In 1991, 21-year-old game developer Tim Sweeney launched a simplistic, already-outdated MS-DOS game that would become, entirely by accident, the most popular hobbyist game development tool of the 90’s.
ZZT's free, robust, and easy to use level editor allowed players with no money or programming experience to create their own complete, easily sharable games. A large and enthusiastic community blossomed, and today there is a vibrant kaleidoscope of ZZT games out there, and new ones are still being released.
We spoke with Dr. Dos, the proprietor of the Museum of ZZT website, where he documents, preserves, and makes available a vast collection of user-created ZZT games from the community’s storied history to ensure that they can be enjoyed and studied for years to come.
- The Museum of ZZT contains a searchable database of almost all currently available ZZT games, with frequent additions as new games are created and old games are rediscovered. Each game's page includes reliable metadata about the game, a download of the game files, an emulated version of the game that's playable in-browser, and community reviews. The site also features useful guides on how to get started playing ZZT, as well as articles and videos about fan-favorite ZZT games.
- z2 was the precursor to the Museum of ZZT, and used to be the main fan repository for ZZT games, as well as a hub for discussion. It is still online (though not active), and provides a clear picture of the history of the ZZT community.
- Zeta is a lightweight, simple ZZT emulator that makes it easy to run the game without needing to set up and configure a whole DOS emulator. It was created by Adrian Siekierka (AKA asiekierka). This is the emulator that the Museum of ZZT uses to provide in-browser gameplay.
- The Reconstruction of ZZT - Adrian Siekierka also reverse-engineered the original ZZT executable to recreate the game's previously-lost source code. This allows for better long-term preservation of the game. It also makes it easier for ZZT game-makers to create their own modified versions of ZZT that can do things the original application never could.
- The Worlds of ZZT discord channel is currently the most active place for discussing goings-on in the ZZT community.
Music from this Episode
All music in this episode was created by prominent ZZT game-maker WiL, often considered one of the finest ZZT composers. Many of the tracks used originate from his ZZT games. Other tracks were composed and recorded outside of ZZT.
Featured ZZT Games
This episode of Preserving Worlds featured footage of the following ZZT games, in order of first appearance:
- The Caves of ZZT by Tim Sweeney, 1991
- City of ZZT by Tim Sweeney, 1991
- Ned the Knight by Jeremy LaMar & SnigWich, 1996
- ZZTV 3 by DarkFLR, Ringworm, Viovis, Gerbil, & Funkmeister, 1999
- InvasionZZT Revision by Princess Alena, 2002
- Dungeons of ZZT by Tim Sweeney, 1991
- A Day in the Life of Goodfry Gadfly by RT-55J, 2020
- Yiepipipi by QR Leon, 2007
- Frost Part 1: Power by Zenith Nadir, 2003
- Nibblin’ by Newt, 2018
- Flower of Light by Shujj, 2004
- Ana by Benco, 2017
- Doom by Robojim, 1995
- Nyan Cat’s Adventures in Nyanland by WiL, 2012
- Angelis Finale: Episode 1 by Commodore, 2006
- A Dwarvish-Mead Dream by coolzx, 2000
- Town of ZZT by Tim Sweeney, 1991
- Link’s Adventure 3 by Rotaj Russell, 1995
- Mega Man by Maullar_Maullar, Master_S, & cyborg, 1999
- Dogfight by Barney9651 & yenrab, 1995
- Myst ZZT Demo by Ian McMahon, 2000
- Rush by Tricky, 1999
- Haunted House by Melissa Kohler and Chris Kohler, 1994
- Chowder: The ZZT Tribute by Shane Nielsen, 2009
- Sonic (revised) by Chris Schasse, 2002
- Keesh's Quest 2 by Al Riccitelli, 1996
- ESP (Evil Sorcerer’s Party) by John W. Wells, Funk, Rob Pragt, & Zenith Nadir, 2003
- Aceland by Prakash (Ace) Padole, 1994
- The King in Yellow Borders by WiL & VRose, 2020
- bogart zzt by Viovis, 2007
- A Knife and a Stick Extended Edition by asiekierka, 2008
- Bad Apple!! ZZT by asie, 2020
- Hugo’s House of Horrors ZZT by Dr. Dos, 2019
- Monster Zoo by Allen Pilgrim and Tim Sweeney (Super ZZT game), 1992
- On a Distant Moon by Zephyr, 2020
- Faux Amis by Rabbitboots, 2018
- Cat, Cat, THAT DAMN CAT by Commodore, 2009
- Burger Joint by Madguy, 1998
- COVID Maker 19 by Dr. Dos, 2020
- ASCII Maker Collection by Anarchy, 2002
- Sixteen Easy Pieces by Flimsy Parkins, 2005