Zork I: The Great Underground Empire
(Personal Software package ("Zork"))
In 1979, a fledgling Infocom contracted with Personal Software to publish the first home
computer version of Zork I, simply called Zork, for the TRS-80 models I and
III. Typical of TRS-80 software, it came packaged in a plastic bag, no box, with a large
instruction manual. At the time, Adventure International was king, but players used to its two-word parser adventures were astonished by Zork's full-sentence capabilities.
The cover art, featuring the sword-wielding warrior, has earned this package the nickname
of "Barbarian Zork" among collectors. I love the picture, and it does a nice job of
showcasing a lot of elements of the game: The white house, complete with mailbox. The
troll and his bloody axe. The Elvish sword, raised above the adventurer's head. A number
of the treasures, including the jewelled scepter, the pot of gold, and the coffin. The
bell used in the Hades ceremony. There's even a grue lurking behind the adventurer
(though one has to wonder how he's surviving out in the light like that).
This is the game singlehandedly responsible for the founding of Infocom. Zork's creators wanted to publish the original MIT mainframe version
for the home market, but it could never fit on a TRS-80 single-density disk,
so they broke it up into the trilogy we know today.
Personal planned to publish Zork II as well, but their license with Infocom
expired before this went through. Eventually Infocom published Zork I themselves
for a wider range of personal computers. They later sold off their last remaining stock
of Personal Software Zork through the New Zork Times newsletter, as
Zork I has about 15 package variations, and this is easily the rarest.
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