Would anyone object to a Zork 2086?

Set 100 years before the events of Starcross, you, an intrepid courier, must break into a building to steal plans for a legendary starship. Before long, you find yourself venturing into the depths of an underground city named Zork, and discovering things that were best left unfound…


Basically, to open the Titanium Hyper-Magnet+ safe which holds the documents, you must:

Are you sure?

summon a demon lord from the ground, which causes an earthquake which breaks open the safe!

But the idea is that you’ll need to collect 10 ancient treasures, like the original. Be honest: is that getting too old?


I think it would be a lot harder to make a good Zork game than it would be to make a good game with a lot of Zork references, if that makes sense.


I mean, it sounds like fun to me! I don’t think it’s too old. Plenty of players still like game styles that were popular a while ago, same way plenty of people still like classic rock or classical music. I’d say, make what you like!

Why were you thinking people would object to it?


When people really love a canonical work, they can be downright spiteful if they perceive that someone is messing with it. I myself will not watch the TV show about Emily Dickinson, because just no, no, NO.


Given that we’re currently doing a let’s play of a Zork game on this forum, I think it’s safe to say the audience here isn’t tired of Infocom homages.

The real question is, what aspects of Zork are you trying to emulate? The old-school feel of a lot of random milieus mashed together with fairly arbitrary puzzles that let you collect treasures? Old-school-esque games certainly still have an audience, but to me there’s not much that distinguishes “Zork-esque” from “Colossal Cave-esque” (especially the later expansions like the 500-point one) or “Phoenix-esque” (except the difficulty I suppose).


We’re the wrong people to ask. Zork is a trademark of a big corporation with well-paid lawyers. If you don’t have permission from them, you’d be well advised to make a game in the style you’re describing, rather than putting something out there that steps on someone else’s IP.

(The thing I’m currently working on started out as an adventure in Planetfall’s Stellar Patrol. It’s something else now.)


Well, you can’t make fan fiction without stepping on someone else’s IP.


Yeah, Activision has generally not cared about people referencing their Infocom IP. It’s possible someone could get sued over a Zork reference but I don’t think it’s likely enough to worry over.


^ This is true, though of course it’s possible Microsoft might become the overall IP holder if their proposed merger with ActTard goes through. Anyway I wouldn’t think that changes the situation too much, but as with most fan fiction, my personal orientation would be to move ahead but be psychologically prepared for the small but nonzero chance that you’ll get a nastygram and have to make some changes.

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The MIT Zork/Dungeon isn’t owned by Activision. One could probably dress it lika a fan-fiction spinning off that?

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No individual is going to be in a position to seriously litigate the nuances of the difference between the Infocom Zork IP and the MIT Zork IP, though – in practice, you’re either going to get a cease and desist letter or not, and if you do, you’re going to cease and desist. And the trigger for getting such a letter would probably be if an automated search for typical Zork-y terms – Zork, grue, GUE, etc. – turns up your thing. So to my mind, you’d either just file off all the serial numbers up front, or go ahead with the game you want to make while accepting that there’s a small chance you’ll need to file said serial numbers off later.


There’s no law against allusion, of course, which I would say is the better call anyway

At least until I release my upcoming game, Zork Zero II


I’ve made a ZIL-version of the earliest known Zork (from early summer of 1977). No cease and desist, yet…


I would love to play that game if it is well done!

It is always good to be careful but I found all these on IFDB:
Zork LXIX: The Great Underground Hot Dog
Zork N plus 9
zork, buried chaos
Zork: A Troll’s-Eye View
Zork: The Cavern of Doom
Zorkian Stories 1: G.U.E.
Realistic Zork

AFAIK, no one got sued :slight_smile:

BTW, Stefano Canali got permission to convert “Return to Zork” to a text adventure.

However, it might not be eligible for IFComp because the IFTF at least used to be very strict on copyrights, which makes sense. However, I hope that Spring Thing will not officially be owned by IFTF so they could have a less worried approach to it.


The current IFComp rules are friendly to fanfic games. Although I would avoid using any Infocom source code in an IFComp entry.

In fact no – the “Zork” trademark lapsed twenty years ago. (Weirdly, though, the “Return to Zork” trademark is still active. Not the other titles, just that one.)

“Infocom” as a trademark also lapsed, and has been picked up by a series of unrelated parties for apparently trivial reasons. There’s a whole story there which I won’t get into.


Would you entertain sharing a link so one might read about it themselves? Assuming it exists and also assuming it isn’t an inconvenience. Please?


I don’t know if there is anything newer, the last discussion was just a few months ago, Infocom IP Ownership 2022 where you can find links to Andrew’s detailed blog posts.


Thank you!


Hi everyone! This got me curious…I’m building a show called “The Great Underground Empire”, doing Parsely style text adventure role playing games. All the adventures are being written by me, so aside from the clear homage to Zork in the title, I’m not infringing any other copyrights.

However, I was intending to have a Patreon and profit from the show. I didn’t think Infocom would care about something that small on such an old game, but this thread made me worry.

Any idea if they would object and C&D me? I love the title but I don’t want to invest time and money in it only to be ordered to change or stop.

Thanks for your help!


This is not something I would worry about. There’s an “Eaten By a Grue” podcast, and while I don’t think they have a Patreon, it would be a stretch to imagine that any lawyer would tell them not to.

(However, I am not a lawyer.)

(I was curious and did a trademark search. It does not appear that Infocom or Activision ever trademarked “Great Underground Empire”.)