Welcome to the Z-Files Catalogue! While achieving neither the breadth, nor the depth, nor the inaccuracy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the Catalogue does provide an index and guide to over 275 programs - mostly games - in z-code.
What is "z-code", you ask? Z-code is a program written to run on an simple "virtual" computer called a Z-machine. You don't need to own a Z-machine to play these games, merely an interpreter program to make your computer behave like a Z-machine. [Try the How To Play These Games button.] The format was invented by Joel Berez and Marc Blank in 1979 as a solution to the twin problems of writing fairly sophisticated text-based "adventure" games that would fit in the somewhat restricted confines of the personal computers of the day, and making those games portable across a wide variety of computing "platforms". The story actually is quite fascinating and we won't go into it here at all.
Bottom line - the Z-machine format provides a broadly recognized, world-wide standard for adventure game files, which we rather grandly call "interactive fiction".
The Z-Catalogue indexes the best (and worst) (and in-between) of these games available to the public since the semi-mythical Age of Infocom, the first great commercial provider of adventure games. [Zork I - III, Enchanter, Deadline, Starcross, A Mind Forever Voyaging, Trinity ...]
Most if not all of these games were written in the programming language INFORM, a master work by Graham Nelson. Si monumentum requiris, circumspice. If you are at all interested in writing and creating text adventure games, you would be well advised to suss the INFORM home page. A generally lively and every-so-often informative discussion of the art and craft of game writing takes place on the interactive fiction news group rec.arts.int-fiction.
Still confused? Listen, it's easier to learn by doing. Read the "How To". Pick up a good interpreter. Play a game. Try Curses (the game, of course).
The Catalogue lists the last known source for each game or program, when available. Most may be found at the original and primary IF-Archive site in Germany, generously hosted by ftp.gmd.de (ftp) or at one of several excellent mirror sites:
There is some vaguely technical detail about the data file and construction of this catalogue for those who wish to customize it in the "About..." file.
This catalogue stopped being current on 22 July 1999.