QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH THE IMPLEMENTORS
The first section here are questions which I personally have asked the
Zork Implementors and received answers back. The second section is a
collection of quotes from other interviews which relate to the Zork world.
DOUGLAS BARNETT (2011)Q:
(before I received the design documents): WasReturn to Zork intended to originally be all above ground?A:
Yup, it was originally above ground, as I had not finished researching
Zork tales. The project was rather a rush job, so I was designing as I
was researching. Maps are usually the first thing I do. Usually I
research for a couple months before starting a design, but there was no
time. (I went into the ring for 3 3-round boxing matches as research
for my first game Star Rank Boxing, lol.)
I also remember
being criticized by some game critic for a game within Zork that was a
rip-off of the little sliding numbers pocket game. The critic was
correct and justified...except that I didn't put that game
in...Dombrower did. Ah, well. :)LAIRD MALAMED
: At one point there was talk of a Zork movie. Was there anything seriously brainstormed/written/etc about that either?A:
Nothing on the movie. It was optioned briefly, but nothing ever came to us. It was a non-event.Q:
Judging from the Zork NEMESIS design documents, the final Act was
supposed to be quite extensive compared to what appeared in the final
game - lots of labyrinthine tunnels beneath the temple and a boat ride,
etc. Do you recall if any of that stuff even went into the concept art
stage or the graphic design stage, or was most of it dropped before
serious production began?A:
I do recall some concept art done for those catacombs. I think I have
it somewhere. Nothing was ever programmed though. We cut it for time
and budget reasons.CRAIG SHAW GARDNER
Info of general interest: I was contracted to write the
Wishbringer novel by Byron Preiss Visual Associates. It sold very
well, and I was approached to write a sequel, but old Byron didn't pay
very well, and my career was taking off in different directions, so a
second book never happened. I did get a nice note from the writer
of the original game, saying how much he enjoyed the book.
The main problem I am having
is trouble in figuring out exactly how you intended to have Wishbringer
relate with Beyond Zork. The ending of Beyond Zork has magic being
destroyed so I'm assuming that Wishbringer did not take place after it.
Yet, in Beyond Zork, there is a scene with the Queen platypus who was
upset that Alexis is more beautiful than her, which seems to imply that
the backstory to the game of Wishbringer has not yet happened, placing
Wishbringer after Beyond Zork. I am thus having trouble placing the
game of Wishbringer within its proper place in the chronology of Zork.
Magic is not destroyed at
the end of Wishbringer. It is preserved in the Coconut for later
release thousands of years later, as explained in Beyond Zork II:
Grueslayer. Oh, wait. I never wrote BZ2. Oh well. Time is a funny thing
in the Zork universe. I suspect Y'Gael (who looks suspiciously like the
crone in the Magick Shoppe) knows more than she lets on.
So Wishbringer was thousands of years after Beyond Zork when magic had returned?
I suspect Wishbringer happened soon after the magic returned. Or maybe caused it to return. Or not.
Was "Beyond Zork II: Grueslayer" actually a seriously intended idea?
Yes, Grueslayer was real, if only in my head. You recall the sheath
of the Blade of Entharion is an object in Beyond Zork? In BZ2, your
task was to reunite it with the Blade itself, which was called
Were the Fields of Frotzen always plagued by terrible storms and colorless?
No. The storms and colorlessness were caused by some dark magical event, long forgotten.
Is the old sailor [in Beyond Zork] supposed to be the same viking sailor as seen in Zork 3:
I think so. Try HELLO SAILOR and see.
Do you recall who the four
Implementors were in the Ethereal Planes of Atrii?
Tall, bearded is probably Meretzky.
Cheerful is probably Lebling.
Loud-mouthed is probably me.
Only woman is probably Amy Briggs.
Did you have a specific Implementors in mind which the Ur-Grue was supposed to be in Beyond Zork? If so, who?
That would be telling.
Did you intend to write more than 4 of the Zork choose-your-own-adventure books?
No, always intended as a series of four; might have done similar books
for other games/game universes if the Zork ones had sold better.
