Battle of the Z-Machines?

When trying to write the best game possible, to be run on modern computers, there’s very little reason to use PunyInform or Metrocenter84. And I would think the same goes for ZIL. Even I would have to advice people to use Inform 6 or 7 to write a game for a competition like this.

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If it were a jam focused on .z3 / .z5 and targetting 8 / 16 bit platforms, then that’s enough of a niche to warrant its own jam, otherwise I would suggest such a jam would essentially be cannibalising IFComp, whose (parser game) entrants overwhelmingly use Inform 6 or 7 (which to all intents and purposes represent 99.9% of modern z machine development). I would imagine Fredrik is already considering such a jam anyway,.

It takes a lot of effort to organise, to promote, and to organise prizes. Will you be creating a prize fund for this jam?

ZIL, whilst an interesting technology, is (imho) not practical for making games in 2020. Inform 6/7 are better documented, more readable, and less convoluted.

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I actually agree. But I would caveat that with “whatever the person prefers, they can use.” For example as things stand I know far more about ZIL that Inform 6, so if there were a competition next month ZIL would be my system of choice. Equally I know PunyInform has been really well received so again people would use this if that is the system they know.

I’ve made a start learning Inform 7 and, file size aside (which for me isn’t really an issue anyway), I can immediately see the benefits. I would concur that for a straight-up competition, not targeting 8/16-bit micros, it would make sense to use Inform 7.


Good points, agreed. I’d certainly imagined this being additional to IFComp and not carving anything out of it, although appreciate there would be some inevitably.


I have (unsurprisingly) a different take on this. Inform 6 and 7 absolutey have immeasurably more resources, and whole communities of users. However, having tried Inform 6 i’ve found it to be another programming language - which is no different to ZIL. I’d even go further and argue that ZIL code makes more “sense” to me. My personal opinion is that in isolation, comparing code to code and excluding resources and community support, I don’t agree with Inform 6 being any “easier” than ZIL. Once you include resources then yes it’s easier to learn because you have more resources, but the code itself - pound for pound - really doesn’t feel more readable to me.

Inform 7 however is a different beast. If file size isn’t a concern then aside from strong personal preference I would agree it makes far more sense to use versus anything else.


I’ll be in the corner, rattling off my usual “we don’t need more organized competitions, we need more organized collaborations” patter.


At IFComp’s current size, “cannibalizing” it isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

(I keep waiting for someone to run another ParserComp.)

We could be talking about a few different goals, I guess:

  • Parser jam
  • Z-machine jam
  • Z-machine V3 jam
  • Z-machine runs-on-the-C64 jam
  • Z-machine jam for non-standard-Inform tools (ZIL+Puny+Metro)
  • Single-tool jam (ZIL jam, etc)

Just gotta decide what itch you’re scratching.


I would like to see a z3/z5 jam. I would also like it to be limited 8/16 bit platforms but that would probably be too limiting. 8/16 bit would be challenging for players that don’t have retro machines or emulators to run the game on.

I have a game that I am developing with I6. So far, it is too challenging for the early beta testers that have tried it. z5 would also open the jam to games developed with Dialog.


As long as the game is playable on 8/16 bit there is nothing stopping players to play the game on newer HW.

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We can possibly reduce this further.

In reverse order:

Single tool jam. ZIL, to be blunt we don’t have the numbers. Adventuron already run regular (and very successful jams). We could run InformJam but at that stage, for the numbers involved, we could just open it up to all which nicely takes us to…

ZIL+Puny+Metro. I may be wrong where Puny and Metro are concerned, but typically these systems would target Z3 and Z5 anyway which therefore takes us to…

C64+Spectrum Next. This would work, would tie in nicely to the Kickstarter 2 for Speccy Next and the impending C65. If using Inform 6/7 you can ramp it down to target Z3/5 then again it could be open for all (pick your weapon of choice). This therefore also pulls in…

Z-Machine V3 Jam. Essentially, this IS the C64/Next Jam.

Z-Machine jam. All comers, and as correctly suggested may just turn into Inform 6 & 7 but so be it. The point is that you can pick your preferred system.

Parser jam. So as not to leave out the TADS and Adrift crews, this could be an option.

So at least three of the above could be tweaked to be the same jam/comp.


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This. :slightly_smiling_face:

Spectrum Next and C65 (Mega65) :+1:

When was the last ParserComp? Are there any details of it online?

… Heads off to do a Google search for ‘ParserComp’…

Hmm. ParserComp 2.0 anybody?

Did I read there was an open source “competition handling machine” somewhere that would handle 80% of the nitty gritty of this list?

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Here’s’s documentation on how to set up a jam: they likely allow most of the things you need…

The iconoclastic Amazing Quest shows one potential way forward on that: a web-based emulation container that (almost) anybody can easily access.


Gauging interest in ParserComp 2.0…

I would still rather play them on the real iron…

Silicon? :wink:


I like the idea of a Z-code jam or comp. It really doesn’t matter what language you use (Dialog, Inform 6, Inform 7, ZIL) or what library you use (standard library, PunyInform, Metrocenter, Platypus, something of your own or no library at all). All that matters is the end result, although I think the end result should be z3, z5 or z8. If it works on old 8/16-bit platforms, then that’s just a bonus.


If the allowed development systems are so broad, I don’t see any reason not to include TADS.