Monday, April 15, 2019

Versions of Zork I and their text differences

For my last posting on Zork I, I want to highlight the differences between versions. It’s something I wanted to know about, and I couldn’t find information comprehensive enough to satisfy me, so I dug it up myself.

Release 2

Scan by MOCAGH


The earliest known version of Zork I, and the version that I played, on an emulated TRS-80. This used the first version of the Z-Machine, and targeted 32KB machines with 96KB floppy disks. As such, it is smaller, more condensed, and terser than MDL Zork.

Revision 88

Scan by MOCAGH


In 1983, this was supposed to be the final release of Zork I, and had been upgraded to Z-Machine version 3, the version that Zork III and Deadline had been based on. In truth, there had been ten versions of Zork I commercially released in between releases 2 and 88, so when I am talking about changes in revision 88, I am really discussing the accumulation of all changes made up until that point, as I don’t really wish to analyze the incremental changes in versions that nowadays are just stepping stones in between the oldest version and the most widely played version.

The single biggest change from release 2 is that in the old versions, turning the bolt at Flood Control Dam #3 instantly fills or drains the reservoir, but in 88, it takes several turns. The purpose of this is to provide an alternate solution to the loud room, which will be silent as the reservoir refills itself. But because of this change, there are many new room descriptions added to the reservoir and its shores, should you visit while the water flows, and a new way to die, if you wait in the middle of the reservoir as it fills.

There are also a fairly large number of changes, big and small, to the existing room and item descriptions.

Revision 88 is by far the most widely distributed version of Zork I. If you’ve played any version, it was most likely this one.


In 1987, a cassette tape version of Zork I for the Commodore 64 appeared. This is the only Infocom game that was ever released on cassette tape, and thanks to the format, the entire game had to fit in the system’s 64KB of RAM. Consequently, Mini-Zork is even more condensed than Zork I. Many rooms are deleted and regions are shifted around accordingly but the general layout of the GUE is the same and most of the treasures and nearly all of the puzzles remain.

As with other Infocom games, the standalone storyfile can be played with Frotz or other interpreters. No cassette drive needed.

Zork I Solid Gold

Scan by MOCAGH

Also known as “release 52,” this is Infocom’s true final version. It’s been upgraded to Z-Machine version 5, which had been introduced with Beyond Zork, and has a parser up to parity with other Infocom games at the time, supporting useful commands such as OOPS.

The single biggest addition is an interactive “Invisiclues” hint system, which can be summoned any time by typing “hint.” Apart from that, the amount of content added or changed from 88 is disappointingly scant, and it does not appear to use any of Z-Machine 5’s features other than the parser improvements.

I did a deep analysis of the text dumps of releases 2, 88, and Solid Gold, finding portions where they differ. I did not attempt to include MDL Zork in this comparison; differentiating the vastly different source code would have been too laborious, and besides, I already know that the majority of MDL Zork’s text is absent from the game. It wouldn’t be especially interesting to specifically see which parts were cut. It might be more interesting to see what got added to release 2, or what got cut from release 2 in rooms that stayed and possibly that got added back in later, but again, it’s too much work.

Below is a marked-up merge of the Zork text dumps. It only includes text strings that differ between versions, and only if there are differences other than punctuation or whitespace. For instance, there are many possible game responses to MOVE OBJ, but only one of them changed in between versions, and this is the only response listed.

I also have only listed one command per group of responses, and my pick is arbitrary. For instance, “MOVE OBJ,” “PULL OBJ,” “ROLL OBJ,” and several other commands all do the same thing, but I’ve only listed “MOVE OBJ” to represent the block of possible responses to all of those.

Yellow highlighting indicates text that was present in 88 and Solid Gold, but not in 2.

Red highlighting indicates text that was present in 2, but not in 88 or Solid Gold.

Gold highlighting indicates text that was added to Solid Gold, not counting text related to hints. There’s not as much of this as you might think.

Blue highlighting indicates text that is present in 88, but not in 2 or Solid Gold.

Silver highlighting indicates text that was removed from Solid Gold, but present in every previous version. This is very uncommon.

My own comments are in italics.

General parser things

There isn't anything to [VERB]!

(You are in the [OBJ])

I can't see anything in the dark.

Those things aren't here!

Too many noun clauses??
There were too many nouns in that sentence.

You can't see any [OBJ] here!

The [OBJ] seems confused. "I don't see any [OBJ] here!"

You should say whether you want to go up or down.

Only you can do that.

Talking to yourself is said to be a sign of impending mental collapse.

You'll have to do that on your own.

Auto-cannibalism is not the answer.

Suicide is not the answer.

Not a chance.

Please consult your manual for the correct way to talk
to other people or creatures.

You don't have that!

You are left in the dark...

Here begins a transcript of interaction with

Here ends a transcript of interaction with

You can't talk to the sailor that way.

There is no sailor to be seen.

Why don't you just walk like normal people?

I can't help your clumsiness.

Sorry, you can't correct mistakes in quoted text.

only the first word after OOPS is used.

There was no word to replace!

In Z-Machine 5, OOPS can be used to correct a typo in your previous command.

Beg pardon?

It's difficult to repeat fragments.

That would just repeat a mistake.

I couldn't understand that sentence.

You didn't say with what!

Would you like to restart the game from the beginning,
restore a saved game position, receive a hint, or end this session of the game?

Version info

The Great Underground Empire - Part I
Infocom interactive fiction - a fantasy story
Copyright (c) 1980 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986
by Infocom, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ZORK is a registered trademark of Infocom, Inc.
Release Revision Release

Disk verification

Verifying disk...

The disk is correct.

