2016 Interactive Fiction Competition

The 22nd Annual Interactive Fiction Competition begins today. Everyone has until Nov 15 to play some games and score them-- it’s fun, it’s easy, I’ve been doing it for years and am no worse for wear. All are welcome to discuss their IF Comp 2016 thoughts here.

The competition website may be overloaded. I’ve tried twice to download the zip package of all the games, and both attempts timed out. I’ll keep trying, as I’m eager to get started.

Top questions on everyone’s minds for this year’s competition:

  1. Will this be the year when PeterPiers finally votes? :grin:
  2. How many scores of “1” will Endosphere give out this year? Will it be an all-time high?

Off-topic Edit: Yikes! We need to alert vaporware that this forum has the homeliest looking smiley-faces ever.



Dude, this may be the year I actually join the chorus of our National Portuguese Opera House, and I may find out about it within the next two months (there’s a tenor retiring and in a recent audition I was the only tenor who qualified - fingers crossed!), so I’m definitely not voting!

(BTW, after reading robinjohnson’s comment on a blog about how the no-updates rule was like winning a chess competition b/c the opponent’s mobile went off - an analogy which I still think is quite nonsensical - I had a very dark moment when I considered voting 1 for every game that updated.

The moment passed, and I’m ashamed I thought it at all, and of course I will do no such thing. But it’s interesting, isn’t it? Given the right circumstances and the right triggers, how we’ll start considering things we normally wouldn’t - and would, indeed, normally call out and abhor)

EDIT - Shhheeeeeeet! 212mb zip file! Wow!

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Excuses, excuses… always excuses from you… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I’m just kidding around. That’s actually very cool, I wish you well on that endeavor.

I tried two more times to download the competition pack, and they again timed out. The website must just be overloaded, as I’m not having trouble with any other sites at this time.

I as well very much dislike the “update after the competition starts” practice. That’s why I’m always so keen to download the games on the first day, so I can examine everything in the original condition in which it was submitted. Those authors who had their act together and submitted a working entry should be rewarded, and this is how I try to give some feedback on that issue.

Added 5 hours later:

I got the games package not long after posting the above, and have waded into the bumper crop of 58 entries.

I always go through the web stuff first, since most of them are simple CYOA and don’t take very long (rarely more than 20 minutes). I reserve the right to change my opinion later, but my initial impression is that maybe those interested in this subgenre are finally starting to understand what interactive fiction is all about. Having examined (“played”) about 25 percent of the web-based entries at this time (I only stopped to refill my coffee), I’ve already seen more interactivity and audience-based CNC (choice and consequences) than in previous years I’ve seen in the sum of the entire web-based offerings.

I only gave out one “1” so far for a short title that stalled (crashed) halfway through, which had a narrative that wasn’t engaging me in the first place. Could it be possible that even though there are more entries, I’ll actually give out less "1"s this year than last year? I hope so (after all, more good entries means more fun), but only time will tell.

As always, I will enter a score for every single entry in the competition, and I encourage others to do likewise. With so many entries this year, the 1-10 scoring range is by its nature going to lump together many entries that in previous years could have been more clearly distinguished by scoring alone, so-- the more judges contributing to the averages, the better.

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Glad to see I’m not the only one who noticed.
I remember when I could get all the IF Comp games in a zip file smaller than 50 MB. Geez. Aren’t most of these supposed to be just HTML/JS/CSS?

A pleasant surprise this year is that most authors of web-based entries actually included a copy of their entry (i.e., a permanent, archivable file, playable off-line). So instead of a bunch 500 byte url shortcuts to ephemeral websites, there are actual files. This contributes to the perhaps larger than expected size of the competition zip download.

To authors who did this, I’ll say: thank you for having some consideration of the possible needs of your audience.


Absolutely. I’ve always been a pain in the derrière about this, very vocal, very loud. And at some point last year I also noticed a trend towards this - including games rather than links. It’s gratifying to see all my complaining helped make a difference.

I am also very, very thankful to all the authors who are doing this. And I hope that any updated versions also get distributed offline. It really is an excellent state of affairs.

I’m happy that this is happening just as I’m into one of my IF rushes. Hopefully, I’ll be voting this year, if not, at least I’ll have a couple of reviews back on IFDB when the embargo date of november 15 expires.

so far, so good. 2 games, web-based, twine, perfect fits for mobile screen. Both finely crafted, one inventory-based, requiring true user agency with great surprise. The other with a great setting and memorable characters but the core message is: this is yet another gay coming of age like most twine. I guess this is what we deserve for years of dungeon crawling abuse in the 80’s and 90’s…

btw: parchment hacking is on hold for it :blush:

If playing some of the entries anyway, it’s only a small and easy extra step to officially score them. Sure I like to go through all of them, but to be a judge you only have to score five entries. In years past I’ve looked at the results and felt sort of frustrated when some contestants have entries which only got maybe 35 or 45 scorings, because this means the results for all contestants can be skewed by eccentricities of a few judges. In other words, the more the merrier, for everyone.

