June 2, 2010 1:56 PM   Subscribe

ZZT! The first Epic MegaGames release, back in 1991, was ZZT, an ascii-based top-down action game.

The title isn't an acronym - it was chosen so that the game would always appear last on lists of shareware releases. Despite its crude graphics and simple gameplay, enough people registered ZZT to finance the more familiar Jill of the Jungle.

The most charming aspect of ZZT isn't the game, which doesn't hold up well over time at all - it's the level editor, which allows more customization than one would suspect by playing the main game. A game-specific programming language, ZZT-OOP, allows scripting. Internet communities were founded to share maps for the game. Of these, only one survives: z2. Still updated occasionally with new levels (called 'games' by virtue of generally having a beginning and end), z2 also keeps several versions of the ZZT executable and a collection of featured games, which include some of the most iconic and complete ZZT games ever published.
posted by LSK (29 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Oh my god, it's like 7th grade all over again.
posted by Damn That Television at 2:02 PM on June 2, 2010

ZZT was an obsession of mine back in the day. Ah, the joys of figuring out how to enable the extended color set...
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:12 PM on June 2, 2010

There was an interview with Tim Sweeney in GamaSutra last year in which he said his dad is still fulfilling ZZT registration orders.
posted by zsazsa at 2:28 PM on June 2, 2010

There's a pretty big overlap with the z2 "featured games" list, but you might also be interested to read Auntie Pixelante's ZZT recommendations.
posted by aparrish at 2:38 PM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

anyone else haunt the old aol message boards?
posted by talkingpet at 2:43 PM on June 2, 2010

Auntie Pixelante's lack of caps makes a long article very difficult to read.
posted by Sukiari at 2:54 PM on June 2, 2010

Q: Shii, what game exemplifies all that is missing from modern video games? Is there a game out there that puts modern million-dollar professional productions to shame? What kind of video game do you want to play but can't find on store shelves?

A: Burger Joint
posted by shii at 2:58 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

This prompted me to look up text-based MUD called "Terris" from my AOL days. I wasted a good year to that game.
posted by TimeTravelSpeed at 4:30 PM on June 2, 2010

Also reconfigured as a rather good electro superduo. (YMMV)
posted by mykescipark at 5:43 PM on June 2, 2010

This was so awesome. Also, Super ZZT? Megazeux? Amazing.
posted by zeek321 at 6:06 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Man, you mentioned Z2 and I thought it was gonna have something to do with Carlos DeSilva's "sequel" that got abandoned soon after the first couple beta releases.

Also, I guess this means we're due for a post about MegaZeux, which presumably would have to support modified text characters in the thread instead of just the standard ASCII set.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:14 PM on June 2, 2010

also wait WHAT HOW is this TWENTY YEARS OLD now

This makes me feel almost as much like an old person as seeing Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on Nick at Nite.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:23 PM on June 2, 2010

Pshaw. I'm so old I remember playing Snipes on DOS 1.1.
posted by fungible at 6:34 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

So apparently there is an open-source clone of ZZT, DreamZZT, only the project hasn't seen any activity for three years. Possibly because it was feature-complete? I don't know. Has anyone used it? Will it run all the good ZZT games?
posted by LogicalDash at 7:09 PM on June 2, 2010

Huzzah! That's all I have to say on this.
posted by ®@ at 8:09 PM on June 2, 2010

I can confirm that this game showed up last in the Games file section of most every BBS I ever logged into after 1991. Well, except for the good ones that were usually outside my area code. That honor would probably belong to Zool.
posted by BoatMeme at 8:32 PM on June 2, 2010

Wow. That's a blast from the past. I may have to take a break from using my 2.4GHz Pentium 4 to emulate a 6 MHz Z80 processor so I can play Adventure to play ZZT! for a while instead. And then I'll finally go download Commander Keen from Steam and get all my retro game fixes at once.
posted by jferg at 8:34 PM on June 2, 2010

it also inspired my favorite website of all time, Castle ZZT. The site does not contain all of the wonders it once did, but is still very good.
posted by scose at 9:03 PM on June 2, 2010

fungible: Pshaw. I'm so old I remember playing Snipes on DOS 1.1.

Holy crap, Snipes! I've been trying to remember the name of that game for years! It was the first LAN game I ever played. Thanks, fungible!
posted by joedan at 9:10 PM on June 2, 2010

fungible: Pshaw. I'm so old I remember playing Snipes on DOS 1.1.

i LOVE snipes. it actually sorta holds up, too.
posted by mrballistic at 11:10 PM on June 2, 2010

I spent so long working on a custom ZZT game with my best friend in middle school. I wish I still had it someplace - I remember being really proud of some of the crazy contraptions and puzzles we made.
posted by heathkit at 11:30 PM on June 2, 2010

Wow, it's almost partially as good as Nethack!
posted by CountSpatula at 5:48 AM on June 3, 2010

I never played with this but I wasted many weeks with The Adventure Construction Set for the Commodore 64 by Stuart Smith.
posted by Splunge at 8:31 AM on June 3, 2010

BTW, Snipes is probably the first game to use the famous WASD key arrangement.
posted by zsazsa at 9:34 AM on June 3, 2010

MeFi's own aparrish made the ZZT game Winter, which is another one of the few that still holds up well to modern gaming sensibilities. It's like Myst, only more surreal and less obtuse.

But I agree with the suggestion above: if you want to play one ZZT game to see what it was really all about, to see how much potential it promised to those who could harness it, play Burger Joint.
posted by brett at 10:50 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Aaaand I see that he beat me to this thread. Heh, whoops.
posted by brett at 10:53 AM on June 3, 2010

Oh my god, ZZT *AND* the ACS in one post? I think I just got whiplash trying to watch my childhood rushing by me. Throw in a splash of the Bard's Tale Construction Set and it's a trip back to 1991 like whoa.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:01 PM on June 3, 2010

Glad to see I'm not the only ACS fan. A friend and I used to trade disks with our own crappy games with attempts at multi-tile level bosses and other tricks to get around the limitations of the game. Open source it, EA!
posted by cellphone at 8:45 PM on June 3, 2010

Not sure how I missed this post but HELL YEAH ZZT
posted by danb at 5:25 AM on June 23, 2010

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