How do you mentally classify the quality of your games?

I suppose for me it’s similar to how I rank my own music:

How thoroughly will it match the expectations of the target audience?

Sometimes you gotta make something that certainly isn’t grand or thorough. You know it’s not gonna be amazing. That’s okay.

Other times, you’re aiming to really amaze, and sometimes it takes a while to find the target audience.


That’s a good question, and I’d probably have to get over my internal cringe reaction to revisit those older works in order to know the answer for sure. Some of it probably is just that I’m more sanguine about the imperfections now than I was 10+ years ago! But I will also say that my newer games (except Starbreakers) have mostly gotten a better reception than the older ones (except Wedding Day and Everything Is Catching on Fire), so I feel like I’m probably doing something better these days.


Here’s something that happened. I was watching a stream of RTE (well, a video of the stream, I didn’t want to intrude), and the streamer tried to turn on the bathroom sink. The game returned an It isn't something you can switch. message! You get custom responses to turn on faucet and turn on spigot but not turn on sink!

I wanted to crawl out of my skin; that might be the only default response in the whole game. And streamed, no less :scream_cat: I know this stuff isn’t a big deal, but it really bothers me.

Sigh, something for the “bisquixe” release, I suppose.


See, personally I need something to force me to release, because otherwise I’ll never get anywhere with it. Which means all of my released works were written under some sort of constraint that makes me see them as a success.

Scroll Thief was a teenager’s first foray into IF, a massively over-ambitious and over-complicated piece, but it works and the systems mostly cohere despite the sprawling premise!

Enigma of the Old Manor House was written in four hours for ECTOCOMP, and within that four-hour deadline, I can’t think of anything else I could have improved!

Loose Ends Chapter One was my first experiment with choice-based IF, and my first collaboration, and I learned a lot during it!

Death on the Stormrider was my first attempt to scope out a full project and realize it (Scroll Thief just grew and grew without limit and Enigma was bite-sized) and I succeeded at telling the story I wanted to tell!

Labyrinthine Library of Xleksixnrewix was an attempt to get two non-IF people into it and we had a lot of fun writing it together!

I don’t know how accurate it is, but I’m trying to get into this mindset, because otherwise I’ll never release anything ever. None of them are masterpieces, but I’m proud to have them out there to see.


I know I’ve only got one game, but I think I would put it maybe the lower ends of tier 2. Mainly because it’s definitely neither short nor goofy, albeit not polished. I think it’s never going to be fully polished because as it turns out there’s another, game breaking bug in the Dark. And I think I spent a lot of time, but it definitely turns off a lot of people very very quickly and I knew that would happen and took it in stride.

Thinking of WIPs, the next one is definitely a massive attempt to make a tier 1 game. It’s complex, short and super polished. Or at least it will be. It hasn’t even been properly started yet, because it has two parsers running almost simultaneously, and the status line you used is… not usable. But it should be good when I finish it.

I have one game as big as Milliways fully planned out for when I want to get started on a big project (so like in a few years). Also Tier 1.

The rest of the ideas are certainly tier 2 or 3. I don’t think I’ll ever make a tier 4, because if I do I’ll just discard it. Or, at least, I don’t want to make a tier 4, even if it’s fun to make.


I am happy of testing some of your 1st tier as NGUHD, The impossible stairs, and played If you had one shoot, The magpie takes the train and Grooverland. I think all of them are in the proper tier.
I am sure that more games have to be played now that I have readed your reflexions, for example In the service of Santa Claus.


I have:

  • Games I put a lot of effort in and am really proud of (DOL-OS esp)
  • Games where I wanted to try something different/learn something new and it worked-ish - a.k.a. more experimental stuff (TTTT, TRNT, AEP)
  • Silly stuff for funsies (the Partim/Nouvim/Neo-Interactive/other jams entries - the small stuff mainly)
  • Work in Progress - with playable content (TBD on where they will go once complete)

They don’t have tier/ranking, because
I love all my children equally :stuck_out_tongue:


Like Drew, I am a perfectionist. Based on my random experiences with and around Drew, I’d say I experience this in a less angsty fashion :slight_smile: but what I quoted from him is the same for me. The only time I entered a timed comp, I revised the game after to be what I was satisfied with for the long term.

