Free IF Playoffs (Rules/FAQ/Standings)

I had an idea for a March Madness-style “playoffs” thread for the 64 highest-placed works of IF that are available for free, where “highest-placed” means according to the IFDB Top 100 chart today.

The contest would be handled as a series of votes between randomly-matched works within that group over the course of six rounds, with the primary intent being to encourage play of and discussion of the games involved.

Does this sound fun to you? Would you be interested in participating?
  • Yes, that sounds fun, and I would participate!
  • No, thank you.
0 voters
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Ah mine doesn’t make the cutoff :pensive: that’s ok! This sounds fun!

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OK – the ayes have it!

Here are the ground rules:

  1. Everyone is invited to participate.
  2. All voting will be anonymous.
  3. Voters are honor-bound to have at least tried both games in a given matchup before voting. If you haven’t played some of these, now’s your chance!
  4. Voters are encouraged to make a case in favor of their chosen winner, pointing out its relative merits versus its opponent.
  5. Voters are not encouraged to make a case against the unchosen opponent – let’s stick to the positive and steer clear of fan brawls.

I’ve put together the ladder via sort by random number. To provide some structure, every game has been placed into one of four “divisions,” each of which contains sixteen games. They are as follows (listed alphabetically, along with seed number):

DIVISION 1 (Rounds 1 and 2 complete / Round 3 ongoing now)

And Then You Come to a House Not Unlike the Previous One (#40)
Birdland (#29)
City of Secrets (#36)
Cryptozookeeper (#43)
Dr Ludwig and the Devil (#30)
Excalibur (#54)
The Impossible Bottle (#13)
Junior Arithmancer (#15)
A Long Way to the Nearest Star (#20)
Lost Pig (#11)
Midnight. Swordfight. (#34)
Of Their Shadows Deep (#55)
Superluminal Vagrant Twin (#3)
Suveh Nux (#62)
The Wizard Sniffer (#5)
Zozzled (#38)

DIVISION 2 (Rounds 1 and 2 complete / Round 3 ongoing now)

Absence of Law (#26)
According to Cain (#39)
Beautiful Dreamer (#61)
A Beauty Cold and Austere (#10)
Blue Lacuna (#22)
Chlorophyll (#50)
Coloratura (#17)
Counterfeit Monkey (#1)
Eat Me (#8)
Foo Foo (#46)
The Gostak (#19)
The Lurking Horror II: The Lurkening (#58)
The Shadow in the Cathedral (#63)
Turandot (#42)
Weird City Interloper (#41)
Worldsmith (#4)

DIVISION 3 (Rounds 1 and 2 complete / Round 3 ongoing now)

The Axolotl Project (#45)
Cannery Vale (#32)
Inside the Facility (#51)
Magical Makeover (#57)
Repeat the Ending (#28)
Slouching Toward Bedlam (#52)
The Spectators (#60)
Spider and Web (#27)
Spy Intrigue (#25)
Stay? (#18)
Sub Rosa (#48)
Toby’s Nose (#9)
Violet (#24)
The Weight of a Soul (#59)
Will Not Let Me Go (#7)
With Those We Love Alive (#56)

DIVISION 4 (Rounds 1 and 2 complete / Round 3 ongoing now)

4x4 Archipelago (#44)
Alias ‘The Magpie’ (#16)
Anchorhead (#2)
Bronze (#37)
Cragne Manor (#6)
Digital: A Love Story (#64)
Endless, Nameless (#31)
Harmonia (#47)
The Impossible Stairs (#53)
Known Unknowns (#21)
Make It Good (#33)
The Mulldoon Legacy (#35)
Photopia (#49)
Savoir-Faire (#12)
Treasures of a Slaver’s Kingdom (#23)
Worlds Apart (#14)

Since the first round is the largest, it will be broken up by division.

Note that because only free games are included in the contest, the following games with high placement have been excluded: 80 Days, Hadean Lands, Open Sorcery, Trinity, Planetfall, Sorcery! 2, Sunless Sea, A Study in Steampunk, Wayhaven Chronicles: Book One, Eric the Unready, A Mind Forever Voyaging, Choice of Robots, Tally Ho, and Enchanter. If I’ve accidentally included any non-free game, it will be replaced by another qualifying game from the Top 100 list.

Let the games begin!

NOTE: I won’t be running a pool, but if someone wants to try to organize one, that seems to be in the spirit of this sort of thing. At the very least it might be amusing to predict the various division winners that will become the Final Four.

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5 posts were merged into an existing topic: FIFP Round 1, Division 1 (Voting/Fan Choice Commentary)

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


Q: How long will each set of matchups last?

A: One week, but possibly less than that once the Final Four have been reached.


Q: Just a week? But there are so many of these games that I haven’t played!

A: I know – I haven’t played the majority of them, either! It’s expected that, participating by the rules and in good faith, many people will have to skip voting on certain matchups in early rounds.


Q: How many rounds will there be?

A: Six, but early rounds will take more than one week each. (See the question about the overall schedule below.)


Q: But why not give more time for each round?

A: There’s a practical limit to how much time can be granted for each segment. Here’s the deal:

  • It’s 64 games in a single elimination tournament. That requires 63 individual matchups.
  • The idea is to promote play and discussion, but also to keep things moving relatively quickly to keep up a “March Madness” feel.

Q: But I can’t finish all those games in one week!

A: This is why the rule is that voters should have tried each game in a matchup before voting on it. It’s not required that you complete the game or spend a minimum amount of time with it as with IF Comp. It is suggested that you focus first on games that you haven’t played which are matched against games that you have played.


Q: What exactly do you mean by “trying” a game?

