Chrono Wars 5 (Chocobo Version)


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The Chrono Room Floor - A Chrono Wars Revision Comparison

By: Dr. Dos
Published: Sept. 30, 2021

Taking a look at some modifications made between various releases of the Chrono Wars series

After spending far too long slowly streaming the entire 13 part and still incomplete ZZT epic Chrono Wars I found myself curious about its distribution. The Museum inherited its files from z2 which has a single file that contains the first seven chapters of the series. The inclusion of multiple text files and file modification dates ranging from January through June of 1997 made it pretty clear this this wasn't always a package deal, perhaps being uploaded in one fell swoop to the original ZZT Archive that predated z2 rather than having to upload multiple files.

I was curious if any older releases might exist, and if so, if there would be any changes. Luckily for us, the bulk of Chrono Wars games are published under "Duky Inc." a ZZT company of the era most notable for running their own ZZT archive that at the time in my personal, young, and very limited experience was perhaps the largest collection available prior to the ZZT Archive. There couldn't be a more perfect place to look for Chrono Wars than the one-two punch of "massive ZZT collection" (250+ games!) and "official ZZT company website".

It's also a site that's had the good fortune of being pretty solidly preserved over the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. Sure enough it was easy to indeed download more than 250 files from its captures.The main archive contains a "Chrono Wars" file which contains parts one through four as well as a separate Chrono Wars 5 download. The Duky Inc games page however continues where the main archives leave off with copies of six through ten available, representing the original saga before Chronos decided to continue the story nearly a year and a half later.

And as you'd probably guess by this article existing, there are indeed a few differences. The vast majority of it is minor tweaks here and there, though one piece of revised dialog later in the series does change the details of the story in a significant way (albeit not one with an overall impact on the story as a whole). So let's take a look and see what kinds of revisions were done and what exactly we're dealing with here. I'll be presenting this information by referring to the releases as the Museum editions and the Chocobo editions. (Duky's ZZT archive doesn't have an official name, but it sure was hosted on chocobo.org.) For screenshots and other captures, the Museum's copy will be the first screenshot with the Chocobo edition second.

This article is of course deliberately coinciding with these alternate versions being published on the Museum as well, so you're free to take a look at them in the file viewer or play them yourself as well!

Oh, and of course this will spoil some things about the games, nothing remotely important other than in the 13th part where I promise you will not care to be spoiled unless you just played Chrono Wars 12 today and were taking a break before playing the final chapter.

Chrono Wars 1

Interaction



  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
As you look around, you realize it is all
worthless! Cardboard torches, scrap-metal
gems, and ammo duds!
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
screen0

Secret Swamp

Museum: The vault in Joe's secret lab opens up, displaying an intruder alert message. All the items inside are fakes that can't actually be collected.

Chocobo: The vault door says "The nerve!!!" when you try to raid it. It then takes 300 score, and if it can't kills you as "You cannot be trusted". If you cheat your way in the ammo, torches, and gems are regular ZZT items, while the large ammo objects are codeless.

Island

island1
island2
screen1

Chocobo: There's a new section of the board with a black on gray key object. Touching it, it claims to be the key to Joe's vault. It sets a flag, laughs at the player, and is destroyed. The flag goes unused.

Chrono Wars 4

!Cyan Sector

cyan1
cyan2

Museum: A standard purple door is used next to some text reading "< More puzzles ahead!!"

Chocobo: The door blends into the environment more and rather than using two exclamation marks in the text, a single double-exclamation character is used instead.

cwars.txt

Bundled with both releases is a text file. In the earlier Chocobo release, Chronos doesn't yet have (regular?) Internet access. In the later Museum release this provides his email address to give feedback as well as hints for the other games included in the pack. All the comments for the games shared in both releases are identical.

I am not online. I will be in 1997 sometime. And thank you for downloading my ZZT games. Enjoy!

Chrono Wars 5

The initial analysis on this one looked like there were some massive changes, and in a way that's true. The Chocobo copy of this game is partially corrupt! It looks to be a zip issue as the reported size of the file is very close to the Museum's copy, but extracting it only gets about half of the data. Well, we can see the title screen at least.

Title Screen
5-1
5-2

The Chocobo version of the game has text saying that it's "Ver ß". All the non-corrupt boards are identical to the functional Museum copy. It's a shame this is the corrupt one as the beta on the title could imply that the beta version was mistakenly released instead! Of course, the mistake could just as well be forgetting to remove the beta label.

Chrono Wars 6-10

Identical! A few of these have file modification dates a day or two apart but this looks to just be resaves.

Chrono Wars 13 and its Beta

Now, where most of the changes we see in the series can be found are in the final entry to the game. This release is too recent to have appeared on Chocobo.org's archive, but rather conveniently just before Chrono Wars streaming series began, a beta version of the final game appeared in the upload queue mere days beforehand. As an actual beta this one has an appreciable amount of changes by nature of comparing a pre-release edition of the game to its final version, rather than a final to a post-release revision.

