The 2010s of ZZT

By: Dr. Dos
Published: March 15, 2020

Celebrating ZZT in the 2010s

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2014 Overview

2014 is where things shift a little. There are still pretty much no games, which at this point is to be expected, but what's different is that the majority of games released this year are created outside the boundaries of the traditional ZZT community.

What comes as no surprise is that Commodore continues to experiment with ZZT with Platon 2. Yes, there is a sequel to a game based on Greek philosophy. It is even trippier than the original.

With four titles, there's something to be said about all of them. The oddest is by far Metroid ZZT Demo, a game I had to double check with the Discord to confirm that it is in fact a 2014 game and not an inaccurate date. Metroid ZZT is odd enough just because somehow ZZT went 23 years with dozens of games based on all sorts of video game franchises, but somehow not Nintendo's Metroid series until this game's release. Yet the really strange thing is that this ZZT game was actually uploaded to DigitalMZX, a site which does not accept ZZT worlds.

A MegaZeux converted version has yet to be released.

International Jetpack Conference is notable for being another instance of long since moved-on ZZTers making a return to the medium. Allison Parish, who published earlier worlds as myth reappeared after a 14 year absence along with Rob Dubbin.

Outside of ZZT worlds, 2014 also has the first serious attempt to bring ZZT to a more modern platform with the initial release of Christopher Allen's ZZT Ultra. Though numerous ZZT clones have been developed with varying degrees of ZZT compatibility and little success outside of MegaZeux, ZZT Ultra may be the first to actually do a very respectable job of recreating ZZT's environment. It unfortunately suffered from an Achilles heel of porting ZZT from the dead OS of MS-DOS to the borderline-dead Adobe Flash format. Later beta releases of an HTML 5 version exist, though the main site still uses Flash.

Like most ZZT clones, it also offers a lot of enhancements. You definitely owe it to yourself to try out Smash ZZT either in HTML 5 or Flash form.

z2 meanwhile gets its very last news post, by yours truly. I had to play around to get the old news posting script to work. I was then going to empty the upload queue. I uh, still haven't gotten around to that.

Most Outstanding Title

It's difficult to pin a definitive release for this year, but I'm going to have to say this one should go to The Mask of Atlantis by Jorge Nuñez and Mikel Calvo. The world here is simply sprawling, coming in at more than eighty boards, a rather jarring departure from the short and to the point worlds that the decade has been relying on.

Atlantis is special not just for its size, but because it was originally published on, the first ZZT world to appear on the site. A ZZT world being published on a site designed for independent developers like Itch shows that ZZT is very much a valid medium for making games even today. Atlantis is also available in both English and Spanish, making it one of the very few ZZT releases to be available in multiple languages.

Release Breakdown

2015 Overview

Another nearly-dead year. Three releases, one a parody of bad newbie ZZT games, one a single board engine, and one rather ambitious project to push the limits of what can be done in ZZT.

The first is KNIGHST OF MARS by Commodore who by this point is responsible for a massive share of games released this decade. However after years of pushing limits with games of ever increasing quality, and then branching into the trippy genre, this final release feels more like a dying breath than anything particularly poignant. (Not to be harsh on it! It is an homage to bad ZZT worlds of the past, it just ends up being a bit of a downer for one of ZZT's most talented to end with a game purposely eschewing his capabilities, though perhaps that's the point of the game entirely.)

Secondly is a release of my own. Determination Engine, a rough conversion of the battle system used in Toby Fox's Undertale that took gaming by storm earlier that month. By this point I had already been quietly working away at the Museum intending to modernize my webdev skills and have something nice to put on a resume, but a more romantic idea would be to imagine that Undertale's very ZZT sense of humor, locations, and writing inspired me to return to ZZT.

Most Outstanding Title

Well there are three titles to choose from. One is a tech demo. One is a purposely bad game. Can you believe that I'm giving this to Bitbot's Adventures of Link 2?

This is no mere winner by default though. Adventures of Link 2 is well deserving of attention. The game sets the scene for quality in years to come with its excellent conversions of scenes from the Super Nintendo hit The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past with a bit of the original Nintendo Entertainment System's own Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Some gorgeous looking boards both of the gameplay and art variety are coupled with some quite extraordinary conversions of the SNES game's music. Details you'd expect to be missing from a ZZT remix hold firm such as the ability to knock guards into pits in the castle dungeon or a dungeon map screen.

Adventures of Link 2 pushes ZZT to its limits in a very literal sense. The world clocks in 420 KB, making it the largest ZZT file ever released. A complex system is used to keep music playing between boards, making audio a core feature of the game and not just used for specific scenes. As a love letter to the Zelda series, there's a lot to be recognized here, yet also plenty of original content and interpretations (including an homage to the Atari 2600 game Adventure). Boards are lavishly detailed and it makes for an audio-visual experience that remains unmatched.

Release Breakdown

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