Along with a mainframe Star Trek adventure game, the next widely popular computer game after Spacewar is Hunt the Wumpus aka Wump, developed by Gregory Yob on a Time-Sharing System at the University of Massachusettes in Dartmouth in 1972. A text based game, you move around a system of connected caves, arrmed with only five arrows, searching out the elusive Wumpus creature which is also roaming about. In each room you are given clues to happenings in the surrounding caves...you may feel a draught from one of the lethal bottomless pits scattered around, hear a pack of bats that will carry you away to a random cave, or even smell the mighty beast itself. The object is to fire an arrow into the room which contains the Wumpus.
The code is eventually published in the magazine Creative Computing in 1975, after the game becomes a huge hit over the ARPAnet. You can't throw a brick at the Web without hitting six online Wumpus games nowadays. Probably the most complex, with graphics and a multi-player element, is Web Wumpus from Glenn Bresnahan at Boston University.
Adventure aka ADVENT aka Colossal Caves is the next logical evolution of computer games, a complete text-based adventure game by Willie Crowther. It is written in FORTRAN on the venerable PDP-1 in 1972 while Crowther is working for Bolt, Beranek and Newman, Inc. (BBN), the Boston company made up mostly of MIT students which is awarded the contract to develop the ARPAnet for the U.S. government. Later, at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab at Stanford University, the game is discovered and expanded on by Don Woods. Crowther is inspired by the new fantasy themed paper-and-dice game Dungeons and Dragons which is just starting to become popular. More inspiration comes from his adventures as an avid spelunker. In Adventure, you must explore the vast Colossal Caves and return to the starting point with as many treasures as you can. The locations are based on his and his wife's exploration of the Mammoth Cave system in Kentucky. The original parser in the game is a rudimentary "verb-noun" structure, but the descriptions are very compelling. Again, access to the mainframe running the program through the ARPAnet allows the program to become very popular among university students across the country.
Sitting on MIT's PDP-10, Zork (briefly re-named Dungeon before possible trademark infringement questions arise) undergoes the obligatory mass dissemination across the ARPAnet. Hundreds of users become fixated on the game, and the developers use the many suggestions that pour in for improvements and puzzle additions to the game. Trying to prevent their exposure to the outside world for as long as possible, the Zork group incorporates a new company, Infocom. The final puzzle is added to Zork in 1979, and as the game hits the one megabyte size wall the final mainframe update is made in 1981.
Meanwhile, the microcomputer is born. As systems like Tandy's TRS-80 and the Apple II begin to catch on with the public, the Zork team sees a way that their new company could actually start selling something. Blank and friend Joel Berez start work on an ingenious system to move Zork from mainframe to home computer by creating a special language that would run on an emulator, able to operate in any computer environment. The Z-Machine is invented as a non-existent processor that will run the new, compressed Zork Implementation Language (ZIL). Each PC will run it's own Z-Machine Interpreter Program (ZIP) to interpret the Z-Machine instructions and run the games. But Zork is still way too large to fit into the minuscule memory limitations of home computers, so a large section is taken from the overall program to become Zork I.
In 1979, after extensive refinements and bug testing, Infocom starts to shop Zork I around for a distributer. They find one in Personal Software Inc., aka Visicorp (makers of VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet program for PCs), and Infocom cashes their first royalty cheque as Zork I for the TRS-80 hits the streets in time for Christmas. In 1980, working for Apple, Bruce Daniels creates a ZIP for the Apple II. 6000 copies of Zork I sell for the machine in eight months. In all, one million copies of Zork I sell world-wide for a wide variety of computer platforms. While working on the sequel, the Infocom group becomes unhappy about PS's lackluster support for Zork I, and decide to publish the games themselves. Bringing on marketing manager Mort Rosenthal, they set up offices and make their debuts as software publishers with Zork II. There are ten Zork games produced in total, and Infocom goes on to become one of the biggest computer game companies in the industry, making over 35 games for every mentionable personal computer platform.
While Zork is sitting on a mainframe at MIT in 1977, systems programmer Scott Adams (not the Dilbert creator) is an avid fan of mainframe interactive fiction such as Crowther and Wood's Adventure, and is convinced that text adventures can make the jump to the limited memories of microcomputers. To prove it, he works night and day writing Adventureland in TRS-80 BASIC. At one point, his neglected wife Alexis throws the disks containing the source code into the oven, hoping to catch her husband's attention. But the game survives the broiling, and in 1978 the first commercial text adventure is released by the newly Adams-founded company Adventure International. Available on tape, the game is a success, selling around 10,000 units. In a case of "if you can't beat em, join em", Alexis designs Scott Adams Adventure #4: Voodoo Castle.