Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

IFComp 2016 Overview

Posted by Reiko on November 17, 2016

Another year has come and gone, and so it’s time to post my thoughts on the games I played for this year’s IF Comp. There were even more games this year than last year. I always try to play and review as many as I can, but I got through about the same number as last year, which is not much more than half. In the end, I played 34 of the 58 games this year.

My scores were significantly lower than last year’s spread. I said last year that I thought I needed to spread my scoring out a bit more to distinguish the games better, but this year I didn’t have that problem. I used every score between 2 and 9 for at least two games each. A few games were very buggy or outright broken, and one even seemed to be a troll entry, alas, which I scored at 1. I scored fewer than ten games as 7 or higher this year, compared to almost twice that last year. More about scoring if you’re curious about my methods.

Top two (scored 9): 16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonalds, Pogoman GO!

Highly recommended (scored 8): Ariadne in Aeaea, The Game of Worlds TOURNAMENT!, Labyrinth of Loci, To the Wolves

Also worth playing (scored 7): Fair, Riot, Stone Harbor

(Later edit: It seems I missed all of the top three games this year by playing in random order. I will have to go back and play them later. Congratulations to Detectiveland, Color the Truth, and Cactus Blue Motel.)

Last year I wrote: “…I believe that the best parser games are still more engaging and more fun than the best choice-based games.” The gap here is continuing to narrow. Half of the top six were Glulx, but one of my top two (16 Ways) was a Twine-based game with inventory puzzles, turn-based timing puzzles, and even dialog puzzles, in the best tradition of parser games without any wrestling with a parser. Plus an engaging character voice and multiple endings. It was really a lot of fun to play.

While it didn’t score as high, The Shoe Dept. was another Twine-based game with some inventory puzzles. Twine users have really expanded the forms of gameplay that the medium can support. It’s not just the text equivalent of abstract art anymore. (By “abstract art,” I’m referring to the tendency to use Twine to write literary pieces on special-interest topics which a given person may or may not relate to.)

And then there was Labyrinth of Loci, which was presented in Unity. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Unity game in an IF Comp before. Because it was distributed as a Windows executable, I first thought it was going to be a rough homebrew system like The Skull Embroidery, but instead I was pleasantly surprised to find a polished and atmospheric choice-based piece with multiple thoughtful endings based on the character’s experiences in the labyrinth. What’s more, careful replay revealed several subtle interactions between objects acquired and their effects on later scenarios.

I saw a discussion during the comp on another forum about distinguishing between IF (interactive fiction in clickable formats) vs TA (text adventures in parser formats). I don’t think there’s a neat line there, because really what they’re trying to do is distinguish between more literary pieces vs more puzzle-based pieces, and there’s already a lot of overlap there. It’s a continuum rather than a binary distinction.

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

16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonalds – Abigail Corfman (Web) – 9
500 Apocalypses – Phantom Williams (Web) – 4
All I Do Is Dream – Megan Stevens (Web) – 3
Ariadne in Aeaea – Victor Ojuel (Glulx) – 8
Darkiss! Wrath of the Vampire – Chapter 2: Journey to Hell – Marco Vallarino (Z-code) – 5
Fair – Hanon Ondricek (Glulx) – 7
Fallen 落葉 Leaves – Adam Bredenberg, Danial Mohammed Khan-Yousufzai – 2
The Game of Worlds TOURNAMENT! – Ade McT (Glulx) – 8
The God Device – Andy Joel (Web) – 6
Labyrinth of Loci – anbrewk (Windows – Unity) – 8
The Little Lifeform That Could – Fade Manley (Web – Choicescript) – 6
Manlandia – Rob Chateau (Web) – 3
The Mouse – Norbez (Web) – 4
Not Another Hero – Cecelia Rosewood (Web – Choicescript) – 5
Pogoman GO! – Jack Welch and Ben Collins-Sussman (Glulx) – 9
Quest for the Traitor Saint – Owlor (Web) – 5
Riot – Taylor Johnson (Web) – 7
Rite of Passage – Arno von Borries (Web) – 5
The Shoe Dept. – Aquanet (Web) – 5
Sigil Reader (Field) – verityvirtue (Glulx) – 4
Slicker City – Andrew Schultz (Z-code) – 6
The Skull Embroidery – Jeron Paraiso (Ruby) – 2
The Skyscraper and the Scar – Diego Freire, Ruber Eaglenest (Web) – 4
Snake’s Game – Nahian Nasir (Web – inklewriter) – 4
Steam and Sacrilege – Phil McGrail (Glulx) – 4
Stone Harbor – Liza Daly (Web) – 7
Thaxted Havershill and the Golden Wombat – Andrew Brown (Web) – 2
A Time of Tungsten – Devin Raposo (Web – Twine) – 5
To the Wolves – Els White (Web) – 8
Toiletworld – Chet Rocketfrak (Web) – 1
Ventilator – Peregrine Wade (Glulx) – 5
Yes, my mother is… – Skarn (Web) – 6
You are standing in a cave… – Caroline Berg (Z-code) – 4
Zigamus: Zombies at Vigamus – Marco Vallarino (Z-code) – 4

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