What is ZZT?

ZZT is a DOS computer game by Tim Sweeney that was released in 1991. Its graphics are character-based, which means that it uses nothing but ascii text. This may seem outdated by current standards, or even by 1991 standards, but there is a good reason the graphics are as they are--what became ZZT was originally intended to be simply a text editor.

The feature that makes ZZT what it is, and the reason that people still use it today, is the built-in editor that allows anyone to make additional games. A simple command language in the editor allows for great flexibility, and there exist well over a thousand custom worlds that people have made--possibly several times that number.

More ZZT trivia:
  • The name ZZT is not an acronym, but was an attempt to secure last place in alphabetical shareware listings.

  • Originally shareware, ZZT later became freeware.

  • Tim Sweeney's company, Epic MegaGames (now Epic Games), went on to create Jill of the Jungle, Epic Pinball, and Unreal.

Aren't newer, better game creation programs available now?

Many other programs exist that allow users to create their own games. (Megazeux, for example, is a more powerful program that was directly inspired by ZZT.) Because of its simplicity, however, ZZT remains a favorite medium for many people. Few other programs allow such creative freedom without requiring programming knowledge or years of work.

Now, it does take dedication to make a quality ZZT game--I put many hours into each of my games. But anyone with some creativity and dedication can make a good game in a relatively short time. Because of this, I think that people will continue to use ZZT regardless of how far it's left behind technologically.

How did you discover ZZT?

a computerMy friend Matthew Witt introduced me to ZZT in 1994. The idea of creating games of my own had always appealed to me, and I skipped the built-in game entirely to create a few boards of my own. However, I didn't really get started until 1995 when Matt loaned me an old 286. While searching for programs that would run on it, I remembered ZZT. In the process of creating crunchy, my first ZZT game, I learned the basic ZZT commands.

This was also around the time I was discovering the Internet. I decided to search for ZZT one day, and was excited to find games by other people on a few sites. The creativity and use of Greg Janson's Super Tool Kit (available in the utilities section) in games such as Escape From Planet Red by Barney9651, Llama Masters II by Scott Hammack, and Merbotia by Sonic256 showed me the true capabilities of ZZT. (These games are available in the games section.)

What is the purpose of this site?

When I learned some HTML, one of the first pages I made was ZZT heaven. ZZT games were scattered all over the Internet, and I wanted to create a single exhaustive collection of every ZZT game I could find. This was later done much better on other sites, and my ZZT page eventually evolved to become the one you see now.

As ZZT sites come and go, I maintain this site as a reliable resource for anyone interested in ZZT. I also simply enjoy creating and working on Web sites.

Do you still use ZZT?

I have a half-finished game that I intend to complete at some point, but I don't know when I'll get to it. I often feel inspired to start working on it again, but obviously I have not yet been inspired enough to actually do so.

My recent game-making efforts have been focused on Game Maker by Mark Overmars.

Where can I find other ZZT enthusiasts?

Xabbott's ZZT Archive was both the largest collection of ZZT games available and the center of the Internet ZZT community. When that site was discontinued, Z2 inherited both of these roles. Look there for current ZZT activity. Links to that and other ZZT sites can be found in the links section.