Video Game: Zork
West of House
You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
There is a small mailbox here.
Opening the small mailbox reveals a leaflet.
Zork was one of the earliest works of Interactive Fiction, written in 1977-79 by Tim Anderson, Marc Blanc, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling. In 1980, the game was split into three parts for home computers and sold on giant 5 1/4 floppy disks (remember those?), where it became an immediate success, launching game publisher Infocom. It eventually had no less than twelve sequels.Most of the series takes place in The Great Underground Empire.
At the bottom of the leaflet is a list of games in the series.
The Zork series consists of:
- Mainframe pre-original
- Dungeon (1977-1979, noncommercial)
- The Original Trilogy
- Zork I: The Great Underground Empire (1980)
- Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz (1981)
- Zork III: The Dungeon Master (1982)
- The Enchanter Trilogy
- Enchanter (1983)
- Sorcerer (1984)
- Spellbreaker (1985)
- Wishbringer (1985)
- Beyond Zork (1987) (adds RPG Elements)
- Zork Zero (1988)
- Zork: The Undiscovered Underground (1997)
- The ZorkQuest "Interactive Comics"
- Graphical Games
A bag of tropes is nearby.
Which tropes do you mean, the red ones or the blue ones?
The Zork series provides examples of:
- Acme Products: The many, many subsidiaries of FrobozzCo International
- Affectionate Parody: Pork 1: The Great Underground Sewer System and its sequel Pork 2: The Gizzard of Showbiz.
- Arc Number: 69,105
- Artistic License – Economics: During the reign of King Dimwit the Excessive, all internal trade in Quendor was between various branches of Mega Corp. FrobozzCo, and there was only one bank. Not that many people had much in the way of savings, seeing as Dimwit enacted a 98% income tax in order to fund his enormous tributes to his own ego, such as an 18 month coronation ceremony, a palace large enough to hold a significant fraction of the country's population, a massive flood control dam in a region that was never in danger of flooding, and a statue of himself several bloits high. This may be the reason why his brother General T.J. "Stonewall" Flathead had to fight three civil wars and suppress roughly 16,000 tax riots (Which works out to 2-3 riots a day on average) over the course of his reign.
- Author Avatar: The Implementors in Beyond Zork.
- Autocannibalism: The command "eat self" returns the message "Autocannibalism is not the answer."
- Back from the Dead and Death Is Cheap: You; most of the games have a mechanism for bringing the player character back to life. Although dying made some of the games unwinnable - Zork I, for example. You lose 10 points for dying, and can only complete the game by getting all 350 points.
- Big Bad: The Thief is the closest thing there is to one in Zork I, though he's more of a nuisance than a Big Bad. The eponymous Wizard of Frobozz in Zork II is a much straighter example, while the Dungeon Master appears to be this for Zork III and the trilogy as a whole. Subverted. The Dungeon Master is simply testing you.
- Black Widow: Lucrezia Flathead. Seventeen husbands, none of whom made it to their first anniversary (fourteen of them didn't survive the wedding night).
- Bottomless Pit: There are a few of these. Played for laughs in Zork: Grand Inquisitor, where you don't immediately die when falling into one, and eventually start a family with someone else who fell in.
- These were actually very common in the earliest versions of Zork; you were in danger of falling into one whenever you were in pitch black areas. At least, until one of the programmers questioned why someone would fall into a bottomless pit in the attic of a building. And that's how the grues were created.
- Calvinball: Double Fanucci, a card game alluded to in the manuals and feelies with such ridiculously complicated rules that even advanced players are apparently at a loss to explain the game.
- Control Room Puzzle: Subverted in Zork: Grand Inquisitor. The puzzle was impossible to solve unless you used a certain spell in addition to pushing buttons.
- Crystal Skull
- Darker and Edgier:
- Zork Nemesis, which abandons almost all pretenses of comedy and light satire in favor of Gothic horror.
- Zork III had a much darker and more serious tone than the previous two games.
- Darkness Equals Death: "You are likely to be eaten by a grue."
- Death Is Cheap: At least it is in the gamebooks, where if you die you're given a chance to go back and try again. Unless you fell for one of the cheater traps.
- The Dev Team Thinks of Everything
- Disproportionate Retribution: When King Dimwit Flathead had a huge statue of himself erected in Fublio Valley, it inadvertently blocked the sunlight from the home of a wizard named Megaboz. Megaboz's reaction to this injury was to curse Dimwit, his family, and his entire kingdom! Dimwit and his eleven siblings died immediately, and the Great Underground Empire fell ninety-four years later. What's truly notable about this is that Dimwit was an outright Caligula who bled his kingdom and his subjects dry to sate his massive ego, and thus had a lot of people with a lot of good reason to want him dead, and Megaboz killed him for blocking out the sun over his valley of all things! Then again, Megaboz was no saint himself.
