Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

IFComp 2015 Overview

Posted by Reiko on November 16, 2015

I am again posting my small reviews of some of the games from the 2015 IFComp. There were just so many pieces this year (53 that I saw; I believe 55 originally, but a couple were withdrawn for various reasons). First, an overview, and then I’ll post the individual reviews over the next two weeks, a few per day, and eventually they’ll all be linked to this post. [Edit: All reviews are scheduled and will be published by the end of November.]

This is the largest comp year to date, as far as I know, and also (from what I can tell) probably the highest quality year. Gone (fortunately) are the days where half the entries are programming exercises or trolling attempts. A handful might be not quite as polished or in-depth, but overall, the level of quality shown this year is quite high. It’s not even due to the inclusion of choice-based games, either (which arguably are technically easier to produce than parser games). Even the parser games are generally quite good. Not to open a can of worms here, but I believe that the best parser games are still more engaging and more fun than the best choice-based games. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if a choice-based game actually won the competition at some point, because making really good parser games is difficult. Making good choice-based games isn’t exactly easy either, but the tools are easier to learn, in general.

That said, my favorite games this year aren’t always the ones using the standard tools (Inform/Glulx for parser, Twine for hypertext, or Choicescript for choice-based). One of my top three was written in Alan (Onaar). More than that, one of my top ten was written in a homebrew Windows system (I Think The Waves Are Watching Me), which is usually the easiest way to lose a few points right off the bat. The interface didn’t do it any favors, but it was good enough in spite of that to score well.

In total, I played and rated 33 of the 53 games available, only five of which I scored below a 6, and ten of which I scored at 8 or 9. (I would only give a 10 if I honestly couldn’t think of anything to improve about a game, or if I played all the games and decided at the end that one game was the best, but I didn’t play all the games. More about scoring here.) So the average quality this year was quite a bit better than previous years. What that also says is that I need to spread out my scoring a bit more to distinguish the best games from the flawed games.

Top three (scored 9): Onaar, Scarlet Sails, The Baker of Shireton

Highly recommended (scored 8): Cape, Final Exam, Gotomomi, I Think The Waves Are Watching Me, Kane County, Koustrea’s Contentment, Sub Rosa

Also worth playing (scored 7): Birdland, Brain Guzzlers from Beyond!, Life on Mars?, Pit of the Condemned, TOMBs of Reschette, Untold Riches

Unfortunately, I think I missed a few of the best games since I was playing in random order and didn’t get through the whole list. I’m not going to discuss the final results here yet, but it looks like I didn’t play three of the top ten.

Here are all the games I played in alphabetical order (I played them in random order though), with my scores, and linked to their reviews once I post them:

5 Minutes to Burn Something! – Alex Butterfield (Z-code): 6
Arcane Intern (Unpaid) – Astrid Dalmady (Web – Twine): 6
Birdland – Brendan Patrick Hennessey (Web – Twine): 7
Brain Guzzlers from Beyond! – Steph Cherrywell (Glulx): 7
Cape – Bruno Dias (Web – Umdum): 8
Capsule II – The 11th Sandman – PaperBlurt (Web): 6
Crossroads – Cat Manning (Web – Twine?): 6
Duel – piato (Web): 6
Final Exam – Jack Witham (Z-code): 8
Gotomomi – Arno von Borries (Glulx): 8
Grandma Bethlinda’s Variety Box – Arthur DiBianca (Z-code): 6
I Think the Waves Are Watching Me – Bob McCabe (Windows): 8
Kane County – Michael Sterling, Tia Orisney (Web): 8
Koustrea’s Contentment – Jeremy Pflasterer (TADS): 8
Laid Off from the Synaesthesia Factory – Katherine Morayati (Glulx): 5
Life on Mars? – Hugo Labrande (Z-code): 7
Onaar – Robert DeFord (Alan): 9
Pilgrimage – Victor Ojuel (Glulx): 6
Pit of the Condemned – Matthew Holland (Zcode): 7
Recorded – Nick Junius (Glulx): 4
Questor’s Quest – Mark Stahl (Windows): 5
Scarlet Sails – Felicity Banks (Web – Choice of Games): 9
Second Story – Fred Snyder (Web): 6
Seeking Ataraxia – Glass Rat Media (Web): 5
SPY INTRIGUE – furkle (Web): 2
Sub Rosa – Joey Jones & Melvin Rangasamy (Glulx): 8
Summit – Phantom Williams (Web – Twine): 6
The Baker of Shireton – Hanon Ondricek (Glulx): 9
The Speaker – Norbez (Web – Twine): 6
The Sueno – Marshall Tenner Winter (Glulx): 5
To Burn in Memory – Orihaus (Web): 6
TOMBs of Reschette – Richard Goodness (Web – Twine): 7
Untold Riches – Jason Ermer (Glulx): 7

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