Closer Look: Frost 1; Power

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Closer Look: Frost 1; Power

Jan. 9, 2017, 9:26 p.m.

Where can I get Frost 1; Power?

Frost 1; Power is available on z2 as well as playable in browser via
You can also explore the world yourself on the Museum of ZZT Public Beta.


Frost 1; Power

By: Zenith Nadir
Released: Aug. 26th, 2003

The year is 2003 and ZZT's sun is setting. It was the last year with more than 100 released titles, and new members within the community were becoming less and less common. Despite being the beginning of the end, there were still quality games being released. Frost stands out as one of the most notable titles from ZZT's later years, holding up today as a game that offers unparalleled graphics and attention to detail.

Nadir's Frost was held in high regards after it's release. Already a well established ZZTer and popular community member, Frost became a ZZT must-play overnight and has had a significant impact on the late ZZT community in several ways. The game's graphics are some of the best you'll see in ZZT, and I've often used screenshots from it as a way to illustrate the magnitude of difference between early ZZT games and modern ones. At least one ZZTer began constantly messaging Nadir asking about his "graphical secrets" much to his chagrin.

It's a very iconic ZZT game as we'll shortly see.

Before the game begins, you should take a listen to the game's theme-song, composed by MadTom, a very talented ZZT musician.

001 002 003
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
SET: ...It failed. I spend three years

SET: working every meticulous detail, only

SET: for it to send me to this hole with

SET: the others...

SET: ...Shit. Anyway... I wonder what

SET: time I've been sent back to?

SET: ...878? Well, well... maybe my

SET: efforts haven't been in vain...

SET: I had best make haste. First order

SET: of business... disposal. I can sense

SET: at least two of them in this time

SET: period, even now. And I shall

SET: destroy them.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

It's also a _very_ dialog heavy game. There is far more to read than there is to interact with, so be prepared for that.

Frost opens with a cutscene of a gray figure falling from the sky, screaming. His name is Set, he is not happy with where and when he is, but he is prepared to make the best of it and destroy some folks for reasons currently unknown.

Set will never make another appearance in this game again FYI. This board is the last one in the file and may have been added as an afterthought to try and introduce some of the grander things in the Frost universe.

006 007

Nadir has a sense of humor along these lines that will show up on occasion.


(Blue Moon was the title of Nadir's first ZZT game)

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Also notable is that,
unlike Earth, any and all sapient
creatures on the planet take the form of
anthropomorphic animals*. Like uh rabbits
and cats and foxes and lizards and
hamsters and penguins and the odd dragon
etc. Not all species are intelligent in
this way, of course- think of it in terms
of a planetary elite of animals or
something, like how humans are really just
smart apes.

This is the story of one of them! Isn't
that exciting!!!

Well, actually it's the story of several,
but in this one file I'm going to
concentrate on a girl called Penny. She
comes from the continent on the right on
the lovely picture currently concealed
behind this stupid blue box thing. I'll
even put a dot on the globe so you can see
her approximate position because I'm so
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

And there's the rub. Welcome to Zootopia. Frost is a game that features a cast entirely of anthropomorphic animals. ZZT's limited graphics make it so that you're not really getting anything out of being told the white on blue smiley face the player controls is a fox. The world of Frost wasn't designed specifically for the medium of ZZT, so outside of art boards there's no real difference in the characters being anthropomorphic or not.


Again we're dealing with something made in 2003. So we get a good look at attitudes towards furries as well. In short, the prevailing wisdom of the time was: they're bad and gross. I obviously can't speak for Nadir's thoughts on himself, his work, and the furry fandom for the time, but the quick attempt to distance Frost from furry come off as being afraid of being marked with the label. Frost wants its audience to enjoy it on its own merits, not because it has foxes in it. At the time, "furries like this" was a mark against something for a lot of people, and trying to push away that audience to better court others wasn't all that uncommon.

