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Closer Look: ZZTV 3

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

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Aug 31, 2019
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I've admittedly avoided covering some important ZZT worlds due to not really being sure what to do with them. The ZZTV series is one of them, and it definitely needs an explanation to an outsider.

ZZTV was a community compiled series of worlds that began with a TV theme but slowly evolved into a wonderful experimental playground for ZZTers to engage in free-form creation. The original concept it is explained in ZZTV 0 as a "non-company" magazine, where ZZTers would submit a "channel", consisting of animations themed after types of TV shows, and be able to advertise their creations during the "commercials".

It was kind of a weirdly specific idea, but somehow it took off, and ZZTV has received 11 volumes from 1999 all the way through the last edition in 2016! Over those 11 volumes a total of ninety-seven channels were created. They consist of artwork, game previews, reviews, mini-games, interviews, teenage rants, and are just overall an explosion of creative expression that I can't think of any parallel to. There are no rules for for content or structure, as even as early as ZZTV 2, the first to receive submissions from other ZZTers, people were already ditching the television theme that series progenitor DarkFLR had imagined.

I decided to pick ZZTV 3 over the other issues to focus on for a few reasons:

And just a heads up, this article is extremely heavy on transcriptions of text. You can probably get away with just skimming any particularly long scrolls.

"A big ZZT soup" is a good way to put it. These worlds are a melting pot of the ZZT culture of their time.


The DarkFLR era of ZZTV always includes a menu in this style, with the player selecting buttons on a large TV remote to switch to the channel of their choosing. Despite the channels being TV channels, they were always prefixed with a pound sign as if they were actually IRC channels, the chat medium of choice for ZZTers.

Zztv Foreword
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
//////--- Z Z T V ---\\\\\\
/////--  issue : 3  --\\\\\\

--> Darhf 's foreword :

  Hello folks, this is the issue #3 of
ZZTV ( I hope you noticed it... ). So,
what would I have to say about this issue?

* I'd like to thank all the people who
sent me their channels, I named :
The Zztv network is growing !

* I'd like to thank all the people who
showed interest in zztv and said it
was a good idea, and specially Zenith for
being the first to trust in zztv, and
Viovis for his eternal devotion.

* Excuse me for this issue's late release,
but I was myself busy, and I was waiting
more submissions. I really apologize to
the people who submited their stuff.

* Please read the Last #Gwayz stuff in
the #gothic ways channel. This bit of text
will explain you the future of zztv.

* Enjoy now !

                 -Dark FLR
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

DarkFLR brings up the toughest part of making a ZZTV world: having to wait on submissions. Normally it was safe to abandon your ZZT creation mid-development all you wanted, but the group nature of ZZTV meant that you'd be holding up everyone else if you didn't officially cancel.

The time between volumes varied wildly. Volume 2 to volume 3 was a four month gap, a pretty short time frame compared to ZZTV 10's extremely troubled development cycle which came out SEVEN AND A HALF YEARS after the previous release and is full of then-ancient content (like some art dated from 2005). Unsurprisingly, the release dates match up pretty well with the overall activity of the ZZT community, bustling in 1999, steady in the early 00s, slowing down after 2003, and then just dropping off the face of the earth for several years.

DarkFLR hints that his channel has important information on the future of the project (looking for somebody to take over), and I can't blame him when he's made the first three volumes all in a single year.


The general concept is explained, with a plea to keep sending in your channels. There's also a mention of an "independent" channel, but I don't believe this was ever a thing, as nobody just submitted a single board.

DarkFLR's website, THE DARK PLACE is somewhat available on the Internet Archive, alas the ZZTV page is not.


Our first channel is DarkFLR's own #Gothic ways. This channel name is reused in every one of his ZZTV volumes, with original content each time. Most ZZTers opted to pick a new name with each release.


Are you ready to read a teenagers rants?

This is an odd layout for this sort of board. Channels are frequently full of text, but usually make accessing it not involve long walks across boards. Most ZZTV volumes take up multiple ZZT files, and several take advantage of ZZT's ability to display external text files as a way to keep file sizes down while still including large amounts of text.

I do like the curved road though. Diagonals are hard enough, but this is a pretty respectable curve DarkFLR was able to draw here.