I think I’m off to a good start, which I always try to do. So far I got through 21 of the 58 entries (which may seem like a lot, but as I said earlier most of the web-based entries rarely take more than 15 or 20 minutes to thoroughly explore). This means if I wanted to relax, I’d only have to look at about one additional entry per day from now until Nov 15, which is a pace that could be well described as “leisurely.”

I can already see that with so many entries this year, expressing value judgements which strive to clearly distinguish one entry from another using the 1-10 scoring system will be a problem. I have a fairly well developed scoring system I use that I could go on about in great detail, but for the most part it can be summarized as:

1: This really sucks. I want my time back.
2: You’re largely incompetent, or you made me really angry, or both.
3: You weren’t ready for prime time. Try harder next year.
4-8: Good job overall. Okay, so you didn’t succeed in making the Best Art Ever, but I respect what you were able to accomplish.
9: Second place.
10: First place.

I only give out a single 9 and 10.

There seems to be a problem, though, in handing out twenty "5"s for example, because in each case there will be different reasons for assigning a five instead of a 4 or a 6. I think it’s generally true that folks just want to know whether they placed near the top or bottom. The person who comes in 34th place probably doesn’t say “I was robbed! I clearly should have come in 33rd!” Even so, this still seems like a problem.

I think I’ll try to give a larger spread this year, trying to move things either up or down and thus away from the middling scores more than I have in the past.

Oh, I’m keeping track of the scores, even reviewing some as I go. But I fear I can’t really score one without taking the others into consideration. It may be fine for now, but may well lose one point or two when I play something better. I’ll batch score them on due time.

Though stinkers are always stinkers.

I’m going through cyoa first too. They do indeed seem to require now some actual user agency rather than being mere clickable fiction.

Bwahahaha. It seems any time there are new IF a host of new clones pop up in intfiction to review games and influence others. This one was one the most ludicrous:


And thank you for bringing that to people’s attention. I’m glad somebody did - there’s probably a fair number of web-based IF pieces from previous comps that are gone now because their authors never really made it a point to provide offline versions of their works to the Archive.

(I’m speaking, of course, about pre-Twine/Undum/etc. IF works.)

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Not only that, but many of them also included the required media (audio files, images, etc.), not just the title/cover image. That’s great.

Where I’m surprised is there are still Windows-only entries being submitted. I had initially thought they would probably die off now that systems like Twine/Undum exist, not to mention that Inform 7 provides a cross-platform development environment.

I think most of them are saved in the whole download bundle anyway? I don’t have any recollection pre-2010. But it seems like the competition package should contain them all.

That said, yes, it’s nice that there’s more emphasis on making sure things are saved. Regardless of how good/bad a game is, it’s nice just to be completionist.

Many of them were exactly as @Endosphere described: URL shortcuts to webpages that no longer exist. The tech probably has something to do with it, since many of the Twine-like systems do allow authors to submit self-contained HTML pages these days unlike before. But there was no reason it couldn’t be done before: just look at Robin Johnson’s games (e.g., Aunts and Butlers).

People can do as they please of course, but I’ve always thought one should wait until after the (a, any) competition is over to publish reviews. Otherwise, your description seems very apt and the whole thing seems like an attempt to influence the opinions of others who may be pondering how to score this or that. There’s also the problem I mentioned earlier, where some games get very few scores at all. Reviews compound this issue-- for example, “Oh, Famous Reviewer loved this game, I’ll play and score that one, but I won’t bother with this other one that Famous Reviewer said was lousy.”

This is why I only ever discuss metadata while the competition is ongoing (e.g. "I gave out 14 "3"s, and 19 "4"s, etc) rather than mentioning any entry by name. I don’t claim that’s what everyone should do, that’s just how I do it, for the reasons I’ve mentioned.

In addition to the record/archiving, there’s also the practical matter of basic use. I spend much of my time, including my leisure time, in suburban/rural areas where I often have to make a special effort to go somewhere (such as a library) with internet access when I have on-line business. Yet if for example I go to a library to get some games to play, that certainly doesn’t mean that I want to sit at a library for hours while playing (quite the contrary) because the media only exists on-line.

Added later edit:

Thinking more about what namekuseijin and I were discussing brought to mind the issue of counter-voting. Reading reviews can be helpful for getting an idea of how others are reacting.

For example, back in 2012, there was an entry called “Sunday Afternoon.” I thought this entry had some important game design problems, but I was also sure it would be popular with other voters, so I deducted an extra point to counter the latter effect. It’s certainly not something I do often, but I’m sure it does occur. Has anyone else ever done this?

