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Closer Look: ZZTV 3

By: Dr. Dos
Published: Aug. 31, 2019

An experimental "magazine" for ZZTers to make anything they want

Page #5/5
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There's just one channel left to explore, FunkMeister's, #WomanInTheWall. There's still some TV to explore here, but it's more of it's own thing.


I've never actually heard of Funkmeister before, and he seems to have a sole release of Indiana Jones and the Lost Crusaders from 1996. The ZZT community, or perhaps the Internet itself really loved the name Funk, with the ZZT community having had members named Funk, Phunk, FSFunky, and Funkmeister. I honestly had to double-check that Funkmeister wasn't Funk.

His art's not too bad! The shading is pretty basic, but he has really good form.

This assassin never made it beyond ZZTV, so this is all there is to it.


Comics! Back from the days before most people had any idea what "Watchmen" was.


I can't argue with FunkMeister here. This is a cool picture of an eye. Although it's not for a game specifically, I could definitely imagine it actually being used in one.


As for ZZTV as a source of lost content, Funkmeister included his three pictures for one of the Interactive Fantasies 24 Artistic Hours of ZZT contests. This contest didn't last long, and most of them are lost to time. As you can guess, they had 3 topics and entrants were supposed to draw 3 pieces in ZZT over a 24 hour period.


Compared to the assassin and eyeball from earlier, this is definitely a bit more basic looking. The candle is good, but the helmet is just a big cylinder that takes up most of the screen.


Only working for an hour and a half instead of 24 hours explains the quality.


I mean, the topic here is "monster", so yeah, Hitler fits the theme.


Lastly is this nice looking oceanic sunset. I suspect like a third of the entrants drew one of these. ZZT and sunsets have a long history. I'd probably be willing to give this one more praise if I hadn't seen a hundred ZZT sunsets by now.

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George Thorpe is an ordinary man working
at an ordinary petrol station but a
shock news announcement finds him drawn
into a dangerous game of cat and mouse
in a world on the brink of disaster.

Percent Complete: 1%


! Possibly the first "serious" ZZT game.

! Play and play again! Every decision you
make affects the world around you and
the ending you finally reach. You won't
always have a happy ending, either.

! Comes with its own font.

! Each ending will be decided by numerous
factors and decisions you have taken -
no more obvious "Ending A or Ending B"
decisions (*cough*teenpriest2*cough*).

! Comes with free game: "Indiana Jones
And the Lost Crusaders GOLD".
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

This is an extremely ZZT preview. Very serious game that promises multiple endings, important choices, and is a truly "serious" game. Also it's currently 1% complete.

It's a perfect example of just how painfully accurate Kaddar's ZZT comic about game development is.

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Percent Complete: 10%


! You'll have to use your brains, not
your muscles. Solve the puzzles and
problems to complete each task.

! Blood!

! Multiple paths mean multiple endings:
will you wind up on a sun-filled beach
or a grime-filled police cell?

! More blood!

! Comes with its own font! No more
splodgy potato men!

! So much blood you'll have to clean
your keyboard inbetween sessions (Nmiaow)

! Comes with free game: "The Dogs Are
Revolting!", a four-file extravaganza!

* Don't worry, parental watchdog groups!
  The people you're bumping off are nasty
  drug-dealing types who'd probably kick
  puppies if they had a chance. So that's
  okay, then.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Also lots of blood and violence. Still more deep meaningful choices, still including bonus games (FOUR FILES LONG WHAT), and it's all okay because you're killing bad guys.

I can't take either of these previews seriously in the least (any ZZT game where you only get to see the title screen probably isn't one to trust), but the gunfire animation really caught me off guard and looks amazing, so we got something cool out of all this.

Unsurprisingly, neither of these games came out, nor did the bonus games. (Though there is that non-gold version of Indiana Jones.)


The year is 1999 and it's time to complain about Star Wars: Episode 1.


Don't worry, their personalities are of no importance.


The next several boards are these two characters in the exact same pose while Rebus complains about the film. I was going to crop the screenshots to just the text, but to truly feel what it's like going through these passages, I decided against it.



Also for some reason there's a stray flashing message below that's a random linewall character.


