JZT

A Nostalgic Adventure Game

Beta

On JZT's Graphics

Oct 6, 2014

One of my favourite aspects of ZZT (and thus JZT) has been its text-mode graphics. Although 8-bit graphics from the Nintendo-era graphics have experienced a resurgence, anything older than that has been seen as perhaps too limiting. Personally, though, I’ve found it to be quite the opposite.

There’s something paradoxical about the CodePage 437 character set. On one hand, it’s incredibly sparse and restrictive. Despite a hard, technical limitation of 256 characters, three of them are still left blank. After the alphabetic characters and a surprisingly thorough set of intersecting lines used for box drawing, there are really only a small handful of glyphs that could represent what I would call “graphics.” (A solid and outlined happy face, card suits, some musical notes, the symbols for mars and venus, a couple of arrows, and a collection of greek and mathematical characters.) Yet, I feel this restricted palette is precisely what makes creating these games such a fun and creative experience.

Without requiring any artistic ability or time commitment, for example, you can assemble some basic blocks and symbols roughly in the shape of a house, label it “The House of Jazz,” and players just accept it. No team of artists necessary. The primitive graphics are part of what made the ZZT game world editor so compelling and universally accessible. It lets us focus on the parts of the game that make it fun instead of trying to make everything (or anything, for that matter) look representative.

What do you think? Feel free to add your thoughts on the JZT Community page.

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