014 015 013

Here we get a good look at our protagonist, Penny Shaïwell, and wow. It is incredibly difficult to portray people in ZZT, and frankly prior to my first playing this game, I would've thought a decent animal person would be beyond what ZZT could do. For ZZT, this is an incredibly complex pose! Again, these characters weren't created with ZZT in mind, but Nadir doesn't look to have made sacrifices for the sake of ZZT. Just the fact that she's been crammed head to toe in a 25 tile high screen is accomplishment enough.

016 019

Frost is packed with little details to bring the world to life. This cutscene consists solely of Penny talking with her friend Melissa, and could have been very rigid. Instead, other objects walk into the school, and an object on the basketball court is animated repeatedly practicing their shots.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
PENNY: Hm? Oh, hey Mel. Nothing much, I

PENNY: was just digging around my room

PENNY: last night and I found a pile of

PENNY: old Speeduck comic books under my

PENNY: bed... so I brought a couple with

PENNY: me to read today...

MELISSA: Cool, can I see? I used to love

MELISSA: that guy!

PENNY: Tell you what, it's nearly time for

PENNY: lessons, and I'm about done with

PENNY: this one; I'll lend it to you.

PENNY: What do we have next, anyway?

MELISSA: Well, we've Giatic once the bell

MELISSA: goes, then we've got PE last

MELISSA: thing.

PENNY: Damn. Are we still doing that

PENNY: sword crap in PE? I thought last

PENNY: week Ms. Feris said we were about

PENNY: done.

MELISSA: No, this week's the last one,

MELISSA: next week starts hockey season.

PENNY: Ah, that's too bad. I strongly

PENNY: dislike sword-fighting.

MELISSA: Eh, I like it. It's the first

MELISSA: sport I've ever actually been

MELISSA: good at, so y'know. I'm fine.

PENNY: Well, it's alright for some, I

PENNY: suppose...
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Melissa likes sword fighting and comics. We have no idea what species she is though. (An unused art board reveals her as a dog.) The bell rings (actually, via #play sound effects), and the two rush off for class.

022 021

The world is built up, but unlike most ZZT games which have to rely on telling you, Frost is capable of showing as well. Negative space is used to create a nice mountain range in the background. It's a very pretty game.


This is the first bit of player interaction the game gives. Ms. Feris calls out a move at random, and the player has to press the appropriate direction to perform the action. Each move has the class perform the action, slashing vertically, parrying downward, of thrusting their swords forward. The timing is generous enough (though if you struggle the sequence starts over), and it's pretty satisfying when you time it perfectly so that your sword stays in sync with all the other students' swords.

033 034

After the refresher lesson, the class breaks into pairs. Melissa's annoyance kind of goes against her talking up how she actually enjoyed swordfighting in the previous scene. It may have been more true to what's been established about the characters to swap the dialog.


The students are paired up in the next scene, and a helpful arrow points out Melissa and Penny among the crowd. Pointless fact: There are two fewer students in this scene than the previous one. Maybe they're behind the tree in the corner. All the students are practicing their swordfighting skills and are animated like the previous board.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
PENNY: (panting) Hang on, hang on...
give me a minute, will you? You're too
fast for me, I need a breather.

MELISSA: Alright, just for a minute. You
know, I know you don't like doing this but
you're really not that bad... you're
holding your own quite nicely against me.

PENNY: Yeah, well... I'm just doing my
best to keep up with you. Plus I'm all
lucky and crap like that.

MELISSA: Lucky? Girl, if you tried harder
you'd be much better than I am! I mean,
if you're as good as you are now while
hating doing it, I'd hate to see you in

PENNY: If you say so... alright. Try

MELISSA: I mean it. Anyway, yeah, let's go
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
046 047 048

And so Penny kills a girl.

Well, no, they're wooden swords.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
ONYX: You AGAIN? What the fuck is your

ONYX: problem?

PENNY: Problem? Oh, nothing, nothing...

PENNY: hey, Onyx, uh, how're you doing?

PENNY: Sorry about that, Melissa caught

PENNY: me off guard, and I got knocked

PENNY: back, and-

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Penny's sword hits Onyx, who apparently already has issues with her.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
MS. FERIS: You aren't supposed to stop for

MS. FERIS: another... three minutes yet.

