Of course, one of the major influences this year was Porpentine’s work, and Twine in general. This year featured only 13 typing-based games out of 35, with 13 Twine games and 9 ‘other’ (such as Quest or Undum, or paper-based).
It wasn’t just Porpentine, though. Tom McHenry released his XYZZY Best Game-nominated Horse Master, and Michael Lutz released My Father’s Long Long Legs (though close to the competition). Brendan Patrick Hennessy released 3 Twine games earlier this year as well.
Depression Quest was released by Zoe Quinn, which would eventually be embroiled in the massive controversy GamerGate, which heightened tensions in the IF Community (especially the following year).
Counterfeit Monkey with its wordplay-based puzzles had been released at the very end of the previous year.
Coloratura is the best short puzzle parser game released this decade, I believe. In this game, you play a sort of alien creature with an amorphous body and a non-human perspective. You must communicate through coloring moods only.
Reviewers appreciated the subtle shifts in descriptions as the alien creature begins to learn more about human culture. The puzzles had multiple solutions, with hidden timers that began to make the puzzles easier the longer you took.
Robin and Orchid was Ryan Veeder’s second big comp entry, with Emily Boegheim. It follows a teenage journalist in a church sleepover trying to track down a ghost for the school paper.
In classic Veeder style, massive parts of the game were optional and could be largely missed by players (in this case, the diary). There was an intentionally fiddly disambiguation puzzle designed to provoke laughs, and the game was quite long.
Ollie Ollie Oxen Free was an ambitious parser game by Carolyn VanEseltine, entering for her third year. This game has you playing as a school teacher after a disaster at a school. You have to find and collect various children you meet while you yourself are in a weakened state. By commanding the children, you can overcome inventory limits and so on.
The game is very well done, but fairly fiddly.
Porpentine took 9th this year with their angelical understanding, an intense game more directly about the trans experience than howling dogs, and featuring intense emotional moments, text entry, and a continuation of Porpentine’s film-like programming style.
A. Deniro improved on her previous rankings this year with Solarium, the highest-placing Twine game this year. Solarium has a very interesting sort of inventory (or thought inventory) system here, and an alternate world involving alchemy. It remains one of the better examples of what you can do with Twine.
Ryan Veeder had a second game in the comp, which also did well: Captain Verdeterre’s Plunder, where you and a small rat captain have to race through a side-scroller like sinking ship to extract treasure.
Andrew Schultz continued his series of wordplay-based games.
Hanon Ondricek entered with Final Girl, a storynexus game, beginning their history of very detailed, big games with a lot of background computations going on.
Brendan Hennessy released Bell Park, Youth Detective, which would produce several later sequels.
Simon Christiansen reached perhaps the pitch of his innovativeness with Trapped in Time, a PDF entry that managed to place 11th. It includes tricky parser-like options involving math codes (add 10 to your page number if you use the key, etc.)
Mark Marino continued their series of kid-friendly hyperlink games involving living books.
The inventor of Quest entered his first game ever, Moquette, with a detailed implementation of the London Underground and numerous advanced text effects.
Several other prolific authors started this year, including Megan Stevens, Tia Orisney, Richard Goodness and Paperblurt.
Coloratura was influential, spawning a few more Lovecraftian/alien protagonist games in future years (including my own 2015 game).
Robin and Orchid remains one of the most successful mystery IF games, which until 2016 never took first.
The balance between parser and Twine/web-based continued to tip until next year, which was a crisis point for parser games and a turning point for IFComp.