Revenge of the Z-Machine

The Z-machine was a virtual machine invented by Infocom, Inc, in 1979 in order to run their Zork mainframe adventure game on personal computers. It was highly portable, and intepreters** for it were eventually written for just about every 8-bit computer in existence, as well as for the more powerful machines of the later days of Infocom*.

The new buzzword on the web (circa 1996) was Java, a language which is compiled to byte code on a highly portable virtual machine, interpreters for which weredestined to be ported to the popular machines of today.

So the obvious challenge for an adventure game fan who is also a programmer was to write a Z-machine interpreter in Java. On this page are several links, each of which will allow you to play a different adventure game online in your web browser.

Of what use is this? None. But if you were trying for something something useful, you'd be doing it, not (as a former co-worker of mine, Ste`ve Leo, puts it) "sucking on the crack pipe of the internet". So just sit back and take a few hits. It's not addictive, really.


Colossal Cave The original Adventure

Infocom Sampler 1

Infocom Sampler 2



ZPlet can now save and restore! ZPlet writes in the Z-machine standard save format QUETZAL. (It is not yet compliant for reading, though it can read its own save files) Unfortunately, most browsers will refuse to allow applets to access the local file system. Your best bet is to try Sun's HotJava. Or, download the class file and try ZPlet locally.

I have tested ZPlet with HotJava, and it does work. The 1.0 final release seems to have solved the key mapping problems I noted with the 1.0 beta.

ZPlet is open source, Artistic License. The source is hosted on SourceForge.
Go to the ZPlet project page

Other interesting IF-related places

The Infocom Version List

An incomplete listing of Infocom story files, including version, release, and checksum information.

The Interactive Fiction Archive

New text adventures, text adventure authoring tools, hints, Infocom trivia -- everything the IF fan could want that's not illegal***, immoral, or fattening.

Bad Games on the Net

Outside the Mos Eisley cantina, you'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villany.

The Inform Home Page

All the information you need to write new text adventures for the Z-Machine using the Inform compiler, straight from author Graham Nelson.

Back to my home page
*Introductory paragraph err...borrowed from Graham Nelson's Specification of the Z-machine.

**The Info-Zip people were once claiming that the Z-Machine Interpreter Program (ZIP) postdates their own use of "ZIP". As they now acknowledge, Infocom's own interpreters were called "ZIP" from the beginning -- before the IBM-PC, let alone PKZIP or InfoZip!

*** Some of the stuff at the if-archive may violate the thrice-damned US Digital Millennium Copyright Act and its imitators. And, if you believe the SPA, some of the stuff there was illegal even before that.