This interested me. I need to have this at least once (and optimally, multiple times) per game, or track in music, to feel I’m on the right track, and to enjoy living. I may question it at times before the end of the thing, or only have it for parts, but fundamentally I have a lot of faith in myself by now. If I’ve had this, I believe I’m good for me and an ideal audience. I believe whatever peak experience I’m having is going to flow through.

And this. When I surprise myself, I also feel I’m going the right way. I also feel when I surprise myself, the audience might be surprised, too. This is in a great line in the ballet film Blsck Swan - Transcendence. Surprise yourself so you can surprise the audience. And it may happen more dramatically in various types of performance, but also applies in the longer game of IF.



Quality of my games? What quality?


I’ve only released one thing outside a major competition. It’s an experimental game written in an excel spreadsheet file, written for an imaginary games jam. That only took me a few hours to create, and I don’t think a single person has ever played it.

The other four I’ve written were each full games that I released when I thought it was ready to be released. They’re all so different, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, that it would be hard for me to rank them.


Brian, I had no idea you made that many games. That’s quite an accomplishment. I’m in awe!

I’m glad someone brought this up, and I’m not surprised it’s from Mike. I too appreciate Greene’s categories, and wish it had more traction in the general reading population. As said, Greene showed that the line between the two doesn’t have to be distinct, and some of his books easily fall in both camps (including The Quiet American, my favorite).

I’ve only released two games, but I have a few books under my belt. I don’t tend to group them by tiers, but suppose I could divvy them up as novels and entertainments if pressed.

Mostly, I associate each with what was going on in my life while writing them, and what I learned from the writing experience (both in a technical sense and learning about myself).


Well this has piqued my interest, so I’m definitely going to check it out! (Link for anyone else curious.)


Honest self evaluation: I don’t think I’m a good author.

I’m a good writer: I can assemble sentences and write very effective technical documentation about how to accomplish a process as long as I understand it.

I wrote scripts for two children's musicals that got performed.

I was a performer for about a decade and one of the ways many theaters get funding is basically bringing in school groups and performing a home-made ripoff of whatever Disney movie was last released. A lot of these got handed around among theaters (I performed two different roles in the same hilariously bad “Little Mermaid” show in two different productions) and I helped write a couple of them. It was essentially mini-panto (UK’s family shows that are fun for kids but the acting style and humor totally plays to their parents in the audience.)

This got me in the groove of writing pastiche and deconstruction.

I wrote screenplays for a while

and was active on a pretty respected screenplay peer review website, having at least one of my scripts get recognized in the top three for the month, which got them auto-submitted to a company that provides professional coverage - essentially an internal “review” that ostensibly studio execs would read to learn about a script before deciding to take the time to read the entire thing themselves. I believe my horror script was basically trashed by the screenwriter of Darkness Falls because like 45% of the coverage kept referring to how much better that unappreciated classic Darkness Falls was at creating tension and horror than my script with extensive examples and recaps of segments of that movie. (I personally thought Darkness Falls was a well-produced but terrible movie that had a great creature design and visuals and was directed well but didn’t make a lot of sense as written…) I did have one low-budget-friendly screenplay that an independent producer in the UK was very enthusiastic about and I was paid for an option, but he was unable to get backers interested on his end.

That website shut down, and without motivation to write screenplays anymore and easy access to get them read, I stopped writing them.

I discovered Inform 7 and played with it for about five years. I could write a decent version of “PC trying to unlock doors and escape the evil castle” but I don’t think I’m deep enough to write any kind of really heart-felt story that people identify with. So I tend to write parody and deconstructive satire of other things, mostly. While learning I7 with no real workable ideas, I found one of the easiest default test scenarios to learn a storytelling system was erotica and simulating and gamifying human relations, since I had no real story I wanted to tell.

How it started

Briar was my first release that won second in a mini-AIF comp with three entries. I was basically wanting to show off my beleaguered sexual relations advances (they’re not that good), so it’s the dirty version of Sleeping Beauty with a haughty PC Prince. I, of course, wanted to stretch the comp limitations of “interaction with one human character” so I made the “briar” a character and things got weird.

