History of IFComp, year by year: 2016

This, the most recent comp, was the largest ever, with 58 games. This comp had much more diversity than previous years, including having a non-parser game win for the first time ever.


Midnight. Swordfight. and Arthur di Bianca’s games had been part of a new, limited parser movement. Caleb Wilson took it to an extreme with the North North Passage. Pacian released the XYZZY winning Superluminal Vagrant Twin, an excellent limited parser game.

More and more well-known authors started writing for Choice of Games and other publishing companies, which I think helped freshen up the ‘comp cycle’; authors who did very well would be pulled out to work on commercial games, leaving others to place well the next year.

Jim Munroe, author of Everybody Dies and Guilded Youth, released Texture, a mobile friendly two-word game engine involving sliding nouns to verbs or vice versa.

Abigail Corfman released Open Sorcery, a huge twine game in a new style, involving two-noun puzzles, Choice of games-style romances and stats, combat, and a birdland-like sleep cycle. The author would enter IFComp with 16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonalds.

Ryan Veeder ran a cash-and-plush-dinosaur-fueled competition asking for games on his (leap-day) birthday. The response was astonishing, with Buster Hudson putting out an XYZZY-best game nominated mystery puzzler Foo Foo, Robin Johnson debuting his new hyperlink parser in Draculaland, and Chandler Groover releasing Three-Card Trick, which received four XYZZY nominations.

Spring Thing saw Astrid Dalmady win with Tangeroa Deep, a deep-sea exploration Twine, and Robin Johnson winning with The Xylophoniad, a parser game in Scott Adams style.

Ade McTavish released the enormous Worldsmith as a commercial parser game with incorporated video, graphics, and twine, which received its own cult following.

Top Games

Detectiveland by Robin Johnson is the longest IFComp winner ever, with a minimal walkthrough taking twice as many actions as most other comp games. This big detective game plays out an a city in a rectangular grid, and is filled with character portraits, CSS and HTML styling, and music played by the author himself.

Its biggest innovation is its engine, refined from Draculaland. This game has you do parser-type commands from a menu. Clicking a noun gives you verbs you can do, which change depending on what other noun you are ‘holding’. This holding system makes the menu system more complex and hard to brute-force, and propelled Robin Johnson to the first

Color the Truth was my 2016 game. I wanted to try my theory out that being long and polished were the most important attributes for the comp; when I was writing my game, the first draft was pretty short, so I padded it out with extra actions (like throwing burnt popcorn away and repeating flashbacks), and then beta tested over and over until it was interesting.

I also used a new conversation system that was like a menu but with the options enduring over time in a sort of ‘thought inventory’.

Cactus Blue Motel was the first Twine game to reach the top 3 (The Play in 2011 had been an Undum game, I believe).

This game struck a nerve in pretty much everyone with its description of a life-changing journey right out of high school. The game used a location-based movement system to flesh out a real-feeling world, and used a consistent conversational system.

The visual styling was excellent, and many reviewers praised the ambiguous but important choices you make near the end.

Other games

This game saw the return of troll games with Toiletworld.

Stone Harbor, by Liza Daly, took 4th with one of the highest text-to-choice ratios ever, mainly on the strength of its incredible writing (but also on the fact that its choices were thought-provoking and consistent). This was my favorite game of the comp.

As described earlier, Abigail Corfman released 16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at Mcdonalds, which took 5th and was the first Twine game ever to win Best Puzzles.

Jack Welch and Ben Collins-Sussman, who had won two major competitions before, released the very detailed (I think the source code has over 200000 words?) Pogoman GO!, which took sixth. Like the Baker of Shireton from 2015, much of the game was hidden behind a tedious opening simulator, obscuring the rich world beyond (you can see two peaks in the score distribution on ifcomp.org, one near 6 and one near 8, most likely reflecting those who saw the real game and those who didn’t).

Speaking of Ondricek, he released his most popular game yet this year, Fair. Originally influenced by the idea of a game mimicking IFComp itself, this game had you play as a judge at a science fair. With many endings, a money mini-game, and a great cast of characters, this game was one of my favorites.

Victor Ojuel and Arthur DiBianca both improved significantly on previous year’s entries, placing in the top 15.

Texture made his big debut, with Chandler Groover writing the highest-placing Texture game with The Queen’s Menagerie. He also released Mirror and Queen, a conversational game that could recognize close to a thousand topics.

One of the freshest and most interesting new games was SCREW YOU, BEAR DAD! (by Xalavier Nelson, Jr., who recently joined Jacqueline Ashwell as Introcomp organizer). This game focused on short, tight writing, text effects, and color choices to deliver a different effect than most Twine games. (contains infrequent strong profanity)

Phantom Williams released the highly unusual 500 Apocalypses, which is a number (less than 500) of static flash-fiction type stories connected by a web of hyperlinks. The reader was encouraged to contribute their own apocalypses to fill up the number.

Katherine Morayati released Take, a game focused on the verb ‘take’ which has here been repurposed to ‘do a hot take’. (for those who don’t know, a hot take is ‘a piece of commentary, typically produced quickly in response to a recent event, whose primary purpose is to attract attention.’). You enter gladiatorial combat where battle is replaced by taking. It pushed the limited parser to the limit, and was the first parser game in 5 or 6 years to win Best Writing at the XYZZYs.

A whole host of people published their first big games or returned from previous years, and it would be impossible to list them all, even some that I personally loved; but overall, this was a good comp.


I know Detectiveland has inspired at least one other author to work on a similar system. For the rest, though, we’ll have to see what happens in 2 months!

Tomorrow I plan on writing a wrap-up and some general ideas.

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Yay, you reviewed all of IFComp! I am regularly staggered by your dedication.