A: I mean that you approach the game with an open mind, give it an honest shot to hook you, and explore it long enough to get a feel for how much you like it. It’s up to you to decide how long that takes. This is an honor system, so be honorable.


Q: What will the schedule be?

A: The plan is to run at most 8 matchups at a time in segments lasting 1 week each. That means the 32 matchups of round 1 (across the 4 divisions) will end on July 05. The next two weeks will also feature rounds of 8 matchups each, but these will combine two divisions at a time and end July 19. Next will be a single week of 8 matchups (2 from each division) ending Jul 26. At that point there will be a week for the divisional finals, i.e. one last matchup per division (4 matchups total) to produce a Final Four on Aug 02.

If, as I expect, most people will have had a chance to play all of the Final Four, then there will probably be two three-day rounds to finish out the tournament. It should be wrapped up by mid-August in any case.


Q: Am I supposed to vote just for the game that I like, or the one that I feel is objectively the better game?

A: You’re supposed to vote for the game that you think is the better of a pair, using whatever criteria you think apply – but the rules require that you have at least tried both games in any matchup for which you cast a vote. (See the question about trying games above.)


Q: I want to vote on Game X in a matchup and I’ve never played Game Y with which it is matched. How do I resolve this conundrum?

A: Start playing Game Y!


Q: That’s all I do? Just play and vote?

A: You are also encouraged to post the reasons why you made the decision that you did, or just to share your positive impressions of any work that you try. Lots of people won’t have played the games that you choose. Getting people to try new games is one of the main points, so show your appreciation and win new fans by “talking up” your selections. (See the ground rules on discussing games. The short version is: “Stick to the positive, and avoid fan brawls.”)


Q: One of my works is on this list, but I don’t think I want it to be. What can I do?

A: The fact that your work was chosen for the tournament means that it is among the top 1/2 of 1% of all games listed in IFDB in terms of registered ratings. That’s quite an honor! Also, this “competition” is entirely for fun. If you really wish to withdraw one or more of your games, let me know by post or DM, and I will honor your request by registering forfeit(s) in the relevant matchup(s).


Q: Can I vote in favor of my own work?

A: If you have tried your work’s opponent and honestly feel that yours is the better of the pair, then it is entirely in keeping with the rules to do so. Your opinion counts as much as anyone’s!


Q: I, um… I kind of got excited and registered some votes before I even read the rules. What can I do?

A: Fear not! There is still time to salvage your honor by trying the games that you haven’t played. (See the question about trying games above.) If you’ve given the opponent games a proper go and haven’t changed your mind, then you can rest easy that you have respected the rules and made the whole tournament better. If you have changed your mind, change your vote!


Q: I don’t understand the rule about avoiding criticism in posts about my match selections. Please explain.

A: Think about it this way: Anything you say is implicitly expressing an inequality between Game X and Game Y. As a matter of courtesy to other fans and in the spirits of community-building and friendly competition, it’s not too much to ask that you express things in terms of “greater than” instead of “less than.” A sporting match is much more fun when both sides are cheering than when both sides are booing.

If you have criticism to share with the world, you are encouraged to register at IFDB, add your ratings to the games there, and even post negative reviews. Extensive criticism is a valid and important part of the tradition of free IF; this just isn’t the venue for it.


Q: When will the voting close for each match period?

A: Voting will close sometime circa Saturday evening each week, per UTC time. The precise time will not be announced and is likely to vary significantly depending on my schedule on those days, but I will wait until at least noon UTC in any case. Late votes will not be accepted – when the whistle blows, the match is over!


Q: What if there is a tie between two games in a match?

A: Based on the early response, there should be enough votes that this is an unlikely outcome. However, should any tie occur, I will flip a coin to declare an arbitrary winner. Fans backing a particular game in a close contest are free to recruit others to play by the rules and in good faith before the match period is over. Remember: This is an honor system, so be honorable. This is only for fun!


Q: How were these games chosen for the tournament?

A: Contestant games were chosen based on the state of the IFDB Top 100 list according to its status on June 7, 2024. Any game that was not officially free to play as of that date was disqualified from the competition. Due to these eliminations, the lowest-ranked qualifying entry was in 78th place at the start of the tournament.


Q: How were assignments to divisions and matches decided for each game?

A: This was the total process:

  1. The top 64 free games were selected from the IFDB Top 100 list as it was June 7, 2024. Their Top 100 ranking order determined their seed order.
  2. All games were placed in a spreadsheet and assigned two columns of random numbers using the built-in spreadsheet function.
  3. All games were sorted by the two random columns.
  4. Divisions were assigned by each game’s placement in the first 16 rows (Division 1), second 16 rows (Division 2), etc. after the sort.
  5. Round 1 matches were assigned by top row vs. next (Match 01), third row vs. fourth (Match 02), etc. after the sort.
  6. All Round 2 and later matchups are based on the ladder structure for the tournament.

Q: Hey! I only just found out about this and missed the beginning!

A: I’m glad that you want to participate – your rules-abiding, good faith votes will help make the tournament better for everyone. This whole thing was pretty spur-of-the-moment, so there was no organized attempt at publicity in advance. The good news is that it will be going for some time, so you’ll get plenty of chance to play in future segments. (See the question about the schedule above.) There’s almost certainly time for you to try new games and get in a few votes before the end of the current segment.

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This post will have the updated status of all division ladders as we go.

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Just curious: what about ties?

I’ve updated the FAQ above.

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Division 1 Round 1 has successfully concluded, and the results are in (see above). Let’s review the action:

  • Heavyweight Superluminal Vagrant Twin brushed aside a challenge from Excalibur, justifying its position as the #3 seed for the tournament. A strong showing of crowd support in the bleachers for the experimental wiki-format challenger’s bid against the highest-seeded work in this segment didn’t translate into the points needed to win, but author J. J. Guest’s work will be seen again when Alias, ‘The Magpie’ competes in Division 4.