The two buildings are unlabeled and the joke is that the player will ask for interviews at the rant building, and rants at the interview building. Thankfully there is only one rant. Please do not feel obligated to read it.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
/////* Pointless Rebellions *\\\\\

█ █
█ █ ey ! have you been to #darkdigital
lately ? Each week, a new "rebellion"
occurs. For me , theses rebellions are
really pointless, let me explain you why:

1) Too much rebellions kill rebellions.

  #darkdigital was the point of countless
rebellions. I think that everything have
been said, and every solution has been
explored. Countless "alternate" channels
have been created (#sledgehammer, #zztalk,
#mana, #zzt...), and none of them had the
popularity of #dd. The main fact is that
people are bored of this kind of stuff and
don't go in theses channels.
Their only solution to keep contact to
the entire scene is to come back to #dd,
because every time they went in another
zzt channel, only a few people was here.
Zzters understood that every rebellion
ends after a day or two, and don't even
bother to try to join another channel.

So "Alternate" Channels are pointless
since #darkdigital exists.

2) Again, Again, Again, ....

   The rebellions' reasons are ALWAYS the
same : "Wow Chuck is bastard he banned
  The rebellion ends up when XXXXXX is
unbanned, and this generally is a matter
of days.
So short-term rebellions leads to
nothing except being a short-term martyr.

3) General IRC rules.

  IRC have some rules that people must
follow :

- The Channel owner edicts the channel's
rules : If you don't respect the rules,
expect to be banned.

- The Channel owner always has the last
word : If you were banned for no particu-
lar reason, remember that the channel
owner won't unban you unless he wants to.
Posting rants and insults won't change a

4) Final word

  Well, I hope that zzters will understand
that Chuck thinks the way he thinks and
that #darkdigital is HIS channel. Posting
3232584 "kill chuck!" messages won't calm
down things. If you are banned, go outside
and have a social life, then come back
two days after this.
Instead of taking a ban as a severe act,
let things happen ... and when Chuck will
see that it doesn't annoy people anymore
to be banned, maybe he'll stop doing it.

                           - Darhf
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

I was expecting it to be about kids in school that want to smash the system, but sure enough it's an artifact of ZZT's history with IRC drama and complaining about the endless spin-off channels people would make in hopes of getting people out of #darkdigital, the main ZZT IRC channel of the late 90s.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
You> Hello, I'd like to read some rants.

Man> sorry, We only provide interviews
here ! We have a great inetrview :


Hello Daemon, first quickly
introduce yourself to zzters who might
not know you.

I am the Daemon that haunts your
dreams, look out for me, or you will
die by my hand...
Or not... Um, I'm Daemon_Lotos, if
you hang in #Darkdigital you should
know me by now, if not there's some-
thing VERY wrong.

Everybody knows that you are working
on a GCS called ZZ3. What are the main
differences between it and the other

Um, 1. It was done as a "Proof"
project, I am trying to prove that a
good GCS can be coded in Qbasic... so
far it's working (I hope).  2. It
plays MIDI's (Poorly on some PC's,
but it plays them).  3. Um, the main
diff between ZZ3 and ZIG, is I am
trying to keep the "look" and "feel"
as close to ZZT as possable...
hopefully it'll work. And the main
diff between ZZ3 and ZZT++ is that
ZZT++ is just meant to be a better
version of ZZT, and WeP doesn't plan
to enhance it (Yet), wheras in ZZ3 I
am pourposly trying to enhance it.

Aren't you afraid it will lack public
support, like ZIG did ?

Um, courtesy of what's been said to
me by a greatmany people, it already
doeslack public support, but I'm not
doing it for recognition, or public
support, I am doing it as MY way to
give something to the community that
I have lived in for years.

You're coding it in QBasic. Why did
you choose this programming language ?

See answer too #2, 1.

Which are your views upon other
existing or future GCS and upon GCS/
Non GCS programmers of the scene ?

Um, I don't tend to keep "views",
although ZIG (As many of us know),
needs bug fixing, but if JH can get
all the bugs kicked out, ZIG should
be a masterpiece.

And future GCS's, I say only this
"Steer away from the dark side of the
scene, stay away from MZX..."

And all I have to say about the pro-
grammers on the scene, GCS or otherwise
(That includes you FLR), is keep at it,
try to realize your dreams, no
matter what anyone says about your

Any last words ?

Yeah, I think you can officially
classify ZZ3 as "STABLE" myself and hm
spent best part of 1 1/2 hrs trying to
crash it, to no avail... I even ran a
14.5 meg .mov fil through it (After
I changed the extention to .zz3), and
all it did was display random junk
for the screen, and played as if
it had been a pure ZZ3 world file.

