Wednesday, August 20, 2014

IF Comp 2014 Wrapup

I'd like to do a quick retrospective on all the other games of IF Comp 2014. It was a great year, with some really fantastic entries and amazing innovations, and tough competition. I feel like almost every game this year was the result of genuine excitement and investment in the craft of making games, and it was amazing to get to see that in action and be a part of it.

My own game, Creatures Such as We placed 2nd, by a very narrow margin in the 2014 IF Comp. I'm very grateful for that recognition: that this crazy idea for a complicated narrative would be so deeply enjoyed by players and would resonate and would serve as an inspiration.

Like last year, I did some reviews in the author's-only forum, but, once again, I feel like those reviews are better served staying in that private forum. However, I still believe that every game you play has something to teach, and so here are the games and what new innovations, or exceptionally well-done elements they brought to the table.

Hunger Daemon: Normalizing humor applied to themes of traditional lovecraftian horror.
Jacqueline, Jungle Queen!: Humorous adventure. Well-paced magical skills
AlethiCorp: Corporate website parody structure.
With Those We Love Alive: Creepy descriptions with just enough revelation.
Fifteen Minutes: Heavy exploration around a central, difficult puzzle.
Missive: Puzzles that do not gate gameplay, but rather enhance it.
Eidolon: A good sense of a slowly increasing creeping dread.
Krypteia: Beautiful allegory, amazing Twine text effects.
Tea Ceremony: Simplistic puzzle fun.
Transparent: Slowly meting out important information.
Enigma: Treating memories and story as the puzzle.
Venus Meets Venus: Instilling a sense of self-defeating fatalism.
The Entropy Cage: Having incomplete access to the story and to controls.
Raik: Different languages as conveying a different story and emotional state.
The Black Lily: I avoided this game, but I appreciated the game letting me know that I should avoid it.
The Contortionist: Incorporating a set of verbs as a standardized toolset.
Ugly Oafs: Pure puzzles.
Jesse Stavro's Doorway: I'm not sure that this introduced anything new, but it was made fairly competently.
Following Me: A solidly-implemented interactive novel.
Tower: Subtle hints at a secondary reality.
Paradox Corps: Pure timelord-ish fantasy fun.
Zest: Depressing apartment+job done competently.
Unform: A great depiction of a creepy mental prison.
Origins: two-sided influenced storytelling (would have been cool as multiplayer.)
HHH.exe: Creepypasta nostalgia game done right.
And yet it moves: I'm not sure that this introduced anything new, but it was made fairly competently.
Begscape: Social awareness presented without room for judgment about being the "right" kind of beggar.
The Urge: I also avoided this game, but I appreciated the game letting me know that I should avoid it.
Milk Party Palace: Absurdist humor that still presents clear goals and a clear sense of progression.
Icepunk: Exploration and a sense of progress.
Caroline: The creeping malaise of seeing someone wholly engrossed in a cult.
The Secret Vaults of Kas the Betrayer: I'm not sure that this introduced anything new, but it was made fairly competently.
Building the Right Stuff: The details that gave a sense of something being very wrong.
Excelsior: An interesting experiment in parser simplification and outreach.
Hill 160: Very detailed historical fiction.
One Night Stand: This game was not well done. This is an example of a very sexist game.
Slasher Swamp: Mapping as part of the puzzle. Oldschool encouragement to save often.
Arqon: Extra backstory in separate files.
Inward Narrow Crooked Lanes: Unapologetic, raw poetry.
Sigmund's Quest: Interesting exploration in different UI design.
Laterna Magica: Heavy focus on player introspection.


  1. re: it being an introduction to dating sim mechanics -- do you have any you'd recommend? I admit to having negative experience with the ones I've tried (I mentioned this in my review, but of course you couldn't respond while the comp was going on).

    1. That's a tough thing to reply to, since I specifically made Creatures because I was frustrated by the fact that so many dating sim games felt so simplistic and mechanical that they simply didn't feel engaging enough. I wanted to make the kind of dating sim that I wish existed. I don't play that many that exist for the same reason.

      That said, I suppose there are some directions I can point to:
      1. Choice of Romance: Affairs of the Court trilogy, especially finding its stride in CoR2. Takes place in magical medieval Spain, with political intrigue and moral quandaries. Up to you if that sounds interesting or boring, but it does rely on a lot of meta-gaming.
      2. Hatoful Boyfriend: It's an even more over-the-top ridiculous dating sim-ish situation, but one that plays with its premise in a deconstruction kind of way.
      3. Try approaching non-dating sims as dating sims? (e.g. BioWare games, which, full disclosure, I work with them.)

      As I said, I wish there were more, and I'm hoping that Creatures broadens the horizons on what's considered possible.

  2. I'm glad I read this post, because as much as I loved the dialog, I did get a little annoyed that my kindness towards Grant (a sick man whom I felt bad for) was perceived by the game code as attraction towards Grant. Knowing that the game has the same bones as many dating sim games, this makes sense. I also appreciate the scene that was essential a 'get out of love route' -card, allowing the player to put a halt to that.

    It was actually really funny, because as a player, I like to use game for escapism or fantasizing, and as a young male, most games cater pretty heavily to me on those fronts. At the same time, as a human, I felt really bad for Grant, so I played that way. And the game assumed I loved Grant :). Shows how far we still have to go in crafting games that have realistic relationships in them.

    Overall, a great piece of fiction that touched a lot of subjects. Also tricky how you used the contrivance of "I'm a tour-guide, I don't have much time to fraternize" to force the player to choose, very carefully, what they consider important.

    Strangely enough, I think the fact that I played the game honestly, making decisions based on how I would react to these situations in life, and not as a gamer looking for an optimum route, made the experience that much more meaningful. I wish more games gave me this many options instead of swinging wildly between "I'm the BIGGEST F**king RAMBO in the Room! GUNS!" to "I'm a small and cute caricature and needs to be protected.... GUNS!". This is an exaggeration obviously. Though I'm still waiting for the game where you just play a guy or girl who is respectable and confident and doesn't need to kill anyone to prove it.

    But, hey, I still play for the gameplay, so I guess I'm part of the problem. :)

  3. Dear Lynnea Glasser,

    I just wrote you a very long heartache comment but blogspot decides to erase it when it try to login to my google account :( . Now I feel discouraged to retype it because what I wrote does touch myself deeply.

    Lynnea, your game touched me almost awhole.. from my existence as human, my romance choices, my job, my skills, my gender, and my views of the world... It kind of scary how one of your character relates so much to me and how playing the 'tourists guide' as myself made the game questioning how certain I am of my ideals.

    I shed tears, but that is not so uncommon considering I hunt for games that have artistic storylines... but most games only raise me 1-3 questions of real life issues-- with 'mass effect series' and 'papo and yo' yielding the most RL questions.

    I appreciate your works on the game, my only complain probably more of I can't say 'violence in games is just a medium to deliver the experiences of gaming', questioning 'how about cis-males that get abused too', questioning females that use theirs influence to bully others, and that not all gamers community are vile.

    I wish to talk more if you would like to correspondence with me. Of what makes the game relate to me, of why, and probably to inquire more of your views, or tell you a part of my life that build me like one of your character, or rant of my desire to make a game with a story that matters to me. Please let me know on my email if you are interested: