Classic Text Adventure Games are a priceless relic of gaming history, and thanks to computer/gaming/internet historian Jason Scott, a whole batch of games has been fully archived.
Scott, a well-known archivist, and proprietor of TEXTFILES.COM, as well as known for his work at the Internet Archive, officially released the source code of 45 different text adventure games from the now defunct software company Infocom. The archive, now available on Github for the public, is designed to be used as a historical depository for this long lost time period of gaming.
The archive is notable for containing the source codes of rare titles, such as Infocom’s version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, James Carvel’s Shogun, and the experimental Nord and Bert. The biggest addition, however, would be the various editions of the classic text adventure game Zork, perhaps the best-known product from Infocom.
First released in 1977 by a four-man team at MIT’s Laboratory for Computer Science Dynamic Modeling Systems, Zork would become the flagship title for Infocom, thanks to its choose-your-own-adventure style of gameplay. What helped set Zork apart was the ability to understand complex sentences, with some prepositions and conjunctions being usable in the games text parser a rarity for adventure games at the time.
Zork would go on to spawn multiple text-adventure sequels and spin-off titles, with most versions now officially archived by Scott. Activision currently owns the Zork IP, along with other Infocom titles, having purchased Infocom back in 1986. At this time, Activision hasn’t taken down the source code, although that remains a possibility.
Scott notes that to access any of these games, potential researchers need to familiarize themselves with Infocom’s Zork Implementation Language – or ZIL – filing. Scott provided a handy tutorial, written by Steven Meretzky in 1995, which will help unravel the source codes for further research.
Scott should be commended, this is basically a treasure trove of gaming history that should be preserved. Hopefully, that is what happens, as the source codes to games are sometimes the best ‘archeological’ evidence to the game’s development and production. I am all for this, even though I doubt I will be able to learn ZIL filing to use the source codes.
What are your thoughts though? Leave your comments below.