- Dolled-Up Installment: Zork Nemesis was clearly not originally intended to be set in the Zork universe.
- Drop-In Nemesis: "Oh, no! A lurking grue slithered into the room and devoured you!"
- Earth Drift: The first game features such things as Poseidon's trident and the coffin of Ramses II. Later installments in the Zork 'verse are plainly in a different reality to our own.
- Exposition Fairy: Parodied in Beyond Zork (though the game predates most Exposition Fairy examples). A tiny nymph will sometimes appear and explain game mechanics or that you can't enter certain areas yet. And early on in the game, if it appears while fighting the Monkey Grinder. The Monkey Grinder will swat it dead.
- Played completely straight with Dalboz.
- Extreme Omnivore: Although a bug, early versions of Zork allowed the troll to eat anything you give to it. This includes compass directions. Giving the troll to itself will destroy it, but it will still block the room's exit.
- Everything's Better with Platypi: Wishbringer had platypus royalty (they're also given a cameo in Beyond Zork).
- Fan Sequel:
- Feelies: As became standard for Infocom games, all the text-based Zork games after the original trilogy came with several feelies. Almost all were essential for completing their respective game.
- Featureless Protagonist: Former Trope Namer, as AFGNCAAP.What's your name? (pause) Okay. I'll just call you Ageless-Faceless-Gender-Neutral-Culturally-Ambiguous-Adventure-Person. AFGNCAAP for short.
- Fictional Currency: Many of the games feature Zorkmids as the currency of the Great Underground Empire; one of the feelies mentioned above was a zorkmid coin.
- Fox-Chicken-Grain Puzzle: In Zork Zero.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: In Zork Zero if you wave the magic wand at yourself, you turn into a statue. Then the game-over text explains how a pigeon finds you and calls the other pigeons saying "I found an great statue for shitting on!"
- The Ghost: Grues. You never see what they look like since they only reside in total darkness.
- Global Currency: Zorkmids
- Guide Dang It: Some of the puzzles were ridiculous! For example, in Zork Zero a wizard casts a hunger spell on you which will eventually kill you unless you eat something, but the only food in the game is a granola bar (which is bird food). The solution? Turn yourself into a flamingo! And even THAT was absurdly difficult!
- Notably, the Lighter and Softer and easier game Wishbringer has a bad one: the can with the rattlesnake has a false bottom which contains Wishbringer. The only hint is the item rattling even after it's opened, and considering that you likely dropped it after using it the first time, you're not likely to notice.
- Spellbreaker was so hard the developers actually apologized and admitted most people would have to use a hint book to finish it.
- Even most walkthroughs can't adequately explain the bank vault puzzle, and suggest the player just save the game (which resets the puzzle) and keep trying until the partial solution works.
- Have a Nice Death: Suicide in text games is a wholesome and entertaining pastime.
- Hello, Sailor!: A recurring Catch Phrase in the first several games.
- Hell Seeker: The backstory has the legend of Saint Yoruk, who traveled to Hades to meet with the Devil and learn the secrets of magic from him. When Yoruk died, his soul went to heaven, but as he'd gotten used to Hades, he fought his way back there.
- Informed Attribute: The competency of many of the Twelve Flatheads. Among their number were a General who once sustained 75% casualties assaulting an empty fortress, an Admiral who got his entire fleet sunk within two years of assuming command, an athlete whose opposing teams kept getting kicked out of the league by royal decree, and a painter whose patrons were escorted to his studio by his brother's militia.
- Inventory Management Puzzle
- Kleptomaniac Hero
- Large Ham: Y'gael the Enchantress from Zork: Grand Inquisitor. She tries as hard as she possibly can to sound ridiculously whimsical.
- The Magic Goes Away: Occurs at the end of Spellbreaker, setting off the plot of Beyond Zork.
- This is The Grand Inquisitors' M.O as he wishes for an more realistic industrial world as opposed to a fantastical magical one. Also the fact he was horrible at magic and held a grudge against all those who weren't.
- The Many Deaths of You: Zork probably pioneered this trope in computer games.
- The Maze: At least once per game in the text-based games, though only the first game really has straight examples.
- Methuselah Syndrome: Many characters, justified or otherwise: Dalboz and Yannick, Lucy Flathead, Zylon the Aged, and Antharia Jack. Not to mention Megaboz.
- Mirror Boss: In Zork III, the shrouded figure is revealed to be this. But you have to remove its cloak when it's near death, (as opposed to the killing blow) to discover that.
