So what exactly is “Zyll”?

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So what exactly is Zyll? If you just asked yourself this question, then you’re not alone. Zyll was a pioneering text adventure game written by Scott Edwards and Marshal Linder for the IBM PC Jr. in 1984. Unfortunately the IBM PC Jr. didn’t catch on as well as IBM had hoped and Zyll was ignored by the general public.

The storyline for Zyll isn’t particularly genre breaking, but it is somewhat interesting. The story begins with a young sorcerer named Zyll, an evil man who dreamed of becoming a master of black magic and ruling the realm. Unfortunately for Zyll (but luckily for everyone else), all he could do is fail at his goal. However one day Zyll came across the Black Orb, an evil artifact that increased Zyll’s power to unimaginable levels. Using his new found powers, Zyll took revenge against the kingdom by stealing the 6 great treasures and using the Black Orb to turn the realm into a barren wasteland. That is why your kingdom has sent you to destroy the evil Zyll and recover the great treasures to return the realm back to its former glory.

Players can choose from one of three different occupations: Warrior, Wizard, or Thief. Each job has its own strengths and weaknesses. Warriors are physically strong so they can carry many items and easily defeat most monsters without much trouble, however they cannot cast magic spells or pick locks. Wizards on the other hand, are much weaker than warriors so they can’t take much damage before dying. However Wizards are the only class that can cast magic, which can make the game much easier as spells tend to be very strong and come in both offensive and non-combat varieties. Thieves are so-so fighters and not very strong, however they can not only pick locks, but have a very strong ability to find hidden objects and passages. This is an immensely useful ability in Zyll, and can easily spell the difference between victory and defeat. Thieves can also pick another players pockets and hide valuable objects from other players (very useful in competition mode).

So what makes Zyll so revolutionary? For starters, Zyll was the one of the first (if not the first) text adventure games to take place in real time. What does this mean? Basically, it means that the game continues to move even if the player doesn’t enter a command. For example, if the player were to light a torch and walk away from the keyboard for five minutes, he would most likely come back to find that the torch had long since gone out and his character had been hacked to death by a demon rat. This is a big difference from most other text adventures that would patiently wait for the player to enter command before the game would continue.

Another innovative feature of Zyll was that two players could play simultaneously. When playing in two player mode the game was split down the middle of the screen, with each player getting half. Players then had to decide whether they wanted to play cooperatively or compete against each other. When in competition mode, players could attack each other or pick each others pockets. This added a whole new dynamic to the game, and often lead to vicious cut throat tactics.

Zyll also featured randomized item placement. When the player starts a game they have a choice of having the various game items be placed in random locations or having fixed item locations (activated by pressing the ESC key as the game starts). This allows even experienced players to have a whole new game each time they play (the game map stays fixed however).

Although Zyll is considered a text adventure game, no commands are actually typed in. Instead, players use the function keys (F1-F10) to select commands from various menus. This speeds up the gameplay immensely, and makes for easy adventuring once the player learns the simple menu layouts. However Zyll was designed with the old style IBM PC/XT style keyboard in mind, so the command key placement may seem odd on modern keyboards.

While Zyll may not have achived the fame it richly deserved, it is fondly remembered by many die hard text adventurers.


About zyll9

Here are some topics that have recently interested me: ♥ The Enigma Machine ♦ Morse Code ♣ Fluorescent minerals ♠ The Long scale and the word milliard ♥ The 21 Spanish Missions of California and El Camino Real ♦ 3D Printing and browsing items on ♣ Le Mans and the 1955 winner, a Jaguar D-Type ♠ My huge King James Version Bible, which was printed at least before 1893 ♥ Hyperinflation paper money ♦ Silver certificates vs. United States Notes vs. Federal Reserve Notes ♣ Old Stereoscopic photographs and anaglyphs ♠ Pyramids, such as those at Giza in Egypt and at Teotihuacan in Mexico ♥ The special characters produced using ALT-Codes (ie., Alt 14 makes this: ♫) ♦ Old-style numerals written above and below the line by using Text Figures ♣ The long-s which looks like an "f" and went extinct around 1810. like "Congreß" ♠ How to play chess better, because I really suck at it ♥ Animated gifs of funny movie clips ♦ Archaeoastronomy ♣ Hiking the John Muir Trail ♠ Sighting comets ♥ My DIY Musicbox
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3 Responses to So what exactly is “Zyll”?