ONYX: We were just talking-

MELISSA: I knocked Penny back with my

MELISSA: sword by mistake, and-

ONYX: Penny hit me with her sword for no

ONYX: reason! See? (proffers bruise and

muddy shirt)

PENNY: What?! It was, uh, an accident!

MS FERIS: Is this true? Melissa? Elsa?

ELSA: Uh, I wasn't looking... I guess...

MELISSA: It was a mistake, I swear.

MS FERIS: I believe Melissa. Onyx, these

MS FERIS: things happen, and Penny meant

MS FERIS: no harm by it, I'm sure.

ONYX: But-

MS FERIS: No buts! Now, all of you get

MS FERIS: back to your work. You were

MS FERIS: doing quite well before- keep it

MS FERIS: up. Especially you, Penny.

PENNY: (blushes) Thank you.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The three minutes line is great and is very much a PE teacher thing to say. The teacher breaks things up before they get heated, and the swordplay resumes. Onyx vows revenge, and leaves.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
PENNY: Okay, what the shit was that all

MELISSA: Well, this might just be a guess
but I don't think Onyx has been too
thrilled by your existence since that
marshmallow prank you pulled on her last

PENNY: Hyeah, that... that was months ago.
There were Rainbow Drops everywhere, it
was hilarious. Why bring it up now,

MELISSA: Indeed it was! And I really
wouldn't know... after all, this IS Onyx
you're talking about. I really don't know
what her deal is... she's quite

PENNY: No shit. Well, she did start
that whole prank thing, remember? It only
ended after I got into trouble over the
marshmallows. ...anyway, I don't think I
should worry too much. Shall we get back
to it?

MELISSA: I dunno... don't you remember
what happened to Jessica after she tripped
in the cafeteria and spilled chips all
over her? That wasn't pretty. I'd be
careful if I were you.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Looks like the whole thing started due to some teenage prank war. Onyx is presented as somebody who tends to take things way too far. The bad blood is old news to Penny though, who hardly sees any reason Onyx should still be upset.


The player is taken to another beautiful board with a sun just starting to set, and again using negative space to portray a background of the city and the mountain range. The house on the left appears to have ivy growing on it, a detail that's completely unnecessary but shows the amount of effort that was put into making these scenes look at good as they do. Speaking of detail, the brown clubs on the left are named "garden lemur gnome things".

Penny and Melissa promptly appear and begin walking down the street. They don't just walk, they walk _diagonally_, which is a pretty big deal for ZZT which has no concept of diagonal movement!

Without using the trick for diagonal movement, given the perspective on this board, the objects would be walking at a funny angle down the sidewalk, or have to zig-zag their way down, alternating between moving east and south. So how does it work?

ZZT's movement is typically handled with /[dir]. This makes an object move once per active cycle. Tim Sweeney was kind enough to realize that long repetitive lines like /e/e/e/e/e/e/e/e/e/e are a bit clunky for extended movement, and added a #walk [dir] command as well. When an object is walking, they will move in that direction every active cycle until they are told to stop walking. (They can also jump to a :thud label when they hit a wall.) Unlike regular movement, walking doesn't end a cycle and ZZT-OOP code is still processed, which includes a regular movement command. By walking south, and also moving east, the end result is that the object can take two steps in a single cycle! Note that it's two steps and not a single diagonal step. The object can't be blocked to the south and the east, and then move diagonally southeast.

This technique never got used all that often, so it does stand out here. It can also be used with the same direction for walking and regular movement to move in a cardinal direction at speeds faster than anything else in ZZT.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
MELISSA: So why aren't you out of your


PENNY: I can shower and change when I get

PENNY: home. Besides, what you said

PENNY: earlier...

MELISSA: Fair enough. So, I'll give you

MELISSA: the comics back tomorrow, okay?

PENNY: Keep them for as long as you need,

PENNY: but I'd like them back sooner

PENNY: rather than later.

