History of IFComp, year by year: 2000

2000 was widely regarded as the best IFComp up to that point, and for several years afterward. I have to agree. Several games can be considered the ‘real winner’:

The actual winner: Kaged.
The highest rated game of the comp now on IFDB: Metamorphoses.
The most rated game of the comp on IFDB: Shade
The XYZZY winner: Being Andrew Plotkin
The game many called the ‘true winner’ of the comp: Rameses.


All of those games that came out late the year before influenced this one. While Ian Finley doesn’t list Varicella as an influence in his interview, Kaged has many similarities with Varicella, including the dystopian authoritarian sci-fi world.

Mulldoon Legacy was directly copied by two games: The Clock and Happy Ever After, both featuring a relative’s house with a portal to a different time or world.

Galatea came out in 2000 and directly established Emily Short as a well-known (but controversial) author, as people came to grips with the fact that they could have fun with open ended games. The comp featured several attempts at good conversation.

Shrapnel and 9:05 also came out this year, and some of their themes are reminiscent of Rameses, to me.

Top games

This year seemed weird for me for a long time; out of all the ‘winners’ I listed above, Kaged is the least well known today. But over the last year, I think I’ve learned why it won.

Kaged is the only TADS game to win the competition (since the first year). Kaged is described as Kafka-esque by its author, and Orwellian. It has a long, non-linear opening sequence involving bureaucracy and conspiracy, devolving into extended action scenes.

Of all the winners, it is the most traditional. This was intentional, as seen from this SPAG interview question:

"Some people have noted that Kaged is a more traditional IF game,
and wondered if that’s why it placed ahead of more experimental works
like Rameses and My Angel. Did you set out to give Kaged a broad appeal,
or was its form dictated by its content?

IF: There’s some truth behind both statements, but my return to a more
traditional form was largely an intentional move to appeal to a broad

This is often true, and explains why Earth and Sky 3 beat Blue Chairs, for instance, or Hunger Daemon (a great game) beat Creatures Such as We, or why anything has beaten Porpentine.

Another fact is that great multimedia can push a game’s IFComp scores higher, but make it less enduring. Winter Wonderland, Kaged, and both Earth and Sky games had multimedia effects, won the comp over other games, but are now overshadowed by those games. Kaged has a great soundtrack and some interesting pictures that set tone rather than do exposition (much like Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children).

Metamorphoses exposed the other half of Emily Short’s interests: real life simulation. This would culminate later in Savoir Faire (and to an extent, Counterfeit Monkey). Emily Short has a method of taking some sort of physical sysytem, assigning properties to objects in the system, and allowing puzzles to be solved by any reasonable method using that system. In this first ‘system’ game, the player can change the material and size of obects at will. It also contains another of her signature moves (shared with Galatea): innumerable endings.

Players loved it, and still do.

Being Andrew Plotkin is a hilarious, fast paced game. Not strictly relying on reality, it gives those not ‘in the loop’ the feeling like they’re peeking into a private world of IF friends (that’s how I felt first playing it), and it gave those ‘in the loop’ a number of laughs due to the many in-jokes.

This game references much of Plotkin’s work, but missed out on Shade, his most popular game, and several other games released later. A Change in the Weather, Spider and Web, Inhumane (his teenage game), So Far and others are referenced.

The game has a cinematic feel, with multiple protagonists whose varying descriptions of the same location are among the highlight of the game. Like Photopia, it makes text beautiful, with the appearance of the text carefully worked on by the author.

Other works

There are so many to mention here. CYOA games got yet another bad rap from What-IF, which was literally just a menu of short stories, and placed last. On the other hand, Desert Heat, an essentially CYOA game which included LGBTQ storylines in an Arabian setting, placed 28th, so some people were beginning to enjoy it.

Robb Sherwin released his next game, Crimson Spring, which improved significantly over Chicks Dig Jerks in ratings.

Jim Munroe released the first of many games, Punk Points. Munroe would go on to make the top 3 twice, as well as releasing the engine Texture, which featured prominently in IFComp 2016.

