MadTom
tomsacoldgmail.com
ZU


What have you created with ZZT, or related to ZZT?

GREED - Part 1 was my first game, released in 2000. I made Part 2 of that the next year, then did Burglar!, a couple of short games, and Respite, which was going to be a three-parter that I never finished. I worked for Z2 for a long time, managed two ZZTVs, won and hosted a Weekend of ZZT, did BKZZTs, the usual sort of stuff. I contributed music and art to a couple of more recent games. I also wrote a couple of articles for Z2 on technical things with ZZT-OOP and memory. I don't even think anybody's read those, though.


Burglar!
When you think about ZZT, what games come to your mind and why?

Mostly Zenith Nadir and drac0 games, particularly Psyche and Edible Vomit. They were among the first ones I played. I also remember things like kudzu (hi!) and p0p. Some of Tony Testa's work sticks out in my mind, as well.

Have you created any games outside of ZZT?

Not yet. I want to code a game more or less from scratch with a real programming language someday, but I do recognise the effort involved there.

Do you have any artistic pursuits other than making games?

Given my output so far it's hardly worth mentioning, but I like to write in my spare time and am putting work into a fantasy novel, which I intend to illustrate myself. I'm nothing special as a writer or artist, though, and there's not a great deal that comes to mind to send you as a sample. Sorry.

What are you up to, lately (in life, generally)?

I'm a psychology student. I'll be done with the basic three-year degree at the end of 2006, and then I'll probably go into the honours fourth year. It's all costing me money I don't really have, and as time goes on I get less and less enthusiastic about psychology as a career rather than just an interest, so I'm just not sure yet.

Has your experience with ZZT or the ZZT scene made any sort of lasting impact on your life?

Yes - admittedly, probably a great deal more than it really should have. Most of the things I like to read, watch, or do on the internet originally stem from people I know in the ZZT community, since it was basically the first internet community I was ever part of - which is probably one way to account for my very awkward start in it. I met my best friend BoonoB through the game, and we've made a couple of joint projects. I've even met two ZZTers I'd previously known only through the internet, and may meet a couple more in future. I still talk to several people who are long gone from the community, such as Vedic and lonesomedwarf.

I like making things. I don't know how much, if any, of that interest has come from ZZT; I've liked writing and drawing-oriented things for as long as I can remember. Creatively, probably the biggest impact has been music - until I started ZZT I had never played a note, and one of the reasons I began music in school extracurricularly was because I wanted to learn how to make it. I remember actually picking apart WiL's and Viovis' music for hours on end to figure out how they did this or that - my music teachers couldn't understand how I knew so much theory, but was absolute dogshit when it came to actually picking up and playing an instrument. When you only have a one-track PC speaker with which to work, it's very easy to fake being musically competent.


What works of non-ZZT art have inspired you the most?

I'm pretty drawn to fantasy-oriented and macabre or dramatic things. It's probably just wish fulfilment for myotherwise very mundane and unexciting life. I love classical history, myth, and religion, and I've also had one or two ideas from my psychology courses. Respite was built on a thought experiment of mine where I was playing around with Jungian archetypes, and I have an unfinished project called Jormangund which was inspired by Freudian ideas.

Lately I've been listening to a lot of black metal, and I often find that makes me think. I was a big Led Zeppelin fan for the longest time, and I also like Tool. I love languages, too, and I get a big kick out of making up names, characters, dates, histories, that sort of thing.

I don't play many video games, though I've put hours into the ones I do. I like Ancient Domains of Mystery a lot, and strategy games like the Civilization series.


Do you have any interesting stories to relate about ZZT or the ZZT scene?

Nothing you wouldn't find on ZUltimate, except maybe this.

I met BoonoB through ZZT, but not through the internet. We were both attending the same school at the time and beyond names we didn't know one another. During French one day I was idly scribbling in the margins of my workbook and apparently one of the things I wrote was 'ZZT'. Somehow, BoonoB caught sight of this a little later, and mentioned that he had used the engine too, and when I told him my handle he told me he had downloaded and played one of my games from zzt.org.

It was quite the coincidence - we lived in the same suburb, too, within about 30 minutes' walk of each other. I introduced him to the community a bit later, and we both still hang around it some five years later.


Do you plan to create any games in the future, with or without ZZT?

I cut Respite short because it was a "false start" - there are some things about it, such as having guns in such a strongly medieval setting and some really bad planning and writing that I didn't pay attention to when I was making it. There are parts of the story I really like, though, and would be keen to recycle in another game, or even just a story. I've been learning C++ and I already know how to piece together basic pixel art or carry a MIDI tune, so I might make something "Cave Story"-esque if my interest holds out over the years. It would certainly be nice to have a polished freeware game to my name.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Only one thing comes to mind, and I hope it'll be appropriate.

I've said this before a couple of times on IRC, but one of the things that both excites and sort of scares me is that a lot of ZZTers are just that talented at making things that one of these days I'm likely to be watching a film, or a cartoon, or listening to an album, and when the credits come on I suddenly hear a name I recognise. You know, reading a comic book and I suddenly notice "Art: Peter Saltfleet" (Zenith Nadir), or watching a cartoon and seeing "Matt and Steven Smith" (Scribbit and Goldenhog), or listening to an album and seeing an "Adrian van Meter" (burstroc) in the lineup. And those are just a few of the people I think I'm likely to see!

You don't get into rather esoteric things like ZZT without having a real passion for creating, both as an individual and as part of a community. I think it has the potential to serve as a great stepping-stone, not just for programming, but for writing, drawing, whatever. It teaches you how to get the job done with substance, because you're forced to work within and around certain limits, rather than falling into the trap of overworked style.

I think that one of the reasons I find most audiovisual entertainment these days so vapid is because it's just getting easier and easier to produce, and the production methods more and more powerful, to the point where it's easy for someone without a creative bone in their body to make something that looks and feels good, but is really pretty empty. I don't really understand art and have given up trying, so I just pursue what I find valuable - and frequently I find the efforts of the sort of creative people I've just described much more interesting than more popular entertainment, given that I know these people, and know where they're coming from, often with very limited resources at their disposal.

Maybe that's one of the reasons I've stuck around for so long. Maybe I'm just bored, or only want attention. Maybe it's all three. I don't know.



- May 2006

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