  • And Then You Come to a House Not Unlike the Previous One substantially outperformed opponent Zozzled despite both being IF Comp winners with similar seed rankings (#40 and #38 respectively). As Zozzled retires from the field, another contestant by author Steph Cherrywell, Chlorophyll, begins its first match in Division 2.

  • Lost Pig defeated Suveh Nux in a crowd-drawing matchup that received over 70% more votes than any other. The two Inform 6 entries each put over 10 points on the board in a blistering first half, but by the halftime mark #62 seed challenger Suveh Nux had lost an early lead against its #11 seed rival, and it was never quite able to recover in the second half. Suveh Nux was author David Fisher’s only contestant in the tournament, but it can retire from the field honorably after having scored more points than the winner of any other match in this segment.

  • The Impossible Bottle beat A Long Way to the Nearest Star in one of the quieter matches of the segment. Both games started strong, but after a streak of early scores by the #13 seed Dialog entry, the winner of the Rising Star award in IF Comp 2022 (as well as both the Player’s Choice and Author’s Choice awards for Outstanding Debut in the inaugural 2022 IFDB Awards) wasn’t able to move the needle for the remainder of the match. All eyes turned to match 08, where SV Linwood’s other entry was competing simultaneously.

  • 55th seed Of Their Shadows Deep pulled off the first significant upset in the tournament, knocking 29th seed Birdland (winner of no less than six XYZZY awards in 2015) out of the tournament in another relatively quiet match after team manager Amanda Walker opted to keep it in play. The short but powerful work has won new fans among the crowd, notably climbing in its IFDB rankings per the June 10 update. Author Brendan Patrick Hennessy’s work will be seen again in Division 4, when Known Unknowns takes the field.

  • #5 seed The Wizard Sniffer, the other heavyweight in this segment, barely fended off a strong challenge by City of Secrets. The #36 seed Inform 6 work punched above its weight in its contest against the 2017 IF Comp champion and winner of five XYZZY awards, and held its own through a vigorous first half that ended at a tie score of 6-6. However, in the second half the crowd-pleasing porcine comedy scored twice more, deciding the match. Emily Short has the most entries of any single author in this tournament, so rest assured that there will be more to see from this leading light in the field – including top seed Counterfeit Monkey, which is currently competing in Division 2.

  • 15th seed Junior Arithmancer eked out a win against 43rd seed challenger Cryptozookeper in a contest that pit pure logic against a multimedia-enhanced horror comedy. Author Robb Sherwin’s only entry and the lone Hugo entry in the tournament, Cryptozookeeper started strong but lost ground slowly and was eventually surpassed by the number-manipulation puzzlefest. We salute its performance as leaves the field.

  • Finally, Dr. Ludwig and the Devil vs. Midnight. Swordfight. turned out to be a dynamic and close battle between two similarly-ranked contestants (#30 and #34 seeds, respectively). After tying at 7-7 in the third quarter, neither was able to put another point on the board, and the match was resolved by coin toss with victory declared for Midnight. Swordfight.. The winner will go on to face Of Their Shadows Deep in what total scores suggest might become another close match. [See below.] Unfortunately, this randomized decision means that both works by highly versatile and accomplished author SV Linwood have been eliminated from the tournament, but we salute the fact that Linwood is unique in having 100% of published work selected to compete in this best-of-the-best lineup.

[EDIT: Midnight. Swordfight. will be facing The Wizard Sniffer in Round 2, not Of Their Shadows Deep. We apologize for any confusion caused by the error; the technical difficulty has been traced to a temporary caffeine deficiency.]

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Division 1 Round 2 has ended, and the results are in (see above). Here are the highlights of this segment’s matches:

  • As seed rankings would suggest, Absence of Law (#26) vs. The Gostak (#19) turned out to be a fairly close match that drew the second-largest crowd on the playing field. The famous language-oriented experimental work, which recently placed 6th in the 2023 edition of the IF Top 50 of All Time, took an early lead against the comedic sci-fi puzzler in a first quarter that ended 7-5 in its favor. The multi-faceted challenger, which was nominated for five XYZZYs in 2017, kept up the pressure and drew to within one point of its rival during an exciting second quarter. However, the defending two-time XYZZY-recipient caught its second wind during the third quarter, which let it regain lost ground and even slightly exceed its previous lead. When the whistle blew, the exhausted contestants shook hands as victory was declared for The Gostak at 10-7. Fans of the challenger, take heart: Brian Rushton’s other entry in the tournament, The Impossible Stairs, will be seen in Division 4.

  • Coloratura vs. The Shadow in the Cathedral was an easy win for the 17th-seeded 2013 IF Comp winner, which took a large lead in the first quarter and just kept extending it over the rest of the match in what proved to be the single largest crowd draw in the segment. The 63rd-seeded formerly-commercial young adult challenger by Textfyre, which was nominated for five XYZZYs in 2009, drew praise from the bleachers for its unique worldbuilding, but voting showed that fans strongly preferred the alien perspective and unusual mechanics of the you-are-the-monster defender. The Shadow in the Cathedral’s co-author Ian Finley has no other competing games in the tournament, but two more works by co-author Jon Ingold are on the roster for Division 4.