** Disk Failure **


A hollow voice says 'Cretin' "Fool."

'Cretin' pops up a few other times in MDL Zork and seems to have been popular in hacker vernacular. I don't know if they deemed it too offensive for general consumers or too esoteric.


You can't see the [OBJ] anymore.

'Again' repeats the last typed command, saving you from retyping long commands like 'kill troll with sword' multiple times. Typing 'again' immediately after killing an enemy would produce the above message in release 88, but in any other version including Solid Gold it would just say 'You can't see any [OBJ] here,' same as if you retyped the command.


Nobody seems to be awaiting your answer.

>knock down OBJ

There is nothing here to [VERB].


My memory isn't that good.
Sorry, my memory is poor. Please give a direction.

Possibly for the benefit of Adventure players, as 'back' was a valid command in it to return to the previous room. It doesn't work in Zork.

MDL Zork produces a lengthier message:
He who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the
kingdom of winners.  In any case, "back" doesn't work.

>board OBJ

You are already in the [OBJ], cretin!

I suppose you have a theory on boarding a [OBJ].
You have a theory on how to board a [OBJ], perhaps?

Adventure often used first person point of view, even telling the player 'I WILL BE YOUR EYES AND HANDS. DIRECT ME WITH COMMANDS.' Earlier Zork versions tended to use a mix of first and second person points of view. Later versions gradually vaccilated away from using first person.

>brush OBJ

If you wish, but I can't understand why?? heaven only knows why.


If there is a problem here, it is unintentional.
Bug? Not in a flawless program like this! (Cough, cough).

In MDL Zork, the 'bug' command could be used to report bugs.

>burn OBJ with OBJ

I don't think you can burn a [OBJ]
You can't burn a [OBJ].


I don't know how to do that. I win in all cases!

>climb up OBJ

There are no climbable trees here.

>close OBJ

The [OBJ] is now closed.

>cut OBJ with OBJ

Not a bright idea, especially since you're in it.

Your skillful [OBJ]smanship slices the [OBJ] into innumerable slivers which evaporate blow away.

I doubt that the "cutting edge" of a [OBJ] is adequate.
The "cutting edge" of a [OBJ] is hardly adequate.

>dig in OBJ

There's no reason to be digging here.

>disembark OBJ

You realize, just in time, that getting out here would probably be fatal.

>drink from OBJ

How peculiar!

>drink OBJ

How can I you drink that?

I'd like to, but I can't get to it.

You're not holding that.

You have to be holding the [OBJ] first.

You'll have to open the [OBJ] first.

You don't have any to drink.

There isn't any water here.

>describe OBJ

There's nothing special about the [OBJ]

>fill OBJ

You may know how to do that, but I don't.

>donate OBJ to OBJ


That's easy for you to say since you don't even have
the [OBJ]

The [OBJ] refuses it politely.


I think It's a well known fact that only schizophrenics say 'Hello' to a [OBJ].


The incantation echoes back faintly, but nothing else

>kiss OBJ

I'd sooner kiss a pig.

>knock on OBJ

I don't think that anybody's home.
Nobody's home.

>light OBJ

If you wish to burn the [OBJ] you should say so.

>launch OBJ

I see no intelligence here.

You can't launch that by saying "launch"!

That's pretty weird.

>lean on OBJ

Getting tired?


In a feat of unaccustomed daring, you manage to land on
your feet without killing yourself.


Only bats can see in the dark. And you're not one.

>gaze in OBJ

There is nothing special to be seen.

I don't know how to You can't look inside a [OBJ].

>gaze on OBJ

Look on a [OBJ]???

>liquify OBJ with OBJ

I'm not sure It's not clear that a [OBJ] can be melted.

>move OBJ

I don't juggle objects!
You aren't an accomplished enough juggler.

>block OBJ with OBJ

Trying to destroy the [OBJ] with [OBJ] is {suicidal} {quite self-destructive} futile.

>grease OBJ with OBJ

That's not very useful.

>chuck OBJ OBJ

Ahoy - [OBJ] overboard!

You're not in anything!

>play OBJ

That's silly!

You become so engrossed in the role of the [OBJ] that you kill yourself, just as he might have done!

The gold passage and resulting death is triggered by playing an object with the VILLIAN flag, such as the troll. This was present in MDL Zork, but removed from Zork I and added back to Zork I Solid Gold.

>pour OBJ on OBJ

You can't pour that on anything.

>pump up OBJ

I really don't see how.
It's really not clear how.

>move OBJ to OBJ

You can't push things to that.

>hide OBJ in OBJ

I You can't do that.

>hide OBJ behind OBJ

That hiding place is too obvious.

>drop OBJ on OBJ

There's no good surface on the [OBJ]

>molest OBJ

What a (ahem!) strange idea.

>read OBJ

How can I does one read a [OBJ]?

>answer OBJ

It is hardly likely that the [OBJ] is interested.

>ring OBJ

How, exactly, can I you ring that?


Say what?

You must address the [OBJ] directly.

Talking to yourself is a sign of impending mental

>send for OBJ

Why would you send for the [OBJ]? That doesn't make sends.

>donate OBJ OBJ


>shake OBJ

All of the objects spill onto the floor.
The contents of the [OBJ] spill out and disappears to the ground.


The [OBJ] sounds empty.

>spin OBJ

You can't spin that!

>stab OBJ

No doubt you propose to stab the [OBJ] with your pinky?


You are already standing, I think.


You will be lost without me!

>strike OBJ

Since you aren't versed in hand-to-hand combat, you'd
better attack the [OBJ] with a weapon.


Swimming isn't usually allowed in the dungeon.

Go jump in a lake!

