Dave's Mac OS X Interactive Fiction Interpreters Page

Posted 2004-08-22

I haven't seen much written about this in the past two years, so I thought I that would ring in on the state of interactive fiction interpreters for OS X.

Here is a snapshot of the landscape. The assessment criteria are arbitrary and reflect my own preferences.

Interpreter Version
Author(s)
v6 z-code
Mac OS Classic
Mac OS 10.2
Mac OS 10.3 Mac OS 10.4 Resizable Window
Bit mapped fonts
Download URL
Infocom pre-v6

Unknown
No
Yes
Yes (in Classic) No
n/a
n/a
Infocom v6

Unknown
Yes
Yes
No
n/a
n/a
MacFrotz
beta 7
Application by Scott Lahteine.
Frotz core by Stefan Jokisch.
Frotz core ported to UNIX by David Griffith.
No
No
Yes
Yes
No
home page
Nitfol
0.5
Evin Robertson.
Glk Library by Andrew C. Plotkin.
No
Yes
Yes (in Classic) Yes
Yes home page
if-archive
0.5 Carbon
Evin Robertson.
Glk Library by Andrew C. Plotkin.
Carbonized by Matthew Russotto.
Yes home page
MaxZip
1.7.8
Andrew C. Plotkin.
Zip code base by Mark Howell.
No
Yes
Yes (in Classic) Yes Yes
if-archive
home page
Zip Infinity Carbon
1.4.1
Application by Matthew Russotto.
Zip code base by Mark Howell.
No
Yes
Yes No No
Yes
home page

2.1X2 /
"V6" (Non-)Release 3.
Application by Matthew Russotto.
Zip code base by Mark Howell.
Yes
No Yes (in Classic) Yes (in Classic*) v6: n/a.
other: Yes.
home page
Zoom
v1.0.0
Andrew Hunter
?
No


No
?

?
home page
v1.0.1
Yes
Yes Yes
No
home page
v1.0.2
No ? Yes home page
v1.0.3 No ? Yes home page
v1.0.4 Yes ? Yes home page

*About Box will crash Classic

As you can see, the ifarchive is unfortunately not the best place to go to get the latest versions of OS X interpreters.

There are good things about all these programs. It's a tough choice, but my favorite is Nitfol 0.5 Carbon.

Nitfol 0.5 Carbon

Nitfol 0.5 Carbon is shown below running Spellbreaker with Dave Cotter's Apple II Font 1.1.

Screenshot of Nitfol 0.5 Carbon

Everyone has done a nice job here with the resizeable, integrated scroll bar. It even supports copy and paste!

As an aside to developers, it seems to me that any future development of the Mac Glk library would reasonably start here.  The change logs in the source distribution do not cover the carbonization effort to run native on Mac OS X, so I derived a diff file for reference. It may also have been necessary to change the Nitfol code in order to work with Project Builder / xCode.

Head-to-head: version 6 z-code Support

Despite the hassle, Infocom's version 6 z-code games were kind of fun. Especially Zork Zero, with its geographical text frames, room icons, and games-within-the-game.

The same characteristics that make an interpreter good for other versions don't necessarily make it good for version 6. Your options for playing version 6 games are Infocom's own v6 interpreter, Zoom, and Zip Infinity v6 Carbon.

The strong suit of Zoom is it's ability to handle graphics-laden v6 z-code without sacrificing window resizing for text-only games.

Zip Infinity Screenshot

However, as you can see, text is framed a little oddly. Ironically, this may be due to Zoom's faithfulness in correctly implementing the blorb spec.

For whatever reason, the prereleased Zip Infinity v6 Carbon does a better job of handling this.

Zip Infinity Screenshot

However, like its non-v6 counterpart, it does not support screen resizing at all. Despite the title, Zip Infinity v6 Carbon only runs under classic on Mac OS 10.2 or 10.3. Maybe it ran natively in earlier OS X versions.

If you are willing to forgo blorb and quetzal support, you can still of course use Infocom's v6 interpreter, which shipped with Zork Zero, Shogun, Journey, and Arthur. Just move the game application file to the directory with your Z-code story file and graphics files.

It should be noted that none of these options support copy and paste, but then again neither do WinFrotz and WinFrotz2002 on Windows.

Update 2006-03-06

Ivan Drucker has thoughtfully brought some great Zoom updates to my attention (about which I have revised the above chart), and has provided the following information on running z-code on OS X using Java and Terminal:

Java

Zinc 1.0.4: <http://zinc-if.sourceforge.net> This is a pure Java app, so
it runs on Mac OS X 10.2.3 with Java 1.4.1 or later . . . it plays z1-
5/8, allows you to customize fonts and colors, and has a couple of novel
features: an integrated mapping tool (which is clunky, and not really
integrated into the actual game), and, more interestingly, the ability to
play collaboratively over a network. I haven't tried the latter but the
idea will keep it on my machine

Terminal

Command line interpreters: Perhaps they don't count, but I think there's
a certain charm, given what you're using them for.

JZip 2.1: Mac OS X binary is available at this page: <http://
www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20010407020830755> (bundled with
the Zork trilogy). It plays z1-5/8. I was able to start up AMFV with it
and it looked about right. The JZip project page is at <http://
jzip.sourceforge.net>, but has no link or mention to the OS X build. 

Frotz 2.4.1: I'm sure you know this already, but the Mac OS X binary
(with a friendly Mac OS X installer and ReadMe) is at <http://
www.ifarchive.org/if-archive/infocom/interpreters/frotz/frotz-2.41-
MacOSX.dmg.sit>. (There is also a 2.4.3 executable inside the MacFrotz
distribution, but it does not format nicely since it's actually
DumbFrotz.)

daveform-at-gmail-period-whatever