  • Chlorophyll vs. Worldsmith was a quieter match that also saw a face-off between a comp-sized game and a formerly-commercial entry. #3 seed Worldsmith is a long-format work with its own brand of “worldbuilding,” and its strong multimedia elements are among the most advanced seen in the form. Although the first quarter ended at 6-1 in the defender’s favor, the plucky young adult challenger (#50 seed and winner of ParserComp 2015) showed its strength in the second and later quarters, winning new fans in the crowd before finally losing the match at a very respectable 6-4. Chlorophyll was the second and final entry by author Steph Cherrywell; we salute her achievements as the players leave the field.

  • According to Cain vs. A Beauty Cold and Austere delivered the segment’s sole upset when the #39 seed challenger took and held a significant lead over the highly-ranked #10 seed defender, which placed 7th in the Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2019 edition). The comp-sized Biblical investigative thriller – and only TADS 3 work in the tournament – had a strong first quarter ending 7-4, then scored twice more by the end of the game while keeping up an impenetrable defense against the long-format traditional puzzler with a math-and-science theme. Author Mike Spivey’s hopes now rest upon Junior Arithmancer, which is slated to go up against The Impossible Bottle in Division 1 Round 2.

  • In Beautiful Dreamer vs. Turandot, two choice-based works contended in the segment’s quietest match. The first quarter ended 4-2 in favor of the tournament’s #42 seed and sole ChoiceScript entry, which won 1 1/2 XYZZY awards in 2019 and appeared in the 2023 edition of the Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time. That ratio held as scoring continued through the third quarter, and another successful drive by the opera-inspired leader in the fourth quarter sealed the deal. As 2015 XYZZY nominee Beautiful Dreamer retires from the field, coach S. Woodson’s attention turns to Division 3, where another entry by the same author, Magical Makeover, has begun its own match.

  • 41st-seeded challenger and 2014 XYZZY nominee Weird City Interloper started out slowly in its match against 8th-seeded defender and 2017 XYZZY winner Eat Me, ending the first quarter with a five point deficit at 7-2. However, the streamlined, conversation-based story of an exiled prince’s quest for justice began to make up lost ground in the second and third quarters, gaining three points while keeping the disquieting food-themed heavyweight (recently ranked 8th in the 2023 Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time) from scoring at all. Energy seemed to flag in the second half, and at the end of this closest match of the segment, the defender had prevailed after putting the match’s last points on the board. Author C. E. J. Pacian’s higher-ranked work in the tournament, Superluminal Vagrant Twin, will compete again next month when Division 1 Round 2 begins.

  • Top seed Counterfeit Monkey handily bested #58 seed The Lurking Horror II: the Lurkening in the third-most popular match of the segment, ending the first quarter with a massive ten point lead at 12-2, and extending that lead thrice more before the final buzzer. It’s a performance that may strike fear in the hearts of future challengers as the King Kong of the league – which placed at the top of the last two editions of the Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time – steps confidently into round 2. The unauthorized fan sequel to the Infocom classic and two-time XYZZY nominee was surprisingly the only contestant from popular author Ryan Veeder, and we salute his team’s valiant effort; fans interested in his latest project can check out Moondrop Isle, a sprawling parser-based online exploration that went live last month.

  • Finally, Foo Foo (#46) vs. Blue Lacuna (#22) turned out to be a very lopsided fight between the whimsical and the serious, with the long-format interpersonal drama delivering a crushing 12-1 defeat to the film noir detective story with a deceptively light-hearted setting, which won two XYZZYs in 2016 and took first prize in the First Quaddrenial Ryan Veeder Exposition for Good Interactive Fiction. Author Buster Hudson’s banner is still carried by crowd-pleaser The Wizard Sniffer, which will return to the playing field in Division 1 Round 2. Aaron Reed’s victorous entry, a four-time XYZZY winner that was ranked 6th in the 2011 edition of the Interactive Top 50 of All Time, will face its own crucible when it strives to take down Counterfeit Monkey in a Round 2 match starting July 06. You won’t want to miss it!

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Just a note ahead of time: division 3 has relatively smaller games, so if anyone wants to get a jump on the bigger games for division 4, they are:

Cragne Manor (you can get a feel for its size with Mike Russo’s Let’s Play which ended up consisting of 20 chapters over 4 months.)
Mulldoon Legacy (a very large, hard puzzle game, larger than games like Curses and Counterfeit Monkey. takes weeks or months without hints)
Worlds Apart (not too hard, but very large, mostly because of worldbuilding. It’s a dolphin magic sci fi world, kind of like Anne McAffrey. Took me a few days to read through/play.)

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Ahem…

Worlds Apart is a heartfelt emotional exploration of various very serious themes. The mother-daughter relationship that lies at its heart is tenderly and honestly examined. The search for one’s true self in the absence of the web of interpersonal relations, or rather the question if there is such a thing as a true self when cut off from all social interactions, is a deep and lingering theme that threads through the entire work. Echoes and symbolism for these themes are found in the game’s detailed and evocative world.

The protagonist just happens to be an alien hybrid marine/land-mammal living in a, well, come to think of it, yes, dolphin magic sci fi world.

Not a word wrong with that description, actually. I may have bristled at your succinct summary prematurely…

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The whistle has blown on Round 1 Division 3, and the results are in (see above). Let’s review the action of this startling segment, which saw challengers beat defenders in 5 out of 8 matches:

  • In the first match, both contenders appeared in the last two editions of the Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time, and both were nominated for multiple XYZZY awards. After a very strong start featuring an unbroken scoring run of six points in the first 9 hours of the match, defender Spy Intrigue hit a wall. Challenger Inside the Facility, down by four at the first quarter, began to pick up a steady stream of goals and ended up tying at 6-6 by the end of the third. The match was finally decided in the last quarter when the challenger scored twice against the defender’s once, giving a squeaker of an upset victory to Inside the Facility at 8-7.

