What is ZZT?
If you find yourself asking "What is this ZZT thing I've been hearing so much about?" then this is the web site for you. The concise bitman's binary dictionary defines ZZT as follows:
- A massively powerful game creation system whereby any person may freely create and distribute his or her own interactive worlds with the greatest of ease.
ZZT is a video game, written for DOS, from way back in the stone age (1992, I believe). It is so old, in fact, that it has been released into the public domain as a freely distributable binary, though the source code is not available due to a slight hard drive crash many years back. Nevertheless, I still consider ZZT to be the greatest game ever created in the history of computers, for the following reasons:
- ZZT features a built in world editor, allowing anyone to create anything from a vast galactic empire to an RPG adventure in a dense jungle.
- ZZT incorporates an integrated object oriented programming language which allows for almost unlimited interaction between the player and the ZZT world.
- A huge community of contributors has created a vast archive of ZZT worlds (several hundred worlds, to be exact), which is available for download at Z2. There are so many worlds at this source alone that one could spend a lifetime playing all of them, should one have the time.
- Not only does ZZT provide shoot-em-up action and adventure, it also provides a great plethora of puzzle engines where the player may be forced to use critical thinking to win the game. Thus, ZZT may not only challenge the reflexes, but also the mind.
- Smiley faces are awesome.
Now that I have sung the merits of ZZT, I hope that you will consider downloading the game.
Installing ZZT is not very difficult. Simply download the zip file for ZZTUnder and run the included setup.exe. This will install the ZZT engine and configure it to run properly under Windows. Then you can either download Tim Sweeney's Original ZZT Worlds which came with ZZT originally, or download one of hundreds of worlds at Z2.
Let me warn you ahead of time that the Original ZZT Worlds are not necessarily the most fun in the world (I would disagree, but that could just be me). If you do not enjoy the Town of ZZT or the Dungeons of ZZT, then by all means stick to the z.archive.
Playing new worlds
- Go to zzt2.com (the z.archive) and download a world (like ChronoWars or Gem Hunter).
- Extract the .zip file containing the world anywhere you like. I would suggest a folder somewhere in your Documents tree.
- Read any .txt files that may have come with the world, should you want hints. Unfortunately, walkthroughs are more common in older games than newer ones, for some reason.
- Double-click on the world to launch ZZT.
- Type P to play the new world, after watching the title screen do its thing (if it does anything).
Making Your Own Worlds
ZZT comes with a built-in world editor which may be used to produce your own custom ZZT Worlds. Many useful features such as more-than-seven colours are possible in this editor, but not recomended due to tedium. However, it may be used as an excellent resource for learning the workings of ZZT.
Also available is the ZZT Advanced Editor, zztae, which has a different set of features from those of KevEdit and is often very useful.
The best way to learn about ZZT is to read the included documentation, but for the impatient, I shall here explain some terminology used by the ZZT community.
- In ZZT, a world is an entire adventure. It contains everything the player needs to complete the game and get on that world's high score list (hopefully). ZZT worlds have a .zzt extension and may be freely distributed from one computer to another, especially when compressed and posted to Z2.
- A board is a single screen of action, containing all enemies and challenges a player may see at one time. Boards may contain enemies (creatures), walls (terrain), cool stuff (items), and text. Boards are linked together to form worlds.
- An object is a creature which may be programmed to interact with the player and other objects. Objects have the ability to create and destroy things, set and clear flags, give and take player health, manipulate boards in real time, play PC speaker background music, and change appearance to any of the 256 ANSI PC-8 characters which come with standard DOS & Windows systems.
- .zzm music
- Objects can play music based on musical strings of text, know as zzm music. This music is played on the PC speaker (that icky sounding thing that beeps at you all the time) in the background, during play. There are many programs which will strip such music out of a .zzt world, into a .zzm file, and gladly play it for you at your request.
Well, that's about all the terms I can think of at the moment. If anyone can think of something really important which I may have overlooked, please feel free to contact me.
I used to have some tips for using ZZT here, but they all delt with handling ZZT Worlds stored in multiple folders, which ZZTUnder has taken care of automatically. If I think of something else, I will put it here.
I hope you have enjoyed my introduction to ZZT, and that you have been so impressed that you downloaded ZZT right away, spending hours trying to escape the Town of ZZT. If you would like more information, visit Z2. Also, visit http://members.aol.com/chronos30/ and download the ChronoWars saga (at least 12 worlds long now!), my favorite of all the ZZT creations, as well as the ZZT Encyclopedia Online which explains many of the subtle qualities of ZZT. Have fun and keep on ZZTin'!