  1. zyll9 says:

    Hmmm, Zyll is about a treasure hunt too…

  2. zyll9 says:

    Special commands to help play Zyll:
    Alt-D Allows you to choose the number of columns that will appear on the screen, either 40 or 80.
    If you have more than one monitor, Alt-D also allows you to select which monitor you wish
    to use.
    Alt-C Allows you to change the foreground and background colors on the display.
    Alt-K If you would like to use the same command keys as those for the PCjr. This enables the left-hand player to use a modern keyboard:
    Alt-S saves your current game. Type a letter A through D. If a game has already
    been saved under the letter you choose, the previously saved game will be replaced with the
    current one. The current game automatically resumes after the game is saved.
    Fn-Pause pauses the game.
    Press ESC during the opening music to prevent random placement of treasures.

    Game Cheat:
    1. Start the game in competitive mode
    2. Go into a dark room carring only a lamp or a torch (unlit)
    3. Hit “other” and then hit the menu key marked “—”
    4. You should get the message ‘ok’.
    This cheat gives you the following abilities:
    – All spells (regardless of your character type)
    – Full ability to pick locks, pick pockets, and find hidden objects
    – Unlimited ability to carry objects
    – Full strength
    – Full ability to heal
    – Full armor protection
    – 2000 extra bonus points

    Minor Treasures
    Treasure | Possible Location(s)
    Bag of Gold Fillings: Torture Room
    Bat Wings: Zyll’s Closet
    Black Sword: Armory
    Book: Royal Counsel Chamber
    Bottle of Scotch: Wine Cellar
    Brass Lamp: Edge of Cliff
    Brooch: Dusty Workroom
    Cloth Pouch: Around the Dragons Neck
    Chest of Pearls: Prison Cell
    Empty Flask: Zyll’s Closet (after drinking Blue Liquid)
    Goblets: Narrow Hallow
    Gold Buckle: Cavern
    Gold Coins: Mines
    Gold Idol: Prison Cell
    Gold Nugget: Guest Room
    Gold Staff: Conjuring Room
    Ivory Amulet: Servants Quarters
    Jeweled Bracelet: Damp Portal Room
    Large Book: Royal Counsel Chamber
    Marble Urn: Catacombs
    Oil Painting: East Ballroom
    Sapphire: Nursery
    Silk Robe: Sorcerers Bedroom
    Small Book: Royal Counsel Chamber
    Small Diamond: Behind Waterfall
    Tapestry: West Throne Room
    Throne: East Throne Room

    Great Treasures
    Treasure: Possible Location(s)
    Ruby Ring: Pouch Around the Dragons Neck
    Magic Shield: Mines/Royal Crypt
    Broadsword: Well Bottom/Armory
    Ruby Pendant: Catacombs/Underground Stream
    Jeweled Crown: Kings Tower/Prison Cell
    Scepter: Kings Closet/Royal Treasury

    Other Items
    Black Orb: Zyll’s Bedchamber/Workroom/Conjuring Room/Underground Stream/Secret Room

    Game Statistics
    Keys: 5
    Weapons: 9 (includes shields)
    Edible Items: 11 (includes liquids)
    Books: 4, Scrolls: 8
    Torches/Lamps: 16
    Treasures: 18 (does not include the silk robe or jewel covered chest)
    Goal Objects: 6 (does not include the Orb)
    Types of Monsters: 14 (including Zyll)
    Portals: 9
    Levels: 8

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