  • In Spider and Web vs. Violet, the intricate spy thriller – winner of 5 XYZZY awards in 1998 – showed the value of old age and treachery when it decisively outperformed the similarly-ranked warm-hearted comedic puzzler in a rocket-like streak of early scoring from which the latter was never able to recover, winning the match at 20-5 by the largest score margin in the tournament to date. Violet, which took first place and the Miss Congeniality award in IF Comp 2008 and won 4 XYZZYs of its own, was the only competing game by author Jeremy Freese. We salute the definitive contribution to the landscape of parser games that this game has made with its strong and distinctive narrative voice.

  • Dark horse challenger and ostensible dating sim Stay? gave Toby’s Nose a run for its money, pulling ahead 4 to 3 in the first quarter. However, the Sherlock Holmes-themed detective story, a three-time XYZZY nominee and the winner of the 2015 Spring Thing’s Main Festival, kept up the pressure as the choice-based time loop puzzler stumbled, leaving the olfaction-oriented whodunit ahead by one at half-time. Stay? rallied in the third quarter and again drew even, but a strong finish by the defender settled the match with a final score of 7-5. Author of Stay? E. Jade Lomax doesn’t appear to participate in this forum, but we hope the positive comments from fans reach the author’s notice, and we salute this game’s performance on the field this week.

  • Relative newcomer The Weight of a Soul battled high-profile With Those We Love Alive in another very close match that ultimately resulted in a win for the challenger. In a game that developed almost identically to match 17, the choice-based two-time XYZZY winner scored 6 points in the first 9 hours of the tournament, but after that a tortoise-and-hare pattern developed as the fantasy medical mystery (which took Best in Show in the 2021 Spring Thing) began a long and unbroken string of goals. A tie score of 6-6 at the end of the third quarter was followed by a final goal by the challenger on the last day of the match. Author Porpentine has no other entrants in this tournament, but new fans will be pleased to know that many other works from her are available on IFDB. We salute her as she retires from the field.

  • #52 seed Slouching Toward Bedlam surprised odds-makers by surpassing #7 seed Will Not Let Me Go in match 21. The innovative supernatural thriller and four-time XYZZY winner started strong, racking up a score of 5-1 by the end of the first quarter, but it stumbled in the second quarter when a fan apparently switched votes, a reversal that left a razor thin margin of 4-3 in its favor at the half. However, it regained its footing in the third quarter and outscored the defender to reach 6-4, where scores remained until the buzzer. Will Not Let Me Go, which won the 2017 XYZZY for Best Individual PC and has appeared in the last two editions of the Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time, was the only work by author Stephen Granade and the highest-ranked Twine entry in the tournament; we salute the author’s contributions to the form as his team leaves the green.

  • In The Spectators vs. The Axolotl Project, coach Amanda Walker earned another upset victory when her period piece drama (which won Outstanding Game of the Year in both the player’s and author’s choice categories in 2022) drew more fan votes than the defending sci-fi thriller in one of the segment’s quieter matches. While both works have gained new fans and moved up the Top 100 chart since the start of the tournament, in this friendly competition it is the former who has emerged the victor. There are no other entrants by author Samantha Vick in the tournament, who is one of the few authors whose works appearing in this tournament were not released in formal competitions. We salute the game’s efforts on the field.

  • In match 23, Spring Thing 2023’s Best in Show winner Repeat the Ending overwhelmed the cosmetics-and-burglary themed Twine entry Magical Makeover in a strong performance through the first three quarters that left it with an 8-point margin over its challenger. This lead held through the end of the contest, leaving the score 9-1 in the defender’s favor. Magical Makeover was the second and final entrant by author S. Woodson, whose Beautiful Dreamer previously competed in Division 2. We salute the author’s contributions and note that a third game, Get Lost, is available on IFDB.

  • In the far court, Cannery Vale defeated Sub Rosa in another relatively quiet match. The tournament’s only entrant written in AXMA took a strong lead in the first quarter and largely kept it throughout the match, surrendering only one point to the challenger (which won the 2015 XYZZY for Best Puzzles) before the end of the bout. Authors Joey Jones and Melvin Rangasamy have no other entrants in the contest (with the special exception of Cragne Manor), but we strongly salute Joey’s sportsmanship as he takes the stands along with other fans for the start of Division 4’s Round 1, and we refer fans to IFDB for many other works by this author.

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In each segment of Round 1, the authors of games that won upset victories have have agreed to impromptu interviews. As a convenience, this post will keep an index to those posts.


Round 1 Division 1

Round 1 Division 2

Round 1 Division 3

Round 1 Division 4

  • Brian Rushton for The Impossible Stairs
  • J. J. Guest for Alias ‘The Magpie’ (coming soon)
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A new fan game has been started: Predictions for the tournament’s Round 2 and beyond.

See here for details, rule and deadlines. The first set of predictions is due this Saturday Jul 06 by noon UTC.

The Division 4 matches are done, and Round 1 of the tournament is now complete! Let’s review what happened with the all-star lineup in this segment…

  • Ambitious Twine rogue-like and #44 seed 4x4 Archipelago started fast, outscoring Dialog-based light puzzler The Impossible Stairs 3-to-1 in the first hours of the match. The authorized sequel to The Impossible Bottle soon tied up and continued to advance throughout the first quarter, leaving it ahead at 7-3 by the end of Day 2. 4x4 didn’t give up, and a flurry of votes the second half kept strong pressure on its challenger, but time ran out before the shared recipient of the 2021 XYZZY award for Best Use of Innovation could catch up, and the match ended at a relatively close 9-7 in the third-most popular match of the segment. 4x4 Archipelago was the only contestant written by Agnieszka Trzaska, who has earned our applause and new fans before retiring from the field.