[quote=“PeterPiers, post:2, topic:300”]
(BTW, after reading robinjohnson’s comment on a blog about how the no-updates rule was like winning a chess competition b/c the opponent’s mobile went off - an analogy which I still think is quite nonsensical - I had a very dark moment when I considered voting 1 for every game that updated.

The moment passed, and I’m ashamed I thought it at all, and of course I will do no such thing. But it’s interesting, isn’t it? Given the right circumstances and the right triggers, how we’ll start considering things we normally wouldn’t - and would, indeed, normally call out and abhor)[/quote]

You, too? I thought I was the only one who’s considered handing out 1’s to every game updated during the voting period. In the end, I didn’t do it because a) it’s a pretty shitty thing to do and b) it’s not really fair to punish people for taking advantage of a very poor decision (in my opinion) on behalf of the comp organiser. But yeah, I gave serious consideration to it a few years ago.

BTW, what does robinjohnson’s comment mean anyway? I’m sure it makes sense to him but it makes none to me.

I think it means that he’d rather win legitimately instead of winning due to a technicality. Recalling the forum discussion that led to the blog post, we disagree on whether an entry containing software bugs is a substantive flaw or a technicality. I suspect that one’s position on the issue is influenced by one’s position on the programmer - writer spectrum (yes, I’m simplifying by calling it a spectrum).

perhaps it’s an online chess competition and you win because your opponent went offline and thus can’t further “update” his game? :wink:

anyway, I fear I’m guilty of at least one update as I encountered a “bug” - more of a minor flaw as you could still go on - and readily reported to the author…

it’s a non-issue to me. Unless the game was a in really broken state and in no way to enter the competition, minor polish like this doesn’t affect the outcome for a good work of IF.

FYI: http://www.intfiction.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=32&t=20574

We have an interesting competition this year. “Variety” is the only summary that comes to mind. I didn’t mean to make quite such a marathon of it right from the start, but in the past 48 hours I examined 35 of the 58 entries-- 5 parser games and 30 html games. I’m having trouble forming any generalizations, as there are many different styles on display.

The highest score I’ve marked so far is 6, though one of the sixes could be easily be promoted to a 7 (or higher) depending on what I find in the remaining entries I have yet to explore. I have a huge glut of entries scored at “4,” so after I’m finished I’ll have to think more carefully about those and move some up or down to clear out the traffic jam around that number and better utilize the full range of scores. I only marked four "1"s thus far, so it seems certain I won’t even begin to approach the epic number of "1"s I handed out last year when there were so many entries that could best be described as “busted junk.” Thus, I think we can say the general level of competence demonstrated by authors this year is the highest we’ve seen in some time-- which is good news for all participants.

There are an unusual number of entries this year peculiarly obsessed with death in a quite morbid fashion (and this is in addition to the usual handful of neurotic nonsense), which seems strange to me. However, I’m not complaining, as these dark themes are a welcome relief from the typical barrage of half-baked political ideology sermons (which seem strangely sparse this time around, unless they’re all in the entries I haven’t yet examined) to which we are often subjected at IF Comp time.

I continue to be impressed by the relative depth of interactivity offered in many of the html-based entries this year. There are several entries, though, that utilize what could be described as a “let’s write a diary” format that I think simply doesn’t work well at all. If you don’t inform me when we start about my character so I can role-play, I will portray myself in the scenarios you present. The trouble, then, is when I rarely or never see options that represent what I would do under X circumstances. I’m typically left feeling frustrated-- which is to say, the work has failed to engage me, and therefore has probably not succeeded in communicating whatever it was the author hoped to accomplish.

Overall, I’d say this year has many innovative, intriguing entries, entries with notably higher average quality than we’ve seen in recent years, and this will probably be a remembered as a good year for the competition as an institution or tradition.


Overcoming my reluctance to click your link to that other forum (technically, I think I shouldn’t even look at anything there since I explicity reject their totalitarian so-called “Terms of Use”), that post seems like the usual sort of hysterical nonsense from people who use that forum. It’s not much different from the many posts always made over there about “Stop Hatin’ on mah CYOAz” even despite the many statistical proofs that there simply are not and never have been ANY judges who trollishly give out automatic 1 scores to CYOA entries or any other kind of entry.

In other words, I wouldn’t worry much about anything said over there. Those folks some time ago lost the right to be taken seriously by reasonable adults.


Mobile phones can be used to cheat. If your phone rings, even if you just see the number, that can mean a lot. For instance, with caller id, if the number is hacked to be, say,

995 254 4244 then it could mean play e2-e4, then d2-d4. That’s a crude code but an example of what could be done to transmit info quickly without even having the phone answered.