Zork Inspired Addicting Games by Iron Realms


<--break->One summer, my younger brothers introduced me to an addicting game: Zork, one of the first interactive text adventure games for personal computers. I watched and harassed them each time they missed even one obvious clue! When they challenged me to try, I quickly accepted. Little did I know that typing OPEN MAILBOX would begin a lifelong affair with text adventure games! Each had the same basic premise. Respond to textual descriptions, whether canned or player directed, by typing commands. Here are the ones that stand out in my memory:



 The birth of interactive fiction, Zork is the addicting game where it all began! Written by some MIT students, the name came from hacker slang meaning “unfinished program.” Not just a text gameZork features high quality storytelling and has all the basics -- search for wealth, darling adventure, exotic creatures, diabolical puzzles, and more! Since Zork became available to the public in 1980, two sequels and a book series followed the Great Underground Empire. Its popularity is such that an original version of Zork appeared as a hidden ‘easter egg’ in Call of Duty: Black Ops in November, 2010.



 The game packaging read something like this: “You wander through an enchanted world trying to recover the 13 lost treasures...Can you rescue the Blue Ox from the quicksand? Or find your way out of the maze of pits? Happy Adventuring...” On the heels of Zork came Adventureland. Author Scott Adams (no, not the Dilbert guy) claims he created it in a single month! He broke new ground in the gaming world taking out advertisements and selling Adventureland for use on personal computers. From his first humble retail order of fifty games placed by a Radio Shack in Chicago, Scott Adams went on to found his own company to distribute other addicting games, both new full-scale graphic ones and re-releases of formerly distributed text games!



 The first computer graphics involved something called “cursor addressing,” allowing programs to put a letters, numbers, and symbols at specific places on the computer screen to simulate graphics. Michael Toy and Glenn Wichman, a pair of students in Santa Cruz, California and no strangers to addicting games, used the new program to try to make a new kind of computer game. And thus, Rogue was born! The difference between Rogue and previous text games was a lack of canned adventures. Says Wichman in his personal account of the addicting game’s roots, “We decided that with Rogue, the program itself should "build the dungeon", giving you a new adventure every time you played, and making it possible for even the creators to be surprised by the game.”


King’s Quest

 Pulling characters from multiple genres of fantasy, players of this addicting game are as likely to run into Rumpelstiltskin as Count Dracula! King’s Quest was the first game to really take advantage of the inventory system. Adding to the “take anything that isn’t nailed down” mindset, one player quoted in Wikipedia added, “...if it is nailed down, look for loose nails, or solve the nail-removing puzzle.” The game featured abilities like mapping, and using senses to gather more information! King’s Quest and its sequels boasted elaborate story lines, complicated puzzles, and well-developed denizen characters. Of all early textual games King’s Quest was most like the addicting games produced by Iron Realms that we know and love today!


 Graphics-heavy games like Gears of War 3 are nice, but the re-release and remakes of legendary addicting games like the ones above proves that deep down, all players really want are a set of polyhedral dice and some graph paper to choose their own adventures. That’s the beauty of interactive fiction, especially in the form of addicting games produced by Iron RealmsMassively’s Seth Brown sums it up nicely: “I don't think there can be an easily described favorite memory from the MUD I played predominantly: Lusternia, an Iron Realms Entertainment MUD. I played it for roughly five years nearly every day and the best experiences were often caused by playing in a real, living world rather than a single notable event...if you're looking for a challenge in PvP, play an IRE MUD."


Penelope Swain is a text game enthusiast who enjoys the most addicting games from Iron Realms!


I haven't played Zork in years. Brings back memories!

I also loved King's Quest with a passion, as well as their other line of text games / adventure games like Space Quest and Leisure Suit Larry.

Fantastic article, truly highlights some addicting games by Iron Realms.

<3 Leisure Suit Larry

One of the best series ever for its time. mmmm strip liar's dice :)





 How could one not? :p




I need to pull out those old Sierra games. I loved those growing up.