  • In the tournament’s second clash between works written in Inform 6, The Mulldoon Legacy and Endless, Nameless faced off. The two long-format pieces were similiarly rated in the seed rankings, and their match was a slow-paced battle of attrition in which the metaphorical puzzler twice pulled ahead by two then saw its lead ground down by the steady pace of its detective drama opponent. Locked at 6-6 for a large portion of the match, a late vote for what may be the tournament’s most difficult puzzler put it over the top and secured the win. Author Adam Cadre’s other entrant, competing at the same time in the far court, saw better results.

  • Custom-built Harmonia faced off against neoclassic puzzler Savoir-Faire in a bout that pit the work of two sometime collaborators against each other. The innovative interface of the well-researched, vaguely Lovecraftian mystery story won new admirers in the crowd, but the visionary puzzle mechanic of Savoir-Faire carried the day with a final score of 11-4. Author Liza Daly is the creator of the Windrift system that powered her entry, and choice authors may wish to take note of some of the uniquely-styled interactions it enables.

  • Formerly-commercial low fantasy RPG-like Treasures of a Slaver’s Kingdom battled fractured fairytale Bronze in a popular, nailbiting match in the middle courts. Although the Conan-lampooning comedy took a large lead of 9-4 on the first 24 hours of the contest, the darkened, high-texture version of the classic children’s tale drew vote after vote in the ensuing days. After tying at 9-9 with just one day to go, the two contestants of the second-most popular contest in this segment kept horns locked until the buzzer, and a coin toss was required to determine the victor. Luck favored Bronze, which will go on to face Savoir-Faire in Round 2 in the tournament’s first matchup of two games by the same author. Author S. John Ross has no other entrants in the tournament, but we salute his contribution to the field and express our thanks that he chose to release this game to the public after its commercial run. This chance-based decision could have easily gone the other way.

  • The tournament’s second “monster” contestant, #2 seed parser horror Anchorhead, fended off a challenge by extensive Twine teen drama Known Unknowns with a final score of 11-4. Interestingly, votes for the defender were switched to the challenger not once but twice over the course of the match. The voters in question were quiet about the motivations behind their decision, so it’s hard to gauge the significance of these twin realignments, but it’s possible that the venerable parser classic may face more difficulty than expected in future matches. Known Unknowns, which was nominated for 9 XYZZY awards in 2017, was the second and final competing work by author Brendan Patrick Hennessy, and we salute his performance on the field. Fans of Hennessy’s work will be pleased to know that IFDB lists several others by the same author, including CYOA parody You Will Select a Decision.

  • Genteel situation comedy Alias ‘The Magpie’ caught oddsmakers by surprise, smoothly snatching a victory out from under massively-collaborative horror exploration Cragne Manor. After taking an early lead of 6-3 by the end of Day 2, the winner of the 2018 XYZZY for Best PC finished the match ahead by six at 10-4. The highjinks-filled laughfest may carry this momentum into a second “horror vs. humor” match when it enters the ring with Anchorhead in the second segment of Round 2 starting July 13. We offer a salute to author Everyone for the scale of Cragne Manor, and hope to see them in the stands in later rounds.

  • Complex noir drama Make It Good got a late start against sci-fi fantasy Worlds Apart in a slow-moving match in court 7, taking over a day to earn its first point. By then, the winner of the 1999 XYZZY for Best Story was already ahead by three, but the hardbitten detective story kept plugging and steadily narrowed the gap over the following days. After reaching just one behind the leader shortly into the second half and holding that position for several days, its impenetrable defense slipped in the final hours of the last quarter. When time ran out, the defender led 5-3. Author Jon Ingold’s other competing work, The Mulldoon Legacy, won its own match in court 2, advancing his banner to Round 2.

  • Finally, in the far court, boundary-breaking classic Photopia was challenged by boundary-testing GUI simulator Digital: A Love Story in a hot match that drew the third-largest crowd in the tournament to date. The virtually unknown outsider and homage to the BBS era put up a stiff fight, gaining two votes for every three going to the defender, but it never managed to get any closer than two points behind at 7-5 on Day 2. The popular puzzleless defender kept up with the challenger’s pace in the second half and won the match at a final score of 12-8. The lowest-seeded Ren’py-entry was author Christine Love’s only game competing in the tournament, but IFDB lists many other works by the author, including Analogue: A Hate Story. We salute the author and the work’s honorable performance.

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A number of polls have been put up in order to gather feedback about the tournament as it goes. As a convenience, this post will provide links to all of them below. (Note that you must be a member of FIFP Fans to record your vote in these polls.)


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What a start to Round 2! As its second half kicks off, let’s review the flow of the matches encompassing works from the first two divisions:

  • In the near court, Lost Pig faced off against Superluminal Vagrant Twin in a match that most participating fans predicted would go to the well-loved story of Grunk. However, the sleek and minimalist #3 seed began the match at an almost unbelievable pace, with a score rapidly swelling to 7-0 in the match’s opening hours. Lost Pig’s first spate of votes came in late in the first day, and were almost matched by the defender, leaving the challenger still massively behind as Day 2 began. A strong showing of new votes pushed up the challenger’s score over ensuing days, stealing the spotlight of hottest match for the segment, but a few more votes for Superluminal kept the defender comfortably ahead, and the match ended in its favor at 13-8, with one last goal for the winner in the match’s final hours. Lost Pig was the only competing work authored by Admiral Jota, and we salute the author and this venerable and beloved Inform 6 classic as they retire from the playing field.