- Mythology Gag: In various games, you can see the exploits of the player character in a previous game and either travel there or bring the character to you.
- Theme Naming: Almost all Wizards (Or even former wizards) in the series' and expanded universe, Have names that end with the word "Boz" Dalboz, Megaboz, Shuboz, Choboz, Gumboz, (Zigzagged with "The Wizard of Frobozz")
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Almost all the Flathead Siblings are based on famous historical figures. As well as in Zork Zero, checking your inventory while wearing the glove, the game says you resemble "Famous singer Michael Flathead, formerly of the Flathead Five".
- No Fair Cheating: Most of the interactive Zork books had a selection that asked for an item that doesn't exist and called you out for cheating if you went for it.
- Non-Linear Sequel
- No Name Given: Not only is the Featureless Protagonist nameless, but virtually all characters in the original trilogy have no names beyond their professions ("the thief," "the Wizard of Frobozz," and "the Dungeon Master").
- Nothing Is Scarier: "It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue." The trope is amplified by the fact that to date, an official visual depiction of a Grue has never been made, so nobody knows what they really look like. The closest we get is a design of what is implied to be a Grue's eyes on a stained glass window in Return to Zork. Given that they only reside in total darkness and our imaginations work out the rest possibly makes Grues one of the scariest video game monsters in existence (that is, when their scariness isn't being downplayed for laughs; see The Taming of the Grue below).
- Oh Crap!: The reaction the Wizard of Frobozz has should you release the demon that he enslaved and imprisoned, who is now a small tribute from you away from engineering his demise. He also has a more subdued reaction should he appear and notice you carrying the black sphere, in which case he will make a hasty retreat.
- Percussive Maintenance: The "impact revitalisation" that the lamp has undergone in Zork: The Undiscovered Underground.
- President Evil: Lord Dimwit Flathead the Excessive. Though he seems more oblivious to anything that doesn't involve his own ego than being actually evil, as he can't comprehend that the things he does and enjoys, are hurting other people. As he assumes that if it makes him happy, logically everyone else must be happy as well. So it's more stupidity if anything.
- The Grand Inquisitor
- Schizo Tech: Zork technology is roughly WWII level, augmented by magic.
- Sdrawkcab Name: Aragain Falls.
- Series Mascot: Grues. Makes it all the more impressive since nobody, in-universe or out, knows what Grues look like.
- Except the protagonist of Enchanter and of Wishbringer, both of which make it through a grue lair intact.
- Set Piece Puzzle
- Stock Puzzle: Nearly all of them, at one point or another. Special credit must go to Zork Zero for including the Fox-Chicken-Grain Puzzle, Towers of Hanoi, Game of Nim, Three Plus Five Make Four, and Knights and Knaves all in one game.
- Stolen Good, Returned Better: One of the treasures you find is a golden egg... but if you let the thief steal it, when you find his lair later, you find that the egg has been opened, and it contains a golden singing bird — much more valuable!
- The Taming of the Grue: The trope namer, grues, first appeared as the unseen (and, because they never leave pitch-dark areas, unseeable) monsters who would eat adventurers careless enough to wander in dark places without a light source. Later works such as Wishbringer and Zork: The Undiscovered Underground would play grues for laughs; Wishbringer featured a grue lair with a refrigerator whose light goes out when you open it and a mother grue with an apron, while Undiscovered Underground had a grue convention where grues would discuss topics such as 'Surviving the lean years'. The grues were still dangerous, but played less seriously than in earlier works.
- Text Parser: See You Can't Get Ye Flask.
- Title 1: With Zork I.
- To Hell and Back: Zork I, Zork Grand Inquisitor
- The Verse: In addition to the main games, the Zork universe contained Enchanter, Sorcerer, Spellbreaker, and Wishbringer. There are also a couple of hints that The Lurking Horror, another Infocom game, may also take place in the same universe, but nothing concrete. There have also been subtle nods, in Planet Fall, it is mentioned that in the far future, Grues were brought to our Earth and eventually spread across the universe due to stowing away in a ship from Star Cross when it once visited Zork.
- We Have Reserves: Stonewall Flathead's military campaigns suffered 98% casualties on average (Replacing casualties with his powers of unlimited conscription), which makes his taking a mere 75% casualties when storming an empty fortress at the start of his career seem impressive. With casualties like that (combined with the fact that his army was pretty much continuously in action due to his brother's inept rule), the amazing thing is how long it took before he got killed in a 'friendly fire' incident.
- You Can't Get Ye Flask: The Ur-Example.
It is bright white. You are likely to be indexed by a troper.