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IFComp 2006

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IFComp 2006

Post by Hipolito » Fri Oct 06, 2006 12:37 pm

That's right, text adventure fans, the 12th annual Interactive Fiction Competition is underway. I really got into judging for this competition last year, and was hoping to compete this year, but I've been busy writing another sort of "interactive" fiction.

So I'll be judging again, and invite you to join me and share impressions. I'll be more mindful of the rules this time and not post opinions on specific games until the judging ends on November 15.

There are 43 entries, but that number goes down a bit if you exclude last year's bottom-scoring authors, which I will. You have to rate a minimum of five games for your votes to be counted. Also, the games are supposed to be short, so your rating for a game can be based on the first two hours of play at most.

I know, I know. "You lost me at text adventure." Hey, give it a shot! Play some of the previous contest winners and see how you like them. There was a lot of dreck last year, and there might be this year, too, but finding the gems is worth the effort.
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Post by Hipolito » Sun Oct 29, 2006 8:34 pm

I've played a dozen of the entries in the competition so far. There are already some real winners, so it looks like this year will be better than last year.

I won't say right now whether I liked it, but the entry Game Producer! has you play an employee at a publishing company on the day your big game is to go gold. It's by Jason "loonyboi" Bergman, who's been a gaming journalist and now works at 2K Games. Industry types and wannabes might want to check it out.

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Post by Hipolito » Wed Nov 15, 2006 6:51 pm

Tonight is the last night of judging, and I've gone through all the entries I can (22). I judged entries in random order, as the rules recommend, except for a few authors returning from last year whose entries I made a point of playing. Here are my opinions on the games, in the order I played them.

Moon-Shaped: A retelling of a classic fairy tale with a lot of well-written, emotional surprises. This game will be in the top ten--no, the top five. Rating on the 1-10 scale: 8.

Sisyphus: A great idea: you're that guy who's condemned to push a boulder up a hill for eternity, and you have to weasel your way out. But, as in the myth, escape seems impossible. Rating: 5.

Madam Spider's Web: Well-written and programmed, but not as good as the author's tough and funny Tough Beans of last year. It's short, a bit obscure and didn't mean a whole lot to me in the end. Rating: 6.

The Primrose Path: Stepping into paintings, stopping time... I didn't get it at all. It was confusing to navigate and read. I don't think I've been so distracted by other things while playing a game. Rating: 3.

A Broken Man: This infiltration game isn't too interesting to play or read, but gets a few extra points for its way-out-there ending. Rating: 5.

Unauthorized Termination: Competent, consistent and compelling story in a robot-inhabited dystopia. Not deep or thrilling, but it keeps your attention to the end. Much better than the author's dreadful Escape to New York of last year. Rating: 6.

Labyrinth: You and your wife are badly hurt in a car accident, and only through the power of math can you survive. Rating: 3.

Mobius: Given how many games deal with time travel, I'm surprised I haven't seen one attempt what this game cleverly does. A brief but very tricky game. Rating: 7.

Aunts and Butlers: A droll British comedy romp. Starts as very funny and irreverent, then it's just irreverent. Bonus points for featuring haggis as an inventory item. Raw score: 6

Star City: It's Rendezvous with Rama with a Vengeance. The writing shows restraint, and the game gets more and more challenging. The only stand-out flaw is that you have to listen at one point, which the game doesn't sufficiently clue you into. Rating: 8.

Game Producer!: Funny look at what a producer must do on the day the big game goes gold. Easy to navigate, puzzles are clean and mostly well-cued, and it's easy to win, encouraging replay. Rating: 8.

Another Goddamn Escape the Locked Room Game: Pretty funny and warped little game, though you'll have to use the hints a lot. Even the hints say you have to use the hints. Rating: 5.

Enter the Dark: This game is broken. And not spellchecked. You're a zombie, I guess. Rating: 1.

The Tower of the Elephant: An adaptation of a Conan the Barbarian story. It's alright, but I had to use a walkthrough all the way since reloading a saved game caused an out-of-dynamic memory error. Rating: 5.

The Traveling Swordsman: The title graphics are nice, but I only put myself through 25% of the dry, humorless story and silly, fiddly puzzles. Rating: 4.

Beam: The story is clever, but I needed a walkthrough pretty much the whole time. How was I supposed to know that to reach the top of a tree, I have to go not up but in it? And how was I supposed to know that there was a hatch there when the game doesn't tell me? Rating: 2.

The Initial State: What a bleak game. It seems that every description boils down to how awful life is. It's the Matter Hatter in outer space. Not bad, though. Rating: 6.

Requiem: The story is longer and not as coherent as the author's entry from last year, Mortality. A choose-your-own adventure that, for the most part, requires you to stumble through one bad choice after another until you get the right ending. I did find the characters compelling, eventually, but not before the first two hours were up. Rating: 5.

MANALIVE, A Mystery of Madness - I: An adaptation of some comical English novel. It seems thorough about including text from the book, but not in a way that could be understood. Sadly, the game is broken, and even following the walkthrough got me nowhere. Part II is also in the competition; I didn't bother with it. Rating: 2.

Pathfinder: Vague puzzles, amateurish story. Rating: 4.

Xen: The Hunt: Sequel to last year's Xen: The Contest, which had the problem of taking too long to get interesting. This one is simply not as interesting. There's less drama and more exposition, and the train puzzle can be made interminable. Still, the writing remains above average. Rating: 6.

Carmen Devine: Supernatural Troubleshooter: Interesting--you're a member of a secret society of werewolves, trying to figure out what slaughtered a village--but I wasn't able to complete it because the walkthrough wasn't explicit enough. Rating: 6.

I can recommend Moon-Shaped, Star City, Game Producer!, and Mobius. Though there are many entries I didn't play, I'm gunning for Moon-Shaped to win. Results will be announced tomorrow, I think.

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Post by Campy » Thu Nov 16, 2006 10:46 am

Hipolito, I'm late to the party so won't be judging, but wanted to say thanks to you for posting this and your view of the best games. I'm a fan of IF. My wife is a big reader and not big on computer games, however, I can get her to play some IF with me. To me, good IF is reading with extra thinking.

Anyway, thanks.

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Post by Hipolito » Thu Nov 16, 2006 11:59 am

My pleasure, thanks for reading. The best IF games really draw you in and make you feel part of the story in a way that other game types usually can't.

I know we're not the only IF fans here. Where's Mr. Dave Allen?

Anyway, the top three winners of this year's IFComp have been announced: Floatpoint, The Primrose Path, and The Elysium Enigma. I had started Floatpoint but didn't play enough to form an opinion of it, so I didn't rate it. The Primrose Path I just didn't get, and I haven't tried the third one.

As for my favorites, Moon-Shaped made #5, Mobius made #9, Game Producer made #11, and Star City made #13. In a competition of 43 games, those are respectable showings. I can only hope I do as well if and when I compete in IFComp.

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Post by Nightwish » Thu Nov 16, 2006 11:53 pm

yet another type of game that i wish i could set my mind to play, but end up not playing.
I'll see if I'll pick it up in a few days now, thanks for writing.
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Post by Padre » Thu Nov 16, 2006 11:57 pm

I'm a casual IF fan. Thanks for the rundown.

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