  • In the next court, The Impossible Bottle contended with Junior Arithmancer in a pairing that featured mathematical structures as a thematic link. A slow start by the latter threatened to repeat the dynamic with which it won in Round 1, moving from 3-0 to a tie score of 5-5 in the third quarter. An additional goal in the second quarter by The Impossible Bottle gave it the slim lead that it held until the last day of the match, at which point Junior Arithmancer scored again to tie at 6-6. This was reversed by Bottle within hours, however, and with the addition of a final goal in the last hours, the final score was 8-6 in its favor. Junior Arithmancer, winner of the 2018 XYZZY for Best Puzzles, was the second and final work by author Mike Spivey, and the author and work are greeted by a cluster of new fans as they depart the green.

  • Midnight. Swordfight. vs. The Wizard Sniffer served up another chance thematic link involving transformation of people into pigs (and back). An early sprint by The Wizard Sniffer gave it a brief 3-0 lead, but its challenger was undeterred and soon got up to speed itself. After quickly tying at 4-4 and briefly taking the lead at 5-4, the defender lengthened its stride and evened up at 5-5. This score held until the second half, when The Wizard Sniffer seem to have found a second wind, and another sprint gave it a renewed three-point lead. Again, Midnight. Swordfight. fought on, regaining some lost ground in the fourth quarter to reach 8-6 – which after another exchange of goals became 9-7. A last-hours goal brought the winner of the 2015 XYZZY for Best Implementation to the verge of a tie, but the bell rang before it could draw any closer. Author Chandler Groover’s standard was also carried by a second work competing in this segment: Eat Me in Division 2 (see below).

  • Round 1’s surprise upset winner Of Their Shadows Deep stepped warily into the ring with And Then You Come to a House Not Unlike a Previous One in a contest that matched visions about the arc of life across difficult junctures over which the protagonist has limited control. The brief but poignant piece gave as good as it got against the popular nostalgia-oriented puzzler drama in a fluid battle that saw the two works trade the frontrunner spot several times. A last goal on the way out of the first quarter gave the defender a slight edge of 7-6, which it was able to expand by a point in the third quarter. Late scoring by both sides left the challenger within spitting distance of a tie at 9-8, but time ran out before the gap could be closed. Author and rising star Amanda Walker has another work that has already taken the field: See The Spectators in Division 3.

  • In the far courts, where Division 2 matches took place, language boggler The Gostak battled perspective puzzler Coloratura in a match that heated up quickly as fans from both sides weighed in during the opening hours. When the dust settled, Coloratura held a three-point lead at 6-3. New scoring for both sides would continue each quarter, but at the start of the third, the winner of the IF Comp and three XYZZYs in 2015 had maintained that margin with a score that stood at 8-5. Unwilling to be narbleffed so gwarjinly, The Gostak renewed its efforts and closed the gap to just one point by the end of Day 6, and in the second half of Day 7 it reached parity with a score of 8 all. However, the last goal went to Coloratura in the final hours of the match, which ended 9-8 in its favor. The Gostak, a two-time XYZZY winner which placed 6th in the most recent edition of the Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time, was the only entry by author Carl Muckenhaupt. We salute the author and the work as they retire from the field.

  • Most participating fans predicted an easy victory for Worldsmith in its second tournament match against According to Cain, but the long-legged TADS 3 came very close to again beating the odds in a slow-moving match that provided an exciting finish. The pair of works, both offering alchemically-themed mysteries with multimedia enhancement, were deliberate in their sparring, and after a quick exchange of points in the first hour, Worldsmith began to accumulate a small but significant lead at 3-1. The challenger pressed hard, though, looking for weakness and slipping two goals past the defender’s defense while yielding only one in turn. The resulting 4-3 score in the defender’s favor at the end of the first quarter seemed etched in stone throughout the second and third, but According to Cain made its move in the opening hours of the final quarter, scoring twice in the next 12 hours and taking the lead at 5-4. Stunned, Worldsmith roused itself and scored again, yielding a tie of 5-5 that persisted until the final hours, in which a last effort by the #4 seed put it over the top. At the buzzer, the final score was 6-5. Author Jim Nelson has no other works in the tournament, but we salute him and the performance of According to Cain on the field.

  • In a match featuring two dark works exploring obsession, Turandot and Eat Me played another deliberate match. After sizing each other up slowly, a first point by the #8 seed parser entry was quickly countered by one from the tournament’s sole ChoiceScript work, whose own exploratory jab was even more quickly mirrored. Another score by Eat Me left it ahead 3-2 by the start of Day 2, and a fast-paced scuffle in the first half of that day expanded its lead to two at 6-4. There the board stayed until the third quarter, in which an exchange of goals left the defender’s lead unchanged. Following one last goal before the clock ran out, victory went to Eat Me with a final score of 8-5. Turandot, which placed 2nd in the 2019 edition of the Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time, was one of the tournament’s few remaining choice entries and the only competing work by author Victor Gijsbers. We salute him and the work’s performance as they retire from the field.

  • Finally, in the far court, the crowd watched with some anticipation as Counterfeit Monkey began its bout with Blue Lacuna. Although predictions universally favored the tournament’s top seed, estimates of the underdog’s expected tally varied significantly in the wake of its dominant performance against Foo Foo in Round 1. The largest attempt at interactive literature to date came out swinging and drew first blood against the gigantic and devious puzzler, holding its own in the opening hours with a lightning jab. However, Counterfeit Monkey soon had it on the ropes, and at the end of the first day the defender had built up a large lead at 9-4. Having made its point, the all-time high scorer of IFDB kept some distance for the rest of the match, trading blows to keep its margin more or less the same. When the bell rang, the mighty Monkey nodded once to its beaten but unbowed opponent before spreading its arms to the cheering crowd and retiring to the locker room to prepare for Round 3, where Eat Me will be the next to make an attempt against the victor. Author of Blue Lacuna Aaron Reed has no other competing works in the tournament, but we salute his ambitious accomplishment and the work’s valiant efforts on the field this week.