PENNY: ...did you hear something?

MELISSA: I did! It came from that bush.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Sure enough, the bushes rustle and Onyx and another character jump out in ambush.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
PENNY: Uh oh.

ONYX: That's the one! She's the girl

ONYX: I was telling you about!

PENNY: Look, if this is about the

PENNY: marshmallow thing last year, I

PENNY: really don't see-

MELISSA: I don't recognise you. Who're


ONYX: Ah, yes. Sister, meet Melissa.

ONYX: Melissa, meet Rose, my elder sister.

PENNY: She's... huge...


ROSE: I'm here to do my little sister a

ROSE: favour. She tells me that a certain

ROSE: "Penny" hit her in the back with a

ROSE: wooden sword, thus causing her to

ROSE: fall into mud. Is this true?

PENNY: I don't see any point in denying

PENNY: it, but it _was_ an accident...

ROSE: I don't believe you. Look, I don't

ROSE: like doing this sort of thing, but

ROSE: nasty little bullies like you make

ROSE: me sick. You think I don't know

ROSE: about the marshmallows?

MELISSA: Oh, come on! That was ages-


ROSE: Don't you people ever think about

ROSE: the pain and ENDLESS ANGUISH you

ROSE: cause? You think it's fucking FUNNY?


  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
070 071 072 073 074 075 077

The girls get into a fight, and Penny loses control.

078 080
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
ONYX: (stunned) Oh... my... god...

MELISSA: She's dead... what the hell WAS

MELISSA: that?

(Silence. Onyx starts to cry.)

MELISSA: Oh, Fauna help me... Shit, I'm

MELISSA: totally sorry, Onyx... I'm sure-


ONYX: ...
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

And so Penny kills a girl. For real this time. This game has magic in it, you had no idea, and this scene probably caught you off guard! Magic and its role in this world, is a major component of Frost. We're only just now getting to what the game is actually about.

087 088 089

A stranger shows up, discovers the grisly scene, and promptly runs off.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
MELISSA: ...shit.

MELISSA: Penny, you okay?

MELISSA: ...she's fine, just unconscious.

ONYX: Oh, _goody._

ONYX: Why haven't you fucked off already?

ONYX: I mean, you HAVE just been

ONYX: accomplice to the murder of my

ONYX: sister, you unbelievable fuckers-

MELISSA: No point. I might have, but that

MELISSA: guy got a good look at us all.

MELISSA: Besides, we're in the middle of

MELISSA: the suburbs, and every house on

MELISSA: this street could hold a

MELISSA: potential witness...

ONYX: ...and I suppose THIS was "just an

ONYX: accident" too, huh?

MELISSA: Oh, of course not! I'm sure




PENNY: Uhhh... whass goin' on... my brain

PENNY: hurts... 'wsat shouting...

ONYX: Oh, it speaks! You murdering fuck

ONYX: I'm going to tear you a new anus and

ONYX: shove... and... and... oh, god...

PENNY: Shee-it... what happened to her?

PENNY: All her skin's been burnt off!

ONYX: No shit, captain obvious.

MELISSA: Pen, we're in totally huge

MELISSA: trouble. You... you blew her up!

PENNY: What? Nah, the last thing I

PENNY: remember was, uh, getting thrown

PENNY: onto the pavement... I blacked out,

PENNY: I think.

ONYX: Don't try denying anything! You

ONYX: killed her!!

PENNY: Aw, shit. And in broad daylight,

PENNY: too... I am so fucked...

MELISSA: I can't believe this is

MELISSA: happening. Here they come...
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The writing in this game is generally good enough, but I can't get over how lax Penny is about killing somebody. You could argue that she's in a bit of a stupor now, having blacked out like that, but her immediate concern being "oops I killed a girl in broad daylight" comes off really poorly for an otherwise likable character.

