Click/Choice Canon?

After spending a month in a parser-player’s dream world (Quisborne the Feckless), I feel it’s about time I broadened and deepened my familiarity with choice games.

I’ve mostly played and enjoyed what I encountered in competitions I reviewed the past years, but I’ve rarely hunted IFDB for great Twines or Inks or …

The first game I’ll play is Bogeyman by Elizabeth Smyth. I wanted to ask you all for your list of must-play choice games. Not just good or even great games, or obscure personal favourites, but the Zorks and Photopias of Click, the Lost Pigs and Counterfeit Monkeys of Choice.

Next on my playlist is With Those We Love Alive by Porpentine, because, um, Porpentine. After that, I only have the IFDB ratings to go on, and I’d like some more personal recommendations of what a relative choice-newbie has got to play/read.

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With Those We Love Alive is… Strange. Dark. Very good. I don’t know much else about Choice games.

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here’s a few:

Will Not Let Me Go. Amazing game about Alzheimers from the POV of someone with it. Won 4th place in IFComp 2017, Best Individual PC in that year’s XYZZY awards, 28th place in top 50 IF in 2023, 2nd top rated Twine game on the IFDB. I cried so much. This game haunts me, it’s beautiful – because it’s not just about Alzheimers.

my father’s long, long legs. An absolute classic, this one broke containment when it came out and is mentioned a lot in like, “creepy indie horror games you have to play” on places outside of IFDB and the forums. Descend into a basement of a family’s strange history, with subtle but chilling effects you can only get in a Twine or other visual game.

Open Sorcery. 21st Place in the 2023 top 50 IF among other awards. One of my first-played Twine games and the top rated Twine on on IFDB, this is a game about an AI powered by magic that is made to protect, and learns more along the way. It has simple but unique mechanics, and a story that gets pretty tense and gripping along the way – I’m always on the edge of my seat by the finale. The current full version is paid, but that’s because of the original free version’s success.

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I think these would be a good start. All or most are probably IFDB top 100 games

As a feelgood early Twine game with strong writing. Callie liked it, too.

Twine game with inventory and exploration, which seems pretty unusual in 2013? Maybe I’m not remembering this correctly. I wonder if @DeusIrae has played it (considering his Rosebush article)?

Classic storylet game; wasn’t playable in full for years due to platform collapse. It’s back now. It’s my favorite Emily Short game, actually. My experience of growing up Episcopalian (that’s a central feature of the story) was quite different from the one portrayed (my parents’ church was progressive), but there was a schism over LGBTQ+ human rights after I (and ES, presumably) became an adult. Anyway, it is a surprising game in many ways. If I were to play only one game on this list, Bee would be the one.

I think this is a lot of people’s first CoG game.

Long, weird. Very interesting structurally, a great game.

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You could check out the choice games in the Interactive Fiction Top 50.

Here’s the Choice Top, sorted by votes, including games that got 3 votes (and thus didn’t make the Top 50):

80 Days 2014 inkle and Meg Jayanth 10
Birdland 2015 Brendan Patrick Hennessy 8
Open Sorcery 2016 Abigail Corfman 7
Coloratura 2013 Lynnea Glasser 7
Archivist and the Revolution, The 2022 Autumn Chen 6
howling dogs 2012 Porpentine 6
Will Not Let Me Go 2017 Stephen Granade 6
Choice of Robots 2014 Kevin Gold 5
Computerfriend 2022 Kit Rimer 5
Dark Room, A 2013 Michael Townsend 5
Horse Master 2013 Tom McHenry 5
Paradox Between Worlds, A 2021 Autumn Chen 5
SPY INTRIGUE 2015 furkle 5
Bee 2012 Emily Short 4
Even Some More Tales from Castle Balderstone 2021 Ryan Veeder 4
Fallen London 2009 Failbetter Games 4
Overboard! 2021 inkle 4
Plasmorphosis 2022 Agnieszka Trzaska 4
Queers in Love at the End of the World 2013 Anna Anthropy 4
Turandot 2019 Victor Gijsbers 4
With Those We Love Alive 2014 Porpentine & Brenda Neotenomie 4
16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonalds 2016 Abigail Corfman 3
4x4 Archipelago 2021 Agnieszka Trzaska 3
Cactus Blue Motel 2016 Astrid Dalmady 3
Chuk and the Arena 2019 Agnieszka Trzaska 3
Creatures such as we 2014 Lynnea Glasser 3
Detectiveland 2016 Robin Johnson 3
Harmonia 2017 Liza Daly 3
Heretic’s Hope 2019 G. C. Baccaris 3
Lady Thalia and the Seraskier Sapphires 2021 E. Joyce & N. Cormier 3
Master of the Land, The 2018 Pseudavid 3
Stay? 2020 E. Jade Lomax 3
Summit 2015 Phantom Williams 3
Tavern Crawler 2020 Josh Labelle 3

Coloratura exists both as a parser and as a choice game, if I recall correctly.

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All at once?! What’s the platform?

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No, as a remake in Twine of the Inform 7 original.

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Yeah Coloratura has two different versions, but I believe the Castle Balderstone game actually is an integrated parser/choice hybrid that mashed together Inform and Twine (I think via Vorple?)

