Zelda & Zork

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Well, as you can see from the above titles, I'm going to be working on the two games that will appear last in the book. We've still got quite a few chapters left, and the publisher is really pushing us to get this thing done so they can start prepping it for printing.

I thought it might be fun to make a blog about Zork and Zelda, since people call them both "adventure games," or, more specifically, a text adventure and an action adventure. But is it a stretch to use the same name for both games?? I have to admit, I see very little in common between the two.

Anyway, you guys probably remember my Zork articles on Gamasutra, which I thought were pretty high quality overall. I'll probably be basing most of my research on that article, so please remind me (or let me know) if you had any criticisms of that piece. I really want the Zork chapter to be great. I'd also appreciate anything you want to tell me about Zelda that I didn't mention in my D&D book.

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Bill Loguidice
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Curious about the list of games in Vintage Games?

Just as a "teaser", since we haven't revealed the full game list yet (just bits and pieces), "Zork" is chapter 34, and "The Legend of Zelda" is chapter 29...



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Matt Barton
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Oh, that's right, forgot we

Oh, that's right, forgot we were counting "the" in the titles.

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Bill Loguidice
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Alphabetical listings
Matt Barton wrote:

Oh, that's right, forgot we were counting "the" in the titles.

Yeah, if a lot of that stuff wasn't done and accepted on the fly, we could have probably figured out if we even wanted to even do it that way. Oh well.



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Chris Kennedy
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Hey Matt - I'll jump in on the Zork & Zelda topic.

Zork -

I cannot comment specifically on the Zork experience. I didn't play it back in the day, however I did acquire Zork I, III, and III for Commodore 64 just a couple of months ago. I played a bit of Zork I for a few minutes, and I plan on playing the game through once I find the time.

I can comment from a slightly different angle regarding text-based adventure games. These games are truly in a genre of their own. If you take away graphics and are left with text, you are reminded of a book. Though the text-based adventure games may not contain the complex storytelling characteristic of a good fiction book, they allow readers to take that first step into the fiction - or - into the "adventure." I elected to use the term readers because I believe that people that read books are the ones most likely to get enjoyment out of this type of game. If you take a typical gamer of the current young generation of gamers and a person that enjoys reading fiction, I think that perhaps you may have a better chance of the reader adopting the game or at least giving it more of a chance than the young gamer. While books have illustrations on the front covers and possibly at the chapter stops, they are essentially nothing but text. As is has been the case for many, MANY years, it is up to the reader to create the scenes in their head. The reader has to picture the characters, the scenery around them, and the actions as they take place. The better the reader's imagination, the more likely a well-written fiction novel will succeed. In much the same way - the greater the imagination of the text-based adventure gamer, the more FUN said gamer will have playing a game such as Zork. He won't sit there feeling upset about the missing graphics - the entire game will come alive inside his head. The unpredictability (hopefully) of the adventure game is the key to suspense and anxiety for the adventure going on in the gamer's head.

Personally, I have more experience creating text-based adventure games than playing them as that was one of the first things I did when messing with Quick Basic many years ago. You're essentially writing an interactive novel, and it is a lot of fun to watch your friends try to play it. Are your puzzles too easy? Too hard? Do your friends go about solving the puzzle the same way you already knew how to solve it when it was first created? A unique experience to be sure.

Zelda -

I had owned and played an Atari 2600 for several years at the time I first saw a NES. A friend of mine owned one, and he showed me two games back to back: Super Mario Bros...which was amazing and then BAM! Zelda. Wow.

The sort summary of my experience was that I loved it. As more games have been released in the series, I have played them. They seem to have gone a bit stale on me as the years go by. New games are released, but I do not find that draw that the earlier games of the series did. Ocarina was better than I thought it would be, and Twilight Princess was entertaining as well. Neither one of these games could create the same level of excitement I had for the original game or Link to the Past. Is it because I am older? I cannot say.

