Search Results for: competitions


I failed to mention, six months ago when it was new, that I made another very short IF piece called Barbetween. Here’s a little trailer I made for it last month:

I made that trailer because the Independent Games Festival requires that at every entry have at least one video attached to it — and, verily, I have submitted Barbetween an as entry to the 2015 IGF. Here it is in that context. (Zarf’s Hadean Lands is there too, by the way.)

Barbetween was originally written as an entry for Shufflecomp, a truly inspired interactive fiction game jam run by Sam Kabo Ashwell last spring. It challenged its participants to create games around songs that randomly assigned to them (based, in turn, on shuffled-up playlists submitted by other entrants). My playlist included “Between the Bars” by Elliott Smith, whose work I was not previously acquainted with. That’s what this game is based on.

I arrived at the transformed title because “The Barbetween Age” sounded like a legitimate name of a Myst level, to me. And that was relevant because I chose to build the game as a sort of art installation within Seltani, which Zarf’s described here before. The conceit is that the game is a “real” sculpture found on one of the byways of the Myst universe, meant to feel more like a visitable thing carved out of a real location, rather than simply a program running on a website. I tried to accomplish this by including in the work some subtle, perhaps surprising asynchronous communication with other visitors to the site, about which I shall say no more here.

If this sounds interesting to you, I invite you to spend 15 minutes or so in Barbetween, yourself.

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Two weeks left of IFComp judging

The 20th annual Interactive Fiction Competition remains open for public judging through Saturday, November 15. There are 42 games this year, many of which you can play right in your web browser, and all of which are free.

This is my own first year as competition organizer, and while I rather expect that many readers of this blog already count themselves as IFComp judges, I humbly invite the rest of you to take a look at this year’s crop of short new text games and consider participating as a judge. If you start within the next few days, you’ll still have time to meet the minimum judging quota of five games.

I don’t mind saying that we’re already on-course for a very healthy vote turnout, with over 2,000 individual game ratings already submitted — but more ratings are better, and with such a large crowd of contestants, every rating does count. I hope you’ll join us!

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Spring Thing 2011 is underway

Given that it’s gone from zero to six submitted works compared to last year, allow me to name Spring Thing 2011 as another happy beneficiary from 2010’s all-over IF revival. Spring Thing, which has occurred off and on since 2002, is intended as a sort of antipode to the Comp, happening six months afterwards (or beforehand!) and welcoming longer works.

I’ve so far played only one of the games, Sean M. Shore’s Bonehead; between its title and its premise, it offered me the strongest hook of the bunch, so I don’t mind singling it out here. The game straps the player into the overwaxed cleats of Fred Merkle, a teenaged second-stringer for the 1908 New York Giants who’s about to commit the blunder that would earn him the eponymous nickname and cloud the rest of his life.

That’s an unusual theme for an IF work, but this short game meets the challenge, including a frame story that puts the second-person interactivity into satisfying context. The compelling narrative is enough to overcome some quibbles I had with a rather contrived opening puzzle, and the fact that the narrator digresses into baseball trivia a little too often (even given the setting). I also got a little lost in the many ways you can end the story prematurely, once the ballgame starts; I had to consult the (built-in) hints to plant poor Fred firmly on his predestined path, but I’m glad I did. The whole story’s well worth experiencing.

So, yes, do give Bonehead and the other five Spring Thing entries a look; voting is open to the public though May 15. (And for meatier reviews of the bunch, have a look at Emily Short’s blog.)

And now I am off to play Mentula Macanus: Apocolocyntosis, which I understand to be exactly, erm, what it sounds like…

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Dan Feyer Facts

Dan Feyer won the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament this past weekend. Andrew Greene has collected a list of #ChuckNorrisFacts-style jokes about his preternatural grid-filling abilities, penned by those who were humbled by him in person. A sampling:

I once had an idea for a crossword but I decided not to construct it because Dan Feyer had already solved it.

When Will Shortz says “On your marks, get set, GO!”, Dan Feyer gets up and goes, because he’s done.

IBM considered calling its Jeopardy computer “FEYER” but didn’t want to insult Dan Feyer.

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61 new IF works! Also, Zarf in your browser

Proving the notion that few things breed creativity like constraint, the TWIFcomp - a challenge to write a work of interactive fiction in 140 characters or fewer (modulo whitespace) - just posted its sixty-one (61) entries online. In contrast, this year's Spring Thing, a themeless IF contest meant to provide an antipodal counterweight to October's annual IFComp, was cancelled due to receiving zero entries.

Many of the TWIFcomp games (particularly those programmed in Inform 7) can be played online; just follow the links. Don't expect to get much joy out of these little games if you're not already well acquainted with the medium; 140 characters means all punch and no context.

Speaking of playing IF online, Andrew Plotkin has just made all his games playable in-browser. This is possible by way of a modified version of Parchment, complemented with layers of handrolled, game-appropriate CSS he wrote to make them pretty.

