IFComp 2014: Ending comments   Leave a comment

I have finished reviewing every game from IFComp 2014, so have collected links to every review as a page on this blog.

You can check that page for just the list, but I reproduce it here along with some general comments about the competition:

(Stars (*) indicate personal/subjective choices.)

Highly Recommended

AlethiCorp by Simon Christiansen
Creatures Such as We by Lynnea Glasser
Eidolon* by A.D. Jansen
Fifteen Minutes by Ade
Hunger Daemon by Sean M. Shore
Venus Meets Venus* by kaleidofish
With Those We Love Alive by Porpentine, Brenda Neotenomie

Recommended

Enigma by Simon Deimel
Jacqueline, Jungle Queen! by Steph Cherrywell
Missive by Joey Fu
Raik by Harry Giles
Tea Ceremony by Naomi Hinchen
The Black Lily* by Hannes Schueller
The Contortionist by Nicholas Stillman
The Entropy Cage by Stormrose
The Secret Vaults of Kas the Betrayer* by A.E. Jackson
Transparent by Hanon Ondricek

Not Recommended

And yet it moves by Orion
Arqon by H. J. Hoke
Begscape by Porpentine
Building the Right Stuff by Laura Mitchell
Caroline by Kristian Kronstrand
Excelsior by Arthur DiBianca
Following Me by Tia Orisney
HHH.exe by Robot Parking
Hill 160 by Mike Gerwat
Icepunk by pageboy
Inward Narrow Crooked Lanes by B Minus Seven
Jesse Stavro’s Doorway by Marshal Tenner Winter
Krypteia by Kateri
Laterna Magica by Jens Byriel
Milk Party Palace by Alon Karmi & Glenn Parker
One Night Stand by Giannis G. Georgiou
Origins by Vincent Zeng and Chris Martens
Paradox Corps by John Evans
Sigmund’s Quest by Gregor Holtz
Slasher Swamp by Robot
The Urge by PaperBlurt
Tower by Simon Deimel
Ugly Oafs by Perry Creel
Unform by S. Elize Morgan
Zest by Fear of Twine (Richard Goodness, lectronice, PaperBlurt)

Incidentally, while my Not Recommended list is pretty heavy (nearly 60% of entries versus 37% in 2007) it’s because the main theme of the comp might be called Experimental. My 2007 Not Recommended list consists mostly of games with such low standards I wouldn’t wish them on anyone, whereas many of mine from this year were competently made, just failures in some crucial aspect or noble experiments that didn’t work. Even the entry that advertised itself as a learning exercise for the author (Tower) included one genuinely good puzzle and two interface features I had never seen before (HERRINGS and the guiding sphere) .

The experimentation extended to gameplay genre. It really made no sense to simply think in terms of just “choice-based” and “parser-based”. I saw

  • Kinetic story (Venus Meets Venus, (most of) Urge): story with essentially no interaction except for side texts and multimedia effects.
  • Narrative strategy (Begscape, Zest): games with a strategy management mechanic as the overarching force.
  • Classic puzzle-based adventure (Hunger Daemon, Contortionist): notable in that a Twine game fell into the same category normally reserved for parser games.
  • Open world adventure (Transparent): a category so rare I can only think of two other examples (Mystery Mansion and [sort of] The Hobbit); goal-based play is reduced and the player is given a sandbox. In the case of Transparent, the camera being able to take a picture of anything (with a possible but ignorable money-optimizing goal) qualifies it as a sandbox.
  • Puzzle boat (Missive in a sense): a game which jettisons object/environment puzzles for self contained word problems / riddles / cryptograms / etc. although there is still a narrative. Cliff Johnson’s work falls purely in this category.
  • ??? (AlethiCorp): in the category of I seriously have no idea. I have played alternate reality games before but this was something different.

This isn’t even a complete list. Also, there was no “sculptural fiction” (as Aaron Reed has designated Ice-Bound) and who knows what else might be possible. My aborted but hopefully released-by-the-end-of-the-year competition entry is in a different category from any of the above.

The important thing about experiments is it is hard at first to know what the norms are. What makes a good narrative strategy game? How minimalist is too much? Is it possible to have an inventory without displaying it? What would happen if you made a choice game that forces you to type your commands? Is gameplay manageable in a “puzzle boat” that lets you proceed even with wrong answers?

I did joke about resetting the Rules of Interactive Fiction during my Tea Ceremony review, but perhaps it is time we start treating different gameplay genres as different things in critical theory, even if they both happen to be written in the same engine.

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Posted October 29, 2014 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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