I was deep in Storynexus, writing my epic Stepchild which worked better as a Fallen London style card game somehow(??) and decided to again flaunt Storynexus’s bent toward long extended epics and try to make a 2-hour quick-play game.

Final Girl was essentially Clue/Cluedo that picked a random killer you had to suss out and I tried to insert every horror movie trope I could with scenes like “Chekhov’s Bulldozer”. I think the only Storynexus game ever entered in IFComp. Some people really vibed with it, some couldn’t get past that it was neither parser nor choice and more of a randomized storytelling boardgame.

Groove Billygoat was a Shufflecomp entry where we had (I think?) a month to make a game out of a random selection of five songs suggested by other people. I got Smooth Criminal so I basically did the music video as text adventure trying to write puzzles around choreography and imagery in the video and trying to justify how a hard-nosed private detective would rationalize Michael Jackson’s quirky behaviors in a world where dance was prohibited like alcohol. My absolute favorite character is Betsy the spunky orphan who clearly escaped a production of Annie and landed in an 80’s music video.

Transparent was my attempt at a small haunted house text adventure with music and sound effects. It has a ton of moving parts that proved frustrating. The sound aspect was the least problematic element and sadly very few people played it with sound. Lots of hate for limited inventory; Club Floyd got stuck on a bug and rage-quit. It’s the game I’ve massaged the most post-comp with lots of very helpful feedback from many people. @mathbrush just recently made it playable in the browser, but I don’t know if I want people going in that house anymore! :scream: The plot is stock - horrible family haunts a house, black widow bride gone eye-rollingly literal, working through my own latent arachnophobia. I did like the concept of that story paralleling with modern “ghost hunters” which has more recently gained in popularity with YouTube dramatized ghost hunting and it might actually a fun concept to explore more in a better game.

Transparent made me realize how hard parser games are, especially with my propensity toward trying to do things last minute and not beta testing properly. So I started experimenting with choice narratives.

Devil’s Food is a dumb first attempt in an early version of AXMA Story Maker for Ectocomp. It’s just me learning a choice system and working through some issues with a hateful protagonist demon who is stuck in a slice of cake. There’s a pastiche of Porpentine’s their angelical understanding and a bit of CYBERQUEEN (I also love Shodan!) included as homage/in-joke which a couple people thought I meant maliciously but was totally me satirizing their style in an attempt to learn how it works and my belief that satire can be the sincerest form of flattery for something you love and also me working through the insectile trauma of that game and getting over the rain of human hands which disturbed me in a way that few text games accomplish with imagery.

My delving into full-meta and attempting to troll IFComp

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The Baker of Shireton grew out of me playing with RPG Maker and wishing to make a game where a player is an NPC who could potentially break out of the boundaries and go on a quest. That’s it. I enjoyed creating this whole fake MMORPG that the player didn’t really participate in. It had some buggy problems that I fixed. This was the first game I scoped in segments since during the crunch time my mom was being evaluated for potential breast cancer, so I planned to submit just the bakery part as a time-management sim, and time permitting, I’d add the surrounding elements. All of it got in there.

It’s just a parody and my observational satire of RPGs and not very original.

Fair was scoped the most. After most people being unable to complete Baker or even getting past the way too-difficult puzzle that reveals all the hidden content (I’ve since learned my meta-thing isn’t a thing for everyone!) I decided my next game would be easily completable. Everyone would get to the ending inside of 2 hours. The science fair was a bit of my begrudging feelings about being judged in IFComp that most people go through. I scoped it so well and completed it early that I started tacking random things on, and almost broke it the night before deadline because adding time travel to a game is not a last minute decision. I think people enjoy it because it’s non-confrontational, has no horror or adult elements, and since it was all planned well in advance the implementation is a lot more solid and less buggy. It’s my “small but deep” game that isn’t based on anything except my own experience and observational humor about artistic creation and the “hustle” involved.

I also released Psychomanteum which was a tiny game for Ectocomp I failed to complete the previous year but got working the next. It’s very simple but got some surprisingly good feedback, which shows I need to write smaller and more accessibly.

