IFComp 2023 Wrap-up

My experience of this year’s comp ended as it began: with multiple days skipped due to physical discomfort. (Remember to floss, kids.) It was actually kind of a relief at the end to relinquish its hold on me, to stop pretending I had an obligation. But the result is that I only wound up playing about 70% of the games during the judging period (and writing up a mere 20%). Usually I’m much closer to either 100% or 0%, depending. Ah well, it’s not like the games are gone. I can still play the ones that I was looking forward to but which the randomizer put at the end. Maybe I’ll even describe some of them here.

As to trends, the phenomenon of games with a hypertext interface but a traditional adventure-game world model, which was surprising to me when it started happening about seven years ago, is by now so common that I mostly didn’t even bother commenting on it in my descriptions of games. Maybe someday I’ll look back at these posts and not be able to remember which games used parsers and which didn’t.

Also, although I didn’t cover it much here, there was a small but notable number of seemingly nostalgia-driven works. In addition to the faux-AGT Lake Adventure, there was Hawkstone, which presents itself as a Scott-Adams-era game for the TRS-80 game (but actually provides a Windows executable), and Artful Deceit, a Deadline imitation that really does provide a Commodore 64 disk image. I didn’t finish either of these; I found that whatever virtue the authors found in their original-instruments authenticity didn’t make up for their I-thought-we-had-moved-past-this irritations in both design and tech.

(And concerning that C64 disk image, a word of advice to future entrants: Try to provide an option for play that doesn’t irritate the player by making them download and install an emulator. I might not have complained about this ten years ago, but standards have changed. Most entries these days can be simply played in-browser, even the parser games, and Nick Montfort managed to meet that expectation when he entered a C64 game into the Comp three years ago.)

Do I have predictions for the winner? Not strong ones. Dr. Ludwig seems like a crowd-pleaser, I guess. The banana? I didn’t really see anything I’d think of as divisive, unless maybe Artful Deceit had something good going on that I didn’t play far enough to see.

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