>swing OBJ


>carry OBJ

You already have it. that!

You are already wearing it.

I can't reach that.
You can't reach something that's inside a closed

It's not in that!
The [OBJ] isn't in the [OBJ].

You are in it, loser!
You're inside of it!

You are now wearing the [OBJ].

>ask OBJ

The [OBJ] pauses for a moment, perhaps thinking that you should
reread the manual.

You can't talk to the [OBJ]!

>chuck OBJ at OBJ

A terrific throw!

>chuck OBJ off OBJ

You can't throw anything off of that!

>attach OBJ to OBJ

How can you tie that to anything.

You can't tie the rope anything to yourself.

>flip OBJ with OBJ

Can't turn something without a tool.

You certainly can't turn it with a [OBJ].

You can't with your bare hands.

You can't turn it with your hands...

Your bare hands don't appear to be enough.

>free OBJ


>go OBJ

There are odd noises in the darkness, and there is no
exit in that direction.


Use compass directions for movement here.

>go to OBJ

It's here!

You should supply a direction!

>wear OBJ

 You can't wear the [OBJ].


With luck, your wish will come true.


That was just a rhetorical question.

Listing objects in the room

There is a [OBJ] here {(in the room)} {(providing light)} {(being worn)} {(outside the [OBJ])}.

The [OBJ] is holding [OBJ].

Taking too much inventory

Oh, no. The [OBJ] slips from your arms while taking the [OBJ] and both tumble to the ground.
You're holding too many things already!

General interaction

The [OBJ] isn't here!

General room events

The [OBJ] comes to a rest on the shore.

There are sinister gurgling noises in the darkness all
around you!

You have moved into a dark place.

The [OBJ] leaves the room.


I see no granite wall here.

It only SAYS "Granite Wall".

The wall isn't granite.

It's solid granite.

Obviously this has something to do with the granite wall in the slide room, but I don't know what.

>where is songbird

I You can't see any songbird here.

Zork lets you type 'where is [OBJ]' to locate objects. 'I/You can't see any [OBJ] here' is a generic response to searching for an object with an unknown location. The songbird has special logic overriding this behavior and may require a unique message to handle the default response.

>where is house

It's right in front of you. here! Are you blind or something?


I You cannot see the forest for the trees.
You aren't even in the forest.

>take water

It's in the bottle. Perhaps you should take that


The window is slightly ajar, but not enough to allow

Trying to enter the closed window does not produce this message.

Interacting with spirits in Hades

The spirits jeer loudly and ignore you.

You seem unable to affect interact with these spirits.

Interacting with the bat

You can't reach him; he's on the ceiling.

Entering the bat room without garlic

A deranged giant vampire bat (a reject from WUMPUS)
swoops down from his belfry and lifts you away....

The bat grabs you by the scruff of your neck and lifts
you away....

A reference to Hunt the Wumpus, probably removed from later Zork I releases as general consumers might be unfamiliar with it.


There are no stairs leading down.

Not sure how to trigger this, but it seems to be related to the kitchen.

Inside the Barrow

Inside the Barrow
As you enter the barrow, the door closes inexorably behind you. Around you it
is dark, but ahead is an enormous cavern, brightly lit. Through its center runs
a wide stream. Spanning the stream is a small wooden footbridge, and beyond a
path leads into a dark tunnel. Above the bridge, floating in the air, is a
large sign. It reads
All ye who stand before this bridge have completed a
great and perilous adventure which has tested your wit and courage. You have
gained the mastery of mastered the first part of the Great Underground Empire ZORK trilogy. Those who pass
over this bridge must be prepared to undertake an even greater adventure that
will severely test your skill and bravery!

Play "ZORK
The Great Underground Empire, Part II".

The ZORK trilogy continues with "ZORK II
The Wizard of Frobozz" and is
completed in "ZORK III
The Dungeon Master."

Interesting that even in the earliest release, they knew a sequel was on the way. By the time of Release 88, Zork III was already available, hence the references to it and the Zork trilogy.

Interacting with the trapdoor

You see a rickety staircase descending into darkness.

The door closes and locks.

Interacting with the Studio->Kitchen chimney

The chimney leads [DIR]ward, and looks climbable.

Climbing up the chimney

You and all of your baggage won't fit.
You can't get up there with what you're carrying.

Interacting with the rug in the living room

With a great effort, the rug is moved to one side ofthe room. With the rug moved, the dusty cover of a closed trap-door appears.
, revealing the dusty cover of a closed trap door.

Underneath the rug is a closed trap door. As you drop
the corner of the rug, the trap door is once again concealed from view.

As you sit, you notice an irregularity underneath it.
Rather than be uncomfortable, you stand up again.

I suppose you think it's a magic carpet?


The [OBJ] snatches swings it out of your reach.

Interacting with the troll

The troll isn't much of a conversationalist.

The troll, now worried about this encounter, recovers
his bloody axe.

The troll, angered and humiliated, recovers his weapon.
He appears to have an axe to grind with you.

The troll scratches his head in confusion, then takes
the axe.

You would have to get the [OBJ] first, and that seems unlikely.

The troll, who is not overly proud, graciously accepts
the gift and eats it hungrily. Poor troll, he dies from an
internal hemorrhage and his carcass disappears in a sinister black fog.

You can kill the troll by giving him the knife. Not recommended, since it's the best weapon for killing the thief.

Moving the leaves

A grating appears on the ground.
In disturbing the pile of leaves, a grating is

With the leaves moved, a grating is revealed.

Interacting with the leaves

You rustle the leaves around, making quite a mess.

Underneath the pile of leaves is a grating. As you
release the leaves, the grating is once again concealed from view.

