It all started with
User Friendly comic strip, on 2 June 2000. The strip makes a
reference to Leather Goddesses of Phobos, a game I used to play on my
Apple //c. One of the comments posted about that day's strip mentions
there is a Z-machine emulator available for just about every platform
out there, including PalmOS. Naturally, I had to investigate. I visited
and grabbed a copy of PalmPilot Frotz. Then I tracked down a copy of
Masterpieces of Infocom, and soon had most of Infocom's games installed on
my Palm Vx.
One weekend soon afterwards, I was browsing the Infocom site at http://www.csd.uwo.ca/Infocom and found a link to Tom Wu's web version of Adventure. To my dismay, it has been taken offline. (Well, sort of. There's actually an old version of it still there, but you have to guess the right URL to find it.) But that got me thinking... How hard would it be to put Z-machine games on the web? I set to work, and in a few days had a basic system running. I could play Adventure, Dungeon, and the Zork trilogy on the web!
But it really was crude. Each separate game required an hour or two of custom tweaking to work. Not only would it take far too much work to put up the many Z-machine games out there, but there were some serious problems preventing a good number of them from working at all. So I asked Curt Zirzow, who is a far better C programmer than I, to see what he could do with it. He took a completely different approach to the problem, disregarding everything I had done, and built a general-purpose Z-machine emulator with a web interface. We could put almost any Z-machine game on the web just by loading the game file onto the server.
It took a couple of months to get working well, but it was worth the wait. While he was working on that, I put together this site to give the games a home. Finally, on 6 August 2000, the site and emulator were both finished, and iFiction.org went online.
Put away newspaper