Friends, when my Father set enough money aside to buy a personal computer – he found a used one in the want ads, a graduating student from the University had no further need for his Commodore 64. As the last thing that my Father wanted from the computer was for it to become another gaming system – he only agreed to two game cartridges that the student was offering. Those were Kickman, the port of Midway’s 1981 arcade game entitled just Kick – and the still fantastic Choplifter by Broderbund Software. To say that I loved the Commodore 64 is the epitome of an understatement – thanks in no small part to magazines like Run that allowed me to type-in programs and save them on my Commodore Datasette. It wouldn’t be until over a year later that I received a disk drive for the Commodore 64, which even though my Father didn’t want the computer to become a gaming system, it allowed me access to one of the greatest computer games of all time. The iconic interactive game called Zork – originally released by Infocom in 1980.
For many weeks, once I was finished with dinner I would attempt to navigate the mysteries of The Great Underground Empire. And some of my fondest memories of the Commodore 64 involve playing the likes of the Zork series, Wishbringer, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Planetfall, and The Lurking Fear to name a few. In the early ’80s though Infocom managed to make Zork even better – by having Steve Meretzky (Planetfall, Sinistar Unleashed) as S. Eric Meretzky write four gamebooks based off the then trio of classic interactive fiction games.
Starting with The Forces of Krill which was originally published in August of 1983 – with illustrations by Paul Van Munching – the book introduced readers to two young characters named Bill and June. However after they discover a magical Elvish blade hidden underneath a bush on their way home – they are transported to the Land of Frobozz, in the Kingdom of Zork. In addition they are known by all in the land as Bivotar and Juranda, the niece and nephew of King Syovar the Strong.
Released under the What-Do-I-Do-Now banner, the Zork books followed the same format as the Choose Your Own Adventure series and others – although it kept the scoring system from the interactive video games. There were 20 possible endings in The Forces of Krill gamebook – with the overall goal being to guide Juranda and Bivotar in collecting the three Palantirs to aid in the defeat of the dark forces of Krill.
I spent a lot of time in The Great Underground Empire – both by playing the Zork video game series as well as reading the books over and over again. Except with the latter, they managed to make Zork even better – because while I couldn’t drag my computer to school and play throughout the day – I could visit the Kingdom of Zork almost any time I wanted by cracking open one of the What-Do-I-Do-Now books.