Interacting with the grating

It won't fit through the grating.

The [OBJ] goes through the grating into the darkness below.

Taking the rusty dagger

As you pick up touch the rusty knife, your sword gives a single
pulse of blinding blue light.

Interacting with the corpse in the maze

A ghost appears in the room and is appalled at your
having desecrated desecration of the remains of a fellow adventurer. He casts a curse on all of your
valuables and orders them banished banishes them to the Land of the Living Dead. The ghost leaves,
muttering obscenities.

Interacting with the mirror

You would herniate yourself if you did.
The mirror is many times your size. Give up.

Torch room

This is a large room with a prominent doorway leading
to a down staircase. Above you is a large dome. Up around the edge of the dome
(20 feet up) is a wooden railing. In the center of the room there is sits a white marble


The sluice gates are open, and water rushes through the
dam. The water level behind the dam is still high.

The sluice gates are closed. The water level in the
reservoir is quite low, but the level is rising quickly.

The sluice gates on the dam are closed. Behind the dam,
there can be seen a wide lake. A small stream is formed by the runoff from the
reservoir. Water is pouring over the top of the now
abandoned dam

These passages were added to deal with the gradually-filling and draining reservoir found in newer versions of Zork I.

There is a control panel here. There is a large metal
bolt on the panel. Above the bolt is a small green plastic bubble.
{The green bubble is glowing}.

, on which a large metal
bolt is mounted. Directly above the bolt is a small green plastic bubble {which is glowing serenely}.

Interacting with the control panel

It is an integral part of the control panel.

Reservoir filling

The boat lifts gently out of the mud and is now
floating on the reservoir.

A sound, like that of flowing water, starts to come
from below.

All of a sudden, an alarmingly loud roaring sound fills
the room. Filled with fear, you scramble away.

You notice that the water level has risen to the point
that it is impossible to cross.

More passages added to newer versions where it is possible to visit the reservoir while it is still filling or draining.

Reservoir draining

The water level has dropped to the point at which the
boat can no longer stay afloat. It sinks into the mud.

The roar of rushing water is quieter now.

The water level is now quite low here and you could
easily cross over to the other side.


Interacting with the maintenance room buttons

They're greek to you.

Plugging the leak in the maintenance room

By some miracle of elven Zorkian technology, you have managed
to stop the leak in the dam.

Interacting with the gunk

The all-purpose gunk isn't a lubricant.

Reservoir South

You are in a long room. To the north is a large lake,
too deep to cross. You notice, however, that the water level appears to be
dropping at a rapid rate. Before long, it might be possible to cross to the
other side from here.

You are in a long room, to the north of which is a wide
area which was formerly a reservoir, but now is merely a stream. You notice,
however, that the level of the stream is rising quickly and that before long it
will be impossible to cross here.

You are in a long room on the south shore of a large
lake, far too deep and wide for crossing.


You notice that the water level here is rising rapidly.
The currents are also becoming stronger. Staying here seems quite perilous!

Reservoir North

You are in a large cavernous area. To the south is a
wide lake, whose water level appears to be falling rapidly.

You are in a cavernous area, to the south of which is a
very wide stream. The level of the stream is rising rapidly, and it appears
that before long it will be impossible to cross to the other side.

Interacting with the cyclops

No use talking to him. He's fast asleep.

The cyclops prefers eating to making conversation.

The cyclops is sleeping like a baby, albeit a very ugly

A hungry cyclops is standing at the foot of the

The cyclops looks tired and quickly takes the bottle, checks that it's open,
and drinks the water. A moment later, he lets out a yawn that nearly blows you
over, and then
falls fast asleep. (What did you put in that drink, anyway?)

Loud room

The room is eerie in its quietness.

The room is extremely noisy. In fact, it is difficult
to hear yourself think.

The room is deafeningly loud with an undetermined
rushing sound. The sound seems to reverberate from all of the walls, making it
difficult even to think.

It is unbearably loud here, with an ear-splitting roar
seeming to come from all around you. There is a pounding in your head which
won't stop. With a tremendous effort, you scramble out of the room.

These passages are also related to the new dam behavior, which was specifically changed in order to provide a new solution to the loud room.

The rest of your commands have been lost in the noise.

I beg your pardon?

Deep canyon

You can hear a loud roaring sound, like that of
rushing water, from below.

You can hear the sound of flowing water from below.

Thief interacting with AFGNCAAP

You feel a light finger-touch, and turning, notice a
grinning figure holding a large bag in one hand and a stiletto in the other.

I have no idea what triggers this reaction, but it's only found in release 88.

The other occupant thief just left, still carrying his large bag. You
may not have noticed that he {robbed you blind first} {appropriated the valuables in the room}.

The other occupant (he of the large bag) thief, finding nothing of value, left disgusted.

Interacting with the thief

The thief is a strong, silent type.

The thief is a slippery character with beady eyes that
flit back and forth. He carries, along with an unmistakable arrogance, a large
bag over his shoulder and a vicious stiletto, whose blade is aimed menacingly
in your direction. I'd watch out if I were you.

Interacting with the thief's bag

Sadly for you, the robber collapsed on top of the bag.
Trying to take it would wake him.

The bag will be taken over his dead body.

It would be a good trick.

Getting close enough would be a good trick.

The bag is underneath the thief, so one can't say what,
if anything, is inside.

Interacting with the chalice

Realizing just in time that you'd be stabbed in the
back if you attempted to take the chalice, you return to the fray.

You'd be stabbed in the back first.

You can't. It's not a very good chalice, is it?

