MMORPG Info Logo Zork!

You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
There is a small mailbox here.

Jolt Online Gaming have announced Legends of Zork! a multi-player browser game based on the original Zork series from Infocom. I’m faintly amused by the responses of “hey, what?” from the under-20 crowd. It seems to me you shouldn’t be allowed to play MMORPGs (previously known as graphical MUDs) if you never experienced the interactive fiction games that started it all.

It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

Zork was a text-based interactive fiction game based on Colossal Cave Adventure (best remembered for its maze of twisty little passages, all alike).

Zork was written in the late 1970s by a group of MIT students for the PDP-10. They used zork as a holding name for all their programs that weren’t ready for release, but this time it stuck. The programmers later decided to call the game Dungeon but the name only really became used in an unofficial FORTRAN port of the game by a programmer at DEC who wanted to run it on a machine smaller than a PDP10. The original MUD (multi-user dungeon) in Essex was named as a tribute to Dungeon. Due to trademark issues, Infocom launched the game under its original nickname, Zork.

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Hello, Sailor!

Tim Anderson wrote a detailed history of Zork in which he reminisces about writing the game and the unexpected results and popularity.

The History of Zork

In early 1977, Adventure swept the ARPAnet. Willie Crowther was the original author, but Don Woods greatly expanded the game and unleashed it on an unsuspecting network. When Adventure arrived at MIT, the reaction was typical: after everybody spent a lot of time doing nothing but solving the game (it’s estimated that Adventure set the entire computer industry back two weeks), the true lunatics began to think about how they could do it better.

And thus, Zork was born.

But it’s not just a piece of gaming history any more!

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

Jolt Online Gaming released a press release yesterday that Legends of Zork, described as “a persistent online adventure, playable from any Internet browser” is in progress although no release date has been set. The game is described as a browser-based MMORPG, reminiscent of the Curse of Monkey Island.

Dylan Collins, the CEO of Jolt, told Gamasutra that the game would offer a casual RPG experience. The game will be free to play with an income stream based on microtransactions.

Gamasutra – Interview: Jolt’s Collins On Bringing Back A More Casual Zork

“I guess the one-word description is ‘freemium,'” he said, describing Legends of Zork’s business model. “The game is free to play, but there are premium options which let you upgrade various elements for a few dollars.”

Jolt have launched a teaser site and forums which is currently focused on memories of Zork but also promises to distribute initial information about the game as it becomes available.

The lead designer posted to Forumopolis to say that he has worked on the project for the last four months and is thrilled that he can finally talk about it.

Zork Returns! – Forumopolis

And here’s the crew I assembled who worked on the game art with me:
Legends of Zork Logo Design: Indigo Kelleigh
Map Design/Icons: Will Makra
Map Colours: Espen Grundetjern
Location Design & Double Fanucci Line Art: Greg ‘Cornflake’ Brown
Location Colours: Chris Oatley
Colour Flatting: Tom Liu

Initial reactions are varying levels of cautious excitement:

Legends of Zork heading to your browser – Gamertell

Legends of Zork sounds interesting, and since Jolt Online Gaming is working on it, it’s probably going to be good.

Raph’s Website » Legends of Zork the browser MMO

Um. I want to be optimistic. I really really do.

Legends of Zork: Classic Series Turned Browser-Based MMO | Game | Life from

I can’t see Legends supplanting the pillars of the genre (World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online, etc), but this could very well be the next big workplace distraction, assuming it isn’t eaten by a grue.

No release date has been been announced, although you can sign up for more information, including beta registration announcements,

While we’re waiting for more news, pass the time with this modern take, a rap song by MC Frontalot about the original text adventures, It Is Pitch Dark:

Or even better, play the original Zork online at thcnet:


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