping structure.
All the best puzzles are here, and if you played Zork I-III you will know all the answers, because there is nothing new here (except maybe a few puzzles from sorcerer that never made it into Zork I, alas!).
I played the inform translation, and there are some simple irritating errors- the boat doesn't move downstream on its own (you must move DOWN to go downstream...), some of the alternate puzzle solutions aren't presnet (the loud room is an example), and since all the rooms are in different places than you're used to, it can get frustrating.
However, those complaints only matter if you're fluent in Zork I-III. If not, this game is all fresh and new, and none of these complaints matter. What you WILL be concerned with is the light puzzle with a light source that only lasts so long, a npc who randomly comes into rooms and steals or moves things, a carrying capacity limit, a glacier puzzle which I contend does not have a realistic solution, and a trivia questionare at the end that forces you to have found all the little secret things (even ones that you would need out-of-world or hints to even know about) to finish the game.
That being said, this was the first big game since Collossal Cave Adventure, and it was the blueprint for every other game since. It is very small by today's standards, but it was broken up into 3 games originally because it was too big to be contianed on the 5.25" floppies they used to have back in the day.
Don't expect any real story- you're dropped in the world with no explanation to go stealing everything you can. Don't expect to even know what your goal is (though it's putting valuables in a trophy case). And don't expect NPCs to be friendly or even non-hostile (even though sometimes you have to rely on them). Certainly dated in every sense by today's standard- just like Lord of the Rings is dated by Fantasy Literary standards, but it started the genre, and should be played if just to experience the rich history that created Infocom and IF in the first place.
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