King's quest. <3<3

Absolutely brings back memories. I've played all of these as well as Police Quest from the Sierra line. I remember saving a lot and being pissed when I made it far and died and forgot to save..hehe. I remember logging on to some of the boards for some of the earlier text games where you were given so many minutes by the moderator. Ahh such memories.

telearena was my first. several games on "the point"

never heard of it

Me neither. Ferris was the first MUD I ever heard of. It was Pay2Play so I dragged out the free trials as long as I could, and then didn't play anything else again til I started Aetolia in 2003.

there was a mud named after me!!!.... kidding


me neither, I should prolly seek it out one day

It came out way before you were born *hides*

...on Windows 3.1 was great! Not text, but same idea. I thought it was awesome, lol!

Zork was awesome!+1



But it wasn't multiplayer!


Wouldn't that have been ground breaking...a multiplayer game in the 80's



I still play similar games today.

Me too

well we play text games so it's only natural :P

Zork was heavily based on the game "Advent" (also called Colossal Cave Adventure) by Willie Crowther -- in fact, large sections of Zork are directly lifted from Advent, including both the overall approach and design of the game, and many of the specific areas and challenges.  Advent predates most personal computers (it was written in 1976) but it tended to take over school and business computers once people who used them found it.  (citation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colossal_Cave_Adventure)

I remember playing adventure on an old CPM system in 76 or 77 myself. Although I think I spent more time on the Star Trek game back then.

Thank you for the trip down memory lane. I actually still have a copy of King's Quest. :)

somewhere.. Oh god the mess

Ah, the good old days.

Sadly i've never played any of those mentioned in the article.

You can try zork at the IRE website...just follow the link in the article

Most Infocom games are online to play these days. They made many more amazing text games than just Zork. Some of which are inspired even by today's standards. Suspended is magnificent and still one of my favorites.



I'm in the same boat as you...

Me too!


What oldtimers you are! :D I am intrigued though, and may try Zork.

I love King's Quest.

Except for the one that they turned into a hack and slash.

Yeah totally depends on which one, there was like nine right? anyway one of the better dos games I owned. Yey DOS! 


yay Kings Quest!


I loved Zork and Adventureland. Helped me get through a difficult childhood that is for sure.

Loved King's Quest and whatever the Halloween-themed ones were from the same company. Another good one is a BBS game called Legend of the Red Dragon.


Brings back memories for sure :) Even if I grew up after the heyday of those games, I was lucky enough to have people with good taste in my family who steered me in the right direction.

Roguelike games have sucked up a huge amount of my time back in the day, nethack especially.  I kind of miss that game....

Nethack is still amazing. I've got it on my phone now.

is the best game ever, spent most of my high school years playing it.

I'm still playing nethack while idling on MKO (I've tried DwarfFortress, it's great too !)

heard of it

Proud Demigod of Chih Sung-tzu and Anhur here.

I was looking for the first Nethack reference. woo

Never heard of it. Sorry...


So is this sort of any ancestor?

uhmm i never understood Zork.. and tried again recently in COD: Black ops.. but got stuck at the same point i did years ago i think hehe

Zork got me started on text games, and I played ever one of the Infocom games when I was young. I spent a couple of years playing another popular text-based game until I settled on Achaea in 2002.

I cannot believe some people have never played Zork, let alone heard of it...


Never heard, never played. Probably never will either! but good artical at any rate

sounds interesting

I lost a day or so when I found Zork here.. I was eaten by a gru


This was a lot of fun to read and learn about different things out there, even if they are old...

I played Zork which led me to Achaea. Very fun. It's annoying though that the rooms aren't easily mapped on paper though.