Interacting with the book

Beside page 569, there is only one other page with any
legible printing on it. Most of it is unreadable, but the subject seems to be
the banishment of evil. Apparently, certain noises, lights, and prayers are
efficacious in this regard.


It is securely anchored.

Interacting with the matchbook

The match is not burning.

It's pitch black in here!

You have no matches.

The matchbook isn't very interesting, except for what's
written on it.

Losing a light source

I hope you You'd better have more light than from the [OBJ].

Interacting with the candles

You must tell me should say what to light them with.

The candles are already lighted lit.

It's really dark in here....

That wouldn't be smart.

Candles blown out in the cave

The cave is very windy at the moment, and your candles
have blown out.

A gust of wind blows out your candles!

Elvish sword glows

Your sword is glowing very brightly.

Igniting the gas room

I didn't realize that adventurers are stupid enough How sad for an aspiring adventurer to light a [OBJ] in a room which reeks of coal gas. Fortunately, there is
justice in the world.

Bat room

A large vampire bat, hanging from the ceiling, swoops
down at you!

Machine room

This is a large room which seems to be air-conditioned.
In one corner there is a machine (?) which is shaped somewhat like a clothes
dryer. On the 'panel' there is a switch which is labelled in a dialect of
Swahili. Fortunately, I know this dialect, and the label translates to START.

This is a large, cold room whose sole exit is to the
north. In one corner there is a machine which is reminiscent of a clothes
dryer. On its face is a switch which is labelled "START".

Interacting with the machine

It is far too large to carry.

It's not clear how to turn it on with your bare hands.

Interacting with the slag

The slag turns out to be was rather insubstantial, and crumbles into
dust at your touch. It must not have been very valuable.

Solidifying the rainbow

A shimmering pot of gold appears at the end of the

Interacting with the normal rainbow

From here?!?

I didn't know you could walk on water vapor.
Can you walk on water vapor?

The Frigid River flows under the rainbow.

Inflating the ruptured boat

This boat will not inflate since some moron put a hole
in it.

No chance. Some moron punctured it.

Interacting with the river

Just in time, you avoid a watery grave.
A look before leaping reveals that the river is wide
and dangerous, with swift currents and large, half-hidden rocks. You decide to
forgo your swim.

In the boat

You can't control the boat with words.
Read the label for the boat's instructions.

You are on the {reservoir} {stream}, or have you forgotten?

You can't launch it from here.

The sceptre's pointy end seems to have slipped and
punctured the boat. There is a hissing sound as the boat deflates.

It seems that the [OBJ] didn't agree with the boat, as evidenced by the loud
hissing noise issuing therefrom. With a pathetic sputter, the boat deflates,
leaving you without.

Oops! Something sharp seems to have slipped and
punctured the boat. The boat deflates to the sounds of hissing, sputtering, and

Opening the egg

Your rather indelicate handling of the egg has caused
it some damage. The egg is now open , although you have succeeded in opening it.


The [OBJ] tumbles end over end into the river and is seen no more.

Putting an object on the slide

The [OBJ] falls through into the slide and is gone.


It smells of hot peppers.

Interacting while dead

Even such an simple action is beyond your capabilities.

How can you think of your score in your condition?
You're dead! How can you think of your score?


For a change, you look before leaping. You realize you
would never survive.

You look before leaping, and realize that you would
never survive.


You are at death's door can expect death soon.

You are strong enough to take can survive several wounds.


This score gives you the rank of [RANK].


It takes a talented person to be killed while already dead. YOU are such a
talent. Unfortunately, it takes a talented person to deal with it. I am not
such a talent. Sorry.


The [OBJ] are safely inside; there's no need to do that.

There are lots of [OBJ] in there.

Don't be silly. It wouldn't be a [OBJ] anymore.


It looks pretty much like a [OBJ].


What the heck! You won't make friends this way, but
nobody around here is too friendly anyhow. Gulp!

Interacting with the chain

The chain is secure.

Perhaps you should do that to the basket.

The chain secures a basket within the shaft.

Reading the leaflet


ZORK is a game of adventure, danger, and low cunning. In it you will explore
some of the most amazing territory ever seen by mortals. No computer should be
without one!"

The original ZORK was created by Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels,
and Dave Lebling. It was inspired by the ADVENTURE game of Crowther and Woods.
This version was created by Marc Blank, Dave Lebling, Joel Berez, and Scott

(c) Copyright 1979 & 1980 Infocom, Inc. All rights reserved.

Reading the matchbook

(Close cover before striking)

YOU too can make BIG MONEY in the exciting field of PAPER SHUFFLING!

Mr. Anderson of Muddle, Mass. says
"Before I took this course I used to be was a lowly
bit twiddler. Now with what I learned at GUE Tech I feel really important and
can obfuscate and confuse with the best."

Dr. Blank had this to say
"Ten short days ago all I could look forward to was
a dead-end job as a doctor. Now I have a promising future and make really big

GUE Tech can't promise these fantastic results to everyone. But when you earn
your MDL degree from GUE Tech, your future will be brighter.

MDL Zork referenced MIT instead of GUE Tech. Release 2 forgot to scrub one of the references to MDL.

Reading the map

The map shows the area around the white house, including the forest, the
canyon, and the mountains. There are three paths leaving the large clearing
containing the house and two smaller clearings to the north and east.

The map shows a forest with three clearings. The largest clearing
contains a house. Three paths leave the large clearing. One of these paths,
leading southwest, is marked "To Stone Barrow".

Reading the boat's label


Hello, Sailor!

Instructions for use

To get into a body of water, say "Launch".
To get to shore, say "Land" or an appropriate direction the direction in which you want to maneuver
the boat


This boat is guaranteed against all defects in parts and workmanship for a period of 76 milliseconds
from date of purchase or until first used, whichever comes first.


