A Z-Machine Interpreter for Palm
|6 January 2004:
||Frobnitz 1.02 released. Fixes the improperly mapped sz-ligature character and updates URLs.
|15 November 2003:
||Launched next generation project on SourceForge
|6 February 2001:
||Frobnitz 1.01 released. Updated color detection for compatibility with Backdrop GC.
|8 January 2001:
||Frobnitz 1.0 released.
Frobnitz is a Z-Machine interpreter that runs on PalmOS. What's
a Z-Machine, you ask? It's the virtual machine developed by Infocom for its
text adventures, also known as "interactive fiction". Infocom has
long since passed on, but the Z-Machine format has since been adopted for the
authoring of interactive fiction by others.
Frobnitz supports the following:
- V1-V5, V7, V8 story files formats.
- Full support for the upper window. An 80x25 screen is emulated and you can scroll
the upper window to view up to 40x17 of it at a time.
- A smart mode that can decode the upper window and display an easier to read
- Timed and interrupted input.
- Emulation of the mouse via the stylus.
- Color support (on color devices).
- Keyboard support.
- Line input is always done with a Palm input field, so you can use the
popup keyboard at any time.
- Excellent support for the Palm application model. Alarms and power saving features
aren't interfered with.
- Many shortcuts to avoid entering the same words over and over.
- A scrollback buffer.
- A method to allow you to read the "pop-ups" or "poems" that some games provide.
- Undo feature. For games that support it.
To usefully run Frobnitz, you will need the following:
- A PalmOS device. Virtually any vintage will do, provided you have enough free memory. Frobnitz itself
requires 64K; games typically consume 90-250K each.
- Games. If you still have copies of the original Infocom adventures that
have been crying for you to play them again, you can run them with Frobnitz.
If you don't, plenty of free Z-Machine adventures await your pleasure at the
Interactive Fiction Archive.
- A means of converting Z-Machine adventures into Palm database (.PDB) files.
We provide the tools to do this, but you'll need a compatible platform
on which to run them.
Frobnitz running Bureaucracy on a Palm V. Yes, all of the form-drawing
and cursor-positioning logic works properly.
||Frobnitz running Beyond Zork on a Palm IIIc. Note the
support for color. Tapping an exit on the map (not shown) will register as a move in
Software that you install to your Palm device and a file converter so you can install story files.
Includes an adaptation of the original Colossal Cave Adventure, already converted
to a Palm database (.PDB) file for your convenience.
The Interactive Fiction Archive
The definitive archive of all things IF. The original is hosted at the
GMD in Germany ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/.
The web mirrors should be faster for most visitors.
from the United States. Of particular interest will be the section devoted
adventures; you can run every game there on Frobnitz except those ending in ".z6".
XYZZYnews, the magazine for interactive fiction enthusiasts.
A yearly competition for short text adventures.
Unofficial Infocom Homepage
Definitive Homepage to pay homage to the company that created some of the best computer games.
You can download Zork I, II, and III from this site.
Inform: A Design System for Interactive Fiction
If you want to write games that can be played with Frobnitz (or any Z-machine) you need to get Inform.
A fantastic compiler suitable for anyone to learn to use.
- Does Frobnitz support Palm OS 5?
- Frobnitz will run without causing any serious problems on Palm OS 5. However, there are some
display glitches with the cursor. Also, a few devices generate wonky keypress codes which render
the scrollback useless.
- I found a bug in V1.02. What now?
- Frobnitz has been downloaded nearly 20,000 times over three years. In all this time the only
true bug found was an incorrectly mapped sz-ligature character. We're aware it's not compatible
with some hacks, storage in ROM or on removable media, and Palm OS 5 (technically, all features).
The V1 code is retired and a new version is in the works. All you can do is learn to live with
the problem and await a new release.
- What's the difference between Pilot Zip, Pilot-Frotz and Frobnitz?
- Pilot Zip is very old shareware, and is all but lost forever. Pilot-Frotz
is a freeware Z-Machine interpreter for the Palm platform written by
Paul Margrave. All three programs attempt to solve
the same problems, but go about it in different ways. You should feel free to try both Pilot-Frotz
and Frobnitz and use the one you like best.
- What does the word 'Frobnitz' mean?
- Nothing, really: it's a bit of hacker lore that originated at MIT decades
ago, and was incorporated into several of the Infocom titles by the company's
programmers, most of whom were MIT alumni. See the corresponding entry
at dictionary.com for further details.
- Where can I get those great games published by Infocom?
- Infocom and rights to all of it's games (except Hitchhiker's and Shogun) was bought by
Activision. For a while they were selling all the Infocom
games on CD collections, but no longer as far as I can tell. Searching
eBay for the word 'Infocom' seems to be
a good approach. Fortunately, you can download Zork I, II, and III from a fan site.
- I used z2pdb to convert a story file and Frobnitz reports an error when I try to run it?
- That source file isn't the right kind of story. Games often exist as "disk images" so
they can be run on emulators. Most likely you have a C=64 or Apple ][ disk image. Try
playing the original file in a desktop version of Frotz or Zip and see if it runs there.
- How do I convert a PDB file that was made for Pilot Frotz or Pilot Zip?
- You don't have to. Whenever Fronbitz is launched it searches all the databases for
Frotz and Zip style stories and converts them automatically. However, if Pilot-Frotz or
Pilot Zip is installed on your device it won't convert their databases automatically.
- I'm not ready to give up Pilot-Frotz yet. Can Frobnitz use the Frotz databases?
- Yes, but I can't promise it will work perfectly. At the screen where all the games are
listed (or where it says "No Games Installed") you enter the magic word "BORROW". You
won't get any indication of text being entered until you enter the whole word without
error. If you do it sucessfully, the screen will refresh and all files of type 'ZCOD' will
be displayed. This setting will be retained until you reset your device.
I made this difficult on purpose so that you know you are doing something that might
not work perfectly.
- I am ready to give up Pilot-Frotz and Pilot-Zip. Can I steal their databases before I delete them?
- Yes, read the previous question and use the magic word "STEAL". You will be prompted
asking if you really want to do this. Note that only the story files will be converted, your
save games are not converted.