What is Zak?
About this site
Legality, abandonware, copyright
Where to buy Zak 1
How to make Zak 1 work
David Fox interviews
More David Fox stuff
'Ballblazer' and 'Rescue on Fractalus'
Other SCUMM games
More about LucasFilm Games
If making Zak today...
What is Zak McKracken?
What is Zak McKracken?
'Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders' is a computer game created in 1988 by LucasFilm Games (now called LucasArts). It was built with the SCUMM engine (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) just after 'Maniac Mansion,' and before 'The Secret of Monkey Island.' It runs on most of the common platforms of the time (Atari, Amiga, Commodore 64, DOS, etc.).
There are several fan sequels, but only one original.
About this site
This site is the world's largest collection of Zak McKracken materials. Come to that, it's the only dedicated general purpose Zak McKracken fan site in the whole world. So I guess that makes it the biggest, the best, the most popular, etc., etc.
My name is Chris Tolworthy
I made this site because one day my favorite Zak site (mindbenders) just disappeared. So I decided to archive what I could find, all in one safe place. I also want to draw attention to some overlooked aspects of the greatest game ever made.
Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders was released in 1988, for the C64, DOS, FM-Towns, and similar obsolete formats. It has not been supported since. It is not Monkey Island, it does not have sequels or a big following. Last time I checked you simply could not buy it from LucasArts, in any way, no matter how much you wanted to. Anecdotal evidence, and the decision to cancel all adventure games, suggests that LucasArts has zero interest in these old games, except as titles to be listed in the occasional history. If that does not count as abandoned, I don't know what does.
LucasArts! Please support this game! If not, please understand when fans try to rescue it from oblivion. This may even be in your financial interest, as I wil now argue:
I believe that long copyrights are immoral. Walt Crawford explains the background:
When the U.S. was young a copyright lasted 14 years, renewable only once if the author was still living. Between the nation's founding and 1909, only one term extension took place. In 1909 the term was doubled to 28 years. However corporations still felt it was too short. So in 1976 Congress changed the copyright to a remarkably long and unpredictable term: Life of the author plus 50 years - and, for works made for hire (corporation) a generous 75 years.
Under corporate copyright, the earliest Mickey Mouse cartoon would have entered the public domain 75 years after the first cartoon's release, in 2004. Thus, Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) in 1998, which extended both forms of copyright 20 years (70 years for an author, 95 years for a corporation). Is there anyone who believes that the Disney Corporation won't push for another 20 year extension in 2018 - or that Congress won't pass it?
What is immoral about this?
First, hypocrisy. Since the 1930s, Disney has been making fairy tale movies, using the ideas and images of (for example) the Brothers Grimm. The Grimms wrote in the 1830s, but most of their work was not commonly available in English until the 1880s or more recently. Disney used Grimm characters just 50 years after the originals became available. 50 years later, Disney lobbied for draconian copyright laws to make sure that nobody could do to them what they did to the Grimms.
And it's not just Disney. All art is derivative. All art builds on existing concepts. Mickey Mouse was not the first funny animal drawing. Star Wars based its space battles on World War 1 aerial dog fights. Indiana Jones was a homage to Saturday Morning movie cliffhangers. Zak McKracken relied on New Age ideas. All art relies on public domain, and it is only fair that it returns to the public domain before the people it ripped off are all dead.
Second, long copyright risks the destruction of irreplacable art. Walt Crawford continued:
A good example of the problems this is already causing is going on right now in the movie industry. Decaying nitrate-based film from the early days of motion pictures may not be restored because Moviecraft and other companies that restore and reissue these movies can't do so because they can't identify the copyright holders and the movies seem to never pass into the public domain. Preservation activities in general, and particularly digital preservation activities, are made more difficult when material never enters the public domain.
This is why we have abandonware. If these games are not shared and preserved now do you think anyone will have a copy of IBM's Alley Cat in 2079 when it's copyright expires?
(End of rant.)
How do I find the security codes for Zak?
Buy the game. Do not click here.
Where to buy Zak 1
http://www.lucasarts.com/shop - You probably won't find it here, but please try anyway. We need to encourage LucasArts to keep selling the old games. Also, I don't want to attack their copyright. As long as they show any interest in Zak McKracken we should go to there first. You might find it in a boxed set called 'Classic Adventures' if you are very, very lucky.
http://www.ebay.com/ - This is probably the easiest way to find a legitimate copy. Search for 'Zak' or 'Classic Adventures.' Be aware that sometimes people mis-spell McKracken as McKraken or McCracken. Last time I checked there were three copies on sale, so if you don't find it first time, tray again another day.
http://www.google.com/ - Somewhere out there you will find an English language port (and probably a German one as well) of the 256 color version of Zak. I have no idea where, but if you have LOTS of patience you might get lucky. I found mine a year ago, and it took about a thousand attempts to get the thing downloaded, but it was worth it.
How do I get hold of the 256 color version of Zak?
Search on Google, and be very patient. Do not click here.
How do I find a German edition of Zak?
I don't know! Try one of the fan sequels, they usually have German language message boards. Otherwise, try the German version of eBay (or its equivalent) or Google. Sorry I can't be more help.
How do I find a Japanese/Italian/Other edition of Zak?
The general advice is to check out your local eBay (or equivalent) and be prepared to buy a compilation that includes other games as well. "If you want the real, boxed version of FM Towns Zak, you'll have to look at the site called Yahoo! Japan auctions. Be warned: those auctions are only in Japanese, and you'll need a friend in Japan who is willing to receive the game and then send it to you, as transactions are inside Japan only." - ATMachine on Lucasforums. If you want to get hold of the Japense version, or the English version of the Japanese version, email me...
