Museum Statistics - 2023 Edition

An annual look at some numbers for preserved files, articles, and what happened last year in ZZT

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Mar 14, 2024
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Another year finished, which means it's time to take a look at some of the numbers for the year. This has wound up being a nice tradition that gives me something relatively easy to work on in January. Thank you for the chill start to the new year.

The obligatory disclaimer follows. These stats are accurate to the best of my knowledge, but the code which pulled them may end up being flawed. As this is year three though, I'm a little more confident that the raw numbers are correct, even if the thing they're being applied to might not be 100%. It's easy to literally count the files uploaded to the Museum, it's a bit harder to say what's "New". Multiple versions of the same game get counted twice. Sometimes something gets deleted. Names are adjusted. Some scripts that log stats run nightly, and it's possible for something to not be reflected in the gap between runs. These numbers are at best, a helpful reference point.

The number of games uploaded this year dated 1997 may change when an older identical copy gets found next year, etc. etc.

There's also the usual Google Analytics stuff which is usually blocked by any ad-blockers. I am begging for an alternative, and am too lazy to write something to parse the server's daily access.log file. Which is one reason why you don't get actual numbers for those lists, but also, it's hard to say with confidence that those pages are in fact the most viewed.

But enough boring disclaimer, what happened here in 2023?

Upload Files By Release Year

The ever-important statistic is how many files wound up on the Museum this year, and where did they come from?

The answer is nothing new. The finished year dominates the chart as a now 33-year old DOS program continues to have worlds actively being created for it. Those numbers aren't as high as 2022, and are more comparable to 2021's initial output. It felt like a "quiet" year for ZZT, at least for me, as I struggled to find the motivation to do anything that wasn't jam related. Not even the usual end of year experiments compilation inspired by Doodads 20018. There just aren't as many mysteries to unravel these days.

Except for the mystery of "when the heck did this game get made?" which remains the impossible question for a significant number of ZZT's files. Honestly I need to do a ZZT archaeology post this year. More honestly I need to get off my butt and start adding support for fuzzy dates. Often, "Unknown" files aren't entirely unknown. Games like David's Quest are more than happy to put "1995" on the title screen, but without a YYYY-MM-DD formatted date, that's not enough for the database as it currently stands. David's Quest has a ZZT file that was last modified in 2013 so all the same, thank goodness for the 1995 on the title screen or we might end up suspecting it actually is from 2013. (Well maybe not given that Macrosoft has a bunch of releases, all of which are no later than 1995. Including this one I suppose!)

Afterwords, history continues to repeat itself. The 90s have a strong showing with the earliest years having little: ZZT was still quite new, so there weren't many games to preserve. Distribution methods were scattershot, so little survives that hasn't already been discovered by now. The mid-90s see a significant bump. ZZT becomes the tool du jour for budding programmers obsessed with Super Nintendo games. Communities begin to form around various online services, with AOL's file archives being a major release point that a wide number of folks can upload to and download from. Then by the end of the decade things start drying up as AOL's own hosting gives way to community-ran archives such as the one ran by Duky Inc. or the original ZZT Archive which led to z2.

And once z2 hits, that's pretty much it. ZZT games created at this point were most likely made with the assumption that the author would put them on z2 when ready. Aside from a brief stint of a combined ZZT/MZX archive in the early 2000s known as ZeuxWorld, z2 is pretty much the only option to get folks to notice your ZZT game. Especially as it gets harder and harder to sell people on an MS-DOS text mode program that they need to be able to play it.

The one real surprise here though is that little blip in 2011 that corresponds to Space Fork. After years of searching, the one year without any preserved ZZT worlds finally had one discovered this past year. The rest of the 2000s though are likely to remain fairly dry in every one of these charts going forward.

Uploaded Files By Platform

Of course, all that assumes that we're talking about ZZT worlds and not everything hosted on the Museum is actually a ZZT world. While obviously the core focus of the Museum of ZZT, there are still a number of hosted files which will sadly not run on your 486. Given the share of historic ZZT worlds that make up huge amounts of any given year's uploaded files, ZZT v3.2 compatible files eat the lunch of anything else the Museum cares to host.

