Just to clarify a bit of history: the mainframe Zork I am playing was too large a game for personal computers at the time, so when it went commercial it got split into Zork I, II, and III. Since I have only played the commercial versions playing mainframe Zork is like a fuzzy mash-up of my childhood memories.
One thing I noticed (compared to modern games) with Adventure and now also Zork is that it is enjoyable to explore a wide open space; the feeling of world-immersion is strong even when many of the room descriptions are unassuming.
You are in a clearing, with a forest surrounding you on the west and south.
There is a pile of leaves on the ground.
Modern adventures and interactive fiction tend to a tight room-structure, where no space is “wasted”. With a full enough immersion in the world-space I don’t believe rooms are necessarily wasted. I’ll catch myself on that by saying I have experienced many adventure games where wasted rooms are both meaningless and painful (the worst offender I recall is Time Zone) and I can’t mathematize why Zork is different; just the amount of space feels right.
Not all is perfect with the geography, though. There appears a willful desire on the designer’s part that if you entered a room by going east, going west will not get you back to the same room. I can’t tell you how many times I had to redo room connections while working on the larger dungeon map:
Mapping with Trizbort is nice in that I can shift around whole sections to get the geography right. For example, there’s a “South Reservoir” that later connects up with a “North Reservoir”, so it’d be nice to have them in direct line with each other, but I had originally drawn the two areas all the way across from each other on the map. Just about a minute of cut and paste and everything was fixed. I suspect the general relationship of geography is important for at least one puzzle so I want to get it right.
The first maze (there’s at least one more, and I hear there’s a third epic one later) has a cute tribute to Adventure. It appears the same intrepid explorer who got carried away by elves in triumph didn’t make it in the Zork universe.
Incidentally, I’ve been picking up very little in the way of objects. The inventory limit is brutal, but interestingly enough it is based on object weight rather than exact number. It’s a nice touch of world-modeling which isn’t duplicated that often (I think?) in this era. The upshot is I’ve hardly started on puzzle solving at all. I do remember Zork I well enough that some parts will give me no trouble, but my Zork II and Zork III are quite foggy. There’s a rotating circular room that is driving me nuts. I presume there’s some way to stop it? I have forgotten how.