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Round 2 is complete, with such an ending! This round saw a substantial increase in voting as new fans joined in. Let’s look at the highlights of this segment…

  • In the near court, Inside the Facility bravely did its best against Spider and Web in a contest that met near-universal expectations by delivering a win for the Inform 6 classic. Although both games feature a PC sneaking around a high-tech facility, Spider and Web’s serious take on the concept drew many more votes than the light-hearted challenger, ending at 19-4. Inside the Facility was the only competing entrant by Arthur DiBianca, whose award-winning works have done much to popularize the “limited parser” concept. He can retire honorably from the field knowing that more than 1 in 6 voters preferred his work to one widely considered to contain the single greatest puzzle of all time.

  • In the next court, fans showed a preference for a Sherlock Holmes-inspired murder mystery over a fantasy-civilization medical mystery by choosing Toby’s Nose over The Weight of a Soul by 8-5. The atmospheric challenger got a slow start but then came charging up from behind, briefly tying with the defender at 4-4 in the first quarter before a renewed burst by the defender put it two ahead. Additional scoring by both sides resulted in the defender lengthening its lead and produced a victory for the story with the evidence-sniffing dog protagonist. The Weight of a Soul was the only entry written by author Chin Kee Yong. We salute the author’s uniquely inventive setting and subject matter and the game’s performance on the field.

  • In Slouching Toward Bedlam vs. The Spectators, two previous upset winners vied for supremacy in what turned out to be a very close match. Although Slouching started strong and achieved a lead of 6-2 in the opening hours, a vote switch and flurry of goals by its opponent evened things up at 5-5. After exchanging goals twice to reach 7-7, the mysticism-themed thriller finally pulled ahead, securing a win at 9-7. The Spectators was the second and final entry by author Amanda Walker, whose writing talents have propelled her works steadily up the the IFDB charts in recent years. We salute her modesty and good sportsmanship on the field, and we look forward to hearing more from her as a fan in future rounds.

  • To round out Division 3, Repeat the Ending beat Cannery Vale in a quieter match that yielded a win to the highly self-referential work. Although Cannery Vale’s multimedia enhancements and horror theme brought it as close as one point behind in the first quarter, fans showed a preference for the parser entry, and the game ended at 8-6 in its favor. Cannery Vale was the only work by author Hanon Ondricek, whose dedication to the IF community is proven daily in his role as lead moderator for this forum. We salute the author and his game’s ambitious concept.

  • In Division 4, The Impossible Stairs came within millimeters of a second significant upset victory in its battle with megapuzzler The Mulldoon Legacy. Despite anticipation of a quick loss by the author, the Dialog tribute work played a strong game in the first half, quickly catching up to the Inform 6 classic and even briefly exceeding it in a fast-paced first quarter that ended in a 6-6 tie. Another push by the sprawling old school puzzlefest gave it a lead of two, but the short-format time-travel puzzler kept up the pressure with another goal of its own, leaving it down one at the half. Exhausted, the two teams were unable to put any more points on the board for days, but with less than 12 hours remaining the challenger scored again to tie things up at 8-8. The coin toss – an improbable third head in a row for tiebreakers – was in favor of the defender. The Impossible Stairs was the second and final entry by author Brian Rushton, aka mathbrush, and its randomized loss leaves just one other Dialog entry in the contest. We salute the author for his sportsmanship and the game’s strong performance on the field.

  • On the next court, fans were treated to the spectacle of two works by a single author competing when Savoir-Faire squared off against Bronze. Despite the latter’s well-known reputation as an early and important Inform 7 work, betting markets predicted a win for the celebrated Inform 6 work, and they were not disappointed: The former beat the latter with the third-most lopsided score in tournament history at 17-3. Author Emily Short started with no less than four works among the top-rated contestants chosen for this tournament, and this leaves two in play, the other being top-seeded Counterfeit Monkey.

  • Next to last, 2nd-seeded Anchorhead defeated Alias ‘The Magpie’ in a thematic rematch after the latter beat Cragne Manor in Round 1. Although the crowd weighed in heavily for the popular Inform 6 horror classic (subsequently re-released in an enhanced Inform 7 format), the acclaimed situation comedy did well for itself, scoring several points and ending the game at 14-6. We salute this exceptional IF Comp winner as it leaves the field, and note that an interview with author J. J. Guest should be posted within a few days. Fans of the defeated challenger may be interested in other works by same author, including To Hell in a Hamper or its more recent sequel To Sea in a Sieve. Additionally, authorized sequel The Magpie Takes the Train, which was written by Brian Rushton, continues the adventures of the Magpie.

  • Finally, in the far court, the relatively slow-paced match of Worlds Apart vs. Photopia ended with a surprising reversal of fortune that secured a spot among the tournament’s Sweet Sixteen for the TADS 2 work. Following a strong start by the fantasy-setting puzzler, the oft-mentioned challenger Photopia took off like a rocket in pursuit, quickly tying the score at 5-5. After matching another goal by the defender, it went on to pick up two more points unopposed, giving it a small but significant lead at 8-6. This lead held for almost two days, and it looked like the decorated Inform 6 story was headed for a massive upset against the #14 seed defender. Against the odds, a vote switch and new goal for Worlds Apart put it back in the lead at 8-7 with less than 24 hours remaining. The razor-thin margin held until time ran out, leaving fans shocked by the turn of events. Photopia is one of the most well-known works of the independent IF canon, and it was the second and final entry by author Adam Cadre. We salute the author’s historical accomplishments and his work’s legacy.

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