Saturday, August 9, 2008

What is ZZT?

Now I'll use this space to explain something I've gotten all too tired of explaining: What is this ZZT thing I talk about? Well, since if you're reading this you're probably connected to the internet, you can look it up on Wikipedia but for those of you who want to hear my personal opinion I'll give it in full here.
ZZT is a dos game with a level editor. That's the gist of it. Now into the interesting stuff. ZZT doesn't stand for anything, the title was chosen to be arbitrarily late in the alphabet and is unrelated to any band or song. The level editor was originally subscription-based but is now freeware and is in fact built into the game, allowing anyone to make their own level. The game itself tends to consist of running around, shooting monsters, and grabbing items (but if you make your own levels you can change this, of course). The levels are saved as separate files and can be easily distributed (which is allowed now that the game is freeware) and can be found on a number of websites, although the biggest archive of games I've found so far is on z2. z2 is cool but the forums are extremely violent and sarcastic so if you don't want to have to wade through the sarcasm I'd suggest Belsambar. Belsambar has much less activity (I post there, and there's some spammers, and maybe some random people who show up, feel like they're in a giant empty room, and leave), but at least you won't have to carry a metaphorical marker and posterboard to tell people when you're not being sarcastic.
Oh, did I mention? ZZT has practically no graphics. That is, where you might expect graphics, even a pixelated animation, there is ascii. That is, you have mostly letters and numbers and stuff, but also a decent-sized set of lines, rectangles, and smiley faces (not the sideways kind, real smiley faces!). To get an idea of what I mean, here's a screenshot:
New Player's Guide to ZZT menu 1_01
This screenshot is from a game I'm making for the sole purpose of teaching new players how the built-in tools in ZZT work, because some people starting with the new games take time to learn the basics of shooting monsters, pushing blocks, and navigating mazes.
There are even ZZT games about ZZT games, like Syndrome, a game listing all the Syndromes shown by first-time ZZTers when they make their first games. These include "big empty room syndrome," "not enough ammo syndrome," and "I-gotta-fill-up-the-screen syndrome." Playing this game should help you figure out what not to do, if you want to make a game.
There are external editors that let you use a few more colors, copy and paste large chunks of a room, or import object code from text files. Oh, yeah, you can program your own objects to make the game more customized. You can do most of what you need from the built-in editor, though, and there's all sorts of games inspired by ZZT in some way, like MegaZeux, Plastic, Zig, Bang, and others. Choose whichever suits your style best, but ZZT is a good place to start because it's simpler than most of those.

I started a group for ZZTers on Steam but that gets less activity than Belsambar. There are IRC chatrooms where ZZTers sometimes meet but thet's only a community hub, if you actually want to talk about ZZT your best bet is Belsambar or z2.

Maybe I'll give a tutorial next time, please leave your comment if you want to see more like this.

1 comment:

100 Miles and Runnin said...

do people still ZZT?

i was big into it back in 2000 when was the biggest and best zzt community

man i kinda miss it