-------< End of interview >------
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The interview with Daemon_Lotos is far more interesting than IRC squabbles. It spends a lot of time discussing the development of ZZT clones of the late 90s, including his own work with ZZ3, Aetsch's ZIG, and Wep's ZZT++.

ZZT++ was a C++ remake and improvement, acknowledging the need to get away from MS-DOS, though several years before ZZT's DOS ties would start becoming an issue. ZIG got a very thorough article itself, but ZZ3 is a fresh topic here.

It's written in QBASIC, which is... probably a bad sign for it having ever had a chance of being a suitable "replacement" for ZZT. Lotos takes a moment to dis on MegaZeux, whose issues in the 90s are covered in that ZIG article as well. I love the stress test of renaming a video to force the program to try and load it as a ZZ3 world and making sure it doesn't crash from using too much memory.


Heading to the next section of the channel is this cute ad for ZZT Piano, a program (that will not run on a modern computer) that displays a piano and clicking on its keys transcribes the note to ZZT's #play format for music. The board is a pretty accurate representation of what the program looked like. Not surprisingly though, it wasn't all that practical as playing a piano by moving a mouse cursor and clicking each note is not going to let you get an idea for what a song will actually sound like.

It still got some use though! Once in awhile you'll find a ZZT board generated by the program with an object containing the music in the center.

Meanwhile here in the channel, the object blocking the passage has no code and the player has to cheat to proceed. I'm going to guess this was a case where ZZT deleted the code, but the lack of testing isn't a good sign.


The second ad is for a search engine service for ZZT games. I'm not sure if this was meant to be an alternative archive (by this point zzt.org was established and the dominant site to upload worlds to.) Sadly, this one doesn't seem to be preserved anywhere, and I'm really curious if it was a database or just a manual list or what.


Breaking form from the previous ads is one for a ZZT game called Black Metal, which went unreleased. Unsurprisingly, channels are full of previews (some playable, some not) for countless games that never got finished.

This was a world being made after Draco's infamous Teen Priest 2, which had some calling for the game to be banned due to how graphic it was. Edginess and shock value was a big selling point, so drawing an ad of somebody's head having been blown to bits like the board actually depicts probably stirred up some genuine interest.

Holy shit
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Well, you understood well, it's the last
appearance of the #Gothic Ways channel in

I am thinking about completely giving up
ZZTV, But I don't want it to die. I only
get no more fun doing it...

As I said before, I don't want the ZZTV
death, so I'll try to give its ownership
and responsabilities to a person who will
make it better than it is now.

In my opinion, ZZTV is a very good concept
but the release dates are very long, and
I personally lack some popularity. It's a
fact that most of my zzt-related releases
aren't followed by a great amount of
people , or not followed at all (ZFE).

So I think that ZZTV deserves a better
owner , a person which will make it more
popular... In fact I think it's time to
delete my name from the credits, 'coz my
contribution to its success was really

Comments :

Note : Keep sending your channels at this
email, they will be forwarded to the next
zztv owner...

... I swear that there will be a ZZTV #4

                         - Darhf

PS : I'd like to thank again all people
who helped ZZTV to be what it is now :
All the channel owners!
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Lastly is DarkFLR's farewell to the ZZTV project. I'm glad he recognized that he had really come up with something here. I can't imagine he'd have thought it would have lasted more than a decade after he left the project.

It would have been very easy for this volume to be the final one. For him to request people still send him channels to be forwarded to the next host was a very good call to keep the momentum going. Even with changing hands, the next volume would continue to grow in size with two more channels than this one.

I love him complaining about how long it takes to get releases out when he put out three in a year. He's a bit modest as well, even if it comes from a belief that it's the contributors rather than the host of the compilation that made the project a success.

Getting burnt out was to be expected, especially as the releases grew in size. The process of actually assembling one of these things takes a lot of effort. There's no way to stitch together all the files received into one world, which meant DarkFLR (and subsequent hosts) would have to open each submission, export every single board, then import them into the compiled world. Even then, the host has work to do ZZT strips board exits and passage destinations when you export a board, meaning that every connection in a channel had to be redone by hand, updating each passage and connecting any boards. There's a ton of tedious work involved, and with later releases, a need to try and balance out file sizes between worlds as well since it would be far too much to put in one file. This three releases per year thing was doomed from the start.

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