Sex, Wonderland, an Elevator

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Sex on the Beach I really got into AXMA and intended to do a “simple” sex romp for AIF mini comp. This was me just pushing how extensively I could implement sex acts and seeing how much was too much. The fun part of this game was I intended a quick multi-route character-creation sequence at the beginning which got just as complicated as the sex scene, so other than being limited to being a male college student on spring break, the player can carve his backstory to their liking, which then causes variations in the penultimate sex scene. This won the AIF mini comp and I’ve had people get angry at me when they requested more in this same format. I likely won’t ever make a sex scene that complicated ever again since I was trying to push the limits of text variation and non-linearity and choice, but now I think I can strike a happy medium.

Alice Aforethought is my continued experimentation with AXMA. This game has some ridiculously devious puzzles adapted from Alice in Wonderland and is me trying to implement compass directions and inventory in a choice narrative. There’s a rolling mirror that can be moved to different locations which is a portal between Wonderland and the Real World, and I fussed over chess mechanics and likely made some chess people mad. This game is hard. The endgame is much less than I planned because I developed a sinus infection the week before the deadline and couldn’t wrap my head fully around what I had intended, so the end of the chess sequence is just lifted from Lewis Carroll. My favorite characters in this are the Keyhole and the Doorknob and their disdain for each other’s methods. I love the title and the concept of parallel universes and doppelgängers interacting.

Going Down was for Ectocomp and based on “The Elevator Game” - and it wasn’t the only elevator game entry that year! I am most proud of the vibe and was thrilled how the elevator mechanics actually work and traveling between floors repeatedly gets longer and longer building up dread. I love the liminal vibe that pre-dates the backrooms, the ‘chair that hates you,’ and the concept that one of the signs of the other world is a “red triangle in your peripheral vision”.

I have a weird fascination with elevators. This game also refers back to Psychomanteum - this dare is another given at the same party which dared people to sit in the box of mirrors. If I do another Ectocomp it will probably continue lore from this one party that breaks people with psychological dares and games.

Also in 2017 I released Breeding Princesses of the Planet Lesbonicon - another AIF romp I submitted to “Space Fucking Jam” but it’s just a demo and won’t be completed, therefore I haven’t advertised it on IFDB but it’s available on Itch. It’s basically one of those awful titles that popped into my head and demanded to be written: "what if there was a porn version of a show like Star Trek (or more specifically Lexx) that was hilariously dreadful and an attempt by men to write “strong women characters” who didn’t need men. Essentially a less-reserved and explicit version of Leather Goddesses of Phobos.

The Hanon Stealth Trilogy

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Cragne Manor has been written about extensively, but these others are the three games I’m most proud of. They all kind of form a trilogy because they’re all in AXMA, and despite wildly varying subject matter, there is a through line theme of player-identity confusion and of inhabiting other characters. They’re all huge, complicated games that were pretty well received.

These are my last AXMA games as the system no longer works on modern Mac hardware. I could probably do another AXMA game on my PC but eh…

Cannery Vale was where I decided I was going to write whatever the heck I wanted instead of what I thought other people wanted and would tolerate, and I chose a pseudonym in case my weird rantings and sex scenes got me run out of the community with pitchforks. Surprisingly many people liked it. I’m once again falling back into “writing about writing” and it’s very Stephen King (The Dark Half, specifically, surprisingly not one of my favorite books) but also cribs from Silent Hill and Dante’s Inferno and Orpheus and Eurydice (which I did not plan and figured out at the end - way before I knew of Hadestown.) I think what works here is the vibe and the episodic madness of completely random situations the player can get into that are at turns normal but then get weird and dangerous or sexual unexpectedly (when in doubt, go for uncanny surprise) and it’s okay because no matter what horrible depraved things actually happen it’s ostensibly just fiction from a writer’s head (MAJOR SPOILER) until his authorial creation comes after him with an axe and is basically killed and eaten by the kindly Innkeeper to keep the Author safe there in his fancy hotel room in Hell.

The surprising part is this is an enormous game that I had planned out but wrote in its entirety between submitting my Cragne Manor room and the deadline for IFComp that year and was able to finish and get surprisingly bug free, requiring only a couple read-throughs by a few people. Yay for Choice and the degree of authorial control it conveys! (I submitted my Cragne room, wrote and released Cannery Vale in IFComp before Cragne Manor was compiled and completed during IFComp judging.)

