About The Z-Catalogue...

You should never have your best trousers on when you go out to fight for freedom and truth.
- Ibsen

With this release the definitive (haw!) list of text adventure games and miscellany written to the classic Z-machine specification migrates to yet another format - in this case a linked set of html documents. The thinking behind this decision is that html provides a relatively universal platform for disseminating such a document.

"Michael! Endeavor to get a grip!" I hear people crying, "WinTel-PC-generated text files aren't nearly as portable as the Z-code format itself! Many of us have to do something about those nasty little x0dx0a line terminators! Gunther [Schmidl] had the right idea when he released the Z-Files list as a z-code program!"

Well, yes. There's a lot of truth to that. On the other hand, (particularly if we allow such novelties as the use of frames) the basic html format does allow somewhat more convenience and freedom in presenting the information to the user. For one thing, hypertext links to the actual games can be embedded in the document, something which is difficult to do at present in z-code.

Still, differences of opinion are what make a horse race. For that reason, the distribution file includes some extras. Most importantly, the data file used to generate the Z-Catalogue. You will find it in the file zfiles.dat. It is a simple, flat ASCII data file (lines terminated, of course, in x0dx0a), one record per line, fields demarcated by the '|' character. The comments at the beginning of the file document the data format.

The format is relatively easy to process and work with using handy utility languages like perl (the one I personally would recommend.) In fact, the entire suite of Z-Catalogue html documents can be updated at a stroke when the data are updated using the (included) perl program found in the file make_zcode_cat.pl. So if you like the html format, but just want to tweak appearances, go to it.

Touching on the matter of the hypertext links: Many of these games, of course, are to be found in the IF-Archive at ftp.gmd.de or one of the several mirror sites. By default the hypertext links to the game files embedded in the Catalogue-as-released take you to the gmd site. You might well prefer to be linked to one of the mirror sites instead for greater speed. To achieve this, you must change Line 47 of the perl program and recompile the Catalogue. This is line 47:

$archive = "ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive"; # default expansion for the archive site

Substitute the appropriate hypertext path to the root directory of the mirror archive you wish to use.

This edition builds on previous lists of z-code games compiled (first) by Brendon Wyber and Neil Brown, and updated by Gunther Schmidl. I have added as many new or previously unlisted games as I could find, and the Catalogue now includes a section devoted to non-English games (look it up under the "genres" index and yes, I do know that is not a proper use of the word genre.) By the way, I've made a good-faith effort to classify games according to the current list of categories (found, incidentally, in the file genre.dat), but some of the classifications were legacy from earlier lists, and some were perverse guesses. If you want your game reclassified for future revisions to the Catalogue, write me, but don't bother to heap abuse.

If you opened this document first, hoping to figure out what is going on, the entry document for the Z-Catalogue is ZCatalog.htm for the version using html frames and ZCatalogNF.htm for the version without frames.

Michael Baum
dba shubunkin@earthlink.net
10 June 1999