From Aaron A. Reed's essential newsletter, 50 Years of Text Games: the story of four MIT hackers who created Zork, one of the best-selling text adventure games of all time.
Zork is more remembered today for its pride of place than its actual gameplay. Scholar Nick Montfort praises its innovations, but calls it "a very early and rough effort" that's "not a masterwork by today's standards." A 21st-century reviewer notes that it "wants nothing more than to see you fail, and it's not overly concerned with how much fun you might be having." The game's worldbuilding was a bit of a mess, putting robots alongside elvish swords, Alice in Wonderland puzzles near a mechanized flood control dam, and underground chasms beside underground broom closets. It populates an otherwise eerie Land of the Dead with gratuitous hacker in-jokes. Zork's "problems" could be arbitrary or unfair: the way to defeat a cyclops is to scare him off by saying the name of his rival Odysseus, something few players would think to try. Many puzzles (including that one) did have alternate solutions. But a player base consisting almost entirely of university hackers expected challenging problems: too simple, and they would have stopped playing. Today's games are made for broader audiences used to far less friction.