The board for FunkMeister's micro-autobiography is riddled with question marks.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
FunkMeister was originally born with no
name due to a mix-up at the births and
deaths registry. The forms he sent off to
change his name by deed-poll were always
returned as they apparently came from
    Embittered, he formulated a plan to
trick his great-aunt out of her heirlooms
by disguising himself as Captain Blackeye,
an 18th century pirate, by coating himself
in phosphorus paint. His plan was going
swimmingly until it was pointed out that
he didn't actually have a great-aunt or
any family heirlooms to steal. He was
allergic to phosphorus anyway, so it was
probably all for the best.
   This heralded a difficult era in his
life as he suddenly felt the need to
become an individual, but he soon stopped
as he didn't fit in.
   It was around this time that he took up
a job at a local shop, taking cash-in-hand
for his services. He kept the money in a
rubber cat-shaped mascot he had had since
he was a child. Month by month the kitty
grew until he could afford a PC and it was
here that he started using the internet.
It was here that he first found ZZT and
soon made a game called "Indiana Jones And
The Lost Crusaders" which was placed in
the Special Files section of AOL so that
it wouldn't upset any friendly Nazis.
   Since then, he has made a name for
himself on IRC as a mouthy little twat who
ought to have learnt to use mIRC properly
before even coming near #darkdigital.
   FunkMeister may be schizophrenic but he
hasn't made his minds up yet.
   His hobbies include getting horribly
drunk and writing about himself in the
third person.
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I can't speak for its accuracy in the pre-ZZT times, or well, anything else really. There's surprisingly little actual information here. He found ZZT and made a game and uses IRC about sums it up.


Ah, the old 6-6-5 haiku format.

It may not be traditional, but I like it. This is also an excellent example of a board that you'd never really have a chance to see outside of the ZZTV format.

Maybe if the author had so many of these art boards they could release a compilation, which is the bulk of what you find if you browse the "Art" genre. Alternatively, putting it in as an Easter egg as an inaccessible board in a more traditional ZZT format, but here it's free to be visible to everyone. ZZTV meant greater exposure not just because there were so many people contributing that it meant getting a lot of content in one download, but also as a way to show off what you've made that doesn't fit in to the typical expectation of what a ZZT game is supposed to be.


I'm always excited for new reviews, but was terrified at the idea that there'd be some Arnold Schwarzenegger character reviewing them. Thankfully, this isn't the case and the Arnold content is just some unfunny commentary at the end of each review.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Fantasy World Dizzy
Stylee: Cutesy Adventure
Maker: Codemasters (original version)
       Zenith/Nadir/Whatever (ZZT port)

Ah, the '80s. Nicotine-addled Jim was
Fixing It for terminally ill children to
go to Disney World, New Kids On The Block
were still new (and kids) and the
Transformers turned into cars and trucks
rather than stupid dinosaurs and cheetahs
and stuff. It was from this decade that
Brit programmers the Darling Brothers
created their most famous character - a
boxer-gloved egg who went around casually
murdering wizards and pissing off trolls.

And now he's on ZZT. Yay!

Oddly for a platformer, FWD has translated
brilliantly to ZZT and Zenith's obviously
been careful to keep the 'feel' of the
games (not that that will mean much to
most of you lot). It's also nice to play a
ZZT game where nobody gets killed for once
   The great thing about FWD (at least for
fans of the original) is that Zenith's
added all those little pointless things
that were in the 8-bit version - you can
give the apple to the troll, kick Dozy off
the pier and do all the other fun bits
that anyone else would have thrown out.
This attention to detail marks out Zenith
as a programmer who really CARES about
what he's importing, which is nice.

Plot - 4/10
It's another "hero saves girl" fantasy
thing, complete with trolls and dragons
(although the idea of calling dragons
"HOSSES" made me laugh), but it's not
Zenith's fault is it?

Graphics - 8/10
The graphics are great, especially the
cool little animations whenever you speak
to someone, but Zenith keeps putting
breakables all over the place, which
pisses me off when I have to weave in
between them just to move around.

Sound - 2/10
Hardly any sound that's not built in, with
just a couple of small tunes and FX.