I'll have to read your dungeons and desktops book at some point, Matt. I am curious as to what you had to say about Zelda in a D&D book. There is a minor argument (or major depending on your corner of the internet) as to if Zelda is considered an RPG or not. I consider King's Quest an adventure game. I consider Zelda to be an action-adventure game. I don't really consider it an RPG. If I did, I would have to refer to it as an "action-adventure RPG game." Even then...I would be more likely to slap the "puzzle" genre in there (especially for the more recent games) before I would add RPG. Unfortunately, this opinion offends fans of Zelda. I do not know why. I still like the series - why does it matter what genre it is? The discrepancy comes from how people define the term RPG.

For me, Zelda defines the action adventure genre by taking what I consider a traditional adventure game to be - exploration, item acquisition, and puzzle-solving - and combining it with a fast-paced, arcade style combat system.

Regardless of the classification of Zelda games, I would say they still define action-adventure games.

So if Zork defines text-based adventure games, and Zelda defines action-adventure games, are they still from the same basic genre - "adventure games?" I wouldn't use the cliche apples to oranges to compare the two, but they aren't really the same...are they? How about an idiom along the lines of "an apple tree and an orange tree growing in the same garden?" Each game initially shares several basic traits before development begins, but each is completely different after it starts to take shape.

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Bill Loguidice
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CkRtech wrote:

Zelda -

I had owned and played an Atari 2600 for several years at the time I first saw a NES. A friend of mine owned one, and he showed me two games back to back: Super Mario Bros...which was amazing and then BAM! Zelda. Wow.

The sort summary of my experience was that I loved it. As more games have been released in the series, I have played them. They seem to have gone a bit stale on me as the years go by. New games are released, but I do not find that draw that the earlier games of the series did. Ocarina was better than I thought it would be, and Twilight Princess was entertaining as well. Neither one of these games could create the same level of excitement I had for the original game or Link to the Past. Is it because I am older? I cannot say.

I'll have to read your dungeons and desktops book at some point, Matt. I am curious as to what you had to say about Zelda in a D&D book. There is a minor argument (or major depending on your corner of the internet) as to if Zelda is considered an RPG or not. I consider King's Quest an adventure game. I consider Zelda to be an action-adventure game. I don't really consider it an RPG. If I did, I would have to refer to it as an "action-adventure RPG game." Even then...I would be more likely to slap the "puzzle" genre in there (especially for the more recent games) before I would add RPG. Unfortunately, this opinion offends fans of Zelda. I do not know why. I still like the series - why does it matter what genre it is? The discrepancy comes from how people define the term RPG.

For me, Zelda defines the action adventure genre by taking what I consider a traditional adventure game to be - exploration, item acquisition, and puzzle-solving - and combining it with a fast-paced, arcade style combat system.

Regardless of the classification of Zelda games, I would say they still define action-adventure games.

So if Zork defines text-based adventure games, and Zelda defines action-adventure games, are they still from the same basic genre - "adventure games?" I wouldn't use the cliche apples to oranges to compare the two, but they aren't really the same...are they? How about an idiom along the lines of "an apple tree and an orange tree growing in the same garden?" Each game initially shares several basic traits before development begins, but each is completely different after it starts to take shape.

I like your concept of "action adventure", as that's my feelings on it too. It has RPG-like elements, but it's definitely more of a real-time adventure game.

As for your "defines" comment, I put a line in Matt's Zork chapter essentially about Zork's play being essentially the third way to make an adventure game, with the other two being the Myst and King's Quest/Secret of Monkey Island approaches, so I'm with you there.

Atari released a Zelda-like game in 1989 for the Atari 2600 called "Secret Quest", in fact among the last games released for the system (and the last one in the US): http://www.atariage.com/software_page.html?SoftwareID=1271 . It's quite sophisticated for the platform, with extra in-cartridge RAM and a larger ROM size (16K) for the time (modern homebrews have gone as high as 64K ROM to this point), but naturally not a true equivalent to what you got with the NES.



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Rowdy Rob
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Adventures: The Fatal flaw(??) and my SOLUTION(!).
CkRtech wrote:

The better the reader's imagination, the more likely a well-written fiction novel will succeed. In much the same way - the greater the imagination of the text-based adventure gamer, the more FUN said gamer will have playing a game such as Zork.

