Saturday Afternoon Reading: The IFComp Winners

Dad, look, just use the ice wand.

Right, five o’clock. Early Saturday afternoon. You’ve watched your cartoons, you’ve had your walk – haven’t you? – and a nice big lunch, so it’s time to settle down for a spot of reading. I say this as someone you trust to guide your personal development, of course. You’ll draw today’s reading material from IFComp, the interactive fiction competition, as it wrapped up this week and winners were declared – presenting a recommended reading list.

I hugely enjoyed Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive, in an existential dread sort of way, and Pip was taken with procedural murder mystery Missive, but gosh, so many more were entered.

You can fight through a jungle, engage in the exciting world of business, be a tour guide looking for love on the moon, travel through time to stop yourself getting expelled, mind your manners in a diplomatic tea ceremony with an alien, be a cyber-psychiatrist counselling computer programs, beg, and so many other things. Some are built in click-clicky Twine-like interfaces, some use more traditional text input, and some are some combination of the two, doing their own thing.

Hundreds of folks have voted across IFComp, so the final placements will be a fair indication of what’ll offer a generally pleasing read, but do also poke around at anything you like the sound of. Interactive fiction writer Emily Short points out several authors have written up post-mortems too, if you fancy a peek behind the scenes.

Hey, perhaps folks who’ve gone through a fair few of these might have some recommendations?

21 Comments

  1. Rikard Peterson says:

    I quite liked Creatures Such as We, and I suspect it’s a game that works well for the RPS crowd.

    • tumbleworld says:

      Creatures Such As We was wonderful. I loved it. Not as utterly beautiful as her previous game, Coloratura, perhaps, but definitely more accessible.

    • Melody says:

      It is a great game, I loved it. (Thanks for recommending it)
      But if you were talking about the self-reflection on games bit… I suspect the people who should actually read that are never going to play an IF game. (The first part, especially, in which the protagonist pretty much says that games can’t have bad endings because they’re escapism; if there’s a bad ending, there must be multiple endings, and one of them must be good. I mean, that kind of crowd is hardly going to play an IF game, in my opinion) As for me, that part was interesting and well-written, but hardly anything new.

    • ensor says:

      It was my favorite of the Comp, edging out Those We Love Alive. It’s pretty darn hard to have a story full of characters who are essentially living interior arguments, but Glasser pulls it off. And the game is more than worth replaying at least once.

  2. welverin says:

    Five o’clock is early afternoon to you? I’d call that late afternoon or more likely early evening.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      I DISPUTE YOUR FINDINGS AND MOTION THAT SOME KIND OF STEERING COMMITTEE BE ESTABLISHED.

      • satan says:

        We can’t just setup a committee without a cost-benefit analysis.

        • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

          Motion to set up a comitee to analyse whether it is needed to set up a comitee to analyse whether it is needed to set up a comitee to analyse this matter. I expect all votes to be cast by evening. Er. Afternoon.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I agree; by six, we’re into evening.

      Although with the current weather-induced lighting conditions, it may as well all be “night”.

  3. Melody says:

    Alice, you’re the best, ehm, personal developer.

  4. Jac says:

    Who voted on these? The score spreads are reminiscent of metacritic user voting – lots of 1/10’s in there…

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      The general public. Anyone was free to vote as long as they had played at least five games.

    • jnik says:

      I’m not seeing the usual nice little histograms, so I’m going off the standard deviations, but it doesn’t look unusual. Several factors:
      1) IFcomp is not Metacritic and most of the scale gets used
      2) There are lots of ways to get a terrible score. Anybody can enter and ethical judges usually try for a random distribution, so they all get played. That includes first games that anybody’s ever written. And games from known griefers who try to write the worst piece of crap possible just to ruin the judges’ day. Even if the game isn’t crap as such, if the first puzzle is so obtuse that my two hours goes into bashing my head against it, well, not going to score well. Similarly if I can’t get the game to run: I count game setup time against the two hours as well, and there are people who like to use really weird game systems, and then their game only works on this interpreter (even if there are three other interpreters for the system), but only version 5.1 not 5.2, and only on 32-bit Windows XP. It is nuts but IF has taken a turn into compatibility hell in the last few years.

      I’ve had one really good experience with judging ifcomp (02, when Moonlit Tower happened to pop up randomly, and man that was fantastic), and several really bad ones, where the games I wound up with were all the bottom of the pile. I’ve given up judging and just wait for the results.

  5. Melody says:

    Hunger Daemon would be a lot more fun if I could, you know, get out of the car and continue the game.
    I tried every verb I could think off (Get out, get off, exit, park, leave, drop, walk, stop, turn off, dismount) but nothing works.

    • Mr. Patient says:

      My apologies for that. EXIT or OUT should work just fine to get out of the car. As for driving and parking, all you need to do is move a direction when you’re in the car (EAST, or what have you) and the driving will be assumed.

      Thanks for playing, and sorry for the confusion.

  6. ensor says:

    My favorites of the Comp: Creatures Such As We, Those We Love Alive (not as incredible as Porpentine’s howling dogs, but more accessible), Hunger Daemon (the winner), a really polished, funny game in the “classic” IF style, and Eidolon, an evocatively creepy fairytale/nightmare (even for one rather sick of creepy fairytale nightmare games). Also rather interesting: Raik, a game half-written in Scots(!); Transparent, a haunted house exploration game that needs a little work but does some neat things; and my pick for underrated of the Comp, Zest, which isn’t terribly “gamey”, but does some smart, subtle things with its presentation. All in all, I’d say it was a pretty strong year – lots of games that tried new things and went in interesting places, mostly successfully.

  7. jbd says:

    I wrote reviews for all of them (just click my name for the link).

    A couple that might be of interest that haven’t been mentioned already:

    AlethiCorp by Simon Christiansen
    This one is played by logging on to a faux corporate website and applying for a job, which involves picking who to spy on and report for subversive activity. Both the gameplay and the combination of dysfunction and tragedy and humor are unique.

    Fifteen Minutes by Ade
    The hardcore puzzle entry of the group, where you have to navigate temporal paradox created when multiple versions of yourself start to jump into the room.

    The Entropy Cage by Stormrose
    The plot doesn’t fully explain itself, but there’s some killer atmosphere here as you play a “cyber-psychiatrist” trying to work out what’s wrong with some subroutines.

    Transparent by Hanon Ondricek
    Open world games are almost routine these days for RPGs and zombie shooters, but not so much for adventure games. The gimmick here is you are a photographer at a haunted-manor shoot and you get more money based on the interest level and quality of your photos. If you dig deeper there’s a plot behind it with multiple endings. It really takes more than the standard IFComp 2 hour mark to get the full experience, but since the judging period is over you can just enjoy it for what it is.

  8. Xerodo says:

    A friend and I did a week of reviews for IF Comp this year:

    link to youtube.com

    We’re split between Alethicorp and With Those We Love Alive for the best of show. Both are excellent but they’re quite different from each other, and I ended up going with a 10 on the both of them.