Programming - 9/10
FWD has smashing programming, with a nice
inventory engine and everyone who's played
the original (that'll be both of them,
then. Arf!) will be impressed with
Zenith's skill at converting the game
(even if he did ruin the Australian
shopkeeper's appearance. Mlegh.).

Gameplay - 8/10
Impressive to say that it was originally
a platform game. In fact, it's more fun
to play now than before because Zenith's
gotten rid of the annoying deaths that
happened too often in the original.

Not the sort of thing that you can play
all the time, but if you give it a while
after you've completed it, you'll probably
come back to it.

Overall - 9/10

Arnie's View

I laugh at dis ztuupid compuuder game.
Vy his dere no death? Hi vud not bozzer
viz all dis dumb puzzle krap. Hi vud just
take an uzi to de ztuupid vizard's face.
Den Hi vud dake Grandpa Dizzy's crowbar
und beat doze dragonz to all hell.
Ovah-all, hit had nod enuff violenze.
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At this point I've written about Fantasy World Dizzy, and streamed both of Nadir's other ZZT conversions of the Codemasters originals so I can't steal this wonderful introduction.

I definitely agree with his assessment that the game's conversion from platformer to pure adventure works really well, and I'm glad to see a review by somebody with some actual experience with the originals who can comment on Nadir's adjustments.

The review is also surprisingly detailed! This is so much better than some weird recipe gimmick, these are actually worth reading. (Though calling any of the ZZT Dizzy games a 9/10 title is a bit much imo.)

AND THEN ARNOLD OFFERS HIS OPINIONS. Arnold would just shoot things instead of solving puzzles. Got it.

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Rippled Flesh
Stylee: Atmosphere/Horror
Maker: Rybread Celsius (Original Game)
        2378TCDD (ZZT Port)

The second game to be reviewed here was
also originally released in another format
but unlike Fantasy World Dizzy, it should
have stayed there. FWD benifitted from two
factors: it was ported by an obviously
talented programmer and it worked well as
a game anyway. Sadly, Rippled Flesh has
   It began as "interactive fiction",
otherwise known as a "text adventure" and
whilst converting this type of game to ZZT
could have worked pretty well, Rippled
Flesh itself isn't much of a game at all.
In fact, if it wasn't for one insane bug
(but more on that later), you'd be able to
complete the game purely by walking from
room to room. As for the programmer, it's
clearly one of his first games so I won't
be too harsh but I get the feeling that if
he'd been a bit more experienced, he
wouldn't have stuck to the original plans
quite so much. If he'd taken the basic
concept of the original and stuck in some
new puzzles or improved the layout of the
rooms then maybe it would have been more
entertaining. As it is, the game's too
dull, with only the occasional charcter
to talk to or object to use.
   You may note that I've classed it as
"amosphere/horror" even though it is
neither. The room descriptions, left over
from its text adventure ancestors, should
build up some sense of tension or
atmosphere, but they are countered by the
bright yellows and blues in the game,
whilst any elements of horror (finding
a suicide victim in a bath) are ruined by
the stupid and unfunny ending.
   The game's also got a bunch of stüpid
bugs - the help system's suspiciously
missing from some screens and one corridor
is full of blue solids, stopping you from
continuing the game. This wouldn't be so
bad if only one person was involved, but
according to the credits there were three
playtesters. The fact that these bugs are
still in the game should tell you
something - namely  that they couldn't be
bothered playing long enough to find these
   And if I were you, I wouldn't read the
smugly pretentious text file in case you
find yourself flinging your monitor across
the room like I almost did

Plot - 2/10
If you've seen the film "The Game" then
you've already seen the plot to this, er,

Graphics - 4/10
The rooms are all horrible greys, although
some of the close-up pictures are quite

Sound - 0/10
The only sound that isn't pre-rendered
sounds like an elephant farting into an
underwater microphone. Four times.

Programming - 6/10
The hint system is a good idea but it's
wasted because there aren't any real
puzzles. There are also a couple of good
set-pieces, like the way lightning in one
room lights up a hidden object.