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Castle Balderstone. I think I remember this one. It’s the one that starts out as Choice, but then goes into Parser mode, right?

Thank you. I am deep designing a parser system in Twine (well, MEOW), and I thought somebody beat me to it! Phew!

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Yeah, I haven’t played it myself but I believe that’s how Castle Balderstone works.

Implementing a parser within Twine seems cool! I think @manonamora did something like that in one of her recent games, but IFDB is running slow for me so I can’t find which exactly - lots of interesting design space there to play around with I think, it’s definitely new territory!

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I DID! Here it is: The Roads not Taken
Note: it currently has some issue, and I’m in the process of fixing the commands.

EDIT: I also mentioned other Parser implemented in Twine in my Post-Mortem:

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I would play howling dogs first.

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Two words: You Will Select A Decision.

-Wade

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I’d like to spotlight The Master of the Land from the bottom of this list - it’s phenomenal and I’m surprised it’s not higher up.

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In terms of essential canon, I would take @pieartsy’s list and add howling dogs (my pick for the Photopia-equivalent choice game) and Birdland.

Two games that didn’t make the Top 50 but that I think are underrated are Creatures such as We and Solarium. But these aren’t in the essential canon; they’re a tier or two below.

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I haven’t chimed in since there are so many great answers on here already, but I might as well.

I’d say in terms of ‘games that other people copied a lot’, Howling Dogs is probably the winner (though it in turn was influenced by Anna Anthropy’s games). I’ve seen at least half a dozen people on this forum cite Spy Intrigue as the main reason they got into IF. And Birdland has been super influential. So if I had to pick a ‘top 3 canon’ in terms of popularity, demonstrated skill, and influence, they would be it.

For award winners, Tavern Crawl was the first choice-based IFComp winner. Creme de la Creme and Vampire: The Masquerade: Night Road are both XYZZY award winners that haven’t really been mentioned. Night Road might be my personal favorite Choicescript game for power fantasy/big gameplay (Creatures Such as We is one I like even more, in my top 10 all time due to its ruminations on the nature of game-based storytelling).

For people that have oeuvres with unusual amounts of influence or a high amount of awards, I’d say there’s:
-Porpentine at number one for a very specific brand of trans metaphor body horror;
-Brendan Hennessy who has numerous high-quality games with big followings on Tumblr
-Hannah Powell Smith, who had a notable following with Twine games before getting into Choicescript games, where her games have been I think the most popular of all official CoG games by some metrics.
-Astrid Dalmady, who has had consistently good twine games and received numerous awards (Her game You Are At a Crossroads was the first Twine game I ever really enjoyed and got me into the whole choice based world).
-E. Joyce and N. Cormier, who are generally ‘The people to beat’ for Spring Thing the last few years with the Lady Thalia series. While they haven’t won, they’ve basically been one of the top people each time.
-Abigail Corfman. Open Sorcery is one of the most favored Twine games, especially among parser fans who like Twine, and her other games are top-notch as well. 16 Ways to Kill A Vampire at Mcdonalds was the first non-parser game to win the Best Puzzles xyzzy.
-Inkle the company has games that compete on the overall Steam stage and get worldwide attention.

There are other people with amazing one- or two-hit wonders, and there are some people whose games I personally like but don’t seem to get the attention they merit (Hanon Ondricek has made some of my favorite choice-based games, including on in my top 10), and other people that are just new so it’s hard to know how influential they’ll be with their great games (like Sophia or Manonamora).

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Since the OP mentioned wanting both the Photopias and the Lost Pigs of choice and the discussion so far has leaned more towards the former, I’d like to highlight this game, which was one of the earlier puzzle-focused Twine games and is also very funny (with some solid character work to top it off). I haven’t replayed it in a while and I’m not sure how well it’s aged in terms of what’s considered best practices/minimally frustrating for that type of puzzle game, but I think it’s worth a look regardless. It was a bit of a trailblazer, and I think pretty influential? It certainly influenced me, at least.

Edit:

Oh wow, I feel distinctly out of place on a list with some of the indisputable luminaries of choice IF, but thank you!

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I know this has become a more general “Best of Choice” thread, but given that we occasionally refer to the LT series as “the games we make for @rovarsson” I don’t think they need to be recced to him more. :wink:

(Also, my brain has errored out from being mentioned in the same paragraph as Porpentine and Brendan Hennessey. Thank you so much for this compliment! I hope my brain will process it soon.)

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Thanks Brian!

This is pretty much what I was looking for. Long-standing influential games and authors with a substantial oeuvre of consistent quality.

Thank you to everyone who has suggested games!

My clickety to-play list:

  • Bogeyman (Elizabet Smyth) ✓
  • With Those We Love Alive (Porpentine) ✓
  • Birdland (Brendan Patrick Hennessy) ✓
  • Cannery Vale (Hanon Ondricek) ✓
  • Bee (Emily Short) ✓
  • Heretic Dreams (Hannah Powell-Smith) ✓
  • Turandot (Victor Gijsbers) ✓
  • 16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonalds (Abigail Corfman) ✓
  • Cactus Blue Motel (Astrid Dalmady) ✓
  • Stay? (E. Jade Lomax)
  • SPY INTRIGUE (furkle)
  • my father’s long long legs (Michael Lutz)
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