I'm condensing this dialog into single text boxes here, but don't forget that all this dialog is happening one line at a time, and the characters are moving around and interacting with each other, approaching and disengaging all the while. These scenes are not static, and the constant movement makes these scenes into proper cinematics and not just a slow feed of dialog while some objects sit in place.

stupid object stop deleting yourself
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

PENNY: After the police came and arrested
both myself and Melissa, we were
seperated and questioned at the station.
Onyx was also taken in as a witness. I
remember they had to scrape some of Rose's
remains off the road, that was pretty bad.
It was the longest evening ever, made all
the worse by the fact that I knew what
had happened, and would happen to me.

See, I don't know about you people, but
here in Gian, most crimes are punished
with intent to rehabilitation, with two
exceptions; rape, and murder or
manslaughter with use of any form of
magic. The latter is cause for exile-
a traditional punishment, still in force
200 or so years after the Rush'tici War,
during which time Gian declared neutrality
and banned all use of offensive magic of
any form in its area, and offenders were
thrown out of the country into Southern
Vasqueth. Not many people really live
there other than the exiles themselves
and it's mostly forest, so nobody
complained. Although the law has been
slackened since that war, Gian has, to
a lesser or greater extent, become much
more technologically advanced than much
of the rest of the world- old mistrusts
lead to the seeking of alternatives, and
evidently machines and science rated well
with our ancestors.



Anyway, I digress, I just figured you need
the background as to what's going on. The
point is; I'm in deep shit.

I know that Onyx testified against me- I
don't blame her, after all. I'd do the
same, but I still think she was totally
overreacting about the sword thing. I
don't bear any ill will toward her, but I
doubt the feeling is mutual.

Melissa did too, I think. I like to think
she did so reluctantly, but let's be
honest, she saw what she saw. She's my
best friend, but she knows what I think
about lying, and I'm no hypocrite. I
never saw that guy who heard the blast

The thing is, I have no idea how I did
that, or how to do it again. I'm still
getting kicked out of the country, though.
My parents were notified. They were
understandably shocked- they still were
when I left them. I asked them to pack me
some stuff before I get deported, but not
before a whole lot of shouting and crying
both from them and myself. I don't know if
my little brother Mist knows about this-
he's probably too young to understand...
to him I'll just be going on a little
trip or something... I'll see them one
last time on the border. Downshields is
close to the Vasquethian border, so the
authorities are quite lax with my journey
there. I'll still have to be transported
there in a windowless police vehicle, of
course, but it's not far at all.

I have the right to appeal, but I'm not
going to bother- I could, but what's the
point. I'll take the tattoo and the
exile uncomplainingly... even if I could
stay, my life wouldn't be worth living.
I'm the first, native or foreign, to
receive this punishment in some time, and
news of this sort travels fast.

Tattoo? Oh yeah, they put some weird kind
of ink in your fur follicles that make the
marked part of the skin grow black, or
green, or whatever colour. This one is a
mark on my arm to stop me reentering the
country.* They put an electronic tag under
the skin, too, just to make sure I fuck
off. Needless to say, I've been stripped
of ID already following my confession.

(* - you saw this on the title screen)

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

This dialog was probably written multiple times with that object name. ZZT's default editor has a habit of sometimes deleting an objects code for no apparent reason. Nadir always used the default editor rather than Kev-Edit or ZZTAE.

tl;dr -- Magic has been illegal for 200 years since some war. Penny broke the law and the punishment is exile. She's also been given a tattoo to mark her as a user of magic (the symbol on the game's title screen)

The game's introduction is nearly over. Penny's getting kicked out of the country, and forced to start a new life.

115 116
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
PENNY: Melissa, what're you doing here?
I'm not supposed to see you again, this is
a family only send-off deal... not that I
mind you being here, of course.

MELISSA: I... I got permission from your
dad. I just wanted to say I'm totally
sorry for testif-

PENNY: Oh, I thought as much. Don't beat
yourself up about it. What's done is done,

MELISSA: I told them it was an accident...
but they wouldn't listen...

PENNY: Yeah? Twice in a row, huh.

MELISSA: You're remarkably stoic today,
considering you're getting exiled and all.

