2014 XYZZY Awards, Final Round

First-round voting is complete, and the finalists have been announced. They are:

Best Game
80 Days (inkle, Meg Jayanth)
Choice of Robots (Kevin Gold)
Hadean Lands (Andrew Plotkin)
Hunger Daemon (Sean M. Shore)
With Those We Love Alive (Porpentine, Brenda Neotenomie)

Best Writing
Eidolon (A.D. Jansen)
With Those We Love Alive (Porpentine, Brenda Neotenomie)

Best Story
80 Days (inkle, Meg Jayanth)
Eidolon (A.D. Jansen)
the uncle who works for nintendo (michael lutz)
Venus Meets Venus (kaleidofish)
With Those We Love Alive (Porpentine, Brenda Neotenomie)

Best Setting
80 Days (inkle, Meg Jayanth)
Hadean Lands (Andrew Plotkin)
Invisible Parties (Sam Kabo Ashwell)
With Those We Love Alive (Porpentine, Brenda Neotenomie)

Best Puzzles
Hadean Lands (Andrew Plotkin)
Jacqueline, Jungle Queen! (Steph Cherrywell)

Best NPCs
80 Days (inkle, Meg Jayanth)
Blood & Laurels (Emily Short)
Choice of Robots (Kevin Gold)
Creatures Such As We (Lynnea Glasser)
Weird City Interloper (C.E.J. Pacian)

Best Individual Puzzle
Finding the treasure in More (Jason Dyer)
Sequence of time-travel in Fifteen Minutes (Ade McT)

Best Individual NPC
The Empress in With Those We Love Alive (Porpentine, Brenda Neotenomie)
Macy in Venus Meets Venus (kaleidofish)
The monkey in Monkey and Bear (Carolyn VanEseltine)
Your robot in Choice of Robots (Kevin Gold)

Best Individual PC
Lynn in Venus Meets Venus (kaleidofish)
Marcus in Blood & Laurels (Emily Short)
the PC in the uncle who works for nintendo (michael lutz)
Protagonist in Creatures Such As We (Lynnea Glasser)

Best Implementation
Hadean Lands (Andrew Plotkin)
Hunger Daemon (Sean M. Shore)
With Those We Love Alive (Porpentine, Brenda Neotenomie)

Best Use of Innovation
AlethiCorp (Simon Christiansen)
An Earth Turning Slowly (Mæja Stefánsson)
Hadean Lands (Andrew Plotkin)
With Those We Love Alive (Porpentine, Brenda Neotenomie)

Best Technological Development
Inform 7 6L02
Twine 2

Best Use of Multimedia
80 Days (inkle, Meg Jayanth)
Coming Out Simulator 2014 (Nicky Case)
Krypteia (Kateri)
the uncle who works for nintendo (michael lutz)
With Those We Love Alive (Porpentine, Brenda Neotenomie)

Voting closes April 25.

Huh, that’s a great well-rounded list. At a first glance, the parser/twine/something-else games seem to be quite well distributed. No obvious bias in any way, shape or form.

These will be some very, very interesting XYZZYs.

Also: Texture? What dat?

Texture: nitku.net/blog/2014/11/introducing-texture/

Ah, that one. Many thanks.

And congrats on having a Choice Of game nominee for best game, too.

I feel like Texture could have waited another year for something really great to come out built on it.

Has anything actually been released with it? I’ve been hoping to play a game or two, however simple, to try out the whole concept properly (as a player, not a writer). I guess authors are still waiting for the engine to be refined?

I considered Texture for Mere Anarchy, but I don’t remember why I didn’t go with it in the end.

This is frequently the problem with Tech Dev; unless something was released pretty damn early in the year, it generally hasn’t had time to really prove itself. It’s pretty much always Voting for the Future.

That’s true, but it’s a little odd this year. Twine 2 has sort of flopped from what I can tell, with a lot of old Twine hands not adopting the new format. 620L is unexciting, but a proven success with multiple releases already (Parsercomp helped, I’m sure). And Texture is still finding its legs. So do we vote for the exciting, but unproven tech, or for the solid and necessary, but not so groundbreaking tech?

Obligatory zarf quote:


I know this opinion will likely be unpopular, but it kind of breaks my head that only two games had award-quality writing.

It only means that two games’ writing stood out so much that they sucked up most of the votes.

In this case, rather, we had the opposite problem: the votes were very broadly split.

That makes some sense, I guess.

What’s the formula for extracting finalists from the round one votes?

Or maybe plenty of games did, but not enough people voted for the others.

Ideally, each category has four finalists: the four games that received the most votes.

If (because of ties) this isn’t credible, I expand the list to five or six nominees. If the number of nominees would be greater than six, I reduce it to three or two. If there is no way to get <7 finalists without reducing the nominees to 1, the award gets given out immediately (as happened with Individual PC and Coloratura last year). Very occasionally I make a slight exception to this rule if this method would give six finalists, but there’s a huge gap between the third- and fourth-ranked games.

The problem with the XYZZYs is that there are a vast number of nominees in the first round, and (for a number of reasons) relatively few people vote in the first round. So if there’s little agreement on the standout games - or, as happened with Coloratura, there’s one game that eats up the majority of votes and nobody can agree on a strong alternative - you can end up with fewer finalists.

So the problem is, as it has been for a while, how to encourage first-round voting. I’ve tried a number of things - like the For Your Consideration polls on IFDB - and they don’t appear to have moved the needle much. Why does the first round get too few votes?

  • It’s hard. There are too many games! We have done things to reduce the giant pile of Games That Don’t Stand A Chance, but it’s still an intimidating number.
  • People don’t remember which games they liked. (This is particularly a problem for the text-entry categories, where people might have liked That One Guy but can’t remember the name, and don’t bother to go and look it up because looking stuff up in games is hard.) It often takes people an hour or so to fill out a first-round ballot, because of this and the aforementioned lots-of-games problem.
  • “I didn’t play enough games this year.” This is the answer I hear most when I talk to people about whether they’re voting in the XYZZYs.
  • Some authors don’t vote in the first round if they think that their game has a shot, because it might mean that they’re effectively voting against themselves. I’ve thought about letting authors have some votes (eeeurgh, that has a lot of problems) or else instituting a mercy rule where your own votes don’t count against your own game, but I dunno.
  • Authors can’t self-promote to draw more traffic to the XYZZYs; while this would be the most direct way of getting more first-round voters, there is no way to allow this without turning the Awards into a completely different beast.

So you get a lot of categories where there’s a number of candidates tied at only one vote?