This boat is made of thin plastic.
Good Luck!

Reading the FCD#3 tour guidebooks

Flood Control Dam #3

FCD#3 was constructed in year 783 of the Great Underground Empire to harness
the mighty Frigid River. This work was supported by a grant of 37 million
zorkmids from your omnipotent local tyrant Lord Dimwit Flathead the Excessive.
This impressive structure is composed of 370,000 cubic feet of concrete, is 256
feet tall at the center, and 193 feet wide at the top. The lake created behind
the dam has a volume of 1.7 billion cubic feet, an area of 12 million square
feet, and a shore line of 36 thousand feet.

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 could
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....

The gold passage was in MDL Zork but cut from release 2 likely for disk capacity limitation reasons. Solid Gold put it back.

Reading the Zork User Manual


You are the privileged owner of a genuine ZORK Great Underground Empire (Part
The Great Underground Empire
, a self contained and self maintaining universe. As a legitimate owner, you
have available to you both the Movement Assistance Planner (MAP) and
Hierarchical Information for Novice Treasure Seekers (HINTS). For information
about these and other services, send a stamped, self-addressed, business-size
envelope to

Infocom, Inc.
GUE I Maintenance Division
PO Box 120, Kendall Station
Cambridge, Mass. 02142

If used and maintained in
accordance with normal operating practices for small universes, ZORK will
provide many months of trouble-free operation.

Text section

These strings do not appear in the game code, and are just string resources available to the program. This makes determining their context difficult.

There is a small brass bell here.

There is a multi-colored Egyptian sceptre here.
An ornamented sceptre, tapering to a sharp point, is here.

A sceptre, possibly that of ancient Egypt itself, is in the coffin. One
end tapers to a very sharp point. The sceptre is ornamented with many colors of

A sceptre, possibly that of ancient Egypt itself, is in the coffin. The
sceptre is ornamented with colored enamel, and tapers to a sharp point.

Poseidon's own crystal trident is here.

A clear glass bottle is here.

There is a nasty-looking knife lying here.

There is an inflated boat here.

There is a small mailbox here.

There is a small piece of vitreous slag here.

There is a pile of plastic here with a large hole in it.

The prayer is inscribed in an ancient script which is hardly remembered
these days, much less understood. What little of it can be made out
. It seems to be
a philippic against small insects, absent-mindedness, and the picking up and
dropping of small objects. The final verse seems to consigns trespassers to the
land of the dead. All evidence indicates that the beliefs of the ancient
Zorkers were obscure.

There is a sapphire-encrusted bracelet here.

There is a beautifully carved scarab here.

There is a suspicious-looking individual, holding a large bag, leaning
against one wall. He is armed with a deadly stiletto.

There is some gunk here.

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 Zorkers. Skillfully interwoven with the bas reliefs are excerpts illustrating
the major religious 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 them.

This passage is in release 2 after all! But reading the engravings in the engravings cave does nothing. So this must be a bug.

In the bird's nest is a large egg encrusted with precious jewels,
apparently scavenged somewhere by a childless songbird. The egg is covered with fine gold
inlay, and ornamented in lapis lazuli and mother-of-pearl. Unlike most eggs,
this one is hinged and closed with has a delicate looking clasp holding it closed. The egg appears
extremely fragile.

This is a forest, with trees in all directions around you. To the east, there
appears to be sunlight.

The mountains are unclimbable.

You can't go through the closed grating.

You are standing in a small clearing in a well marked forest path that extends to
the east and west.

You are on the east edge of a chasm, the bottom of which cannot be seen.
The west side is sheer rock, providing no exits. A narrow passage goes north, and the path you are on continues to the east.

This is an art gallery. Most of the paintings which were here have been stolen by
vandals with exceptional taste. The vandals left through either the north or
west exits.

This is what appears to have been an artist's studio. The walls and floors are
splattered with paints of 69 different colors. Strangely enough, nothing of
value is hanging here. At the south end of the room is an open door (also
covered with paint). An extremely dark and narrow chimney leads up from a fireplace;
although you might be able to get up it, it seems unlikely you could get back

You are not equipped for swimming.
You would drown.

The stream emerges from a hole in the rock spot too small for you to enter.

This is a cave. Passages exit to the west and to the east, but the cave
narrows to a crack to the south. The earth is particularly damp here.

This cave has exits to the west and east, and narrows to a crack toward
the south. The earth is particularly damp here.

You have entered the Land of the Living Dead, a large desolate room.
Although it is apparently uninhabited, you can hear the sounds of thousands of
lost souls weeping and moaning
. Thousands of lost souls
can be heard weeping and moaning. In the east corner are stacked the remains of
dozens of previous adventurers who were less fortunate than yourself. A passage exits to
the north.

You haven't a prayer of getting the coffin down that hole there.

This room appears to have been the waiting room for groups touring the
dam. There are exits open doorways here to the north and east marked 'Private', though the
doors are open, and an exit to the south
there is a path leading south over the top of the dam

This is what appears to have been the maintenance room for Flood Control
Dam #3. Apparently, this room has been ransacked recently, for most of the
valuable equipment is gone. On the wall in front of you is a group of buttons,
which are labelled in EBCDIC. However, they are of different colors
Yellow, Brown, and Red. The doors to this room are in the west and south ends.

colored blue, yellow, brown, and red. There are doorways to the west and

The EBCDIC reference was in MDL Zork and would have been understood by MIT hackers, but not by many personal computer users. So later Zork I revisions scrubbed it.

The path is too tight.