(For consistency, the final release will be on the left and the beta on the right.)

Title Screen

13-1
13-2
Interaction
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
·─── BETA TESTERS ───·
PeanutPat1
Hercules
ZZTyrant
Junkie-Jim
Avirox38
lordelrond3
wcb
GameMstr1
TVXian
NMZMaster
MichaelbeaR
dark_shadow_oze
Θ14
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The final release includes a list of beta testers in the opening scroll. A red glow around the ship makes it look like the design is a work in progress still, but this is just a case of the game being saved mid-animation on the title screen confirmed by seeing the animation objects' code pointer not being set to the start of its code.

Inside Temple - 1815 AD

pillar-moz
pillar-beta

In the beta, touching the pillar still displays the message about it looking like one from Carthar used in Chrono Wars 12. In the final this is replaced with a simple "a pillar" message as there are now more important things than architectural designs.

Temple - 1815 AD

outside
outside-final
outside-beta

The beta lacks two objects that block the path outside. Without this object it's possible to just completely ignore Chris's appearance and leave the screen while Chris's teleportation animation plays out.

Chris





  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
JOE: You're not my brother!!!
CHRIS: If only I were so lucky.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Chris




  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
JOE: You're not my brother!!!
CHRIS: Wha.?! Who told you?! I mean...
       of course I am!
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The dialog is slightly different, hinting at the "fake" world that they're in with Chris's reaction.

Lastly, the beta lacks the music at the end of the scene.

N Central - 1815 AD

beam-final
beam-final-2

(Both screenshots here are from the final build)

The final version adds dialog from Jane instructing the player to go to the transporter beam as well as adding objects that tell the player they can't continue moving left or right to other boards. The beta just expects the player to move to the beam.

Pillar - 1815 AD **START HERE**
1815-final
1815-beta

The opening is adjusted somewhat. Amy (the blue char #1) and Roto (the dark blue char #2) are repositioned.

The final version gives each character a second line of dialog when they're touched after speaking with Roto to advance the plot. In the beta only Roto has a second line and all the other characters continue to speak their initial lines.

Panaxis - Quarters

quarters-final
quarters-beta

Text labels are added to everybody's quarters in the final version. Due to the extremely awkward key system this at least helps players out by letting them focus on talking to the characters they're most interested in first.

repl-final
repl-beta

In the beta version, Jane's explanation of the replicator mentions that you can buy torches, with "matches" in parentheses. In the final version this is flipped so that you buy matches, with "torches" in parentheses. This better fits the usual conventions with ZZT where if in-universe a counter represents something else, telling the player what counter is used in parenthesis. As an example you'd see something like "Arrows (ammo)" or "Magic Points (score)".

Panaxis L5 - Elevator

l5-final
l5-beta

The walls beneath the bottom passages go from blinking between dark blue and dark cyan solid in the beta to black and dark green in the final. The text indicating whether a passage will take you up or down a floor is also changed from from cyan to green text in the final version.

Panaxis L5 - Game Room
game-final
game-beta

In the beta, the game room is mistakenly labeled as being on Deck 7 rather than Deck 5. The board title correctly states 5 in both versions.

Presentation - Intro
ppt-final
ppt-beta

Jane's little PowerPoint takes place in an empty black board in the beta. The final updates it to use the background of the board the scene is meant to take place in.

different-final
different-beta

A small grammatical error is fixed as well with Jane saying "I mean things have happened quite different than you think" in the beta versus "I mean things have happened quite differently than you think" in the final.

Presentation - Scene 1

pres-final
pres-beta

In the beta, this board is a direct copy of the title screen. The final version erases the Panaxis and only shows the Earth. For some reason two stars are missing from this scene compared to the title screens of both versions.

Storyline
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
JANE: The entire settlement left our
      dimension. We fled to hyperbolic
      space.
JOE: But we were cloaked! We were fine!
JANE: You should know yourself that the
      cloak used to hide the colonies was
      too unstable. Eventually, we had no
      choice but to leave. We went to
      hyperbolic space, which I'll
      explain later.
JOE: I see. So when we went forward
     a hundred years, you hadn't gone
     forward in time; you had gone into
     this... hyperbolic space.
JANE: Right. But we were following your
      trail. We set the entire settlement
      to follow the same time dilations
      as the Tripoli. We were watching you
      the entire time.
JOE: But what about the Neo-Alliance?
     You said you got the ENTIRE settle-
     ment into hyperspace? Even them?
Go down...
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Storyline
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
JANE: The entire settlement went space-
      borne. The risk to events on Earth
      was too great.
JOE: But we were cloaked! We were fine!
JANE: You should know yourself that the
      cloak used to hide the colonies was
      too unstable. Eventually, we had no
      choice but to go spaceborne. We
      put our colonies in orbit - it was
      a gigantic space station.
JOE: But we found nothing! We went
     one hundred years past the time we
     left in the Tripoli. We saw nothing.
JANE: That's right. We were following your
      trail. We set the entire settlement
      to follow the same time dilations
      as the Tripoli. We were watching you
      the entire time, and we were
      cloaked!
JOE: But what about the Neo-Alliance?
Go down...
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

For our actual big change, the dialog between Jane and Joe here is considerably different.