After not being evicted from the IF Community, I felt confident to write [robotsexpartymurder] which I call a “benign dystopia”. I’ve written how this story came about as a Frankenstein amalgamation of several major ideas. It’s not for everyone but again, I’m proud of the vibe and the characters. I love the concept of rogue sentient AI and Em was a treat to write - obviously inspired by both Shodan and GladOS. My favorite scene that made me cackle for hours is the utter stupidity of the Baristas in the Cafe not understanding what a scone is or how to ring it up.

The Cursèd Pickle of Shireton Absolutely nobody wanted a sequel to The Baker of Shireton but here it is. This concept started as a joke on the Author Forums about how there could be sequels like The Blacksmith of Shireton and The Manure Hauler of Shireton and I made the art for Cursed Pickle as a joke. Years later I made the game. I’m most proud that nearly the entire game loop of Baker was reproduced in choice. (And was a heck of a lot easier…) This is kind of a personal “Greatest Hits” game as it contains references and callbacks to Cannery Vale, robotsexpartymurder, Transparent and Cragne Manor and SCP lore (the ugly chair from Transparent is also protected by the Institute.) The town of Lunëbyn is a direct content lift of an area from the unproduced Stepchild and I love the idea that Hyde Forks has taken over the town and obviously plays all the NPCs in farcical quick-change fashion. Also the layers of inferred evil intent: If you take an NPC companion to the town with you they mysteriously disappear overnight and Hyde Forks is all sus - “Oh yeah, they had a dentist appointment…” but that is the truth if you go hire them again. Forks didn’t murder everyone in town as you’d suspect; he was just so annoying that everyone else feigned insanity to go live in the Institute and sit by the pool like it’s a resort.

And the Pickle was incredibly fun to write; it always talks in third person and is blithely both confident and lackadaisical in its attempts at world domination…as soon as it can manage to get out of the jar. Plus its utter absurd sarcasm - how it expresses it wishes it could “evolve to grow eye stalks and then travel back in time” for the sole purposes of rolling them at a comment the player or the Baker makes.

The ending of that game foreshadows a third one which will probably never be made, but I love the shenanigans implied by The Pickle, The Baker, and the Golden Banana Bread of Discord Maker since I’ve also created head-canon that the Golden Banana of Discord is also a sentient SCP and imagine the love/hate competitive relationship the Banana and the Pickle could have in the same game both trying to destroy everything.


Very good thread.

I tried the exercise of ranking my games into tiers. Games I make are generally small sized, sci-fi (or adjacent) genres and feature some kind of techy texture or mechanics. I feel the best of them also have a layer of sociopolitical message which should be non-intrusive and easy for players to ignore if they feel like it.

I also like when games are initially disorienting, and have the player make sense of what’s happening over successive plays. Psychedelia, altered consciousness and estrangement are some of the effects I’ve sought in a number of these works.

The Best


My best game is probably Estado Profundo (2022), a parser piece. The PC is a cult member watching a political rally from a hotel window. A psychedelic concoction is kicking in and there’s a disassembled rifle in a suitcase.

The game is ultimately about ideology: the PC’s background is intentionally blank, so the player can project different motivations based on details picked up from the game world (in-game media peddles a number of conspiracy theories and stochastic terror).

It plays fast (events unravel independently of the player) and it’s intentionally impossible to examine everything in one play, reality overflows perception and focus is needed. Out of all the games I’ve made, I think this one best captures the world we live in. Some additional inspirations were the movie The Dead Zone and the JG Ballard story The Gentle Assassin.

The Good

Other than this, I feel my top tier games are:

  • BYOD (2015/2020): my first released parser piece, about hacking and dodgy workplace politics. The game world has two layers, one is a one-room static scenario, and the other is a virtual layer of networked devices whose content reveal the storyline. When I created the English version for 2020 IFComp I didn’t want to substantially change the concept, so I spent some time making some nice feelies (that kind of inspired the main section of whoami).