I never got to play Zork, a bit before my time... but I did grow up on ROM muds like Burning Mud and some old skool stuff. I own CoD Black Ops, and never knew of this Easter Egg! I now plan to make my buddy, (who thinks muds are 'wierd') this secret and see how he reacts. Hehe, I might even play Zork heh! And yes I know I can play on IRE (Altho supposedly Activison owns the rights to Zork, so I wonder how IRE can host it >.> ), but I really want to play from my ps3/ Black Ops >.>


Okay, we get it. You can stop saying "addicting" now.

Alas, she is adddicted to the word :p


Bad jokes are addictive too.

SEO is like addicting games. It's addicting!



Boy does that ever bring back memories. My parents thought I was wasting so much time on the computer, so afraid I was becoming an addict. Ha! If they only knew how many hours I've logged into Achaea.

I do think Camande has a point... But speaking addiction which one of these undead elven strippers has got the catci weed?


and I've been an Achaea addict for 10 years now.

hello Xio

Beware the grue!


I remember Compuserve's Black Dragon being the first text adventure game I'd seen.  The Gophers led me to a Swedish MUD; years later, I found myself in Achaea.  Nice article to read.

They should totally put something grue-like in game

There already is in Lusternia - Just ask Tulemrah, he knows =p

Can't say I ever played any of those, but it's nice to see such a rich history for sure


Aetolia was my introduction to computer RPG's. Before Aetolia or any of the others, I've strayed a few times to the graphic games.... but nothing I've seen comes close.

I've never played it

me either!




King's Quest was AMAZING

But such limited commands, IRE made me get used to soo much! D:

Never played any of them, but they all sound fun.


The problem with Rogue and its ilk was that the randomly generated dungeons always seemed to have the feel of being thrown into a bear pit with nothing but a ill-fitting shirt and a rusty butter knife.

That's the fun of it, isn't it? No insular newbie lands for a gentle start, and death is final. Ah, life was harsh in the roguelike games. Here you don't even lose your inventory when you die. :3

Lusternia even has grues!

The first game I was really addicted to was King's Bounty - the original. But it was far later than any of the games mentioned in that article. Guess I'm not old enough...



Doesn't the IRE webpage have a copy of Zork on it, as an homage?

yes, yes it does.. and it's awesome

Were some of the first computer games I played, because they were the only games my computer with dialup internet were capable of downloading and playing.

Oh dial-up... Awful days they were, awful!

You had dial-up? You mean like actual internet?


Oh sweet bliss. I don't think Al Gore had invented the internets when I had my first computer...


Worth a try at least!

Never played anything put in the artical..

Do I have problems? D:

Totally forgot about that one! HAVE to find it now.



Look no further. ;)

But I played the game on my Commodore 64 and the background was blue. I always think of the game as blueish...

I'd secretly love to be eaten by a grue in Achaea.

Gosh... King's Quest, Space Quest, Leisure Suit Larry... all those fun games from Sierra. Those were the days. If it wasn't for Leisure Suit Larry, I wouldn't have known what to do on my first date...

Those were the days, man. I remember Leisure Suit Larry. XD

Those were AWESOME. Sierra ruled!


I never could get into Zork.

Zork inspired credit addictions?

I can play MUDs all day, but other text only games are stil boring to me.

I'm still confused. Where did Zork come from?

Form the underworld to addict people to text based games.


I don't like Zork, but I wish that I did.

I cannot believe you just told me that I can play Zork on the IRE site...

There goes my job, my social life, my marriage.....

This is Dysse, signing out, probably for the last time.

I think it's time I headed over to open the mailbox lol. I always loved how obvious a lot of the quests / commands were.

only game i recognize is king's quest.

So, is Pong a text based game, too? It doesn't really have graphics, after all...

Amazing old school game

Edit - Seems like the minor error has been neutralized. Cheers!


I played the Zork series and liked them, but I always got stuck

Old games were really great and have a sense of nostalgia to them but they don't really compare to the games we have today. The games of the path led the way in groundbreaking advancements both in graphics and user interface and other areas to give us the games we have today.