The events are simpler to understand in the beta!. There's no mention of "hyperbolic space", the latest in a slew of technical terms used to explain why something that couldn't be done can now be done. The beta opts for a far easier to understand explanation of things with the Panaxis instead just going into Earth's orbit. Because of this, it makes the capabilities of the Panaxis a lot more vague. It seems like it's just a cloaked space station rather than a ship capable of yet another strange new method of travel.

I would guess this was changed to something grander as it allowed for the ship to stay undetected without using "cloaking" which was established to not have worked for the colonies and led to them being discovered by Chris.

Panaxis L6 - Elevator
l6-final
l6-beta

The colors for the elevator signage are changed from cyan text in the beta to blue text in the final version.

Panaxis - Quarters W
red-final
red-beta

The beta allows access to a technician's room via a red door. The final version changes this to a bolted one-way door that can only be opened from the inside.

Technician
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
TECHNICIAN: The code for dissipating the
            ganglion network? Red purple
            blue.
JOE: We don't need it.
TECHNICIAN: Well, excuuuuse me!
#if not y #end
(You see something at his computer...)
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Technician
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
TECHNICIAN: The code for dissipating the
            ganglion network? Red purple
            blue.
JOE: We know.
TECHNICIAN: Well, excuuuuse me!
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Computer
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
TECHNICIAN: Hey! I saw that!
JOE: Well, may I...
TECHNICIAN: Yeah, go ahead. Not like I
            need it or anything.
Got red access!
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Computer
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
TECHNICIAN: Hey! I saw that!
JOE: Well, may I...
TECHNICIAN: Yeah, go ahead.
Got red access!
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The interaction with the technician and taking his red keycard are slightly different. Notably the final adds an extra check to guide the player to the computer to make sure they don't miss obtaining red keycard access. The one-way door also spares an immediate trip to get a red key.

Panaxis L6 - SW Replimat

table-final
table-beta

The tables are empty in the beta with the waitresses and a random woman being added for the final release to give this room a little more purpose.

Panaxis L6 - Joe's Room
joe-final
joe-beta

The beta pushes the player out of the way when the pillow is touched to give them a red key with #put n red key. The final version instead has an invisible wall in the corner of the room that is turned into a key via #change.

Torchtrade
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
:win
#play sececececececececgegegegegegegege
#play s+c-g+c-g+c-g+c-g+c-g+c-g+c-g+c-g
[You win.]
Got a torch!
#restore touch
#give torches 1
#end
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Torchtrade
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
:win
#play sececececececececgegegegegegegege
#play s+c-g+c-g+c-g+c-g+c-g+c-g+c-g+c-g
[You win.]
#restore touch
#end
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The "Torch Trade" minigame's beta version doesn't actually give the player a torch when they win making it a complete waste of time and money.

Panaxis L5 - Sidescroller
ss-final
ss-beta

The graphics have been overhauled, adding shades of gray and black to the line walls rather than being almost entirely dark blue.

gfx

The "Joe" object has been updated to reflect this with an added comment reading "'How bout THESE graphics, Herc?". I've been unable to find a review by Hercules for this game. It's of course also possible that it was just a comment on IRC or a forum post long since lost.

Rock




  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
You did it!
Received 5 experience points!
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
You got 5 experience points!

The final version gives the player 10 health as a reward for finishing one of the games. It also changes the victory message from a single line of text to a multiple line popup window.

health

The goal object also provides 10 health when the player dies in the game so that if you die in the game you don't die in real life ZZT.

block-final
block-beta

An extra object is added to the final version to lock the player in the room until they win or lose at the game. The beta provides free access to the exit allowing the player to leave whenever they like.

Panaxis L5 - Gymnasium

gym-final
gym-beta

The final version of the room is adjusted to add a device that creates yellow and red doors before the player can continue north. In the beta the player is free to do so at any time. It shouldn't be possible to reach this room without yellow and red access so at most this just forces the player to make an extra trip to get more keys if they didn't replenish them before reaching this room.

Panaxis L4 - Elevator

l4-final
l4-beta

Another color adjustment. The final uses red text rather than cyan for the elevator arrows. The passage on the bottom is adjacent to a blinking yellow and dark red solid in the final release while the beta uses dark blue and dark cyan.