(I asked Steve a long question about an apparent contradiction
between Jeearr's nature in "Conquest of Quendor" as opposed to
I wouldn't try to reconcile the universe of the Zork books with the
universe of the games... they use a lot of the same elements and
place/character names, but aren't intended to have the same
Unfortunately, then, for what you had originally intended, when
Activision took over the company, they absorbed those books into the
main timeline and are used extensively for the backstory for Zork
Nemesis and Zork Grand Inquisitor. It is good to know though that you
had not originally intended them to be part of the same universe. I
suppose that's always the problem when someone else picks up the rights
to another author's creation and does with it whatever they want... not
understanding the original intention.
Yup. They could have easily asked me ... I was around and knew people on the team. Sigh.
I was always curious, with the amount of mystery originally surrounding
the appearance of grues, how did you manage to get the rest of the team
to include artwork of them in the Zork books?
Neither I nor anyone else at the company had much involvement in or
control of that process ... we just signed the book deal, and I wrote
the manuscripts and handed them over to the publisher.
(I asked a question related to the Zork II poster)
The history of that poster was that it was just done by a fan ... if I
recall correctly, somewhere in Europe, perhaps Italy. He sent it to
Mike Dornbrook unrequested, and Mike decided to publish it as a Zork 2
poster. So its creation was never directed by anyone connect with the
game, at all.
(I asked a question about the Zork I artwork that appears on the radio shack box)
That illustration dates back to the earliest release of the game by
Personal Software, around 1979 +/- and was re-used a few years later
for this Radio Shack edition. Not sure about the history of the
production of that piece of art; before my time. Joel Berez or Marc
Blank would be the most likely to know.
Do you recall any more
details on how this deleted puzzle was intended to have worked in Zork
I and where it would have been located at (I always guessed in the dry
FCD#3 reservoir)? This image
appeared in the New Zork Times with the following words beneath it:
"Marc Blank's sketch for an underwater problem designed for, but never
put into the original Zork. The treasures would have been pearls and a
trunk of jewels."
The words in the drawing aren't in my handwriting, so I'm not really
sure of its provenance. It's odd that it's described as my sketch...
Agent of WALTER VELEZ (who did cover artwork for Avon Zork novels)
(from 2009) Q:
have a question. Did Velez write any information down about each piece
of artwork? From reading the "Zork Chronicles" novel, I am at a loss of
which character in the book to identify the green troll-like creature
with on the cover artwork.A:
Walter did the covers for "Zork" we were just given a fact sheet or
description of what he should do for the cover art. We never read the
books. So, Walter or I do not really know much about the contents of
this world that was created. The art was created before the books were
fully written. Often when this happens the covers don't match up all
that well to the characters in the stories. I have no idea who the
green troll-like creature is.
(I asked a question related to what she had planned to have happened in Zork Quest III)
(She told me that she could not recall anymore and also that she was
not allowed to tell me any more details about Zork, as the rights and
material which she created for the game are now the property of
By the way, what happened with Return to Zork
? Why are the trolls and orcs simply a man in a fright wig? I seems it wouldn't have been too difficult to use a little make up.
As for the orcs and trolls, as we were going for a bit of a campy feel
in the entire production and had some recognizable faces playing those
roles, we wanted to not try to do Tolkienesqe or grotesque meanies, but
slightly silly meanies (I mean, flatheads are a pretty silly notion
I'm not sure if you can answer this, as I don't know if you played any
role in its development, but do you know why "Return to Planetfall" was
canceled and how close to completion the game was before it was
The short story: Steve
Meretzky, the original Planetfall designer/developer wrote a great
design and premise for the game, but it got stuck in bit of a
"developement hell" (a Hollywood term) trying to get screen writers to
make an interactive story out of it. We started on the visual designs
and they were stunning. In the end, though, Activision decided to
cancel the project... well before we got into serious production.
I believe that the Temple of Agrippa in underground. Is this true? (and is it suppose to exist in
the same area as Return to Zork, since the Futuristic Age in the temple
shows a scene of the Mountain Pass from Return to Zork)
Yes, it is underground, but
the covering above it has broken away. Watch the opening movie closely
and you’ll see that the mountains once
met above the temple. Obviously, to be able to see the eclipse, we
had to expose the temple. I think there is something in one of the
books in the temple that refers to an earthquake. [NOTE: this is also clearly stated in the design documents]
Also, is "Flood Control Dam #7" an error in the game? Or is the
conservatory dam suppose to be a different dam than #3 (it says #3 in
the nemesis manual map)
The manual is in error. It should be FCD 7.