I think in many respects, the games of the path can be better. The focus and point are just different, and often the goals they give are more fulfilling then modern games

Right up unil the word 'quest' becomes equal to 'rote, clearly defined, tasks'. Quests in most games have become a task a 6 week old monkey can follow and perform without thinking... as has pretty much everything else in the type of game that follows the present mainstream (read, WoW). Even DragonAge: Origins only had a few sparse puzzles, but made up for it in sheer beauty in artwork, and using a burlesque model as the basis for the 'good girl' member of the party (and with an accent!).


Though... UIs really have improved along the way, once the world had moved away from keyboard driven adventure (arrow keys and typing out "get the pitchfork" that bridged the text and graphical worlds of Sierra were amazingly capable). take Planescape: Torment, for example... click to move and interact, radial menu for the rest, and a backend that reacts to what you've done so far.

Zork was pretty damn awesome.

I started text based games with Achaea, and am glad for it. Nothing else for me

correction: started with Imperian. I was converted fast though

It's so cool. I have a friend who was part of making one of the games in the series.

Zork was all and well, I never did play it much. For me, I was hooked years and years ago on the old nethack games and King's Quest. That game (plus Space Quest) occupied me for so many hours, before I discovered Ultima Online and the excitement of PVP before PVP was that big.

it was nice

that was the first rp game i played

lol, I showed my buddy Zork in Black Ops and he was like wtf

I loved that game! I think it was number 5 that was my favorite.

NEver played Zork, but I have a feeling I would of liked it.


I looked it up, looks fun


I recall looking at it once, but never got into it. I believe that today you really need a complex MUD with lots of active staff to work. 

King's quest reminds me of Bopalopia.

ADOM was my first text game game. I love it and still wait for Jade

But what about Colossal Cave Adventure?! XYZZY PLUGH PLOVER

Not sure if it was purely text, but I remember playing the Hobbit on C64 when I was a mere child of 7 or 8. It may have had some graphics though, I can't remember.

I was never fond of Single player text only games. The closest I got was that strange-leaflet quest in Kingdom Of Loathing. ( Didn't even finish that)

I'll take my IRE games, thanks! :)

Unusual article, but interesting way to position IRE games, but I disagree with Seth's emphasis on PvP in that article. IRE has much more which is what appeals to people too.


Cool story bro...

have to try some of these one day when I'm bored.

I think I'll just stick with IRE games, the idea of single player text-based games just doesn't sound appealing.

most single player games in general don't seem appealing to me anymore

Always hated Zork. And there are VERY few similarities, in my opinion, between Iron Realms games and Zork.

Yeah, pretty sure the only non-IRE text game I've played is Thy Dungeonman

I played this cheap cashin on the Zork name. It was terrible, and seemed designed solely to siphon money out of your wallet. Like you could take 50 actions a day, or something, and then had to pay to keep playing. Srsly?


I've heard the actual Zorks are much, much better, though

The version on the IRE site is better than the one you described. I was playing earlier today, and was well past fifty moves before quitting.

think i tried zork once,never got into it though..Ire muds on the other hand is a different story!

Most of the early text based online games were horrible including zork, adventureland was good though.


Even my friends who think Achaea is strange love Zork, so... accessible! :D 

why is achaea strange but not Zork?

I think a newer, modern Zork would be great for helping students learn some topics in literature and history. They should totally make an educational game based on Zork!

Again, what an interesting and fascinating article. The only problem I saw was that Imperian is vastly more entertaining than Lusternia. =P

Never played Zork, don't particularly want to. It's the other players that make IRE games fun.

That is the attraction of the MMO style MUD. Particularly RPG types like the IRE games. But you know, some people like RPGs, some people like FPSes, and it kind of feels like the roguelike family of games (text or graphical) are kind of the FPS type.

No, no. Far from FPSes. Roguelikes are the Diabo, Torchlight, etc range of gameplay these days... and at their core, to this day, borrow a huge chunk of gameplay from innovations back then, namely the randomly generated dungeon layouts.


