IFComp 2019 Results, and my comments   2 comments

The 25th Interactive Fiction Competition is over, and the ratings and votes are all in. Congratulations to Steph Cherrywell for getting 1st place with Zozzled!

I never worked my notes up to anything approaching “reviews”, but I have here four recommended entries. Also note

a.) I didn’t play any of the parser games, at least not extensively enough to make a judgment (this is because Warp pretty much drained me during the time of judging; I’ll sit back and enjoy the games later)

b.) Even though I focused on the choice-based works I never came close to trying everything in that category.

Turandot by Victor Gijsbers

Based on the opera involving the Princess Turandot and a test of Three Riddles she gives potential suitors, although here it gets expanded into an entire dungeon of traps. You play as one of the suitors.

My favorite of the choice-based games, but do take the content warning seriously. The banter between the main characters is phenomenal. My only quibble is that there are some early choice-doesn’t-matter parts and while you do eventually start being able to make choices that affect things, it isn’t obvious when this happens, and the occasional not-really-a-choice moments still pop up. I often found myself meta-wondering if I should be really caring or not about a particular conversation line.

Heretic’s Hope by G.C. Baccaris

You live amongst insects as the only human. You get an (unwelcome?) promotion.

The interface and music here are the slickest of the competition, and the writing is fairly solid throughout. I did find myself not always feeling like I understood my choices that well (see the advisor choice above — by the time I really got an idea of who the insects were and what a particular choice meant, the story was over) but in the end this was still a good ride.

The good people by Pseudavid

The main character and their romantic partner Alice go to visit the ruins of a flooded village from the past.

I very much enjoyed the spare writing; I think Alice’s relationship with the main character might have been a little too vague for some of the intended payoff to kick in later, but I still found the plot satisfying.

Unfortunately (and this seems to be in common with many of the IFComp choice games this year) I didn’t always feel like I had much agency. (There are cases where denying interactivity in a piece of interactive fiction can be effective, but I find the technique to be overused.)

Limerick Heist by Pace Smith

Extremely snappy and clever: you assemble a team to steal a Faberge egg, but the entire thing is delivered in limericks.

We only have a poetry entry in IFComp once every few years, but I have seen what I believe to be all of them, and this is the best one.

Nitpick: this is short enough I can’t be too disappointed, but most of the interaction here is the all-or-nothing type — either you pick the correct choice and move on with the story, or you pick the wrong one and lose (the “deadly gauntlet”). I find this kind of structure exhausting, especially here where there isn’t a good way to think through the “best” way of doing many choices (except for one bit involving the rhyme structure of the limerick which made me laugh).

Posted November 17, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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2 responses to “IFComp 2019 Results, and my comments

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  1. On your recommendation I played through Turandot. I enjoyed it, but it really was a matter of “play through” not “play”. It’s not a game at all, really, just a (pretty good) short story. I am pretty sure that not once single choice I made had any influence at all on the progress of the plot. I’m not sure how I feel about that. A bit cheated, really — though I shouldn’t feel that, since I enjoyed it.

    • You might be better off playing some of the parser stuff, like the winner Zozzled, or 4th place Sugarland. Apparently 3rd place (Chuk and the Arena) is Twine but also an relatively traditional adventure game but was buried pretty deep in my list so I never had a chance to try it.

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