(I asked Laird if Lucien was the Thief from Zork I)
(Laird confirmed this and
also stated that Lucien became the Nemesis when the player from Zork I
killed him as the thief.) [NOTE: Both of these points are clearly stated in
the design documents and in the screenplays for their respective
scenes and they are actually portrayed as such in the final game].
Are Bivotar, Ellron and Syovar the same ones from the choose-your-own-adventure books?
(Laird confirmed that this is true)
SNIPPETS FROM INTERVIEWS/QUESTIONS THAT ARE NOT MY OWN
If I wrote a pure text
adventure (which would be a labor of love, as there is little
commercial interest) I'd write the game Spellbreaker was originally
intended to be -- about the creation and cosmology of the Zork universe.
I'd have loved to have done "The Lurking
Horror" as a larger-size game (it was almost the last of
the "small" games which had to fit in 84k bytes of
disk space). Some good scary stuff got cut out of it or never
implemented due to the size restrictions.
I wished The Lurking Horror could have been larger -- a lot got cut from it due to space considerations.
I think I had the most fun writing The Lurking Horror, although I wish
(we all wished) that it had been an "Ezip" (meaning larger-size) game.
A lot of lovely shivers had to be cut out of the design, and some stuff
out of the almost-finished product. It was a labor of love, set as it
was at a thinly-disguised MIT, with lots of real places and a
somewhat-accurate geography. Aside from the actual monsters, the course
of the game duplicates "Institute Exploring" adventures I went on when
I was a freshman.
The main building of MIT is almost aligned east to west. On certain
days of the year, the setting sun shines all the way down the Infinite
Corridor just like the temple of the sun at Karnak, Egypt. MIT is reputed
to have more miles of corridor than any building except the Pentagon.
There can't really be a Tomb, can there?
Yes, there can! It's called Tomb of the Unknown Tool ("tool" is MIT
slang for a nerd). It's rough, coffin-shaped, not quite as tight a squeeze
as in the game, and has no door inside it.
The Lurking Horror, on the roof of the Brown building there is a peach
tree in a tub. Lebling was originally going to have a puzzle revolve
around the tree and a single peach on its branches but instead covered
the tree with slime so that it couldn't be climbed. His reasoning: "I
wanted to keep people form climbing the peach tree - I didn't want to
have to check all possibilities such as players jumping off the tree,
cutting its branches, etc."
you examine the wizard's hands in the Spellbreaker photos, you'll
notice that he is wearing Dave Lebling's class ring from M.I.T., the
Recently, Activision (the
owner of the Infocom name) asked if I would be interested in writing a
mini-Zork text adventure as a promotional item for their forthcoming
Zork: Nemesis game. The idea was intruiging, but the timing was bad for
both of us. The nostalgic side of me likes the idea of re-visiting the
GUE, and I've got lots of story/puzzle ideas, but I really don't know
whether it will ever happen. [instead Nino Ruffini would start to write
a Zork Nemesis prequel, but it would quickly be cancelled and left
offers a rare piece of Zork trivia. "Do you know that there
is actually a clue to saying Ulysses or Odysseus? The
commandment in the prayer book in the temple starts off with saying:
'Commandment 29,160--Oh ye who go about saying unto each other, "Hello
Sailor." ' If you look at the first letter of each line going down the
side, it reads 'Odysseus'!"
also mentions this same topic:
The idea of a text-based
prequel was actually originally intended for Zork Nemesis but never
happened. "There was not enough time to oversee it properly and still
get Zork Nemesis out on time," says Malamed. "We pretty much forgot
about the idea until Marc Blank called to see how the game was going,
and one thing led to another. The goal was to make something that would
celebrate the Zork humor and lead into ZGI. Making the game was a lot
of fun because I got to work with Marc and Mike, who are great guys."