I am very happy to see this happen. Interactive fiction needs to ditch its reliance on downloads and confusing third-party interpreter programs in order to reach all the people who ought to experience it, and it's great to see a major author of modern IF get this boulder rolling.

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A very chatty IFComp

The Interactive Fiction Competition started taking a different tack last year, encouraging its judges (a group consisting of anyone on the internet who wish to download, play, and then rate at least a few of the entered games) to freely discuss their play experiences wherever they liked. Prior to that, the competition put the kibosh on any public discussion about the games at all, right up until the year's winners were announced. I don't follow the IF community closely enough to know the reason for the change; my educated guess is that it was easier to hush early critiques when almost all discussion happened in two Usenet newsgroups, but we are well into the Age of Blog now, and hoping to keep a lid on super-distributed discussion is laughably futile.

I noticed the rules change only this year, because I have since then subscribed to the Planet Interactive Fiction news feed, and found myself deluged with comp-spurred reviews and rants throughout the first two weeks of October, as the most eager judges tore into the games as soon as they could. Unsurprisingly, Emily Short's words on the topic stand out especially, capped with this round-up post on her blog.

Auntie Pixelante also linked to Emily's reviews today, adding her thoughts that the comp's a dead horse now, since a lot of its entries are objectively sub-par. This strikes me as kind of a strange thing to say; I've been following the comp since 1999 (when I myself was an entrant), and it seems half the entrants on any given year have been failed experiments, lame jokes, or just plain old untested, broken messes.

But the other half of the entries is made of entirely playable little games, and the cream of these are good little text games, year after year. After winning the competition, these games often go on to receive a lot of discussion and links outside of the IFComp's little bubble. (One can find discussion of last year's winner, Lost Pig, on some high-profile game-discussion blogs well into this year.) For a completely unmoderated-entry worldwide competition, even an obscure one, that sounds like a pretty good hit rate to me!

Even as the indie-arty games that Auntie writes about gain increasing social and even financial recognition (why yes, I did just upload a double-sawbuck into Nintendo's wallet so I could download World of Goo for Wii), pure text games, with their necessarily homely interfaces, continue to live in a niche among niches. The IFComp maintains its role as a beacon that pulses once a year without fail, and if it gathers a lot of odd chaff, it also attracts enough bright stuff to confirm that the medium remains vital.

The 2008 comp's judging period stands at its halfway mark now, with about three weeks to go. I don't know if I'll write about any games, but I believe I shall now get around to downloading the glob and participate in the judging. You are welcome to join me!

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Game Chef indie RPG competition

Kynn Bartlett alerted me to Game Chef, an annual role-playing game deign competition. (Kynn's one of the entrants, with his game Awesome Women Kicking Ass.) As its name suggests, it's inspired by the TV show "Iron Chef", insofar as each year's competition stipulates a "secret ingredient"-style restriction on its entrants, who then have only have a week or so to create an entire, playable game.

This year, the contest was split into two parts; artist-entrants had a week to sumbit sets of black-and-white illustrations for RPGs that didn't exist, and the following week the designer-entrants picked up those sets and designed games around them. The competition closed a few days ago, and is currently in a judging phase - I look forward to reviewing the entries myself!

I know about the existence of indie RPG design culture from listening to the Ogre Cave Audio Report, a podcast involving Gameshelf friend Mike Sugarbaker. It's turned me on to fascinating games I'd really like to try playing sometime, including Dogs in the Vineyard (which puts players in the role of heavily armed clerics in alt-universe frontier America) and the Shab-al-Hiri Roach (where academic politicking and the schemes of ancient insect gods collide in an early-1900s New England university).

I'd love to put a short session on the show somehow, but even a short one would probably be too long to film with a full crew. Which isn't to say we can't do it anyway...

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Experimental Gameplay Project @ Target

Continuing the subject of competitions, I learn from David Swift's blog not only about the existence of the Experimental Gameplay Project, but the fact that several of the games are now on sale in the US at Target stores, paired with thematically appropriate T-Shirts, for $12 each. Wow!

The EGP is an open-ended challenge for computer game developers to - working alone - create a game in seven days or fewer, and the game must show off a central play mechanic that hasn't quite been seen before.

(I grumble a bit that, throughout the website, "game" is understood to mean "digital game" and further understood to mean "game for computers running Windows". But only a bit, coz it's a great concept. And it's not like I don't have a copy of VMWare on my MacBook, for situations such as these...)

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Martian 12s wins the winter IGDC

Congratulations to Avri Klemer for Martian 12s, the winner of the Winter 2008 Icehouse Game Design Competition. It is a gambling game for two to five players, and like all the entries in this materials-restricted competition, it requires two (and only two) Treehouse sets to play.

A round of applause from The Gameshelf for all twelve eight games entered into the contest! All are listed on the competition page, with links to each game's rules.

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