You are on the east shore of the river. The stream water here seems somewhat
treacherous. A path travels from north to south here, the south end quickly
turning around a sharp corner.

Nice view, lousy place to jump.

The chain is not climbable.

In the movies, your life would be passing before your eyes.

Very good. Now you can go to the second grade.

This is one possible response to jumping into the pile of leaves, added to release 88.

hits you squarely in the head. Normally, this wouldn't do much damage,
but by incredible mischance, you fall over backwards trying to duck, and break
your neck, justice being swift and merciful in the Great Underground Empire.

You can't swim in the dungeon.

You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Oh, dear. Such language from a supposed winning adventurer!

Too late for that.

Have your eyes checked.

I'm afraid that leap was a bit much for your weak frame.

Trying to destroy the [OBJ] doesn't work.

I don't really see how.

I think that swimming is best performed in water.

Perhaps it is your head that is swimming.

A pathetically babbling troll is here.

You are lifted up by the rising river! You try to swim, but the currents
are too strong. You come closer, closer to the awesome structure of Flood
Control Dam #3. The dam beckons to you. The roar of the water nearly deafens
you, but you remain conscious as you tumble over the dam toward your certain
doom among the rocks at its base.

A new dumb way to die, made possible by Release 88's delayed reservoir filling.

The rising water carries the boat over the dam, down the river, and over
the falls. Tsk, tsk.

The cyclops, tired of all of your games and trickery, eats you. The
grabs you firmly.
As he licks his chops, he
says 'Mmm. Just like Mom used to make 'em.' It's nice
to be appreciated.

I think he is gathering No doubt they are
condiments for his upcoming snack.

There is a suspicious-looking individual lying unconscious on the
ground. His bag and stiletto seem to have vanished.

You think it isn't?

I think you've already done that.

You cannot can't seem to damage the door.

The door is still under warranty.

A booming voice says "Wrong, cretin!" and you notice that you have
turned into a pile of dust. How, I can't imagine.

The structural integrity of the rainbow is severely compromised, leaving
you about 450 feet hanging in midair, supported only by water vapor. Bye.

Not bloody likely.

Unfortunately, a rubber raft the magic boat doesn't provide much protection from the unfriendly sorts of rocks
and boulders one meets at the bottom of many waterfalls. Including this one.

Another pathetic sputter, this time from you, heralds your drowning.

In other words, fighting the fierce currents of the Frigid River. You
manage to hold your own for a bit, but then you are carried over a waterfall
and into some nasty rocks. Ouch!

takes a final fatal blow and slumps to the floor dead.

The Cyclops trips over his feet trying to get at you.

The Cyclops knocks you unconscious.

The Cyclops sends you crashing to the floor, temporarily unconscious.

The Cyclops raises his arms and crushes your skull.

The Cyclops has just essentially ripped you to shreds.

The Cyclops grabs but you twist free, leaving part of your cloak.

The monster smashes his huge fist into your chest, breaking several

A flying drop kick breaks your jaw.

The Cyclops breaks your leg with a staggering blow.

The Cyclops grabs you, and almost strangles you before you wiggle free,

The Cyclops grabs you by the arm, and you drop your

The Cyclops, momentarily overcome by remorse, holds back.

I am guessing that these strings aren't actually used by Zork I, so later revisions just cut them to save space. The MDL code suggests the Cyclops was meant to be fightable at one point, but this feature had been dummied out.

The flat of the troll's axe hits you delicately on the head, knocking
you out for a brief moment.

A valiant attempt, but this is getting you nowhere.

The troll swings, you parry, but the force of his blow disarms you knocks your [OBJ] away.

Shifting in the midst of a thrust, the thief knocks you temporarily
unconscious with the haft of his stiletto.

The thief knocks you out momentarily.

Finishing you off, a lightning throw right to the the thief inserts his blade into your heart.

The thief, a man of good superior breeding, refrains from attacking a helpless
pauses for a moment to consider
the propriety of finishing you off

The thief, who is essentially a pragmatist, dispatches you as a threat to his livelihood.


  1. The red and blue texts are really hard to read. You should either make the highlight lighter (pink, light blue) or change the text colour in those to white.

    1. Ok, I adjusted the shades. Is that better? I'm colorblind, so it's hard for me to predict what shades will be easily distinguished for most people. For me, the light blue and silver are hard to tell apart, though both are easily read.

    2. The red still is much too dark to read comfortably.

  2. I've been browsing around Jeff Claar's C++ port of MDL Zork [1], trying to work up the courage to actually play that beast, so I recognize some of the messages.


    > In MDL Zork, the 'bug' command could be used to report bugs.

    There's also a special case in the Loud Room. Instead of "bug bug ..." it replies with "That's only your opinion." In MDL Zork it just replies "Feature".

    > You become so engrossed in the role of the [OBJ] that you kill yourself, just as he might have done!
    > I have no idea how to trigger the gold-highlighted condition, but it's there in the Solid Gold storyfile.

    In MDL Zork, this happens if you try to play an object that has the VILLAIN flag. So you can get it if, for instance, you enter the troll's room and "play troll". But in the Solid Gold version the message seems a bit buggy when I try it, because I get a stray "has no effect." after it.

    > You can't see any songbird here.
    > I don't know what triggers this response, and it's hard to test because 'I/You can't see any [OBJ] here' is a generic Zork response.

    I don't know how the Z-Machine version handles it, but in MDL Zork the songbird is a GOBJECT, which I believe means that it can be referenced from - in this case - any room that has BIRDBIT.

    So if you type "find songbird" in any such room, it will respond with "The songbird is not here, but is probably nearby." any to any other command it will say "I can't see any songbird here." even though it's technically there.

