Eric Eve, in my opinion, certainly deserves an XYZZY award. He produced quite a few long, extremely polished games that were fun and had numerous helpful features and hidden content, most of which aren’t discussed much today. They are among the strongest games in IF. However, in my personal opinion Elysium Enigma is not as strong storywise as his games Nightfall, All Hope Abandon, and Blighted Isle, all of which have exciting and detailed plots and settings, while the story in Elysium Enigma is a bit less exciting (as the club floyd group agrees).
Interestingly, Elysium Enigma had intense competition from games with strong stories and settings in 2006, most notably De Baron, the dark moral choice game, Floatpoint, Emily Short’s IFComp winning game, and Primrose Path, a long game with a very strong PC and excellent writing. The last two beat Elysium in IFComp.
So why did Elysium win? It’s hard to say not being there, but as well see, it has incredibly deep implementation and one very well done NPC. Also, De Baron and Floatpoint, it’s strongest contenders, may have split the story-focused vote, and we’re both controversial. De Baron had disturbing content, and Emily Short was criticized for entering and winning IFComp with Floatpoint after already being an established author (although zarf had re-entered many times, and Paul O Brian had won twice).
In any case, this game has quite a lot going for it.
Eric Eve is just a master of implementation, and his games have a distinct flavor. This is a game where NPCS can carry items for you and drop them when they get stunned, so you see them on the floor. You can create clothing from various items, record and playback conversations that are automatically summarized, smell food from adjacent rooms (which caused the club floyd team some grief), use some sandboxy tools on a variety of people and animals, fish things with a fishing rod, and on and on. This game is polished as polished can be.
Leela is an excellent NPC. She takes independent actions, moving from area to area, deciding how much to earn commenting on the action. She keeps track of your feelings towards her. She has various levels of truth and falsehood she can act under. She responds to a wide variety of topics, the most important of which are listed in a Topics list during conversation. You can choose a specific goals with Leela and work towards it. And so on and so on. Very few games have such a well-developed NPC. Emily Short’s games come to mind, as does Progue from Blue Lacuna.
The other NPCs respond well to a variety of topics, and have good responses for topics not on their ‘list’.
==Alternate paths and hidden content==
Another classic characteristic of Eric Eve games is that you can miss half of the game in each playthrough. Hidden content is everywhere, and Eric is verbose. There is a diary with an extensive backstory, database with a page or two worth of documents long conversations, tons of topics.
There are many paths to success. For instance, part of the game involves gathering food, and there is a ton of food hidden in the game, only some of which you need to find to eat. There are so many paths with the village Elder that pretty much anything you do works. Eric spends a huge amount of effort on his games, and it really shows.
In a year of strong contenders, Elysium Enigma shone with its thorough implementation, strong NPCs, and attention to detail. It was the last game to lose IFCOMP and win the XYZZYS until Birdland last year. Over the next two days, I’ll cover two of the best known IF games of all time: Lost Pig and Violet.