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Z-Comp (also called "Z-machine Compo") is a competition for writing Z-machine games. They are held on ifMUD; enter apartment 11011 (one way to do so is "@tel #20080" and then go into the apartment) and go northwest.

Alternatively, you may send a message to the organizer and he will put it in for you, if you prefer this way. However, if you do send a message instead of using the form, you should submit a few days early (the organizer then has to submit the form for you by the deadline instead). (Many people think the other way is too convoluted; it isn't, but now this other way is available if you prefer.)

Z-Comp is written partially in JotaCode and partially in SQL.

Some features of the Z-machine cannot be used in this competition:

  • Unicode
  • Blorb
  • Version 6

It is allowed to use these features, but the game must still work without them (and these files should be in a ZIP archive or something mentioned in the comment to the submission; this MUST NOT be included in whatever the main submission URL points to):

  • Pictures (incl. font 2) (Note: Using the format Infocom documented for XZIP (it was never used), the pictures are monochrome. Using this format is expected if you want to use pictures. There is a field for a MS-DOS filename of each individual picture; the purpose of this is unknown, but there is no rule in Z-Comp against its use.)
  • Sound effects (Note: The format of the MIDI files is unknown. If you can sufficiently figure it out, tell me, and they can be used. Otherwise only the Macintosh and PC formats should be used without MIDI (the Amiga format seems to require it).)
  • Auxiliary files (Note: These may be individual files or a ZAUX archive. You should not use MS-DOS device names, since it might not work properly on some operating systems if you do that.)

It is somewhat encouraged (although not required) to use "unusual" features of the Z-machine, such as:

  • Overlapping and shared property tables
  • Repointing property tables at runtime
  • Sharing global variables with default properties, object headers, etc
  • Modifying the alphabet table at runtime
  • Not being restricted to the word separators, dictionary format, etc of Inform
  • Modifying the dictionary at runtime (this is not possible in version 1 to 4, however, since the interpreter expects it to be in ROM and might cache the dictionary)
  • Self-modifying code in RAM
  • Taking advantage of the fact that the fixpitch bit in header is not restored after an undo, and reading that bit
  • Using the ordering of the object numbers and property table addresses

Important Note: Failure to follow the theme isn't grounds for disqualification, although your score may go down if you don't follow it. If you get good scores in the other categories, then it shouldn't matter so much, though. Feel free to completely ignore the theme if you want!


This is a copy of the rules. In case of disagreement (hopefully there isn't any!), the ones on the ifMUD are canonical, though.

File rules:

  1. The game must be in Z-machine format.
  2. Any programming language can be used if the output is Z-machine format.
  3. Z-machine versions 1 to 10 can be used, except version 6.
  4. Unicode and Blorb may not be used. Pictures, sounds, auxiliary files may be used but only if the game will still work perfectly fine without them. (You can post a submission comment mentioning the URL to download the pictures/sounds.)
  5. The game must be mainly in English.
  6. You may use unusual features of the Z-machine, such as modifying alphabet and dictionary at runtime, overlapping/shared property tables, repointing property tables, instructions in RAM, etc. However, it isn't required; it is merely "somewhat suggested".
  7. Usually it should be a text adventure game, which does not require the mouse, colors, etc, but you may require these things if you wish, and you may make a different kind of game if you wish, too.

Submission rules:

  1. No prior submissions of the same game (even if it was to a different context or just in general), unless it was previously incomplete (such as IntroComp) and is now completed. However, posting the same game to multiple comps simultaneously is OK (as long as those other comps also allow it).
  2. Complete games are preferable, although incomplete entries are also OK.
  3. The entry form must be filled correctly, otherwise you will be disqualified.
  4. The download file must be available over the internet, using one of the following protocols: Gopher, anonymous FTP, or HTTP. It must link directly to the story file, and remains there, unchanged, during the compo. (If it is HTTP, it *must* be implemented correctly. Google does not currently implement HTTP correctly, so you will probably be disqualified if you host them on Google.)
  5. You can start working on it at any time (including before it starts), but a "theme" (usualy two random Wikipedia article titles, and one I put in myself; you may treat them disjunctive ly or conjunctively, according to your preference) will be given at the start, and it is suggested (although not required) to follow it; this will give you a few extra points, too.
  6. It must be possible to complete the part of the game that is available. If you wish, you may make part of the game inaccessible if from a pirated copy, but if so, it should tell you when you get to the inaccessible part.
  7. You may send no more than one entry per ifMUD account; sending an entry on behalf of someone else is OK, though.
  8. You may submit using a pseudonym or anonymously if you wish, but not impersonating someone else.
  9. The license must allow at least redistribution of unmodified versions for noncommercial use, although it is recommended to be more permissive and/or copyleft than this.
  10. It is OK for the theme to only be used in a very minor part of the game, like in one room or something, or not at all; failure to follow the theme may result in a lower score but not disqualification. If you get good scores in the other categories, then it shouldn't matter if your score for theme is low.

Voting rules:

  1. Anyone may vote on any entry, including the author, beta-testers, etc.
  2. No person may post multiple votes on one entry, even if you have multiple ifMUD accounts.
  3. You may change your vote as often as you wish before the deadline.
  4. Voting after the deadline is prohibited.
  5. You can discuss Z-Comp at any time on the 'if/comps/zcomp' channel.

Use of voting computer:

  1. The main screen on the computer will display the relevant information about the compo, such as deadlines and themes. If it is not displayed, push zero to return to the main screen at any time.
  2. You can enter submenus from the main screen by pushing 1 for the list of entries, 2 for voting statistics, or 3 for diagnostics.

Voting fields:

  • qualify: Enter "9" if it qualifies, or "0" otherwise.
  • theme: Check how well it matches the "theme" of this compo.
  • puzzle: How good is the puzzles of the game.
  • original: Originality of this game.
  • technical: Does the technical aspect of the games works.
  • literature: Quality of literature/writing in this game.
  • plot: How good is the plot of the story.
  • difficulty: If difficulty level is OK.
  • gameplay: How good is gameplay in general working.
  • atmosphere: Atmosphere of story.
  • goodjob: If it is done a good job of making it, without bugs and incomplete stuff.
  • overall: Overall score.


Z-Comp #1

  • Entry deadline: Wednesday, 17 Jul 2013, 12:07:44 AM EDT
  • Voting deadline: Thursday, 5 Sep 2013, 12:07:57 AM EDT
  • Theme: Siderotil
  • Result: ***Cancelled***

Z-Comp #1 Take 2

  • Entry deadline: Saturday, 28 Sep 2013, 01:51:45 PM EDT
  • Voting deadline: Sunday, 17 Nov 2013, 07:14:36 PM EDT
  • Theme: Richardson fire // 2009-10 Leicester City F.C. season // Merciful to gibbering mouthers and the other monsters