Ad Verbum was for years the defining wordplay game until Counterfeit Monkey, and even now is great for those looking for pure wordplay fun without story. You explore a house, entering (for example) rooms where every word starts with an s, and all your commands must do so as well. (Leaving these rooms is especially hard. Try going south using just ‘n’ words!)

Mike Sousa released his first game, At Wit’s End. He describes his reaction to its reception as follows: ‘After the 2000 comp I realized what was missing from my game –
decent writing. I knew I could program fairly well and I thought I was
creative enough but I felt that my writing was bringing the game down.
Actually, some of the reviews for At Wit’s End mentions the writing as
needing help and that it was pedestrian. Being a problem solver, I
figured the path of least resistance was to collaborate with a writer.’ This resulted in 2 very good collaborations that placed fourth and second in the next two years.

Rameses was an enormously discussed and influential game. You play a foul-mouthed college freshman who has enormous insecurities and difficulty expressing themselves. The game constrains you in all sorts of ways that had never really been done before.

Shade, one of Plotkin’s best and most loved works, scored lower partially because it starts out as a ‘my lame apartment’ game, and most such games are very boring. It was innovative in its use of continuous space and storytelling techniques; in classic Plotkin style, the puzzles are the story.

Jon Ingold released My Angel, which got rid of error messages in favor of having the output look like a novel. This was done later by Katherine Morayati in Laid off from the Synesthesia Factory in a different style.

Kathleen Fisher released Masquerade. She is one of those authors that seems forgotten now, but who released several 1800’s romantic-type games over the years, including Masquerade and The Cove, as well as some hard sci-fi and medieval games. I’ve really enjoyed her works, although they often seem underclued.

The Djinni Chronicles, Threading the Labyrinth and The Waves Choke the Wind are all games that are somehow not completely there (the last is literally just the first part of a bigger, never-made game) but do things with games I’ve never seen anyone else do.

Liza Daly entered for the first time that year; she took 4th in 2016, as well.

Jarod’s Journey was famous for being an extremely heavy-handed description of the Christian faith, with images. I strongly believe it to be a subtle trolling, as there are parts of it that don’t mesh with Christianity.

On the Other Side (described as Al Otro Lado in IFDB) was ingenious: a game where you are the computer in an IF game. So you describe everything, and that’s the room. Then it prompts you for what’s in the room. Whatever you write down, it tries to interact with. One judge even used it to test their own game, by writing back and forth between the two.

Breaking the Code was banned for the comp and archive, because all it contained was an illegal piece of DVD player code. It received one 10 from a judge.

Finally, John Evans made his big debut. John Evans would come up with the biggest, the craziest, the most intricate ideas, implement half of it, and then enter it into the comp. This game had you learning magic from two independent sources in a giant castle. Other games would allow you to wish for ‘anything’, or to create your own personal hell. No one has vision like John Evans, but none of his games ever were finished.


The 2001 comp was just FULL of HTML TADS games with graphics and/or sound, clearly trying to capitalize on Kaged’s success. In the end, none of the top three games would use it; I wonder if people realized that multimedia itself did not make a game enduringly good. Also, none of those authors had as good a base game as Kaged.

Rameses and its constraint on the player were highly influential in the future.

Metamorphoses and Galatea established Emily Short as an influential author, which had a major effect on years to come, as she joined Adam Cadre and Andrew Plotkin as ‘that person who everyone listens too’, although the latter two didn’t suffer from rampant misogyny.

Being Andrew Plotkin was the first IFComp game to win the XYZZY Best Game award, and began a longstanding trend of IFComp games winning the XYZZY awards.

As I mentioned earlier, Mike Sousa, Liza Daly, Robb Sherwin and Jim Munroe would all go on to do future (and higher placing) games.

Guess the Verb was a game-with-mini-games, and several games like that followed (Constraints and When Help Collides).

After this, the ‘best comp’, comes another ‘worst comp’ (according to some on RAIF). But 2001 does hold quite a few gems, as we will see.


The author of “Desert Heat” went on to found a prominent visual-novel studio: hanakogames.com/ (Black Closet, Long Live the Queen).

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And the author of “Ad Verbum” went on to write an influential book about interactive fiction: nickm.com/twisty/

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