Aeon Emulator Blog

April 9, 2010

ZZT

Filed under: Aeon, Fun & Games — Greg Divis @ 4:41 pm

Ever play anything powered by the Unreal Engine? You know, a game like Gears of War or Mass Effect to name just a couple? Impressive games with impressive, nearly lifelike visuals. If you’re familiar with the Unreal Engine, you probably already know that it’s a product of Epic Games, a company that’s been around since the early nineties. In this post, I’m going to take a look at their very first published game. If you think Gears of War was striking, you’ve never seen ZZT!

ZZT Title Screen

Yes, those are ASCII graphics you’re looking at. Well, let’s start playing!

Gems give you health!

You control the little happy face as you travel between boards collecting gems, ammo, torches and shooting enemies, solving puzzles, etc. It’s actually quite an entertaining game, and before long you’ll adjust to its graphical style.  If this were all there was to the game, it would be a fun little diversion for a little while, but ZZT had a killer feature I haven’t mentioned yet: the built-in editor.

ZZT Editor

Turns out that entire built-in “Town of ZZT” game was built with the ZZT Editor. Using this, you can create some surprisingly sophisticated games.  The super-simplified ASCII “graphics” are actually a benefit here, as the aim is to have a very simple, but powerful, game creation system that anybody can use.  It should be mentioned that in addition to basic stuff like drawing terrain, items, creatures, and obstacles, you could place objects and program them in a simple interpreted language.  Over the years ZZT was out, people used the ZZT editor to create some pretty amazing stuff given the limitations.

If I sound like I’m talking from experience, it’s because I made quite a few games with ZZT back in the early nineties, and I have a lot of fond memories of it. It works in Aeon well enough, though it relies on keyboard auto-repeat behavior which I haven’t emulated yet, so if you want to play it for any length of time you’ll be better served by something else. (Unless you don’t mind tapping the arrow keys for every single step)

As you might expect, the inclusion of the editor gave the game something of a fanbase, as there was really nothing else like it at the time. It wasn’t long before the sequel, Super ZZT was released, and I’m going to talk about that next.

[Note: Sorry about the funny-looking fonts in the screenshots and Aeon 0.6’s 8×14 character set. I haven’t had a chance to fix it up yet.]

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1 Comment »

  1. […] Filed under: Aeon, Fun & Games — Greg @ 7:00 pm I’ve covered both ZZT and Super ZZT, but I really can’t leave it at that. Something of a community formed around ZZT, […]

    Pingback by MegaZeux « Aeon Emulator Blog — April 13, 2010 @ 7:11 pm


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