History of IFComp, year by year: 2010

Because 2010 is the year that our current IFComp organizer had his game, I thought I’d reproduce this list by Carolyn van Eseltine about all of the work a comp organizer has to go through:

[] Community buy-in on the idea
] Writing submission rules
[] Writing judging rules
] Posting the rules
[] Advertising the competition to submitters
] Answering questions from submitters
[] Setting up a system for participants to upload games
] Opening the submission system at the appropriate time
[] Closing the submission system at the appropriate time
] Advertising the competition for public judging
[] Setting up systems for judges to download games (or play online)
] Setting up systems for judges to register their votes
[] Opening the download system at the appropriate time
] Opening the judging system at the appropriate time
[] Answering questions from judges
] Answering questions from interested onlookers
[] Closing the download system at the appropriate time
] Closing the judging system at the appropriate time
[] Tallying up votes
] Announcing the results
[] Uploading all entries to the IFDB (this takes longer than you think)
] Documenting the competition in IFWiki (which other people very kindly did for me)
[*] Distributing prizes (okay, ParserComp didn’t have prizes, but if you have them, they need to be distributed)

It’s amazing that IFComp and XYZZY have been run as long as they have by volunteers. Now, on to 2010!


Blue Lacuna from the last year and Bronze from a few earlier had really set the standard for helpfulness and tutorials, and this year’s winner Aotearoa really stepped up on this count. Rogue of the Multiverse and One Eye Open both contained fairly linear, heavily hinted opening sequences for people new to parser games, as well.

Choicescript came out around now; at the time, it was funded mostly be ads, before having a paying model. Looking back over intfiction, it’s interesting to see Dan Fabulich as an underdog fighting for recognition and equality for Choicescript games who had to put up with pretty strong abuse, rather than the successful golden-touch entrepreneur doling out lucrative contracts of today.

Christopher Huang’s Breakfast Reviews (which started in 2009) proved a big hit, increasing the fun of IFComp participation as your game got to be compared to various breakfast foods.

This year also saw the Jay is Games Casual Gameplay contest about escaping a room. Hoosegow, Dual Transform, and Fragile Shells all came from this contest.

Zarf also released Hoist Sail for Heliopause and Home this year for the @party demoscene.

Top games

I’ve heard some people describe this as a weak year (only 26 games, for instance), but two of these games were on my Top 10 list the last time I had one.

Aotearoa won the comp and the XYZZY’s this year. A dinosaur adventure set in an alternate New Zealand, this game mixes Maori culture with adorable animals for a lot of fun. I was surprised at the warm reception of this game, considering its child-orientedness, but then this game has something really big going for it: it’s slicker than Danny Zucko’s hair.

This game is packed with every conceivable player friendly feature. Hyperlinks for easy interaction; tutorials; pressing ENTER on a blank line defaults to looking; color coding; exits listed; nameable dinosaurs so you don’t have to keep typing big names; multiple solutions to puzzles; and so on and so on. It’s well over 100000 lines of code, I believe. It represents a real accomplishment.

Rogue of the Multiverse is, with To Hell in a Hamper, the funniest IF game I have ever played (but only because I didn’t expect it; now if you go an play it after I said that, you won’t think it’s funny). You are a human who is being tested on by a diabolical lizard power-woman. You go through some procedurally-genereated-looking missions on worlds where you hunt for interesting things, then get sent back to the prison region where you have to build up your resources and find some escape.

This game is classic Pacian, with intense, vivid characters who are emotionally open, a blend of the bizarre with the commonplace, and puzzles that are generally variations on a theme.

One Eye Open is a love-it-or-hate-it game. For me, I love it, though I’m embarrassed to admit it. It is a gory game, about a psychic-energy-infested hospital which has essentially grown teeth, fangs, and mouths everywhere, violently destroying everyone in it.

It is also much bigger than other comp games. It is the most successful big comp game after Risorgimento Represso.

Other games

This year had a lot of horror:

-Wade Clark entered his breakout game Leadlight (which has an updated version for sale now, I think), an apple-II game featuring an RPG system, various weapons, and a host of freaky characters at a private school.

-The Blind House was one of those trippy/psychedelic horror stories (sort of like that French movie He loves me/He loves me not).

-Gris et Jaune was another horror game. By Jason Devlin, author of Vespers and Legion, it had an incredible opening sequence, but the rest of this big and impressive game was unpolished.

-Jason McIntosh, current IFComp chairman, published The Warbler’s Nest, which is the most-rated 2010 IFComp game on IFDB and one of the most played horror games of all time. It is short, set in medieval times, and hauntingly believable. Great game for fans of moral choices.

-Lynnea Dally (now Lynnea Glasser) made her debut with the zombie horror game Divis Mortis, featuring a large map and sort of open gameplay, but more sparse than her later games.

Besides horror games, Simon Christiansen made his first break into truly unusual games with the amusing Poirot pastiche Death Off the Cuff (also for sale). In this game, you play a Poirot-esque detective at the big, summing-up finale, but you don’t know who the murderer is! You have to improvise your speech by talking about various objects and hoping someone slips up.

There were two games about Soviet Russia, including Gigantomania (a sort of heavy-handed piece showing the misery of life under Stalin) and the wacky The People’s Glorious Revolutionary Text Adventure Game. The latter game didn’t impress me much, but I’ve seen it mentioned numerous times as a favorite by other authors (for instance, it was the inspiration for last year’s Theatre People).

J. Robinson Wheeler made his big return with The 12:54 to Asgard, a really big game that just sort of fell apart implementation-wise. It involves a journey through several mythologies, including Christian. However, the game seems unfinished, and did poorly.

Ninja’s Fate was a sort of memorial to Paul Panks, who had recently died.

The Sons of the Cherry was the first Choicescript game entered into the comp, and it didn’t do well, further increasing the CYOA vs Parser feud. It’s a sort of pulpy American Revolution-era game about witchcraft, and it is not nearly as polished as other, mainstream choicescript games at the time were, giving people an incorrect impression about Choicescript that would continue for at least the next year.

John Evans returned for a surprisingly short and well-implemented game that he listed as ‘unfinished’, which sent it to the end of the list. It is much more finished than his other games, though, if you would like to try a Real John Evans Game.


The major emphasis on player friendliness this comp has extended to the current day, with tutorials and help systems becoming completely expected.

Many of today’s current authors were writing in this comp. Pacian, VanEseltine and Sandel, Simon Christiansen, Wade Clarke, and Lynnea Glasser all entered this year. At the same time, several older authors were trailing out their last few games, like Wheeler and Evans.

Altogether, this was a time of transition, with Twine and CYOA games about to come up on the horizon. The next year would be the first to see a CYOA game finish in the top 3.


(Belated) thanks for the kind words about Warbler!

I would point out that I had entered a game into the comp prior to 2010. 1999 saw “Calliope”, which strolled on by at 23rd place. It’s not that great, but there it is anyway.