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The PA Report - The bittersweet story of the “last” physical copy of PC classic ZZT

DogDog Registered User, Administrator, Vanilla Staff admin

imageThe PA Report - The bittersweet story of the “last” physical copy of PC classic ZZT

Tim Sweeney is the founder of Epic Games, the company that created the many iterations of the Unreal Engine, and he’s been interested in helping people create their own games since the beginning of his career. Sweeney’s first officially released game was called ZZT, and it allowed players to make their own levels and content.

Read the full story here


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  • GunganGungan Registered User regular
    edited November 2013
    There’s no love in the physical object anymore.

    Completely false. The only "people" who feel this way are large corporations because physical stuff costs money to print.

    Cool story though. I had no idea Epic made Jill of the Jungle and Jazz Jackrabbit.

    Gungan on
  • AlcasteAlcaste Registered User regular
    @Gungan - Yeah, it always seemed an interesting thing to me. They also made Xargon and Epic Pinball, two games that pretty much defined me as a kid (Well, along with Jazz.) Epic Pinball is still the best pinball video game ever made.

    It didn't click until way later, when I was playing a demo for unreal tournament, that epic games and epic megagames were the same company. Unfortunately, I lost interest in them around the time gears of war came about. They're too focused on manly space marines now :(

    Interesting story. I always wondered what would happen if you filled out one of those forms and sent it out. I still get the marketing spiel every time I finish playing one of my older games.

  • grimjinxgrimjinx Registered User new member
    This is why PAR is the best. Easily the most well written of the articles about this story.

  • SomeguitaristSomeguitarist Registered User regular
    And this whole time I'd been debating whether to get Zelda digital or physically.

    Guess that sells it!

  • chispitochispito Registered User regular
    Whenever I read "Epic Games" my brain fills in the preceding "Mega."

  • BrinkmanBrinkman Registered User regular
    Great story!

    It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. -Thomas Jefferson
  • 3clipse3clipse I will build a labyrinth to house the cheese Labyrinths are awesome!Registered User regular
    That dude's dad seems really cool. I love the image of an old retired man mailing out a few games every week.

    XBL: R3clipse
    Steam: BIRD BIRD KILL IT
    Battle.net: Eclipse#1200
  • TiberiusEsuriensTiberiusEsuriens Registered User regular
    There's a big difference between what people love and want versus what they'll pay for. I love physical copies and displaying them on my shelves (I still have the bulky Win95 boxes for Tie Fighter and Dark Forces!) but at this day and age digital copies not only take up less storage space, but they are getting a lot cheaper to buy.

  • KenninatorKenninator Registered User regular
    Awesome article. More sweet than bittersweet.

  • bocklingbockling Registered User regular
    Great article. I remember creating levels in ZZT in the early 90s on my family's old Packard Bell. I actually wasn't aware of it's storied history and connection to present-day Epic. It gave me a whole new appreciation for one of my favorites. It's really the first experience that started me on a path toward programming and logic.

  • CanuckMonkeyCanuckMonkey Registered User new member
    Thank you so much, Ben, for such a beautifully written article.

    I'd also like to say that I sure hope Paul Sweeney is aware of just how awesome he is.

  • ziddersroofurryziddersroofurry Registered User regular
    Physical Ga Ga
    (with apologies to Queen)

    I'd sit alone by the monitor light
    My only friend through teenage nights
    And all the games I fondly recall
    All on disks that were physical
    (Physical).

    Held within strange worlds and fantasies
    Just slip them in and set your mind free
    You made us jump, you made us shoot
    By using physical disks to compute.(Physical)

    So don't become more junkyard trash
    Or some old time nerds lost program stash
    Some just don't know or just don't care
    And just complain when you're not there
    You had your time, you had the power
    You've yet to have your finest hour
    Physical.

    All we hear is Physical ga ga
    Physical goo goo
    Physical ga ga
    All we hear is Physical ga ga
    Physical blah blah
    Physical, what's new?
    Physical, someone still loves you!

  • Dirk_GentlyDirk_Gently Registered User regular
    I found my 5.25 discs for Battle Chess last night. This article seems perfectly apt for my last 24 hours. =)

  • ScarvyeScarvye Registered User regular
    I was an avid Megazeux player / game developer for a while. There's actually still a bustling community of MZX game creators out there. : )

  • Casey ReeceCasey Reece Registered User regular
    This is a truly great story, and the way Ben narrated it was just perfect.

    Seriously man. It's articles like these that get me to come here.

    Oh, and there's a typo in the second last paragraph: " . . . but it's a relic of a time when “publishing a game” often mean something very intimate." ("meant" not "mean" - right?)

  • SiaerSiaer Registered User new member
    Thank you for this story. This is the kind of thing that really draws me back here day after day. It is something you almost never see from other gaming news sites around the web.

    Awesome stuff.

  • LoneGunmanLoneGunman Registered User regular
    I remember trolling office supply stores for games in zip lock bags with games like ZZT, hand copied and labeled with manuals that were obviously photocopied. Hit or miss but sometimes you'd find a gem...::sigh:: I think I'll troll Steam for a game on sale that I can download in 2 minutes... :)

  • moosemaimermoosemaimer Registered User regular
    Publishers still have a love affair with the physical, they just turn it into the $150 "Collector's" edition. Saints Row IV had a purple-lit rotating glass display case for the game.

  • streeverstreever Registered User regular
    great article! filled me with nostalgia.

  • MartyWMartyW Registered User new member
    I used to help Tim make copies of ZZT and Jill of the Jungle in his dad's basement back in the day. We were next door neighbors and grew up together. It was very exciting when he first bought a 3.5" disk duplicator which could copy a whole stack of about 50 floppies in an hour. We used to do it all by hand, disk swapping on a '286.

    If you don't count his family, I think I was technically employee #2 at $8/hr.

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