I'm not sure I agree with this statement. I consider myself to be very imaginative, yet many adventure games left me cold or frustrated, be it the text, graphical, or FMV ("Myst-style") variants. I did play a fair share of them, don't get me wrong, but then I ran into the "brick wall."

The "brick wall" may very well be the "fatal flaw" of the adventure genre, and why they never achieved the status of other gaming genres. Yes, other genres have their "brick walls" too, but most times you have the feeling of "if I try one more time, I might beat it." With adventure games, if you hit a brick wall, that's it, game over, you're a moron. The problem is compounded if you're a kid; you're probably not as experienced or well-developed logically as a game-playing adult, and your poor experience with the "adventure" will probably sour you for the rest of your life (as it did me).

The problem with the "adventure" genre is that MORE than imagination is required to enjoy them; they also require a "puzzle-solving" mindset. Like "word problems" are to math, "text adventures" are to puzzles. You are basically solving a series of puzzles in verbose form. The problem arises when the player cannot solve the particular puzzle with his or her own thinking or effort. That's it, game over! Unless the player "cheats" and looks at a hint, he or she will not progress in the game.

The problem with "hints" is that when the player uses them, they often feel like they've cheated themselves by consulting such "cheats," reducing the satisfaction and fun of beating the game. The entire fun of "puzzle" games is the satisfaction of solving the puzzle; if you didn't solve it yourself, it isn't fun! This feeling is exaggerated when the solution to the puzzle turns out to be of (to quote Matt) the "crack pipe" variety, where there's no way a rational thinker would have come up with the solution ("Use toad skin in keyhole" or other such nonsense).

What makes "adventures" more frustrating than the average puzzle game is that they are story-driven. If I'm trying to solve a Rubik's Cube and fail, so what? I just throw the cube against the nearest person's head and I'm done with it. (Joke, of course!) But with an "adventure" game, I'm drawn in by the story, and by hitting the "brick wall," I'm barred from the conclusion of the story until I solve the puzzles. If I can't solve the puzzles, I'm left with a story that I became involved in but never could enjoy to its full conclusion. It's sort of like watching a movie, and just when it's getting exciting, you are cut off and never allowed to see the rest of it. This feeling is even MORE heightened in an adventure game because YOU are the protagonist! YOU have failed! YOU are left dangling!

If you use "hints" to solve the puzzle (if they're available), yes, you can proceed, but hints take you out of the "fantasy" of the game, as well as (like I said) leaving you with a "cheating yourself" feeling.

That's the problem with "adventures," in my opinion, particularly "text adventures," where there's no audio-visual payoff for anything you do in the game. In most of these games, you have to be of a particular breed of people: the high-IQ "puzzle solver." The rest of us idiots never get far enough to gain much satisfaction from the genre. If all videogame genres operated this way, there would be no videogame industry. I can't think of another gaming genre where "cheating" is practically a requirement. If members of THIS website (particularly high-IQ guys like Matt and Bill) admit to consulting hints to play these games, then something's wrong!!!

That's the fatal flaw: the "brick wall."

And as for my solution? I think I do indeed have a "solution," but it may be flawed as well. However, I haven't seen it done before (although I'm not hardcore, so perhaps it has). Tune in next time... (I don't have time to go into all that right now).. :-)

qoj hpmoj o+ 6uo73q 3Jv 3svq jnoh 77V

Matt Barton
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Yeah, I get confused when

Yeah, I get confused when people try to claim Zelda and Zork are "role-playing games." That just doesn't make sense to me, since they don't have any sort of leveling/experience point type deal. I know they got me on that chatterbox radio when they guy yelled out "ZORK!!" when we were talking about CRPGs; I was like, "Huh??"

I agree also that text adventurers are fundamentally different than graphical ones. It's not like you can just map Zork onto an engine like AGI or SCUMM and still have the same game. One important thing you'd miss out on is the all the wordplay.

