A treasury of Zork maps

Monday, February 6, 2023

Comments: 7   (latest March 21)

Tagged: zork users group, maps, infocom, david ardito, pier giovanni binotti, dungeon, cart00nlion, dave lebling, zork, ion_bond, keith orlando, steven roy, patrick vincent

Yesterday a Reddit link started going around the IF circles:

"Wait," I thought, "haven't I seen that map before?" No, I had not. But I sort of had? Then I looked through my collection of Zork maps. Then I realized, oh no, I have a collection of Zork maps, and it's incomplete.

Project time! Let's start at the very beginning.

Zork map, David Lebling, 1978

The original fair-hand map of MIT Zork, drawn by one of the Implementors during the game's development. Look at that French-curve showcase of a logo!

Zork official hint map, David Ardito and David Lebling, 1981

Once Infocom began publishing Zork as a commercial product, there was an obvious market for hints. Here's Infocom's very first hint-book map. It was advertised within the game itself. An in-game note told you to write away to Infocom for "...the Movement Assistance Planner (MAP) and Hierarchical Information for Novice Treasure Seekers (HINTS)".

This message only existed in the very earliest releases of Zork (the ones labelled "R2" and "R5" in this catalog). This was so early that the game was not yet branded "Zork 1".

Zork 1 poster, David Ardito, 1981

This lovely poster was drawn for Infocom by David Ardito.

The poster is not meant as a map, of course. It's a collection of instantly-recognizable vignettes from the game: white house, troll, cyclops, the Land of the Dead. But the spatial connections between some areas are visible.

You can spot the Adventurer, wearing the same ridiculous headgear as in the "Barbarian Zork" cover illustration. The Thief lurks genteelly behind. And if you peer very closely, you'll find that the priceless painting in the Studio appears to be a miniature of this entire poster.

(Another detail: the altar in the Temple is inscribed with the names "Jacob", "Carrie", and (?) "Juok". Anybody know what that's about?)

Zork 1 map from the Zork Users Group, David Ardito and Steve Meretzky, 1982

A year later, Infocom had sort-of-but-not-really spun off its marketing division as the "Zork Users Group". (Again, see Jimmy Maher's history.) ZUG distributed maps, t-shirts, bumper stickers, and more. This was one of their earlier Zork maps. It has the line-and-box diagrammatic style, familiar to any adventurer who ever scribbled a map on scrap paper. But David Ardito embellished it with more Zork vignettes. (Some are taken directly from the color poster above. The Adventurer has lost the silly helmet, though.)

Zork 2 poster from the Zork Users Group, Pier Giovanni Binotti, 1983

ZUG still sold the posters, though. This is their Zork 2 poster, in a completely different style, by Pier Giovanni Binotti. The fine ink drawing leaves plenty of room for easter-egg detail. I'll only note one quirk: in the starting location, the brass lantern is drawn as a flashlight rather than the traditional Tilley lamp.

Zork 1 map from Infocom, 1983 (page 1)

Sometime in 1983, ZUG was reabsorbed into Infocom. The updated official hint-book map uses the same diagrams, but the artistic detail has sadly been replaced by a generic stone-wall texture. Well, I shouldn't say generic -- it's the dungeon wall motif from the Zork logo. But it's not very interesting.

Infocom continued to use this map all the way through the Activision acquisition, the Lost Treasures and Masterpieces collections, and even the 2012 Lost Treasures re-release on the iOS App Store.

But let us not imagine that the story of Zork maps was over! Fans have been drawing their own maps since the earliest years.

Dungeon map by Steven Roy, 1982

In 1982, Steven Roy drew this handsome map of the original Zork ("Dungeon", the MIT version). It's diagrammatic, but thoughtfully designed with a map-like layout.

Dungeon map by Patrick Vincent after Steven Roy, 2008

Many years later, Patrick Vincent re-rendered Roy's map in Photoshop, showing even more territorial context and also adding in the endgame region.

Zork 1 map by cart00nlion, 2014

Separately, user cart00nlion created this wonderful cutaway map of Zork 1, which is also -- I think -- a work of concrete poetry. The artist says "This illustration contains every location from the game," although the mazes are somewhat condensed.

Zork map by Keith Orlando (ion_bond), 2017

And this brings us around at last to Keith Orlando (user ion_bond). In 2017, they posted this beautiful hand-painted map of MIT Zork. The layout roughly follows the Roy map, but with several changes to improve the balance.

Zork map by Keith Orlando (ion_bond), 2023

Then, this weekend, Keith posted this updated version. This updates the layout yet again (where does one stuff the mazes?), and uses an isometric layout for an appropriately game-y sense of space. Note that the treasures have a *golden glow*.

Also note the eternal confusion about how much of the Frigid River runs underground. I always assumed that the Reservoir was subterranean -- it is described as "cavernous" and is canonically dark. However, Flood Control Dam #3 is not dark, and neither is the river downstream. To add to the fun, Zork 1 says (at Canyon View) that "The mighty Frigid River flows out from a great dark cavern." But that text was a later amendment; MIT Zork's Canyon View implies that FCD#3 is visible above ground. The whole matter is probably best left to lie.

That, as far as I know, concludes our tour of artistic Zork maps.

There are of course countless line-and-box maps to be found in adventure game cheat files and hint books. (Kim Schuette's Book of Adventure Games, 1984, is dear to my heart.) I'm not going to try to catalog those.

I am also omitting large-scale maps of Quendor. Infocom and Activision drew several of these as the Zork universe expanded, trying to put the various games into context. However, these have little connection to original Zork, beyond maybe showing "Frigid River" as a squiggly line. So I don't find them very interesting.

If I've missed any maps, please let me know!

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