    In any other room it presumably says "I can't see any songbird here." because it really isn't there.

    > It's right here! Are you blind or something?
    > Zork lets you type 'where is [OBJ]' to locate objects, but I don't know what conditions will trigger such an aggressive response, assuming that's even what will do it.

    That's what you get if you type "find house" in any room where the house is actually visible. If you try it in the forest, you get "It was here just a minute ago...." and if you try it in one of the clearings you get "It seems to be to the west."

    > It's in the bottle. Perhaps you should take that instead.
    > You might think 'take water' would trigger this response, but it doesn't.

    It does, if the bottle is open.

    > You feel a light finger-touch, and turning, notice a grinning figure holding a large bag in one hand and a stiletto in the other.
    > I have no idea what triggers this reaction, but it's only found in release 88.

    It looks like it might have something to do with if the thief doesn't have his stiletto, maybe because you somehow took it from him. But I don't know how that would happen. I thought you couldn't pick it up even if you managed to knock him out. I don't know.

    > This impressive structure is composed of 370,000 cubic feet of concrete

    Oddly enough, in MDL Zork it's only 3.7 cubic feet. According to the summer 1985 issue of The New Zork Times, "Actually, it was intended as a joke; it is not a typo."

    1. Thanks! I've amended some of the sections.

  3. I don't know if you've seen this, but the source code for a bunch of Infocom games, including Zork I, has just been uploaded to github at (Credit where credit is due -- found via Slashdot. Yes, I still look at Slashdot every once in awhile...)

    Thanks for the site...takes me back to the old days.

    1. I didn't know about that, and that's awesome! And there are some unreleased Infocom games there too.

    2. OMG, that archive's pure GOLD. There's even the AGI source for Leisure Suit Larry.

      While researching where that comes from, I saw Al Lowe put the source on Ebay in December 2018, but Activision made him cancel the auction... The source code was added to the archive in April 2019.

      One great thing about sources is that the developer's personality often shines through. In Al Lowe's case, I noticed that the "volume up/down" menu options are called "crescendo" and "decrescendo". Al is a jazz musician, y'see.

      Speaking of which, Ahab, I'm SO looking forward to your treatment of Sierra AGI adventures beginning in 1984. I have complete rips of them all (including game scripts, although in assembler-ish). With LSL source code, I think I may try to rip the code in its original form. Let me know if you'd need anything.

    3. Ooh, about that. You might be a bit disappointed, as I've basically burned myself out on Sierra's AGI games ages ago. Played them all in DOS, replayed them all on DOSBox, then ScummVM, and replayed them yet again when I learned the Apple IIGS versions have exclusive MIDI and sound effects. Even replayed the AGI version of KQ4, before playing New Rising Sun's DOS/Amiga hybrid version.

      I'll probably replay KQ1 given that I've never played the PCJr original, but I think the rest are quick candidates for the skip list. Most of the SCI0/1 games too.

    4. Yeah, that is a bit disappointing :) I can *never* burn myself out on Sierra's AGI games. My childhood memories are just too fond, every time I see this blocky 160x200 screen, I'm happy. (I'm even working on a PC emulator just to get the monochrome amber Hercules screen in the right aspect ratio, as I remember it from my first computer :)

      But shouldn't at least Space Quest 1 not also be on your whale list? I haven't checked, but they MUST have more than 25 Mobygames votes.

      Also, I know it's not on your whale nor your predecessor list, but if you haven't, maybe you should check out Gold Rush if you haven't played it. It's a really nice one, historically pretty accurate, and it does have three very different ways of winning it.

      And just to make it clear, I'm not offended if you ignore this suggestion :)

    5. SQ1's on the master whale list, but I skip whales if a replay wouldn't be interesting. I've passed that point with all of the Sierra AGI games, including Gold Rush and the Manhunters (nice avatar!).

      You wouldn't happen to know if the booter version of The Black Cauldron differs meaningfully from the DOS version? I did try playing a copy of that awhile ago, but couldn't find any differences, except that the sword didn't work (which I assume is because of a cracking error) which put a hard stop on my progress through the game. Taran would swing it, but it would never affect the henchmen.

    6. Tsk, tsk, what a deplorable lack of professionalism, Ahab ;) No, but seriously, I understand, and that's why I wouldn't want to impose any structure on my posts. There are enough constraints on my life, I am past of adding any more of my own.

      It's awesome that you recognize my avatar. You are truly an ex-lover of AGI, Sir, and I respect that :)

      Sorry, I never really played The Black Cauldron (I really love having a parser in my adventures). But generally, different AGI game versions feature very few gameplay differences, if any, it were mostly bugfixes and user interace improvements. I feel quite confident to guess that the added menu is the most significant addition.

      (Damn, I missed an opportunity to get you play another AGI game by blatantly lying :)

  4. It's worth noting that there were significant changes made between version 30 and version 75. So if you ever want to revisit this, it's worth adding that to the comparisons. Version 30 vs. version 75 will probably have the most "stylistic" or art-driven changes.

    Grahame Cree's "Infonotes" has noted some of the text differences between versions. 2 and 5 have a bunch of "early release" oddities in the text, and a hell of a lot of bugs; they deleted text to make room on the disk for bug fixes, or because they thought better of it.

    From versions 15 through 30 changes are mostly bugfixing, with very little text change.

    But then there are a whole bunch of stylistic decisions made between 30 and 75, including deleting programmer-specific references. This even creates a discontinuity between Zork I and Zork II since they never did this to Zork II.

  5. Is there still a way to play the very first version of Zork 1? I'm trying to do research on bugs that the first version had. Thanks!

    1. Yes, I have instructions on my first post on the game.


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