PENNY: Hhh... Well, I COULD cry and moan
and swear until my hair all falls out, but
that's not going to get me back in, is it?
I'm just going with it. I always wanted to
see the world, anyway.

MELISSA: Aw, Delta... I'm totally going to
miss you... *snif* You were my bestest
friend ever :(

PENNY: Oh, come now. I'll be fine, and
you've other friends.

MELISSA: That's not the point...

PENNY: We'll meet again. Count on it.

MELISSA: Okay... by the way, I brought you
back those Speeduck comics, I figured
you'd want something to cheer you up...
though it's not like I could read them
last night after what happened.

PENNY: Alright. Thanks, Mel.

MELISSA: I guess this is "see you around",

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Penny does her best to not make things sadder than they have to be. Melissa has bestowed upon Penny the comic books she borrowed.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
MILDRED: Fauna, look at that dawn sky...
what time is it?

PENNY: Erm, 6:34am, mum.

MILDRED: Thought it was about that. At
least we've good weather today. Rain, in
this circumstance, would just be
depressing and that's just not good. The
"circumstance" in question being that my
daughter is about to be deported and I'll
probably never see her again. Which is
already bad enough.

PENNY: Mum, there's no reason to talk like
I'm not here.

MILDRED: Sorry, I'm just... odd right now.
I'm brought something for you, I think
you'll find it useful. Melissa here told
me you'd find it useful...

(Melissa waves comically at you.)

PENNY: Yes, I see you, you daft sod. So

MILDRED: (produces sword hitherto
concealed by her skirt.) Er, this sword
here... used to belong to my grandmother.
It's an heirloom, but still useable.

(Midred holds the sheathed sword in both
hands and gives it to you. You give it
a once over, before unsheathing it and
giving it a check.)

MILDRED: CAREFUL! That thing is not
something to wave around!

PENNY: Hold on, I'm just looking... okay,
there. (resheathes it, before strapping it
onto her back.) Not too heavy... if this
is an heirloom, how come I've not seen it

MILDRED: Oh, come on. It's only been
hanging over the fireplace for the last
16 years.

PENNY: Oh yeah! Yeah, thanks... that'll
be a big help out here.

MILDRED: Come on, give us a hug, you great
big outlaw you.

PENNY: ok :(

(You do so, holding tightly.)

PENNY: Have I said that I'll miss you all
yet? Because I will! And don't worry about
me- I can use this sword quite nicely, as
Mel can vouch for.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Penny's mother is definitely taking the loss of her daughter hard. Mom has bestowed upon Penny the family sword.

Mildred's emotions are much better conveyed compared to Penny's earlier lack of emotions over accidentally killing somebody. This is the family's only appearance and the first impressions are positive.

  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
MIST: Mum says you're going away. Is
that why we're here?

PENNY: Yeah, I'm going on a magical quest
to vanquish dragons and rescue
disturbingly camp princes. Or not, but I
am going away.

MIST: Bring me a present, okay? Like, a
dragon egg. I always wanted onea those.

PENNY: And who wouldn't! ...look, I can't
lie to you, I won't be coming back.

MIST: Yeah you will.

PENNY: If you insist, soft kid. ...oh,
and you can have my stereo if you want.

MIST: Hoorah!
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Mist gets a stereo out of the whole thing, so it's not all bad.

The last family member to speak with is dad, and there's some writing here that really stands out.

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One of Frost's reviews on z2 is simply titled "foxes use tampons ahahhaha". The ZZT community at this time being mostly teenage boys, there was nothing more hilarious than a game mentioning tampons! It was the height of comedy.

I don't know what Nadir was thinking when he decided to include this sequence, but it's honestly a completely understandable request! You're getting kicked out of the country, and have to begin a long walk to another city elsewhere, you darn well better have tampons if you need them. I feel like most modern games would still be afraid to bring up any mention of periods, lest the illusion of women as pure creatures who definitely don't have bodily functions be shattered.

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Goodbyes mostly said, Penny is now entirely on her own, as ready as she'll ever be to make her way to Alsace.

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