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About my 1996 IF Competition reviews

The 1995 IF Competition knocked me out. That year, the comp was split (for the first and only time) into two divisions: Inform and TADS. Both of the winning games were fantastic, and the “finishable in two hours” rule broke them out of the Infocom mold that had thus far dictated almost all amateur IF.

The Infocom canon still dominated my own mindset and outlook on IF at that time. I’ll break out phrases like “Infocom-level prose”, and reference various Infocom games to provide a frame of reference for my views on the comp games. 1996 was also the year that Activision released Classic Text Adventure Masterpieces of Infocom, a CD-ROM collection of every Infocom game plus the top 6 games from the 1995 IF Competition. The fact that those amateur games could get the “official” Infocom imprimatur took my breath away. I wanted in, badly.

In 1996, I submitted my own game to the comp, Wearing The Claw. I also decided I’d play and submit scores for every game that had been entered. I did so, running through the games in alphabetical order by filename, which worked out to almost alphabetical order by game, but not quite. So that I could decide what scores to give, I took notes during gameplay, tracking how well the game measured up in categories like prose, puzzles, plot, technical achievement, and so forth.

Having seen reviews posted for the 1995 games, and hoping for a lot of feedback on my own work, I decided quickly to turn my notes into “reviews”, but as the scare quotes should tell you, they’re not exactly worthy of the name, especially the early ones. Even through the process of writing about the games, I was learning how I wanted to write about the games, which was sadly a little inequitable for the games that fell in the early part of the alphabet, and especially for the one that started with “Aa”. Sentence fragments abound, and much of what I wrote was more for myself than anyone else.

By the time I got to the final game, Tapestry, which was brilliant and ended up taking second place, I’d developed a more coherent approach. That approach would also change over the years, but at least it didn’t shortchange Daniel Ravipinto the way that it had Magnus Olsson, author of Aayela. That said, I’ve cleaned up these reviews a little, at least standardizing the punctuation and capitalization.

For the 1996 comp game reviews, I’ll provide the following:

  • IFDB page
  • Final comp placement
  • Intro sentences
  • Assessments of the following attributes:
    • Prose
    • Difficulty
    • Technical achievement, split into writing and coding subcategories
    • Plot
    • Puzzles
  • Overall score

I originally posted my reviews for the 1996 IF Competition games on December 3, 1996.

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