Gameplay - 1/10
It's sort of interesting for a few minutes
but you'll soon tire of Rippled Flesh's
confusing mazes and crappy character

You may want to check out all those rooms
that you missed the first time, but I
doubt it.

Overall - 2/10
If you want to convert a game to ZZT, take
Zenith's route and convert something that
is actually playable rather than something
that drowns in its own cleverness.

Arnie's View

Vot hiz diz rubbish? Vy doez de man hin
zis game vander around all confuuzed? Hi
vud not act zo dumb. Hi vud kick daun all
doze lokked doors unt den Hi vud fauze
all auf deze odd peepal to tell me vot
his haapenink.
Dere voss kvite a lot auf violenze in dis
game, vich vaus gut.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Now this review winds up being pretty important. Historically, the ZZT community hasn't really had a good set of reviews. They'd be scattered across ZZT magazines and websites. There were attempts at making sites specifically for ZZT reviews, but for the most part it was merely a review forum buried on the ZZT Archive, and then z2 finally getting a proper review system in the 2000s. Since z2's reviews came in so late, most games still have no reviews, while the big name titles quickly met the 10 review per game limit.

So I've never played Rippled Flesh, but it sounds pretty miserable! What makes this notable is that the game won a Game Of The Month award, so the only readily accessible review praises it quite a bit (and offers insights as to how it won over other worlds released that month). It's pretty rare to see divisive opinions on these older titles, and as somebody who frequently looks to the Featured Worlds list on the Museum to find something to play/write about, perhaps FunkMeister is helping me dodge a bullet.

And then Arnold is not amused, but praises the violence.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Chrono Wars Parts 11 And 12
Stylee: Sci-Fi Adventure
Maker: Chronos

Chrono Wars, for those that don't know,
is the longest running ZZT series going.
It started about 3 years ago, with main
character Asher Wells discovering that his
friend and colleague Joe has discovered
how to move objects through time. As the
series progressed, Asher found himself
pulled through time, attending his own
birth, travelling to alternate timelines
and discovering his evil brother Chris
who became his arch-nemesis. Chrono Wars
10 culminated in the destruction of Earth
due to distortion in the timeline, with
our heroes escaping to another dimension
with  500,000,000 refugees from Earth.
   Now Chronos has brought Chrono Wars
back for more. Whereas the previous 10
games followed on from each other, Chrono
Wars 11 begins from scratch. It's three
years after the events of Chrono Wars 10,
and the colonies established on the new
Earth are thriving. After several years,
Asher is returning to the town run by his
friend Joe, only to find himself pulled
back into the dangerous world of time-
   The problem that many people had with
the first 10 parts of Chrono Wars was that
near the end, it had become too complex.
Alternate universes, cause and effect
problems, time webs - just about every
theory to do with time travel was thrown
into the mix. Starting over ought to have
allowed Chronos to simplify the plot.
However, by the middle of part 12 it's all
confusing again. Chronos is babbling about
making the colony "cloaked and phased",
allowing normal matter to pass through it,
which I'm pretty sure has no scientific
basis (and raises questions like "how do
you catch fish if they can swin through
your rod?") and having "gravity without
matter" which I know is bollocks. In any
other game this wouldn't matter, but in
something like CWars, which has so far
been scientifically accurate, it sticks
out like a sore thumb.
   Furthermore, the character dynamics are
screwed. Joe goes on about going into the
future so he can put two fingers up to the
alliance, which seems unlikely considering
what happened last time. Likewise, when he
blows up the Alliance ship, he's killing
the very people he saved in CWars 10.
   Of course, all of this may be explained
as Chronos appears to have thought up a
complete arc for this part of the CWars
story (he previously appeared to be making
it up as he went along) so perhaps Joe
will turn out to be in cahoots with the
enemies or something.
   The game itself also seems to be ill
thought out in places. The race against
time in the Tripoli could have been
exciting but it turns out to be a totally
confusing mish-mash of ideas. You're
supposed to be finding batteries and gas
tanks to get the system running again, but
you'll find yourself lost in the maze of
one-way passages and bloody irritating
box-moving puzzles (I thought we'd gotten
rid of those).
   When I found out about CWars 11 & 12, I
had an inane grin on my face. I thought it
would be ZZT's equivalent of the Beatles
reforming. As it is now, it's looking like
those bands that were once great, but are
now slumming it in pubs and clubs in

Plot - 4/10
An intriguing idea spoilt by Chronos'
osession with fitting too many ideas into
one file. There's still time to save it if
Chronos just spreads out the plot threads
a little more. Also, the vital point where
Asher goes missing for a year is so
understated that most players will
probably be confused.

