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I have recently started playing Zork. I'm a big fan of graphic adventures from around '90, finished several of them on my own so I think I'm not particularly bad at them, but I'm having little luck with this one.

I think the problem is that I don't really have the right mindset. I'm going to elaborate somewhat to give you my impression of the game.

I get how I'm supposed to read everything on the screen carefully, especially since the descriptions are really short and seem to be dense with hints. I get how I'm supposed to draw a map while I move around and take notes of items I find and various points of interest. I get how I'm supposed to experiment with the command line and try commands and sentence structures that are not even listed in the manual.

This way I managed to map a fairly complicated maze, and also solve a few simple puzzles like descending into a shaft by

tying a rope to the railing and climbing down on it.

What beats me is this. I looked up a hint which said, to get past Cyclops, I have to

say the word 'Ulysses' to him, which makes him dash off in fear.

I'm familiar with Homer's Odyssey, but this would never have occured to me. Since I couldn't find any hints that pointed to this, and I'm generally making very slow progress if any, and even the whole point of the game has been kind of vague to me just judging by the story, I'm inclined to think It must be full of these kind of puzzles.

So, to finally turn my rant into a question (:
Do I have the wrong impression of the game? Or are these games just inherently a lot more difficult than graphic adventures of the nineties and I have to be more patient? Or is that Zork is just not the right game to start with (for it's already full of motifs a beginner like me doesn't know, or w/e reason..)?

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This can't be part of my answer: but Dreamhold is generally considered a good introduction to this genre. You can play it here: eblong.com/zarf/zweb/dreamhold Or you can download it and run it in one of many modern interpreters for Interactive Fiction (as it is known within the community). –  StrixVaria May 14 '11 at 14:46
    
You don't need to know the Odyssey reference: there is another way to get past him. I think the hint is that he's hungry. –  Mark Hurd Sep 11 '11 at 6:59
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2 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

These kinds of games have evolved a great deal since the beginnings, and Zork was one of the very first in the genre. You are doing a great job with your mindset, but Zork is probably not the best game to start with, and despite being a classic breaks many of the "unwritten rules" of being a good text adventure game.

It is generally considered a bad practice for authors of new games in this genre to include riddles such as "Ulysses" in Zork. This is because, even if there are hints in the game that will help solve the riddle, it's only fun on the first playthrough. It feels like much more of a time-waster than solving even the simplest physical puzzle in the game. It has nothing to do with logic, the basic tenet upon which these games are based.

Zork innovated a lot of things for the text adventure genre, but it's still one of the first, and because of this it still has its rough edges.

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I'm still interested in Zork, so I guess I'll try and finish it anyway, but I guess I won't feel so bad then if I have to look up a few puzzles (: –  xcvii May 15 '11 at 10:12
    
@xcvii: Sorceror, the last Zork sequel, is a bit smoother. Not really easier, though. –  Carry On Commander Dec 21 '11 at 9:53
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I've not played Zork, but from the ones I did play at the time I do remember that you have to fairly precise in what you type at each point.

For example you might want to look underneath a bed to see if there are any items there. Now any of the following might work:

Search bed
Look underneath bed
Search underneath bed
Search below bed ...

So depending on how thorough the developers were with their synonyms or how good they were at parsing sentences one, all or none of these might work.

It could be very frustrating working out what combination of words you were meant to use and in what order. However, once you get into the mindset of the developers you'll enter the phrases automatically.

These problems "disappear" with graphical point and click adventures as you can often see where to click as the cursor changes shape.

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This is actually a case in which Zork is quite forgiving. One of the things Zork does best is understand what you're trying to do and help you along the way. It's really only the riddles that require precise input. –  StrixVaria May 14 '11 at 16:20
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