Chrono Wars 14

Please no.

Chrono Wars 14: Escape from Panaxis (ZZT)
"Chrono Wars by Chase Bramlage?!", I hear you ask. Yes, Chronos has contacted Chase to ask if he was interested in finishing up the series, by creating the last 3 chapters. Chase decided to do it, replayed the first 13 chapters a few times and started discussing/brainstorming with Chronos. This chapter will outline a new problem arising in the sabotaging of the Panaxis, and our heroes daring escape from Chris's evil fleet in their newly discovered protoype ship "Excelcior". Expect it to be done sometime next month. Chase will work on chapters 15 and 16 afterwards.

Courtesy of the Wayback Machine once more, several version of the Interactive Fantasies website contain a tiny bit of information on Chrono Wars 14 by Chase Bramlage rather than Chronos! Obviously this never got finished and these screenshots (with an incredible character set) are likely all that remain of the game.

File Modification Dates

Lastly, a simple table comparing file modification dates between versions. This helps paint a better picture of the speed at which these games where created. Unsurprisingly with how short the early games are, the first two share a date and the first four were ready within a two week period. Modification dates with ZZT files tend be reasonably accurate to dating when a game was released to the public, but the more precise you try to take them as the less confident you should be. In particular, note that the "beta" Chrono Wars 5 is actually dated more than a month after the dating of the Museum "final" version. The only other real discrepancy is the April date for the fourth game which has just that one incredibly minor text change and door color change on a single board making it an odd thing to adjust so late after the original release.

Mostly this is just to point out that the original saga of the first ten games was all published over a single year. You can definitely see Chronos get significantly better with creating ZZT games over that duration.

File Museum
Chrono Wars
Chocobo
Chrono Wars
CWARS1.ZZT 1997-01-19 1997-01-01
CWARS2.ZZT 1997-01-01 1997-01-01
CWARS3.ZZT 1997-01-19 1997-01-11
CWARS4.ZZT 1997-04-08 1997-01-13
CWARS5.ZZT 1997-02-17 1997-03-21
CWARS6.ZZT 1997-04-11 1997-04-12
CWARS7.ZZT 1997-06-10 1997-06-10
CWARS8.ZZT 1997-07-26 1997-07-26
CWARS9.ZZT 1997-09-24 1997-09-27
CWARS10.ZZT 1997-12-23 1997-12-24
CWARS10B.ZZT 1997-12-24 1997-12-24
CWARS11.ZZT 1999-04-10
CWARS12.ZZT 1999-08-05
CWARS13.ZZT 2000-11-11 2000-11-02 (Beta version, not a Chocobo release)

Final Thoughts

Let's be real, the Chrono Wars series proved to be a massive undertaking with a story best never dwelled on and perhaps the widest range of gameplay I've ever seen in a ZZT series. At the same time, it's hard to not be a fan of what Chrono did, mostly within a single year. To produce so many games in such a short period is really impressive. The flaws hit harder now, but in 1997 (and even up through 2000) these games were flashy spectacles considered essential playing once you got past the initial hurdles of the first few short chapters. Chronos became a highly respected name in ZZT and this was his masterpiece. It can't go unstated however how much he helped provide tools and information to the community as well. He was one of the maintainers of the ZZT Encyclopedia, an indispensable source of ZZT tricks and techniques that still is useful for new ZZTers to this day. He expanded on Alexis Janson's Super Tool Kit with More STK and Weird STK to provide more special elements and colors that weren't included in Janson's initial release. Most importantly this included all characters of text in all seven colors which is one of the biggest space savers in ZZT when it can be used over objects.

Playing Chrono Wars from beginning to end is a long journey. You'll laugh (at the plot), you'll cry (at some engines), you'll run over a child with a car, but you will have fun. By the standards of the era these are very impressive titles. Today a more learned playerbase can quickly spot the problems with Chrono Wars and definitely stay awake all night trying to make sense of the plot and technologies introduced. Rough edges or not, Chrono Wars is fantastic representation of the rapid evolution of what was expected of a quality ZZT title in the later years of the 90s, and for mostly coming out 1997 this is a series that had an influence on those changes. Complex stories, lots of cut-scenes, slowly shying away from ZZT's creatures to fancier RPG systems with customizable party members and inventory systems... there's a lot to take in and a lot you'll see carried forward into other ZZTers' works of the era.

So don't let the messier aspects keep you away. Chrono Wars is a hugely important series for ZZT. You don't release ten games and have people clamoring for more without a good reason. It's a commitment to get through it all, and I can't suggest dropping out when you get bored because of the weaker early chapters. If you want to see what the ZZT community understood quality to be in this time-period. Reality period. Hyperbolic space period. You should do a little temporal research of your own and give Chrono Wars a shot.

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