And we’re off! The games of IF Comp 2015 are now available. There are a record number of games this year — 55 in all — beating out the previous high of 53 in 2000. This is especially impressive when you consider this competition is now in its 21st year.
I will be reviewing, but I’ve made some changes to my reviewing policy: specifically, no longer reviewing works for which my overall impression is negative. This doesn’t mean I’m binding myself to say only positive things, just that the overall take of the review needs to be a net Recommend. In doing this, I’m responding to assorted feedback over the years that the comp can be too harsh to new authors and to those unfamiliar with its expectations. The IF world has grown bigger, richer, and more diverse over the past couple of years, which is a terrific thing; it means we get games from everyone from published authors and pro game devs to teenagers making their first experiment with a game making tool. But the diversity also means that not every game is likely to be for everyone, and that’s okay.
If you are also reviewing, thank you! I love reading other people’s reviews, and one of the great things about the comp is the community of discussion that surrounds it. Also, hydrate. 55 games is a lot.
Okay. :Puts on Batsuit.: Let’s do this.
I have a new story out!
Subscribers to Fallen London — that is to say, Exceptional Friends — can now play Discernment. Look for Salome’s soul, meet a Salon of devils and devilesses concerned with building the very best soul collections. You may also encounter some information on the moral perspective of mushrooms.
One of the things I enjoy about writing for Fallen London is being able to riff on assorted lore, connections, and player history from other stories. Without spoilers, I am especially pleased about how that worked out in this piece.
If you’re looking to get started, seek out the Burglary of a Cartographer’s Estate storylet.
The finalists for the 2014 XYZZY Awards have been announced; if you want to vote, you have until April 25th at 0:01 US-Pacific to do so. Perhaps the most obvious difference vs previous years is how many of the nominees are commercial IF; there was more of it this past year than usual, but also I think it got more attention than it has in some years. There was also a strong showing for choice-based IF, featuring Twine, inkle, ChoiceScript, and Versu games.
In a few categories there are (unusually) only two nominees. If you’re curious, this thread on intfiction talks about why that is and how the nominees are selected; also about whether the current nomination system is best or whether we might want to go to one that allowed people to nominate multiple games per category in the first round.
Spring Thing is now open, with nine new games: six in the main category, three in the “Back Garden” area for games that aren’t in competition for prizes and have somewhat looser entry requirements. There’s a mix of systems, too — Twine, Undum, Seltani, Glulx and z-machine, and Ren’Py.
My contribution is a Back Garden game called Aspel, which is a realm in the choice-based multiplayer Seltani platform. As my entry blurb says:
Aspel is an experimental interactive experience designed for multiple players, featuring asymmetric information and collective decision-making. The text you see on the screen won’t necessarily be the same as what everyone else sees, so you’ll need to communicate with your fellow players in order to experience it most fully. To make that easier, I’ll be around to participate/host at the following times:
Tuesday April 7 at 8 PM British/3 Eastern/noon Pacific
Sunday April 19 at 8 PM British/3 Eastern/noon Pacific
Friday May 1 at 8 PM British/3 Eastern/noon Pacific
…but of course people are more than welcome to arrange their own visiting hours.
At some point I’ll likely write something about the experience of writing for Seltani.
Sunless Sea is out of early access today!
If somehow you have not heard of this game: it is a grand, creepy exploration game from the cool people at Failbetter, set in the Fallen London universe. Sail a cavernous underground sea, fight off giant crabs, try to keep yourself and your crew sane, and encounter islands full of strange tales. It has more eye candy than Fallen London, and no action-metering or grind. On the other hand, it keeps the creepy setting and the tight, memorable prose. You can play it in a ferocious rogue-like mode with permadeath, or you can be wimpier and keep save files. (I keep save files. I admit it.)
It’s not just me with my fondness for Fallen London here, either. Eurogamer gives Sunless Sea a 10/10, and so does Starburst Magazine.
I’m hoping for a big launch day for Sunless Sea for a couple of reasons.
One, I guest-wrote three of the islands, and I’ve written a little about that experience here (general comments about writing for the Fallen London universe as part of a retrospective of my 2014 efforts) and here (spoilery design post about the island of Nuncio). I had a lot of fun with these, I’m happy about how they came out, and I’m hoping other people will like them too.
Two: Failbetter is doing some really intriguing commercial IF, and the success of Sunless Sea will have a direct impact on how much more they can do along the same lines. I am hoping that they’ll turn out to be able to do lots and LOTS more.
So! Buy a copy! Tell your friends! Leave a Steam review! Try not to commit any acts of cannibalism! (Harder than you might think.)
Thanks to the Mac IDE maintainer Toby Nelson, Inform is now available on the Mac App Store (as a free download, naturally).