I guess soo. I kind of think of those games, Diablo and Torchlight etc., to be more like single player RPG games, except that some people think of RPG games as those Final Fantasy type games...Though some FF games are more turn-based strategy deals than real-time action games...

The way that I related the idea of the FPS to roguelike games was that FPSes are typically single player (unless they're PvP :/) like roguelikes, and some treat death as final in the same way. If you're comparing gameplay in an MMO to an FPS type game, I'd say they still draw off the same skillsets (both having real time action/combat), just that the FPS feels more PvE than PvP most of the time. In the same way, roguelikes are more hack'n'slash than (most) MUDs.

I remember playing Kings Quest, and some other ancient text MMOs before that. They're a bit harder to follow than Achaea, but interesting enough to keep me hooked on text games for many years after.

Which ones?

yeah, no graphics is better than crummy graphics

I'd rather no graphics on the outset, at all.

Just seems to get more in depth, and you come up with what you think things are supposed to look like.

Graphics arn't inherently bad, just make for a very different game

Zork was great fun. It kept me busy for hours.

I've never played Zork before, but I suppose I should try it.


I always find the graphically minimalist games to be the most immersive, oddly.  Dwarf Fortress over Minecraft, Zork over Final Fantasy, Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup over ... nearly everything.  When you learn how to get by on simple symbols, you can put a lot more time and development into gameplay.

I did a presentation on Text Games once for a class, used Zork as well as IRE for my examples, along with other games

The article mentions some of the best game ever! Also Angband is fun. I used to play it until I found IRE. IRE muds synthetize all that gaming experiences into one enviroment. That's why I do not need any other game to play since I started enjoying Achaea. 

I suppose I'll have to try Zork at some point

It was amazing


All your Zork's are belong to us!


This is a *bases* for a good quote!

Ultima IV (although not exactly text based but addictive enough in my commodore 64)


Zork is incredibly fun.


I had a look at the walkthrough, it seems to be quite short ?


it seems short with all the answers but takes a bit longer to figure it all out one one's own.

I'm a bit confused by all of the references to IRE games as "addicting games." Granted they're addicting, but the phrase is getting jarring.


I have never played Zork or Advenureland...the Kings Quest I played had graphics and was terrible, though no relationto the text game.

I am a super nub when it comes to text games as my first was Achaea which I played for a very short time and now Lusternia which I am thoroughly vested in.

I may give Zork a go for gits and shiggles.  We shall see....we shall see.

Great article though, gave just enough insight into each to make them sound interesting.


The King's Quest I played was graphical, and my first mud was some dude in Indiana's pet project... a DIKU with mostly stock areas. I played Sojourn/Toril for a while, but that game was set up as a racket for the enjoyment of a select few.


I think if these people continue to call IRE addicting, there will, at some point, be a brand of illegal drugs using baggies with IRE logos on them. Can't we find a word that means something similar but doesn't have all the negative baggage?

need moar articles

agreed. Finding reasons to post gets hard

I will be zorking soon


Now I want to try all those games!


Zork was awesome, it is you who FTWs...

May the Zork be with you.

It might br interesting to play the game that made this genra popular


Good stuff



I confess, I did not actually read this article

Should admins read the comments to give the credits to the people who've read at least a bit ? Hehe

I'd rather they do something useful with their time. And who cares about that one credit anyway?


Well, obvious we all do, otherwise we would hardly comment on comments that commented on useless comments, would we?

So true ;)

Aight, where's our new articles?

I would disagree, for example Super Mario Brothers and Super Mario Brothers 3 are two of the games I get the most fun out of even today.

Well, I can't agree that all players want those things. Gaming really didn't pick up in popularity until the consoles started displaying lots of smooth, vibrant and detailed images. That, and many would consider gaming to be rather dumbed down to appeal to more players.

