Sunday, March 24, 2019

Zero Hour

We start out above ground, near a boarded-up white house, with a mailbox out in front. Reading the mail produces a lengthier message than the one seen in Zork I:

                        WELCOME TO ZORK

    ZORK is a game of adventure, danger, and low cunning.  In it you
will explore some of the most amazing territory ever seen by mortal
man.  Hardened adventurers have run screaming from the terrors
contained within!

    In ZORK the intrepid explorer delves into the forgotten secrets
of a lost labyrinth deep in the bowels of the earth, searching for
vast treasures long hidden from prying eyes, treasures guarded by
fearsome monsters and diabolical traps!

    No PDP-10 should be without one!

    ZORK was created at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, by
Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling.  It was
inspired by the ADVENTURE game of Crowther and Woods, and the long
tradition of fantasy and science fiction adventure.  ZORK is written
in MDL (alias MUDDLE).

    On-line information may be available using the HELP and INFO
commands (most systems).

    Direct inquiries, comments, etc. by Net mail to ZORK@MIT-DMS.

    (c) Copyright 1978,1979 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
                       All rights reserved.

My first order of business would be to explore and map. The area surrounding the white house consists of a confusing forest layout, a clearing with a locked grate, and a canyon view which can be climbed down to the bottom where there is a narrow road leading to nowhere. Inside the house are a few rooms, containing items including a lamp, some food, an empty trophy case, and also an elvish sword.

So far, the layout seems an awful lot like Adventure, but better written and with more stuff.

The house has three rooms, a kitchen, a living room, and attic. Unique to this version of Zork is a newspaper in the living room.

There is an issue of US NEWS & DUNGEON REPORT dated 7/22/81 here.

                US NEWS & DUNGEON REPORT
7/22/81                                        Last G.U.E. Edition

This version of ZORK is no longer being supported on this or any other
machine.  In particular, bugs and feature requests will, most likely, be
read and ignored.  There are updated versions of ZORK, including some
altogether new problems, available for PDP-11s and various
microcomputers (TRS-80, APPLE, maybe more later).  For information, send
a SASE to:

                Infocom, Inc.
                P.O. Box 120, Kendall Station
                Cambridge, Ma. 02142

Also in the living room is the other side of the boarded-up front door, with gothic letters engraved.

The engravings translate to 'This space intentionally left blank'

Moving the rug aside and revealing a trapdoor, I went down to the caves, where things still resembled Adventure. I very soon encountered a troll, who I killed easily with my sword, only for the sword to then immediately get stolen by a wandering thief. Exploring more revealed familiar sounding room names such as “East-West Passage” and “Round Room.” The round room had compass-interfering magnetics which confused my adventurer and sent them off in a random direction when trying to leave, to a cave with old engravings on the wall:

The engravings were incised in the living rock of the cave wall by
an unknown hand.  They depict, in symbolic form, the beliefs of the
ancient peoples of Zork.  Skillfully interwoven with the bas reliefs
are excerpts illustrating the major tenets expounded by the sacred
texts of the religion of that time.  Unfortunately a later age seems
to have considered them blasphemous and just as skillfully excised

Flood Control Dam #3’s guidebooks have an entire passage that had to be excised from Zork I:

"                  Guide Book to
                Flood Control Dam #3

  Flood Control Dam #3 (FCD#3) was constructed in year 783 of the
Great Underground Empire to harness the destructive power of the
Frigid River.  This work was supported by a grant of 37 million
zorkmids from the Central Bureaucracy and your omnipotent local
tyrant Lord Dimwit Flathead the Excessive. This impressive
structure is composed of 3.7 cubic feet of concrete, is 256 feet
tall at the center, and 193 feet wide at the top.  The reservoir
created behind the dam has a volume of 37 billion cubic feet, an
area of 12 million square feet, and a shore line of 36 thousand

  The construction of FCD#3 took 112 days from ground breaking to
the dedication. It required a work force of 384 slaves, 34 slave
drivers, 12 engineers, 2 turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear
tree. The work was managed by a command team composed of 2345
bureaucrats, 2347 secretaries (at least two of whom can type),
12,256 paper shufflers, 52,469 rubber stampers, 245,193 red tape
processors, and nearly one million dead trees.

  We will now point out some of the more interesting features
of FCD#3 as we conduct you on a guided tour of the facilities:
        1) You start your tour here in the Dam Lobby.
           You will notice on your right that .........

And in the adjacent maintenance room, an obscure IBM joke not found in Zork I:

On the wall in front of you is a
group of buttons, which are labelled in EBCDIC. However, they are of
different colors:  Blue, Yellow, Brown, and Red.

I kept exploring and mapping until my lantern ran out and I got eaten by a grue. The map will eventually prove crucial for the challenge of actually completing the game, and in the meantime I now know the locations of multiple items and treasures, and have recognized a few areas where items will come in handy. For instance, a “dome room” above an abyss has a railing from which a rope could be tied to and climbed down from.

Some other dungeon features include:
  • A “loud room” which, unlike in Zork I, produces an effect that makes it seem like Zork has glitched out (and possibly makes the solution a bit more logical if you’re familiar with CLI commands).
  • A “riddle room” with a talking door that asks an insultingly easy riddle, and admits entrance to a room at the bottom of a well with an enormous bucket.
  • A “dam base” room with a deflated plastic raft.
  • An “Egyptian room” with the golden sarcophagus of Ramses II, which must weigh literal tons.
  • A volcano with visible ledges, but no obvious way of reaching them
  • The south bank of an impassible reservoir
  • Another maze of twisty little passages, all alike.
  • A gallery with one painting that hadn’t been stolen yet.

Zork’s a big game, make no mistake, and the time limit imposed by the lantern is harsh. I’ve explored the area immediately north of the Troll Room pretty thoroughly, but the maze and chasm region near the Troll Room are mostly uncharted, and there are plenty regions gated off by unsolved puzzles.

My map so far:

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