Graphics - 9/10
As great as usual, with some fun little

Sound - 1/10
Hardly any music at all, with only a few
bleeps, although the ticking noise on the
CWars 11 title screen was relaxing.

Programming - 8/10
The programming's as good as usual,
although Chronos doesn't attempt anything
too ground-breaking.

Gameplay - 5/10
It's actually good fun just to wander
around and see where all your favourite
characters have got to, although the
confusing setup of the timed subgame in
part 11 almost cripples it and CWars 12
quickly turns into a repetitive pattern -
get a key, listen to some exposition, get
a key, listen to exposition, get a key and
so on.

Probably for nostalgic value if you wait a
while after you've completed it once.

Overall - 4/10
We know that Chronos can make excellent,
thought - provoking games, it's just that
he seems to be so caught up in his ideas
that he has forgotten about making a good
game. Let's hope Part 13 can restore
Chrono Wars to its former glory.

Arnie's View

I liked der destruk-shun of der enti-ar
plaanet in Chrono Vores 10, but derr vos
too much brainy stuff in dis part, vich
made my head hurt. If derr had been mor
violenze und less zienze den dis vut hav
been much mor fun.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Lastly, are two games in ZZT's longest running series, Chrono Wars. Again, this is a series which has a very solid reputation (once it gets going, the first few are pretty short and forgettable) and has won several awards. Unfortunately, it's a series which I both never finished, and also haven't played in a good 20 years so I remember nothing about it other than the name Asher. Again, it's cool to see the reality that the praise isn't universal.

And well, that's everything. I suppose one other issue with covering a ZZTV is that there's no real ending. You just play the channels until they're exhausted.

Final Thoughts

I really love what ZZTV did for the community. It's one of those things that doesn't really have a parallel in other mediums where the medium itself is used to directly discuss things made in and the people working in that medium. They're too interactive to be magazines and too text-heavy to be demo discs. ZZTV is an institution of the community, and DarkFLR's early dedication and commitment is responsible for so much of ZZT that you'd never be able to find by just playing released games. ZZTers were given an opportunity to make something, without the usual standards of what a video game needs. The philosophy was instead that anything goes, and those who embraced that created some pretty unusual channels, never needing to fear that nobody would care. The visibility letting people run wild with anything they could come up with knowing that people were looking forward to it in a way that a standalone release of say, "ZZT Ant Farm 2" never would.

The project continuing on for so long really cements how strong of a concept it was, and for a community full of people wanting to get into whatever the most famous ZZT company of the time was, having this outlet regardless of being in a company was a great way to get people to notice you. ZZT's many magazines are certainly a cousin of ZZTV as far as the idea of showcasing creations goes, but the lack of formality and requirements opens up the possibilities in ways that ZZT's digital magazines don't get to play around with as much. ZZTV volumes are snapshots of their creators in a now long past era, and you can get an excellent idea of a ZZTer's humor and interests and thoughts on IRC drama in every channel.

ZZTV channels work great with the Museum's file viewer and ability to launch a file starting on a specific board. It's very difficult to condense ZZT and its community into a simple explanation, but if you want to learn from example, playing a ZZTV world is a great way to quickly see the community at its best and most experimental. These files are just treasure chests filled with so much stuff that would be lost to time as geocities and ZZTer hosted services like mtrap vanished. You never know what to expect with each channel, who might make an appearance in an interview section, what incredibly ambitious and ultimately scrapped project will pop up, or what biography will give you otherwise invisible insights into just how ZZTers made their work.

Just as there are no rules for making a ZZTV channel, there aren't any for playing one either. Pick a volume, select a file, change the channel, and tune in and out as your interests dictate. I promise you'll find something to impress you.

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