Luke Drelick

What have you created with ZZT, or related to ZZT?

I was definitely more prolific with MZX, but some of the games I've created in ZZT were:

Chrono Trigger ZZT - The first thing I started working on. It was to be 10 ZZT worlds long (!), each taking place in a different time zone. Since it was my first project, it was fairly newbie-ish... I made 3 of the worlds, though the majority of the games were simple action oriented games with a few puzzles to spice things up. The first two games were riddled with lots of enemies to fight, not much in the way of story, and repetitive gameplay... but the third game had promise... so I took the Chrono Trigger mythos out of it, improved the graphics, and adapted it into...

Overflow - Probably my best known ZZT release. A fairly long game that takes place in a flooded, Waterworld style world where pirates control the seas.

The Coliseum - A simple "Arena" type game with 3 different difficulty levels. Based on all those Arena games that were popular in ZZT, but with nicer graphics and music.

Final Fantasy Extreme - A graphical update of an old game by DilloWare, that I was always fond of.

Finally, I helped my brother out a lot on his BattleTech games, a multiple world game with ties to the whole BattleTech/MechWarrior computer games. I offered assistance with graphics, a little programming, testing, and dialogue.

When you think about ZZT, what games come to your mind and why?

Oh wow... well honestly I haven't really played much of the "new school" of ZZT games, I started with ZZT in 1995 and was active in creating games till 1997... anything after 1998 is beyond my time. The two games that immediately come to my mind are Code Red and Sivion. Code Red was one of the first ZZT games I've ever played, my friend Dan who introduced me to ZZT told me about the game. But it's easy to see just how influential that game was, the multiple endings, the genius and challenge of the puzzles, the variety of different gameplay, the great PC speaker music. Sivion gets a mention because of its storyline, graphics, and length... it was one of the first ZZT games that actually felt "epic". Some other ones I remember fondly are Bobo, an obscure game with seizure-inducing graphics, Coolness, Matt Williams' debut game that taught everyone how to do ANSI fades, Legend of Brandonia, a pre-STK medieval adventure game, and Escape From Planet Red, a short story-based adventure on Mars.

Have you created any games outside of ZZT?

Yes, quite a number of MZX games, which I'm more known for. The Engine series, Final Fantasy EdVenture, nWo Hollywood (a wrestling/RPG), Seiken Densetsu:Blade of Islan, Magic Ripple Remix, and Kikan.

Do you have any artistic pursuits other than making games?

Not particularly... I enjoy drawing/sketching, but I don't really have a lot of free time these days, sadly.

What are you up to, lately (in life, generally)?

Currently I'm working full time as a software engineer for Northrop Grumman, nearly finished with a Masters degree in Systems Engineering. Just gotta write a thesis paper :P I still live at home and am saving up for a down payment on a house or condo... I live in an area notorious for extremely high housing costs.

Has your experience with ZZT or the ZZT scene made any sort of lasting impact on your life?

Well, ZZT-OOP and later Robotic were some of my first experiences with programming langauges. Which of course led me to majoring in Computer Science in college, and eventual work as a software engineer... I think a lot of the old ZZT/MZX developers ended up on this same route.

What works of non-ZZT art have inspired you the most?

A lot of my early games were inspired heavily by Piers Anthony's Xanth series. Those were probably my favorite books as a kid, and several names/places have ended up making it into my titles.

Musically, I listened to lots of ambient and downtempo when working on my early games, later my games are heavily influenced by and feature trance/progressive music. Artists like Sasha and Digweed, Tiesto, Armin Van Buuren, Sander Kleinenberg, and Ferry Corsten.

Of course I'll have to mention games. The classic Nintendo franchises, the SNES RPG cadre, and the original Phantasy Star have had a hand in influencing everything I've ever made.

Lately, I've been branching out, reading beyond the typical fantasy/sci-fi novellas I used to. Heart of Darkness and Guns, Germs, and Steel were two of the more interesting books I've read lately, not to mention I've also been getting into politics and real world affairs. So the direction for my next MZX game will make reference to lots of current events and economic systems.

Do you have any interesting stories to relate about ZZT or the ZZT scene?

Not particularly... well a few weeks ago I was at E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) and ran into Chris Kohler, the creator of the Yoshi ZZT games, writer of "Powered Up:How Japanese Video Games Gave The World An Extra Life", and writer for Wired's Game|Life blog. So I went up to him and told him that I was a really big fan of the Yoshi games, he laughed and then looked at my nametag and said "I seem to remember you being big with ZZT back in the day". Which was cool, because I've always thought his involvement with ZZT was slightly before my time.

Do you plan to create any games in the future, with or without ZZT?

Currently I am working on Kikan for MegaZeux... basically an update to one of my older MZX games. The original version of Kikan was laced with profanity and bathroom humor, a buggy battle system, and an aimless storyline. But, the setting was cool and some of the graphics were well done. So one day I got the idea to adapt the game into something totally different... give it a brand new battle engine based on the Shadow Hearts series, a reasonably serious new storyline, new music, but keep most of the graphics, puzzles, music as is. The setting of the original Kikan was mostly based on New York City, so admitting to this was an obvious step, and the new storyline tackles stuff like drug addiction, globalization, Latin American politics, Thomas Malthus... I basically wanted to do something a bit different than the majority of MZX (or even professional) titles.

I've also been thinking about a classic-styled ZZT game just for old time's sake. Z2 has some rule that they won't add games that don't feature STK usage in it, so I wanted to make a quality game using only the default 7 colors to try and see if they'll block the game =]

And perhaps in the future I will make something in RPG Maker XP or Game Maker.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Not really, although like others said I'm surprised its been 10 years... yeah, this June will be the 10 year anniversary of Engine, the first game I publicly released. ZZT has existed as is for 15 years. Glad to see the ZZT scene being alive and well, just keep releasing those quality games!

- May 2006