As a long-time lover of Zork, I’ve been familiar with Flood Control Dam #3 since about 1984, when after years of desire I was finally able to play it on my new Commodore 64. The original Zork was of course a text-only adventure game, but the graphical Return to Zork (1993) included this rather underwhelming image:
But how accurate is it? As I was reading Jimmy Maher’s excellent Zork retrospective, I was struck by this text from the original game, which I must have read a hundred times without ever taking it in:
THIS IMPRESSIVE STRUCTURE IS COMPOSED OF 370,000 CUBIC FEET OF CONCRETE, IS 256 FEET TALL AT THE CENTER, AND 193 FEET WIDE AT THE TOP. THE LAKE CREATED BEHIND THE DAM HAS A VOLUME OF 1.7 BILLION CUBIC FEET, AN AREA OF 12 MILLION SQUARE FEET, AND A SHORE LINE OF 36 THOUSAND FEET.
But this makes no sense. If the dam is 256 feet tall and 193 feet wide, then firstly the image from Return to Zork is all wrong, but more importantly the water-holding area is 256 × 193 = 49,408 square feet. Given the total volume of 370,000 cubic feet, that means the average thickness of the dam is only 370,000 / 49,408 = 7.5 feet: nowhere near strong enough to retain a 256-foot column of water. (The Hoover Dam, for contrast, is 45 feet thick at the crest and 660 feet thick at the base.)
Picky? Sure. It just seems odd to me that the Zork implementors, who put so much effort into detail, would overlook something like this.
But my favourite reappearance of Flood Control Dam 3 is in The Hydroexploitation Plant, a Quake level by John “Metlslime” Fitzgibbon which is part of the excellent Rubicon 2 pack. About half way through the level, you emerge from a passage in the rock to this vista:
Having mown down the requisite enemies, you proceed through a network of tunnels to emerge on the other side of the dam, to see:
Yes! It’s our old friend, rendered really rather nicely in Quake (albeit rather smaller than the canonical dimensions would indicate).
When you finish The Hydroexploitation Plant, you are rewarded with this helicopter shot:
A really nice tribute.