First, the forgotten. Not a single failed ZZT-clone or world were found this year. No ZZT++. No Z2. No ZZ3. No Corndog. Have we truly got them all? (No. We don't)

No ZIG worlds either! This shouldn't come as a shock to anyone though. ZIG got its last world thanks a community meme in 2021, with its previous newest release being from 2002. z2 gave ZIG some favorable treatment, allowing its worlds to be hosted alongside ZZT games, which means that it's probably the best preserved ZZT-clone platform of all. Anything that got a release really had no other place to go than z2, and so the Museum had trouble getting those same games.

Any new finds in that department, should there ever be any, will most likely have to come from backup donations of personal project files. I thought that ZIG was going to be the coolest thing ever when I was a kid, and hopefully wasn't the only one. I wish I managed to hang on to any of the scribblings I created with it. Hopefully somebody out there did!

There were also no new Super ZZT worlds! This one is bit more surprising. Super ZZT, while clearly devastated by the campaign against it, wasn't a total failure. Fingers remain crossed from many a modern ZZTer for WiL to make a Super Weave, freeing Super ZZT from some of its harsher limitations and letting creators really take advantage of those gigantic board sizes. I feel like people are more likely to play a Super ZZT game in 2024 than they were in 2004. It's extra retro now.

Speaking of Weave, it did pretty well for itself. Its numbers dropped a little compared to last year, yet it continues to trounce anything on the Museum that isn't called "Super ZZT". It already managed to surpass the total number of ZIG worlds last year, and this year added another eleven releases, bringing it to thirty one in total. (This admittedly comprises of several archived versions of the program itself in these raw counts). It's now sitting at exactly half the available files as Super ZZT itself, relentlessly progressing towards its seemingly inevitable takeover of the most successful ZZT clone that doesn't rhyme with SegaDeux.

Lastly, a tiny of hint of roms. The TinyZoo project allows ZZT worlds to be converted to run on Game Boy (Color) and WonderSwan (Color) devices. 2022 gave us Atop the Witch's Tower GB while 2023 means Atop the Witch's Tower WS is available as well.

...but there is also this amazing ZZT romhack of Super Mario Bros. created twenty-four years ago that got uploaded as well. For now, it seems the ROM category is more of a novelty than anything else.

Uploaded Files By Author

Another year of uploads means another year of authors old and new showing up on the front page at one point or another.

This year, the requirements to being recorded on the graph are a bit less strict. As the private queue whittles down, the number of authors with multiple releases yet to be showcased has dropped off significantly. So now, like a dental checkup, you only have to show up twice a year. There isn't much a story here to tell. "Unknown" and "Anonymous" get bumps by being multiple people sharing a label. BigTimeDude continues to rapidly release demos and games all the time, even with two names in use, though whether or not this continues into 2024 remains to be seen.

Agent Orange has his art collections, project dumps, short stories and comics, and Oktrollberfest entries.

WiL has Weave releases, both in the literal sense of new version of the program as well as in a number of works produced with it. Plus LOOMzzt for making it that much easier for KevEdit users to create Weave worlds with a bespoke fork.

Itsmehere has a few engines, songs, and other short releases.

The rest of us, well, we get by.

Looking at the authors that showed up here due to their old worlds being uploaded rather than new material, I don't think we had any big discoveries this year. Previous years introduced us to names like Jerry Ellis, and Graham Peet. Graham shows up again this year, having avoided a decided stream to show off everything he did at once thanks to his games being of considerable size. The new files this year just didn't have anything that stood out to me on that same level as in previous.

The closest may have been Chronos. His two files uploaded in 2023 are rather important because they are a great historical reference, even if they weren't any exciting new games to play. His previously unpreserved revisions of the ZZT Encyclopedia help paint a clearer picture of how this essential repository of community tips and tricks developed over the years, making them some really exciting finds. ...Even if most folks will have no reason to boot them up over the later 3C edition or final Online release.

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