Running Zork

I wanted to post something about Zork – because who doesn’t love Zork? And then I got curious whether I’d done that before. And whaddya know – I had. Well, sort of. What’s shocking to me is that is was almost 10 years ago. YIKES! This blog’s been around a long time.

Anyway – back in the mist-shrouded past of the early-to-mid naughts, I discovered that all three original Zork games were downloadable for free from Infocom’s Zork downloads page. I downloaded them, played a bit, and then sort of forgot about it. Recently, I wanted to play again (because I’ve never actually completed the game). And it turns out that those download sites are still up and running! YAY!

But they’re harder to use. For Macs, they give you a format called .hqx, which was apparently a thing on Macs in the 80s, and is still kind of a thing now. It’s basically an early .zip file, but Mac-specific. Or something. BinHex is the official name.

Fortuantely, your (Mac) computer still knows how to open it – that’s not the hard part. Just double-click on it, and Mac OS knows what to do.

Once you get it out of the box, though, it isn’t immediately obvious what to do. It decompresses to something that looks like but isn’t a standalone executable. What it instead turns out to be is just a standard Z-code story file. Why Mac thinks this is an executable app is beyond me. It’s surely not packaged like one.

Anyway, the keys to getting it to work are:

  1. Recognize that you will need a third-party app to run this. I went with Spatterlight.

  2. Since the OS thinks it’s an executable, whatever app you grab probably won’t know what to do with it either. What worked for me with Spatterlight was simply renaming the file to something with a .z7 extension on it. Spatterlight was then willing to trust me that it was a valid zcode storyfile and load it.

And now I can play Zork!

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