I can't get anyone I know into playing older games, or text games for that matter. If it doesn't look nice, they don't want any part of it. It is such a shame too, since these text games tend to offer different things to do than the popular types of games. I believe that every gamer should try them, but these and older games certainly aren't for everyone.

I've never actually played Zork! (I'm a blasphemer. :()

I was never a part of the early gaming scene, but I can't say I don't like what it brought about.

I love it. My father got me into these games when I was like 10 or 11...two and a half decades later I still play these over graphic driven games. There is a lot to be said for walking in a realm that looks different to every person the same room compared to looking at someone elses image for a given room. Though it does amaze me that in todays flashy game style, these seemingly simple text driven adventures still have fans young and old.

Great stuff.

but I failed to get very far. No intro to help out newbies, and no guides!

I've never played Zork but I have heard a lot about it. I have always wanted to see what it was like to get a feel of what an original text game was like. The first text game I played was Achaea. I am going to try out Zork as soon as I can because it sounds like it would be fun to take a chance and figure out some things.

ps: Watch out for the Gru

I loved the feel of it, though I never got too far. I much prefer Lusternia...


Zork is what got me into MKO.

Found an article on it back in dec 2010...hadnt played the game in years then I thought about what newer text games were out there and found ironrealms (and a few other competitiors, heh)

YAY for Zork

and Zork 2 and 3

Achaea was my first ever online gaming experience.  Now when I try and play other games, I get bored within five minutes and log onto Achaea.  I remember the horror of a text game newbie quest being some cat talking to me.  I forget the game but I think it put me off for life!

Zork I could never hook into, I was too young to really appreciate a good text based romp. Not to say I didn't try, mind you... But Rogue! that was my game!

This game was in Black Ops.

It is dark, you are likely to be eaten by a Grue

Ah, the memories!

It's cool, I brought a torch.

I played the first zork games but, not sure I ever won any of them.  I never seemed to find a endb

Trust someone to remind me of Sierra games, so many good times!



While peppering this article with the term "addicting games" in some kind of search engine optimisation attempt seems kind of hacky, Zork: Grand Inquisitor was the first computer game I paid cash money for as a teenager. It was fully graphical, not a text game. While it didn't have the full text game experience of "take boat", "push boat", "pull boat", "put anchor on boat", cycling through commands trying to find one that worked, it definitely had the atmosphere of a text game. One of the quests you had to solve involved, IIRC, filling a soda vending machine with pop rocks, to use the resulting explosion to blast open an unbreakable door. Lots of trial and error, and fun results. It was kind of a similar experience to Grim Fandango actually. Fun memories. I think I still have it in a dusty box somewhere.

Free credit.

Guess I have to check out what inspired the IRE team!





I have only ever played Achaea and nothing else... I tried Lusternia and all that, but I jus couldn't get into any of em...

I still play the Zork games, and I have often name a character or two Zork, one of which is in Achaea now... also, Wishbringer was another one I like. I have most of them as flash games, so I can recapture the fun of playing them... frikin Gruus..

I'm a sucker for Rogue and roguelikes, but I prefer ones with tile graphics.

I never played zork but i was in love with all the Sierra games! Especially kings quest, space quest and quest for glory (hero's quest). Leisure suit larry was fun as well.

Never played the infamous Zork.

my intro to text gaming was Dawn and i could only get it at school on telnet.  when i came across achaea and nexus, i was so wowed at the fact you could see a compass of exits!

It is open-PK. You are likely to be eaten by an Ashtani.

Definitely more Grues! :-)

Or better yet a Groo the Barbarian

never played

I did

And definitely worth looking into! Thanks for the sugestions.

never heard of it but seems interesting

even heard of this.

My irl friend plays this, I'll probably try it out some day.

Yay, Zork! Never heard of it, but it seems we owe it something?

never heard of it


Rogue games were a favorite when I was little. What little I could comprehend of them made them spellbinding.