It was 1977, and home computers were big, expensive, heavy, and were almost entirely lacking in computing power by today’s standards. Yet, in this primitive environment, the first computer adventure games were born. Zork was the first commercial offering. Based on the very first text adventure game Colossal Cave Adventure, and written in for the PDP-10 mainframe (that’s right, it took a mainframe to run it!) Zork was written by Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling during their time at MIT. Zork was published commercially by Infocom, and was originally broken up into three parts: Zork: The Great Underground Empire – Part I (later known as Zork I), Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz, and Zork III: The Dungeon Master.]
It’s written in a language called ZIL, which stands for Zork Implementation Language. The games have been rewritten for various platforms and have been circulating for years, but knowledge of the actual scripting language used to create the game was lost to the annals of history.
Until now. Somebody called themselves ‘historicalsource’ has uploaded the original source ZIL code to a bunch of Infocom games to GitHub. That someone is computer historian Jason Scott.
Not only have the runtime source to all the Infocom games been released on GitHub, but the source code to a number of other games pivotal to the history of computer gaming have been posted there as well.
The source to these games is an amazing resource for game enthusiasts and programmers alike, and its a rare peek into the beginnings of computer gaming.
We have no idea what he’s talking about. But we’re eager to find out.
UPDATE: Well, now we know: Leasure Suit Larry, the complete source code, have been uploaded to GitHub – alas, not the assets too, so you can’t build Leasure Suit Larry from this, but you can certainly get a glimpse as to how the game was created and how the asset system worked with the game script itself.
Even More Updates
The GitHub archive also includes source code from the following Infocom games:
- Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Infocom)
- Infidel (Infocom)
- Hollywood Hijinx (Infocom)
- Enchanter (Infocom)
- Deadline (Infocom)
- Cutthroats (Infocom)
- Bureaucracy (Infocom)
- Border Zone (Infocom)
- Beyond Zork (Infocom)
- Ballyhoo (Infocom)
- A Mind Forever Voyaging (Infocom)
- James Cameron’s ‘The Abyss’ (Unfinished, unreleased, also Infocom)
That’s just a few of them. There are about two pages of listings, mostly Infocom, but there are some hidden gems there too, like an open source version of the engine Croteam created for Serious Sam, Peter Spronck’s Space Trader, as well as the complete source for Hexen and Heretic, both from Raven Software.
If you’re into game development, or want to learn to make games, you could do worse than pour over this fascinating historical record of some of the greatest games for personal computers that helped start it all rolling.