Zork cover art overlayed with the code from The Matrix.
Zork cover art overlayed with the code from The Matrix.
Zork cover art inside the matrix. Zork cover art is the copyright of Infocom and The Matrix code is the copyright of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Roughly a year ago, during the summer of 2019, I got an idea. I was setting up a Kubernetes cluster, and as I usually do, I set up a mock web server using Nginx to test out Ingress, SSL, and domain settings. Then it hit me, wouldn’t it be great if instead of a boring webserver I would use a web game as my testing service and then leave it in the cluster as sort of a calling card. I know, I can be childish, sometimes. If you’re unfamiliar with Kubernetes, Nginx and SSL, don’t worry, they have nothing to do with Zork. I’m just trying to rationalize the madness of going through and studying over 15 thousand lines of code that comprise the game of Zork. Which I did because I thought implementing Zork as a web game would be easy. …


The Zork game cover art with the text “Your greatest challenge lies ahead and downwards”.
The Zork game cover art with the text “Your greatest challenge lies ahead and downwards”.
Zork cover art. Copyright of Infocom.

I was introduced to Zork in 2016 when I read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. In the book, the protagonist Wade Watts goes to the planet Frobozz where he must collect all 19 trophies, put them in the trophy case, and blow a whistle found in a Cap’n Crunch cereal box to obtain the Jade key. I know, bear with me, by the end of this article, you’ll understand what Frobozz, trophies, and the trophy case have to do with Zork. As for the Cap’n Crunch whistle and the Jade key, those things are outside the scope of this article. The whistle is a reference to John Draper and the Phreaking culture. And Jade key is a part of the book. Ready Player One is a ballad to 80s nostalgia and Zork definitely fits the bill. It was one of the most influential games of the 80s and in this article, I’ll explore its history and its effect on the gaming world. …

About

Rok Ajdnik

Engineer, Maker, and a SCUBA diver.

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