The biggest problem with text adventures (IMO) is that there are just so many things you can type in, that it's often difficult (if not impossible) to rely on trial and error. The games with the more "limited" interfaces are much easier, since even if you aren't precisely sure what you're doing, you can just keep clicking until something works. It's harder to get yourself totally stumped.

Of course, I think you could argue that text adventures (esp. the successful ones) aren't "natural language" but rather "adventurese," a type of pidgin English developed after playing many of these types of games. For instance, we all know that typing "I" or "inventory" lists all the items the player is carrying. That's not natural language. I never see my wife carrying bags of groceries and say "INVENTORY!" Likewise, I don't tend to describe how to get places by saying "N, S, S, E, S," and so on, and rarely use the word "EXAMINE" unless I'm playing one of these games!

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Bill Loguidice
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Agreed
Matt Barton wrote:

Yeah, I get confused when people try to claim Zelda and Zork are "role-playing games." That just doesn't make sense to me, since they don't have any sort of leveling/experience point type deal.

I agree also that text adventurers are fundamentally different than graphical ones. It's not like you can just map Zork onto an engine like AGI or SCUMM and still have the same game. One important thing you'd miss out on is the all the wordplay.

The biggest problem with text adventures (IMO) is that there are just so many things you can type in, that it's often difficult (if not impossible) to rely on trial and error. The games with the more "limited" interfaces are much easier, since even if you aren't precisely sure what you're doing, you can just keep clicking until something works. It's harder to get yourself totally stumped.

Of course, I think you could argue that text adventures (esp. the successful ones) aren't "natural language" but rather "adventurese," a type of pidgin English developed after playing many of these types of games. For instance, we all know that typing "I" or "inventory" lists all the items the player is carrying. That's not natural language. I never see my wife carrying bags of groceries and say "INVENTORY!" Likewise, I don't tend to describe how to get places by saying "N, S, S, E, S," and so on, and rarely use the word "EXAMINE" unless I'm playing one of these games!

Nice and I agree! Sounds like the basis for an awesome footnote at my first "natural language parser" comment in the chapter. I guess that's another thing after Alyx sends it back.



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Matt Barton
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Some of the best language

Some of the best language I've ever come across for this stuff is in this book: The Design of Everyday Things . I promise you--if you like the stuff you read on this site, you would really get a kick out of this book. Even though it's not explicitly about games, the stuff is directly applicable.

One subject he talks about in there is "feature creep." There seems to be a fine line between functionality and good design; you may really want an extra feature, but putting it in may make the interface too complex to mess with. There also ought to be some correlation between the interface and the function.

I thought the best example in there was of a stove (or range). Most ranges have to have a diagram or labels under the dials to show you which dial goes with what burner. This is asinine design. It makes more sense to arrange the dials 2 x 2, arranged so the top left dial controls the top left burner, and so on. The same thing with light switches. It doesn't make sense to have the light switches go up and down, but control lights haphazardly (maybe the middle light switch turns the lights off in the back corner, etc.) Once you read this book, you will NOT look at everyday items the same way. Every time you do, you'll be asking yourself if it made sense to design it that way. I can't recommend this book highly enough.

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steve (not verified)
Zork & Zelda

I think that when Zork was first written in 1978 or 1979, it was "inspired" by Dungeons And Dragons and I think for the perspective at the time, the programmers thought that they were making a computer version of the D&D. Recall, that in the 70's and early 80's the "role playing" aspect of RPGs was much stronger than it became in ensuing years. When I first played D&D in 1980, the DM was very much about us staying in character and playing his "story". My feeling is that as computer games rose in popularity, and they could keep stats much more accurately than people with pencils, stats slowly became more important than "role playing". In my later years I recall games like Warhammer and Battletech that were almost all stats. Anyway, I think the guys who wrote Zork did have D&D in mind, but more of the "story"aspect then the stats. If Zork is not an RPG, it was inspired by them.

Zelda on the other hand is simply an action arcade game that had an inventory and a mild story that was compelling because it was one of the first games to meld those elements into a home video game. I have tried to play all the Zelda games and every one has left me cold. However, Final Fantasy I rules (off topic, I know)

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