  • Empyreum (2019): a very short Twine piece I still like a lot and should have submitted to IntroComp. Player plays a VC/tech bro type trying to order some apocalypse-survival-as-a-service package online, during societal collapse. I experimented with npm CSS dependencies (a minimalist component framework and font-awesome) and the game has a very cool live clock widget. The page templating pattern I used here was later recycled for MetaComp.

  • Tránsito (2021): inspired by a plane trip to the US I did in late Feb 2020, when the COVID pandemic was looming. This is the most traditional text adventure concept I’ve done. The player plays a courier in a degrowth-inflicted like future (think Children of Men) where a zombie outbreak is not a world-ending apocalypse, but one more of the overlapping world crises to deal with (people still need to work).
    Gameplay and puzzles are based on navigating an airport in an unnamed country under state of emergency, and having just being bitten by a zombie. While writing this I thought a lot about the Jackpot concept by William Gibson.

  • whoami (2022): before dying of radioactive poisoning, the PC can upload their mind into a computer and define a simulated reality to live in. This game has varied mechanics; the central part of the game is based on filesystem navigation and I had some fun with the UI (there’s a virtual reality section rendered as a faux-Inform parser).

The Rest

My other games I believe are not so well-rounded but all of them have some good stuff, nevertheless. I wouldn’t disown any of them. They are:

  • Vainsville (2016): after reading some stuff about the creation process of planned cookie-cutter American suburbs after WWII (game cover is a filtered picture of Levittown), I found Robert Sheckley’s short story Fishing Season and instantly decided I had to adapt it into a parser game (disregarding its copyright status which unfortunately prevents any further work or translation to English). This is a very different game to the others; an act-by-act adaptation of the story with a lot of scripted NPC dialog. It got mixed reviews, but a couple them were very good, so I’d recommend playing it if you can understand or translate Spanish.

  • MetaComp (2019): this is the game I worked the longest on, and flew under everyone’s radar. The game hub is a pretend IF Comp, an anthology format featuring an RPG/roguelike parser game (great if you like grinding, zone-out gameplay and the prototype for whoami’s parser interface), a real-time lunar lander disguised as an Spectrum-themed parser piece, and a “State of IF” survey probing some reactionary scene politics. To this data I think only one player has finished this one. I recycled plenty of tech I developed for this into my following games.

  • End of History (2023): speed-IF piece made for Spanish La Petit Mort section of ECTOCOMP 2023 and also released in English. The concept was a visitation narrative (a la Ultima or the D&D cartoon) driven by 80s retro tech. I got the “fix the multiverse” concept from some British comic books from that era, like Luther Arkwright or Alan Moore’s Captain Britannia. Interestingly Spanish reviewers loved this, international players not so much.


This thread is really interesting. It’s so hard for me to comprehend the idea of quality as applied to works of art. It feels like saying shirts are better than pants. Some works are broadly popular, some are deeply loved by just a few people, some are technically proficient or charmingly punk rock or elegantly complex or elegantly simple…what even is quality?

I don’t know how to describe it—I think maybe it’s the moments of surprise other people have mentioned?—but this is the feeling that keeps me writing. I only finish and release projects that I personally love and feel excited about, except for a few things written quickly for the challenge of it, like games/puzzles for La Petite Mort or EnigMarch. So maybe my categories are also finished and unfinished?

But I do think of my games etc. in two other mental categories: ones where I put a lot of time and energy into making them what I want them to be (The Good Ghost, This Escape Room Sucks, Dead Mall Mystery, unreleased giant project), and ones that just write themselves and there isn’t much I can do to affect how they turn out (Caduceus, free bird, My Name Is Soda). It’s always very confusing when people have suggestions on how to improve those ones.


After-morning coffee addendum:

I recall a writer (I forget who) when asked what’s their best book, responding, “The one I’m writing.”

Works for IF, too.


I’ve been thinking a lot about this question, and it’s tricky because there are 2 parts to IF, the I and the F. Quality of these can be very different in a game. I’m definitely better at the F than the I, although I don’t know how much of that is because of the immature state of my coding abilities and how much of it is because puzzle/interactive design is very, very hard. So I think the reason I’m often so down on my own work is that the interactivity usually isn’t what I wish it would be, although I’m generally pretty happy with my writing.