In 1977, four members of MIT’s Laboratory for Computer Science Dynamic Modeling System started writing a seminal work of interactive fiction. Published later in three parts by Infocom, Zork (along with Zork II and Zork III) is one of the earliest text adventure games, and the start of Infocom’s legacy in interactive fiction. The games told stories using a choose-your-own-adventure style. You reach the end of a hallway. Which way do you choose? The player types their answer to continue the story. But beyond simple commands, Infocom’s games were able to understand more complex sentences, which gave it a depth other games of the era didn’t have.
Infocom was eventually bought out by Activision in 1986, but was quickly shut down a few years later. There are more modern collections of Infocom games available, keeping the spirit of Zork alive, but the source code, which could teach us how Infocom managed to create such a sophisticated game at the time, had been deemed lost. That is, until this week, when internet archivist Jason Scott uploaded a collection of all Infocom text adventures and interactive fiction games’ source codes to GitHub, including the Zork games and Infocom’s video game adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
More Infocom goodness!