How to make Zak 1 work on your computer
The ideal way is just to buy a very old computer. :) But that's expensive and old hardware might break down. So...
http://www.scummvm.org/ - This should be your first stop. ScummVM is specifically designed to make Scumm games (and a few others) work on modern platforms.
http://www.dosbox.com/news.php?show_news=1 - DOSbox - get DOS working on your machine again! My first experience with Zak was the DOS version, and this lets you relive the old experience, command line and everything. If you used DOS, and want the complete nostalgia trip, then DOSbox is for you. Another point to note is that ScummVM and DOSbox approach the same problem in different ways. Each option (DOSbox and ScummVM) claim to be something like 95% complete for Zak, and they seem to work for me, but there is always the chance that some parts of the game work better on DOSbox than ScummVM, or vice versa.
(Note: both DOSBox and ScummVM seem to use the soundcard instead of the old DOS internal speaker, which I think is a shame - it just doesn't sound the same. But I am sure there are good technical reasons for this, and it is only a minor complaint.)
http://vogons.zetafleet.com/ - VOGONS (Very Old Games On New Systems) - if you want to emulate a particular old setup (C64, Amiga, FM-Towns, etc.) on your new computer, maybe these people can help.
Zak fan sequels
The New Adventures of Zak McKracken - this is finished and ready to download (if the link doesn't work, try Google).
http://www.zak2project.net - 'Zak McKracken and the Alien Rockstars' - the first, and most ambitious (and most delayed) fan sequel
http://www.mckracken.net/ - 'Zak McKracken 2 - Between Time And Space' - looks very promising
http://www.lamaweb.com/zak/ - The original music, from before the game was created!
http://www.mirsoft.info/gmb/music_info.php?id_ele=MTEyOTM=&PHPSESSID=f9480d746cbac6ebf1094473985b1d54 - music ripped from the game (you need to register at the site, and may need to click a couple more times than you expect.)
http://remix.kwed.org/index.php?search=plasm303 - two remixes inspired by the C64 main theme
http://remix.kwed.org/download.php/631/Puffy64%20-%20Zak%20MCommando%20Kracken.mp3 - the best fan remix IMO.
David Fox interviews
http://www.adventure-treff.de/artikel/interviews.php?id=24&lang=eng - the most recent interview
http://www.gathering.org/espresso/pages/tg04/articles/david_fox/view_top.html - another one from 2004
http://www.zzap64.co.uk/zzap10/lucas_part1.html - interview from before the days of Zak, mainly about Fractalus
Other David Fox stuff
http://www.electriceggplant.com/ - The Fox home page (no, not the inferior imitation run by that Australian chap, the REAL Fox home page)
http://www.atariarchives.org/cap/ - 'Computer Animation Primer,' the book that got him the job at LucasArts
http://www.atarimagazines.com/v3n6/bouncing.html - an old article based on the book
http://www.electriceggplant.com/collab97.html - DF (with Noah Falstein) on collaboration
http://www.electriceggplant.com/virtual_reality.html - DF on virtual reality
http://www.xulu.com/ - An amazing game site by DF and others, that sadly never saw the light of day
'Ballblazer' and 'Rescue on Fractalus'
More about David's first games for LucasFilm Games. See the original press conference videos - step back in time! See history being made!
http://www.ElectricEggplant.com/ballblazer.html - BallBlazer
http://www.ElectricEggplant.com/rescue.html - Rescue on Fractalus
And beyond computers...
http://www.anniefox.com/ - One of Annie Fox's youth related sites
http://www.theinsite.org/ - and another. Great stuff!
Q: "If you were given the resources to create an official sequel, what are your ideas for Zak McKracken 2?"
A: "I hadn't really thought of it before. Given my political leanings, there would also be some sharp satire poking fun at the establishment. Hey, maybe stopping all those aliens who took over the government?" - DF, from the adventure-treff interview
http://www.switch2dean.com/ - The title says it all. Site designed by DF and others.
http://www.winningbackamerica.com/ - Another self-explanatory title.
http://www.cartoonfreeamerica.com/ - cartoons and politics!
Other early LucasArts games
Droidmaker by Michael Rubin - the story of Lucasfilm games and much more (book)
The LucasArts Museum - see the other classics, and see Zak in context. Screen shots, reviews, and more.
http://www.mobygames.com/ - the first place to look for game info. Search for Zak, Maniac Mansion, or anything else.
http://mixnmojo.com/ - the first place to look for SCUMM games.
More about 'Rescue on Fractalus':
And the ROM:
The LucasArts Game Group back in the '80s
The above interviews give a good overview. Also check out http://www.atarimagazines.com/v3n4/lucasfilm.html - an old article, from when Atari ruled the world
What would David Fox do different if making Zak today?
This is from a forwarded email, and used by permission. David was asked what he's do different if making Zak today:
"To answer your question, besides dead-ends (like being able to parachute out of the airplane without the teleportation crystal), I wish there weren't so many mazes! Thought they were a good idea at the time, especially to extend gameplay, but not at the cost of people getting pissed at the game. The best maze was the jungle maze... it really wasn't a maze at all. You just had to walk through two different openings (without ever backtracking) and you'd find your way out. Totally random appearances.
The maze inside the pyramid (or maybe it's the Sphinx) were especially frustrating.
Also, was it too hard to make it through the game without running out of money? Maybe one or two other ways to get additional cash without having to restart.
We were really limited with what we could say dialog-wise. That was primarily because we were limited to 2 lines of text at the top, and we didn't want people to have to read a lot. Pretty boring. And there's a huge lack of animation, compared to later titles (even Last Crusade, which came only a few years later, had a lot more custom animation). All that due to storage limitations on the original C64 platform."
That's all for now :)